On My Radar

Change is good. If you’re a returning reader, you’ve probably noticed that this blog has undergone a mini makeover. It’s nothing too crazy, but I was tired of the previous layout and wanted something fresher and brighter. I’ll probably switch fonts a few more times until I find the right one, like the dutiful overthinker I am. Please let me know if you have trouble reading anything, if the layout’s terribly confusing, or even if you don’t like that color green. (I don’t know what kind of MONSTER wouldn’t like that seafoam green, though.)

With this change in look, I’m also going to augment the content a bit. For awhile now, I’ve been bouncing around ideas for new kinds of posts, only to shoot them down in my head for fear of failure. That toxic fear is unfortunately pretty common for me, and I’m doing my best to get over it and just write. It’s my own damn blog, after all. I’ll still post all the clothes and cocktails I make, but I’m going to start peppering in some new types of posts and series. “On My Radar” is a random assortment of topical and not-so-topical things that I consider worth sharing. Simple as that.

Without further ado:

Image: http://www.findwhatfeelsgood.com

Sweat: Yoga with Adriene

Any yoga teacher that says the word “fart” during class is alright in my book. Adriene Mischler, the namesake behind the Yoga with Adriene YouTube empire, has a way of making her online classes laid-back and accessible while explaining each pose perfectly and still imparting some grounding yogic wisdom. She’s got a series for true beginners, a more intense series called Yoga for Weight Loss, and specialty videos for everything in between.

I don’t know where she studied yoga, but her cues are by far the best I’ve ever heard in online yoga classes. If you want to supplement your studio yoga practice or just gain some flexibility, you should check her out. It’s weird, but after doing Adriene’s videos a few times a week for months, I feel like we’re almost… friends? My guess is that the other 825,000+ YouTube subscribers feel the same.

Here are some of my favorite Yoga with Adriene videos:

There are a few I’m forgetting, but you get the point. You can follow along with Adriene on her YouTube channelblog, and Instagram. Namaste, y’alls!

umbrella collective bucket bags
Image: http://www.theumbrellacollective.com/

Drool: leather bucket bags from Umbrella Collective

These bags. They’re so buttery soft I could rub my face on them all day. I came across Umbrella Collective at a Renegade Craft Fair popup at the Hideout in Chicago. At first, I bypassed the booth since everything looked EX-PEN-SIVE. My curiosity brought me back, though, and I fell in love with a super-soft, navy bucket bag priced at $138—not cheap, but reasonable considering each product is handmade in the USA. For better or worse, I take every clothing and accessory purchase pretty seriously ever since I started sewing my own clothes. It means something to me that I got to meet the maker behind the bag, and I’m willing to save up for her quality product instead of impulse-buying something else. (Steps off soapbox.)

I didn’t buy anything that day at the craft fair, but I’ve been eyeing the brand’s goods on Etsy and Instagram ever since. The camel and navy leather purses and the striped canvas totes are on point. If I don’t go for a bucket bag, I might snag a canvas-and-leather tote. Which style do you like best?

Listen: Jemaine Clement on You Made It Weird

I went back and forth for awhile about which Flight of the Conchords member is sexier, but it’s got to be Jemaine. (Sorry, Bret.) That voice—dem LIPS! Anyway, I’ve been a fan of FotC since their first season on HBO, and even saw them live in concert in Chicago. If you’re a fan of Jemaine, check out episode 276 of the You Made It Weird podcast. In his wickedly dry deadpan, Jemaine talks to host Pete Holmes about death, being a dad, and American–New Zealand misunderstandings. My favorite quote of the episode involves fanny packs, and I’ll leave it at that.

bees knees gin cocktail
Image: Sarah Gorr via Facebook

Drink: Bees Knees gin cocktail

Save for the piña coladas I mixed up on the reg this summer, I’ve felt a little uninspired on the cocktail front lately. And then my friend Sarah, who blogs here, posted her version of the Bees Knees. It’s a simple, classic cocktail with just three ingredients: “gin, lemon juice, [and] honey simple syrup.” YASSS. All things that I have in the house (or can easily make). I will be mixing one of these before the summer’s out, and then probably into the fall, and then winter. I’m a Gin for All Seasons kind of girl.

Thanks for reading the first edition of this series! Now spill: What’s on your radar?

