A Classic Clare Coat

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It’s not perfect, and I love it.

And that will be the last apology, or ablogogy, of this post. I’m not going to point out all the imperfections on this coat, because GUESS WHAT it’s wearable and it’s warm and it’s wooly and I made it with my two bare hands! Which were sometimes ragged and bloody from hand-sewing those adorable snaps on for the umpteenth time.

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Exact snap placement is kind of hard, y’all.

I had mighty ambitions to tackle a Burda military coat when Heather over at Closet Case Files released Clare. Clean, simple, classic Clare with a fun twist in the form of a big ol’ collar. I knew I wanted to sew this up in a solid-color wool, so I ordered charcoal, light gray, and red wool-blend swatches from Fabric.com.

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The light gray wool melton blend won out for wearability and lint resistance. It’s not quite as soft as I’d like, but it’s by no means scratchy. Perfectly fine for a first attempt at a wool coat. Plus, the kasha lining is primarily what lies against my skin, and ohhhh is it creamy. Kasha is smooth-as-silk satin with a flannel backing. I picked this black kasha up from Vogue Fabrics in Evanston.

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I know: gray coating and black lining is venturing into the boring realm. That’s why I obviously had to go a little CrAzY with the bar tacks, hanging loop, and Pantone-inspired topstitching.

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let’s just call it rose quartz and serenity, OK?!!

I made a muslin with fleece, which I now realize was probably not the best choice as it’s pretty forgiving. I cut out my coat fabric in a straight size 10, adding length to the body and arms—the usual for me. I followed along with pattern directions and the Clare Coat sew along, which was especially helpful when it came to bagging the lining.

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I have a pretty broad back, so I added width to the back sleeve and center back per the suggestions in the fitting post in the sew along. That meant adding width to the collar and neckline. The collar turned out pretty large in circumference because I also let out the raglan sleeve seams when I realized that the sleeves were a little too tight.

The sleeves fit fine now, but I think they’re drafted pretty slim. I personally like the streamlined look, but you might want to add inches if you want to wear a bulky sweater underneath.

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Taking out the sleeves meant adding yet more width to the collar. Blah, blah, blah—not perfect, but still cute!

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I took my time with Clare. She was quite the journey, from choosing fabric to using a clapper to press wool for the first time to sewing on those daggone snaps. And FYI if you’re a Northerner like me, the combination of wool and warm kasha is suitable for mid 30ºs F and above.

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To me, Clare personified is a wizened old Irish woman, darning socks next to a fire as she downs pint after pint of Guinness. I like her.

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Do you personify your outerwear, too?

 

 

 

 

 

Three Grainline Studio Lark Tees (and Halloween Costume Progress)

three grainline studio lark tees

It’s been churn and burn in my sewing world lately. I usually try to write a post fairly quickly after sewing something, but life’s been busy. Plus, lots of output means less time for blogging. But I’m here to remedy that today. Please forgive the garment and photo overload in this post! First up: the costume. Halloween is looming, and for once I’m not procrastinating. This year I’ll be dressing up as the most fabulous harpy to come out of the Disney empire:

disney style cruella de vil
Image from blogs.disney.com

Cruella de Vil. No, it’s not the most creative costume, but I’ve been itching to be Cruella for a few years now. I used Very Easy Vogue coat pattern V8930 to make the yellowish-cream “fur” coat. As in, I used banana-colored fleece for the body and faux fur for the facing/collar piece.

cruella de vil costume
I think I’m attempting “haughty” here. Also plz excuse the mess and graininess.

And, of course, the coat is lined in vivid red. I made a simple black dress using the base layer of V8904 (also sewn here and here), except I sewed a V-neckline. The shoes are Anne Klein pumps from DSW. I’ve gathered most of the other accessories (red gloves, cigarette holder, green earrings), and now I’ve just got to settle on a wig, maybe make a purse, and find a real or fake dalmatian puppy for my pocket. Are any of you attempting a DIY Halloween costume this year? Spill!

