colette laurel muslin polka dot

Me Made May and a Laurel Muslin

This year, I’m taking the plunge. Me Made May is happening. If you’re not familiar with Me Made May (#mmm15 on social), it’s an annual challenge that encourages seamsters, knitters, crocheters, and the like to make a point of wearing their me-made garments and/or accessories throughout the month of May.

Each participant pledges to wear X number of handmade items each day. I’ve taken the cop-out route by vowing to wear one me-made garment five days out of each week. I need a little wiggle room since I’ll be taking a 12-day road trip to Denver, Vegas, and the Grand Canyon in the middle of the month, and obviously I’ll be wearing this at least once.

Will there be repeats? Of course! My handmade wardrobe simply isn’t big enough at this point to guarantee I won’t outfit repeat. But alas, that’s not what #mmm15 is about, according to its founder, Zoe. I love the concept, because it’s really just about getting more wear out of the garments that we pour so much time (and sometimes tears) into making. All the better If I spot the gaps in my wardrobe while I’m at it. The plan is to post weekly updates on my Instagram using the hashtag #mmm15. Let me know if you’re taking part!

colette laurel muslin polka dot

And now onto the muslin. I belted it because it looks like a straight-up polka-dot sack on my dress form. Shifts just don’t come alive unless they’re on a human bean! Anywho, I sewed this Colette Laurel muslin with some quilting cotton I got on sale for $3/yard. The pattern came together pretty easily, although my invisible zipper is far from invisible. I don’t have an invisible zipper foot, so next time I’ll follow the directions in this YouTube tutorial to get that puppy totally concealed.

back view Colette Laurel muslin

I sewed a straight size 8. It was pretty loose through the waist, so I simply took in the side seams. As for the length, I added 2″ to the pattern at the “lengthen or shorten here” lines and sewed a 1.5″ hem instead of the pattern’s 2″ hem. I’m happy with that length, but this is definitely not a dress that lets you bend over from the waist without flashing some serious butt-side panty. Such is life when wearing a shift dress, I guess?

neckline colette laurel

I forwent hand-sewing finishes and (sloppily) topstitched the bias binding at the neckline and armholes. I haven’t joined the “hand sewing is so relaxing!” camp yet, but I’ll probably give it a shot when I sew this up with my floral cotton.

Pattern Changes for the Floral Laurel

  • Lower the bust darts by 1/2″
  • Lower the back darts by 1″ (#LongTorso)
  • Fix a slightly gaping neckline in the back by slashing the pattern, per this Fashion Sewing Blog tutorial
  • Take the waist in a bit
  • Possibly underline my fabric with a light cotton batiste? I’m afraid the floral cotton is a little too lightweight to wear on its own. I’ve never underlined a fabric before, and it seems like batiste is a safe bet. Thoughts? Tips? General concerns?

I’m really excited to get started with Laurel #2, but I promised Marc I’d make him an octopus shirt before our trip. Next up: a polka-dotted Negroni muslin before I cut into that beautiful Cotton and Steel lawn. I hate to admit it, but I’m coming to appreciate the role of the muslin. I guess that comes with accepting that sewing is not an instant gratification hobby. One day at a time, folks! What are your thoughts on muslins? Love ’em, never bother? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Also, if anyone knows of good camping spots between Denver and Vegas, I’m all ears!

2015 Spring and Summer Sewing Plans

If you follow Colette Patterns’ blog, Coletterie, then you might be familiar with the Wardrobe Architect series. Essentially, it’s a 14-week challenge aimed at creating a succinct, meaningful personal wardrobe. Weekly themes see seamsters defining a core style, exploring silhouettes, picking a color palette, and finally choosing and sewing a capsule wardrobe.

I found out about the series several weeks into this year’s challenge and thought it sounded like a fabulous idea—if only I’d stumbled across it in January. Maybe next year I’ll take the plunge and complete the series from start to finish. This time around, I’m simply taking inspiration from current and past Wardrobe Architect posts. If anything, I’m just glad that the series reintroduced Polyvore back into my life.

