Nettie and Dixie DIY Lovechild Dress

FullSizeRender (5)The weekend I finished this wool dress was the weekend Spring came to Chicago, because of course it is. I have another wool project in the works, too… this might be the only time I have ever wished cold weather to return– I have seasonally-appropriate makes to finish!

Long ago, I made the Dixie DIY Ballet Dress. I thought it would be the perfect first foray into sewing knits.   I made it with this adorable and shit-quality Girl Charlee sparrow print. I think this hearkened the beginning of the end of my twee stage. I liked the dress but the bodice fit all wrong (front came up way shorter than the back because: boobs so I had to do some janky maneuvering I was never happy with) and the fabric, while cute, was so thin I was constantly worrying about blowing out an armpit or something. I finally sent it to the thrift store about a year ago but always had it in the back of my mind to revisit. The bodice may not have been perfect, but I love a good knit dress and I really liked the skirt.

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I got it into my head that the Nettie bodice would make an awfully nice replacement. I love all the neckline, back, and sleeve options of the Nettie, and knits are usually pretty forgiving when you mash two patterns together. I looked at the Kitschy Coo Lady Skater for a long time because everyone raves about that pattern, but eventually decided to approximate it on my own with two patterns I already had. #thrifty

I was out shopping with Ashley about a month or so ago at The Needle Shop and I was having one of those moments where you’re overwhelmed by choice and can’t decide on anything to buy. We walked over to the wall of knits and I started immediately touching everything (I want to know who these people are who are capable of shopping politely without molesting the merchandise) and my hand stopped at this. MERINO. Merino, fabric of dreams! They had it in two colors, this denimy blue heather and a charcoal heather. You know I loveeeeeee me a charcoal (or a black or a gray), but I had just gotten rid of my last blue work dress because it was pilling so bad (another Girl Charlee miss, I’m sorry to say. I love Girl Charlee but make sure to be really selective about what you get from them!  I’ve had good luck with their cotton/spandex solids and bad luck with everything else) and I knew I would need something to replace it because the previous dress had been in such heavy rotation, despite how pilly and gross it was.

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I pre-washed this the way I pre-wash all wool-  soaked it in tepid water with Eucalan and let it air dry. I’m too lazy and cheap to dry clean so I figured if this is how I’m going to be washing the garment later, it’s kosher to pre-wash that way. The fabric is really wide- 61″ if  I remember correctly-so I had a ton left over afterwards, which might end up being some thermal undershorts for my boyfriend (he plays club rugby, frequently in the cold and wet). After toying around with a bunch of styling options (I love my Fashionary) I decided to go with a scoop neck and three-quarter sleeves. I really wanted a high neck and low back, but I work in a field where I occasionally have to implore the impressive and well-connected to give me/my organization money, and the low back felt too sexy. Ironically, this came out with a realllllllly low neck, so while I can (and do) still wear this to work, I don’t think the low back would really have been such an inappropriate choice in comparison, ha.

I graded the bodice from a 10 in the bust and shoulders down to a 6 in the waist and cut it off at the lengthen/shorten lines. I kept the skirt piece from the Dixie DIY pattern with no changes- it’s a Small. I didn’t have any trouble matching up the two different patterns at the waist. This went together really easily, as most knits do- shoulders, neck binding, sleeves in the flat, side seams, waist. I still haven’t hemmed it because I want to make sure it doesn’t warp as it hangs, and at this point I’m not sure if I will since it’s doing fine and why do extra work if you don’t have to?

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The merino was very easy to work with and I would definitely work with it again. For how thin and light it is, it is surprisingly warm and only a little scratchy on my arms. If The Needle Shop isn’t still carrying it, I know you can get merino from We Are The Fabric Store.

My only complaint with this dress is that I think I should have sized up in the bodice. The Nettie is meant to fit closely (it is a bodysuit after all), but I think I forgot HOW closely (you can see a tiny bit of pulling across the back in one of the above photos). So far though, it’s already served me well and I think I’ll make another for summer with some bamboo jersey or something. Blue staple work dress FTW!

