Autumn 2016 Inspiration

It’s fall, y’all! I hereby join the legions of basic bitches everywhere by proclaiming my dirty secret…I love fall.  Like pug dogs and snowmen, I am not a creature that was built for the heat of summer. Give me a boot and a crisp morning and a ripe apple and a whiff of heatdeath in the smell of rotting leaves, and I am one happy camper (though I swear a drop of pumpkin spice latte has never passed my lips).

With a change in the seasons comes a universal kerfuffle as sewists, overplanners, and fashionistas everywhere get out their Moleskines to begin obsessively planning their autumn/winter wardrobe. Since I’m currently entering a season of less (follow me on instagram to keep up with my musings on minimalism and using what I already have), and since I have plenty of planned makes from last winter that I never got around to, I’m focusing less on physical garments and more on my mood (or mewd, if we’re being sassy) and inspiration for my styling.

After wrestling with it for a while, I finally figured out my main fashion inspiration– I’ve always hovered a little between modern tomboy and vintagey quirk, and could never figure out the perfect meeting between the two, until a friend told me my haircut was “very French New Wave.” Yes, I admit it…my main fashion inspiration for the colder months is a Jean-Luc Godard heroine. Cliche, maybe, but it’s everything I like, especially for the colder months. Clean lines, not overly fussy or ladylike, but still definitely female, interesting subtle prints combined with a good crew neck sweater, and Chantal Goya’s Ultimate Bangs of Dreams (patent pending). 60’s France also really knew its way around quality knitwear, boots, and menswear-inspired overcoats.

Peep a small collection from my massive pinterest board of Godard heroines below.

(PS- For what it’s worth, I don’t condone smoking. These movies just have a lot of cigarettes in them. I’m sorry!)

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Adulthood Hacks: Garment Care Basics

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One of the things that made me realize I was becoming a real grown-up, rather than a panicked 23-year-old pretending to be one, was when I bought some leather conditioner and decided I was going to start taking better care of my shoes.

Taking care of your clothes will prolong their life, get you more for your money and effort, and keep things looking new and fresh for much longer than otherwise.  Especially if you are into minimalism or ethical fashion, it really makes sense to spend some time caring for the things you’ve so so thoughtfully purhased. Why spend $200 on a sweater, just to have it get misshapen in the wash or have to throw it out because it gets pilly? Keep your things looking nice for longer, and you’ll have less of a negative impact on the environment and spend less money because you won’t have To replace things so frequently! Win-win!

Below are some items I use to keep my clothes well-maintained.

Laundry Things

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This one is kind of a no-brainer. Find a detergent you like, and wash your things when they are dirty and smelly. Turn jeans inside out to keep them from fading. Zip up all zippers before you throw them in the wash- zipper teeth act like tiny cheese graters on your clothes!

However, don’t wash your clothes unless they need it. My general rule is that unless the clothes smell bad, have gunk on them, or have stretched out of shape, you don’t need to wash them. I know that sounds gross, but you probably just need to air them out, give them a little shake, and hang them back up. Washing clothes wears them out a tiny bit every time and uses a lot of water and power. It’s better for your clothes and for the planet to only wash when absolutely necessary. Also, I would recommend hanging to dry for the same reason. This drying rack is pretty lit, and saves you a bunch of quarters if you live in an aparment without a washer-dryer, like me.

Get yourself a stain remover. I am a big fan of anything that can be labelled a “stain stick.” If you were anything like me as a child, your mother carried one of these around any time you went anywhere, for when you inevitably got something on your clothes. Get this stuff on stains right away- you don’t need to actually wash it right away, and the stain will wash out (or at least most of it will wash out) when you wash it later. If the stain doesn’t wash out the first time, reapply the stain stick and wash it again! DO NOT put it In the dryer- that just locks the stain in.

Oxi-Clean is more heavy-duty. I use a very diluted solution of this in water to soak vintage garments in, if I don’t want to just pop them in the wash (and with vintage, most of the time I don’t).

I don’t use bleach- I find it too harsh and it will eat through fabric if overused.

Shoe Care

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This one is the biggest game-changer for me.

Get this leather conditioner. GET IT. It’s not shoe polish, it’s a conditioner- it will buff out scuffs, restore dulled color, and generally hydrate the leather of your shoes to make them looking new. It’s less than $10 and you can get it on Amazon. I have a pair of black ballet flats that I have beaten to absolute shit– literally walked through six-inch puddles in them because I didn’t have a choice, thanks Chicago gutter system!- and this stuff brings them up to almost-new every single time. It also works on leather jackets and purses.

