New Dress, New City, New Year!

Hey everyone, remember me??? It feels like years have past since my last blog post – that’s how crazy life has been. I do have a good excuse, though – I moved across the country! Again! That’s right, folks; I am once more a resident of the East Coast. Around Thanksgiving, my husband was interviewing for a job back east “on a whim,” and a few whirlwind weeks later, I found myself backing boxes like my life depended on it. Crazy how quickly things can move when you least expect it. CRAZY.

So, at the moment, all of my precious sewing accouterments are being shipped in large crates across the country. We are staying with family until we either a. find a place to rent or b. buy a house. SAY WHAT?? Needless to say, it will probably be a while before I am able to post my “first makes of 2016!” In the meantime, however, I do have a “final make of 2015” to share, as well as a few reflections and goals for the coming year.

First off, a pretty dress:

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When I found out at the beginning of December that we were going to be moving in just a few weeks, I of course responded by stress sewing. Rather conveniently, this news also coincided with my husband’s holiday work party. So, naturally, I decided that the best course of action was to sew an entire dress – including tracing and fitting a new pattern – the day of the party. And I had to work that afternoon. But somehow, it all came together in time (well, almost – the hem is still basted in :P), and my manic sewing episode actually did help me sort through some of my anxiety about the move.

The pattern is Tilly’s Lilou dress from Love and First Stitch, which I modified slightly to ensure a proper fit. Since I was so short on time and this was my first time making the pattern, I took a bodice pattern that I had already fitted and tested, and traced the neckline and armhole shape onto it. I’m soooo glad I did, because it meant that I didn’t need to make any more fit adjustments as I attempted to break me land-speed sewing record. The fit isn’t quite perfect (the shoulders are a teensy bit too long), but it’s good enough for a special occasion dress.

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The fabric was one of my Black Friday scores from Fabric Outlet in SF. The whole week after Thanksgiving, everything was 40% off, which I used this as an excuse to do some serious retail therapy. I also got two gorgeous lengths of wool coating in anticipation of the frozen tundra of the northeast. Goodness knows I’ll need it!

Speaking of coats, that leads nicely into my goals for 2016! While I have several specific goal projects in mind, my over-arching goal for the year is not to force anything I don’t feel like doing. I was re-reading my goals from last year in preparation for this post, and saw that one of them was to post on this blog twice a week. HA. I realized soon after that that very goal was the kiss of death for me posting regularly, because it set up a guilt-procrastination-more guilt loop every time I didn’t meet my goal. So above all, I want to keep things fun and as stress-free as possible.

With that in mind, here are a few projects I’d love to make, or at least start:

-a winter coat. As I mentioned above, I already have the wool. Now I’m just debating which pattern to choose…

-more jeans. I’ve worn my current Ginger jeans to near oblivion, so I clearly need more!

-more work clothes, especially blouses. Honestly, I’m not that thrilled to sew these, but I really need them, and I’m trying to create an entirely handmade wardrobe so…we’ll see. Not holding my breath on this one.

-my sister’s wedding dress. YUP. I have a feeling this one might trump all of the above…

And I’m going to leave it at that. It could be months before I even have a sewing space, so for now my goal is to be patient, role with the punches, and try not to let the chaos of it all phase me too much. The changes have only just begun, and we have so much left to do before we can truly “settle down.”

To close, I just wanted to mention a few reflections on the past year. I feel like sewing took a bit more of a back seat than it had in 2014, but I’m ok with that, because I had such a full life in San Francisco. And I have to admit, I’m very sad to have to leave such a wonderful city. Even though I was only there for 16 months, I really lived there, if you know what I mean. I still can’t believe how lucky and blessed I was with the opportunities that came my way and the people with whom I shared them. In so many ways, this was the best year of my life to date.

So, here’s to looking at you, 2015. We sure had a heck of a time together.

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All Wrapped Up: Belated Birthday Wrap Dress

(apologies for the terrible pun in the title…)

In the spirit of finally blogging things made several months before, I bring you – *drumroll* – my birthday dress! My birthday was in March, and I did wear this on “the big day,” so you do the math :P. But hey, better late than never!

Backing up a bit, I’ve been on a search for a good knit wrap dress pattern pretty much ever since I started sewing. Short of shelling out major $$$ for the original Vogue DVF pattern, however, I was having trouble finding one. However, for Christmas, my mom got me the wonderful Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress book, which happens to have a knit wrap dress pattern included in the lineup (the “Liza Dress” in the book). This pattern was inspired by the original DVF design, so it was exactly the sort of look I was going for. I also knew I wanted a wrap dress that was red and drapey, so when I spotted a slinky Brazil knit at Eddie’s Quilting Bee in Sunnyvale, I snatched up several yards and got to work!