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I’m Not That Good At Sewing

IMG_4391But that’s okay!

(Alternate Title: Basic Steps to Sewing Mastery)

This is going to sound like a humblebrag, but every time someone finds out that I made something I’m wearing, the response is usually, “Ohmygod, you’re so talented,” or something along those lines. If you sew, I am sure you have been met with the same lovely compliment many times before. And I always really appreciate it– it’s nice to have someone recognize your skills or the time you put into a garment– but what happens next always bums me out.

What I usually say back is, “Thank you- I could show you how I made this if you want to learn,” and then person almost always says, “Oh no,I could never. I’m not talented like you.”

WRONG. Wrong, wrong. I am not fishing for compliments when I say that I am not a technically gifted sewer in any way. I prefer simple shapes and styles, which is lucky for me because that means that most of the things I wear come together pretty easily. A pencil skirt, a teeshirt, an a-line dress… these things are fairly easy for the novice to tackle! So here’s what I tell people:

I’m not really that good at sewing. Sewing is just not as hard as you think it is!

I think the belief that sewing is a totally unattainable skill is something that puts a lot of people off trying it out! I have had several coworkers and friends in recent years tell me that they’ve always wanted to try sewing or that they have a project in mind that they want to do, or that their mom/grandma/aunty gave them an old machine but they just don’t know how to get started (A note to all those people: Find the manual or look it up online and learn how to thread the dang thing. That’s the hardest part!). Most of the time, the only thing that is getting in their way is confidence!IMG_4399

The following is a list of skills that I think are imperative when learning how to sew:

Can you make a cake from a boxed mix?

If you can follow the directions on the back of a box of Betty Crocker, you can sew. A lot of sewing is being able to read and follow directions! That’s it! Don’t know how to thread your machine? Find the manual and follow the instructions until you have the thread feeding smoothly! Nervous about tackling your first garment? Read the pattern instructions all the way through– nearly all commercial patterns these days have detailed instructions showing you how to lay out pieces, measure the seam allowance, even how much hem to turn up and how to sew a zipper! I’ve read a lot of vintage patterns and they were not nearly as user-friendly as they are today. Companies like Colette pride themselves on their great instructions and tutorials for beginners as part of their business model. If you can follow simple directions, you can make something. I promise. IMG_4396

Can you drive a car or ride a bicycle?

Most beginner patterns (your elastic waist skirts and pajama pants– we’ve all been there) rely on sewing one or two straight lines and very little else. If you’ve passed your driver’s test and can follow the lines of a paved road, you can also follow the lines of a garment to stitch them together. If you’re the kind of person who sees the road curving right and violently jerks your wheel to the left, sewing might not be for you, but anything short of that I think will be okay.

Sewing the side of an a-line skirt is barely more complicated than sewing test seams in scrap fabric. Really! Think about it– pant legs, skirt seams, shift dresses, hems– a lot of these items are primarily composed of a simple straight seam. Don’t freak yourself out by thinking too far ahead. Just go one straight line at a time.

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Can you make a paper airplane?

Another major part of sewing that freaks people out is all the technical stuff, like zippers, darts, pleats, hems, French seams, plackets– dudes, all this is is FOLDING. Folding! You measure something, fold along that line, use some friendly steam from your iron to make it smooth and flat…a paper airplane is way more complicated than folding up a hem for stitching. Trust. It can get technical and tricky but it’s not magic. It’s just a matter of manipulating the fabric into a different shape and then using one of those straight lines you’ve mastered to tack it into place.

That’s really it! You don’t have to be an expert to learn how to sew. Just start small and with a few basic steps, and before you know it you’ll be trying new things, have a favorite seam finish, and be bragging to all of your friends that you totally made the skirt you’re wearing.