I save old tee shirts and knit fabric scraps to buff this in. It’s a great way to use up scraps.

I don’t have any suede shoes, but my boyfriend does, and he uses this Kiwi suede protecting spray about once a season to protect them from moisture. Suede needs a little extra pampering in general.

Knitwear

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Eucalan! This is a detergent that has lanolin in it, which is good for wool sweaters and will help keep them looking new for longer. Especially if you are spending a small fortune on cashmere, merino, or alpaca, you want to keep that shit looking nice for as long as possible! The key is to handwash and flat dry with Eucalan.

You only need a tiny bit in a sink full of lukewarm water.Soak the sweater for a while– I think you only need 20 minutes, but I usually forget and walk away and leave it for a few hours. Agitate it a tiny bit in the water if you want to, but DON’T scrub it- that will mess up the yarn fibers- almost like teasing your hair. Remove it once you’re satisfied, and gently squeeze it dry. Then LAY IT OUT FLAT on either a drying rack or a bunch of folded towels. It is going to take your sweater so long to dry- be prepared. What you DON’T want to do is hang the sweater. NEVER HANG YOUR KNITWEAR. When drying or just for storage- knits are made to be stretchy by design, so it always baffles me when I see that people have hung up sweaters and tee shirts in their closet. Do you WANT weirdly stretched out cashmere? Someone please explain to me why people do this.

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Also, get yourself a fabric shaver. They’re tiny and not too expensive (like most things on this list! None of it is super pricey but all will change your clothing life), but if you take it to your sweaters or hats or anything that has a tendency to get a little pilly twice a year they’ll end up looking good as new. It takes about as long as an episode of Stranger Things to get through two or three sweaters. What are you waiting for?

Ironing

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If you are the kind of person who cares about perfectly crisp, ironed clothing, get some of this natural spray starch. You can also make your own. But this stuff gets your clothing CRISP AF. It won’t wear off until you get it wet again. Highly recommend.

Lint Roller

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Everyone has a lint roller but on the off-chance you don’t, get one! No one likes to be linty. Also sometimes you can put off washing something for an extra day or two if you lint roll it.

 

 

 

Shibori Plantain Dress

imageAs soon as I picked up this Shibori bamboo jersey at Fancy Tiger Crafts in July, I knew I was gonna make a teeshirt dress. Originally I went in there wanting a piece of fancy jersey to make a wrap dress for work, but then I saw this and had my heart set. I think a tie-dye wrap dress has the potential to either be super cool or not-quite-right, and with a piece of fabric that I love so much, I didn’t want to risk a mismatch of pattern to fabric and end up with something that I wasn’t going to wear.

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I thought about making a skater dress with a low back and short sleeves, a sort of Nettie-Ballet Dress like last time, but again, I feel like the fabric itself almost demands a very specific type of garment, so in the end I went with the grown up big sister of the classic tie-dye teeshirt, the teeshirt DRESS.

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I returned to the lengthened and flared Plantain pattern that I’ve already used this year to make my Breton tunic. I cut on the short sleeves and put this together over the course of the weekend. This stuff washed and handled like a damn dream, and I wore it to work on Monday and got three compliments!

 

 

 

 

Sewing the Trends?

So recently I got a hankering for one of those off the shoulder Bardot-style tops.  You know the ones….they’re the ones literally everyone has this season:

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(i stole this screenshot off instagram but obviously credit goes to the hilarious jooleeloren)

However, I ran into a problem…how to get one ethically.

Normally, the solution would be just sew your own, right?  That’s the beauty of sewing! You can whip up anything you want, in any color and style you want, perfectly fitted to you! You want Pegasus print harem pants! Boom! You got it! You want a perfectly fitted shell pink vintage Chanel-style suit? Go for it, kid!

But here’s the thing…I hate sewing “trendy” items, yet I like being trendy. What’s a girl to do?

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image source: verypurpleperson blog

I love clothes, and I like to keep up with trends. I don’t necessarily follow every single trend verbatim, but I really enjoy a fresh new perspective or a changing silhouette. I also flatter myself that I’m able to pick a big trend out a few years before Topshop and Zara and the like really pick up on it and make it huge, but maybe that’s me being a little self-important, hah!