I’ve kept my sewing machine pretty warm with Halloween stuff lately, but I’ve also made some non-costume-related garments. When Grainline Studio launched the Lark Tee sewing pattern, I bought it immediately and planned a trip to Vogue Fabrics to get my hands on some knits. I didn’t hesitate to buy Lark because A). I don’t own a T-shirt pattern, B). Grainline’s drafting is generally spot on, and C). it’s infinitely customizable, with four neckline options (crew, scoop, V, and boat) and four sleeve options (long, 3/4, short, and cap).

For construction, I used a ballpoint needle, walking foot, and the lightning bolt stitch on my sewing machine. Each is a size 8. Here are the rest of the dirty details about my three Larks (and counting):

Long Sleeve with V-Neck

grainline studio lark tee olive

cuffs grainline studio lark tee

I didn’t have a twin needle handy when I finished the hem and sleeves of this shirt, and I kind of botched the sleeve hems with a regular zigzag stitch. Since I didn’t stabilize them with anything, they turned out wavy enough to be bothersome. Luckily, cutting the hems off and adding cuffs turned out to be a really simple fix. I’m a fan of cuffs on long sleeves, and I think I might treat all of my LS Larks this way!

lark tee long sleeves

v-neck lark tee grainline studio

I looooove the color of this fabric—a sturdy ponte knit from The Needle Shop in Chicago—but unfortunately it’s pilling like crazy after just three washes. I think I might start air-drying this bad boy to avoid any more damage. (It might also help if I stopped wearing jewelry with it :-P). As for the neckline, this was my first attempt at a V-neck. It’s not horrible, but it’s a little more rounded underneath the point than it should be. I fixed that with my second V-neck after reading Jen’s tutorial for the Lark sew along. Speaking of my second V-neck…

3/4 Sleeve with V-Neck

v-neck lark tee grainline studio

lark tee 3/4 sleeves grainline studio

I know it’s kind of hard to see the V-neck detailing on black, but the point of the V is much prettier on this version. I folded the neckband strip carefully to get a thin line of white at the edge, and I like how that turned out. The neckline is anchored down with a twin needle stitch (finally replaced my broken one!). I also used the twin needle to hem the sleeves and bottom.

lark tee 3/4 sleeves grainline studio

This fabric is probably the best knit I’ve ever bought. Its a bamboo-lycra blend from Vogue Fabrics in Evanston. At $16/yard it’s pretty pricey, and I hesitated to purchase it at first. But I’m glad I went with my gut, since it’s washed and worn beautifully thus far and remains buttery soft to the touch.

Short Sleeve with Scoop Neck

short sleeve lark tee grainline studio

short sleeve lark tee grainline studio

This particular Lark Tee is a testament to how differently patterns can behave depending on the type of fabric you use. I can’t remember the exact content of this cotton-spandex blend from Vogue Fabrics, but it’s definitely more structured than the bamboo knit. I think I could’ve easily cut a size down for this, and I might go back and take in the sides if the fit starts to bother me. Again, I used a twin needle to anchor the neckline and finish the hems.

lark tee short sleeve grainline studio

The Verdict

This is a great basic T-shirt pattern to build your layering wardrobe. It seems like it runs a bit big, so definitely make a test version and go from there. I have pretty broad shoulders and a 36″ bust, and the 8 fits great around the chest. It falls into a looser shape around the hips, but that’s part of the design. I should also note that this thing is pretty long. I’m 6’0″ with a long torso, and I normally have to lengthen my shirt patterns (including other Grainline Studio patterns) by at least 1″. I didn’t lengthen these shirts at all, and they’re plenty long.

Have you made any Larks yet? What’s your verdict?

Woven Hudson Pants

woven hudson pants true bias aw shucks

Well folks, they can’t all be winners. I won’t call these woven Hudson Pants a fail—they’re still wearable and hella comfy. But even after some major surgery, they’re just… not great.

