Tessuti Ruby Top in Mustard Linen

Tessuti ruby top

Remember when cutaway necklines starting cropping up a few years ago? I’ve always liked the look, but the bra situation can be dire. Standard bras are out, since the straps peek out in both the front and the back. I avoid strapless bras like the plague unless one is absolutely necessary. For now, I settled on pairing this top with a racerback bralette bought from Gap Body god only knows when.

Tessuti Ruby top

Bra-talk aside, I am thoroughly pleased with this pattern: the Ruby Dress/Top from Tessuti Fabrics. This is the second Tessuti pattern I’ve sewn—the first being the Mandy Boat Tee. The directions were yet again straightforward and easy to follow, and the cut of the pattern is modern and flattering, probably on a variety of shapes. Here are the deets:

Fabric: mustard linen blend from JoAnn fabrics; leftover dark-gray linen for the binding

Size: cut an AU size 10. The units are in cm, so a 10 roughly corresponds to 35.8″-31″-39.8″ bust-waist-hip measurement. I decided to go with the bust measurement as my guide, since the top slightly flares at the hemline. It’s a teensy bit big, but the style’s so forgiving that a little extra width doesn’t make a huge difference.

Alterations to the pattern: added 1″ of length to the bottom hem

Tessuti ruby top facing

Construction: I followed the pattern’s directions for the French seams, double-turned hem, keyhole facing, and thread-chain-loop closure. Tessuti has a helpful tutorial on its website for those of us who haven’t sewn a thread loop before. Sewing one reminded me of the hours I used to spend making friendship bracelets that were no doubt lost or thrown away after a week. Oh to be a fickle adolescent again.

Tessuti Ruby Top back

I strayed from the directions in two places: stabilizing and binding. I couldn’t find tearaway Vilene shields (used to prevent the neckline and armholes from stretching), so I just staystitched those edges. It seemed to work fine. As for the binding, the pattern instructs you to apply the binding to the right side and then stitch in the ditch to secure. I REALLY HATE stitching in the ditch, so I took a tip from the Thornberry blog, which suggests applying the binding to the wrong side and then topstitching in place on the right side. That worked great for me! It’s the same technique used in the Colette Sorbetto top, and I once again used Colette’s trusty tutorial for making continuous bias tape.

Tessuti Ruby top

One of my favorite things about wearing linen (blends) is that you don’t have to worry about wrinkles. It’s the one fabric where massive wrinklage is expected. (We all know wrinklage should be a word so let’s just accept it.) I’d be wary of anyone who wears linen without having it become a creased mess. There’s probably some Stepford shit going on there if that’s the case.

And that’s that! Ruby in linen gets a big thumbs up from me. Have you sewn any Tessuti patterns lately? I’d love to hear about any favorites!

Vogue 8904: The Anthropologie Column Dress Knockoff

vogue 8904 striped column dress anthropologie knockoff

For discerning readers out there, two things may look familiar here: the striped fabric and the pattern. I love them both dearly, so it seemed only fitting to birth their love child. After a couple relaxing nights of cutting, pinning, and sewing, out popped my second iteration of Vogue 8904.

vogue 8904 striped column dress

This time around, I made the shorter version but kept it sleeveless for seasonal purposes. The dress took considerably less time overall since the pattern pieces were already cut out and ready to go.

Hot tip: A cool iron works wonders on wrinkled, creased pattern pieces. I picked that info up from one of my Grainline patterns, so thanks, Jen!

Side note: The left side of my face was still very much novocaine numb from an earlier dentist appointment, so please excuse any Derp Face in this post.

vogue 8904 striped column dress

The pattern: V8904, view A without the sleeves

Alterations: added 1″ of length at the waist (same as the last dress)

Fabric: for the base layer (which is completely hidden by the shingles), I used a black knit bought for $3.95/yard at Textile Discount Outlet in Chicago. I’m not sure about the content, but it’s not too dissimilar in stretch from the top layers. For the shingles, I used my beloved striped bamboo-lycra blend from Girl Charlee.

