Getting Sporty

Ok I know I know I know it's November. And you don't need shorts in November. But back in August as I was sweating my ass off on an 11-mile hike I realized that I really did need shorts. How did I not have a pair of shorts? Or at least a pair of active-wear shorts to hike in. Luckily I was able to make these up in time to get a few wears in before the weather turned cold. And then I made a few other outdoor essentials to go with them. 

Pattern: Closet Case Files Pietra Shorts and Pants
Fabric: Robert Kaufman stretch suiting and other remnants
Cost: free from remnants

Pattern: Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee
Fabric: cotton knit
Cost: gift from my mom

Pattern: Style Arc Baseball Cap  
Fabric: upholstery-weight cotton
Cost: $20

Let's start with the shorts. These are made using the new Pietra Shorts and Pants pattern from Closet Case Files. However, you'll notice that these are a lot narrower than the pattern shorts. As I wanted something no-frills for hiking, I cut mine from the narrower pants pattern rather than the wider shorts pieces. It was a bit of a process to calculate given the unique pocket construction and my limited fabric, but I got there in the end - even if the side is pieced together.

To allow for maximum movement, I used remnants I had on hand of Robert Kaufman's stretch suiting. I just love the drape and stretch on this fabric - so comfy! This is probably the fourth time I've sewn with it and it's great for pants. However, as you can see I didn't quite have enough, so the pocket insert is made from an upholstery-weight remnant I had on hand. While I thought about trying to use a matching fabric, in the end I like that the subtle variation in texture between the two pieces. Together, the fabrics feel really sturdy for hiking and allow lots of movement.

Another reason that I wanted to make these shorts was to test out the fit of the Pietra Pants. From this sample, I quite liked the fit and could see myself making the full length version. As a pear-shape, however, I knew I couldn't do my usual grading between sizes as the pull-on style wouldn't fit over my hips. Instead, I cut the largest size according to my measurements and cut the elastic shorter to get it to fit at the waist. This works well for these shorts, although there is a lot of gathering back there. 

In this photo I'm also wearing one of my Tessuti Mandy Boat Tees, which is an absolute staple in my wardrobe. It is as easy to wear as a regular knit t-shirt, but somehow feels more interesting. I find I can wear it to work and on the weekends with ease. My mom spotted it and so I recently traced off a copy of the pattern to send to her as well. The pattern is free on the Tessuti site. The fabric was a gift from her and is a lovely heathered texture with little blue flecks in it. It's not super stretchy but works well for this pattern. 

Finally, I made a baseball hat. Why? Honestly, I'm not really sure. Somehow I got it in my head that I wanted to make one after seeing a cool cap my friend was wearing and just couldn't let the idea go. I liked the idea of having a more fitted one than the typical baseball cap and being able to use whatever fabric I wanted. Style Arc makes a Baseball Cap pattern and you can get a 10-pack of brims for $5 online.

Of course, sewing one was not as easy as I imagined. Aside from printing the pattern at the wrong scale, there are lots of fiddly bits and I have a small head so there was actually some fitting to do. We'll call this version a wearable muslin. I think I have the process figured out a bit more now though and will give it another go. Just imagine the fabric possibilities!

 Here are some more detailed shots of cap. The hat is topped with a button from the stash and the inside is lightly interfaced. The seams are hidden with bias tape in the style that my friend's hat was, although the Style Arc pattern recommends fulling lining it. Using the store-bought brim was especially fiddly. I think a zipper foot was involved.

You can see some rippling at the brim and my husband says it's a little off-balance, but I'm excited to try again next time.

It turns out, hats aren't just good for sunny days but for all manner of bad hair days, so this one might last me through the California winter as well. Anyone else making unseasonable clothes out there??

From Costume to Coat

Halloween was fun. It also only lasts a day (or, if you're extra like me, a week). So this year I decided to plan a costume with a little more longevity. Mary Poppins, meet my new coat. 

Pattern: Burda's Misses' Jackets and Coats 6736 
Fabric: ~3 yds navy striped chevron wool jacquard from Mood
Cost: $100

For the basis of my Mary Poppins outfit, I treated myself to some nice wool jacquard from Mood (now out of stock). It has a wonderful chevron pattern in it from raised bits of yarn. Aside from matching the Mary Poppins Returns aesthetic, I really liked the style. By taking care to construct a solid garment that fit into my wardrobe, I knew I could come up with a garment that would last me well past October. 

The first step in making a Halloween costume that works as a regular outfit was to carefully consider what part of the outfit would be wearable in the long term. I knew the apron skirt probably wouldn't make it into my wardrobe (though I did get to wear it for Oktoberfest!). But that coat, which is arguably the most expensive and time-consuming part of the outfit, was something I wanted to last.