Polyvore’s collage function is super fun to play around with and—as you can see above—I’ve already taken advantage of it to create a small but curated plan for my spring and summer wardrobe. For now, I’m focusing on six items that I’m positive will get a good deal of wear, maaaaybe with the exception of the bold floral shift. (It’s spring, let me LIVE A LITTLE.) And now for the plans:

(imagine this without sleeves)

Sleeveless Button Up

Pattern: Grainline Studio’s Archer Button Up

Sewn it already? yes, but this time I’ll use Jen’s pattern tutorial to create a sleeveless version

Possible fabric: solid color; silk, lightweight cotton, lightweight chambray

Scout Tee

Solid Knit Tee

Pattern(s): Grainline Studio’s Scout Tee or Deer and Doe’s Plantain T-Shirt

Sewn it already? yes, both patterns multiple times

Possible fabric: I’d love to find a hunter green similar to the one in the collage above; ponte knit or something similarly sturdy

this, without the gathered cuffs

Floral Shift Dress

Pattern: Colette Patterns’ Laurel

Sewn it already? nope, but it’s bought and patiently waiting in my stash

Fabric: this bright Kaffe Fassett print, which I recently bought online for the sole purpose of creating a floral Laurel. I’m praying I don’t hate it when I rip open the box.

Maritime Shorts

Printed Shorts

Pattern(s): not quite sure yet; I’m considering Grainline’s Maritime Shorts, Sewaholic’s Thurlow Shorts, and Dixie DIY’s Movies in the Park Shorts

Sewn it already? none of ’em!

Fabric: I guess it depends on which pattern I choose, but a printed denim or twill would be cool

to bow or not to bow is the burning question

Full Skirt

Pattern: Deer and Doe’s Chardon Skirt

Sewn it already? no, but I’ve admired this stunner from afar on the likes of several different bloggers

Fabric: dunno yet—so many options—v. overwhelmed

the woven version will ditch the cuffs and maybe the drawstring

Woven Straight Leg Pants

Pattern: True Bias’s Hudson Pants

Sewn it already? yup, two pairs in knit fabric. I’ll use Kelli’s woven Hudson tutorial to make this pair.

Fabric: something breezy but opaque; maybe a lightweight cotton?

And there you have it: six items that I’m hoping will not only come to fruition but also get a lot of wear this coming spring and summer. Here’s hoping the sewing is as fun as the planning! Do you have any seasonal wardrobe plans?

Click here for details about the items shows above.

Split-Hem Linden

linden sweatshirt view B grainline studio

I’m a sucker for stripes. Breton, mariner, rugby, those effortlessly cool black-and-white “French” stripes—my closet has ’em all. But this stripe, this perfectly hued olive-and-cream french terry from Girl Charlee has won me over. Sure, the french-terry loops shed A LOT, but the top side is weighty yet soft to the touch. And those colors! So fresh and crisp next to each other.

In the words of George Costanza, I would drape myself in this french terry if it were socially acceptable. And I might just be able to do that, since this particular fabric is sold in 72″ widths. Hopefully the leftovers will become a pair of Hudson Pants (or Hudson shorts).

split-hem linden sweatshirt grainline studio

Somewhat successful attempt at stripe-matching

The first garment birthed from this wonder-fabric is view B of the Linden Sweatshirt. This is the fourth Linden I’ve made (some for me, some for my girlfriends), so obviously I dig the pattern. I cut out a 4 rather than an 8, since my first sweatshirt is pretty roomy. I forgot to add extra length on top of the 1″ I’d originally lengthened the pattern, so view B was looking reaaaaal short. Luckily Jen of Grainline Studio recently published a tutorial on how to make a split-hem Linden—perfect timing as I’d been drooling over some gorgeous split hems on RTW shirts and needed to add some length to my shirt.

