Fairyland Dress

I love dressing to a theme, and so when our friends invited us (and Beatrix!) to their wedding at Fairyland in our old neighborhood I couldn't resist making an over-the-top dress for the occasion. 

Pattern: Simplicity Misses Cocktail Dresses #4070 bodice with a self-drafted double circle skirt
Fabric: 6 yds each of satin twill and organza
Cost: $75

My dress was inspired by this elaborate creation from Krikor Jabotian's 2016 collection. I love the challenge of trying to recreate a couture piece from an image and spent a lot of time on the research for elaborate pleats like this and this. I eventually decided on a double circle skirt (two circle skirts sewn together) with tapering and pleating on the front half. I can't say exactly how it worked out because I adjusted the pleats right up until I sewed the final skirt onto the bodice (and a few times after) until I got something I liked. I did add one extra piece to the front for... modesty. 

I love how even in the back, without the pleating, the double circle drapes really nicely

To give the skirt added volume, I created a petticoat with two tiers of ruffles out of red organza to line the fabric. I think I cut and sewed nearly 100 feet of ruffles. As if that wasn't enough, it's hemmed with horsehair braid - a cheap one that caused me a bit of grief. After machine-sewing the horsehair to the hem, I turned it under and hand-sewed it for an invisible finish that took me all of one evening. I also hand-tacked the petticoat to the skirt at regular intervals. 

The bodice is my go-to Simplicity #4070 that I've been making dresses with for nearly a decade. I did a heart cut-out for the back which was fun to put together and not all that difficult once you get your head wrapped around it. 

I even sewed a little capelet from Vogue #9315, a top pattern that I thought had good potential to be used as outerwear. The wool and lining were leftover from my husband's coat, and very much needed on any California night. 

My one word of advice is, if you make a fancy new dress, don't let Beatrix in a tux steal the show. And get your man a matching bow tie, of course. 

A Sweater with Reckless Abandon

So there I was browsing through Instagram one day minding my own business when I saw the most wild, amazing knit I've ever laid eyes on. @verca_knits was making this joyous, rainbow-colored hat that was just too cool for words. The knitting was unlike anything I'd ever seen, with bursts of color against a pillowy-soft white yarn. It was nothing like I typically make, and yet suddenly I HAD to make one for myself. I was in love. 

Pattern: DaisyAndPeace Chunky Knitted Sweater No. 15 with this stitch pattern
Yarn: Malabrigo Rasta in Unicorn Bark (4 skeins) and Natural (7 skeins)
Cost: $250

After some internet research, I discovered that the pattern was the Tentacula hat from Jenny Noto. Being extra (and already owning too many knitted hats), I decided I needed this as a SWEATER. After more research, I settled on using Malabrigo's Rasta yarn in Unicorn Bark and Natural (I'll let you guess which color is which). Not only was this a big departure for me style-wise, as I typically don't wear these colors and especially not all at once, but I almost never knit with chunky knits. Undeterred, I soon found myself adding over $200 of bright yarns to my cart. *Gulp*

To adapt Jenny's Tentacula hat pattern, I first found a suitable pattern for a plain chunky knit sweater. You almost don't need a pattern as any two oversized rectangles with sleeves will do, but I still like a bit of guidance. I ended up using this pattern from Etsy. My yarn was a bit bigger than gauge so I ended up kitting the smallest size and reducing the number of stitches to 80%. I know, I know, if I'm going to buy a pattern specifically for a project I should at least get the right one, but I liked its simplicity, the slight puff of the sleeves, and it really was nearly the right size. 

Next was to figure out that stitch pattern. Jenny's pattern has a lot of good information, but I found it a bit difficult to follow. Luckily, she links to this great YouTube video from Knit with Me on how to do the stitch pattern. Even if you don't plan to make this I recommend giving it a watch because it really is a very ingenious stitch pattern. It is mostly worked in stockinette stitch, with loops pulled through with your needle or a crochet hook. She calls the stitch "draw a loop," which I'd never heard of before but has some really cool knitting applications, not the least of which is this stitch pattern. If you follow me on Instagram I'll put up some videos of how it looks to knit. 

From there the sweater knit up pretty quickly, minus some time to order more yarn (twice). The Malabrigo yarn is really very soft and lovely. The sweater is a bit of a beast, but not as stiff as I worried it would be. I think it will serve me well for outdoor dining or drinks, or perhaps an art walk? Anyway, I hope you enjoy this sweater as much as I do and it inspires you to step out of your comfort zone and try something wild. 

Handmade Kayak Paddle Jacket

Since moving to Santa Cruz, my favorite new toy by far has been the second-hand kayak we scored on Craigslist. It has more than paid for itself this past fall and, after a short break in December and January, I had it back on the water in February with my mom and Beatrix, and my dad alongside us in his rowboat. The otters of Elkhorn Slough have been phenomenal. 

Pattern: Jalie Maxime Jacket
Fabric: ripstop nylon and nylon rainwear
Cost: free - remnants

I wanted a new paddle jacket for the cooler months in spring, so I decided to see if I could make my own. After some research, I downloaded the Jalie Maxime Jacket. I liked that it was designed for athletics with things like a zipper shield, chin guard, and elastic cuffs and hems. I also wanted one with a front zip because temperatures can change quickly when you're paddling and I wanted to be able to cool off a little if I needed to. 