I also had to consider my style. Mary Poppins wears a more fitted style with 1940s flair. And don't forget that beautiful capelet. While I loved the original design, I knew a jacket like that wouldn't get much wear in my day-to-day life. Instead, I focused on some of the other design elements, starting with the collar shape, buttons, length, and color of the jacket. Once I had something I knew I'd wear, I modified it for the costume, adding a removable capelet and sinching it in with a belt to give it more of the costume shape. And for more regular wear, I love the more streamlined, boxy look of the original coat.  

The pattern is a printed Burda pattern sold through Simplicity. As far as coats go, it is really simple to make with just four pattern pieces not including the patch pockets. However, it doesn't contain pattern pieces or instructions for a lining, so I drafted those myself from the existing pieces. Why anyone would want to make a wool coat without a lining is beyond me, and I'm so glad I took the extra step. I also shortened the coat by about five inches and the sleeves by about two. Other than that, I sewed it up as-is.

I am already enjoying my new coat and so glad that it got to live this double life! Do you have any plans for re-using your costume pieces? 

Mary Poppins Costume

I was THE BIGGEST Mary Poppins fan as a kid. I remember my brother and me bouncing up and down on the couch chanting her name when my mother asked us what we wanted to watch for movie night. I loved the songs, the adventures, and especially the penguins. 

I haven't, however, been a fan of Disney remakes lately, so it was with some trepidation that I saw Mary Poppins Returns at the beginning of this year. But I LOVED it! Sure, the songs are not as good, but the way it continues the story with many references to the original was very fun. And the costuming. OMG I loved the costuming. We hadn't even made it home from the theater when I decided I had to recreate one of the looks for Halloween. 

The costumes for the film were designed by Sandy Powell, who also did The Favourite that year. She was nominated for an Oscar for both and won for the latter. The costuming for both movies is exceptional and I honestly don't know how she had the time. 

I was particularly inspired by Mary Poppins because of the playful ways that Powell reimagined the original character. While the 1964 character has her dose of quirky style, Powell took it up a notch by playing with polka dots, stripes, buttons, and even chevrons to create a fun outfit that doesn't stray too far from the original look of the character. It's like all the pieces are there but the details are so much more interesting! In the look below, I'm sporting Mary's two-toned striped apron, navy and white polka dot blouse, and red and white polka dot bow tie, which also has matching gloves. 

To avoid sewing too many pieces, you'll see I made the apron into a full skirt with an apron bib. The skirt pattern is the Sewaholic Hollyburn, which I'd had in my stash from a pattern swap but never made up. It's a rather simple semi-circle skirt, which I honestly probably wouldn't buy in pattern format. But it was nice to test it out here. 

The blouse is another pattern I'd had in my stash and never sewn: Simplicity 4112, a Built by Wendy pattern. It had the perfect full gathered sleeve, which I modified to remove the elbow seam. I also added a traditional collar. The fit was actually pretty great for a shirt without darts, so I may use it again in the future. For the buttons, I just used mismatched black buttons from my stash, which was both thrifty and added a quirky Mary Poppins flare. 

By the time I got to the bow tie and gloves, I was having a bit of a "what was I thinking" moment. The two pieces, which are made from the same red with white polka dot fabric, really do complete the outfit. But was I really going to make gloves?! It took an evening and they are really pretty mediocre (i.e., unwearable for real life) but for a costume they work well. At one point I had a vague notion of making the hat, but that is just unrealistic. This one is from Amazon and isn't even a boater hat style. 

The most important piece, and where I spent most of my time, was the coat. The fabric, for starters, was difficult to find. I looked through Mary's various looks from the movie for inspiration and saw that she has two main coats - a red one with a chevron pattern and a blue one with a sort of stripe. I couldn't find wool fabric that matched either. However, in a weird twist, there was also a third fabric option: in one of the movie posters, they recolored her red coat outfit to be a blue coat outfit (not sure why, but whatever). And then I found a blue wool with a chevron pattern that kind of matched! Bingo! And, of course, I cocked my hat at a ridiculous angle because, blog photos. 

The coat is made from Burda's Misses' Jackets and Coats 6736, a printed pattern from Simplicity. If you click through, you'll notice it's really just a boxy coat, but the collar was about the right shape for me. I then drafted a simple capelet to go over the shoulders (it's detachable) and a tie belt. The Mimi G Simplicity 1016 coat would also work well, but it was out of stock when I ordered it. 

As for the rest of my crew, the hubby makes a great Bert (we went with the original Mary Poppins supporting character on this one), and he has a great vertical leap. His jacket was easily found for $6 at the local Goodwill and the rest we had on hand. 

Little Beatrix decided to go as the penguin and couldn't be cuter. I had already drafted her a marine mammal costume a few years back, so it was quick to put together this penguin look for her using the front and back of some sweatshirt fleece. 

We took our costumes out on the town last Saturday for a bar crawl and had loads of fun. Even won best couple's costume, but I think it was more due to me drumming up claps by jumping up and down with my umbrella open rather than the crowd admiring my detailed handwork. I'll take it. 

