Dressing the Role plays a role!!

So you know how this blog is called “dressing the role” because I supposedly sing operas and perform different roles n’ stuff? Well, I *finally* got my bum in gear and am performing in an opera this week! We’ve actually already had a week of performances – three last week, with three more to come this week, so I am WIPED. Like, seriously tired. Hence fewer garments than usual this month. But it’s so worth it – I have loved every minute of this production!

I’m singing in the chorus of Lakmé with the fantastic Lowell House Opera. The opera is a tragic one, of course – operas are never complete until at least one character kills themselves – with gorgeous music by Leo Delibes. Being a sewing nut, I’ve been almost as excited about the costumes as I’ve been about performing. The opera is set in India during the British occupation, so the women’s chorus all get to wear big black wigs and saris – definitely a new look for me!

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Isn’t that fun?? We’ve all gotten pretty good at folding saris by now – it’s a fairly complicated process that takes quite a lot of time!

The costumes for the show were designed by Kristen Connolly, a wonderfully talented seamstress and designer. Of course, I grilled her for information about her career as a costume designer while waiting backstage. What an awesome career! She also designs and sells her own lingerie line on Etsy under Odile Designs.

If you happen to be in the Boston area this week, we have three more shows on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday! Hope to see you there!

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Gabriolaaaa!

As many of you already know, Tasia over at Sewaholic recently came out with a gorgeous new skirt pattern – the Gabriola Skirt. I knew as soon as I saw it that I had to have one – I’ve always been a huge sucker for maxi styles and flowy garments. Lucky for me, there’s a great sewalong to follow for the whole process, and I just finished mine this morning!

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I’m so happy with the result! However, the process of putting this project together was not always happiness-inducing…to be honest, it was quite a roller coaster of emotions! A lot of that was either due to my inexperience or a plain ol’ user error. My first mistake was to cut out the entire skirt while I had a terrible head cold. Since I don’t have a cutting table, I was working on the floor, so I has to take frequent breaks because I would get horribly dizzy.

As a result, those tricky bias yoke pieces were not well cut, which quickly became a problem as I tried to sew the yoke together. I ended up having to redo those seams many times, which I think may have warped the fabric…oy. One sewing tip, though – I discovered that if you put the bias piece on the bottom, facing the feed dogs, you’ll have an easier time working with the bias at the sewing machine. I think I figured that out on my third try :P.

Then when I had put the whole thing together and tried it on, I discovered that the side seams were pulling towards the back at weird angles and the side seams were puckering oddly…ugh! This was caused by a combo of warped bias edges (due to overworking) and my extra-full bum. It turns out that for this pattern, you need to pay attention to how your front hip and back hip measurements compare. If they are similar-ish, then you can go ahead and just sew the pattern as-is. If, however, you have an ample derrière like mine, you will need to cut the back yoke a size bigger (and grading between sizes is covered in the sewalong, never fear!). So at the suggestion of the lovely Caroline Amanda (who works with Tasia), I used smaller seam allowances in the back to give myself more room there. Next time I will just cut the back yoke pieces a size larger. Whew!

One thing that did go particularly well with this skirt was the pattern placement. This fabric is a “faux hand-dyed” piece, so it’s actually a print made to look hand dyed. Since it’s a print, I did need to pay attention to pattern “repeats.” I wanted to make sure that my skirt panels had a similar light-to-dark pattern, and I wanted to use those contrast to highlight the yoke pieces as well. I think I accomplished that!

Now for the grand tour – get ready for lots of pics! Here’s the 360 view:

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At Tasia’s suggestion, I hemmed it so that it’s floor length with flats or slightly off the floor with heels. So of course I had to model it with both!

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And, of course, a detail pic of those yoke pieces perfectly matched at the back and sides:

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You may notice that I used an invisible zipper instead of a regular one – I actually prefer sewing invisible zips! And it’s been so long since I’ve done it any other way that I’ve kind of forgotten how…(shhhh!)

Oh, and you may be wondering, what’s up with the shirt? It was a birthday present from the husband a few weeks ago :). Oh yeeeaaah

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I’ll be sharing my thoughts on how to wear this skirt to work a bit later. So to conclude for today, I love this skirt! It’s fun and super flattering – and I feel like a princess when I wear it! WIN

A Trip to London…that I took three years ago

Today’s project was a loooong time in the making. Oof.

So, three years ago I went on an awesome trip to London and Paris with my family. While visiting London, we of course had to stop in at Liberty of London. And while visiting Liberty, I of course has to buy yarn. So there’s the back story.

The yarn was a gorgeous light blue fluffy angora blend. Lovely to feel, but a [expletive deleted] to knit. So it took me two years to turn it into something wearable. I didn’t help that the kitten I was living with at the time really loved to lick this particular type of yarn, and her sandpaper tongue would immediately felt the knitted piece. It was an uphill battle to say the least.

