don’t be so dramatic

 

anna_dress_sewstylist.pic12That was something my mom used to say when I was just a wee SewStylist. And while I took much of her wisdom and advice to heart, on the subject of clothes I did then and always will have a mind of my own. Which is to say: This dress, it certainly is dramatic.

By Hand London Anna dress @ Sewstylist.wordpress.com
There are so many gorgeous BHL Anna creations swirling around the online sewing universe, it’s hard to remember when my scale tipped from “Wow, that’s really cute…” to “Oh my gosh! I have to have that dress!” Amy’s perfectly fitted vintage floral Anna certainly made me swoon.  As did SallieOh’s gorgeously hand dyed Anna. But really, it was probably one of Rosin’s lovely creations that ultimately pushed me over the edge. Ms. Dolly Clackett must have turned out no less than a dozen incredible versions—like this one, or this one, and THIS ONE—demonstrating not only her awesome creativity, but also the flexibility of this pattern.

By Hand London Anna dress @ Sewstylist.wordpress.comWith visions of many Dolly-esq dresses dancing in my head, I decided to focus on getting the fit of the bodice as close to perfect as possible. And I think (with the helpful hands of my trusty housemate!) I did pretty good. (Uhm, full disclosure, I may not be wearing a bra in these pics, which may have effected the fit at the bust. So, there’s that.)

For my muslin, I used a process very similar to the one Susan Khalje explains in her Craftsy class, The Couture Dress. (I’m full of asides today, so here’s another. That Craftsy class is the greatest. Honestly, sometimes I just watch it for the nerd out pleasure of it. And for the calming effect of Susan’s lovely voice. Nope, not kidding.) Anyway, about the muslin. Basically, you trace your pattern seamlines (not cutting lines) onto muslin, then cut out your pieces with nice big seam allowances so you can make any necessary adjustments. Then, and this is really the part I love, you just use that perfectly fitted muslin as your pattern. People have warned me off this technique, saying you have to worry about the muslin stretching out of shape, etc., etc. But if it’s good enough for Susan Khalje, you know it’s good enough for me.

By Hand London Anna dress @ SewStylist.wordpress.com

I had previously made a very messed up version of this dress, from which I learned what fabric not to use (some mystery synthetic) and that I’d need to apply The Ginger technique for removing back of neckline gaping. That adjustment worked like a charm, and I’m pretty happy with the sway back adjustments I made too! There’s still a little extra fabric back there, but it gets taken up when I sit down. All the seams and darts on this dress make it really accessible, as far as fitting goes. I especially liked that the bodice and skirt were separate, making it really easy to get a good fit at both waist and hips.

By Hand London Ann dress @ SewStylist.wordpress.comI call this the suffering-for-my-art look because I was out on the sidewalk at something like 5:30am taking pictures of myself in an evening dress. And there were dudes, and they were drunk, and they maybe had one full set of teeth between the two of them. And that right there is the problem I have with this dress. Not that it attracts the drunken attention of early morning/late night wanderers per se, but that it really does demand attention. Heather has written about all the wear her Anna’s get all summer long, but try as I might, this is just not the sort of dress I’m comfortable slipping into just any old time for a cruise about town. Why is that? Something about the lovely, yet revealing, nature of the rayon twill I made it up in.  And that slit. And the length. I mean, of course I love this dress. It’s swooshy and lovely and so fun to get all dressed up in, even if I have nowhere to go. It takes me back to a time when I used to dance in the living room to Belinda Carlisle, wearing a towel on my head to simulate the long hair I didn’t have. It was all very dramatic.

My First Mabel

Recently, I’ve found myself thinking about how much sewing has changed my attitude toward clothes and what I feel good wearing. The most obvious difference has been a major shift in my preference for fewer, higher quality clothes in my closet. Gone are the days when I would wander absently into H & M and want to buy all the things. Now, between the poor fit and flimsy fabrics, most of those things look unwearable.

Equally, it makes a lot less sense to settle for something that’s kind of what you want, when you know you have the skills to make exactly what you want. I credit this sewing perk for my expanding interest in skirts and dresses. When shopping ready to wear I typically find them cut too short for my tastes, or that there’s too many details, weird fabric, not enough pockets, etc. etc. etc. With fewer variables to contend with, I just found jeans easier. But (sewing discovery!) skirts and dresses can be waaay more comfortable than jeans when they’ve been made to order for and my me!

colette-mabel-sewstylist-pic1.jpgWord on the street is Colette’s Mabel skirt  is just as comfortable as pjs, yet it looks a whole lot better walking down the street. (Well, maybe not better looking than these.) The rumors are true. This skirt is super comfy, cozy, and easy to wear.

colette-mabel-sewstylist-pic3

I started with the pencil skirt version, then added about four more inches to the length so the skirt could be a bit high-waisted and still hit below my knees. Some might find this length a little dowdy, but it’s what’s most comfortable for me. I like the long line it makes.