However, I also really love basics. I love the idea of a minimalist capsule wardrobe, of a few insanely perfect and high quality pieces.  When I sew, it’s normally something to fulfill a wardrobe need (more tops for work! a wrap dress for meetings! a cocktail dress for a wedding! a cardigan to work into my wardrobe rotation!) and I like to try to take my time to feel like I’m putting the effort into something that I will wear all the time. I irks me to spend a lot of time on something and wear it only a handful of times (which is why I always get super irritated with my wedding dress projects halfway through). So sewing a Bardot-type had about as much appeal to me as pulling out my teeth. I’d much rather stitch up a sensible teeshirt dress I can wear all the time and pay someone ELSE to make me my Bardot top!

Historically, I will fall in love with a trend a few seasons early, doubt if I “need” it in my wardrobe, dither for a while, decide that it goes against my “need vs. want” mentality, decide not to get it, obsess about it for a while, and finally decide to grab one at the same time the piece hits the H&M’s of the world and everyone else has it.

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I believe in voting with your dollars when it comes to ethical clothing, and most of the time, spending money on something like a silly frilly Bardot top vs. a sensible cashmere sweater just doesn’t make sense in my list of priorities. But lately I’ve been feeling bored with my wardrobe, and I wondered if getting rid of some of my more tired basic tees for a fresh new piece that I’d been eyeing up forever would freshen up my summer weekend wardrobe.

There are a ton of tutorials on the internet to DIY a top like this…apparently it is the easiest thing in the world. Also, StyleArc has a really nice pattern for this kind of top.

I just really didn’t want to sew it. I rebelled! It would have taken less than an afternoon, but I have a chest of drawers full of fabric earmarked for other projects, and a pretty full sewing roster for the rest of the year that I am already slacking on! Purchasing an ethical option either revealed something not totally in the style I want, or something really crazy expensive for something I knew I could DIY myself…but just didn’t want to.

So what’s a girl to do? Vintage!

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I found some really nice options on Etsy…I remember when Etsy first came on the scene when I was in college, and it continues to impress me with its really nice selection of curated vintage shops (ebay would probably be a good option too, but I have to be in the right sort of mood to trawl through endless pages of search results in search of the perfect piece).

So there you go. In the quest for the perfect minimal workhorse wardrobe, is there still room for trendy pieces? I used to think no, but now I’m rethinking my formerly Spartan ways. Maybe I’ll never be a true minimalist!

What about you? Do you like to sew quick, trendy pieces, or do you stick to boring essential like me and buy your trends from someone else?

 

Fabric Haul!

Sooooo I was on a really strict fabric and stash diet this year. I feel like I’m always chasing zero…the perfect minimalism of a small stash, a few well-loved patterns, a collection that can fit into a shoe box. I had a whole plan for how to use everything this year, but then I went on vacation!

Sean and I just got back from a glorious long weekend in Denver. I swear I did NOT book our airbnb less than a mile away from Fancy Tiger on purpose… But with it so close, how could I not take a peek?

You don’t need me to tell you that Fancy Tiger is gorgeous and amazing with a crazy selection, do you?! Sean was game and poked around with me for a little bit before heading to a brewery, but he did ask me if I would buy him a needle-felted turnip kit, so we’ll see if he has a new hobby!

Here’s all the stuff I bought…I did some damage fast, but I figure as long as I have a plan for it all, it’s okay, right?

1) Shibori Bamboo Jersey

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i scoped this stuff out on the website before I even hit the store! No lie, we shopped before we even hit the Airbnb, so I was manhandling bolts and dragging my suitcase around with a crazed look in my eye. There were a bunch of tie dye jerseys around that were all so beautiful, but this traditional Shibori style got to me right away.

I think I might make a simple knit dress…maybe a teeshirt style? In keeping with my goals from MMM16, I think I need something I can dress up for work but also wear to festivals and on weekends and stuff. I got the end of the bolt… 1.5 yards, but it’s really wide so I think I can squeeze it out.

2) Liberty Speckled Clouds

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This is my jammmmm. If I love anything it’s a nice abstract print on a dark black or blue background. It’s like Liberty made this for me. For me! I got two yards and I might make a day dress, like this Tea Dress that’s been made up all over Instagram lately. Two yards but Liberty is wide.

3) Liberty Rachel

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This is the opposite of my jam… I don’t go for light colors usually, and I almost never go for a small, defined floral. But something about it drew me, and Sean told me it was his favorite of all the ones I’d picked. That boy has good taste in fabric, and it’s always good to try something different, right?

