Reef Tank - Party in the Back

Pattern: Megan Nielsen's Reef Tank
Fabric: something synthetic ??
Cost: free (remnants)

I celebrated my birthday last month and decided to do something fun for the occasion. We held a casual BBQ on the back patio (complete with friends and dogs and cupcakes!). Since I'm not a fancy dress type of girl, I made myself a sparkly Reef tank to celebrate. With its back strap details, it lends itself perfectly to some creative straps.

For the straps, I started with a sheer novelty fabric left over from this shirt. I then trimmed the seam allowances and bound the edges in fold over elastic. I sewed the two together using my BERNINA coverstitch, stretching the elastic slightly as I sewed. I am still getting used to the coverstitch so this took some practice, but eventually I got a fairly nice finish. 

Here is a full view of the back. I was careful to overlap the stripes so that they match up where the straps cross.

This is the perfect top for me because it's simple and subtle, but with a fun twist. The body is made from the same material as my Pattern Magic dress but turned to the wrong side, which is black. It has already gotten a ton of wear as something easy to pull on and head out for the night in. It goes well under my black jackets, but is perfect for warmer restaurants and bars. (Worn here with my modified not pull-on Misty Jeans).

Welp, it's another year under my belt. I've already got lots of plans for more things to sew, but also trying to relax and have fun. Happy birthday to me!

End of Summer Emerson Pants

Pattern: True Bias Emerson Pants
Fabric: 1.5 yds 12oz denim
Cost: $12

I recently realized that you can order fabric and notions from Amazon Prime. It's not the best selection, but it comes with two-day free shipping(!!). I promptly found myself ordering a 5 yard bolt of denim, and came back later that afternoon for a 75-yard spool of 1/4" swimwear elastic (used in my recent bathing suit). Uh, what?! It seems I can't resist the bulk discounts and one-click purchasing. Someone help me.

I haven't forgotten the incredible local fabric stores, but my internship this summer wasn't near any and working an after-hours second job was really cutting into my sewing time. So two days later, without any extra running around town, these goodies arrived. That and a new pattern to test for True Bias and I was a happy girl.

The Emerson pattern appealed to me because it is a comfortable, easy-to-wear pair of pants that isn't track pants. While I love my chambray Hudson Pants, I wanted an alternative for lazy days that made me look a little more pulled together. They were perfect for a recent trip to Pismo Beach, where we walked all day, napped in the sand, and ate clam chowder. With the wide legs and partial elastic waistband, this pair is both effortless and presentable. Plus, you know I love me some pants. All the pants.

As these are the tester version, a few changes were made to the final design. Kelli said she lengthened the rise slightly to avoid some bunching. I was pleasantly surprised though at how good the fit was on the first go - I've gotten very picky about this aspect. On my version, I also narrowed the legs a little. While I love the wide-legged design, I got timid at the last moment and narrowed mine by about two inches. After having seen others' photos, however, I think I will try the full width next time.

Speaking of my Amazon order, I do have some swimwear elastic to giveaway from my last post. The swimwear elastic is some of my favorite - it's cotton rather than plastic, which I find much more comfortable and easier to sew with. Without further ado, the winner is Rachel from a Basic_Stitch, a fellow grad student and bathing suit sewer who entered here and over on Instagram. Congrats Rachel! I will contact you for your shipping info.

Meanwhile, I am taking a few days off before I head back to school. Our trip to Pismo was bliss, and now I'm trying my hand at a few creative endeavors I've wanted to work on for a while. Shoe making anyone? Hope you all are enjoying the end of summer!

New Swimsuit and End of Summer Giveaway!

Pattern: Madalynne's Free Sierra Bra + Modified McCall's M5681
Fabric: swimsuit lycra
Cost: $15

Greetings summerlings! This past weekend I snuck away for a girls weekend in the foothills of California. No cell phone reception, no wifi, and no work! We stayed in the river all day, stayed up all night, and drank more than a little tequila. It was heaven! And, of course, I made a new bathing suit for the occasion, which is also making an appearance today on the BERNINA blog

The top is the free Sierra Bra pattern from Madalynne modified into a swimsuit. The bottoms are a version of McCall's M5681 that I have been making for so long they are barely recognizable from the original pattern, but they fit great. To do the ruching, I just stretch a length of swimwear elastic down the center back and zig-zag in place. 