I’ve wanted to try this pattern since it came out, and when I was able to get it 20% off (applying the awesome discount I get after my Bay Area Sewists Meetup) I jumped at the chance to give it a go. True, it is a pretty simple pattern, but the time I got to spend sewing instead of drafting was worth it. The fit is good and there’s some thoughtful details. I would not have approached the waistband the same way, and the proportions of the center placket on the pencil skirt are so, so flattering.

colette-mabel-sewstylist-pic4.jpg

The fabric I used is a great mid-weight ponte with a sort of space dyed finish to it. Very cool to look at, but also very difficult to photograph! Nevertheless, it was kind of the perfect fabric for this project. It’s sturdy enough that I don’t have to worry about panty lines, but still stretchy enough that this skirt is a breeze to wear and walk in.

You can almost see in the pics above that I played with the direction of the fabric. The lines go up and down on the front side panels and the two back pieces, but I placed them horizontally across the center placket. This creates nice visual interest and is slimming, not that slimming is my first concern but , hey, can’t hurt!

colette-mabel-sewstylist-pic2.jpg

I cut a straight medium, even though the numbers said I was a small at the waist. As a result, in addition to lengthening the skirt I took about four inches off the waistband, and about a three inch wedge out of center back. The wedge helps accommodate my sway back, and I think I needed more off the waistband because I wanted it to ride a little high. These adjustments were easy to make on the fly, and the whole project was quick and fun to put together.

This skirt is such a basic, wearable shape, and the pattern has tons of possibilities. I definitely plan to return to it. Here’s a few images I pinned to inspire my next Mabel.

collete-mabel-inspiration-collage

One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

I love the idea of taking the #invisiblepajamas aspect of this skirt one step further by making it up in fleece. Also, what if you left off the back vent in favor of a slit up the front? Adding a peplum to this skirt would be super easy and create a totally different look. I definitely plan to make a little black Mabel. And what about that contrasting fabric? Nice, right? If you’d have told me in the years before I started sewing that I’d want an entire wardrobe of jersey skirts I probably would have laughed accommodatingly while secretly thinking you were nuts. But look at me now!

So, I’m curious, are there any types of garments that you’re more likely to wear if you’ve sewn them yourself? What makes your me made version better than the RTW offerings?

I’d Tap That

Friends, forgive me if you find the title of this post a little, er… crude. I’m not gonna lie, this joke has been in my head ever since Katy & Laney launched their sweet and sexy Tap Shorts pattern. Plus, I thought the occasion called for a little good humor. What occasion, you ask?

tap-shorts-oonapalooza-sewstylist-2.jpgYes!!! is what I exclaimed when I first caught wind of this brilliant Sewcialist plot. True, when writing about my core style a few months ago, I clearly defined my love of modern, easy wearing clothes in neutral tones. And I quote, “I’m not as into colorful clothing as I’d hoped I could be.” I truly did hope to be, as evidenced by my fabric purchases in the early days. But as I came around the learning curve I began to realize that what makes us fall in love with a fabric is not always what makes us fall in love with and wear a garment. So. That’s the long way of saying I’ve got a pretty colorful stash, and Oonapalooza time gave me a great excuse to dig in to it.

tap-shorts-oonapalooza-sewstylist-4.jpg

In an effort to give you my best Ebony x Oona, I pulled out my biggest shoes and paired them with my boldest earrings. I was hoping to put a few more prints in the mix, but my neutral toned closet left a bit to be desired on that front. I settled for some fun, furry texture instead. (But really, why don’t I have any fringe in my closet? Seriously, that has to change.) When it came time to get in front of the camera I did my best to break out of my rather serious posing standard and said to myself, “What would Oona do?” 

tap-shorts-oonapalooza-sewstylist-5

Sooo, less like this. (People don’t believe me when I confess to being a little shy, but honestly, this pic just about captures how I’m feeling most of the time. Especially with my legs hang’n out like that, sheesh!)

tap-shorts-oonapalooza-sewstylist-6.jpgMore like this! (Hey! Smiling is fun! Maybe I could get used to it…)

Now, let me tell you more about the make. I came by this fabric at a thrift store I used to frequent back when I lived in Eugene. I miss that thrift store something fierce because it always had the most amazing vintage fabrics for, like, a dollar. (Once I scored something like six yards of black silk noil for $4.99, but that’s a story for another day.) I had somewhere around a yard of this stuff, which proved to be just enough for the Tap Shorts. And, oh! The Tap Shorts! I really love this pattern. It provided the perfect classic, wearable outline to fill in with all this wild vintage color.

tap-shorts-oonapalooza-sewstylist-1.jpg

In true Oonabaloona fashion, I chose to forgo a muslin, and given that I just sewed these up blind I think the fit is pretty spectacular. I cut a straight size 6, which is actually one size down from the size recommended by my measurements. I’m learning that I tend to prefer a bit less ease in my garments than is usually drafted for.

I added about two inches to the length. Then I ended up trimming some of that off when it came time to hem. These shorts really looked shorter than I would imagine I’d want them to be until I put them on, and then I realized that K&L know what they’re doing with the high waist + short leg proportions and I should just go with it.