This is the perfect summery fabric, and I think I want to eke a shirtdress out of it. I have 2.13 yards (end of the bolt again!), which might not be quite enough for my go-to shirtdress pattern, but I think with some clever cutting and pattern layout I can make it work.

So there we go! I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew!

Urban Gardening for Beginners

Being self-sufficient and learning all the time is a really important to me.  Not only do I like to sew things, but in recent years, I’ve gotten pretty into gardening, too. I noticed that a lot of other sewists garden, and I love reading those posts! However, I live in a rented city apartment and always have– not always the easiest setup for gardening! I thought maybe I would talk a little about the various urban gardening setups I’ve had before, how they worked and what I’ve learned!

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YEAR ONE: Shared space container gardening

When Sean and I lived in Buffalo and I first became interested in gardening, we lived in a first-floor unit with a small porch and a shared yard with some other units. I got a lot of books out of the library on container gardening– there was no way any landlord would ever be open to us digging into the ground to plant (nor would the soil have been suitable! New York soil is rocky AF), and building a raised bed is a big commitment for  place that you’re renting.

I don’t have any photos from this time (all these photos are from my garden this year), but I had six tomatoes that I started from seed set up in pots in the sunny part of the yard, and some kale and lettuce in pots off the porch which was shadier.

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I started all my seeds (which I purchased from Baker Creek) indoors and babied the hell out of them, so my seedlings were really healthy and strong– I had to give a ton of tomato seedlings away! They did okay once I transplanted them to pots, but not amazing. The kale barely did anything– I think I got a leaf or two off of it. In retrospect, I kept it too shaded. The did alright but got kind of buggy and grossed me out.

Then, in the end of August, we moved to Buffalo and ended up having to big up and throw away all the plants before we even got a single tomato off of them. Poor planning! It broke my heart and I vowed to never pour so much energy into tomatoes again.

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YEAR TWO: Shared space rooftop gardening

Our new apartment in Chicago had a huge roof deck with a ton of direct light. I had all the pots and some fertilizer left over from the year before, which made the initial financial investment from the year before sting a little less (big pots at $5 each add up!). I tried to start my seeds in the window, but I had no luck.  I ended up just direct sowing chard, kale, and lettuce. Sean went out and bought seedlings of tomatoes, peppers and squash. After my fiasco the year before, I basically snorted and said “good luck.”

The verdict? My leafy greens did amazingly well and finally being able to harvest from all my labors was amazing. The tomatoes and peppers did okay, much to my chagrin. The squash did badly, which I had expected. Squash needs room to spread out!

The downside? All that direct light and heat might have been appealing to the plants (plus the roof top meant no rats or squirrels), but also made it appealing to the other people who lived in the building. Many times we would go upstairs to water and find the plants knocked over in the aftermath of a party. Also, carrying pitchers of water up and down the stairs to the roof was a headache.

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YEAR THREE: Shared space rooftop gardening

Much the same as Year Two, except that we once again moved in the end of August and ended up scrapping some plants before they hit their growing season. We ate plenty of greens, but everything else suffered.

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YEAR FOUR: Community garden plot

This year! This year so far has been a game changer for us.

Our new apartment has no roof deck, no porch, no lawn, no outdoor space at all. I had resigned myself to not having a garden this year at all, until Sean found the Peterson Garden Project, which organizes “pop up victory gardens” on vacant lots in Chicago. For less than $75 a season, you can rent a 4×8′ raised bed, which in my opinion is more than plenty for your average hobby gardener.

So far, I am loving the community garden best of all the gardening options we have tried. Firstly, we have way more space. It is just convenient to have everything planted in one spot, rather than scattered in a million pots. Also, a raised bed enables you to build a trellis and other cool things which expand your planting options (this year s the first that I’ve been able to have pole beans, for example). Additionally, a community garden is jut that– a community! Our garden has tons of people with different skill levels, ages, and backgrounds, but they are all very friendly and love to swap tips and chat! People share tools, seedlings, fertilizer, and offer to water for each other if someone is going out of town.

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So, TL;DR- here are my tips!