Knit Inari Tee Dress

inari tee dress

Some sewing projects are a labor of love. Maybe you take extra care cutting a slippery fabric (rayon spandex: I’m lookin’ at you), or maybe you take the time to hand sew an invisible hem. For me, button-up shirts and silly, time-consuming Halloween costumes fall into the Labor of Love category. If you’re Morgan from Crab & Bee, your sister’s insanely gorgeous wedding dress falls into that category. If there’s an award for Sewing Goddess of the Year, Morgan deserves it. I don’t even want to know how many hours she put into conceptualizing, pattern hacking, and sewing that two-piece gown. All I know is that It. Paid. Off.

But, life is full of ebbs and flows. Sometimes literally: This week, my apartment flooded during a flash flood, but then I got a haircut I really like. See?! For every action there’s a reaction. Yin and Yang. Fire and Water. Easy and Hard. For every painstaking sewing project we put ourselves through, there is another satisfying, easy-peasy one waiting in the wings.

inari tee dress
“Can you get a shot of the split hem?”

And that’s where the Inari Tee Dress dress comes in. I spotted this loose-fitting dress over on Heather’s blog and immediately fell in love. I’d been meaning to try a Named Patterns garment for awhile now, and their take on the tee dress is just so chic. It’s got a cocoon silhouette that just skims the body, a split hem (cue googly eyes) that’s slightly longer in back, and sleeves with a permanently rolled up effect. Basically, this thing is crying out for Madewell-style knockoffs from the sewing world. (It’s our DUTY, people.)

named patterns inari tee dress

The Inari Tee Dress, which is a 2-for-1 pattern that also includes a crop tee option, calls for woven fabric or knit fabric with “slight stretch.” Since I wanted to do a test version before I cut into my precious tencel denim, I decided to do some serious stash-busting. The gray fabric is leftover from my Sallie romper, and the blue knit is leftover from a tank top I made for Marc and a knit Scout. It definitely has more than some “slight” stretch. To accommodate for this, I sewed the US size 8 with 1″ side seam allowances (grading to 1/2″ at the armhole) instead of the prescribed 3/8″. Anything more fitted might be venturing into bodycon, which would not be in keeping with the pattern’s slouchy, effortless style.

inari tee dress

Even now, the material clings a LOT, especially when you’re in the midst of a wind gust. Despite its clinginess, I love this dress and have already worn it a few times. The drafting of the knit neckband is pretty spot on (no gaping to speak of!) and construction was a breeze. I used my walking foot, a lightning bolt stitch, and ballpoint needle to sew everything together. To hem the bottom, I just used a simple zigzag stitch, flipping to a longer straight stitch at the side vents. Next time, I’ll understitch the rolled-up accent on the sleeve to keep the seam on the inside, and I’ll probably use a facing instead of a knit neckband when I sew this up in a woven.

Have you tried any patterns from Named? I’ve had my eye on the Alexandria Peg Trousers and Kielo Wrap Dress for awhile now. After Inari, I might not be able to help myself…

A Very Wearable Morris Blazer Muslin

morris blazer grainline studio

The Morris Blazer was an impulse buy. It went something like this: 1). Jen announced the Morris Blazer on the Grainline Studio blog on April 21. 2). By 10:30 a.m. that day, I’d already purchased and printed out the PDF. Don’t get me wrong: I would’ve eventually bought the pattern anyway. But in the instant-gratification world of PDF sewing patterns, I generally try to read other folks’ reviews and determine how much I’d wear it before clicking purchase. It’s for my bank account. (And my social life. And my sanity.)

morris blazer
Grainline Studio’s Morris Blazer sample

That tactic fell by the wayside this time, though, since I was a total goner when I set eyes on Morris. I own two blazers, back from the time when my 9–5 occasionally required it. Those Banana Republic jackets do the trick when I need to look professional, but they scream STUFFY. Morris, on the other hand, has a modern, cropped cut, and it’s designed for stretch wovens—cha-ching! I ordered some natural-colored stretch twill at $3.50/yard from Fabric.com with every intention of making a muslin as soon as I got the fabric.