You can see from the rounded side seam in the pic above that I could maybe have left a bit more room for my behind. I also may have had a little snafu with sewing the waistband on upside down and trimming my back panel to fit before realizing I’d done wrong. However, since the shorts have some fullness in the leg I’m getting away with it. (And I’ve been getting away with it all my life, getting away with it…

tap-shorts-oonapalooza-sewstylist-8.jpgI made view B, which also accounts for the fortunate fullness, but you can hardly see the pleats because A: The fabric hides it. B: My butt is using it. The waistband fit perfectly though, and the slope from waist to widest point would be perfect if I’d made a small sway back adjustment, which is something I keep not doing even though I keep seeing that I kinda need to get with that. So next time I’ll probably grade up a size at the waist hip, and take a wedge out of the back, and all will be well with the world.

tap-shorts-oonapalooza-sewstylist-9

Never mind that little bit of fabric hanging out of the pocket there. Where’s the stylist when you need one?!

I chose to add the welt pockets as well because I can’t have enough pockets in my life. The directions for these, paired with the detailed online instructions, helped me produce the best looking welt pockets I’ve ever made. Honestly, they’re just about flawless. Of course, the fabric hides that too, but I see you, welt pockets, and I like what I’ve done with you.

I’ll end by saying that when it comes to both Oonapalooza and K&L’s Tap Shorts pattern there are too many beautiful things to link to. So if you haven’t Google stalked these yet, I’d best let you get to it!

 

tutorial // scout tee x complex geometries

Scout-pattern-hack-tutorial-sewstylist.wordpress.com

When I posted my knit Scout variation a few weeks back several of you asked for a tutorial showing how I modified the pattern. Since your wish is my command, here you have it! Jen and Wanett, among others, have shown that this pattern really doesn’t need any adjustments if all you want to do is make it up in a knit. The changes I made were to get a fun look of fuuuuuuuuuullness, and you’ll see that it’s totally easy.

If you’re new to playing around with and adjusting patterns to get a different look, adding fullness is a great place to start. It’s relatively foolproof, so long as you keep these two things in mind. 1: Balance your fullness. 2: Preserve your grainline. I’ll clarify both shortly, but figured it would be good to establish these guidelines at the outset.

What you’ll need:

  • A traced copy of your fitted Grainline Scout Tee pattern (fyi: since it’s easier to photograph, I’m using quarter-scale blocks here)
  • The usual pattern adjustment suspects: pencil, paper, ruler, scissors, & tape
  • A sense of adventure!

scout-tutorial-what-you-need-sewstylist.wordpress.com

How to:

The first adjustment I made to the pattern was adding length. I added some extra inches (maybe 4”?) to the sleeve. Jen has a great post showing how to lengthen your sleeves. I wanted the front of my shirt to fall about mid-pelvis and the back to cover my bum. I don’t remember exactly how many inches that turned out to be on me, but I think it was about +4” in front, and about +12” in back. But, as my boyfriend LeVar Burton would say, Don’t take my word for it! Try on a version of your Scout tee then take some measurements to see how much additional length is right for you. Or you might decide you don’t want to add any length. That’d be cute too.

As a side note, I’ll say that my shirt is definitely a little back heavy. That’s not a big deal, but I mention it because if you’re using a weighty fabric you might not want to go too crazy long in the back.

At this point your side seams won’t be matching up. It’s cool; we’ll come back to that.

scout-tutorial-pic2-sewstylist.wordpress.com

Now it’s time do some slashing and spreading! But first, those pointers I mentioned earlier… When you look at the source picture (see below) notice how the fabric drapes fairly evenly across the model’s bust? Instead of one big triangle of drape she’s got several little triangles distributed across the front of the garment. That tells me the drape is balanced. If it weren’t balanced I’d see one drape containing all the fullness, which would look kinda weird.

scout-tutorial-pic3-sewstylist.wordpress.com

To add balanced fullness to your pattern, draw a series of evenly spaced lines down the length of your pattern pieces, starting 2-3” out from center front/ center back. If you add just one line and do all the spreading from that one spot you’re likely to end up with one big triangle of fullness, which (as I said) might look kind of weird.

probably not…

 

scout-tutorial-pic5-sewstylist.wordpress.com

looking good!

Take your scissors and slash the pattern up to, but not through, the neck and shoulder seams. Leave the slashes hanging on by the tiniest little edge, creating a flexible hinge. (If we were being absolutely correct, we would actually have excluded the seam allowance and only slashed up to the seam line. Since I planned to make this shirt up in—always forgiving—jersey I took the easy route and skipped that part.)

Now you can spread open these slashes to create as much or as little fullness as you desire. In order to keep the fullness balanced, aim to spread evenly across all your slashes. And in order to maintain the grainline, spread your pattern pieces away from the center front/center back fold line, leaving the center front/ center back piece straight and on grain.

The picture below shows what NOT to do. Doing it like could move the straight of grain and lead to trouble.

scout-tutorial-pic6-sewstylist.wordpress.com

Add as much fullness as you like! I went as far as my fabric width would allow. If your fabric is narrow, you don’t have to cut your pieces on the fold. Just add seam allowance at center front and center back and you’re good to go.