I made the variation version, with 3/4 length sleeves and a fuller skirt (the “original” is sleeveless, with a slightly narrower skirt), and I absolutely love the result. It has become my go-to dress for fancy-ish-but-not-too-fancy occasions, like attending opera dress rehearsals or ballet performances. It’s easy to dress up or down depending on the occasion, and it’s always comfortable, which is a major plus at formal events!

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One unique construction element worth mentioning here was the neck finish – this pattern used a binding instead of simply folding under and hemming. This helps alleviate gaping, which is often an issue with wrap dresses. The binding is simply a strip of fabric cut along the direction of greatest stretch, creating basically a knit version of bias binding. You then press it in half, sew it to the neckline, understitch, and then turn under and hem. It’s a few more steps, but it’s definitely worth it, since it both stabilizes the neck and prevents gaping.

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Outtake – the dangers of taking pictures in the wind!

So, all in all, a very successful make, and one that has been worn many, MANY times already!

Belated Blogging

Goodness gracious, I’m behind on my blogging! I now have several garments languishing in an un-blogged (though much-worn) state, one all the way from March! Unfortunately, I blame this mostly on my photo-taking situation here in the city. Even though I live in a “good” neighborhood, I’ve had several experiences with loitering, “creepy” voyeurs during a few of my photoshoots, so I’m now very shy about taking my camera out into the streets of SF (and my living room is a no-go in terms of lighting). Have any of you experienced this when taking pictures? Any tips??? Ugh.

But anyhow, on to cheerier topics – like a colorful dress! In case you hadn’t already figured it out, this is the Colette Moneta Dress, a real favorite of mine! I actually made this version well over a year ago, shortly after the pattern came out. It’s my second iteration of the pattern, and I have since made a few changes (mainly, a sway back adjustment and removing a bit from the CF neckline to avoid gaping), so you may notice a few fit issues here that I fixed later on.

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As you can see, I made up the pattern pretty much as-is, using the original collar and gathered skirt. I really love this version, and it’s been a real wardrobe workhorse for the past year. It’s the perfect combo of polished enough for work but comfy enough for pretty much every other activity, so it gets worn a LOT!

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The fabric is a fantastic jersey from a local sewing store near my parents in PA, Steve’s Sewing Center. They started carrying designer leftovers a few years ago, and their collection is really pretty amazing! I actually just went there again on a quick trip back home – any sewers in the area should definitely check it out! This particular knit has a lovely drape and a very soft, almost peachskin texture. I think the fiber content is polyester, though to be honest, I really don’t remember.

…but wait, there’s more! One of my favorite makes from over the summer was by far the Grainline Studio’s Morris Blazer. It’s such a versatile pattern, and really fills a lot of wardrobe needs. (I may or may not have bought fabric for another…) I already blogged about my second Morris here, but this was my first version. Interestingly, since this first version is made out of a stable knit, and my second one was made out of a stretch twill, I actually had to use two different sizes to account for the varying amounts of stretch. This version is a size 2, but my green one is a size 4 – just goes to show that you really do need to take your fabric into account from the beginning!

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I absolutely adore this fabric – it’s from Blackbird Fabrics, and although this particular knit isn’t available anymore, Caroline always has some great knits stocked. I used the “right side” for the main body of the blazer and the “wrong side” for the collar – I just love it when I can take advantage of fabric like that! I originally had purchased this fabric for a different pattern, so I only had one meter, but I was able to squeeze this out with the help of some creative cutting (I had to switch the grainline of the collar facing, but it all worked out in the end). The fabric is super soft, and has only pilled a tiny bit after very frequent wear.

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So there you go – a few favorites that have now finally made it to the blog! Whew!

The Perfect Summer Dress

There’s nothing quite as wonderful as a great summer dress – something that keeps you both cool and cute during those hot, sweaty days! Even though summer is drawing to a close, I still find myself wearing a fair amount of summery garments (layered with cardigans, etc., for colder weather), and this dress is no exception. It combines pretty much everything I could want in a summer dress – knit fabric, a swishy skirt, and POLKA DOTS! Did I mention polka dots??