So last spring I finally finished it. And this spring (ha, spring?), I finally wore it and took pictures.

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Pretty little number, no? The pattern is the Shirley Sweater by Snowden Becker. I was attracted to the pattern because I was in a lace knitting kick at the time (not actual lace, just lacey patterns), and also thought the tie neckline was cute. After finishing, of course, I couldn’t figure out how to wear the thing with my existing wardrobe. I seem to have this problem where I love projects that I wish were my style, but don’t actually work that well with my functional, every-day apparel. So that’s why it’s taken me a year to photograph it :P.

Here are some pics of the whole outfit – I played around with a number of different options to try to get this piece to fit in with my usual wardrobe favorites. I tend to go for “preppy” looks (no wonder I married a Princeton grad…), and I’ve been wanting to experiment with the sweater-layered-over-collared-shirt look, so I thought I’d give that a try. What do you think?

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You may notice that I’m wearing a belt in the second two pictures but not the first. I think it’s fun to play around with how one small wardrobe element can really change a silhouette. In this case, without the belt there is no defined waist area, and since I have a very solid abdomen and high waist, the sweater looks like a big mass of blue. However, with the belt added in the right place (just under the ribs, which is where my torso is smallest), it creates the optical illusion of a more defined waist. Interesting, non?

Oh, and for you knitting nerds out there, here’s a detail of the lace pattern:

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(Btw, I’m on ravelry – I finally put the little button thingy on my blog, and it should be over in the right side panel. But if you can’t find it, my username is titaniaem. Let’s be friends!)

So, after all the pains I went through to finish and photograph this sweater, I discovered after wearing it for a bit that I had dropped a stitch a few inches up from the bottom and it’s starting to unravel. [more expletives deleted] Any advice on how to fix that?? I reallllllllly don’t want to take it apart…should I just go back in with a needle and some yarn and weave it through as best I can? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

So anyhow, my Liberty of London sweater adventure is now complete. Can I go again???

We will overcome!

Whew, it’s been quite a week!! On top of a crazy work season, I’m in the middle of tech week for an opera I’ll be performing in, and just got over a nasty cold…oy. So in case you’re wondering why I haven’t been posting as often as usual, that’s why!

To add to the obstacles of exhaustion and an overly-busy schedule, I also managed to…break my serger. On Friday. AAAAAGGH. The neighbors could probably hear my cries of despair. It was totally a user-error accident – I store the machine under my dining room table, and I managed to crack the plastic on the top of the thread carousel thingy while putting it away. I felt like I had just run over my best friend’s foot…WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?

Oh, and I can’t buy fabric til Easter.

So that was a lot of obstacles to overcome in my sewing this weekend! But as Friday progressed into Saturday, I felt the overwhelming need to create something. Anything. I just needed to make something tangible and useful with fabric, and I needed to make it quickly (before I had to leave for rehearsal!).

With all that in mind, I remembered an underwear pattern I had seen floating around the internet a while ago – this little number from the awesome blog “So, Zo, What Do You Know?” Especially after reading about Tasia’s bra making experience and seeing Thread Theory’s fabulous new pattern, the Comox Trunks, I had the sudden strong urge to sew underwear. And since it only requires small-ish scraps of knit fabric, I was able to piece together some scraps from my dwindling knits stash to whip up a quick pair of undies. So I glued the ol’ serger back together and got started…

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Aren’t they snazzy? I was super proud of them – and they only took an hour or so! For some reason, knowing that I can make my own underwear is really empowering – I feel wonderfully self-sufficient, like I can provide adequately for myself and those around me. Using double-fold to bind the edges was super fun. I highly recommend the pattern!

Detail and interior shots:

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I felt soooo much better about my life after making those – whew! Oh, and they’re also the most comfortable pair of underwear I own now. So I guess I’ll be sewing my own underwear from now on!

One last thought before I sign off for today – March 24th is Fashion Revolution Day! It’s a day to reflect on the ethics of the fashion industry and give some thought to who made our clothes. You can visit their site to find out more – and tweet a pic of your outfit inside-out to show who made it! Mine happens to be a jacket I made, using wool from an American woolen mill. Here’s to ethical fashion and raising awareness!

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What do you wear to work? Plus thoughts on personal style

As I mentioned in my Ash Wednesday post two weeks ago, one of my big goals for Lent is to think more about my wardrobe and become more conscious of the kinds of garments I like and what I need more or less of. One thing I’ve been giving a lot of thought to is what I wear to work, since my days off are usually spent in my pjs sewing at home. I’ve also spent some time researching what is considered “professional dress” these days – what skirt lengths are appropriate, what types of garments, etc.

