Candy Stripes and Everything Nice: A Springtime Flora

I’ll just come out and say it: By Hand London’s Flora Dress pattern is one of my all-time favorites, and has quickly reached my “short list” of TNTs. There are so many things about this dress that I love, as I discussed the last time I made it – the wrap top, the full skirt, she’s got it all!

When I was binge-shopping for fabric online right before Lent (yes, I confess…), I bought an interesting polyester candy-stripe fabric that I had originally intended for a Sewaholic Gabriola skirt, but it just didn’t seem right when I got the fabric in person. But then along came Flora, and I knew immediately that this was the right dress for the job!

I then proceeded to procrastinate forever, because I hadn’t worked with stripes much. When I did end up starting, it was a bit rocky – the polyester was not very forgiving, so simple things like easing stay tape onto the neckline became a major job that required lots of unpicking. Oh, and I noticed that the darker dyes seem to have splattered somehow during the printing process, leaving little black spots scattered across the lighter stripes, one of which ended up right at one of the bust points – UGH.

Then there was the issue of how to orient the stripes. Since they are so bold in this fabric, I figured that stripes all going in one direction might be a bit much, so I decided to break them up by cutting the skirt “normally,” the front bodice on the bias, and the back bodice with the stripes running vertically. This was actually my first striped project (I completed it before all the other stripey projects I’ve been making lately), so that also meant less stripe matching. Win!

So, after all that pain and effort…here she is!

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As you can see, I went with the crossover variation. I also did the hi-lo hem, but I lengthened the front a bit, so it’s not as noticeable. Oh, and look at those back stripes matching at the zipper!

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I did end up lining the whole thing, since the fabric is pretty sheer. This was a major pain when it came to installing the zipper, since I wanted the skirt to hang free at the hem. I ended up attaching both the fashion fabric and lining to the zipper, and then when I closed the rest of the back seam, I just sewed into the fashion fabric. The lining I left open for a few inches, and then sewed the back seam separately to the hem. Sorry, I should’ve taken pictures, but I just wanted to get it done…

…so I could twirl in the park on a sunny day!

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I wore this dress to the big spring recital for the advanced students at the ballet school, which was held at the Boston Opera House. A beautiful evening for a beautiful dress!

I’m entering this lovely lady into week four of Project Sewn, since this week is “signature style” week. It combines so many things that I love – stripe matching, swishy skirts, a wrap top, and a whimsical yet chic look. I’ll also be entering it in the Sewing Indie Month Dressed to the Nines contest. Oh, and last but not least, I’ll be wearing it to one of my best friend’s weddings in June!

When Megan Met Anna

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s Sewing Indie Month! I’m so glad that Mari over at Seamster managed to arrange this fantastic celebration – indie companies are my favorite pattern makers, and I sew pretty much exclusively indie these days. So of course I had to sew as many garments as I could to enter the numerous competitions! (Plus I’m a huge sucker for competitions…what can I say :P)

Today’s dress is a sort of “indie love child,” a combo of two different indie company patterns. The bodice is from the Megan dress, one of the patterns in Love at First Stitch, Tilly’s fantastic new book. I knew I would love the patterns in that book, and let me tell you, this one did not disappoint! The fit it almost perfect – I didn’t make any alterations to this version. The only fit issue is that the bust darts are a tad too high – an easy fix for next time.

The pattern is also pretty ingenious as a pedagogical tool. Since the bodice is very high waisted, you don’t have to worry about fitting the waist, just the bust. And using a tuck instead of a waist dart also makes the fit easier – the perfect first dress pattern! I can’t wait to make the rest of the patterns in this book! Oh, and in case you were wondering – the entire book is amazing, and even if you’re not a beginner, it’s worth it for the patterns alone!

Now on to the skirt. I’ve been a bit frustrated with my flouncy, full skirts lately because it is so friggin windy in Boston these days, and I keep having close calls with wardrobe malfunctions. Argh! But when I wore one of my BHL Anna dresses the other day, I was reminded that their six-panel skirt isn’t so full that it gets caught up in the wind, but still full enough to create the silhouette I like. So I introduced Megan to Anna, and they were instantly friends!