Note: Please forgive the optical illusion effect that the stripes give off in these pictures. They look totally normal in person—I swear!

For starters, the print I chose reminds me of pajamas. More specifically, Bananas in Pajamas. The fabric itself is fine: a 100% cotton stretch twill with 15% stretch across the grain. It’s a true medium weight though, and I think these pants—when sewn in a woven—would work better with a floatier, lighter textile.

Kelli’s woven variation tutorial on the True Bias blog suggests going up two to three sizes, so I cut a 12 instead of an 8 this time. I must have forgotten about the stretch in these pants when cutting—looking back, I should have cut a size 10 considering the 15% stretch. Here’s what they looked like before surgery:

woven hudson pants beofrewoven hudson pants before

As you can see, they are YOUUUUGE, even with a 3/4″ seam allowance (rather than the suggested 3/8″ SA). There’s tons of excess fabric in the crotch and hip area, and the length is kind of off. Here’s what they look like postsurgery:

woven hudson pants true bias bottom half

The fit still isn’t fantastic in the crotch area, but I had to stop somewhere. Fiddling anymore with these pants would’ve driven me mad, especially considering I sewed the elastic waist too loose the first time around and had to pick out a bunch of zigzag stitches through two layers of fabric AND the elastic. Woof. These pants were truly a test in patience. Pretty sure I got a C–.

woven true bias hudson pants

You might be thinking, “They’re not too shabby from this angle!” You’re right, they’re not. But what fun would a sewing blog be if it didn’t reveal its hideous underbelly? In the interest of transparency, here’s what the crotch looks like now (avert your eyes if you want to avoid gratuitous bunching):

woven true bias hudson pants
No, those aren’t headlights. It’s just the way the fabric on my top is folding.

Elastic-waisted anything always rides up that high on me. The extra crotch depth I added deters any camel toe, but there’s just still too much fabric there. I added a few darts to help fix the issue, and they definitely help. I’m glad I added the cuffs, as I think the pants look more modern and less pajama-like now. See, it’s not all cold pricklies and pessimism here!

woven hudson pants cuff

The Nitty Gritty

  • Lengthened the pants 3″ at the lengthen/shorten line.
  • Followed Kelli’s instructions re: altering the pocket pieces, adding length to accommodate for hemming instead of sewing on an ankle band, and grading the leg opening a little wider. I cut the main pocket on the cross grain, and I love the way the stripes play against each other.
  • Cut the waistband on the bias for similar stripey goodness.
  • Ended up adding cuffs, cut on the bias after measuring the leg opening.
  • Added 1″ to the crotch depth on the front and back pattern pieces. On my second pair of knit Hudsons, I added 1″ to the crotch length. That seemed to help a little bit with the camel-toe issue I had on the first knit pair, but the second pair seemed to pool too much in the front, so I figured it might be more of a depth vs. length issue. For a little background on that, here’s what the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing has to say:

The crotch depth is the measurement of the distance from your waist to the bottom of your hips, taken when you are sitting. . . The crotch length is is actual length of the crotch seam, taken between the legs, from waist at center front to waist at center back.

  • Added two small darts in the front and back to reduce some of the excess fabric.

woven hudson pants

All-in-all, these pants aren’t a total bust. They really are comfortable and I think they look okay styled with my Ruby Top. In reality, I’ll probably wear these around the house on my work from home days. Normally I’m wearing shredded old pajama shorts and a tank top when I work from home, so these pants will be a vast improvement. And who knows—maybe they’ll grow on me.

Have you sewn any duds lately? If you have, at what point did you throw in the towel? Commiserate with me, it’ll be fun!

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.)

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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?

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!