State of the Stash 2- Eclectic Boogaloo

Hi!  It’s time for another State of the Stash, in which your alternately frugal and spendy heroine takes stock of all the shit in her fabric shelves and makes a plan for it!

My goal last year was to sew all my patterns but three and while I failed at that (I wanted to both sew a lot and take my time making quality garments so I’m not sure how I planned to do this and still a) go to work b) have other hobbies c) have a social life?), but it did make me super aware of how much crap I was buying without using the stuff I already had.  This year, I decided to apply the same ethos to fabric. I don’t have a ton, but it bugs me that I have stuff and don’t use it. Let’s make some plans!

Scraps– a bunch, and the fall in different categories.

  • I have lightweight fabric scraps I’ve been saving to make a scrap quilt for like for-ever.  I want to make a basic HST quilt, with a cream or maybe a gray to balance it all out. I don’t know jack about quilting though, so this might be longer-term project requiring more knowledge
  • I have some heavier weight canvas leftover from when I made my Portside duffle. I have enough fabric to make a dopp kit and a zip pouch, maybe for my boyfriend?  I should get on that.
  • I have a bunch of jersey scraps that are sewn up into Rosy Ladyshorts but are missing their elastic– because I haven’t gotten around to buying any yet! That’s just me being lazy

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Ombre Chiffon– Man, I’ve had this lying around since the last time I did one of these. Still don’t know what to do with this. Still thinking a kimono. Are those still trendy?

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Hawaiian Cotton– Another one I’ve had laying around! I still want to make cool bottoms with these, but it’s sort of a special fabric so it makes me nervous. I’ve been toying with the idea of a swishy little skirt and maybe some sexy vintagey shorts? There’s three yards so I could do a lot.

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Green Batik– I want to make Mojis! I haven’t made any Seamwork patterns yet, and these seem like a good place to start. Obnoxious comfy pants won’t be in style for too much longer and I intend to capitalize on it while I can. This is a project for the summer.

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Gold Brocade– This is a 2-in-1! Sean is in a wedding in September and I think I will use this brocade to make this sassy vintage number which has also been languishing in my stash and which I did not get a chance to make last year. Perfect party dress material!

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Gray Linen Twill– If the green Mojis work out, I might use this to make another pair. However I just discovered and LOVE these from Cali Faye Collection. Don’t they look like they were INVENTED for this linen? (I know gray linen takes a boring photo but trust when I say it is nice as hell.) Both are a good possibility.

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Botanical Silk-Cotton Voile– FABRIC OF DREAMS. This is Liberty and I bought it on vacation in Portland with my boyfriend. It’s from Josephine’s Dry Goods and just looking at it makes me so happy. I want to either draft my own version of this Eileen Fisher dress, or to modify McCall’s 6436 enough to make this. I don’t think it’ll be terribly hard. I just want something simple and easy so the print shines, and something I can wear multi-seasonally. This one is going to be a special one… I’ll have to be very careful and muslin the shit out of it since I don’t want to ruin my Fabric of Dreams.

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Heathery Blue Merino– I want to make a Nettie with a Dixie DIY skirt. The Dixie DIY’s bodice never worked on me, but the Nettie does so I thought a mashup would be nice. I was playing around with silhouettes in my Fashionary and think I’m gonna go with version 3. Have to get around to this soon or it won’t be cold enough out for this anymore.

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Yellow Jersey– Either a short-sleeved Linden for bedtime or a muslin for a self-drafted/pattern mashup turtleneck. Yellow isn’t a great color for me so I don’t think I’ll make a keeper project from this.

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Black Cotton– I need a new black pencil skirt and there’s a yard here and I have interviews this week. So. McCall’s 3830 number four…okay.

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Latte China Silk- I bought this to make Vogue 9015 and still haven’t. I need a new slip so bad! I need to get on that. Also I did not take a photo because it’s still in the laundry for a prewash ha.