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Isn’t she a cutie? The fabric is, once again, one of the gifts from my Princeton friend and generous fabric donor. Once again, I was quite proud of myself for managing to match the plaids. I used Lladybird’s awesome tutorial and cut the fabric in a single layer to get the seams to match up. It took a bit longer, but it’s worth it. Also, I helped me manage to get an entire dress out if less then two yards! Just look at that pattern matching…

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One pattern alteration note: I did have to add about a half inch at the center front panel on the fold in order to get the skirt seams and bodice tucks to match up, but that was an easy fix. All in all, I love this dress! It’s comfy, unique, and exactly my style. Aren’t new friendships beautiful?

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Changing Your Stripes, Coco Edition (plus super easy pattern hack!)

If I had to pick an all-time favorite garment I’ve made, I would have to say it’s my color-blocked Coco from a few months ago. I’ve worn that baby to work, social events, concerts, and even an audition! It’s so comfy it feels like wearing pjs, but super chic at the same time. So, of course, I had to make another!

One of the things I really love about Tilly’s Coco pattern are the simple, classic lines that lend themselves well to endless possibilities. And since this month is Sewing Indie Month (hosted by Mari over at Seamster), I decided to try making a simple pattern hack to celebrate! But first, the dress:

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As you can see, this time I opted for the funnel neck. The fabric is a drapey double knit from Mood fabrics – I’d been dying to make a striped version after seeing Tilly’s many amazing striped creations, and was to thrilled to finally get a chance! Oh, and look at that stripe matching at the side seams!

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Very proud of that! To match the stripes, I sewed the seams with my sewing machine set to a zig-zag, since the serger tends to feed unevenly, resulting in mismatched stripes and frustration. I did want to use my serger as a seam finish, though, since the fabric does unravel a little, so I serged the edges:

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To create the bottom panel, (i.e. my super easy pattern hack), I used both the top and the dress patterns:

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First, I cut the main dress from the top pattern, adding a 5/8″ seam allowance to the bottom and omitting the side vent mark.

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Next, I created the bottom pattern piece by using the bottom portion of the dress pattern, cutting it off at the Coco top hem allowance and adding 5/8″ at the top.

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The final step was simply to attach the bottom piece to the top; then you can sew up the dress according to the instructions.

As you can see, I created a fun contrast by turning the stripes on the collar and bottom panel vertically. Since those parts of the dress don’t need to stretch much, you can get away with doing that with a knit. Super easy!

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Posing with Tilly’s fabulous new book!

Hopefully this one will become a new favorite as well!

Oh, and one more piece of business – you can now vote for my sari wrap skirt on the Project Sewn Sewalong! 🙂

Return of the Jedediah

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun :P. Anyhow, you may recall that several months ago I made some Jedediah Pants for the husband, and I’ve been itching to sew them again ever since. My first pair weren’t quite what he had in mind in terms of color and fit, so I was determined to create a pair that he would love. (I love that first pair, though. Hrmph!)

In case any of you aren’t familiar, the Jedediah Pants are one of the fabulous patterns by the new men’s pattern company, Thread Theory, and I can’t sing their praises highly enough. Seriously – of all the garments I’ve sewn in that past 8 months or so, these were one of my favorites! The details give it a very polished, professional look, and yet they remain a totally doable project. I made this pair in a day!

For this pair, I used a gorgeous camel-colored brushed cotton from Grey’s (I bought the rest of the bolt – sorry, y’all!). Since this fabric didn’t have any stretch (the last pair had some Lycra), I widened the thighs by 1/4″ at both seams, grading out to about an inch at the bottom. So, a totally Increase of about an inch at the thighs to four inches at the hem. The husband decided that they were a little too baggy at the bottom with that adjustment, though, so I took in about 1 1/2″ at the hem, grading to nothing at the knee. He needs the extra room through the top for his giant fencer thighs, though, so I kept that fullness. Voilà!