Now, using your extra paper and tape, fill in all that lovely fullness you just created.

scout-tutorial-pic7-sewstylist.wordpress.com

All that’s left to do now is smoothing things out a bit around the edges. Your shoulder seam may have gone a little wonky when you spread, so take your ruler and smooth that out. Once you’ve done this to front and back you’ll want to confirm that the shoulder seam is the same length on both pattern pieces.

scout-tutorial-pic8-sewstlyist.wordpress.com

Smooth the hemline on your front pattern piece. I just sketched it in, but you can always use a curve if you prefer.

scout-tutorial-pic8-sewstylist.wordpress.com

Line up the side seam of your front pattern piece next to your back pattern piece, using the base of the armscye as a guide. That seam needs to be the same length on both sides, so mark where the front side seam ends on the back pattern piece.

scout-tutorial-pic9-sewstylist.wordpress.com

I ended up adding a bit more length to the back pattern piece so the shape of this sample more closely imitates the one I have on my full-size pattern.

Now you can sketch in the back hem, starting at the full length at center back and easing up to meet the proper side seam length. I tried to make my hem into a gently sloping quarter-circle.

At this point you may want to do a quick status check in the mirror and confirm that your length is still looking good. I pretty much just hold the paper pattern up, take a quick look, and say, Yep, look’n good, or make any little tweaks as needed.

Also take a moment to consider how you’re going to finish your hem and confirm that you’ve got enough seam allowance down there to make it happen. Once all is well, trim off any excess paper from both front and back pieces.

14515979540_946a2560fa_k

That’s it, my friends! See what I mean? Totally easy. Of course, if anything here doesn’t make sense you’ll let me know. It also bears mentioning that this is just one woman’s method. I’m sure there are other ways; this is what worked for me.

And now you’re free to go forth and make yourselves many twirly jersey Scout tees, and be sure to let me know if you do!

 

 

Sewcializing with Rachel Hill of Origamicustoms.com

This begins as a tale of sewing synchronicity. I was at the fabric store (getting a few yards of jersey cut, even though I just went in for a double needle­—you know, as you do), and the woman across the way was getting herself a yard of black neoprene. When asked what she had planned, I overheard her saying something about custom swimwear and a traveling sewing machine. Needless to say, I had to speak to this amazing gal. She introduced herself as Rachel and was kind enough to take me up on a cup of coffee and regale me with her tale of sewing radness. Today, I’m happy to share the highlights of our conversation with you!

Monokini-Swimsuit-sewstylist.wordpress.com

Here’s Rachel modeling one of the monokinis she produces for origamicustoms.com

So, tell us how you got started with sewing and swimwear design.

I grew up in Victoria, Canada, and my grandmother and my great aunt were both professional seamstresses, so it was always in the family. I was brought up sewing; from the time I was 6 I was learning on my mom’s machine. My sister, who is ten years older than me, she was sewing as well. All our Christmas presents for each other would be hand sewn.

Then in high school I’d go to thrift stores and buy wedding dresses, or grunge t-shirts, and rip them up or sew lace or leather bits on them because I wanted to be different and have something no one else had. And I did! Some of them worked out super well. Some of them I look back and I’m like, oh my God… But that’s where I started to first experiment with putting different fabrics together. My line has still got that element to it. I experiment a lot with putting together different materials, things that wouldn’t necessarily go to together.

Origamicustoms-Swimsuit-sewstylist.wordpress.com

And how did you get started with your swimwear line?

I’ve been living for about the last seven years in Central America, and lived for about five years in Honduras. I was a scuba instructor, which is how I got into sewing swimsuits. I moved there when I was eighteen, just after high school, and all my friends and I were in the water all the time.

It was this tiny island, only four to five thousand people living on it, and people couldn’t get things imported. Bathing suits were something that just wasn’t available. I mean, there were a few, but they were all small sizes. There was no variety, no quality. For bigger women, there was nothing they could wear. So I let people know I was experimenting with making things for myself and that I could try making things for them too. I would take trips back and forth to the mainland to get fabric. There was one ferry a day; a three hour boat ride. I never learned the techniques of stretch sewing until I started learning on my own, like how to put in elastic and use twin needles. I just Googled everything.

Recently, I’ve decided that I’m going to call Victoria home base again. The nice thing about running my business online is that I can be fairly flexible. Wherever I go, if I have a machine, or if I have someone else’s machine, I’m good.

origamicustoms-black-tan-swimsuit-sewstylist.wordpress.com

Let’s talk about that a bit more, because I think it’s so cool! I have to admit that when I first heard you talking about traveling with a sewing machine my mind was a little blown, because for me I feel that a huge part of sewing is having the space to do it in. You know, I feel like I need my space, I need my stuff…

I’ve always tried to live super simply. My thinking has been I need to be able to fit everything that I love into a backpack that I could throw on and travel with. Travel has always been super important to me.

When I design I just make the pattern from formulas, or my body, or someone else’s body. Mostly I just use math. You know, that takes up less space! I’ve worked on little, tiny plastic kitchen tables with one cruddy little machine. Now my company is growing to the point where I need to have industrial machines, and I need to have a studio to call home base. But I still need to be able to travel!

You have a machine you can travel with?

