Sound & Vision: Summertime Rolls

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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?

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[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]

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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

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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.

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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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

i made this: Simple Silk Shirt

The other night I was toiling away in our sewing room, when my housemate paused outside the open door to say, “Oh, are you sewing?” To which I groaned in reply. Actually groaned, like, “Uugggh.” May have also rolled my eyes. I was in a state because the answer to Housemate’s innocent question was no, I was not sewing. Instead I was re-working, for the umpteenth time, a pattern that I really, really wanted to be sewing. But instead I had put a stupid amount of work into tweaking the pattern, this way and that; I was basically redrafting the thing!

Housemate tried again: “So…you’re working on your coat?”

“Sort of.”

“Okay, cool.”

But it was not cool, which is why I said, “Well. There’s not much joy in it at this point.”

Sure, after reading today on Lauren’s blog that she worked through SIX muslins in order to complete her latest make, I feel like a baby admitting I was pouty after only 2.5 muslins, but I totally was. When this convo with Housemate caused me to realize I was no longer having fun with it, I officially put that project aside. Then I needed a brief time out. But before the day was out I returned to the sewing room. (How lucky am I to have a sewing room?! So lucky.) There I launched a fun project to counteract some of the ill-effects of that  boo-boo pattern that I’ll probably not be using. Like, ever.

photo 11This project was super fun to make! Let me tell you why. First off, it took me the length of Howl, the movie, plus 1/2 of Iron Lady (I ❤ Meryl), to prep my fabric for cutting, cut it, French seam the shoulders & side seams, then press & pin the neckline and sleeve hems in preparation for hand sewing. And then there was hand sewing! SILK! That was fun. All told, the Simple Shirt came together in something like four hours.

photo 22The fabric is some that I’ve been hoarding for over a year now. I purchased it on a trip to San Francisco, back when I was living in Oregon. As I am now living in San Francisco, it seemed high time I take the lovely silk out of hiding and figure a way to get it on my body. The fabric is the most lovely dusty-greyish-mauvey color, and I washed it to take down some of the shine, which brought out a more crepey texture in the fabric.

photo 1The pattern was drafted using the rub-off technique on a favorite shirt from my closet. Lots of sewist around the blogosphere have been talking about their desire to sew more wearable clothes, and I think copying the clothes you know you love to wear is a great way to achieve this. I read about the basic procedure in Steffani Lincecum’s book, Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit. Craftsy also has a couple courses on the subject. There’s a few different methods you might use to get the basic information from your garment onto paper. Once you have that, you need to know some drafting basics to get you from tracing to pattern. It’s a fairly straight forward process, at least with something as simple as this shirt! I’m excited to try again with something a bit more complex. This original garment was purchased at a fast-fashion shop and made of a totally decent rayon. Needless to say, silk > rayon.

photo 4Here’s me basking in the joy of being swathed in silk…. I’ve got the shirt layered over a silk tank dress I bought some years ago. It’s super cosy, but a little more revealing up top than is ideal on the average day. Layering my new shirt over it was just the thing! You know you’ve made a good addition to your closet when the new item is not only wearable in and of itself, but also makes the things you already own more wearable!

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And finally, there’s this: I had a bit of a camera malfunction when I went out shooting. As a result, I ended up shooting video. So I took the opportunity to mess around with iMovie and came up with this clip below. It’s dorky, and I won’t be winning any Oscars for my editing skills! But I made it and figure there’s no harm in sharing. If nothing else, it does a great job communicating just how glorious silk can be!

Have you ever sewn with silk? This was my first time, and now I can’t wait to try again!

Music for: Walking in the Rain

imagesHere in California we’re still hoping for more rain this winter, a lot more. So the other night, as I walked to my friend’s house for dinner, when I got caught in a brief downpour it put a smile on my face. I didn’t get wet enough to put a damper on things (wink*), and the experience of walking through the rain with music coming through my earphones was sort of sexy and cinematic. I’ve tried to bottle that lush and mellow feeling and send it off to you in the form of this month’s mixtape. Enjoy.

thinking about my core style

wardrobecollage3wardrobecollage2Over at the Coletterie Sarai has been hosting a project she’s calling: Wardrobe Architect. The idea is to put some time and thought into designing a wardrobe that suits and services the person you truly are. You can learn more about the project here. I love thinking and talking about clothes, so of course I was excited when this launched! While I certainly consider myself to be someone with a distinctive vision for how I want to present myself to the world, it’s also true that I have at times (honestly: many, many times) made wardrobe choices that were more inspired by whim than by some deep sense of what works best for my personality and lifestyle. The way we present ourselves to the world has the power to inform and influence the way we are perceived, and as I get older I feel an ever increasing desire to have more focus and intention around all this. Not so much because I find myself caring more about what people think about me, but because I have a stronger sense of myself and I want to support and communicate that. It is my hope that working through some of the exercises Sarai has created for the Wardrobe Architect project will help me pursue this, and I thought sharing what I come up with here would be fun.

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This week I’m using this worksheet for exercise 2: Uncover the styles that make you feel like yourself and attach words and images to them.

When you are wearing your favorite clothing, how do you feel (e.g. confident, sexy,
poised, powerful, etc)?

My favorite clothes make me feel feminine, womanly, at ease, individual, warm enough (this is huge for me!), sensual, interesting, maybe a little romantic, and definitely a little tough, or you know: bad-ass. If I’ve got all that going for me then I’m sure to feel confident too. Feeling sexy for me is about feeling all of these other things…I can’t say it’s a feeling on it’s own; it’s the sum of the good-feelings equation.