As I’ve been exploring my own personal style, prompted by the Wardrobe Architect project at the Coletterie, I’ve discovered that my personal style doesn’t really jive with what is considered “professional” these days! I really love outfits that look “cute” – poofy skirts, knit dresses, a few frills here and there. However, “cute” doesn’t exactly scream “I’m a professional who should be taken seriously.” Often my overly-cute or practical outfits start to feel frumpy in the work environment.

Judging by what the internet tells me, garments that typify the “business chic” look are pencil skirts, skinny sheath dresses, slacks, and heels – all items that I either don’t want to or for practical reasons can’t wear. I hate tight fitting skirts and dresses – they don’t work with my proportions and generally emphasize my tummy area. On a practical note, they also make playing the piano difficult – I need to be able to move my legs and knees to use the pedals. Pants, however, bring too much emphasis to the low waist, which I like to obscure using high waisted skirts and dresses. I do like “skinny” jean-type pants, but I’m not sure how work appropriate those are. And as for heels….I love them, but I walk way too much on uneven brick surfaces for that to be practical!

Another factor I’ve been giving a lot of thought to is skirt length. At my workplace, there are no specific dress codes or rules (when I was hired, I was just told, “please no jeans or shorts, except on Fridays”), so there are no official guidelines dictating skirt length. I want to dress appropriately and modestly, but one thing I’ve discovered while exploring personal style is that shorter skirts look better on me – skirts that hit above the knee create a more pleasing line and the optical illusion of a smaller waist. A perfect example is the Coco dress I made a week or so ago – I love how it looks, but I feel scandalous wearing something so short to work!

So, how do you adjust personal style to the needs of the work place? I’m honestly not sure, which is why I bring it up! Does your work place have any specific rules regarding dress, or can you wear pretty much whatever you want? Do you feel you need to dress differently in order to be taken seriously? What do you wear to work?

The Giant Purple Sweater Monster plus a million awkward photos

You know those projects you put off finishing forever with no reason? Yup, this is one of those. I bought some fuzzy purple yarn over Black Friday weekend waaaaay back in November, and finally it has taken it’s finished sweater form. Oy.

Not that it was particularly hard or time consuming to knit – I used the Roam Tunic pattern by Amy Christoffers, which is a lovely cabled tunic using thick yarn and big needles, so I really have no excuse. I guess I realized somewhere during the process that there was a good chance that I’d end up looking like a giant purple whale in it, so I’ve been dragging my feet.

However, after seeing all the fabulous things that Tasia and Ginger have been knitting, I decided I really needed to get my butt in gear and just finish the darned thing. Cuz winter won’t last forever, after all…right? Hopefully?? Well, anyhow, here she is:

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All in all, it’s actually not as bad as I thought I would be. I ended up lengthening it by two pattern repeats to try to turn it into a real sweater dress. I’m not sure if that actually worked – I still sort of feel like I’m walking around missing an article of clothing – but there are bigger issues at hand. Behold:

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Oof. Definitely did not mean to highlight the ol’ patootie that prominently. Let’s just hope no one ever looks at me profile in this dress. Ever. Adding length also created a rather unflattering optical illusion in the hip area:

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See how the cables get closer together towards the bottom, thus making my hips look even bigger than they already are? So yeah, this dress isn’t exactly a “win” in the “flattering awkward parts of my body” category. But I guess they can’t all be winners.

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And, I mean, is it really a dress? Or should I be wearing this with legit pants, not just leggings? I feel like it can’t decide. Neither can I. Thoughts??

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What are some projects that you haven’t been totally in love with? Do you try to wear them anyway? How do you deal with a disappointing finished product?

Crazy for Coco!

As you many know from a previous post, I was the lucky winner of Tilly’s new Coco pattern from Ginger’s Sew Grateful giveaway! I loved the pattern as soon as it came out, and was thrilled to get my own copy so quickly. So of course I had to sew one up ASAP!

I was so excited after winning the pattern that I immediately went to Grey’s Fabric to pick up some awesome fabric (before this past Wednesday, of course!). The pattern calls for stable knits without much stretch, which was a nice contrast from the super slinky knits I’ve been working with recently. I found an amazingly drapey double knit in two great colors, navy and orange, so I decided to take the opportunity to do some contrasting colorblocking. I chose the 3/4 sleeve option so that I could do a contrasting cuff, and I also chopped 4″ off the bottom of the pattern and turned it into a contrasting hem panel. I’m super pleased with the result!

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In case you’re wondering, the orange flower is from a Princeton University alumni reunion; I didn’t make one especially for this outfit :P. Though it does match quite nicely! I ended up making a size 2 through the bust and grading out to a size 3 from the waist to the hem. I had been afraid that the sheath dress style would be unflattering, but I’m actually quite pleased with the fit! It’s a very simple pattern with classic design lines, so I imagine it probably works for most folks.