When I started out, I had a little machine I would travel with. I was working part-time in PR, so every time I would go on a business trip I would always pack my sewing machine. I’d work during the day and then at night I’d sew. It was just a dinky old Brother sewing machine. Nothing special, but it was all plastic, so it was light and I could take it with me on a plane. More recently, I was in San Jose [Costa Rica] for a while and set up a home base, including a Janome serger. At that point I figured if I traveled I could pick up a whatever sewing machine on Craigslist for less than a hundred bucks, but the serger was something I needed to take with me. I’d carry it on the plane with me. It’s pretty heavy, but I’d lug this serger around with me.

I love that! That’s real passion.

It totally was.

You were doing this even before you launched your business?

Yeah, when I was just sewing for me, and for friends, I would always take my sewing machine. That’s what I wanted to do at the end of a workday, to relax or whatever. It really worked at the time; I was just doing it part-time and I would get these fun little orders to do. I’m still able to do [some work on the go]. The fabric you saw me buying the other day was for a present to give to my friend for letting me stay with her.

orimagamicustoms-corset-swimsuit-sewstylist.wordpress.com

So you would take a machine. What else would you take with you?

Oh yes, my travel kit! I had a bobbin saver, my pincushion, my rotary cutter and a mat. I’d put all my patterns into these big manila envelopes and pack those too. It was so messy and terrible, but it would fit in my suitcase. I never got one of those big cutting mats. I just got little ones and taped them together so I could fold them up like an accordion.

Oh, okay! I was thinking, How the heck did she take the mat?

Yep, I had three little cutting mats all taped together on the back. I would take that with me, and a pack of needles. I didn’t even bring thread because that’s something I could always buy easily. And… my stitch ripper. Really, not much else!

origamicustoms-black-fringe-swimsuit-sewstylist.wordpress.com

You set yourself up in this way where you were forced to go out into the world and find your community.

That’s very true. I did like that because it was a way to get connected to a lot of people. You know, the people at the fabric store would get to know me as the only English speaker. I was just starting to learn Spanish, and I’d go in and didn’t know the names of any of the fabrics. But once we started to form a relationship they were really great about letting me know what was going on, or if there was a new store I should go check out. But I’m also pretty much an introvert, you know? At the end of the day, I do like to just go home and sew.

I’m so impressed by what you did because I can get overwhelmed in fabric stores, especially in the notions department, even when everything is in my native language!

Every time I come up to North America I have this problem, coming from having just one of everything, just enough, and having to reuse things. I used to have to put bobbin thread on top of bobbin thread, eight colors on one spool! And then I come here and I can get all this stuff, and it’s cheap. I have to ask myself, Do I need all of this stuff? Do I need a magnetic pin holder? Twelve different rulers? It’s really tough for me, to try and just stick with what I know. But my new studio, there’s very little stuff. It’s pretty much bare minimum, and I like that.

origamicustoms-black-bikini-swimsuit-sewstylist.wordpress.com

Tell us more about your business!

I’ve been doing the business fulltime for the last year and a half. Before that I always had other jobs, but then I got to the point where I was like, “Actually, I can do this as a career, and I’m not gonna go broke!” That was super exciting.

It’s still really new, but I’m feeling pretty good about it. I did a lot of work over this last year upgrading my website to make sure everything is really simple, easy to use, and clear. I’ve been working with a little company in Ithaca, New York, doing consignment sales, and I just got my first big wholesale order. To do a whole batch of something is totally different because everything else I do is one-of-a-kind. People send me their measurements and I hand-pattern for each person to make a piece just for them. I do custom designs too, with people sending me an idea or concept they want me to work up. That’s totally the fun stuff for me.

That’s a great concept. Especially with things like lingerie and swimwear, when so much of our sense of ourselves and how we feel about being in our bodies is impacted by how we look in these garments.

I work a lot with the queer community and customers whose bodies don’t necessarily conform to the established standards of mainstream swimwear companies. It’s something I’m really passionate about because there are so many people out there that can’t find what they want and need. Sometimes people will come to me and say, “I need to hide this part of my body,” or “I need to emphasize this.” They may come with a list of restrictions or needs that are going to make the design process more challenging than just, you know, making a pretty bikini so I can sell a billion things. I’d much rather make something that’s going to work with that person for what their needs are.

origamicustoms-purple-unitard-sewstylist.wordpress.com

It sounds like your ethics and what you want your life to look like have been just as important when forming your career as your passion for sewing has been.

Yes, that’s so much a part of my brand. At this point, I can’t really separate myself, my life, from the brand. I just switched over from using cottons to using bamboo. The quality of these fabrics is so much better, but I researched it and also found it to be more ethical. It uses less water, plus it’s more sustainable and renewable. This is what I would want from anything I would buy for myself. I realized I need to be offering something that feels really good ethically as well as on your body.

My ethics have been so strongly appreciated by my customers as well. A lot of shops charge more for bigger sizes because that uses more material. But I’ve said I will never do that. There’s no cap on the sizes that I offer. I offer between an xxs and a 5xl, but people can send me literally any measurements and it’s no more expensive. I feel really strongly about all people being able to find swimwear and undergarments that are good for their bodies. I feel really good about being able to offer that to people, to make that an accessible, safe, comfortable experience.

With your business taking off, do still have time to sew for yourself?

