Greenstyle Tempo Tights

For the past fifteen years, I've worn the same workout clothes. Yup. They were high quality, made to last, and, while not particularly fashionable, I didn't need anything special to go for a run. But recently my workout clothes have started to show their age. Holes, sagging, you know the drill. And the new ones I bought just weren't cutting it - not stretchy enough, ill-fitting, not breathable (!). So despite never feeling the urge to sew workout wear before, I finally decided it was time to make my own. And you guys, I've caught the workout wear bug. I pretty much want to dress like an IG workout influencer now.

Pattern: Greenstyle Creations Tempo Tights
Fabric: spandex
Cost: $10

While I've made a few pairs of Greenstyle tights now, this one is definitely the pinnacle of wild workout wear. Bright colors? Check. Color blocking? Check. Swooping seam lines. Check check. 

In full disclosure though, this pair was actually somewhat of an accident. I bought some pink "twill" from Spandex World only to realize when it arrived that it was... spandex. Not quite suitable for its intended purpose. But, it did turn out to be a good opportunity to try out my new Greenstyle Tempo Tights pattern. 

This is the second Greenstyle tights pattern I've made after the Stride Tights. These have a similar pocket style and fit. But what I appreciated about this pattern was that, while similar to the other one, offered a different style of pocket construction, a differently shaped gusset, and the waistband style lines had been adjusted to match the lines of the pants. I appreciated this attention to detail and getting the most out of each pattern.

Of course, what I really like about this pattern is the cool seam lines and potential for color-blocking. This spandex was darker pink on one side and lighter on the other, which was perfect for this pattern. I also found some red mesh in my stash and was able to squeeze out the calf cutout for the full ombre look. If you're sewing these up, I highly recommend basting along the inseam to make sure your color-blocking perfectly matches up. I don't usually baste but it's definitely worth the extra effort here.

In terms of fit, I love that I can sew my own tights that actually fit. Other tights I've bought have been too tight in the leg and too loose at the waist, leading them to ride down as I ran. Looking at the Greenstyle size chart, I now realize that it is because my thigh is actually several sizes bigger than my hip. I already knew I was pear-shaped, but I didn't realize that I needed to size up for my thighs as well. Much better! 

The only thing now is I have the urge to sew a matching top. And I have like three more spandex colors coming in the mail. Please send help - this may be one of those weird quarantine obsessions. 

Greenstyle Swimsuit

The fact that we have no big trips planned for this summer didn't stop me from making my annual swimsuit. This has been a yearly tradition of mine since I started sewing. It's actually more of a rule than a tradition - if I allowed myself to sew up all the swimsuits I could dream up I'd have many more than I could use!

 Greenstyle Creations North Shore Swimsuit
Fabric: 1 yd nylon spandex knit and lining
Cost: $12

This year I tried out the North Shore Swimsuit by Greenstyle Creations. I've been obsessed with their leggings and am becoming a big fan of their patterns overall. I love the range of options included in this pattern - there are five different tops plus different closure options and two different bottoms with three rise options, plus a one-piece. Right now it's on sale for just under $12. 

As with their leggings, the one thing I wish they did was more clearly indicate which pieces to cut for which view. I just ended up printing and tracing the whole thing since I plan to use this pattern again and color-coding the pieces as I went. But I love how the pieces are drafted - they're a great shape!

I do need to adjust the sizing for making this suit again. The pattern has a great size range (from XXS to 3XL). I cut the bottoms as M and top as XS based on my measurements. I adjusted the underbust band so it was tighter and will size the bottoms down to a S next time. 

Usually when I make bathing suits I prefer some negative ease in the swimsuit and to lightly stretch my elastic for additional stability. However, this pattern instructs you to cut elastic that is much smaller than the suit, using the elastic to create much of the negative ease in the pattern. I find that creates too much bunching in the fabric for my liking, so that's why next time I will size down, especially for the bottoms. This may also be helpful for the people online who I saw had a lot of trouble with their elastic insertion - less stretching makes it less fiddly!

We saw my parents a few counties over for the first time since quarantine at the start of July. It was so nice to spend time together and enjoy the conversation without the filter of a video call. We also got amazing weather and a chance to walk down to the beach and take a dip - socially distanced of course! I'm hoping for a few more outings like this this summer but we'll see!

