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Embracing Festival Style

I never thought I’d date a male model.

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New York Times

To be fair, Marc didn’t know where this photo would end up when a random dude snapped it at Pitchfork Music Festival. That the dude turned out to be a freelancer for The New York Times was a hilarious and pleasant surprise. Not sure how I’m going to top the Muscle Men Negroni shirt now. 😊

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I went out on a limb for my own Pitchfork outfit with this two-piece number. I’m calling this my “Slave to Almost-Tired Trends” look. Off-the-shoulder? Check. High-waisted shorts? Done. The shorts are Cynthia Rowley 1371 for Simplicity and the top is self-drafted based on a tutorial from Elisalex of By Hand London.

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I sewed a size 14 for the shorts—no modifications. The waistband gaped a bit in the back, so I pinched out some fabric and sewed a dart to make up the difference. It’s a quick and dirty fix, but it works!

Surprisingly, these fit pretty well through the crotch even without lowering the curve, which is something I figured I’d need to do to accommodate my long torso. It might just be that these shorts run big? The fabric is a cotton twill that I initially intended to use for a shirtdress, but it’s got almost no drape. (“Medium weight” Denver Fabrics? Really?!) Still, it worked out well for these structured shorts.

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As for the top, I’d highly recommend trying Elisalex’s tutorial if you’re in the market for a quick off-the-shoulder top. You draft it based on your full bust and high bust measurements, and it comes together incredibly fast when you use a serger and a sewing machine. This fabric is $2/yd. muslin with some “decorative” black serger trim. I was too lazy to rethread my serger and then really liked the look. No hemming necessary.

 

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Photo: Chris Little

 

I was kind of nervous wearing an outfit like this out of the house. The great thing about going out of your comfort zone at a music festival is that there’s bound to be someone wearing a fishnet tank and pasties. Or someone in a full dog costume despite the 90-degree heat. Probably both.

Cheers to wearing what makes you feel good!

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Polka Dots and Muscle Men

IMG_0508This outfit isn’t even secret pajamas. I’m aware that it legitimately looks like I’m wearing real PJs out in public—and I’m fine with that.

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I bought these shorts a few years ago on a trip to Nashville, and I’m going to have to copy them at some point. Elastic back waist, pockets, noticeable lack of camel toe—they’re real winners. But I’m here to talk about my Minnie Mouse-esque top.

I picked this borderline-sheer, supersoft cotton voile up from the Needle Shop (which finally re-opened as Oak Fabrics, YES!). Initially, I wanted to make a sleeveless button up, but my lack of restraint won out. Sometimes you’ve just gotta cut and sew something RIGHT NOW.

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When that feeling strikes, it’s safest for me to sew something I can’t screw up too much. Enter Grainline’s Scout Tee. This lightweight fabric was a solid match for the loose-fitting shape. I lengthened the sleeves, curved the hem up a bit at the sides, and added some length to the body. Otherwise, this was a straightforward Scout.

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And now let’s talk about the shirt emblazoned with the likenesses of many a bronzed muscle man and women—and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Seriously, Arnold.

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Can you spot him?

Instagram tells me that I made this Negroni shirt for Marc more than 12 weeks ago. *Gently reminds self to blog more often.* This ridiculous (amazing?) rayon challis is from Denver Fabrics; sadly, it’s sold out. I know how much you’re all itching to get your hands on $5.95/yd. fabric covered in text that says “Good Ol’ Days” and “Bodybuilding Hall of Fame,” so I’ll post an update if it comes back in stock.

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I sewed the first Negroni per the directions, with a facing instead of a button band. This time around, I added a button band. Many thanks are due to the sew along from Male Pattern Boldness—the instructions were immensely helpful when it came to drafting the extra pieces.

IMG_0475And that’s about all I remember about construction. That’s what happens when you wait three months to write about a garment. Lesson learned!

Do you dress your S.O. in insane clothing, too?

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Deer and Doe Cardamome Dress

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This dress came together in a very serendipitous way. I didn’t realize that the fabric and pattern would be a perfect match. I had no clue how it would look sans collar and buttons. But daggumit I went for it. And I love it.

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Cardamome Dress // Deer and Doe

After making multiple versions of Deer and Doe’s free Plantain Tee, I figured I should fork over some cash and try one of their many non-free patterns. The Cardamome Dress caught my eye with its bib front and smocked waist—two new-to-me techniques. The pattern also has a view with full-length sleeves, and I will definitely be making that in the fall. (Mandatory “It’s got pockets, too!” mention.)

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I took my time with construction. This isn’t the sort of dress you can whip up in a night unless you’re a complete speed demon. The difficulty is listed as 4 out of 5, but the directions are solid and I think most people with a collared shirt under their belt could easily tackle Cardamome.