The jacket is made entirely with fabric from three different water-repellant scraps I had laying around. The sleeves and upper body are made from my most waterproof fabric, a water-repellent "aviator flight outdoor satin" (whatever that is?) that I used in my raincoat. I modified the Jalie pattern so that the jacket yoke and upper sleeve were cut in one piece, similar to McCall 6531. I also eliminated the pleat there. The body is made with light blue ripstop nylon, which isn't totally water-repellant but dries quickly. And there's even some black ripstop nylon filling in over the rest of the jacket. For the sleeve cuffs, I opted to use poly spandex (swimsuit fabric) to make a cuff that fits tightly to my wrist to help keep water out. Since they're stretchy, I can also push up the sleeves when it gets a little warmer. Finally, I used a stretchy cord rather than elastic at the hem of the jacket. 

Here we are out on the water and it worked well! It keeps me dry from splashes and also dries quickly in the sun. Not bad for a bunch of scraps from my cupboard! Since this is a water jacket, I sewed small buttonholes at the bottom of each pocket to drain water if needed. But mostly the jacket just gets some ocean spray. 

Aren't the otters just amazing? 

Spring Dress Mash-Up

After a few years of t-shirts and sweatpants, it felt good to break out the dress patterns again. It took me about a month to sew this one up, and I enjoyed taking my time to make something nice. 

Pattern: McCall's Meadow Dress M8105 with McCall's Dawn Dress M8104 
Fabric: 2+ yds rayon
Cost: free

This dress is a mash-up between M8104 and M8105, mostly because I got the two mixed up in my head and thought it was one pattern. Once I dug them out and realized my mistake, I couldn't help but try making my vision a reality. The dress is mostly M8105 with the cut-on sleeves and sleeve ruffles of M8104. 

McCall's M8105 is actually a pretty clever pattern. The base is a simple strappy dress, but there's a tie overlay that attaches to the neckline and wraps around the body, giving it a faux-wrap style. It makes it very easy to fit but with a sophisticated draped look. 

What was not so easy was adapting it to have cut-on sleeves. That, and making it out of just 2 yards of fabric. I used every scrap of the fabric and puzzled through some fitting issues with the sleeves and the ties. Admittedly, I probably wouldn't recommend this mash-up, as the ties can pull a bit on the sleeves. But it ended up looking pretty good and even gives me enough movement for dancing. 

But I can't quite make up my mind about the sleeves. I love the flounce in theory, but on my body it feels like it overwhelms my frame. For our second wedding this month, I took the sleeve flounce off to try it the other way. What do you think? This is the second time I've sewn a project with the sleeves from this pattern and the second time I've taken them off, so there might be a lesson in there. 

As a bonus, the Mr. got to finally wear this coat I made for him way back when we thought we were going to a wedding in March 2020. 

Jaws Jacket

Maybe it was the chills that ran through my body as we sat at yet another outdoor hangout, maybe it was just the effects of my COVID booster shot, but I knew I needed another cozy, fuzzy jacket in my closet. I wear my teddy-bear-lined parklet jacket all the time, so there was no denying the utility of a second variation on the concept.

Fabric: 2 yds upholstery remnant + minky lining
Cost: $80

The star of this jacket is really the fabric. Aside from being ridiculously soft and fuzzy on the inside AND out, it's a fun texture and nice color with lots of dimension. This is not the sort of fabric you can dream up in your head and go out and find. Rather, I walked into the store with an open mind and, after perusing the fur aisle, I found this beauty in the section of upholstery remnants and knew it was the one. The ribbed texture even makes it look like a quilted jacket

Because it was a 2-yd remnant with a few flaws I wasn't sure I'd have enough for this project, but at about $12 there was no harm in trying. And while the outer layer was cheap, I spent another $30 on minky lining and nearly another $30 (!) on ribbing. But look at that shark lining! Isn't it perfect? I may have a new obsession. 

Aside from getting fuzzy fabric everywhere, it actually wasn't that difficult to sew with. I made sure to match the ribs where it mattered but otherwise it came together just fine. I even accidentally placed the flaw (a big hole!) in the middle of one of my sleeves but was able to sew it shut by hand and it completely disappeared. It did help that the whole thing was lined - imagine trying to finish those bulky seams! 

The ribbing is fancy Merchant and Mills ribbing that sells for $14 a yard. It is admittedly a bit lightweight for this project (would be better on a t-shirt of light sweatshirt) but it's really hard to get ribbing, especially locally. 

The pattern is Simplicity which I bought because it includes instructions for lining. I then of course promptly ignored all the instructions, but it was nice to know that I had all the pattern pieces I needed. I also wanted a raglan sleeve as I already have similar jackets with a set-in sleeve. 

Unlike my parklet jacket, this one is a bit more snug and feels a bit bulky in all the layers. But it is delightfully warm and good enough for dinner or a drink out. Now I just might need fuzzy pants and I'd be all set. 

I'll leave you this parting shot from the beach :) 

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