I sewed the neck binding in the flat, like the pattern directs. But then I CUT A HOLE in the binding attempting to trim the excess fabric down. (Insert sounds of glass shattering and a banshee scream.) Instead of unpicking an entire row of lightning-bolt stitches, I cut the neckband off as closely to the original stitching as I could. I then cut a new neckband, stitched it into a circle, press it in half lengthwise with wrong sides together, and sewed it on in the round.

vogue 8904 striped column dress

I’ve sewn a good handful of knit neckbands in the round now, and I’m pretty happy with this result. To anchor the neckband, I used an edgestitching foot to stitch verrrry closely just below the seam line. I sewed the armholes in the round for the hell of it, topstitching near the seam to anchor them. I might go back and unpick that stitching, though, since it’s a little wonky and uneven for my taste. We’ll see if I find the energy.

And now for a side-by-side comparison of V8904 and one of the Bailey 44 layered column dresses I drooled over for ages at Anthropologie (now retired, but originally $178 LOLOLOL):

v8904 anthropologie bailey 44 dress comparison

Obviously this model’s beach house beats my backdrop: a gravel-filled lot where the garbage cans live. Styling aside, V8904 holds its own pretty well, especially considering that this dress cost less than $20 in fabric. The stripe matching ain’t perfect (although the top and bottom shingles are pretty good), but this dress is so forgiving that the imperfect stripes don’t stress me out. This little number will most likely make an appearance on my Me Made May feed… maybe in Vegas?

What are your tried-and-true patterns?

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?

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?

how to style a knit skirt

Two Ways to Wear a Knit Skirt

One of the benefits of moving is finding buried treasure. Nobody in their right mind enjoys the laborious process of packing, cleaning, and carting boxes, so I’ll take a silver lining wherever I can get one. This time around—my fifth Chicago apartment in three years—I stumbled across a few forgotten gems. In the bottom what I like to call my Second Hamper, the contents of which hadn’t been laundered in probably 10 months, I found this Madewell Indigo Ink Sweatshirt that I’d scored on super sale a couple years ago. Chaching! It was like shopping in my own (dirty) closet.

When it came time to pack up my sewing supplies, I discovered a few cheap-o patterns I’d bought during one of JoAnn’s pattern sales when I first started sewing. At first glance, these patterns seemed pretty dull: a boring tote, some simple A-line dresses—nothing to write home about. And then I found McCall’s M6654, an easy-level pattern designed for knits.

McCall's M6654 sewing pattern
McCall’s obv. needs to work on its styling…..

I know, it looks kind of boring. But I’ve been looking to add another skirt to my winter wardrobe, and this run-of-the-mill piece fit the bill just fine. The pattern offers semi-fitted and loose-fitting elastic-waist skirts in seven lengths, from mini to maxi. I went with the semi-fitted view and cut out a size 14 (28″ waist; 38″ hip) at length B. Luckily, I had everything I needed already in my stash: just enough french terry leftover from Marc’s Strathcona tee, and some leftover 2″ elastic from my Hudson pants, substituted for the 1″ elastic called for in the pattern.

This was one of the easier projects I’ve sewn in awhile, and that’s saying something since I’ve been whipping up relatively easy garments all year. I used a ballpoint needle coupled with a stretch stitch for the seams and a twin needle for the hem. The fabric is pooling a bit under the waistband, which means I probably could’ve gone one size smaller, especially considering the decent amount of stretch in my fabric. That said, the skirt was incredibly comfortable even after furniture shopping all day, including a multi-hour IKEA trip.

Since I sometimes have trouble deciding how to wear a simple knit skirt, I figured it might be helpful to show two different ways to style one.

how to style a knit skirt

knit skirt dressed downknit skirt

The majority of the time, I’ll be dressing this skirt down, as I work in a very laid-back office and generally dress for comfort. Here, I paired the skirt with a tent-style long-sleeve top from Una Mae’s in Chicago. It’s got an interesting, flowing shape that skims the body and doesn’t compete with the semi-fitted cut of the skirt. Add some tights (a colorful pair would be cute) and a pair of casual boots, and this’ll take me anywhere from weekend shopping to the office to a dive bar.

how to style a knit skirt

knit skirtknit skirt

Look #2 skews dressier. The elastic-waist design makes this skirt a good candidate to pair with an airy blouse. I tucked in a semi-sheer printed blouse and threw on a wide elastic belt for a little extra polish. Simple black tights and monochromatic suede booties with a chunky heel complete the outfit. I could see wearing this to work in a business casual environment, or out to a restaurant with two or more dollar $igns on Yelp.

How do you style a knit skirt?