Tag Archives: Mood Sewing Network

Ginger Made: The “Ladies Who Lunch… and Also Party” Two-Piece Dress!

Hi, guys! Long time no see! In the month since I’ve last posted, I’ve been busy as a bee working on a special project!  Over at the Mood Sewing Network this month, we were challenged to make a look inspired by a SS 2014 runway collection, and today I can finally show you mine!  Please pardon the photos- it was 21 degrees Fahrenheit and super windy, so I was freezing!

I’m not someone who really follows runway fashion, and, prior to this challenge, I had never even heard of the designers I’m drawing inspiration from.  But as I looked at many, many, MANY photos of runway shows, I kept coming back to Sea‘s spring RTW collection (seriously, check it out- there are some really cute looks here!).  The collection was split between looks that were tough, dark, and semi-androgynous and looks that were romantic and feminine. I especially liked the looks where the designers mixed up prim, proper textiles and silhouettes with modern details like cut-outs and exposed zippers.

Ginger Makes two-piece cocktail dress

I decided to make a traditional cocktail dress and help it to reverse age by turning it into a two-piece.  I wanted to use a fabric that felt classic and maybe even a little old-fashioned, so I selected black and pink cotton-poly tweed from Mood Fabrics NYC. It has a very loose weave, and looks like a something you might use for a French jacket or something similar.

Ginger Makes two-piece cocktail dress

I wanted to start with a sweet ’60′s vibe, so I used the skirt portion of my favorite vintage McCall’s 5995 pattern (here it is as a dress, and as a pencil skirt).  I changed the kick pleat to a slit and drafted a waistband with a finished width of 2″ and a 2″ overlap.  I wanted the silhouette to be neat and clean, but not too tight, so I was careful to fit the skirt but not go overboard.

Ginger Makes two-piece cocktail dress

I liked the cut-outs in the inspiration photos, but decided to take the idea a little further and turn the dress into skin-baring separates.  My original plan was to make the top from the Named Patterns Vanamo dress, but after a failed muslin, I abandoned it and decided to draft my own.  I stole the neckline from the Deer & Doe Belladone pattern, and fudged my way through the rest of the patternmaking until I had something workable.  The top closes with a separating zipper that’s covered by an overlap.  The neckline and armholes are finished with an all-in-one facing, which I didn’t enjoy sewing one bit- I didn’t think through my construction and hand-stitching rapidly-fraying tweed wasn’t one of my happiest sewing moments! I finally enlisted Man Friend’s steady hands and cool head, and he helped me forge through when I was down to my last nerve! The waist is also faced, which helped to reduce bulk, too.  I’m not kidding when I say that thinking out how the zipper and facings needed to be installed kept me up at night! I literally laid in bed, unable to sleep, sorting out the construction order and plan of attack on more than one night! I didn’t come up with a perfect plan as I still had to do tons of seam-ripping and re-sewing, but everything came together eventually.

Ginger Makes two-piece cocktail dress

…Did I mention the fabric has a very loose weave?  This makes it drapey and soft, but it was too drapey for my purposes, so I underlined every piece with black cotton shirting, basting the two layers together in the seam allowances and along the dart legs and centers. This made it much easier to handle. Unfortunately, it frayed like the dickens, so I also fused 1/2″ strips of interfacing to the seam allowances to help the fabric stay together.  This was a SLOW project!  By the time I’d underlined the fabric, things got pretty bulky, so I left off the planned linings altogether.  Instead I finished the seam allowances by zigzagging them and then stitching on rayon seam binding and wide ribbon inherited from my mom’s stash.

Ginger Makes two-piece cocktail dress

Look how perfectly the dress matches my purple skin!

I wanted to be really careful with proportions and fit for this outfit since I knew I would feel really uncomfortable or worse, trashy, if there was too much skin on show. But I wanted to make sure that the top was cropped enough to top to give a youthful edge to the look, like belonged on Jackie O’s younger, hipper sister.  I finished the skirt first so I could make sure the top was the right length.  I’m really happy with the final proportions.  I feel bold and sassy in this outfit, but still remarkably put together.  One thing that worries me, though, is that I’m not 100% certain where I can wear it!  Any ideas?

Ginger Makes two-piece cocktail dress

Although it was a challenge to decide on a runway-inspired style and sew it up, it was fun to work in such a different way and to wear something that’s a bit of a departure from my usual style.  But what about you guys?  Do you draw inspiration from runway looks?  Are there any spring trends that you’re excited to try out?

I wanted to do a supermodel pose, but I’m not sure my expression is vacant enough.

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Ginger Made: Houndstooth Victoria Blazer!

Victoria Blazer in Houndstooth Wool by Ginger Makes

Guys, I’ve been watching a LOT of TV lately. A LOT.  I feel like a bit of a couch potato, but it’s totally justified since I work in film and television—it counts as homework, right?

JUST SAY YES.