When you’re wearing something that is not quite right, how do you feel? What are the
feelings you want to avoid about the clothes you wear?

The first word that comes to mind is fussy. I don’t want to have to tug, pull at, or mess around with my clothes too much. I want my clothes to work with me, not the other way around. I also don’t care for clothes that look or feel sweet, boring, sloppy, predictable, constrained, or itchy.

“I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.” -Gilda Radner

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Who do you consider to be your style icons? What is it about them that appeals to you?

This is a tricky one because most of the women whose fashion sense I admire I wouldn’t necessarily like to model myself after. I’m also a total fashion nerd, so I feel as if I could (and maybe should…) write an entire post for each of the many, many women who dress themselves in a way I find inspiring. Instead I pulled images of the women below not because I want to dress like them, but because I want to feel how they appear to feel in their skin…

When I was growing up I thought Lisa Bonet’s natural, bohemian style was the epitome of cool and sexy, still do.

While it’s hard for me to speak to a distinctive style that belongs to Diana Ross, I can easily recognize the style that is Diana Ross, and this picture embodies all that I love about it: confident, unexpectedly glamourous, soulful, and damn sexy.

Everything about Lupita Nyong’o is gorgeous. It’s undeniable, and that is revolutionary. I like my style with a side of subtle subversion.

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Sure, maybe Cher has gotten a little strange over the years, but whenever I see photos of her in the 70’s I’m like: Yes! The epic hair, the even more epic nails, the high waisted jeans, it all speaks of a feminine fierceness I can get behind.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s life and art are an inspiration. Looking at her in this image only confirms what we know already: This woman was earthy and intelligent, creative and talented, and she lived life her way. I’d wear that.

Meryl Streep is outrageously gorgeous in a way that is totally her own. She seems completely at home in her own skin, and this makes her sexy in a way that speaks of intelligence and dynamism.

Debbie Harry embodies the bad-ass, rock & roll, lady-chic vibe that I love. I’d like to feel as cool as she looks in this photo everyday.

Angelica Houston is another smart, sexy, womanly-woman who has redefined what it means to be feminine and beautiful by imbuing it with something mysterious, unexpected, and uniquely her own.

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What are some words that describe styles that you like in theory, but are not quite you?

I am seriously drawn to drama, and while I imagine I’m willing to go a bit more dramatic than many, at the end of the day I feel most comfortable when people see me before me clothes. I’m also discovering that I’m not as into colorful clothing as I’d hoped I could be.

Thinking about words the do describe my style yields:

Comfy

Luxurious

Easy-going

Modern

Timeless

Interesting

Thoughtful

Livable

Earthy

Warm

Sensual

Touchable

Inviting

Special

Edgy

Uncomplicated

Sophisticated

Unexpected

Intriguing

Rugged

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And if I were forced to narrow this list down… I’d go with: 

Uncomplicated

Interesting

Timeless

Sensual

Edgy

The pics I pulled for this post embody what all that means to me. Have you checked out the Wardrobe Architect project or spent much time thinking about how you would define your core style?

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music for: Lovers

Follow Your HeartThis month I’ve put together another playlist full of the music I’m loving right now. It’s Music for Lovers, and I offer it up along with the gentle reminder that love is something you can (and should!) send in all  directions, not just toward a romantic partner. I hope you enjoy some of this music as much as I do. Listen while doing or being with someone or something you love! xo.ebony

it’s in the bag: Grainline’s Portside Duffle

I recently moved back to San Francisco after a three year hiatus, and exactly one month after my arrival one of my best friends announced she was moving from SF to LA. It was a happy/sad moment because she was moving in order to accept her dream job, and I’ve seriously never seen her as happy as she has been since taking this leap. Needless to say, her move also provides a great excuse for me to travel down to visit her and her fun new town, which I did for the first time this past November. Of course, I like to travel in style: intro the Grainline Portside Duffle!

Portside Duffle

I’m a fan of all the Grainline Studio patterns I’ve tried, and this one is no exception. The instructions were really clear, and after just a little effort on my part to hunt down the sort of hardware I envisioned (found at Britex!) the pattern came together really quickly. Admittedly, I was on deadline; I needed to pack the finished bag for my trip! I was in LA for a long, four day weekend, and was able to pack all the necessities (plus two pairs of shoes, of course) into this perfectly sized beauty. During my travels I got not one, not two, but three unsolicited compliments on my bag. It seems everyone is on the lookout for travel gear that isn’t made out of cruddy and unattractive nylon.

Portside Duffle1 The only change I made from what’s stated in the pattern was using the wide 1 1/2″ webbing for both my handles and the over the shoulder adjustable strap. This makes sense because you don’t have to fuss with finding matching webbing (which I actually found to be kind of difficult), and I think wider straps are more comfortable. I also did my adjustable strap just a little differently.

Portside Duffle innards

This time around I used a heavyweight denim for the contrast fabric, and lighter weight green denim for the main body. The green denim actually has a really cool design on it, but it’s difficult to see in these photos. If I make this again (and I think I may because 1: It was super fun to put together & 2: I’ve had some birthday requests from friends) I would try to find a way to sew the lining in by machine. I lined my bag with a light canvas in pale blue—pulled from the stash. I generally love hand stitching, but this was a little tough on my fingers. I’d also like to add a zipper pocket to the lining. (But maybe this felt more necessary because I didn’t have time to make up the awesome travel pouch and dopp kit that come with the pattern…)

All in all, I’m really proud of how well this bag turned out! It was especially rewarding to sew something so utilitarian. Have any of you experimented with bag making?