morris blazer grainline studio

Fast-forward four months later, and I finally got to work on it. Apparently the dog days of summer are when I decide it’s appropriate to sew a blazer. The humidity must be slowly killing what’s left of my rational brain cells. Anywho, here’s the nitty gritty:

morris blazer grainline studio

Morris Blazer

  • Size: 8
  • Modifications: added 2″ to the body and 1.5″ to the sleeves at the lengthen/shorten lines
  • Fabric: medium-heavyweight stretch cotton twill with 10% stretch across the grain and great recovery (I think it’s got about 2% Lycra, though it’s not available on Fabric.com anymore so I’m not certain)
  • Interfacing: Omitted (GASPGASPGASP). Since this was supposed to be a quick muslin, I didn’t bother running out to buy the necessary tricot fusible interfacing. Luckily, the fabric is weighty enough that it doesn’t look too droopy or stretched out along the hems—yet. I’m hoping it won’t bag out, but only time will tell.
  • Construction: I followed the pattern directions and referred to Jen’s sew along. That was especially helpful when attaching the facing, since that step was a little confusing to me in the pattern directions.
  • Finishing: I used a zig-zag stitch to finish all the inner seams, but then I decided that Hong Kong seams would look baller on the back and side seams. I luuuuurve them. The bias strips are self-made using some leftover floral cotton.
honk kong seams grainline studio morris blazer
*my precious* during the construction process

I wore this blazer (in air conditioning) all night and it was supremely comfortable. I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to make it, since summer is “almost over” and only now did I decide to sew an off-white blazer. Instead of wallowing in poor-timing sorrow, I’ll leave you with two questions (and a dumb photo shoot outtake):

80s ladies
“Imma try a sassy one”
  1. Have you ever tried the Hong Kong seam finish?
  2. Is the whole No White After Labor Day thing an evil, evil lie?

Mai Tai with Homemade Orgeat

mai tai with homemade orgeat

A Mai Tai is one of those drinks that can look drastically different depending on where you get it. I’ve had Mai Tais in colors ranging from yellow to My Little Pony pink to brown. The classic Trader Vic’s Mai Tai skews toward a light caramel, but to be honest, even that “classic” drink will probably look different depending on who’s your bartender that night.

The best Mai Tai I’ve had all summer is the very boozy one served at Hula’s Modern Tiki in Phoenix and Scottsdale. It’s made with Appleton’s gold rum, orange curaçao, pineapple and lime juices, orgeat, and dark rum—quite an addicting combo. I couldn’t get that cocktail out of my head, so I set about perfecting a homespun version. Ever since reading that you can make your own orgeat syrup, a common ingredient in tiki drinks, I’ve been wanting to test it out.

Sidenote: After asking people, Googling endlessly, and listening to different dictionary pronunciations, it seems like “oar-zhat” or “oar-zha” is acceptable. If you have a definitive answer to this, I owe you a flaming shot.

I followed this Serious Eats recipe for orgeat pretty much to a T, and the results were a subtly sweet, opaque, almondy syrup. FYI: This recipe calls for orange-flower water, and I bought some cheap on Amazon. When it came to mixing up the first round of Mai Tais, I didn’t have any Jamaican rum or curaçao, so I substituted with Bacardi (gasp!) and Cointreau. Not good. The next day I got my butt to Binny’s to get some more acceptable rum for a Mai Tai and some orange curaçao. I also added fresh pineapple juice to the mix to better replicate the flavor at Hula’s Modern Tiki. The results? A pretty damn good take on a Mai Tai, at least for the home bar.

mai tai with homemade orgeat syrup

Mai Tai with Homemade Orgeat

  • 2 ounces Appleton Estate rum (or another amber or dark rum)
  • 1/2 ounce orange curaçao
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2–3/4 ounce fresh pineapple juice
  • 1/2 ounce homemade orgeat syrup (recipe here)
  • Fresh mint

Shake all ingredients together over ice and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Garnish with fresh mint and a slice of pineapple.

Have you had any delicious (or suspicious) tiki drinks lately?

sallie jumpsuit romper closet case files

A Sallie Romper and the Conclusion of the Coyote Saga

I wouldn’t recommend driving 1,800 miles in three days. But if you have to do it, you should reward yourself each night with a cocktail at a local watering hole, or a 40 of Bud Light while lying in bed in a Motel 6. No one’s judging here. Both happened last weekend, when the bf and I flew out to the Southwest to finally pick up his car. In case you’re unaware of the Coyote Saga, here’s the rundown (and some pictures for good measure):

canyonlands, utah
Canyonlands was pretty magical

May 14: We set out on the first day of our road trip, which started in Chicago (home) and continued on to Denver/Boulder, Canyonlands in Utah (the most beautiful place I’ve ever been), Vegas, and the Grand Canyon. After seeing the Grand Canyon (which was barely visible since it was sleeting that day :-/), we planned on spending the night in the small town of Gallup, New Mexico, before heading to Santa Fe and then eventually making our way home.