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He still refuses to let me put his face on the blog, so that’s all you get :P. Anyhow, he’s worn them every day since I made them last week, so I think that means they’re a winner! I especially love how the brushed cotton looks sort of like suede – these pants look pricey, but they only cost me about $30 to make! Pretty good, if you ask me (especially considering that, after we bought the fabric, we went clothes shopping and spent over a hundred on a new blazer – that was on sale! Oof)

A friend of mine asked me recently if sewing is cheaper than buying clothes. While that’s a complicated question (at least for me – and hopefully I’ll get around to blogging about it at some point!), I think that, for men’s clothing, it definitely makes economic sense. Good men’s clothing can be quite pricey, and now thanks to Thread Theory, we can make our own! And prove to our significant others that sewing really is worth it. Win win, I say!

India with a Twist: Sari Wrap Skirt

Week Three of Project Sewn is already upon us – how time flies! This weeks theme is “going global” – using the fashion from a foreign country as inspiration for an outfit. Ever since I took part in a performance of the opera Lakmé last month, I’ve been wanting to explore saris and Indian fashion more, and this was the perfect opportunity! I mentioned in my post about the opera that we all got to learn how to wrap saris, which is actually a fairly complicated process. I wanted to create a garment that would show the sari wrapping process without actually being a sari – I don’t think I could get away with wearing one out in public!

But first, a few words about saris. The sari is a traditional garment worn by Indian women, and consists of several yards of fabric wrapped around the body. Saris are usually tucked into a petticoat to keep them in place (we used shoelaces to tuck the saris in during the opera, though – sometimes you have to improvise!). To begin, you knot one corner of the sari and tuck it into the petticoat, and then begin wrapping. The sari skirt is carefully pleated in the front as you wrap, and this pleating can be quite intricate and fussy! It is then crossed over the shoulder and draped. The section that is draped over the shoulder is called the pallu, but it’s still part of the rectangle that makes up the skirt. For the opera, I tried to give myself a half hour to wrap the sari, but that’s actually not very long! Saris worn for weddings and other special occasions can take an hour to wrap. Whew!

So, I wanted to create a garment to imitate this process without all the intricate folding, pleating, and draping. I decided a wrap skirt with a pleated front would be the perfect compromise between tradition and modern style. For the fabric, I actually ordered a sari off eBay – you can’t beat the real thing! The sari I got is a vintage silk piece that is quite thin and sheer, but very stiff and crisp at the same time.

Since it was more sheer than I was expecting, I knew I would have to imitate the petticoat somehow with a lining. At first I thought I would make a mini skirt out of lining and leave the bottom section sheer, but after draping the fabric on my dress form, I actually liked having the lining fabric extend beyond the sari fabric. This also gave more weight and drape to the sari material.

But enough talking – here’s the finished product!

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You can see I made a little scarf out of the excess to recreate the pallu. The skirt pattern was self-drafted using this tutorial. I made the skirt narrower than recommended because the fabric was so stiff, but it tends to come open very easily so I’m regretting that decision a little (I plan to use this Megan Nielsen tutorial to keep it closed).

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You can see I used a royal blue cotton for the lining – I love the contrast of rich colors! Oh, and the bindi is leftover from my Lakmé makeup :). (I almost wore it to work this morning – oops!!)

I’m quite pleased with how this turned out, and once I fix its wardrobe malfunctioning potential, I hope to wear it out! I feel a little funny about wearing this everyday, though – do you think this is an “everyday piece,” or is it too costumey? Or special occasion-y? What are your thoughts?

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So what do y’all think – did I succeed in turning a traditional national style into a wearable piece?

Naughty Sewing, Hollyburn Edition

I purchased the Sewaholic Hollyburn Skirt pattern a few months ago and have been meaning to sew it ever since. After seeing Lauren’s awesome version a few days ago, I knew it was time. The pattern says it isn’t intended for stripes or plaids, but I found a lovely striped cotton/poly blend in some of the fabric that was recently given to me by my Princeton friend and really wanted to make it work. Naughty me!