  • Do your research! Go to the library and the internet– look up what grows well in your area, how long your growing period lasts for, when your frost dates are. Also look up gardening basics– any library will have a large gardening section. I didn’t know a thing when I first started. I just took out books and took lots of notes.
  • Also research nurseries and seed companies– I prefer organic and heirloom, but no matter what you pick, you’re going to want a vendor with a solid reputation and a knowledgeable staff. Nothing worse than wasting money on seedlings with blight.
  • Some people say start small, but I’m not into that. If you hate lettuce, you’re not going to be thrilled to eat it, no matter how fast and easy it is to grow (this is me to a tee). Grow what you want to eat!
  • I would highly, highly recommend finding a community garden in your city! Sean found ours just by googling “community garden Chicago.” You never know what you’ll find! Our garden is a pretty established and organized non-profit, but a friend of ours found out that a church in his neighborhood had a more informal set up that he was welcome to join in with. Just ask!
  • Moving soon? Take this into consideration if you’re going to be planting some roots (yuk yuk). Don’t be like me, pulling up healthy tomato plants before they have a chance to fruit TWICE IN TWO YEARS.
  • Connect with other gardeners! Your mom, your grandma, your neighbor, your friends, a forum… half the fun of gardening is talking smack and trading tips with other gardeners! I swear, half the conversations I have with my dad these days are about my watermelon vines.
  • Eat what you grow! It makes everything so worthwhile and will remind you why you cared about this to begin with!
  • Allow yourself to feel smug! Gardening is good for the planet, greens up your space, connects you to the earth (look up forest bathing, the healing power of nature is a real thing), and gives you cheap access to plentiful organic foods!

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Vintage Vogue 1560

Oh. Boy. Guys. This latest project was a little overly ambitious and almost made me quit sewing altogether. Let’s delve, shall we?

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A few years ago, I was making a vintage pattern purchase on Etsy and I saw that the seller had this gem. It was gorgeous but decidedly not my size. I snapped it up anyway- it was less than $10, gorgeous, unlike anything else I had, and plus I have always had kind of a fangurly crush on Edith Head. I remember thinking, “By the time I make this, my skills will have expanded so I’ll just be able to grade this up!”

….

Uh.

Right, so. Flash forward to this year. I am on a mission to use every pattern in my collection, and I have a wedding coming up in early June. A perfect time to finally try the Edith Head pattern, I think to myself from the comfort of my planning notebook in January. I set aside all of May to work on the pattern and don’t think any more about it.

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(a deceptive photo in which the suffering this dress put me through is not apparent.)

For once, I pretty much kept to my schedule (I was only a week behind! That’s pretty good for me) and it’s a damn good thing I did because I was hemming this thing the night before our flight to North Carolina for the wedding.

So, here’s the thing. Grading up a pattern is one thing. Grading up a pattern where the bodice is essentially just bra cups with a skirt attached is a totally different thing when the pattern for the bodice measures 32.5″ and your bust is a 36″.

I started with underwear. I purchased this, and would highly recommend it for anyone chesty who needs a reliable strapless, backless bra for a special occasion. It fit me like a glove and had the added benefit of foam cups so intense that they stood up on their own, meaning that I could (and did) use my strapless bra as a dress form while fitting this mess to myself.

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(Original piece on left, final product on right)

I ended up slicing and dicing the bra cup pattern to expand it out- I added 2″ per cup in width, and 1.5″ in height. I then retraced and paper basted a million times, pinching out and adding bits here and there. I wish I could give a better explanation of what I did, but I basically just freehand drew in bits where I needed more coverage and folded out the excess, and then traced a new cup piece and tried it all over again.

When I was satisfied I had a cup that could both fit me and come up high enough to cover the strapless bra, I tackled the skirt, which thankfully was just a really easy, flowy, uncomplicated shape. However, I had to redraw the curve where the bra cup fit into the skirt, because I had totally changed it. I slashed each front skirt piece down the middle widened them by 2″, the same amount I’d widened the bra cup by. Then I drew on a curve based on the crumply paper bra cup I had, found it didn’t work, redrew it based on the actual bra cup instead, and then tinkered with that until it was perfect. Then I redrew all the facings to match.

(Throughout all this, I preserved the back of the dress as it was. and it worked out fine as you can see here.)

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At this point, I was thinking that it would have been easier just to drape my own damn ball down.

Finally, contented from my number paper pin-fittings and muslins of the bra cups, I cut into my fashion fabric, a gorgeous eggplant rayon challis from Vogue Fabrics in Evanston. I was eyeing up a silk in a really similar color in the shop but luckily my friend Megan, who I was with, found this rayon in exactly the same color and said, “If you’re worried about fucking it up, doesn’t it make sense to spend less money?”