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The trickiest step was the smocked waist, which calls for four lines of elastic thread. I’d never shirred/smocked before, so this was quite the learning experience. This post from Dawn Nicole helped a ton. Quick crash course in shirring for those of you who are unfamiliar:

  • Elastic thread goes in the bobbin. Regular thread goes through the needle, per usual.
  • You have to wind elastic thread onto the bobbin by hand.
  • If you have a Brother cs6000i machine, I highly recommend watching this video. It demonstrates how to carefully adjust the tension by using a tiny screwdriver to tighten a screw on the bobbin casing. GAME CHANGER. My shirring was sad and loose before making this adjustment.

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For the collar, or lack thereof, I took some inspiration from this Grainline Studio tutorial on how to sew the Alder Shirtdress with a Mandarin-style collar. It’s essentially a collar stand without the collar piece. I like the streamlined look of the Mandarin collar with Cardamome’s feminine gathering and bib front. I had every intention of adding buttonholes and buttons, but then I wore this out a couple times and realized they’re superfluous for a summer dress. Maybe I’ll add them if I make a cold-weather-friendly version.

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And the fabric! I almost forgot. I found this cherry-red block-printed sateen on Denver Fabrics, and it is perfect. It’s totally opaque, which is ideal since this dress isn’t lined, and I love the kooky (slightly patriotic) geometric print. It feels a little knockoff Dusen Dusen to me and that’s exactly why I bought it.

Here are the dirty deets:

  • Pattern: Cardamome Dress from Deer and Doe
  • Size: 40
  • Fabric: 100% cotton sateen
  • Alterations: Added 1.25″ to the skirt, only because I forgot to add that length to the top. I’ll swap that for next time. // Mandarin-style collar. // No buttons.

BONUS BLOOPER REEL: Here are some pictures that I managed to ruin with talking or general derp-ness.

 

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I haven’t seen this dress around the blogosphere very much, and I’m not sure why… it’s a fantastic pattern. Think you’ll give it a shot?

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Grainline Studio Willow Tank

It was hot as the devil’s ding that day. Jorts were necessary. So was this breezy Willow Tank.

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This tiki fabric—a dinky remnant—spoke to me. I know tiki culture is a manufactured, Polynesian-inspired entity, but I’m a sucker for it. Give me a strong mai tai and a banana that’s been fashioned into a dolphin and I’m happy.

The remnant wasn’t enough to make much of anything, but it weaseled its way into my heart and eventually into my shopping bag. And then Grainline Studio released the lovely Willow Tank Dress, a simple A-line tank (plus a dress option) with bust darts and a deep hem, perfect for making the most out of a teensy lil bit of fabric.

You can barely spot it because the print is so busy, but I had to cut the back in two pieces rather than on the fold. I added 1/2″ seam allowances, sewed them together to create a single piece, serged the raw edge, and pressed the seam to one side.

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Construction was easy peasy and made for a very satisfying, quick make. I sewed a size 8 with the following minor modifications and observations:

  • Added 1 3/8″ at the “lengthen here” line.
  • The bust darts hit a little low. Next time I’ll probably raise them a smidgen.
  • Dreaming about making this in the dress iteration in black or navy linen.

Have you tried this pattern yet? Thoughts?

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3 Things I Learned from Me Made May

Me Made May 2016 came and went in a whirlwind of Instagram photos. Daily pics aren’t part of the challenge—just a happy side effect. That #mmmay16 hashtag brings so many great sewing peeps out of the woodworks! And then the last week of May hits and we all commiserate about being sick of taking portraits. Solidarity.

I’m happy to say that I managed to hit my goal of wearing at least one me-made garment each day in May. Here’s what I learned this year:

1). No one needs to know what your innards look like.

I made a linen shirtdress almost two years ago to the date. On the outside, it’s a simple, pretty floral piece that looks decent with a belt. On the inside, it’s a hot mess of unfinished raw edges. Guess what? Nobody noticed. Nobody had to say, “Excuse me, but your dress is literally falling apart at the seams.”

That dress is a reminder to harness some of the reckless abandon with which I used to attack sewing projects as a newbie. It’s also a happy reminder that I’ve actually learned a thing or two over the past couple years.

2). I’m scared to make real pants.

Me Made May exposes gaps in your handmade wardrobe. Last year I realized that the only pants I made were loungewear, and I vowed to “make more bottoms”—or something like that. The thing is, I’ve always had a hard time finding pants that fit. I’m pretty sure that the distance between my belly button and my crotch is three times longer than that of a normal person. When I find a pair of pants that fit, I wear them until they fall apart.

