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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?” 

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

my ideal dress

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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?

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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!