It’s something that I’m making more of a focus now. What I’ll often do, when I’m developing new ideas for a line, I’ll make a prototype of my idea for myself and wear it around, see how it feels, how well it holds up when I’m doing yoga or whatever. Sometimes they turn into something that I’ll offer, and sometimes they don’t. But either way I’ve made something for myself.

origamicustoms-black-tanktop-sewstylist.wordpress.com

What, if any, ways do you find yourself engaging with the larger sewing community?

I’m newly back in Canada, so I’m just starting to branch out and go to places where crafts people are going to be, like craft fairs, flea markets, or even garage sales. I’ve found that there’s a lot of overlap with handmade and vintage too, so talking to little shop owners can be a great way to connect with makers. I’ve met people at parties and we’ve bonded over sewing. I do tend to talk about sewing a lot because it’s such a huge part of my life, and this is what I love. When I’m making new friends, I definitely want to make sure they’re the type of people who are into that. I’ve been around people before who don’t see it as a legitimate job, and that’s been really tough and frustrating.

It’s very much a movement here, whereas where I was in the third world it’s not. Sewing is seen as “something my grandma does,” or “only poor people sew because they need to in order to have clothes.” This movement of crafters, that hasn’t caught on. People are very negative when talking about crafting, because the thinking is if you’re crafting it’s because you can’t afford to buy new clothes. And so there wasn’t any excitement, there wasn’t any reason why you would want to do that. It was very much looked down upon.

That is really interesting, that connection between economic prosperity and crafting. Of course, now that I hear you say it, it seems so obvious that there is a luxury to crafting for pleasure, as a hobby, rather than out of necessity.

Yes, my friends [in Central America], they would probably be embarrassed to talk about the fact that they had handmade clothes. Because it would seem like, “My parents had to make me these clothes because they couldn’t afford to buy me new ones.” So for me, saying this is something I do for a living, the response is, “Why would you want to do something like that?” And there’s not that feeling that you want to pay more for handmade clothes, because the value is lower. The attitude is, “Well, it’s just handmade. If I can have a brand name sweater, why would I get one handmade?”

Here, the value of the work and the time that goes into something that’s handcrafted is much more understood. And I also think people here see that if they’re supporting a crafts person, there’s a very good chance that they’re supporting their community, and putting money back into their local economy. That was a motivating factor for my move back to Canada. I wanted to be part of that community, and be where people value my work.

origamicustoms-black-floral-swimsuit-sewstylist.wordpress.com

What are the best things that your skills, experience, and passion for sewing have brought to your life?

Well, the main thing for me is being able to be self-sustaining. To be able to not just craft for fun. That people want to pay me money for my skills, that’s huge. It still blows my mind: People want to pay me money for stuff I make! I’m still new at this, and I’m a terrible self-critic and really hard on my work. So just that fact that my business is self sustaining, that I don’t have to take another job… It just blows my mind everyday.

…..

I hope you enjoyed learning that little bit about Rachel and the inspiring work she does as much as I did! I find it wonderfully inspiring to hear from other passionate seamstresses and to learn something about the unique ways people have for incorporating sewing into a lifestyle and, as in Rachel’s case, sometimes even a living. I was also really intrigued by her perspective on the attitudes toward sewing and handcrafting in different parts of the world.

Do you take your sewing with you when you travel, as Rachel does? What ways have you found of engaging with other sewcialists and keeping your crafty passions alive when you’re on the road?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sound & Vision: Summertime Rolls

July Mood Board_5_sewstylist.wordpress.comJuly Mood Board_3_sewstylist.wordpress.com

California is synonymous with summertime. Ironically, my section of the state doesn’t get much in the way of a summer season. (Though, as I’ve written about earlier, this year has been uniquely lovely.) Never mind the weather, this time of year I’m thinking about slowing down, warming up, swimming, sandals, picnics, road trips, bonfires, getting lost, finding something new, and making out under the moonlight. This month’s mood board and music explore what all that looks and feels like for me. And what about you? What does summertime inspire you to do?

July Mood Board_2_sewstylist.wordpress.com.jpg.jpg

July Mood Board_4_sewstylist.wordpress.com

[image credits: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine: unknown, ten, eleven, twelve: "My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.-M. Angelou, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen: unknown, twenty: a still from Suddenly Last Summer]

Grainline Scout Tee x Complex Geometries

Grainline Scout // sewstlist.wordpress.com // pic3

One of my sewing goals over the last year or so has been to start working with some of the same patterns more than once. Don’t get me wrong, I love the thrill of the new just as much as the next person. But some of my least favorite steps in the sewing process are the fitting/muslin making steps, and one way to avoid those less thrilling steps is to use a pattern I’m already familiar with. Sunni has written about the power of building a collection of basic patterns that you can alter and remix to create a new look, and Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing was also written with this approach in mind.

Grainline Scout // sewstlist.wordpress.com // pic1

For this top I started with the well-known, well-loved Grainline Scout Tee, then altered the pattern to make it look more like this tee by Complex Geometries.

Complex Geometries Orbit Tee // sewstylist.wordpress.com

image via totokaelo.com

When I originally spotted this piece on my favorite (for gawking more than shopping) online boutique, Totokaelo, I fell immediately and completely in love with it, but it was, alas, sold out. Sewing skills to the rescue!