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After reading through Tilly’s awesomely thorough sewalong, I decided to make the dress entirely with my machine even though I have a serger. The fabric is very strong – tough fibers and a tight knit – so I was afraid it might “fight back” with the serger blade. My machine handled it quite nicely, though, so I’m glad I made that choice! I finished my hems with a double needle instead of a zig-zag, but aside from that I pretty much followed her directions. They are very beginner-friendly, so this is the perfect opportunity if you’re new to knits!

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Speaking of being new to knits, have y’all seen Sarai’s post about a new book on sewing with knits? I’m super excited!!

Anywho, thank you so much, Ginger, for this awesome pattern – I am truly *sew* grateful!

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My Lenten Observance: A Fabric Fast

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and I’m one of those folks who likes to observe the season by giving something up. Some years it’s been chocolate, one year it was Facebook (and oh mama that was hard!!), last year it was cappuccinos – and this year it’s fabric shopping. Now, all you seamstresses who just read this and are horrified – don’t worry, this doesn’t mean I won’t sew! And I will still support my local fabric store purchasing notions – thread, needles, interfacing, and maybe the occasional lining fabric (but only if it’s used for lining purposes!), but I’ve decided to completely give up purchasing fashion fabric for the next 40 days. And since I don’t yet have a huge fabric stash, this will be hard.

So, why on earth would I do a thing like that?? I think it’s important to mention from the beginning that I don’t give things up for Lent out of a sense of guilt or a desire for self-punishment. Fasting is a discipline rich in historical and theological meaning, which I won’t get into too much here, but suffice it to say that there are many good reasons that people fast. I fast because it teaches me about my priorities and helps to adjust my perspective if it’s gotten out of whack. It helps me understand where I am in my relationship with God, with others, and with material things.

So why fabric? Why not chocolate again or something like that? In the past I’ve given up beloved food items because it taught me how dependent I was on things like chocolate for happiness and comfort. Not that it’s bad to derive pleasure form eating chocolate – it’s not! – but giving it up for a time gives you a new perspective. Every time I chose not to eat chocolate, it reminded me to reexamine my priorities. However, this year, sewing has become a huge part of my life, and I now that I’ve been at it for several months, I feel the need to take a step back and look at the role that it plays in my life. I don’t want to thoughtlessly churn out project after project just because I can. Rather, I want to be deliberate in my creative decisions – I want to become a good steward of my resources, both in terms of materials and in terms of time and energy. Now, that might still mean that I sew quickly and sew a lot – but I want to be thoughtful and conscientious in doing so.

So for the next 40 days, I will use what I have – I will celebrate the opportunity to be creative and think outside the box. I do have a bit of a stash built up, so I will be creating new garments from that. However, I will also be using this time to go through my preexisting wardrobe (Sarai’s fantastic Wardrobe Architect series will be a great tool!) – which pieces do I wear a lot, which do I wear less often? Are there ways I could refashion seldom-worn pieces instead of going out and making or buying a new one? How can I better address what I need vs. what I want? How can I use my resources more wisely?

That’s my goal til Easter! Even if you don’t observe Lent, I hope this post gave you something to think about. Thanks for reading!

Plantain Perfection

This was an exciting week for me in the sewing world – it looks like I made it to fourth place in the Project Sewn sew-along – a huge thank you to everyone who voted, and a huge congrats to the incredibly talented ladies who placed in the real competition! I also got super lucky and won me a Coco pattern in Ginger’s awesome giveaway! Woohoo!

Backing up a few weeks, I made yet another Plantain Top – this is quickly becoming one of my favorite patterns! I managed to get the weird stains out of the sweater knit that I had originally wanted to use – for some reason I ended up with blotches all over the fabric after prewashing!

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I think that somehow some excess dye got into the end of the bolt – this was a remnant piece – and it spread throughout the fabric during prewashing. After leaving it alone in frustration for a few weeks, I decided to try prewashing again, this time soaking it for a long time in warm water to try to get the excess dye out. And it worked! Hooray!

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Since this is a very drapey sweater knit, I decided to stabilize the neck binding with some tricot interfacing to keep it from stretching out. I think next time I make this top with a super drapey fabric, I’ll raise the neckline a bit – even with the interfacing, it’s a little lower than I would like.

I also did a broad shoulder adjustment, like I did on my last Lady Skater dress. It definitely helped with the shoulder placement, though I think I also need to do a forward shoulder adjustment in the future as well.

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And this time I did the elbow patches! Unfortunately, I discovered after I finished the top that my arms are too long for the patch placement on the pattern – oops :P.

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But whatevs, they’re still fun! And they match the skirt I’m wearing! How ’bout that??

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Simple, quick and fun. My favorite kind of sewing project!

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