My main obsession lately has been all things BBC- Dr. Who, Torchwood, Luther, and Sherlock, to name a few. All of this led to a sudden, desperate attraction to classic British wool garments—there are only so many times you can see Benedict Cumberbatch swirling around in a fantastic wool coat before you want to wrap yourself in tweed from head to toe!

Victoria Blazer in Houndstooth Wool by Ginger Makes

I picked up this classic wool houndstooth a while ago from Mood Fabrics NYC, but wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I considered many options—sheath dress, shift dress, jacket, cape—before settling on one of my all-time favorite patterns, the By Hand London Victoria blazer. You can’t go wrong with a houndstooth blazer!

Victoria Blazer in Houndstooth Wool by Ginger Makes

This fabric is really soft and drapey, which worked really well with this pattern. Since it’s meant to be slouchy and casual, nothing is interfaced and there aren’t any facings, which makes this a little quicker to construct than more traditional blazers. It was a breeze to sew and press the fabric, and since the wool is so malleable, setting in the sleeves was a cinch! Let’s not talk about the sleeves I set in the other day in a stiff, unforgiving twill… I’m still traumatized!

Victoria Blazer in Houndstooth Wool by Ginger Makes

The blazer is fully lined in rayon bemberg, also from Mood. I love this soft peachy color. I bought a ton of it a few months back and use it every chance I get! I really like rayon linings since they’re breathable and affordable, so I buy five or six yards of it when I find it in a color I like so I can get a few projects out of it.  I used a scrap of cotton/silk (leftover from this dress waaaaaay back in 2011) for the pockets as it was a perfect match.

Victoria Blazer in Houndstooth Wool by Ginger Makes

Don’t worry, guys, my fun with Brit-inspired wools isn’t over yet! Right before I cut into this fabric, I decided I would give the blazer to my sister. She’s headed off to grad school in the fall, and this just screams “Academic Chic” to me! I hope she’ll feel too cool for school when she’s wearing it! But before you get the impression that I’m a sewing saint, know that I’ve been hoarding a nice length of tweed for myself, so I’ll have a fun blazer of my own in no time!

Victoria Blazer in Houndstooth Wool by Ginger Makes

Do you ever draw sewing inspiration from television? Which shows inspire you most?  Is it weird that almost every episode of Dr. Who makes me weep like a child?  Go on, spill the beans!

Victoria Blazer in Houndstooth Wool by Ginger Makes

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Ginger Made: Style Arc Romy Anorak (Or, the Jacket that Took Forever)!

Yowza! It’s cold out here, people!  I am not on board with this weather!  I left behind snowy New York this week for the even-more-frozen tundras of Vermont.  I am NOT excited about the cold, but I AM excited to finally show you my new jacket!

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

This is the Style Arc Romy Anorak pattern, and it’s my January project for the Mood Sewing Network.  I’ve been working on this thing for what feels like the entirety of my life.  OK, it was closer to 2.5 weeks, but between the RTW details, winging it and adding a lining, and attempting to decipher the illustration-less, minimalistic instructions, this one was a real marathon.

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

First things first: this pattern is super cool and I adore the style, but it’s NOT for the faint of heart.  There’s absolutely no hand-holding here– the instructions offer helpful advice like “Make belt loops and attach them”.  They don’t tell or show you how to do this, the pattern piece (one single long strip) doesn’t give you any details, and the placement markings for the side front belt loops aren’t on the pattern piece, so you have to measure/eyeball to figure out where they go.   That’s pretty much par for the course here.  This is at least an intermediate pattern– I would really only recommend it to a confident sewist who doesn’t mind figuring things out on her own.  It didn’t help that I strayed from the instructions and added a lining.  I had to completely change the order of operations to accommodate that, but it was worth it (unlined jackets are kind of pointless in my climate).

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

OK, some more pattern details: it has raglan sleeves with darts at the shoulder, which I haven’t seen before but is a nice detail.  There are tucks right above the hem in front and back, and elastic is inserted in the hem so you can cinch it in if you like.  The zipper is hidden behind a fly guard, which feels very RTW to me.  If you’re not familiar with Style Arc, their patterns come in a single size.  I wasn’t super stressed about this because I’m pretty close to a straight size and this isn’t a very fitted style.  I made this without any alterations and the fit is roomy, but works for the style.  If you make this yourself, check the zipper and button placement and make sure it works for you.  I followed the diagrams for zipper and fly guard placement, but it feels backwards to me– when I try to button up the collar, it’s really awkward and hard to do.

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

ARRRRGGHHHHHH CAN’T GET BUTTON ASGSKOSDIFHGAJDKLFJKSJDGFXDKFLJDFK

While I’ve really been digging the trend of slouchy anoraks that all the cool Brooklyn babes seem to be wearing lately, I’m not super into the ubiquitous olive green that seems to be the only color these jackets come in.  Instead I opted for a nice medium gray cotton twill.  I love twill– it’s my go-to fabric for hard-wearing, good-looking garments.  I love how it looks when it starts to show some wear and tear.  Because twill weaves fray easily, I serged all the seams, even though they would be hidden under the lining. It’s a nice precaution to help extend the life of your jacket. I topstitched all the seams with a twin needle (OMG, WHY WAS I SO SCARED TO USE A TWIN NEEDLE?!  It’s stupid easy!), which gives it a RTW look and also adds some stability.

