victory patterns lola dress

Lola Sweatshirt Dress

Form-fitting one day, baggy the next. I don’t discriminate when it comes to winter dresses. The Lola Dress from Victory Patterns is quite a departure from last week’s curve-hugging Neenah Dress. A girl can only feel like sausage meat inside a casing for so long before she needs to break freeeee!

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OK, that’s a little hyberbolic. Neenah’s not that tight. But this sweatshirt dress is straight-up slouchy in comparison. In this case, slouchy is great.

I made a size 8 and added 1 inch of length to the torso (per usual for me). I think this fits exactly how it’s intended, but I was expecting something tighter. Maybe that’s because most knit dresses I own/make are designed to schlurp me in at the waist a bit more. That said, I wore this all day at work and it was incredibly comfortable.

lola dress victory patternsI used a scuba knit for the body and some leftover black ribbing for the bands. The triangle detail at the neckline is the reverse of the scuba knit.

lola dress victory patterns

lola dress victory patternsSurprisingly, my favorite part of this dress is the gargantuan pockets. I love pockets on a dress, but honestly, I wasn’t sure about pockets that could literally hold a newborn baby.

lola dress victory patterns

Skepticism aside, I freaking love these pockets. It’s like having cozy mittens attached to my hips.

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Pockets are also great when you take photos in the frigid cold. No pain, no gain… I guess. Here’s to yet another fantastic design from Victory Patterns!

seamwork neenah dress

My Favorite Seamwork Pattern | Neenah

Here’s a quick summary of Seamwork for those with no clue what it is:

seamwork 26
From Seamwork, Issue No. 26
  • Seamwork is a monthly online sewing magazine ($6/month) published by the folks at Colette Patterns.
  • Articles includes profiles, Q&As, sewing advice columns, step-by-step tutorials, pattern styling tips, personal essays, homemade beauty product recipes, fabric advice, etc.
  • Each issue has a theme (Issue No. 26’s is “Back to Basics”) and includes two new sewing patterns (PDF only). The patterns reflect the theme and are designed to be relatively easy, fast projects.
  • Your subscription includes 2 Seamwork credits per issue. Seamwork patterns cost 1 credit, and PDF Colette patterns cost 3 credits.

It breaks down to a pretty great deal—if you actually get around to printing, taping, and cutting the patterns, let alone sewing the damn things. I love getting a shiny new issue in my inbox the first of each month, but I’m realizing that I rarely follow through with the actual garments. Right now I’m hovering at 15 Seamwork patterns in my library, with 20 credits burning a hole in my pocket.

It’s a lot like flight miles. I build up my Southwest Airlines miles and then, oddly, am kind of sad to use them, even when it’s for something totally rad like a vacation to Costa Rica.* Am I turning into a digital hoarder?!

This is all to say that I’m really glad I took the time to sew this Neenah Dress! It’s one of just three Seamwork garments I’ve made, the others being the Almada robe and the Akita top. I like my Almada robe, but I sewed it in the wrong type of fabric: an ultra-lightweight rayon challis that wrinkles like crazy. Akita turned out way too tight in the chest. I followed the sizing chart and made a 6, but I’ll size up if I ever try it out again.

But that’s enough about my misfires. I’m happy to say that I adore Neenah.

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seamwork neenah dress

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seamwork neenah dress

I figured the fit of this dress would be relatively forgiving, so I went with size small rather than medium. For reference, my measurements (36-29-39) fall between a 6 (U.S. small) and 8 (U.S. medium) for Neenah. Before I go on, I should mention how important it is to check your fabric’s percentage of stretch before making Neenah. The pattern calls for a knit with at least 25% stretch. According to the stretch gauge, my stable knit (I think cotton-spandex?) just barely made the cut.

I sewed up the body and sleeves and tried on the dress. Luckily, the body fit pretty great. Snug, but still very comfortable. As for the sleeves…

The were way, way too tight at first. It was like wearing a super-duper-tight long-sleeve compression shirt. NOT COMFORTABLE, hence the panel that begins about an inch from the underarm seam. The sleeves are still snug, but the additional fabric makes them infinitely more wearable.

seamwork neenah dress

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After the sleeve fiasco, I figured I’d need to cut a wider piece for the turtleneck to ensure it wouldn’t get stuck on my dome. I believe I added about 1.5 inches of width. It’s a tiny bit of a squeeze to get the dress over my head, but it’s not so tight that it rips off my makeup or musses my hair up too badly.