Grainline Scout // sewstylist.wordpress.com // pic8

To get this look I used Jen’s tutorial to lengthen the sleeves. I also lengthened the front of the shirt by about five inches, lengthened the back of the shirt by about a foot at center back then tapered it up to meet the front at the sides. And of course I added a TON of fullness, which is really what makes this shirt so fun.

Grainline Scout // sewstylist.wordpress.com // pic10

I made my shirt out of a cotton blend jersey. Several other sewicialists have made up Scout in jersey without altering a thing. Janice of She’s in Fashion posted an example of how awesome a knit Scout can look just last week. I’m not sure what she did to finish her neckline, but I opted to use the finishing technique I learned from Heather’s Nettie pattern instructions. The sleeves and bottom hem are simply turned up and finished with a double needle. For those of you who don’t have or are otherwise averse to using a serger, this is an example of a knit jersey project that was constructed entirely on a sewing machine. Yep, it totally works out fine.

Grainline Scout // sewstlist.wordpress.com // pic4

This shirt has been getting so much play since I made it a month or so ago. It’s just as comfortable as any old tee, but the added drama of the fullness and funky hemline mean it’s way, waaay more fun to wear.

Grainline Scout // sewstlist.wordpress.com // pic6

On the subject of comfort, I’m not really one for wearing leggings as pants, despite how deliciously comfortable they can be, because city girls have to be conscientious about just how much body we’re trying to expose to unwanted attention, if ya know what I mean. This shirt pairs perfectly with leggings because the butt is fully covered but the legs still show up front, which is exactly how we want it.

Grainline Scout // sewstlist.wordpress.com // pic5

Given my little success with this Scout alteration I’m super inspired to keep working with this pattern to see what else it can do! Have you experimented much with pattern alterations? What patterns do you find yourself returning to?

tutorial // fabric covered buttons

fabric covered button tutorial.collage.jpg

fabric covered buttons added a nice, high-quality touch to my simple sundress

One of the best things about sewing your own clothes is having the opportunity to add the special details that make a garment uniquely yours. Fabric covered buttons are a simple, easy way to add interest and detail to your garment. Covering your buttons is a great way to upgrade less than stellar buttons from your stash or to save yourself the work of hunting high and low for the perfect match to your project. This method for covering buttons is easier, less expensive, and more delicate than most of the covered button kits on the market.

let's get these naked little buttons covered!

let’s get these naked little buttons covered!

What you’ll need:

  • Find yourself some buttons with two or four holes, not shanked.
  • The best fabric for this application will be weighty enough to withstand some manipulation and tugging but lightweight enough to wrap snuggly around the button, and it won’t easily fray. Here, I used a linen blend. You won’t need more than a tiny scrap of fabric.
  • You’ll also need a needle, thread to match your covering fabric, scissors, and some fray check.

fabric covered button turorial.cutting fabric rounds collage

How to:

  • Trace and cut a round of fabric that’s about twice the circumference of your button. Here I used a quarter as a template for my 1/2 inch button.
  • Leaving about 1/8 inch seam allowance, sew a running stitch around the edge of the fabric round. You might want to secure your thread with a backstitch as you begin; a knot alone may not be secure enough to hold.

fabric covered button tutorial.stitch around the edge.jpg

  • Don’t knot off your thread once you’ve stitched all the way around. Instead, start tugging the thread and gather the round into a cupped shape. I used the tip of my thumb to begin easing the fabric into position. (Try to keep your needled threaded during this step.)
  • As the fabric begins to cup, drop your button in (see below). If your button has a front and back, place the button with the front facing down against the fabric. Use your finger to keep it centered as you pull the thread, tightening the fabric around your button.

fabric covered button tutorial.cupped fabric.jpg

  • Take a few stitches around the little folds of fabric at the back of your button, reinforcing the gathers you just made.
  • I also like to pass the thread beneath the entire mound of folds once or twice before knotting off.

fabric covered button tutorial.stitch the folds

  • Knot and trim your thread. You may also want to trim down the fabric gathered at the back of your button. It’s cool to trim off any stray threads, but be careful not to snip through the securing stitches you’ve just made.
  • Drop a little fray check over the whole business for extra security. Buttons can take a lot of wear and handling over the lifetime of a garment, and this helps ensure our covers are secure enough to last.
  • That’s it! Look at that sweet little button!

fabric covered button tutorial.fray check

  • When attaching your buttons, check with a needle first to find out where your buttonholes are. I like to wiggle my needle around to open up the weave a bit and clearly mark the openings.
  • I used 3 plys of embroidery thread to attach my buttons. I made two passes through the fabric + button, then I wrapped the thread twice to make a shank before knotting off.

covered button tutorial.attaching buttons.jpg

  • I took the simple route and used self fabric for my buttons, but think of all the fun ways you could use this application! It could be cute to use a bit of your lining fabric to make a co-ordinated button. You could also use the wrong side of your self fabric to create a similar but different look for your buttons. Or imagine if you used a vintage silk scarf or repurposed the fabric from a stylish old tie?
  • It might also be a nice touch to tack your buttons down with French knots, instead of just a simple strand of thread.
  • Finally, you might want to make a spare button or two while you’re at it. It would be sad if, sometime in the future, you lost one of your couture buttons and no longer had access to the fabric you used to cover it.

fabric covered button tutorial.finished button!

