Work(horse) Separates

Yikes, it’s been a long time since my last post!! I blame Christmas sewing :P. In my defense, though, I’ve almost completed all of my handmade gifts, which hopefully means no stressful last-minute crafting! Or, at least, less…a girl can dream. Anyhow, several weeks of “secret sewing” have meant that nothing bloggable has come from my sewing machine in quite a while.

Luckily, I had some separates I made a month or so waiting in the wings, so here we go! I’ve been noticing a distinct dearth of “real” work clothes in my wardrobe recently, and decided I really needed to remedy that. I have lots of full/poofy knee-length skirts paired with casual-ish knit tops or knit dresses, but no “serious” work clothes. Granted, in my line of work, you can really wear pretty much whatever you want, but since I’m still on the young side and since looking “twee” doesn’t really encourage people to take you seriously, I decided it was time for a change.

Since my altered Mabel skirt had been such a hit when I first made it, I decided not to mess with success, and got right to work on another. This time I used a striped ponte – actually, leftovers from this dress – to make it again. I made a few little tweaks to the fit, mostly just taking the center back in a little more and lowering it a bit for a sway back adjustment. It’s still not quite perfect, but I’m getting there.

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The top is also a new make. The photos are a bit overexposed so it’s hard to see, but it’s the Seamwork Astoria cropped sweater. I used a very spongy polyester sweater knit to sew it up, which created more than a few fit challenges. Although the fabric had the necessary stretch percentage for the pattern, it also has rather extreme recovery, making it fit much more tightly than a more regular knit “weave” made from a natural fiber or blend. To give myself a little room to play, I cut the pattern with larger seam allowances (I think it was 5/8″ instead of 3/8″). I’m very glad I did, since my basted together version with the original seams was skin tight! I ended up using 1/4″ seams for the side seams and bottom band, which added back the necessary circumference.

I also added 1 1/2″ to the length – I found it was just *too* cropped as-is, and I couldn’t raise my arms without flashing people. The fit is definitely still wonky, but it’s wearable. Next time, I plan to make this out of more forgiving fabric to see if I can fix some of those issues.

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So there you have it – two new pieces that have already turned into real wardrobe workhorses. Now back to Christmas sewing!!

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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!

Mabel Magic: The Perfect Pencil Skirt

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as that quick, palate-cleansing project that happens to by not only super comfy, but also rather stylish, all while filling a major wardrobe gap. This skirt fits all of those categories!

After my rather epic evening gown adventure, I needed something fun and easy to get my sew-jo back. I attempted to make Tilly’s adorable Bettine dress, but everything about it just looked horribly wrong on me, and it ended up in the UFO pile (which I never had before a few months ago, but now…ooof, looks like a new bad habit is forming!!). Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fabulous dress and has looked wonderful on a lot of the folks who have sewn it up, but it just didn’t like right on me. A combo of poor fabric choice and design elements that don’t quite jive with my body and face structure created a perfect storm of frumpiness. Ugh.

Soooo…that did my sew-jo in even more, and I knew I needed something quick and idiot-proof STAT. Enter Colette’s Mabel skirt. I’ve made it a few times before, thought it never turned out exactly right – the fact that it sits at the hip, and not the waist, means that it is forever creeping up my legs as I walk, resulting in a great deal of tugging down throughout the day to avoid wardrobe malfunction. So, when I saw the tutorial on the Colette blog about how to add an elastic waistband that would sit at the natural waist, I knew I needed to try it. And I’m so glad I did – I love the result! I think I have finally found my Magic Mabel.

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To add the elastic waistband, I added 4″ to the bottom of the skirt, as the tutorial recommends. I also took in about a half inch at the waist at the center back and did a slight sway back adjustment (I think I might need more next time), to account for the different size of high waist vs. low waist. I used a different technique than the tutorial does for applying the elastic, and instead used a twin needle to sew the 2″ elastic to the right side of the skirt. It’s actually the same technique used to apply the elastic to the Comox Trunks – good thing I learned to make men’s undies! 🙂

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Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the top in those photos is another Renfrew I made over the summer – I seriously love that pattern! I made it before our Maine summer vacation so I’d blend in with the locals (cuz, y’know, deer/moose and all….:P). Quick fabric note – I made it with a Girl Charlee cotton/poly print, and since there is no stretch or give in the fabric due to a combo of no spandex and having some polyester, it ended up being WAY too small in the size I usually make. SURPRISE! So I ended up having to creatively size up using smaller seam allowances. It’s not a perfect fit, but good enough considering. And I love how this skirt makes it more work appropriate – win!

All in all, the skirt only took a few hours from start to finish, and I can already tell it’s going to be a real wardrobe workhorse. Now to make five more!

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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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Vacation Trio

Today I have not one, not two, but three unblogged garments to share with you! My pile of “needs to be photographed and blogged” pieces is really building up, so I have a lot of catching up to do – not that I’m complaining! Since we were renting a cabin in Maine with my parents over vacation, I wanted to make sure I took advantage of my dad’s superior photography skills and camera, and on our last day there we did a lovely little shoot at the beach right across the street from our rental. The view you see here – that’s what we saw when we looked out the window! It doesn’t get any better than that.

Anyhow, on to the outfit! Two of the garments are recent makes, and one is actually from last summer that just didn’t get blogged before now. I’ll start with the star of the show – the Morris Blazer by Grainline Studios. This is actually my second Morris – I still haven’t blogged the first one – and it is definitely a new favorite pattern. It’s just the right combination of casual yet put-together, which is perfect for life as a musician in San Francisco (and great for vacation, too!). I love that this pattern uses stretch fabric – so often, I feel very constrained in a traditional blazer, like my wide shoulders are about the bust open a seam, so that extra bit of stretch really helps a lot. I made up a size 4 for this version, which is out of a stretch twill, but it’s worth noting that my first version, made out of a ponte knit, was a size 2. That just goes to show you how important your fabric choice is! And that it’s always good to air on the big side for sizing just in case…

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Next up I have the Aurora tank from the June issue of Colette’s Seamwork Magazine. I really enjoyed both of the patterns in this issue, and have made up the Mesa as well, but just haven’t blogged it yet…story of my life! The fabric for this make is a Brazil knit made by Telio, which I purchased at Eddie’s Quilting Bee in Sunnyvale. I had never heard of Brazil knit before I encountered this fabric, but it kind of looks like a tiny herring bone pattern on the right side and a “normal” knit on the wrong side. It has a lovely, heavy drape and very strong recovery, making it nice for flowy dresses and tops.

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As you can see from these pics, the armholes are a bit too tight due to the method I used for finished the under arm raw edge. The pattern has you simply turn under the raw edge like a hem, but the curve on the pattern pieces is very deep, and the strong recovery of the fabric meant that it simply refused to press such a tight curve. I ended up having to use a knit binding, which I think I must have stretched too much while applying, hence the puckers at the armholes. Oh well – it was a good learning experience!

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I especially like the back pleat detail – it gives a little more room for my wide shoulders. I may try going a size up next time to see if that helps with the armhole situation. We’ll see!

And what’s the third garment, you ask? My Katy and Laney Tap Shorts! I made them last summer after the pattern came out, and was so happy to have weather hot enough that I could finally wear them again! Clearly, they really need to be ironed since their last wash, but they’ve been getting a lot of use and turned into a real workhorse during this vacation.

And so ends my summer vacation. I’m definitely feeling sad not to be on the east coast anymore, but this trip was a nice contrast to my west coast life, helping me see the pros and cons of both locations. I have a feeling the east coast will always feel like “home” to me, but I look forward to the new adventures the west coast has in store for my this fall!