Mexican-Inspired Embroidered Dress

If you've read my blog for a while (or maybe even my previous blog, Megxico), you know I have a deep love and appreciation for Mexico. Back in 2009, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Mexico City and to travel all over and get to know so many amazing people. I also have a love for Mexican embroidered dresses and bought quite a few while I was there.

So when my cousin announced he was getting married in Sayulita, just north of Puerto Vallarta, this winter, I knew I wanted to make something special to pay homage to this beautiful country. While not as bright as a traditional dress, this was a fun way to combine a Mexican influence with my aesthetic.

Pattern: Simplicity's Cynthia Rowley #1104
Fabric: 2 yds upholstery cotton + 1/2 yard quilting cotton for lining
Cost: $25

First off, this fit and flare pattern from Cynthia Rowley is amazing! The front and back are just one piece each, with darts and tucks folded in to create the shaping. It is slightly fuller in the front than the back, giving a very flattering shape all around. After grading the pattern out at the hips and then nipping the sides in just a tad at the waist, the fit was stellar. No weird wonky bits, dart manipulation, or other adjustments needed. It stayed on and felt great all night.

To give it some body, I made the whole thing out of an upholstery weight fabric. You might think it would be too bulky or too scratchy, but a fabric of this weight is great for holding its shape. It really gave the skirt its full flare without the need for a crinoline or horse-hair braid or other stabilization. The effect is very dramatic without much work. I'm sure you could make it out of a beautiful silk with some body as well, but this version was much more cost effective ;)

I did make a few changes to suit my taste. First, I added pockets, naturally. The dress is full enough to hide the pockets well, and they came in very handy for stashing my phone and other items.

I also switched up the neckline a bit. In the original pattern, the V at the front is flattened out at the bottom. For a more dramatic plunge, I made it into a true V shape which shows off a bit more cleavage. The back as drafted was very high, so I slashed a V in that as well. It comes to just above my bra strap for an easy fit. While a deep V in the front and the back could cause some problems with the shoulders slipping off, the sturdy upholstery fabric held everything in place. Another win for stiff fabric. Also, a win for push-up bras.

I'm sure you're also curious about the embroidery. It was all done by hand over a period of a month or so. If you give yourself enough time, it can be a very relaxing TV-watching activity. I rather liken it to adult coloring.

While the traditional approach would be to embroider the fabric before cutting it out and sewing up the dress, I decided to wait until the very end (just before the lining was tacked down), to do the embroidery. I knew it would make it more difficult to handle, but I wanted to have full control over where the pattern was placed on the bodice, and give myself room to make adjustments if the dress didn't fit very well.

The fabric was so stiff that I didn't use an embroidery hoop, and I was very careful not to send the stitches through the lining as well. In order to see the pattern I was following, I fused a tear-away stabilizer on top of the fabric. This allowed me to draw the pattern right on it in pen. However, the stabilizer was old and tended to separate a bit from the fabric, and it made it hard to precisely place my stitches. Not to mention that tearing it out is a pain and required that I pull some stitches back into place from the wrong side of the fabric. With some tenacity though, it all worked out well. The design is an amalgamation of a few things I liked from the internet, and I hope echoes the beautiful Mexican embroidery that inspired it.

The wedding itself was beautiful, and we had an amazing time relaxing with family and friends. Sayulita is very catered toward American tourists, which was both very comfortable and a little odd.

Here is the dress on location:

A pic with the fam:

With my fiance:

Being obnoxious after a few margaritas:

And the beautiful bride and groom:

Oh, and did I mention the place my aunt rented? Yeah, it was amazing and surprisingly affordable for two families.

To keep the good times rolling, I also wore my dress this past weekend to a meetup of the Bay Area Sewists for Frocktails - an idea we stole from the Aussies to have a night of frocks and cocktails. It was so much fun to be able to discuss the design with other people who sew, and also get inspired for new dresses by seeing what they wore!

This dress also has one more planned outing this year - another wedding on Cinco de Mayo so I can celebrate the battle of Puebla in style. 

My New Everyday Tee

You know it's a good one when you make yourself a casual everyday tee and you wear it EVERY DAY. I mean, I made it when I was working from home so I didn't need that much variety, but this simple shirt has been a real winner.

Pattern: Tessuti's Free Mandy Boat Tee
Fabric: 1.5 yds ponte
Cost: $10

This pattern is Tessuti's free Many Boat Tee, which evolved from their other free pattern, the aptly named Fave Top. It is a really simple one-size-fits-most drop shoulder top, with fitted sleeves that balance the volume of the body very nicely. 