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The stripe on this particular fabric ran parallel to the selvage instead of perpendicular (which is the usual orientation for stripes), which definitely made it easier to pull off. I managed to get the stripes to match perfectly in the front and back, and fudged the sides so that part of the stripes match up. Since the stripes are running vertically, I knew that they would come together in a neat “v” along the seam lines regardless of whether or not the stripes actually matched, which I think helps mask the mismatched spots on the side.

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Speaking of stripe matching, check out that pocket! I was super proud of myself for managing to get that bit to match up. I had been avoiding sewing with stripes for a while because I didn’t feel like matching, but now I’ve caught the stripe sewing bug and want to see how many crazy matches I can manage! Ha!

I made view C, the shortest and most flared, but added about an inch of length, since I feel incredibly self-conscious if I think my skirt is too short. I also cut it out in a single layer, which really helped with the stripe matching. Also, I managed to squeeze this out of about a yard and a half of 45″ wide fabric – a yard less than called for! Win!

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That’s my “naughty girl duck face” pose :P. I used to be a strict rule follower, but I’m finally feeling comfortable enough with my sewing skills that I can break them every once in a while. Freeeeedooom!

Oh, and one last thing – voting is up for this week’s Project Sewn sewalong! My floral Pastille is entry 16 – if you liked it, why not go over and vote? 🙂

Pastille Partay!

For some reason, being super stressed out and busy has actually led to an explosion of sewing…I guess when I’m in “do a million things” mode I really do get stuff done! Anyhow, in the midst of apartment searching and sort-of wedding planning (ha! More about that at some future date…), I managed to complete a dress for the second week of Project Sewn. Ha! Take that, stress!

The theme for this week is floral, which means you can do pretty much anything. It was a nice change from last week, which was so genre specific, and a big relief, because I didn’t have the time or mental energy to devote to another brain-breakingingly complicated project. Since I had poured so much time into perfecting the fit of the Colette Handbook Pastille dress, I decided to just go ahead and make another, this time with no cutting and pasting. I really like the pattern as-is – it has some lovely design lines, and aside from some fit issues, it fairly easy to construct.

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The fit still isn’t quite perfect, but I think it’s good enough for now. There are some diagonal wrinkles along the sides, which I was thinking were due to the bust shaping and dart size, but I’m now realizing that it probably has to do with extra fullness through the high bust/shoulders. Colette patterns are drafted for a C cup, and ladies with larger busts also often have more fullness through the upper bust than smaller busted ladies (like me), so I have a feeling that’s the culprit.

The bodice back was the biggest fit challenge. For some reason, there’s a big ol’ dart back there – one reviewer described it as “a back that would made the Hunchback of Notre Dame jealous.” Ha. I did some research to see how other folks had dealt with the problem, and there were all sorts of complicated solutions. I wanted a simple fix, so I just did a SBA. Weird, I know, since there’s no bust in the back…but it worked! And didn’t break my brain in the process.

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(The wrinkles back there are mostly due to the lightness of the fabric – I promise it really does fit!)

The fabric for this dress was actually given to me by a friend from Princeton. When she found out that I had started sewing, she offered to give me some of the pieces from her stash that weren’t getting used, so of course I lept at the opportunity. I love it when people give me fabric! This lovely piece is a cotton/poly voile, and has a slight sheen, giving it a floaty, dreamy quality. I really love it, and the dress!

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So that’s my week two Project Sewn entry. And speaking of Project Sewn, many thanks to to everyone who voted and helped me win the week one sewalong! Eep!!

P.S. Did anyone notice that my shoes are actually made up of tiny ribbon rosettes? Well, they are, just FYI. 🙂

The Daenerys Dress: Pattern Details

Happy Mother’s Day, y’all! It’s a beautiful day here in Boston, and hopefully it is for you, too!