linden sweatshirt view B grainline studio split hem

I’ve never sewn a split hem before, but this one was really easy. Instead of creating one circular band, you sew the ends of each band shut, pin them to the front and back, and then sew them on as if they were one continuous band. For extra security, I backtacked a few times at the connection spot. I took a gamble by cutting the bands vertically, and I’m really happy with the overall look.

linden sweatshirt view B grainline studio split hem

FUZZIES

With my first Linden, I made the mistake of trying to use self sweatshirt fabric for the neckband. What. A. Disaster. It didn’t stretch nearly as much as it needed to, resulting in me cutting it off and replacing it with a much stretchier jersey from my stash. This time, I used some olive green cotton-modal-lycra fabric leftover from a skirt I made this past winter, and the neckband went in with nary a hitch. I used a twin needle to anchor the neckband and finish the sleeves.

In classic Dani fashion (as my bf likes to say), I splashed orange soup onto my shirt the first night I wore it out. Nothing a little Zout can’t fix, tho! What’s the point of sewing clothes for yourself if you can’t be a slob in them, amirite!?

deer and doe plantain tee geometric stripes

Upcycled Striped Plantain T-Shirt

deer and doe plantain tee sewing striped

This T-shirt is a phoenix. It has risen from the ash pile that was an impulse-bought, rarely worn maxi dress lying in a heap in my closet for nearly a year. I really tried to give the maxi/midi dress trend a go last summer, but I ended up feeling kind of silly wearing that much material. Plus, I run warm, temperature-wise, and HOT DAMN maxi dresses do not let your bottom half breathe. Thus, the stripy knit tee was born.

deer and doe plantain tee geometric stripes

Maxi dresses are probably the easiest thing to upcycle since you have so much material to work with. I was able to cut the front on the fold, but I had cut the back in two pieces. That’s where this ~*~funky~*~ bias-cut back panel came in, and it’s by far my favorite part of this otherwise basic shirt. That’s one of the great things about sewing: a problem often transforms into an opportunity for a unique design element.

deer and doe plantain tee

As far as fit goes, I used the same sizing as my first Plantain tee, cutting out a straight 40 and adding 1″ to the body. Lacking fabric, I cut the short sleeves this time. The viscose/poly material is wonderfully drapey and comfortable, but its fluidity made sewing the neckband a little tricky. I ended up not catching the band in one spot in the front and had to rip some stitches out and re-sew (SO annoying when you’re using the lightning bolt stretch stitch). I managed to patch it up well enough, and it’s safe to say that this tee will get plenty of wear this spring and summer.

I’m thinking I’ll take part in Me Made May this year, and tops like this will be great to have in the everyday arsenal. Have you taken part in MMM before? What am I in for?

Savory Infused Booze and a Call for Your Favorite Bloody Mary Mix

infused vodka and tequila

Brunch is better with bloody marys. For my birthday this year, I’m hosting a boozy brunch party, which means we’re going balls to the wall with the drink selection. Plans are in place for a simple mimosa bar and a not-so-simple bloody mary (and bloody maria) bar. I’ve infused liquor before, but this is my first try at savory combinations and I’m intrigued as to whether or not these will be any good! Here’s what I’m workin’ with:

  • Sliced jalapeños and Espolón tequila
  • Lemon peel, lime peel, and Tito’s vodka
  • Sliced cucumber, fresh dill, and Tito’s vodka
  • Garlic cloves, black peppercorns, and Tito’s vodka

I didn’t follow any recipe strictly, but I took inspiration and ideas from articles here, here, and here. Spicy flavors apparently infuse more quickly than most, so I’ll check the jalepeño tequila in a couple days. The remaining three I’ll probably let stew (with the occasional vigorous shake) for about a week.

As for the bloody mary mixes, any suggestions are welcome! I’m planning on whipping up this recipe, which calls for San Marzano tomatoes and fresh horseradish—nom. Other than that, I don’t really have a favorite mass-produced bloody mix. I’d like to serve three to four different mixes, with at least one spicy variety.

Stay tuned for an update on hits, misses, and fan favorites. And now, bloody mary fiends, I ask you to please ENLIGHTEN ME. What’s your go-to mix?