grand canyon bust
GREAT visibility at the Grand Canyon…

May 22: I was gazing up at the stars through the sunroof right after nightfall when I felt a huge thump. “Oh my god. I think I just hit a white wolf,” says Marc. The phrase was so ridiculous I laughed out loud, but the laughing quickly turned to mild terror when we realized that the radiator was busted, leaving us stuck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, Arizona. Apparently white wolves coyotes get real big out in the Southwest (RIP coyote). After sitting two hours in genuine fear that a Jeepers Creepers–type character was going to steal me and eat my skin, a tow truck arrived and we spent the night at a Travelodge in Holbrook, AZ. Long story somewhat shorter: We got a rental car for the next few days and explored Albuquerque and Santa Fe before driving back to the body shop in Holbrook, where we learned that the car would take at least a few weeks to fix. We couldn’t afford to take any more time off work, so a flight back to Chicago it was.

prom picture
Marc asked me to prom in Albuquerque. I said maybe.
silver saddle motel santa fe
The Silver Saddle Motel in Santa Fe was our home for three nights.

July 23: Nine weeks later, the car was finally fixed. We flew back to Phoenix and drove a rental the three hours from the airport to Holbrook, and then spent the next 2.5 days driving back to Chicago. Aside from almost hitting a stray dog eating roadkill in the middle of the road (crisis averted), the drive was blessedly uneventful. Humid as hell, but uneventful. SAGA OVER.

sallie jumpsuit romper

So as timing would have it, this iteration of Sallie made it’s debut in Phoenix, Arizona, on a 100º evening. It was so comfy—despite the heat—that I bust it out the next night in Tucumcari, New Mexico, another middle-of-nowhere town along old Route 66.

sallie jumpsuit romper closet case files

Here’s a breakdown of my Sallie:

  • Cut a straight size 10, adding 1.5″ to the bodice and lining and lengthen the bottoms 1″ at the lengthen/shorten line.
  • To make this into a romper, I chopped the pattern off 4.5″ below the crotch, but next time I will definitely alter the bottoms using Heather’s tutorial
  • I bought 4 yards of this gray knit fabric (not sure of the content, I picked it up for $2.95/yard at Textile Discount Outlet in Pilsen) with the intention of making a jumpsuit muslin, but then I decided to go with the romper length. After making a romper muslin (which was necessary bc of crotch length issues), I had ALMOST enough to make my “real” version, but I had to use a similar black knit for the lining. It peeks out a bit, but it doesn’t bother me.
  • I think I could afford to go a tiny bit shorter with the length, but it’s comfortable as is so I might just leave it.
  • For construction, I cursed the fact that I don’t have a serger, and then sewed this up using my regular machine and a ballpoint needle with either a straight or zigzag stitch, depending on the seam. I broke my twin needle (WAH!) so I hemmed the shorts with a zigzag, too.

I never thought I’d be a romper/jumpsuit person, mainly because whenever I’ve tried one on the crotch looks obscene. It turns out that I LOVE this romper because it actually fits my torso. If you’re on the fence about this look, I highly recommend giving this pattern a try, plus you get maxi dress and tank options if those are more your thing.

How do you feel about jumpsuits? Willing to give ’em a go?

Floral Laurel

colette patterns floral laurel

The intro of this post was going to be different. It was going to be about how this is dress is not a timely make. It’s midsummer where I live and floral dresses—especially ones with sleeves—belong in early spring. It’d go on to talk about how I’ve struggled with managing my sewing queue and keeping up a good pace the past few months—why, I’m not sure yet. An active summer social life? Watching more movies and cooking more dinners and doing more YouTube yoga? Maybe.

But instead of delving into possibly existential topics, I’m going to talk about how I only just realized that Fabric.com shipped me the wrong fabric for this Colette Laurel dress. And I made the thing without even realizing it. I’ve never been the most observant person, but I don’t think I’m completely oblivious. (I hope.) Here, you be the judge:

kaffe fasset floral fabric

Months ago, after going back and forth about which Kaffe Fasset floral to buy, I finally settled on this one. What I got was this one. I mean, a floral’s a floral, right? They all look alike?! She says with a crazed look in her eye. Luckily, I really love the mistake fabric. Just like my parents love my little brother. (Just kidding, mom. We know you wanted three kids all along. Wink wink.)