The thought of spending hours (months, days?!) fitting, muslining, and sewing a pair of pants is daunting. I get exhausted just thinking about it. Can anyone recommend any woven pants patterns that they really love? Or any inspirational quotes for a reluctant pants-maker? Should I just give up and continue buying my beloved Cheap Monday jeans?

3). Free patterns are some of my favorite patterns.

Mandy and Plantain tees ’til I die.

And that’s all I’ve got until next year’s challenge! Did you take part this year?

P.S. I’ve developed quite a backlog of sewing projects to share (Cardamome Dress, Negroni Shirt, Hollyburn Skirt, Bantam Top, Willow Tank), so keep an eye out!

 

 

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A Swingy Plantain Tee and Another Use for the Magic Eraser

Before we get to the good stuff (another Deer & Doe Plantain Tee), let’s talk about a wonderful little household item: The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.MagicEraserOriginal

Are you familiar? I mainly use ’em to clean up marks on the walls, but I recently learned of another amazing use: CLEANING THE IRON.

A stubborn mystery fabric had gunked up my iron pretty badly, and in a fit of desperation, I took to the rabbit hole of internet forums for help. Bless your heart, commenter DLM2000. Not only does the Magic Eraser work like a charm, but it’s also waaaay cheaper than toxic-smelling iron cleaner that runs $20 bucks a tube. Try it out next time your iron’s due for a cleaning!

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Now for the main attraction. I bought this lightweight striped knit with the intention of copying a swingy, tent-like RTW shirt I wear frequently. But tracing a knit top with wonky design lines turned out to be a little more complicated than I’d anticipated, so I decided to go with a tried-and-true shape that I know works for me: the Plantain Tee. (See versions 1 and 2.)

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This time around, I added fullness to the back of the shirt using this Grainline tutorial. I then cut the back into four separate pattern pieces and added seam allowances. I sewed the whole shirt up on my serger and used a twin needle for the hems.

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As you can see, I love me some stripe interplay. For the sleeves, I went with this above-the-elbow length, which is great for this “transitional” weather we’ve been having in Chicago. #optimistic

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I don’t have too much else to say that I haven’t already covered in previous posts. As far as free sewing patterns go, this one’s a winner.

Are you good at sewing basics? With Me Made May coming up, I could use a boost in the basics department. Speaking of Me Made May—who’s in?! I still need to pledge…

 

 

 

A Little Floral Number (Vogue 8904)

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I should know better than to sew a dress the day of a party. You could write a mathematical proof showing that impulse sewing directly increases your level of stress. But sometimes (who am I kidding, A LOT of the time) your fabric speaks to you.

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You have a serger now it says. I’m a thick, sturdy knit it says. You’ve already sewn this pattern twice it says. And so I listened. I listened and that meant I was sewing on a neckband and finishing sleeves and the hem barely 90 minutes before folks walked through the door for my birthday party.

It wasn’t all so haphazard, though. If I’ve learned anything in three-ish years of sewing, it’s that a little planning goes a long way when it comes to the finished product—and your sanity. Here are some tips for a speedy sew:

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Cut out multiple projects at once. I don’t know how I had the patience to cut out several different projects in one evening, but I did and this ponte double-knit floral dress was one of ’em. If only I’d gotten to sewing it before the morning of the party…

Pick a pattern you’ve already used. I knew this dress would fit without much fuss, as I’ve used Marcy Tilton’s Vogue 8904 pattern four times now. A long sleeveless dress with panels, short sleeveless dress with panels, long sleeveless V-neck hack for Cruella, and now the short version with sleeves and no panels. (I’d link to it but the Vogue site gives a 404 error when you click through—it might be out of print…?!?!)

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Choose a fast sewing method. Sorry French seams and Hong Kong finishes! We’ll meet again some leisurely day. I used my SUPER FAST WONDERFUL serger for most of the construction of this dress and used the sewing machine to anchor the neckband and sew the hems.

Don’t rush the finishing touches. Listen, I know that my hems look better when I use a walking foot. I know it. But I let my pre-hosting jitters cloud my brain into 1). using a regular foot and 2). not busting out the twin needle. I used a ballpoint needle (I’m not INSANE, y’alls) and a zigzag stitch, and my bottom hem turned out a wee bit wavy for my liking. Note to self: Take the extra 3 minutes to attach the walking foot and thread the twin needle. Le sigh.

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Do you have any tips for speedy sewing? I’m all ears. And happy SPRING everybody! I’m embracing it with plenty of pretty florals and rosé wine. Actually, I drank rosé most of the winter, too. The gods of booze snobbery will have to pry my rosé out of my cold, dead hands.