Yes, yes it does. I will use $17/yard silk to make a basic tank top but if I’m making something I’m gonna wear once, give me all the $2.99 rayon you have please. Am I the only person who buys fabric this way?

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I sewed up the dress, inserting a simple invisible zip in the back and going through two extra-sharp needles (the first one dulled and caused snags so bad that I thought I was going to have to cut new pieces, thank god for steam irons amirite) while doing so, and setting in one cup and then ripping it out and resetting it. I have a new appreciation of concave and convex edges after doing this project, let me tell you!

Finally, I tried it on for fit and while the cups fit from top to bottom and covered the strapless bra, which was what I was most worried about, they gapped massively at the sides. Massively! I wanted to cry. At this point it was only two nights before we flew out and I could not face the prospect of redrafting everything. My boyfriend helpfully suggested that maybe I could wear one of the many other dresses I own but at this point I was POT. COMMITTED.

This, my friends, was when I said fuck it. Fuck it! Do you ever get to a point in a project where you have just had it? You don’t care anymore if it’s perfect, you don’t care if prints match up, you start squinting at flaws to see how noticeable they really are and talk out loud to yourself a lot about the shitty quality of even the nicest RTW, and how anything you make has got to be better quality than some polyester ATROCITY from fucking J CREW, right?!

So I just pinched up the excess into two MASSIVE “darts.” I didn’t even take particular care to line them up or make them even. I stitched, I steamed down, I adhered the straps and the facing and hemmed the damn thing and by the time  was done I hated it so much that I wasn’t sure I would wear it after all. I packed a black slip dress to match my soul/mood about dresses in general and set out. I also packed a bunch of safety pins in case the whole damn thing fell apart on me because I wasn’t sure it wouldn’t at that point.

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But on the day of the wedding itself, after ironing it in a fancy hotel room and doing my makeup and safety pinning the parts where the bra was still peeking through and taking some twirly photos, I felt way better about it. And you know what? I got ten thousand compliments on this fucking dress. I felt like a million dollars. People could not believe it. And, best of all, my friend Mike told me that I looked like the “cha cha lady emoji.” So what more could you really want in life?

But seriously next time I buy a pattern that needs the bodice graded up four inches someone tell me not to, okay?

 

Things I Learned From #memademay

IMG_4399So this actually wasn’t my first rodeo with Me Made May. Two years ago, the first year I ever lived in Chicago, I gave it a stab and made it all the way through. However, my wardrobe and skills weren’t then what they are now and I ended up repeating a lot of pieces and finding a lot of things I didn’t like the fit of or weren’t happy with. Afterwards, I did a big wardrobe purge, letting go of some me-mades I didn’t like but was holding onto just because I’d made them myself.  I also focused on making more high-quality pieces that I could wear to my office job that made me feel polished, tested my skills, fit well, and weren’t just teeshirts.

And I’m happy to say, I accomplished that! I repeated a few items this year, but they were mostly my workhorse black skirt and a few teeshirts, which I’m happy with. I didn’t feel stale or stagnant and I had way more hits than total misses.

Mostly this month, I found myself focusing more than anything else on whether I thought I looked good, the outfit’s appropriateness for my job, and whether I felt like “me” in it.

I mentioned in a previous post that I work in non-profit fundraising at an organization that handles some really sensitive legal cases, and I’m the first person people see when they walk in the door. The dress code is not strict by any means (the employee handbook says, “use good judgement” and that’s about as specific as it gets), but I personally want to make sure every client we see feels comfortable when they see me, and feels that I represent a group they can trust to serve them with professionalism and skill.  So while I’m not wearing suits every day, I’m still trying to figure out what the right balance is for me (it’s a relatively new job that I LOVE). So, is a Breton tunic okay? Funky vintage jeans, even on a casual Friday? How much do flat shoes de-sex an outfit? How short of a skirt is too short?

I also feel that I am zeroing in on my personal style and I feel more like myself than not. However, there are some things that didn’t totally gel or mesh that I need to think about more- the individual pieces themselves I’m all happy with, but I need to think more about how I style them. Something to work on!

 

I’ve basically determined that I am all set on the work clothes front. I have skirts and blouses, sweaters for the winter and some trousers that I like and have a lot of success mixing and matching. The one area where I felt bleh this month (and in direct contrast two two years ago, may I add!) was my weekend wear! I found myself pairing the same few teeshirts with jeans every day, and I was bored stiff.  I think this means I did too good of a job working on my quality work pieces over the past two years!

