Fall Sewing Plans

Packing up my closet at the beginning of this summer (we rented our place out while we were gone), I had a bit of a clothing crisis. I realized I really could do without the majority of my wardrobe. Next month when we head back, I'm seriously rethinking if I will put everything back or just pare down and start over.

Of course, there are some things I miss (especially my pants!), but a lot of the tops I have are disintegrating or ugly or just not fitting right. There are a lot of wearable muslins in there (hello four versions of the Granville shirt!) and some tops made from poor quality fabric that don't look that great after a few washes. Plus some things I've picked up at clothing swaps that were more experimental than permanent.

So I've spent this summer dreaming about some new things to add to my wardrobe. I'm giving button down shirts for work a bit of a break and focusing instead on knits to go with my Lazo trousers. I'm also hoping to make some shirts (and dresses!) that are more suitable for fun, and will feel special when I pull them out on a Friday night. Here are some things that have been on my mind:

First Row: 

  • Simplicity 8425 - I snapped a pic of a woman wearing a dress like this in Amsterdam - a deep V with a choker collar. Then I promptly saw several other women in the same thing. I think it's a fun take on the choker trend and a little bit sexy with that low neckline. 
  • McCall's 7429 - I have been missing a slim fitting jersey dress in my wardrobe, and I love the knot detail on this one. Burda might have a variation of this, too. 
  • Vogue 1126 - When I went shopping last month, I wanted a feminine, floral wrap dress. It's not a wrap dress, but I might pull this pattern out of my stash and see how I feel about the ruffle. 
  • New Look 6488 - I have resisted the sleeve/cold shoulder/whatever-you-want-to-call-it trend long enough. I am in love with this dress and very much wish I had it right now. 

Second Row:
  • Loose-fitting collared shirt - I've had some lace-ish fabric in my stash for quite some time now and I think I've finally figured out what to do with it. I will probably modify some existing pattern I have for this. 
  • TNT Top Pattern - I still need some basic knit tops for work, and a boatneck would be just dandy. 
  • TNT Pants Pattern - These tartan trousers from the Tessuti blog have me drooling. 

Bottom Row: 
  • BurdaStyle Blouse 3/2012 - I've been meaning to try this one out from my stash, and I have a scrap of silk that might work in a sleeveless style.
  • TBD Cape Top - I have been obsessed with this cape style shirt from Victoria Beckham for ages and think I may be finally close to figuring out how to draft my own.
  • DP Studio LE 600 - Another top idea I've been obsessed with, and finally found the right pattern for. It's a top that looks like it has an origami tie folded in! Too on the nose for a work place? We'll see. 

As I was dreaming up this post, I realized I had written another inspiration post from a fabric haul a while back. I wondered if I had even made anything from it, and actually surprised myself to discover that I had sewn up 3 of the 7, cut a 4th one out, and used the fabric from the 5th thing to make something else. Pretty good! Three of those items even made it into my suitcase for traveling, so they have gotten a lot of wear. We'll see if this new batch of ideas holds my interest when I get back in September.

Flashback: Vegas Neons

Pattern: Very modified Madalynne Noelle Bralette with high-waisted Ohhh Lulu Grace panties
Fabric: 1 yd of swimsuit lycra
Cost: $15

This month I went swimming in the Danube, but rewind back to May and I wore this little number in Vegas! Don't ask me how we ended up in Vegas so close to our big trip (and Vegas isn't even my jam!), and also how I ended up at a Punk Rock Bowling festival (ha!), but there I was and with a new bathing suit for the occasion. Thankfully we sewists can sew our own rather than shelling out $$ for a new one! 

I took the opportunity to experiment with some new-to-me styles. I had wanted to try out the high-waisted bikini, so I raised the waistline on the Ohhh Lulu Grace panties and gave them a go. They are fairly comfortable and work well in the water, though I might play with the height next time - lower perhaps? They seem to obscure the waist a bit. 

I also concocted this splashy top, starting with the Madalynne Noelle bralette. I made mine with halter ties rather than a racer back. Many of her patterns are meant to be pullover, which I find a bit hard to get on and off. Instead, I divided the strap across the back into two and secured with bathing suit hooks. 

Both fabrics are from Fabric Outlet/Cali Fabrics in SF, which always have a wide array of anything I could possibly need.

This suit is definitely worn best poolside with friends, where it tolerates lounging and water slides equally well.

Later that night, I also wore the top with a skirt out to the music festival. It was fun, but bathing suits are definitely not meant to be worn for that long!

Hope you are staying cool this summer, wherever you are!