Happy Halloween!


Ok, enough of the fancy outfits for the summer. Time for something practical - jeans! My mom gifted me some quality denim with a small amount of stretch for my birthday in July and I quickly sewed up this pair my using my pants block.

Pattern: My Mambo No. 5 jeans block
Fabric: 2 yds denim
Cost: gift

I think for now I'm finally happy with my pants block and done tweaking it. It's only taken me like three years! The block is for a fitted pair of jeans or pants and takes into account my hip to waist ratio, full bum, knock knees, and all my other little fitting quirks. I call it "Mambo No. 5" because it is a little bit of all the patterns I've tried: Ginger, Misty, Clover, etc. I think I'm really funny.

The pattern is not always adaptable to style changes like a higher waist, fuller legs, or other styles (I have other patterns for that) but this is my favorite silhouette and also the hardest to fit, so it's nice to finally have something down. 

I had originally planned for them to be a bit more of a relaxed fit. Here they are straight out of the wash - they do relax some with wear. 

The most fun part of these jeans was designing the pocket. I went with a random scattering of little stars.

As you may have noticed, I'm always wearing a new top in these photos. It's McCall's #7810. I really love it on the model, but she's got a much fuller figure than me and I just feel like I don't quite fill it out. This is even after sizing down to sew it in a knit rather than a woven fabric. And while the bust feels oversized, I probably made the waistband piece a bit too fitted. And then the white fabric is a bit sheer. I have already donated it. You win some, you lose some!

Hope you all are enjoying your fall! We had a week of cooler weather where I busted out my sweaters, but now we're back to 80 degree days - warmer than most summer days for us!

The Concept, the Outfit

Inspired by or copying? This is often a hot debate - some say that you should never copy outright. But I say - go for it! How do painters master their art? By copying the greats! How do apprentices hone their craft? By following their masters! You can run into problems when you try to pass off someone else's designs as your own (and it is especially wrong when you are a big corporation ripping off someone less powerful than you), but for home sewers I highly encourage you to try to copy your idols. 

Pattern: final design adapted from Deer and Doe's Sirocco Jumpsuit
Fabric: Robert Kauffman stretch suiting
Cost: $40

That said, if you're like me, you will quickly learn that copying high fashion is HARD. What looks like a few simple ruffles, a twist, a skirt, is actually a carefully crafted masterpiece honed over months and made by hand in a couture studio. And that's what makes copying the masters such an interesting project. You truly appreciate their skill and mastery of the craft. 

By comparison, I quickly realized my shortcomings. Below is the original Johanna Ortiz inspiration that I fawned over for months. I love that it is fancy, but still a pantsuit. The drama of the ruffles, the flare of the skirt - I wanted to copy everything except the bell bottoms.

It took me over a month of making muslins to get something together. There were a lot of changes along the way. I'm not sure I ever quite figured out how they got those ruffles so perfect. And the skirt hung terribly - it had to go. The top is separate from the pants, but I had to add a strip of fabric to make it long enough. What I got is the version you see below. 

Overall, it was fine. But a far cry from the original. As you can see, I got all dressed up and wore it to a wedding. It was fun, but overall the outfit felt just meh. The pants showed a lot of draglines, as did the top under the bust. The zipper rubbed a bit when I wore it. Compared to the beautiful designer look, I had fallen short.

It was back to the drawing board. And this time I decided that maybe I just wasn't up to copying the original. Instead, I decided to go with the "inspired by" route. Based on my first experience, I thought version 2 would be much better as a jumpsuit. I made a few design changes to streamline the look. And, luckily, I had just made my first Sirocco and was feeling inspired to try this again.

This version uses the bodice of my go-to Simplicity #4070 princess-seam bodice with the pants of the Sirocco jumpsuit. I ordered my favorite Robert Kauffman stretch suiting, re-purposed the sleeves, and was on my way. Compared to the first version, I was now using my tried and true patterns, a favorite fabric, and a design I had partially made before. In comparison to the first version, I was cruising.

Much better! It's still no designer outfit, but this version fit better and felt more polished. I added spiral boning to the bodice so that it holds its shape. Thanks to the drafting of the Sirocco pants, there are also now no draglines or crotch wrinkles. And it's so much more comfortable! 

And don't forget those sleeves!

I actually had the whole thing sewn up when I decided it needed a bit more color. I picked apart the pockets (including near the zipper! the horror!) and added the contrast fabric there as well. As you can see from the sleeves, the brocade is a brilliant pink on the underside but a more coordinated black with florals on the outside. It was a lot of fun to play with it for this design. I like how the pockets stand out now a bit against the otherwise black jumpsuit.

This project has definitely given me a big appreciation for designer looks and may give me a bit more pause next time I decide to copy one. But now I have a new outfit for our next wedding, which will be in January - a perfect time for a jumpsuit!

Have you ever successfully copied a designer style? Did it turn out the way you hoped? I admit that it's hard!
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