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If you haven’t figured it out already, this is the Moneta Dress by Colette Patterns – my current favorite knit dress pattern. I really love the bodice shaping and gathered skirt, as well as the different collar options. It’s difficult to tell in this pic, but I used the Peter Pan collar option for this dress. It’s a little overboard on the cuteness meter, but personally, I love it. The loud polka dots and collar combined kind of remind me of Minnie Mouse. In a good way.

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In terms of construction, there’s really not a whole lot to say here. I did a slight sway back adjustment, which I may need to augment, judging from these photos (I think the fabric has stretched a bit with wear, as these photos were taken a month or so after I finished the dress). For the collar, I sewed the pieces together on my regular sewing machine instead of the serger so that I could notch the curves and get a cleaner line. I’m really pleased the the result – I would highly recommend sewing all of the collar options on your regular machine for precision, even if you used your serger for the rest.

One last construction note – I always gather my skirt with long basting stitches (the “usual way”) before adding the clear elastic to the waist. I’ve tried the whole elastic ruching thing several times, and not once has it worked for me. My method take a little longer, but I think the results are worth it.

The fabric is a nice rayon knit that I actually got from Sally over at The Quirky Peach when she had her summer stash Instagram sale. I thought that was such a fun way to destash and reach out to the online sewing community simultaneously. And I got a ton of awesome fabric at an amazing price!!

All in all, this is definitely one of my favorite makes so far this year. It does exactly what I want/need it to, and I imagine I’ll probably end up wearing it to pieces in the next year or two. Woot!

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Classy Camo Shift Dress

Do you ever start a project knowing that there’s a fairly good chance it’ll end up a flop, but you go ahead and do it anyway? That was this project. I generally shy away from shift-dress-type garments because they tend to look very sack-like on me, but when I saw the Colette Mesa pattern in the June issue of Seamwork, curiosity got the better of me and I had to give it a try. That and a fabulous knit remnant find from Britex. So I dove in, knowing full well that this could end up in the UFO pile.

After briefly studying the finished measurements for the pattern, I saw that the dress was meant to have negative ease through the hips, which is pretty much my mortal enemy. So I simply graded from an XS at the bust all the way out to a size large at the waist/hips area, since I knew I would rather have extra fabric there than fabric clinging to my tummy/bum. When I tried on the finished garment, I was a little horrified with its sack-like-ness, but with the easy addition of a skinny belt, I decided it could stay. And, to my surprise, I keep finding myself reaching for it on days when I want to feel polished yet comfortable. Which is most days. So I wear it a lot!

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And as it turns out, the dress pairs perfectly with the Morris Blazer from my last post, so I usually pair the two together for an especially put-together look.

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Oh, and in case you’re wondering what the heck is up with the dress sleeves, the sleeves accidentally got rolled up when I wore the jacket out to do my photo shoot, and I didn’t notice it until I was reviewing the photos later. Oops! Annoying, but I decided I was too lazy to try and retake all those pictures :P.

So there you have it – a simple, classy ensemble that I go to again and again!

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Outfit Along, Part 1: Indonesian Anna

What’s this? Two posts in one week?? Crazy times, I know! I’ve finally gotten my sew-jo back in full swing, thanks to my impending vacation to the east coast (i.e. time *not sewing*), and have been churning out garments like nuts. Today’s outfit is the first of two posts about the Outfit Along currently being hosted by Andi Satterlund and Lauren Taylor, which is a combination sew-along/knit-along designed to help participants create an entire outfit instead of just “orphan” pieces. Last year, I used my anniversary dress and shrug as my “cheater entry,” (it just so happened to satisfy the guidelines, which I realized after the fact!) but this year I wanted to really stay true to the challenge and create coordinating everyday garments. This was made more difficult by the fact that I didn’t want to have to purchase any new fabric or yarn, but I managed to put together an ensemble that I’m quite pleased with!

For the sewing portion, I chose to make another By Hand London Anna dress, using a gathered skirt instead of the six-panel skirt included in the pattern. My fabric was something truly special – a hand made wax print from Indonesia. A good friend of the family did some missionary work several years back in Indonesia, and she brought back several yards of gorgeous fabric for my mom. The fabric was eventually entrusted to me, provided I “make something really special with it.” So the fabric sat in my stash for about nine months before I had the courage to finally cut into it.