Fast Fashion Shopping in Vienna

Ahoy! We have just left Vienna where it was hot! Unlike the rest of our trip (Amsterdam, Munich, and now Prague) where we had cooler days, Vienna was in the heat of summer. For a week there, it made me completely second-guess my entire packing list. Forget the comfy jeans that were perfect for bike riding in the Netherlands, or the turtle neck for long walks in Englischer garden, all I wanted was girly dresses, frilly shirts, and breezy skirts. And not the ones I had packed, either.

So maybe it was the hot weather, or maybe it was the fact that I haven't been able to sew any clothes since we left the states in early June, but I finally caved and went shopping. Readers, this is something I haven't done in years! But I was really itching for a new flirty dress, and seeing all the European fashions made me want some new clothes in a bad way. Plus, there is something exhilarating to finally allowing yourself some fast fashion and re-entering the retail world of cheap shops to see what they had. A guilty pleasure if you will. I promised myself I wouldn't be too picky on stitching and fit, just buy something that looked good and was nice in the heat. I was actually pretty excited to have a look. 

Well, as you can guess I was sorely disappointed. While Zara and H&M were crammed full of heaping piles of clothes over several floors in two locations (yes, each company had two stores on the same shopping street), I struggled to find what I was looking for. First, in the year of the sleeve, I found that many of the blouses and dresses for sale had long sleeves, which was unacceptable in this heat. And even the shorter garments were made of thick polyester and synthetic materials that just didn't seem breathable. When I finally found a store that did have some things to my taste (Mango, I think it was?), the fit on each of the nine garments I tried on was atrocious! Wrap dresses that were loose on top but so tight and short on the bottom that the shape was completely distorted. Shirts that were too short, with darts pointing at all the wrong things. And don't get me started on rompers, which are hard to fit in the best of circumstances!

Unfortunately for me also is that I am stubborn. Determined to not go home empty handed, my simple shopping trip turned into a whole day affair. The pedometer on my phone says I walked 13 miles that day if you count the mile and a half to and from downtown and the dog walk I took that morning. So what did I find?

My first purchase was a simple princess-seamed spaghetti strap dress with a gathered skirt (here). In plain black, it is not the most exciting purchase ever and it didn't even have any trendy details, but I like that it was fitted through the bodice and made me feel good. Plus, with an elasticized back and adjustable straps, the fit was pretty spot on. To make sure I got the best one, I flipped through all the dresses in my size and chose the one with the best neckline stitching (some were pretty wonky). 

Next, I was on the lookout for a skirt. This would help stretch the rest of my wardrobe, as I could pair it with some of the shirts and tanks I had packed. I found a single pink pleated skirt on a table of wadded up clothes at Zara that seemed to fit the bill (seen here). It was girly and a bit out of my style range, which is exactly what I wanted. Plus, with an elasticized waist I knew, again, that this one would fit. 

Finally, I picked up a simple floral camisole to pair with the skirt or some of my jeans (pictured in a blurry tourist shot below). Again, making my wardrobe stretch. Out of both stores, they were all sold out of my size, so I picked up one size bigger (it is meant to be a loose top anyway), and knotted the straps in the back to make it sit right. I had really wanted to try a cold shoulder or off the shoulder trend for fun, but alas it was not meant to be. 

I think I paid around $35 Euros for everything, which certainly is an advantage to fast fashion. (If you are wondering how we even afford to spend three months traveling abroad, Mr. Made and I spend about half our time working remotely, and rented out our place back home for some additional income.) 

Overall I am quite happy with my purchases. While sewing is all about dreaming up designs, shopping is about the hunt, combing through stores and piles of clothes until you find what you are looking for. I understand why some people love it and others hate it. For my part, I was only semi-successful but hey, I was also a bit rusty. I think for the time being I'll retreat to dreaming up designs on my Pinterest board. 

Of course, when I got home I noticed that the seam on the princess seam dress that I had bought had popped right near the apex. Because I looked through the dresses in my size for the one with the best neckline stitching, I hadn't tried this particular one on, and therefore not noticed the defect. Luckily, a little hand sewing and it was successfully repaired. I guess I can't help myself. 

P.S. It does get a bit lonely traveling, so if any Prague readers would like to invite me along to their sewing group or know of any stores offering up their machines or classes, I'd be very interested! We will be around for the month! The lovely Anneloes was kind enough to show me around Amsterdam and it was so nice to meet a new friend in a new country.  

Summer Travel Dress (Reversible!)

Pattern:  McCall's #7591
Fabric: bamboo knit (maroon side) and modal knit (black side) from Harts Fabric
Cost: $75

Greetings from beautiful Amsterdam! After a short stop in Paris, we are now settled in for a month in the Dutch capital. So far we have worked on learning to ride bikes the Dutch way, taken long walks in the park, bought the wrong things at the supermarket, and snuck in some work. There has been a bit of a heatwave this week and the city has really come alive with children playing in the canals, picnics in the grass, and lots of ice cream eating and beer drinking. 