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Unfinished Projects

Brown Boucle– I’ve had this cut out for so long I bet the weave of the wool has warped. What’s wrong with me! I need to just finish it!

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Teal Gauze– This might not work out. The silk-cotton gauze is beautiful but not right for this project. I hate to do this because the fabric wasn’t cheap, bit I think it might be time to scrap it. What do you think?

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So there we go! I’ve promised myself no more new fabric purchases until I make a serious dent in this. Some of it is summer sewing, which makes me happy because sometimes you need to be able to think of summer sewing in February just to get you through, you know?

Cardigan Hack! aka- Saving Ugly Things From The Kon Mari Method

I made this cardigan almost exactly a year ago. It’s a vintage Kwik Sew 504. I have a serious weakness for vintage Kwik Sew, like seriously. I think that everything Kerstin Martensson designed was beautiful and it’s my favorite cover art. I really enjoy too how vintage Kiwk Sew was printed on heavy stock and has amazing instructions. Also, most things are just good basic knit blocks, which is right up my street.

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I picked up this cardigan pattern and was immediately drawn to the glamorous wrap sweater version. I’m really into blushy pinks right now (and was last year too) (also who isn’t into blushy pinks? I feel like they’re just on their way out of having a major Moment) so I snapped up some petal pink wool knit from Mood of the perfect sweatery weight and sewed it right up. It is beautiful fabric and went together very easily using just my zig-zag stitch on my machine. I made a size small and wasn’t too fussed about fit because it’s a cardigan, duh. When I was done I loved it and even put up this instagram of it. But then I never wore it!

I was cleaning out my wardrobe recently and came across the cardigan. I had a Kon Mari moment. Do I love this? I don’t love this. I never wear it. I should get rid of it. Why don’t I love this? I should love this!

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I did a quick mental inventory.

Things I Love About This Sweater:

  • color
  • fabric quality
  • warmth
  • practicality
  • it fills a wardrobe hole– namely, warm and functional items that can survive a Chicago winter and also aren’t black

Things I Hate About This Sweater:

  • it only looks good with jeans, and even then it’s kind of questionable- with anything else it looks like I’m wearing a bathrobe.

And that was it! Only one flaw, but a big enough one that I was never reaching for this garment. So I decided to make a quick modification and see if that could save it. Because sometimes, yes, handmade garments go into the thrift store pile but it GALLS me to do it. Because this fabric and my time are valuable, and also because I hate throwing things out. I think it’s wasteful.

Sifu was having a 50% off sale because it’s going out of business, so I poked my head in to see if I could snag any yarn to reward myself once I’m done with my current knitting project. And what do you know, but the very first thing I saw when I walked in was these big, beautiful leather cardigan buttons– exactly the kind I’d been envisioning for this rehab! They were $3.50 each, which is bonkers. I always forget how much nice buttons cost. Luckily, these were 50% off so I snagged them for $7.00. A bargain! (Only people who sew would not only consider spending $7.00 on buttons, but to consider that a bargain!)

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The rest was simple. I marked the point where I thought the top button should be (the shawl collar is just fussy enough that I wanted to be sort of finicky about this…normally I would not give a crap), and then used this handy tool my mom got me for Christmas to perfectly and evenly space the four buttons. This is the BEST tool ever– I guess it’s called a Simflex? It’s the same one Tasia references in this tutorial.

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I made 1 1/16″ buttons using my automatically buttonhole machine, which makes making every buttonhole a dream– I don’t know how people who don’t have this tool suffer through buttonholes! Then I just sewed the buttons onto the front and was good to go! I’m expecting to get more wear out of this sweater now, which makes me happy. It also makes me sad to think of all the clothing items people must waste because of the lack of knowledge or skill it would take to do simple repair jobs (hemming, replacing buttons, taking something in). Just think– I almost scrapped this beautiful pink wool over four measly buttons!