I've been wanting to try the Sierra pattern as a bathing suit forever, but I waited for summer as an excuse to sew it up. The wraparound style is something I've seen a lot on Pinterest, and it's a fun detail to use on something that will actually get seen by others.

The pattern as drafted is a compression style bra, with no elastic at the bottom under the bust. I much prefer to have some elastic there to keep everything in place, so I added some along the entire bottom edge. It's nice to have that extra security, which is especially important on a swimsuit! With this modification, I found that the bra didn't need to be pulled quite as tight to provide compression, and actually had to be extended along the back straps to fit comfortably. I am 32" at the full bust and cut a size medium, but with the elastic pulling the suit tighter I added 2" on either side of the clasp. This was done after the fact, so you may be able to see the addition on either side of the clasp in the photo above. By joining the elastic neatly, it is concealed nicely but not invisible.

Ironically, for the bottoms I have found that I often don't like elastic along the leg openings. As cut, my pattern fits pretty snug there so I just hemmed the leg openings and left as is. On a different style, however, I would add it back in.

Here are the full front and back views:

Unlike my first several swimsuits, this year's and last year's are definitely winners. I learned to not set the elastic in too tight, and everything fits much better. This year I also got to use my new BERNINA coverstitch for all the hems. If you have a coverstitch machine and are thinking about doing lingerie or swimwear with it, I have a post about sewing swimwear elastic up on the We All Sew blog today. Learning to sew on a coverstitch has been exciting but challenging. It feels like learning to sew all over again, and took a lot of patience for my first swimsuit.

The finished suit was perfect for hanging out at the river, and tolerated everything from napping in an inner tube to jumping off rocks. Definitely a fun suit if you have a small bust.


And now for the giveaway! If you would like to sew your own swimsuit (either this summer or next!), I'm giving away 5 yards of my favorite 1/4" cotton swimwear elastic to one lucky winner! Here are the ways you can enter:
  • Simply follow me here (if you don't already) and leave a comment to enter. Share your favorite swim pattern if you can!
  • You can also get an additional entry for following me and commenting on Instagram here
And please make sure I can click through to your contact info or leave your email in the comment. I will close the contest at the end of the day Friday, August 12 PST and ship it right off to you. The contest is open to all countries!

Hanging Out on the Fire Escape with Granville

Pattern: Sewaholic's Granville Shirt
Fabric: 2 yds Pumpkin/Slate Cotton/Rayon/Tencil Gabardine from Hell Gate Fabrics
Cost: $15 after gift certificates and discounts

It's been a cold summer. I've rediscovered sweaters I haven't worn in years, turned on the heater at least once, and started in on my autumn sewing, apparently.

Not much to say here as this is my fifth Granville, but you can find the others here. I am still struggling with having over-tightened the sleeves and upper back (my second version fit perfectly!), and so I may need to substitute out another patten's sizing. I splurged on the paper version of this and cut it all up, and now I regret it. Can't beat that fit with the back princess seams, though. I am rather obsessed with this pattern, and hope to see good things continue to come out of Sewaholic after she's sold the company to a fabric store. Here's hoping!

The fabric for this one is lovely. I have had my eye on it ever since Sonja opened up Hell Gate Fabrics. It's pretty much my perfect fabric - fall colors, plaid, and super soft. When she had a sale several months ago I used a gift certificate and snapped it up.

Mr. Made and I caught some fleeting evening light at his office for these pics. Even with all the professional lighting he has inside, there's nothing better than that afternoon glow!

Every time I finish a button front shirt I swear I'm never making one again. And then I buy fabric and pin inspiration for five more. Next I want a sleeveless button down shirt dress. I even have the denim. Perhaps when the weather warms up in the fall? 

Pattern Magic

Pattern: Self-drafted from Pattern Magic 3's 'Pare down the roundness at the back and open out'
Fabric: 4 yds synthetic rayon blend thing
Cost: $20 (50% off fabric sale FTW!)

You guys! I have a new obsession and its name is Pattern Magic. It's weird and artsy and amazing and I offer no apologies. Similar to the Drape Drape books by Hisako Soto, Pattern Magic pushes the boundaries between art and clothing, and insane and inspiring, all shot with an alluringly clean Japanese aesthetic. The dress on the cover has hexagons reminiscent of a soccer ball, while another has cubes emanating from the shoulder. It's nuts!