Today I thought I would be fun to show you how I messed around with the Pastille dress pattern from the Colette Handbook to create my Daenerys dress from a few days ago. And also to show off my new photo editing abilities :P.

To create the bodice, I first traced the entire Pastille bodice onto pattern paper (both sides instead of on the fold). Next, I lowered the neckline from the “sweetheart” line of the original to a deeper “v” line. I then sketched the “crossover” pattern straight onto the bodice and cut. Since I didn’t want to sew darts in the crossover pieces, I actually folded out the original dart to create a more curved pattern piece, like this:

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(How ’bout those photo editing skillz, yeah???)

I then added seam allowances – 1 1/4″, since I needed to go over the 5/8″ seam allowance that was already there and then overlap back again. Just trust me on this one. Side note: it would’ve made my life much easier to remove all seam allowances to begin with and add them back in the end. If I had done that, I would’ve needed to add the usual 5/8″ instead of 1 1/4″. Next time, I will do this!! (The math nearly broke me….agh)

So this is what all of the bodice pattern pieces looked like after my edits:

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And just for reference, here’s what the Pastille bodice normally looks like:

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For the skirt front, I again traced the full pattern piece onto pattern paper instead of putting it on the fold. I added a little bit of the bodice bottom, since I had chopped it off to create the crossover top. I then eyeballed the curve and hoped I got it right….

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For the back, I pretty much just used the Pastille pattern as-is, except for cutting the oval out of the back bodice. I did that straight onto the fabric (I was really livin’ on the edge with this project!!), so there were no changes to the pattern piece.

So there you have it! I also just wanted to say “thank you” for all the wonderful comments on my finished project – it meant so much to me! Y’all are awesome for reading this!

And lastly, there’s still a little more time left in the voting for the sewalong (I think it ends tonight), so if you loved this dress, why not go vote? 🙂

Date Night Daenerys

Today is the beginning of Project Sewn Season 4 – I’m so excited!! I’m hoping to sew along for at least a few of the challenges – as I mentioned earlier, the next two months are going to be crazy and I’m already feeling overwhelmed, so I don’t want to overdo it! I got a head start on this week’s challenge, though, which I am so excited to share with you all!

The challenge for week one is “Leading Ladies” – to create a garment based on a movie. Since I’m a huge sci fi/fantasy geek, I knew I wanted to take this opportunity to recreate an outfit from one of my favorite fantasy shows, but I also wanted to make a garment that would be wearable everyday, so it needed to be a subtle nod to the genre instead of all-out cosplay. My hubby and his friends are very into the Game of Thrones book and tv series, and they managed to suck me in this season, so I decided to base my challenge on one of the dresses from there.

The costumes in that show are truly breathtaking – many of them are intricately hand-embroidered, which you can check out on the costume designer’s blog here. Many of the costumes are a little too medieval or elaborate to be easily turned into an everyday outfit, but the character Daenerys tends to wear dresses that have a modern look. I decided to base my project on her blue wrap dress:

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(Photo reference here).

This particular design becomes more and more heavily embroidered with a dragon-scale texture as her character develops – a gorgeously subtle detail that probably won’t be picked up by many viewers, but shows the immense care and thought that went into the design. After carefully analyzing as many pictures as I could find, I decided that the Pastille dress from the Colette Handbook would make the perfect pattern base. First, I made several muslins to get the fit right – this was a tricky bodice to fit!! But very worth it; I’m looking forward to making many more “regular” versions of this dress.

I then had to figure out how to create the wrap effect, which nearly broke my brain. As far as I could tell from the still photos and movie clips I saw, the wrap is actually sewn down, so it’s more of a piecing detail than a functional design element. I made numerous sketches of pattern pieces and sewing details before I even attempted to alter the pattern.