The fabric provided some interesting challenges – it was a border print, but the border was printed perpendicular to the selvage instead of parallel. Also, the flowers were printed along the lengthwise grain, so I had to get creative with my layout. First, I carefully cut the border panel off of the sides of the fabric, including seam allowances, so that I could attach them to the skirt later on. Next, I added 1/4″ to the side seams of the bodice, since the ease you typically get from cutting with the crosswise grain wouldn’t work with the print. I also took my time decided on the print placement – since the flowers are quite large, I knew their placement would make the dress either really stunning or really awkward! After much deliberation, I finally threw caution to the wind, cut it all out, and whipped it up in about two afternoons.

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Since I wanted to make the dress extra special, I took my time with the details. I was careful to try to match the pattern across the back (it didn’t completely work, but I think it’s good enough!), and I even managed to include the “made in Indonesia” label that was printed into the fabric itself. I also used some stiff satin lining for the hem, since I wanted to give the skirt a little extra body. I like the little element of luxury it adds, too! (not to mention that it won’t stick to tights/leggings – a major pet peeve of mine!)

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All in all, I’m really happy with how it came out! Next up, my knitted portion of the Outfit Along. Stay tuned! 🙂

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Copycat Refashion

When I first laid eyes on the Southport Dress from True Bias, I knew I had to make one. However, as I thought about which view I would sew and what fabric to use, I realized that I had already made one – sort of. Waaaay back in high school, I had made a v-neck, button-down, short-sleeved maxi dress from a gorgeous navy rayon batik. I wore it a ton in my teens, but then put it aside for the last decade or so, since updated fashion trends (not to mention my updated fashion taste!) had rendered it pretty much obsolete. The short, set-in sleeves and lack of waist definition left it squarely in the 90s, and it was time to move on!

However, the Southport Dress inspired me to attempt something I rarely do – fashion an existing garment into something more wearable. Usually I prefer to start from scratch, but since I had loved this dress so much in the past, and since it was something I had made myself, I wanted to extend its life as much as possible. So, I pulled out my trusty seam ripper and got to work!

In my excitement, I of course forgot to take “before” pics, but just imagine this dress with short sleeves and no waist:

Obviously, my major design changes were to take off the sleeves and add an elastic waist! The sleeve removal was pretty straight forward – use a seam ripper to remove them and re-finish the armholes with bias tape. I did widen the armhole a tad in the back to improve the silhouette (so it wouldn’t just look like I had hacked the sleeves off!):

Getting the elastic waistline to behave was a bit trickier, since the dress had no waistline to begin with. I basically used a trial-and-error method of trying to mark the waistline in with chalk (which was not easy, thanks to the slinky rayon!), trying to measure down from the shoulders, and ripping out and resewing when it didn’t work. I created a casing with more bias tape on the inside of the dress and threaded 1/4″ elastic through, securing it at the button band on both ends.


All in all, I’m very pleased with my fashion, and this dress has gotten a lot of wear since! I’m so happy to have turned a former favorite into a new favorite :).

My Christmas Dress: A Velvety Experiment

Less than a week before I embarked upon my holiday travels, I decided it would be a great idea to make a dress for Christmas. Because, y’know, last-minute deadlines are SO helpful in the midst of the already-stressful holiday season. HA. But, actually, this turned out to be a reasonably successful experiment, given what I has to work with.

I say “reasonably successful” because a) this was my first time working with velvet, and b) the velvet I used was incredibly cheap. Like, $3/yard, I-need-to-spend-more-to-get-free-shipping kind of cheap (which, yes, I totally did…). So I knew going into it that this would be a somewhat mixed experience. To prevent myself from getting too frustrated over what could potentially be a total disaster, I allowed myself one day to work on the project, and made myself promise that if I reached any major snags, I would ditch the project and move on. With those parameters firmly in place, I got to work!

Before cutting into my fabric, I did a bit of internet research about working with velvet. Many sites had great information, like cutting your pattern pieces in one layer and tracing pattern pieces onto the back of the fabric instead of pinning. Both of these were fantastic pieces of advice that definitely saved me a lot of slipping and sliding in the cutting phase! I also read that you should baste your seams in place before sewing. If I had been working with fancier velvet, I absolutely would’ve done that, but my fabric was panne velvet, which is a crushed stretch velvet (and not nearly as delicate as the fancier, more expensive versions), so I just forged ahead with my good ol’ serger.

For my pattern, I used my old workhorse, the Lady Skater Dress, which I made a million times last winter and then put aside for some reason. So I was happy to revisit this one once more! I probably should’ve gone a size up, as my fabric had only moderate mechanical stretch and no Lycra, but alas, I didn’t, and my finished dress is definitely on the tight side. Oops.