This is actually my second version of the top. I wore the first all over Europe this summer but was getting rather sick of the light lavender color, which doesn't really mix as well with my wardrobe. The black goes with everything and is now why I find myself wearing it ALL THE TIME. 

This version is cut from a black ponte, the same fabric as I used to make my basic black dress. However, after making the dress I only had enough fabric for the body, so I cut the arms from remnants of our Halloween costume fabric. Surprisingly, you'd never notice even though they are slightly different weights and materials. Black for the win!

I am loving this pattern so much right now that I have actually done a pattern hack with some really nice wool sweater knit for the Britex blog. Details on how I combined this pattern with the Style Arc's Dee Knit top on their blog, so check it out because the twist is a lot of fun. 

I am super into sewing basics right now and am wearing them all the time. 

New Job, New Pants

I started a new job last week! I have to say, it feels really satisfying to finally land a good gig - for me it was the final chapter in my adventure back to school. I am working at a new firm founded by some of my former colleagues and staffed by some of my favorite people. 

And you know what a new job also means? An excuse to make new clothes!

Pattern: my Mambo No. 5 pants pattern block
Fabric: 2 yds stretch woven
Cost: $20

Sartorially, this job is an interesting challenge. It is remote, meaning I could stay in my yoga pants all day. However, I am NOT working from home. Our house is just a bit too small and we all know I couldn't give up my precious sewing space. Instead, I'm working out of a coworking space that was originally started by Mr. Made and some friends. In a serendipitous turn of events, he also started a new job this month so we did a little switcharoo and I have taken over his space while he commutes to his new office. This means I still have to look vaguely presentable during the work day, and also accommodate a short bike commute as well as any meetings or casual meet-ups with my co-workers.

The answer is something akin to the Yoga Dress Pant: stretchy, comfy work wear that can be worn just as easily on my bike as it can to an important meeting. Seriously, these pants are so comfy! The secret is super stretchy bottom-weight fabric with all the office-appropriate details. They have horizontal slash pockets in the front and welt pockets in the back, and a slim straight-cut leg. The fabric has enough stretch so they pull on without any closures, and a wide elastic encased in the waistband that makes everything stay put.

I made these up from my pants block with its latest set of fit tweaks - I am always perfecting this thing. Even with the small tweaks, it is so nice to have a TNT pattern for pants as you save so much time not futzing over the fit. As always, I used a 1" seam allowance on the side seams so that I can make any adjustments based on how tightly woven the fabric is. Basically, I sew everything up, then baste together at the sides to assess how much the fabric stretches and how tight I want the pants to be. This one extra step allows me to use this pattern for so many different types of fabric.

In this case, the fabric is from Stonemountain in Berkeley. I popped in there on my last day off because I had a feeling they would have some good stretch fabrics for me. I used to have to buy all my stretchy pants fabrics online, but in the past few years I have noticed more and more wonderful bottom-weight options at my local fabric stores. Those who follow me on Instagram will know that I found quite a few fabrics - I took home enough for at least four pairs of pants, as well as a few tops to go with them. It was a really satisfying fabric binge.

As you can see, my pants add a little pop of color to my first meeting outfit. Here I'm wearing them with my Granville shirt and my Simplicity Blazer for my first professional work retreat. It is so satisfying to have an entirely me-made meeting outfit, and also SO COMFY. Now all that's left to do is focus on work. 

2017, 2018 + a Wedding!

Somehow between traveling, writing my master's thesis, and everything else this year, I realized as I sat down to write this post that I still found quite a bit of time to sew. I think I can attribute that to a bit of unemployment sprinkled in ;)

Looking over my roundup from last year, I also have quite a few more winners this year. Each of my four knit tops got a ton of wear, as did my new pants. In fact, I'm wearing my wine-colored turtle-neck and plaid pants right now! Towards the end of the year I snuck in some outerwear sewing, and have even been trying to (slowly) up my office-wear game. 

Knit tops were the real winners this year. Comfy, cosy, and easy to care for, each of the four above were worn a ton. I have also been continuing to make button-up shirts to varying degrees of success. 

This year I fell in love with Thread Theory's Lazo Trousers, which I made up as per the pattern, as boyfriend jeans, and as overalls! I also made a pair of plaid pants from my pants block, which I have nearly perfected and are so comfy. 