So I’ve determined that my new focus is to make some more cooler, fun, versatile pieces for wear on the weekend. If these things can be mixed into my work wardrobe, awesome! But I’m not focusing on work first anymore because that’s no longer a wardrobe hole that I still have. Talk about a constantly flowing wardrobe!

My next few pieces up on the docket are the green maxi, red blouse, and Rosari skirt that I already had planned. I think, however, that I can incorporate two of these three pieces into my weekend wardrobe with ease.

 

 

 

#memademay week 4

Day 23

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UGH THIS DRESS. Guys this dress is a huge struggle for me. I want to love it so hard. I love the fabric. I love the pattern (a vintage 90’s romper/shirtdress combo joint). But they were the worst combo. Rookie mistake! This fabric is a really unique textured cotton but it is THICK. Too thick for all these gathers and the floaty shape! I want to remake this someday in a lawn or a challis- I think it would give it a totally different feel! I don’t hate this dress, but I don’t wear it a lot. I save it for the Monday after a long weekend when I’ve kind of overdone it and want to give my waistline some time to bounce back after too much beer and pizza or whatnot. This fabric would have been great as a pleated skirt with some nice structure. Oh well. You live and learn.

Grade: C. Could be an A if remade to be…..totally different.

Day 24

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Womp womp. This skirt is identical to the lawn elastic waist skirt I wore on Day 10, but the difference is I paired that one with a tight sweater that gave me a waist. I was still feeling a little zaftig after my parents’ visitation and didn’t put a ton of work into this look– you could say  I wasn’t feelin’ myself this day, and it kind of shows.

Grade: C. Could have been an A if I’d put in every a little effort but I didn’t. Not the skirt’s fault. It deserves better!

Day 25

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I love this abstract print tank top so, so hard but it comes across kind of mumsy with these trousers.

Grade: C. I DID NOT DO WELL THIS WEEK. I’m not sure what was wrong with me, but I was due for an upswing. These slacks are some of my favorite- I feel very Grown Ass Lady in them and I like that they are linen, which is great in the summer, but with my awkwardly growing out hair (which looks kind of like a mom cut here let’s get real) the general aesthetic is a little too high-school art teacher.

Day 26

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Okay, we’re starting to get back to it! This is a THIRD variation of that simple elastic-waist skirt pattern. This is actually the first thing I made when I started sewing. It’s a cotton-poly linen blend from Joann, of all places! It just goes to show my fabric taste was always good, even when my skills weren’t! The proportions of this outfit are much better than earlier in the week. I felt cut and professional and suitably summery. (It was HOT this day!)

Grade: B+! So much better than earlier in the week. Still not one of my absolute favorite looks, but I felt cute and flattering and appropriate.

Day 27

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I love this leotard but it felt a little Flashdance for the office (I know I talk about work appropriateness a lot so maybe it would be good to clarify- I work a legal non profit that handles some really delicate cases, and I happen to be the person who sits at the front desk. My bosses are the nicest people of all time and would never say anything about an outfit other than to compliment it, but I personally always want to make sure that people who walk in feel comfortable around me and like they are walking into a professional space that can help them. Does that make sense?) Even still, I love this leotard and I always love casual Friday.

Grade: A- because I can’t figure out how okay a low back is.

Day 28

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This was a much better use of that abstract print silk tank! This thing is actually long enough to be a dress but I’ve never worn it that way. I think I might need to make more of these in pretty prints and flowy fabrics for summer. I wore this to go shopping with my friend and I was feeling sassy so I paired it with my middle finger necklace by Native Clutter.

Grade: A+. Perfect for weekends and realizing how versatile that top is!

Day 29

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I was in such a good mood this day! The weather was beautiful and I went for a run and messed around  in my community garden. Just a casual jeans and a tee for hanging out and drinking on patios.

Grade: A+. I mean can you really fuck up shorts and a stripey tee?

Day 30

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Ugh. I was having a tough day this day for a lot of reasons. (Drama, poor sleep, etc.) I tried to force myself out of it my going outside (weeded my whole garden plot), teaching myself a new thing (changing the tires on my bike), and then changing into comfies to sew in front of Hulu (currently watching Penny Dreadful and I am SO OBSESSED WITH IT OHMYGOD). Did the trick but did not look glamorous. You know what? I’m okay with that. Sometimes leggings are just leggings, you know?  (These are the Espresso leggings by Cake Patterns).

Grade: N/A.