Fabric-confusion aside, this dress was really fun to sew.

colette patterns laurel dress

The size 8 muslin I sewed was pretty roomy, so I sewed a straight 6 this time around. I could get the muslin on and off easily without unzipping it, so I decided to omit the zipper on this dress. I also ended up interlining the fashion fabric with cotton batiste to eliminate any transparency. This was my first time interlining, and it went relatively smoothly save for a little bit of fabric pooling in the front.

colette patterns floral laurel dress

Here’s the laundry list of changes I made to the pattern and during construction:

  • Slashed the pattern at the neck to fix a slightly gaping neckline using a Fashion Sewing Blog tutorial (Colleen G. Lea you are a goddess)
  • Lowered the bust darts by 1/2″
  • Lowered the back darts by 1″
  • Added 2″ at the lengthen/shorten lines
  • Widened the seam allowance a bit at the natural waist for more definition
  • Sewed a 1.5″ hem instead of 2″
  • Eliminated the back zipper
  • Sewed a keyhole back using a tutorial from the free Laurel extras PDF download

colette patterns floral laurel

The pattern calls for more hand sewing than I’m used to, with slipstitches to secure the bias tape at the sleeves and a catch-stitched hem. I’m slowly but surely coming around to appreciate hand stitching. It’ll be a slow burn, I’m sure. My favorite detail on the whole shebang is the keyhole back, which serves the dual purpose of looking cute and making it slightly easier to get in and out of the dress since I made it sans zipper. Form and function wins out!

I love my little mistake dress, but I know I should’ve gotten around to making it earlier. Has anyone else been sewing seasonally inappropriate stuff? Tell me all your dirty sewing secrets.

P.S. I’m still going to wear the hell out of this dress on summer days below 80º F. B-)

The Octopus Negroni Shirt

Colette Negroni shirt

This shirt makes me happy for so many reasons. No other piece of clothing has given me the chance to say the word octopi or the phrase yes, its a very octopussy shirt so many times. I’m also ecstatic to get this out of my queue, since I’d been staring at 3 beautiful yards of cotton lawn octopi for far too long.

Ever since I successfully made an Archer for myself, Marc’s been asking for a short-sleeve shirt of his own. I settled on Negroni by Colette Patterns after seeing Lladybird’s version, so next came the fun/tricky part: finding the ideal fabric. I’ve had decent luck with Fabric.com, whose selection led both Marc and me to the octopi fabric, surprising since—while I loved it—I thought it might be a little too loud for his taste. I guess you don’t really know someone until you go virtual fabric shopping with them.

colette patterns men's negroni shirt

When it came to sewing, I added 2″ to the lengthen/shorten lines, and then made a muslin to test the fit. Marc’s 6’2″ and slim, and the medium fit him great in the body. It turns out I didn’t need to add the length after all, so technically the medium fit him right out of the package. Oh, men. Your lack of hip curves and boobs makes fitting so much easier.

Colette Negroni shirt

Here are the few changes I made to the final product:

  • Used self fabric for the facing, since the “lightweight” fusible interfacing I used on the muslin seemed miiiighty bulky. The Negroni has a pretty wide facing, but this cotton lawn is lightweight enough to feel comfortable while still providing some stability for the buttonholes and buttons. I fused the collar per the instructions, since a little extra stiffness there is fine.
  • Omitted one pocket and sewed it without the flap.
  • Omitted the collar loop. I think it would’ve made the Octopi look smug, or something.

Colette Negroni shirt

The sleeves came out pretty long when hemmed per the instructions, but Marc rolls most of his sleeves so the extra length isn’t a big deal. I cannot stress enough how much I love this Cotton and Steel Tokyo Train Ride fabric (also available in a few other colorways). It sewed like a dream, and the shirt is super soft yet crisp enough to hold its shape. Plus OCTOPI FOR DAYS! They’re so cute that I don’t even care that the yoke is horribly pattern matched. (I was running out of fabric, so certain octopi look like mutants with a bajillion tentacles.) I’ve already seen this material popping up all over Instagram, and I can’t wait to see what other folks are making with it!

And now, back to sewing myself a few things. My half-finished floral Laurel is currently crying out for attention on my ironing board, so that’ll be next. How about you? Sewn anything for a friend or S.O. lately?