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I didn’t add length, which is rare because I’m 6’o” and have a long torso. Maybe the fabric pooling a little at my back is an indicator that I could’ve added length in the waist area, but honestly, I won’t change much if I sew this again. I might add another half inch on the sleeve, but that’s about it.

seamwork neenah dress

Neenah is a winner in my book, and it’s definitely the most wearable Seamwork pattern in my wardrobe. Do you have any Seamwork hits or misses?

*If you’ve ever been to Costa Rica, I’m all ears on tips. I’m going with Marc and another couple for a week at the end of February. We’re flying into Liberia, but everything else is tentative at this point. Let me know if you have any must-see spots!

best of 2016

Best of 2016

2016 was not a good year for celebrities or U.S. democracy. I’m not going to beat a dead horse about that one. The year 2016 was, however, a pretty productive year for me. I’ll get to my favorite sewing projects of the last year in a bit.

First, I’d like to start by saying that it’s been a good year on a personal level.

the boy
No, we’re not engaged yet. 💗 👫 💗

Beyond feeling settled in a new job, I’m feeling hopeful about the future.

When I was a senior in college, I had something of an awakening to my own anxiety and existentialism. I’d been busy my whole life with anything and everything I could pack into my waking hours: music, a bunch of sports, studying, babysitting, partying, attempts at dating, etc. When my volleyball season ended senior year, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself.

The unknown terrified me. For the first time ever, I wasn’t on a strict schedule. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, crippled with thoughts about what the hell I was going to do with my life. And those thoughts begot more thoughts about how I hadn’t spent enough time thinking about my future. Ever found yourself in a similar circle of doom? It’s exhausting. There were times when the fear and anxiety manifested itself in more tangible ways, making it hard to focus, have conversations, or even—at times—to move around. I was having a rough go of it.

I know now that those feelings were anxiety and depression rearing their annoying heads. This past August, after many, many months of promising myself that I’d start going to therapy, I finally took the plunge. And it’s been pretty great.

What am I doing? I’m trying to stop feeling guilty for needing some help. I’m trying to be more present in my everyday interactions. I’m trying to steer away from feelings of regret. And I’ve learned to like myself again. That’s saying a lot for someone whose default is humorous self-deprecation teetering on the edge of self-loathing.

Finally, I’m trying to let go of the idea that there’s one perfect path for my life. There’s a fantastic Hidden Brain podcast episode called “How Silicone Valley Can Help You Get Unstuck.” The episode centers around the idea that anyone can use “design thinking” to shape the way they live.

Design thinking is about recognizing your constraints, realizing there isn’t just one answer, and then trying something: “Building a prototype,” getting information from it, and then trying something else.

I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty here because you should listen to the episode, even if you’re not feeling particularly stuck. (Hidden Brain is a badass podcast.)

The point is, I’m realizing that I don’t “have” to do any one thing with my life. None of us do. I mean, we should conform to certain societal norms so we don’t get locked up, but there are no invisible rules or regulations controlling our actions, other than the ones we impose on ourselves. I know I’m getting a little heady here. Apparently that comes with the territory of self-examination and trying to better yourself. I’ll take it if it means feeling this much better everyday. 😊

That’s about all I can muster in regards to talking about my personal life, so without further ado… here are my five favorite garments of last year! (In no particular order:)

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Anna Dress

The sewing world went crazy when Rifle Paper Co. released a line of fabrics—and for good reason. This wins for the prettiest fabric I’ve ever worked with.

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Hannah Dress

I’m so glad I found Victory Patterns! This dress was a giant (but surprisingly easy) puzzle piece to sew, and it’s incredibly fun to wear.

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Cardamome Dress

Thanks to Cardamome, I now know how to use elastic thread to smock. This is easily one of the most comfortable pieces I’ve ever made.

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Bodybuilder Negroni Shirt

Still can’t believe that this shirt landed Marc on a New York Times street style blog.

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Color-Blocked Archer

Won’t stop, can’t stop sewing Archers. This shirt is a staple in my wardrobe, and people seem to really dig the double-blue color blocking.