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After a great deal of angst and brain-bending calculations, I finally took the leap and cut my fabric. I think I sewed every seam on that bodice twice, at least, to try to get it to fit right! Adding the wrap pieces meant that I couldn’t sew the full waist darts that are in the original pattern, so I had to make some creative modifications, but I think it worked. Here she is:

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(Sorry if these pics look photoshopped to death…I wasn’t super happy with my photo shoot, so I did my best to touch them up. It sort of gives them a movie-ish quality, though, yeah? Meh…)

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I especially love the back detail – I bias tape to bind the edges, and just cut a big ol’ hole out of the back free-hand. It was a little scary, but I’m pleased with how it turned out.

I also wanted to give a nod to all the beautiful hand embroidery that went into the costumes in the show, so I hand-stitched the hem, the neckline, and the back opening with “pick stitches” (is that even a real sewing term? :P) – tiny visible stitches spaced about 1/4″ apart. Here’s a detail shot – you can barely see them, but I think it adds a nice detail:

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And since I wanted this to be an everyday dress, I also took a few pics of the “date night” version:

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I think this translated really well into a fashion-forward take on a casual cocktail dress – what do you think?

All in all, I’m really proud of this dress! It’s a little problematic to wear for more active occasions, but for evening social functions, it’s perfect. And really, who doesn’t want to be the Mother of Dragons??

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Playing Catch-Up!

I’ve mentioned several time that I have a backlog of blogging to do, but I think this post should get me all caught up! The next few months are shaping up to be pretty crazy for me, so I’m trying to get in as much sewing now as possible before we change apartments in June (hopefully moving closer to work…fingers crossed!) and I have to pack up my machines :'(. Not looking forward to that!

So for this post I have not one but two new makes to show you! First of all, I was super excited when Sarai at Colette Patterns announced their Guide to Sewing Knits book and two new knit patterns, so I preordered the book and patterns as soon as I could! The book is a fantastic resource for anyone who is new sewing knits or who needs a little more info on their knit sewing techniques. The patterns are fast, simple, and lovely. As it was still Lent when I got the book and patterns, I grabbed the one knit jersey that was left in my stash and got to work making a Moneta Dress.

I really love the fit of this pattern – the gathered skirt is surprisingly flattering, and the waist shaping has a lovely contour. I omitted the pockets on this version because I was using a lightweight knit, and the pockets just ended up look like excess fabric at the side seams. I love all the different collar options, and went for the tie collar, which is one of the online extras on the pattern site. I only had a tiny bit of the polka dot fabric left, but it was just enough for the collar – proof that your tiny knit scraps really are useful! 🙂

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There’s another new me-made item in the outfit – can you guess what it is? The Megan Nielsen Virginia Leggings! I’ve been wanted to make these for a while, but was wary of PDF patterns. However, I’ve gotten comfortable enough with figuring out the scaling setup of the printer I use that I felt I could take a chance purchasing it. I’ve decided that since I love the process of sewing and don’t necessarily care if I’m making something super fancy, I might as well sew all of my “essentials,” such as leggings and underwear, so I was eager to give this pattern a try.

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And it does not disappoint! I made a size small grading to a medium at the hips, but next time I’ll just make a size small – since this is a knit and a super simple pattern, the fit is quite forgiving, and I’d rather have these on the tighter than the looser side. These are probably the fastest thing I’ve ever sewn – I made them at the same time as my Comox Trunks, and both projects together only took an afternoon!

The fabric I used (and for the undies, too) is a gorgeously soft bamboo/spandex blend from – wait for it – Mood Fabrics in NYC! My mom and I took a special trip there the Monday after Easter – a “fabric feast” to celebrate the end of my fabric fast. Traveling there from Boston was quite a hike – 9 hours round-trip for about 5 hours of shopping – but it was completely worth it. And great to see my mom – she’s the one who got me into sewing in the first place, and it has been really special to have my own sort of “sewing club” with her – we are constantly comparing notes on fabric, fit, sewing trends, etc. We both got home with piles of gorgeous fabric that should keep us busy for a while!

Ok, I think I’m finally caught up – whew! I can’t wait to show you my next make – I’m going to try to sew along with this season of Project Sewn as much as I can, and I’m almost done with my garment for week one! See you soon!