My dresses this year ranged from interview dresses to crazy party wear. I had a fun time playing with shapes and styles, like my Drape Drape and Pattern Magic dresses. 

With the help of Britex, I also snuck in a bit of outerwear sewing for myself at the end of this year. I have always wanted to make that two-toned motorcycle jacket and am so glad I finally did!

Beatrix didn't get quite as much clothing this year, but she did get dressed up as a dragon for our Game of Thrones costumes. 

Finally, not everything was a success. My reversible travel dress, while worn a ton this summer, never quite fit right or had the most flattering cut. I might try to reconfigure it this year. I also made some poor fabric choices that I will have to do over in something better for next time. 

Here's how that all breaks down in terms of patterns, fabrics, and skill level. This year, I've mostly stuck with tried and true pattern companies McCall's and BurdaStyle, which offer so many pattern options at an affordable price point. I sewed a lot in knits, and did a fair amount of intermediate-level sewing. My one experienced pattern was the Pattern Magic Dress, which has you draft the pattern from instructions and included lots of bizarre pattern manipulations. It was fun though!

This was also the year that Twinsburg, the short film that I did costumes for, was released to the public. It's a film about twins at the largest gathering in Twinsburg, Ohio, so the costumes were super wacky and fun. You can catch it on Vimeo here.

2018 ~

Finally, what does 2018 bring? Well, for one, a wedding! After six years together, Mr. Made and I have decided to tie the knot. We got engaged at the top of Prague Castle, where he had arranged for a passerby to capture the moment on camera. It was magical! 

I do not want an over-the-top or Pinterest-inspired do-it-yourself wedding, but I am very excited to sew my own dress (and maybe some simple bridesmaids dresses, too). We are planning a wedding for July, so I hope to share some process posts along the way.  

Other than that, I have quite a few friends getting married this year and have somehow promised them all this shirt, so that will occupy quite a bit of time as well. Plus I always want to make more pants, and some more tees, and... We'll see how it goes.

Wishing you all a happy new year and lots of sewing time, whatever the year may bring!

Color-Blocked Motorcycle Jacket

Hello hello! I'm rounding out the year with a bright new cozy jacket! This one has been on my inspiration board for quite some time, and it wasn't until all the fabrics came together that I finally got the chance to make it.

Pattern: Kwik Sew #3764
Fabric: 1 yd Italian Black Wool Stretch Twill and 1 yd wool ponte remnant

The red fabric is a beautiful thick wool ponte that Crossroads Fabrics had inherited from an estate sale. I think it's vintage. The amount used here is the remnants from one of my favorite sweaters that I made up a few years ago. The black wool is a luscious Italian stretch twill that I got in collaboration with Britex. The two fabrics were meant to be together and fulfilled my long-held fantasy of making something similar to this fun jacket.

For the pattern, I used Kwik Sew #3764, which was a real pleasure to sew with. While the jacket looks complicated with its collar, zippered pockets, and topstitched seams, it really came together quite easily. I read so many blog posts about how people "are scared to sew with Big 4 patterns," but I think they provide really great instructions with pattern pieces that fit nicely together. Especially when you're working with a Kwik Sew or Simplicity beginner pattern, they really are designed to be easy to sew with!

This pattern is for an unlined jacket, so I surged and topstitched all interior seams. For the center back stitch, I applied a Hong Kong seam binding in a matching red bias tape. It's a fun detail and gives it a really professional look. I have always liked unlined patterns because I thought they were quicker to sew up, but now I'm reminded of how much work it takes to make a jacket look neat and finished on the inside. It is probably much quicker to just throw a lining in and not worry about how messy your unfinished seams look!

The only change I made to the pattern was to take it in at the side seams and sleeves. Just before hemming the jacket I popped it on and decided that it was a bit too boxy. Both my fabrics had a bit of stretch in them and were much better suited for a more fitted motorcycle jacket look. So I pinned out a curve at the waist and took in about 2 inches from the sleeves to make the jacket more fitted. It was a pain to undo the serged and topstitched seams, but well worth it in the end. I also shaved 3/4" of an inch off the shoulder, and probably could have done a bit more as it still has a bit of an unintentional dropped shoulder look. A shoulder pad or sleeve head may look nice, too, if I ever sew this one up again.

The jacket is definitely a bold choice, but I really love it. It is comfy thanks to the stretch and quite warm thanks to the wool fabrics. And it's nice to have something bright to pull on this time of year. To end, here's a pic of me with Beatrix in her Christmas sweater.

Hope everyone is staying warm and cozy this season!

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