Summer Blouse

July 1 was my birthday and I was dreaming of a summer blouse. White. Eyelet. Pleats. Wrap front and scalloped edges. Once I had the idea in my head and the fabric ordered from my local store I just had to get to work to make it happen. But it wasn't easy. 

Pattern: based off of Vogue #1178
Fabric: Elly eyelet in white
Cost: $41

The idea for this top started with the Forget-Me-Not Adeline Dress and Top. I saw a glimpse of it while it was in pattern testing and I couldn't get those beautiful pleats out of my head. As soon as the pattern was released I scooped it up. However, something held me back. While the top looked beautiful on a hanger, in many of the tester photos the pleats just didn't sit right. 

I decided to make a muslin first. And while I was convinced that I could tame those pleats into submission with some careful sewing and a good press, the fabric just didn't want to cooperate. It was like each pleat was pointed in a different direction. I pulled the file up in Photoshop and my suspicions were confirmed. Drawing down the center of each pleat you can see they go every which way, especially on the bodice front. Not good. 

I thought about how I could tweak the pattern but in the end I decided to start over with a pattern I had made previously - a simple wrap dress with darts from Vogue. 

Of course, if a professional pattern drafter has trouble with pleats, you can bet I did as well. The beauty of pleats is how they create fullness, but it is also their curse. Make them too big and it creates too much excess fabric in the bust and upper back. Make them too small and you lose that impact. I struggled with figuring out how to manage that fullness and yet preserve those beautiful pleats. I tried mimicking the pleats from the FMN pattern. I tried grafting on pleats from another pattern, but forgot that those weren't drafted at the natural waist so it created little spaces for boobs several inches below mine. 

Finally, I dug into the research on manipulating darts and did a proper adjustment, transforming the darts from the original pattern into pleats. (This is a good place to start if you want to do the same.) While I was at it, I made some other design choices for personal preference such as adding a waistband and switching out the ties for a button. The waistband is actually really great because there's less pressure to perfectly match up all those pleats. After my fourth muslin I was ready to go!

This fabric, which is a cotton eyelet, handled beautifully. It is sturdy yet lightweight and holds the pleats well. I cut it on the bias at the neckline and sleeves to preserve the beautiful scalloped edge and had no issues with it stretching. The bodice is lined a silk remnant that matches my skin tone and is very cleanly finished. I cut the lining out of the original Vogue pattern too so it is made with a dart instead of pleats to reduce bulk. That's a handy trick I learned from another Vogue pattern. 

That doesn't mean I still didn't have some more hurdles. I ended up taking a few inches out of the side seams to make it more fitted. After I had attached the peplum that I drafted (also originally with a scalloped hem) I removed that and used a circle-skirt shape instead. The shape really helped show off the fullness of the pleats and also better fit my body. I had also originally drafted ties for the closure but felt they were too bulky so I removed those as well. I had spent a bit of money on this fabric and really didn't want it to become a wadder!

I'm so glad I kept at it though because in the end I'm very pleased with the final results! Started at the end of May I finally finished the weekend before my July 1 birthday. I wore it out to a socially distanced picnic and it was perfectly comfortable and, even more importantly, didn't gape at the bust. I love working with such a sturdy yet feminine fabric. It had been quite a few years since I'd sewn with eyelet but I didn't find it to be too fiddly at all. 

Here's another shot of that back. 

Quarantine has been teaching me to slow down and this goes for this project as well. By taking my time I finally got the result I was after and learned quite a bit about pleats along the way. Oh, and it's also given me the time to make multiples. I'll be back soon with another version of this top without pleats from the original Vogue pattern. 

An Update

Hello there! I'll start by saying that June was a hard month. Three months into quarantine, our country also began to reckon with our legacy of white supremacy and systemic racism and violence against Black people. I took some time away from sewing to protest, to read, to listen. And I have to say I'm blown away by the conversations happening in real life and in online spaces. In Oakland, the city blossomed in art with new murals, street art, and community. After decades of work, activists succeeded in getting police out of our public schools. In our nonprofits with whom I work it is enabling conversations about race and justice that just weren't possible before. Yet there is still such a long, long way to go. It is exhausting, especially for Black folk and people of color for whom there is no reprieve. 