Chambray Archer Button Up

grainline studio archer button up view B

I don’t have a dog, but I loooove me some pups. By some karmic miracle, Marc and I moved to an apartment across the street from a dog park, meaning I can get my fill of doggie action without the responsibility of owning one. (Though I want to someday!) When the sun finally broke through the clouds this past chilly Sunday afternoon, Marc kindly agreed to snap some pictures of me outside, and we found ourselves chasing golden-hour light in the snowy field adjacent to the dog park. Within seconds, a couple of rambunctious ladies were barreling toward us, blissfully unaware that they were crashing my photo shoot. It was perfect.

archer button up view b grainline studio

Their owner must’ve asked me if I was freezing about 10 times. One of the pups obviously picked up on that and proceeded to nuzzle my legs before plopping down directly on my feet. Canine foot warmers are the best when it’s 22º F and you’re laughably underdressed.

grainline studio archer button up view B

I could muse about pups all day, but then I’d never get to the juicy stuff: this brand spankin’ new Archer Button Up, another slam-dunk pattern from Grainline Studio. I’ve been drumming up the courage to sew this for awhile now, especially after seeing so many lovely versions (here, here, and here, among many others). This turned out to be a refreshing departure from the walking foot and finicky fabrics of my recent knits binge.

grainline studio archer button up view B

(please excuse my red post-workout face)

The Details

Pattern: Archer Button Up, view B

Material: Robert Kaufman 5.6oz. linen-cotton chambray in Rust

Size cut: straight 8 (my measurements: 36-29-38; 6’0″ tall)

Alterations: lengthened the sleeves and body by 1.5″; cut the back pattern piece in a single layer since I was low on fabric (it’s supposed to be cut on the fold); used Jen’s alternate Archer pocket tutorial to create the envelope-look pockets

archer alternate pocket grainline studio

I truly took this project one day at a time, and it could not have been more rewarding. I followed with the Archer Sew Along instructions pretty religiously, sometimes sewing up a few days’ worth of steps at a time if I was in a particularly productive mood. I’ve read quite a few blog posts regarding construction and fit, and it seemed like the general consensus is that Andrea’s collar tutorial is fantastic when it comes to attaching the Archer collar. I haven’t had the best luck with collars in the past, but her instructions were incredibly clear and easy enough to follow. I got a little tripped up by being too eager to kill two birds with one stone: I should’ve slipstitched the inner collar in place rather than go straight for the edge stitching. I ended up not catching the seam allowance in two spots and had to rip some stitches and re-sew in order to ensure that I caught the seam allowance. Le sigh. I’m hoping that step that will become easier with more practice.

archer button up cuff grainline studio

For some reason, I was super nervous about sewing the plackets and cuffs, but those went on without a hitch. And the buttons! Ohhh the buttons. I picked up these awesome, kooky shank-style buttons at Soutache in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, and I’m pretty sure I ended up spending more on them than I did on the fabric… OOPSIES.

archer button up shirt grainline studio

represent, butt ruffles/duck tails of the world

Before hemming this bad boy, I sewed a row of basting stitches at 1/4″ all the way around, a curved-hem tip picked up from the ever-helpful By Hand London blog. That made it infinitely easier to press the seam allowance up and then fold it over again before stitching in place. I finished all the inside seams with a zig-zag stitch, but I wish I would’ve tried bound or flat-felled seams instead, since the chambray is ravelly and a little scratchy at the edges.

zig zag stitch finish

I’m considering adding some bias binding to the offending side and sleeve seams, but it might be tricky since I already topstitched that seam allowance to create the look of a flat-felled seam. I’d say there’s about 1/4″ of excess to work with, so I might give it a shot.

archer button up grainline studio

the relaxed, unbuttoned, 67º indoor temp look

I’m racking my brain for other pain points, but construction went more smoothly than I had hoped. The shirt also miraculously fit right out of the package (minus the length additions I made); normally my RTW button ups pull a bit at the chest since I have a broad back, but I haven’t seen any such issues yet. I’m already dreaming up a color-blocked version for the spring after seeing this little number on the Dusen Dusen blog:

Dusen Dusen shirt

The wheels are turning! The possibilities seem endless with the Archer—it’s probably one of my favorite, most satisfying projects to date. Here’s hoping there’ll be a few more in my future!