Thoughts on Me Made May 2015

So, Me Made May 2015 has come and gone. What did I learn? To respect the almighty #mmm15 hashtag and its inspiring bounty of outfits. That I have a uniform and it consists of a boxy T-shirt, long necklace, and jeans. That a mere year ago, I didn’t understand the importance of “finishing” the guts of a garment. Whoopsies.

me made may 2015
The four most popular makes, according to Instagram likes. Clockwise from upper left: modified Scout Tee, french terry Mandy Boat Tee, jersey Mandy Boat Tee, split-hem Linden Sweatshirt

It’s been a pretty revelatory month. My goal for the challenge was to wear one me-made garment five days per week. In reality, I wore one (and sometimes two!) me-made garments 24 out of 31 days. I’d say that’s a goal achieved!

Here are my top takeaways from this year’s Me Made May:

  1. Taking a daily outfit pic is exhausting. For those of us who don’t revel in posting #OOTD snaps on Instagram, taking bathroom selfies or forcing a loved one to take yet another boring outfit photo gets old real quick. The founder of MMM makes it clear that the challenge isn’t about daily pictures, but it kiiiind of seems like par for the course.
  2. I should make more bottoms. I wore me made bottoms five times throughout the challenge: a half-circle skirt three times and Hudson Pants twice. Looks like I’ll bump a skirt and pair of Maritime shorts up to the top of my queue.
  3. I’m in love with my Mandy Boat Tees. Seriously, I don’t know how Tessuti made such a gem of a one-size-fits-all pattern. I’ve got two of ’em, and I’m not ashamed to admit to wearing each twice throughout the challenge. I suggest making several for yourself if you haven’t already. Kelli’s got the idea.
  4. Building a handmade wardrobe takes time. Some sewing folks seemed to wear me-made from head-to-toe for most of the month. It’s inspiring and daunting at the same time! I’ve accepted that either 1). These folks have been sewing for awhile, and I too can get there someday, or 2). They have seven arms.
  5. Take a look back to take a step forward. You don’t realize how far you’ve come with a skill until you look back at earlier work. I was planning on wearing a floral shirtdress I’d made last year until I spotted the armhole seams, which I’d left completely unfinished. The humanity! That day I didn’t have the time to go back and fix it, so I sadly left the dress in the closet. It’s hard to believe that I made that dress just one year ago. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about finishing seams. What’s the point of making a beautiful dress if the insides look all gnarly? I don’t have a serger, so I’ve used pinking (probably more often than I should have), zigzag stitches, flat-felled seams, and french seams to finish my woven garments. The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing contains a bunch of pretty finishes, and I’m excited to try even more.

I’d say Me Made May was a success. It’s revealed holes in my wardrobe and lit a fire under my buns to get sewing again. I definitely won’t miss taking those daily pics, tho. I like to limit my selfie game to horribly unflattering Snaps, thank you very much.

Did you take part in MMM? How’d it go for you?

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?

Another Mandy Boat Tee

Mandy tessuti boat tee

When a pattern’s pretty near perfect, why stop at making it twice? This striped number is my third Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee (with a color-blocked fourth one in the works). I went the same route with this one as I did with my cream-colored french terry version, keeping 1/2″ sliced off the pattern’s side seams. I forgot to shorten the sleeves, which I might go back and do since these are just a tiny bit tight below the elbows.

Mandy tessuti boat tee

The fabric is a buttery soft bamboo-lycra blend from Girl Charlee. I’m going to go ahead and say that this is the softest goddamn fabric I have ever worn. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a striped knit with plenty of stretch.

And that’s that! Since I’ve already written about this pattern, let’s move on to one of the many projects in my queue:

MorrisSideModel

The Morris Blazer! This pattern is fresh off the presses from Grainline Studio. It’s an unlined blazer designed for stretch wovens and stable knits, and I am SO EXCITED to sew this up for my spring and summer wardrobe. My mom commented that Hong Kong seams would be perfect for finishing the center back seam allowances, and I totally agree. I’m excited to test that technique on some scraps and then eventually try it with Morris.

What’s in your queue?