Sewing with the material was kind of awful, since it was so cheap, but actually not quite as terrible as I expected. I had read in one internet article that with panne velvet, you can just sort of “smoosh” the right sides together, and the slightly Velcro-like quality of the fabric will cause it to stick to itself, eliminating the need for pins. So I totally did that. I also underlined the bodice with a double knit, since the fabric was a bit sheer, and also threatened to stretch out rather disastrously. I’m very glad I did this – I think it will increase the longevity of the garment a bit, which would be nice. I also decided not to try hemming the dress, and just left the hem edge raw. I was afraid that attempting to sew a hem would stretch out the fabric too much, and I didn’t have the time to play around with stabilization opinions. So I may go back and hem it later – any suggestions?

Anywho, enough talk!

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I’m actually rather pleased with the outcome, all things considered. I wore it to our Christmas Eve church service, and felt appropriately festive and decadent.

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How about you? Did you sew any special party/holiday/Christmas outfits? Maybe next Christmas I can plan mine more than a week in advance!

LBD Moneta to the Rescue!

It’s full-on holiday season right now, my fiends! And you know what that means – parties, concerts, and sooo many other special events that require the perfect dress. After wearing a RTW dress to my husband’s holiday office party last year, I swore to myself that this year I would sew my own. And in spite of some near-disasters, I succeeded!

I started out really wanting to make the Colette Dahlia dress as my holiday dress for the season, and had found the perfect bronze/black damask while in PA during my recent travels. However, the fabric turned out to be horrifyingly of grain (I guess that’s what you get for $4/yard…oops…), which then created all kinds of weird fit/drape issues with the raglan sleeves. At that point, it was four days before the annual office party, and I had nothing but a hot mess on my hands! Agh!!

I went to bed that night with my mind racing through ideas of alternate dresses. I was working full-time hours that week, so I had no time to fabric shop or anything. At the eleventh hour, I remembered a black Telio ponte that I had purchased at Eddie’s Quilting Bee several months ago, and realized it would make the perfect LDB. Although I had hoped to turn it into pants, this was an emergency, so I figured it was worth the sacrifice!

For the pattern, I turned to my TNT knit dress, the Colette Moneta Dress. I didn’t have time for any more fit surprises! I changed things up this time, though, by swapping out the gathered skirt for the circle skirt from the Lady Skater Dress, another favorite. I also added a total of 12″ to the bottom circumference of the skirt by slashing and spreading the pattern – I thought a little more fullness would make the dress just a tad more “special occasion-y”. The result?

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Ok, I promise I’m not high in that pic – the company was giving out rainbow sunglasses as party favors. I’m soooooo glad I ended up with this dress for the office party – it was the perfect combo of comfortable, flirty, and semi-formal, and I felt great the whole time. Oh, and another major plus – even after eating all the yummy food there, it was still comfy. Major win!

Here are a few outdoor pics so you get a better idea:

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Note about the photos – I took them myself! With my new tripod! HA! I’ve been determined to take better blog photos, and I think going outdoors helps a lot. And now I don’t have to drag my husband! (Granted, I know I still have a ways to go photography-wise, but it’s a start!)

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This is quickly becoming my go-to “dressy dress” this season. I went to see the Nutcracker at the San Francisco Ballet yesterday, and once again this was the perfect dress! I was especially glad I wore it when I had to walk back in the rain – it’s nice, sturdy fabric that I don’t have to worry about in bad weather.

I’m so glad I pressed on in the midst of failure, because now I have the perfect LBD. Huzzah!

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Turkey Daze

I don’t know about you, but I still have turkey leftover in my fridge from last Thursday (it’s almost gone, though!), which I think has put me in a semi-permanent tryptophan-induced food coma. In other words, I’m behind in my blogging! I have several new finished projects to post, but today you get a repeat with a “twist” in honor of all that turkey. Okay, not really even a twist…but I wanted to introduce you all to my “turkey jacket”! It’s an Anthropologie jacket I got many years ago that has a pleated plaid “tail” in the back that reminds me of, well, a turkey :P. Paired with my Lady Skater cowl dres:

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Dress: handmade “Lady Skater Dress” by Kitschy Coo with cowl from Sewaholic’s “Renfrew Top,” Jacket: Anthropologie, Tights (that you can’t see): purple fleece tights from Saver’s, Boots: Clark’s

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Gobble gobble!