There you have it. An unsolicited glimpse into my personal life with a sprinkling of pretty handmade clothes. Hopefully 2017 will bring some regularity back to my blogging schedule. ‘Til next time!

toaster sweater sew craft club

The Brave Little Toaster Sweater

toaster sweater sew craft club

Capturing black on camera is hard. Getting good photos in the winter in Chicago is the pits. But here we are, snowfall and all, because I want to share at least one sewing project before the polar vortex sets in.

toaster sweater sew craft club

This is Sew House Seven’s Toaster Sweater #1, which I stumbled on via Christine Haynes’ Instagram. I’d been looking for a modern turtleneck pattern, and the long cuffs and semi-cropped cut spoke to me. The pattern calls for “thick, stiff knits with some body to keep the neck standing upright.” This black version is actually my second Toaster Sweater.

toaster sweater sew house seven

I love this beige Toaster Sweater, too—my first take on the pattern. The knit I used was relatively thin, so I ended up folding the turtleneck down because it was too floppy. Now it’s a cross between a mock turtleneck and a very tall neckband. Luckily, it turned out pretty cute!

toaster sweater sew craft club

On the other hand, the scuba fabric I used for my second version is very, very thick. So thick, in fact, that I broke a needle when I tried to serge three layers of fabric together to attach the turtleneck. CURSE YOU, SEWING GODS.

After that mishap, I decided to go the safe but slow route of sewing the turtleneck, cuffs, and hem band on before folding them wrong sides together. This meant sending two layers, instead of three, through the serger. I stitched the raw edges to the seam allowance by hand while binge-watching The Crown. (That show’s worth it for the costumes alone.)

toastersweaterback

toaster sweater sew craft club

I added 1 inch of length to the bodice, but that was my only alteration. I’ve worn this plenty of times already and will definitely be making another Toaster! (Maybe next time with a knit that can safely make it through my serger.) It’s a quick, satisfying sew if you’re in the market for a sweatshirt with a little extra something.

And if you sew a black one…

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Sprockets for Halloween next year anyone?!

 

 

boozy gift guide

A Gift Guide for Booze Hounds

What would the holidays be without some bubbly with friends, or a Manhattan after dinner, or your annual glass of eggnog, or one glass of wine too many at the office party? I enjoy a good cocktail any time of year, but there’s something extra special about mixing up an old standby—or experimenting with new ingredients—during the holiday season. And if you have friends or family who partake, you can never go wrong by giving the gift of good alcohol.

Here are a few ideas if you want to go beyond the standard bottle of champagne, wine, vodka, whiskey or tequila. The following cocktail components are great if your friend already has a basic bar setup at home.

Cocchi Vermouth di Torino

If they like Manhattans, buy Cocchi Vermouth di Torino.

This sweet vermouth elevates a favorite bourbon or rye into a drink you’d be lucky to snag for under $12 at a decent bar. The Manhattan is my go-to cocktail when I want something quick but fancy at home. Lately, I’ve been mixing 2 parts of whatever bourbon’s lying around, 1 part Cocchi, and a couple dashes of cherry bark bitters, stirred over ice and served straight up.

Dolin dry vermouthlillet blanc

If they like Martinis, buy Dolin dry vermouth or Lillet Blanc.

I once used kalamata olive juice to make a dirty Martini. This was a terrible idea. “Hands-down, without a doubt, the grossest drink I’ve ever had,” says Marc. But I learned a valuable lesson that day: If you’re going to make a Martini, you better use quality ingredients.

Dolin dry vermouth is worlds better than the Martini & Rossi extra dry you’ve no doubt seen gathering dust in someone’s pantry. It’s especially tasty paired with a dry gin. If your friend prefers something easier to drink, try Lillet Blanc. It’s the key ingredient in one of my favorite sippers, the Vesper Martini.

cointreau

If they like Margaritas, buy Cointreau.

Good blanco tequila (like Espolón) + fresh lime juice + Cointreau = my favorite Margarita on the planet. So simple. So delicious. (So strong.)

aperol

If they like sparkling wine, buy Aperol.

Ever heard of an Aperol Spritz? According to Aperol: In a wine glass full of ice, add 3 parts prosecco (I like LaMarca), 2 parts Aperol, a splash of soda, and an orange wheel to garnish. Aperol is a bitter (but not as bitter as Campari) orange aperitif, and I probably only consume it in its namesake spritz. But damn are they delicious and fun to drink. This is a great bottle for someone who likes to entertain. Friends don’t let friends drink prosecco alone!

luxardo maraschino

If they like sweet (but not too sweet) cocktails, buy Luxardo Maraschino.

This is the bottle that made me love making cocktails. According to Luxardo’s tasting notes, it’s “a complex liqueur with a persistent cherry aroma. Smooth but sharp, this liqueur has a rounded flavor with notes of cherries and rosewater.” You’ll find Luxardo Maraschino in classic cocktails like the Aviation, Hemingway Daiquiri, Last Word, and Martinez, to name a few. It’ll definitely take a home bar up a notch.

fernet-branca

If they like it bitter, buy Fernet-Branca.