I hope you’ve found this helpful, and please do let me know in the comments if you have any questions!

So, what do you think? Do these covered buttons look like something you might try on an upcoming project?

my ideal dress

my ideal dress//sewstylist.wordpress.com

It’s been a strange year in San Francisco. The glorious, warm, summery weather we typically expect to get no more than 2-3 weeks of down here Has Not Quit. Did I mention it’s been glorious? Glorious! Okay, I’ll calm down. But seriously, my closet was not prepared for all this (glorious!) sunshine. The heat would strike and I’d feel the need for a comfortable, easy to wear dress that was as feminine as it was sexy. Was I thinking I’d find the answer to my sartorial dreams in a vintage patten with a cover art model that looks like an extra out of a John Hughes film? Hmmm, nope. Can’t say that I was. Bad cover art be damned; when you make this dress up in something less visually arresting than peach+blue+yellow+plaid it kinda starts looking like a garment that would be equally at home on Audrey Hepburn or Bridgette Bardot. Right?

my ideal dress//sewstylist.wordpress.com

I came by Simplicity 7506 (circa 1986) when a member of my most excellent local sewing club brought a huge box of vintage patterns to giveaway at our last meet-up. I did have a moment of worrying over getting greedy around the free-vintage-pattern-awesomeness; fortunately the moment was brief. I’m not sure I realized when I nabbed this pattern that it was my dream dress. But The more I considered the elements of this dress—the full tea-length skirt, the princess seamed bodice, the button front, the pockets!—the more I started to feel the need to push all other sewing plans aside and proceed with making up this dress pronto. Friends, I’m so glad I did, because today was another glorious San Francisco summer day!

14475987493_3eb40a26e9_o

The lovely fullness of this skirt made it easy to chill at the park without worrying about showing my lady bits, and since I made it up in an easy wearing grey/black linen blend (that has been languishing in my stash for at least a year) I could be totally casual about sitting on the lawn, noshing on a sandwich. This turned out to be the perfect fabric choice for this dress. The linen has the body to hold up the fitted bodice, but still enough easy, breezy goodness to hang loose at the skirt.

14452472481_01d6eb7f25_o

I lined the bodice with a light weight rayon twill I had leftover from another project. This not only feels great against my skin, it also provides the opaqueness I needed up top. In other finishing news, I pinked all the seams because I really love the vintage look this gives and also because it’s a light weight, flexible way to finish a seam, which made it a good treatment for this light, flowing skirt.

14269221480_4684e75ef0_o

I used my rolled hem foot to finish the hem. Now I’ve gotta tell you, I’ve never had a rolled hem turn out this good! I’m not sure if the difference was me or the fabric… I’m thinking it was the fabric as usually I try to use that foot on silk, and the whole endeavor makes me want to cry. Things went so well this time I’m inspired to try using that little foot more often.

14454481452_45bd3fed74_oSpeaking of developing new skills, this dress marks the first time I’ve made spaghetti straps and that’s also my first button placket! I used Jen @ Grainline Studio’s method for turning the straps, as witnessed on her Instagram feed. Getting those suckers started was tough going, but once you’ve got that first inch or so turned the rest is a breeze. As for the button placket, I stuck pretty closely to the pattern instructions. Only change was stitching in the ditch to get the backside tacked down instead of doing that by hand. I did tack the lining down by hand, but it seemed like the placket should be as sturdy as possible. It came out looking clean, so I’m happy.
14269545089_7aa4c36469_oYou can also see in this pic that I made my own fabric covered buttons to match the dress. I got a bag of about a hundred little buttons at the thrift store, and covering them was a good way to uh, raise their profile a bit. They were fun to make and add a special, handcrafted touch to the dress, I think. Once I had the dress on I saw that buttons alone do not a fully closed dress make… Er, which is to say there was some major gappage happening in the in-between areas. If I make this dress again (and right now I’m thinking there’s a good chance I will do) I’ll probably add just a wee bit more ease into the bodice, which may or may not help with the gappage. But for this round I added the hook + bars you see above & problem solved!

14454456372_5864789c92_oYou know how sometimes you try on something you made for the first time and can’t help but let out a little squeal of joy? This was totally one of those times. I’m in love with this dress, you guys! My closet finally has the perfect dress for strolling, park sitting, barbecuing and cocktail sipping so long as SF wants to keep all this glorious weather coming!

sound & vision: june mood

I’m back this month with another music mix. Because the music is all about capturing a mood, I figured I’d start including a mini mood board with these posts to ground some of what I’m thinking about and feeling in sound & vision. I really have fun putting these posts together and hope you enjoy it too! And for those of you who primarily stop by this blog for sewing related news, fret not! I’ll be back in a day or a few to post some of what I’ve been up to.

JuneMoodBoard

photo credits: wolf rules, loners, black suede boots, black swansdramatic neutrals,

gold tip & half moon manicure (from tadashi shoji, fall 2014)