The warm weather has also made me grateful for my new dress, McCall's #7591, which I finished just days before we flew over. I don't buy new patterns often, but I wanted something new and fun for my trip and gave myself free reign to pick whatever I wanted. This pattern is proving to be a popular one, and I've already seen a few people sew it up.

The best part about this dress though, and what makes it super travel-friendly, is that I made it reversible! When all the fabrics I liked were too sheer, my friend suggested that I fully line the skirt and choose to two different fabrics so I could wear it on either side. Brilliant! Even though I am traveling with a limited wardrobe, this detail makes it feel like I have more choices. I chose a wine-colored bamboo jersey similar to the pattern cover, and a more versatile black modal knit, both from Harts Fabric store in my hometown of Santa Cruz (there I am pictured below in my mom's backyard). 

To make the dress reversible, I cut two sets of bodice pieces instead of a bodice and lining, and I cut a second set of skirt pieces. I also had to make sure to cut and sew the skirt pieces so they were mirror images of each other. After some trial and error with the construction, I found it worked best to fully construct the lined/double-sided bodice, and then sandwich it between the two skirts and sew the waist seam. I then sewed the skirts together at the hem, pulled the dress through to the right side through a small remaining hole, and hand stitched the last little bit. There was definitely some origami in there, but in all it has a nice clean finish. 

While I love the final result, the pattern did require some tweaking to make it look like the image on the envelope. The bodice straps were very long, even before adding the skirt pieces. My bra showed through the arm hole under my arm, and the neckline hung much lower than on the model. I ended up taking 1 1/2 inches off the front of the straps and 1 1/4 off the back straps, which brought it up to a much better length.  I think part of the issue may be that the dress is designed "for knits or wovens," which is an odd choice and could be causing some of these fit issues. 

I also took an inch off the length of the bodice at center front where it crosses over because it was hanging much lower than the rest of the bodice. Finally, I tacked the cross-over together at center front with a few stitches so that it wouldn't flap open and reveal my whole chest! I really love the drapey end result, but I'm not sure the pattern had the best design. 

For reference, this is is view C, which has more bra-friendly straps and is cropped just below the knee. I think I extended the slit a bit higher. It has been perfect for these hot days, and is super comfy, even for bike riding around the city. 

If anyone out there is reading from Amsterdam, we'll be here a few more weeks and I'd love to meet up for beer/coffee drinking or fabric shopping! Then we're off to Germany, Vienna, Prague and Copenhagen :)

Will It Work for Me?

While I love sewing clothes to my exact specifications, I think you will agree that one of the major downsides to sewing is that you don't get to "try before you buy." You might make a muslin or even sew up a few versions, but all of this takes a considerable amount of work before you can decide if a new style or fabric will work for you. 

Personally, I have the habit of talking myself into something based on a single flattering example. I convince myself that a style I've seen on Pinterest will be my dream outfit, or that a cute pattern will work for me. I then get all caught up in the details of how to reproduce the look without really stopping to think about how the proportions, drape, or style will suit my tastes. It isn't until I'm most of the way finished (and the point when I am most exhausted and frustrated with my sewing), that I try it on and see that it is all wrong. If this were a dressing room at a store, I would never buy this garment!

I think there are probably a number of ways to avoid this problem. The more you sew and think about clothes, the more you figure out what works for you without all the trial and error. To test out new styles, I've also heard of people popping into their favorite store to try them on first before making something up. Lately, however, I've been trying out what I call the pessimist route. Rather than imagining how great a garment will look on me, I try to imagine all the ways it might look wrong. It's not as fun, I know, but it has helped me think of places where I might go wrong and fix it before I even get there. 

Take the new ruffled sleeve trend. I wasn't that on board with it until I saw a beautiful young woman in Paris wearing a shirt similar to the one I recreated above. It looked stunning! It had a dropped shoulder detail with wide ruffles hanging off the ends in a light shade of pink. It was boxy in a crisp fabric, and wouldn't be that hard to recreate for myself. What beautiful inspiration!

But before trying it on myself, I wanted to see what it looked like through pessimist eyes. For one, that color is not great on me. Anything too close to my skin tone and I start to get washed out. Secondly, I'm not so keen on boxy shirts lately, and adding ruffles might make me look like a linebacker. Still, it would be fun to have a shirt with an interesting detail to spice up my main t-shirt and pants look. 

Above are some modifications I'm considering. A more neutral color such as blue or black would fit better into my wardrobe without washing out my skin. To tone down the volume, it would also be interesting to try this shirt in a soft knit rather than a fabric with a crisp hand. I would have to play around with the length and angle of the ruffles, but this top could work for me. At least it has a better chance now that I've thought through some of the details.

What do you do to make sure something will work for you before you take time and effort to sew it up? 
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