Years ago, at a shitty dive bar in Chicago, I ordered Malört for the first time. An old Polish man saw this and said, “Is good for stomach!” while patting his belly. Malört is a detestable bitter herbal liqueur that’s become something of a rite of passage in Chicago. It makes us feel better to believe that it’s “good for stomach.” Is it? Probably not. But I wholeheartedly give in to the placebo effect of aperitifs and digestifs.

The same goes for Fernet-Branca, which is a type of amaro, another bitter herbal liqueur. But F-B, unlike Malört, has a taste that I’ve grown to love. It’s got a hint of peppermint that clears your nasal passages, and it’s the perfect after-dinner sipper to trick yourself into believing alcohol is healthy.

orgeat syrup

If they like tiki drinks, buy orgeat syrup.

If you really want to impress your cocktail-loving friend, you can make your own orgeat. You’ll need almonds, orange-flower water, a little vodka, and sugar. It’s a somewhat time-consuming process, and it’s not cheap, but it yields a pretty delicious syrup for Mai Tais, Fog Cutters, and probably a billion other tiki drinks I have yet to try. A faster, cheaper option is to buy a bottle of Torani orgeat syrup and call it a day. It’ll never beat homemade orgeat, but it makes a perfectly serviceable Mai Tai.

luxardo cherries

If they like a good garnish, buy Luxardo cherries.

Yes, it might be silly to spend $20 on a jar of cherries. But these aren’t your typical bright-red maraschinos. They’re complex and nutty, and the thick syrup is a delicious cocktail addition on its own. Plus, unless you’re drinking four Manhattans a night, they’ll last for months. These are serious cherries, y’all.

fee brothers bitterscelery-bitterslemon-bitters

If they like to experiment, buy flavored bitters.

I can’t keep up with the bevy of flavored bitters available on the market. Cherry. Black walnut. Black pepper. Rhubarb. Mexican mole. Barbecue. Name any flavor, and there’s probably a company crafting bitters in said flavor. They’re incredibly fun to experiment with in a Manhattan, Martini, Old Fashioned, Bloody Mary, and more. Fee Brothers is always a safe bet, but, by all means, go bitters-brand-crazy.

I’m always looking for new alcohols to experiment with. Tried anything weird/awesome/delicious lately? Let me know in the comments below, and happy mixing! (Because we all know you need to buy yourself a little something when you’re shopping for gifts at the liquor store. You deserve it.)

Victory Patterns Trina Dress

Witchy Woman

The Trina Dress sent me into a style crisis tailspin. I wanted this dress the moment it hit my Instagram feed, but it completely strays from what I consider to be my personal style.

Victory Patterns Trina Dress

I don’t like massive kimono sleeves.

Or do I? These are so perfectly dramatic.

Plunging necklines aren’t really my thing.

But the deep V balances the sleeves so well.

This dress is too girly.

But YOU ARE A GIRL. And you know you love this dress.

Do I even have a personal style anymore?!

trinadressfront

Luckily, we all have a little something called free will and the power to decide what to wear and when and how to wear it. How novel.

I pulled the trigger with this pattern and set about sewing a muslin—preferably a wearable one—in satin. (Victory had me intrigued with their Trina sample in icy blue.) My next stop was Textile Discount Outlet in Pilsen, where you can find hundreds of bolts of the kind of shiny fabric I normally avoid like the plague.

A deep aubergine satin spoke to me (especially at under $4/yard—this dress requires lots of fabric), and I prayed that there would be enough fabric on what felt like a pretty skimpy bolt. There wasn’t, and I made the ill-fated decision to buy a similar fabric in a different color to make up the difference. The color of the secondary fabric is a cross between a baby pink blush and a very light peach. I have no clue what I was thinking. The color is truly hideous on my olive skin, and the muslin made me look like a circus tent.

Because why the hell not, here’s a Boomerang video of me in my circus tent:

Now I have a very fancy, loud robe to wear around the house. Thanks, muslin. And thanks for making me realize that I should go shorter with my second dress.

Trina Dress Victory Patterns

Victory Patterns Trina Dress

Victory Patterns Trina Dress

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Details for the Real Deal Trina

Pattern: Trina by Victory Patterns
Size: 8
Fabric: textured black rayon blend from JoAnn Fabrics
Alterations: added 1.5 inches to the bodice; chopped a few inches off the length
Finishing: serged the seams, but I’d probably go for french seams next time

Victory Patterns Trina Dress
oooh, aaahhh, texture!

I’m glad I did a practice run, because I definitely needed the extra 1.5 inches I added to the bodice. The instructions are wonderful, but like the other Victory Patterns dress I sewed, I cannot urge you enough to mark all of the notches, match points, etc. The bodice front overlaps the back at the sides to allow the tie to flow through, and that means that you’ll want your sleeve and bodice placement near perfect.