Day 31

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Hey that’s today! This skirt is boring to everyone by this point but I wear it at least once a week, so I’m pleased with its representation this #memademay. This top is a Plantain– I made three at once, assembly-line style, two years ago, and this is the only one that’s survived. I like it! A fitting end to Me Made May. A workhorse polished work item topped with a casual but well-made an interesting item to bring it down a little so I don’t feel too stuffy. Weather appropriate. Colors I like. Well-fitting.

Grade: A+ Going out with a bang!

 

Stripes On Stripes On Stripes

More progress on my SS16 sewing plans!

So remember how I wanted to make a striped tee-shirt and boatneck tunic/dress for summer? Well, I did it!

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For the most part, these should have been simple projects. They’re literally the most basic knit shapes of all time and at this point I have made so many tee-shirts and tee-shirt adjacent things that I might be able to do it in my sleep.

However, stripes really throw everything for a loop.

First, there’s the issue of finding the right stripe. I wanted a classic skinny blue stripe on a white field and I really, really did not want a ponte. Ponte is easy to work with and very sturdy and all, but I wanted something drapier.  Also, ponte pills so easily (or at least all the ones I’ve worked with do) and that makes me absolutely insane. I stalked all of my usual online shopping haunts until I found this Ralph Lauren viscose jersey from Mood. I generally reallllly dislike jersey (too clingy, too thin, too finicky) but for what I was envisioning it was the right thing so I just sucked it up. I got three yards to make both the tee and the tunic because I figured why source two tricky, almost-perfect, unicorn fabrics when you can just buy the one, amirite?

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And then there’s the stripe matching! I don’t really fuck with pattern matching much because I 1) can’t be arsed 2) wear a lot of solids and big abstract florals, if we’re being honest. (And big abstract florals don’t particularly need to be matched because they’re abstract. Thus, my penchant for them.) But this stripe was pretty wide-spaced so stripe matching was a necessity in order for it to not look like total shit.

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This fabric was so wide that I was actually able to fold each edge in to the middle so that I had two folds to lay the pieces out on, which was a pain in the ass to pin but made lining up each side really easy.  I traced the blues stripe with pins all the way across and down the length of the three yards, which honestly took two full days of laying out and cutting on their own. I cut out all the pieces in one go and then I couldn’t even look at my pins or scissors for a while. Ugh.

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The top is the Sewaholic Renfrew with the scoop neck and short sleeves. I’ve made this pattern so many times at this point that I could do it in my sleep.  When I first started making this pattern, I used to grade from an 8 to a 2 to a 0 and add three inches in length to the hem because that was what I was into then- longer and tight. Now I just do an 8 in the bust to a 2 in the waist and hips and keep the original length. I don’t add the hem band to this and it comes up to just exactly the top of my jeans.  It’s perfect, just a different style than what I used to prefer. I really like the end result here.  It’s a simple tee but it’s smooth, airy, drapey, and exactly what I wanted. I’m already living in fear of spilling on this!

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I dithered a lot on what to do to get the perfect boat neck Breton tunic. There’s patterns out there, sure, but it seemed like a waste of money to buy a new pattern when I already have so many good knit blocks I like. For a while I debated doing yet another Nettie hack, making the Nettie dress but slashing and spreading the skirt to add volume, when I came across the Plantain in my stash. Of course! Why hadn’t I thought of it before?

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The Plantain is my go-to for drapey, billowy, tunic-y tees, so I simply traced a size 40 all over (usually I grade from a 40 to a 38 but I wanted the tunic just this side of shapeless) and added length with a gradual curve in the skirt until I thought it looked sufficient. I traced and slightly widened a RTW boat-neck top for the neckline, and kept the original pattern’s 3/4 sleeves. The whole thing came together like a dream, exactly the same way any other knit block would. Only two notes:

  1. I set the neckline in the flat for the first time ever, because I had no instructions or guidance on how long to cut the binding, so I just sort of winged it and felt the stretch with my fingers as I went. Worked like a charm.
  2. When I was hemming this thing, I tried to cut off the excess at the bottom in full stripes so that the pattern was never disrupted. However, I must have gotten the stripes off-kilter at some part I can’t see, because I could never get them perfectly even– one side was always lopsided! I ended up taking off a LOT of length in my quest for perfection– I won’t be able to wear this to work without tights now! As a result of the scandalous length, I left the edge raw, but I don’t think anyone will be able to tell and I’m not sure it’ll fray. So far it’s not, but I could always do a tiny baby hem in the future if it becomes a problem.