Have you sewn your own Archer yet?

two tessuti mandy boat tees

Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee x2

The concept of one-size-fits-all is kind of insane. In the real world, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants–style magic does not exist. Most one-size items leave us wondering: Will this look like a cute shift dress or a muumuu? Is it a crop top or an accidental underboob tank? This Buzzfeed pictorial, “This Is What One Size Fits All Actually Looks Like on All Body Types,” does a pretty good job of debunking the one-size-fits-all myth. Some garments fare much better than others, but not one piece of clothing got a universal thumbs up from the women in the testing group.

Naturally, I was a little wary when I came across my first one-size-fits-all sewing pattern. But the beauty of sewing, rather than buying, a one-size-fits-all garment is that you can alter the pattern however the hell you want! Lengthen, shorten, take in the side seams, deepen the neckline, whatever. I’m so glad I took the leap (can I call it a leap if the pattern was free?) and sewed up that Hemlock Tee. It was only a matter of time before the Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee—also *free*—found its way to my cutting table floor.

The pattern is essentially two rectangles and a couple of slim-fitting sleeves. Its boat neckline renders it even less time consuming than the Hemlock Tee because there’s no neckband binding involved. The pattern just calls for you to fold the front and back neck hems down 5/8″ and finish them with a twin needle, which is also how you finish the bottom hem and sleeves. This is such a quick, satisfying sew that I ended up making two Mandies within days of one other.

tessuti mandy boat tee

mandy tessuti boat tee

Mandy Boat Tee #1

Fabric: micro french terry knit in cream; $4.98/yard from Fabric.com (sold out)

Alterations: Cut off 1/2″ from the armhole and side seam edge of the front and back pattern pieces; lengthened the body about 1/2″; shortened the arms (after sewing it up and trying it on)

Tessuti posted a gorgeous Missoni-style boat tee on their blog, and that post recommended lengthening the arms if you lopped inches off the side seams. I did that, but I ended up cutting a couple inches off the arms anyway, since I like the look of above-the-elbow sleeves with this variation. The arms are pretty snug, but they fit me perfectly even after a day of wear. If you are jacked, you might want to widen the arms accordingly.

tessuti mandy boat tee

tessuti mandy boat tee

tessuti mandy boat tee

Mandy Boat Tee #2 (a very looooong tee)

Fabric: tissue french terry knit in teal; $4.98/yard from Fabric.com

Alterations: Cut off another 1/2″ from the armhole and side seam edge of the front and back pattern pieces (for a total of 1″ cut off); lengthened the body 4.5″

I wasn’t sure about the color of this fabric when I first opened my package from Fabric.com, but I have to admit that it’s grown on me. I’m about 10 shades paler than I am in the summer, and somehow this teal doesn’t make my sickly winter olive skin look green. As for the fit, this is probably the most comfortable T-shirt I own. I wanted to make a something that I could wear with leggings around the house, and it totally fits the bill (though the fabric wrinkles like crazy!). I’m not sure if this shirt is versatile enough to wear out yet, since it doesn’t completely cover my buns and I am of the camp that refuses to reveal my legging-clad derrière unless I’m in running tights. That said, I could see pairing this with a borderline pair of leggings—you know, those ones that are super thick and opaque and can almost pass as pants. We’ll see about that one.

grainline studio archer button up

Next up for me is Grainline’s Archer Button Up! I’m excited to work with a woven material again and learn some things about shirt-making along the way. The steps seem a little daunting to me right now, but I’m planning on following Jen’s sew-along for extra help. If anyone has any tips on conquering the perfect Archer, hit me!