As I'm sure you've been following, the sewing community has been engaged in its own conversations. @BlkMakersMatter has emerged as a powerful voice in the sewing community. The conversations I've been following on Instagram have pushed me to dig deeper, explore my discomfort, and continue to wrestle with my own biases, including in a space that is "just for fun" for me back can quickly feel not fun for those who are excluded. If your sewing community hasn't yet begun this work, now is the time. I am feeling exhausted yet energized by these conversations and am deeply grateful to the many Black makers who have given their time and energy to this movement to de-center white voices in our community and build a more inclusive space.

I was planning to share pics of my new top but I think I'll just leave it at this today. Take care of yourselves, and keep doing the work as we head into the next month, and the next. 

Cape-Sleeve Top

I have finally made my way to the end of my planned sewing list, leaving my mind to wander over the possibilities of fabrics and patterns in my stash. I'm not worried - this is when quarantine creativity kicks in. I can finally start dreaming about what I want to do with a remnant I've been saving or that fabric my mom gave me. I try to always sew things that I think will get worn and have a place in my wardrobe. This time, those creative musing paid off with my new cape-sleeve top! 

Pattern: self-drafted using my t-shirt block
Fabric: 1.5 yds fleece-backed sweater knit
Cost: free

I have been obsessed with making a top with cape-like sleeves for a while now. My Pinterest history shows that I pinned this photo of Victoria Beckham in one in 2015. I'm pretty sure hers is just a cape over a top (maybe a two-piece set?), but I wanted an integrated piece (edit: turns out it's this Balenciaga piece). Ever since then I have occasionally pinned more inspiration or looked around for a pattern but never found anything that was quite right. 

The more I thought about it, the more complicated it got. You know what else I wanted? I was set on the idea that it shouldn't look like a cape from the back. Too much like a superhero. Too extra. I wanted something with the cape look in the front, but the look of a regular sleeved top in the back. And I just couldn't wrap my head around how to do that! 

But you know what? I finally figured it out! When you have months alone to your thoughts, even the most persistent problems seem to work themselves out. Here's a view from the back - actual sleeves!

After years of musing, the construction popped into place in my head one night based on a few key ideas. The first was that I needed a cape or yoke in the front that then attaches to regular set-in sleeves at the back. The way to do this is to draft half a set-in sleeve by folding the sleeve piece down the center and keeping just the back half. The sleeve gets set into the back armscye. This creates a long shoulder seam that extends from the neckline down toward the elbow. In the front, I drafted a yoke piece (similar to this top). I then connected front to back along the long shoulder seam similar to how you would assemble a normal cape. 

The second issue is what to do with the underarm of the back sleeve. In a normal top, the back underarm wraps around the arm and is sewn to the front underarm, creating a tube for your arm to go in. But we only have a back undearm - no front piece. So I re-drafted the sleeve to attach to the side seam: instead of having the sleeve extend out the arm toward the wrist, I continued extending the sleeve down toward the waist. During construction, it gets sewn into the side seam between the shirt back and front. The full effect is that the cape drapes across the front, wraps around the arm, and is attached to the back at the armscye and down the side seam. 

Does that make sense? No? I knew I would need to drape it on my dress form to get it right and test it out. I started with my t-shirt block and cut out a half sleeve from muslin to drape on the form. Here's what I got:   

And here's what it looks like on:

As you can see, it was a bit of a mind twister. In the end, however, there were relatively few pieces and it's not that much harder to sew up than a basic t-shirt. Honestly, if I were a pattern maker (which I'm not) this would be my ideal pattern - an interesting shirt that takes a lot of conceptualizing but isn't that hard in practice to sew up once you work out the mechanics. As you can tell, I was quite pleased with myself. See how you get that cape look when I bend my arm but without the full superhero cape in the back? Love it! 

The top is made from a fleece-backed sweater knit that I think my mom gave me. It feels really nice and worked out really well for this project. It is drapey with a lot of stretch but still has good weight and structure. It is incredibly comfortable to wear and I must admit I do feel a bit like Victoria Beckham when I put it on. I was a bit worried that the sleeves wouldn't allow for much arm movement but it's actually fine. The only thing this top is not good for is layering under any type of coat or jacket!

Now that I have finally finally worked out how to do it, it would be easy to make again. Unfortunately, it's the type of garment you probably only need one of in your wardrobe. Perhaps I'll think up another clever way to make it up, but for now I'm enjoying that I actually did it!

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