According to the book jacket, professor and pattern maker Tomoko Nakamichi developed these crazy shapes as a way to teach her students pattern drafting. The book has no patterns other than a bodice sloper, which Nakamichi uses to lead you through dart manipulation, slashing and spreading, and drawing the designs. For me, it was a challenging and creative exercise in garment making, and I loved every bit of it.

What initially drew me to this book was the section on paring down and opening out. A bit more subtle than the cubes and wild shapes, this chapter uses slits to add fullness to garments at the shoulder, bust, or back. The shapes change as you move, allowing for a fitted but giving shell.

While the instructions looked really daunting at first, I sat down one night and just started following the steps using a half-sized bodice sloper. Once I had drafted my mini design, I moved on to a full-sized version and made a muslin. The beauty of drafting it yourself is that you can tweak things to your body and tastes, and for mine you'll notice that I actually drafted the 'interlocking mountains' on the front rather than the back of the dress. Why hide all that party in the back? Here are roughly the steps I used to create the pattern:
  1. Test run of pattern manipulation on mini bodice block.
  2. So many muslins! I made three muslins of my pattern block alone (Butterick B5748) before using it to draft my pattern.
  3. Draft full size pattern - this took a lot of experimenting as I was making my manipulations on the bodice front rather than the bodice back and using my own block, not to mention learning the pattern manipulation itself.
  4. More muslins! Muslining the pattern manipulation not only helped me check fit, but also adjust the layout and develop my construction order. I also figured out that some of the pattern pieces needed to be cut on the wrong side, as they face toward you on the flaps. I chose to keep them cut using the darker wrong side of the fabric for emphasis, but needed to make sure to interface the opposite side of the fabric when sewing up my final version.
  5. For the fashion fabric, I applied a light interfacing. Looking at the final garment, however, I should have used something much sturdier. 
  6. Sew up the bodice. 
  7. Decide on a skirt, sew up the dress. 
Below is a photo of my muslin. It is sewn from home dec weight fabric, which holds the shape of the 'mountains' really well. For my final version, I thought I might want something a bit more fluid to allow the mountains to curl over more. However, I used only a very lightweight interfacing and I think it turned out too floppy. While I like how the mountains move and open up like a flower, you can see in the final garment photos that the mid section around my stomach doesn't hold the shape as well as it should. I really like the look of the muslin though, and could see experimenting with this again.

It wasn't perfect, but I had so much fun getting there that I wore my new dress with pride. One of the magical things about Pattern Magic is shifting the darts and shaping into the unique design features. Given how many changes I made, I'm not sure I accomplished this. I had to add some extra fullness at the bust, and even then I think I only pulled it off because I am flat-chested. However, I really love this idea, and it has definitely pushed me to develop some new skills. I would love to make this on a tank top with the upper portion in a sheer fabric, and a bright color for the back of the 'mountains' to highlight the waves a bit more. Plus lots more interfacing. Wouldn't that be cool?! Or crazy?! One thing's for sure, this is definitely more of a 'special occasions' project.

While the bodice drafting and construction took a good deal of time, the most time-consuming part for me was actually the skirt. Pattern Magic only includes instructions for the bodice, so I was on my own for the bottom half. I wanted something that would go well with the structured, visually interesting top, but the full skirt I had planned didn't seem quite elaborate enough. I spent an entire evening playing with ideas, starting with a rectangle to get an idea of the length and fullness and then a circle skirt for drape. I ended up cutting two circle skirts that wrapped 3/4 of the way around the bodice, with an opening in the side front where the skirts wrapped around. To mimic the angular bodice, I cut an angular front slit, which I eventually placed off-center over one knee. It was challenging to figure out a way to show enough knee without flashing too much up top, but after a few days of thinking and pin fitting I finally got what I wanted. I am not used to doing quite this much design work, but in the end it was something I actually really loved. I will have to find a way to recreate it some time in the future.

Love it or leave it, I found Pattern Magic to be an incredible lesson in playing with fabric. I pushed my understanding about fitting the human body, contorted my brain in new ways, and have several more patterns to try out for the price of just one book. I am definitely obsessed!