Trina Dress Victory Patterns

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I finished this dress more than three weeks ago, because I wanted something romantic to wear for mine and Marc’s fifth anniversary dinner. (We went to Parachute. It was amazing.) It’s a wonder the number of construction details I can forget just a few weeks after sewing something. If you have any specific questions about this dress, hit me up in the comments.

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving, friends! (And now begins the unselfish sewing for many of us, eh?)

a DIY Marge simpson wig

A Couple Thoughts and a DIY Marge Simpson Costume

I scheduled this post to publish Wednesday morning. Then the unexpected happened and it didn’t feel right. Nothing felt right. I haven’t been able to articulate my feelings about America electing Donald Trump as Commander-in-Chief. Confusion, devastation, utter heartbreak. I cried, I stress ate, I felt some glimmers of hope and at the same time heard anecdotes that verify the disgusting racism and bigotry that thrives in this country.

But we put one foot in front of the other. We donate to the causes that we believe in. We ask where our time and energy can be best spent with volunteer work. We voice our support of and empathy for the marginalized voices most affected by the outcome of this election. We count our many blessings. We hug each other. We unplug for a bit and read a book. We consume and make art. We do what we can.

If you need a distraction, read on.


Anatomy of a DIY Marge Simpson Costume

a DIY Marge simpson wig

It’s not about making every single piece of your costume. It’s about putting in the effort. It’s about giving a damn. And boy do I give a damn when it comes to Halloween!

Here’s how I put together my version of the matriarch of the century, Marge Simpson.

The Blue Hair
Forty bucks for a subpar blue wig from the Halloween pop-up store? I think not. This wig was the only 100% DIY piece of the costume. I went back and forth about how to create Marge’s iconic blue beehive: Blue bubble wrap? Foam? Painted cotton balls? There are tons of creative DIY versions out there, but I found some inspiration in the fabric section at JoAnn with royal blue felt and glittery blue tulle.

DIY Marge Simpson wig

I don’t want to bore you with all the details. (Just some of them.) I sewed some batting to one side of a felt rectangle (roughly 23″ by 15″), sewed that into a tube, and used a zig-zag stitch to attach a few pieces of elastic on the inside of the sides and back to keep it in place. I eyeballed a circle for the top and sewed that on, too.

Then came the hand sewing. I cut strips of tulle about twice as high as the wig and 2″ wide and hand sewed them vertically up the felt, balling it up a bit as I went. To finish, I cut a small sliver from the front to make it look more like hair and less like a blue Queen’s Guard hat.

DIY Marge Simpson costume

The Green Dress
In its former life, this was a full-length bridesmaid dress, train and all. I rolled my eyes when, under the fluorescent lights at David’s Bridal, the bride’s grandma said, “You can cut that off and wear it again!” Literally nobody ever does that, I thought at the time. Cut to six years later, and my mom’s voice echoed in my head as I racked my brain for costume ideas. “You know, that dress looks a bit like Marge Simpson’s.” Yes, it does. So I cut off the train and shortened it by a few inches. Never say never about wearing your bridesmaid dresses more than once.

The Red Shoes
I hate flats. They hurt my high arch and rub against the weird bone on the back of my heel. But Marge needs her red shoes! These were $13 on Amazon, and they were about as comfortable as you’d imagine $13 buys.

The Bright Yellow Body
By a stroke of Halloween magic, I found a shirt—a men’s Patagonia running tee—to match the canary yellow tights I bought at a Halloween pop-up. ‘Twas meant to be.

The Red Pearls
Thanks, Mom! She miraculously found a string of cherry red pom-poms that worked perfectly as Marge’s necklace.

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The Face Paint
It’s terrifying close up, but this yellow and white makeup definitely brought the cartoony look over the top. I used black eyeliner to outline and for the eyelashes.

Marge Simpson and Hank Scorpio

Hank Scorpio: The Other Simpsons Character
Homer would have been too obvious, no? The thing is, Marc didn’t want to shave his beard for Halloween, so we had to find a character that would work with his facial hair. Enter Hank Scorpio.

hank scorpioHank, voiced by the incomparable Albert Brooks, only appeared in one episode, but it’s a memorable one. Marc created the supervillain’s flamethrower using PVC pipe, duct tape, and a couple empty 2 liters of Coke for the tanks. It’s obscure, but the people who get it REALLY GET IT.

And that’s about all she wrote for this Halloween. Until next year!