Style Arc Romy Anorak

You get the idea.

Since I’m the world’s biggest wimp, I added a lining made (mostly) from buffalo check flannel.  It’s so warm and cozy! The sleeves are made out of black bemberg rayon– I get nervous that I’ll rip my lining putting on the jacket if the sleeves aren’t slippery! Since brushed fabrics have a tendency to pill over time, I made the lining with the unbrushed side of the flannel facing out. It’s still beautifully soft, but should stay in great condition longer.  I basically made a second version of the shell and basted it to the neckline and center front before stitching on the collar and fly guard.  I made a booboo when I was cutting it out and forgot to add a CB pleat in the lining, so after consulting the experts (the Twitter sewing crowd!) I cut a strip of fabric the length of the back bodice and stitched it in, so no harm no foul.  The lining pieces were all cut at the hem line, so I just pressed the hems up over the lining, enclosing all the raw edges.  I fell stitched the facings and inner collar down with about 488,135 teeny-tiny stitches… my finger and thumb are still sore!

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

The pattern calls for the pockets to be made with a box pleat that’s stitched down all the way. I wanted the pocket to expand to hold tons of stuff, so I used an inverted pleat that’s only stitched 2″ from the top and the bottom, so it can sort of bulge out.  I find it annoying to iron under all the seam allowances when I’m making patch pockets, so I opted to line them instead. I cut a second pair of pockets out of the plaid flannel, stitched them together at the sides and bottom, then turned them right-side out, turned under the top seam allowance, and edge-stitched all around. This makes for nice, neat pockets, plus my hands will stay warm in happy flannel-lined pockets!  We allllll know how much I love flannel-lined pockets!  (Sidebar: Can someone please make sure my coffin is lined in flannel?  Oops, got a little morbid there… but still– MAKE IT HAPPEN).

Moving on…

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

I wanted this to look very clean and RTW, so I used brushed antique nickel jeans buttons from Taylor Tailor that I had in my stash, a matching separating zipper, and two faux metal toggles at the CF hem. I’m really pleased with the way they look!  Oh, and if you want to get in on the jeans button fun but aren’t sure where to start, here’s a great tutorial from Taylor’s blog (spoiler alert: you get to use a hammer!  In the end I discarded the belt loop pattern piece and just followed this great tutorial from the Coletterie– you don’t have any raw edges, and you don’t have to turn a loop!

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

In the end, I’m over the moon about this jacket! It’s just exactly my style! Isn’t that the best thing about sewing? It took forever to make, and even though the pattern was frustrating, it’s so rewarding to sew something that you can actually get away with wearing day in and day out, and that you’ll love wearing all the time!  While I’m thinking about it, if you want some serious jacket inspiration (and envy!), check out Kelly’s gorgeous Minoru!  It’s stunning!

What are you guys sewing these days? Are you sewing for the season, or jumping ahead to the next one? As much as I dislike winter, I’ve still got some cold weather items on the docket to sew before spring sets in. What about you?

Style Arc Romy Anorak made with twill and flannel from Mood Fabrics

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Papercut Patterns Bellatrix Blazer!

Hi, guys!  Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate!  It’s been a busy week full of travel, family, and friends, so I got a bit distracted and forgot to post my most recent Mood Sewing Network garment!  I planned to make a Christmas dress, but at the last minute decided to make a piece that I could wear well after the holidays.  This time of year I often find myself with functions to go to after work, but I don’t have time to go home and change first.  Sometimes I drag a cocktail dress to work and change in the ladies’ room, but I decided that it would be easier (and less stressful!) to make a day-to-night piece that I can toss on top of my work outfit when I feel like getting a little festive.

As soon as I saw the new Papercut Patterns collection, I fell in love with the Bellatrix Blazer.  I like that it’s a bit different from a traditional blazer pattern with its rounded collar and cinched waist– it’s so stylish and fun!  I knew this would make the perfect holiday jacket.  It closes with one button, has a bit of a peplum, and has in-seam welt pockets.  It’s fully lined, too, which makes it even more luxurious and versatile.  The blazer also has slightly-shaped sleeves– they’re a little longer on the front side of your hand than on the palm side, which is a great detail.

I used two black cotton sateens, one very shiny (for the lapels and welts) and one more matte (for the body) to give it a bit of a tuxedo look.  The shinier sateen had a great deal of stretch to it, but since every piece I was using it for needed to be interfaced, I could get away with it.The blazer is lined with a charcoal-colored silk charmeuse for a wee touch ‘o’ fancy-schmanciness.

The pattern is really easy to put together, but it does take a little time.  I made a muslin, but didn’t end up making any fit alterations at all.  I was intimidated by the welt pockets, but they were really easy to do.  The best part is that because they’re in-seam pockets, you don’t have to do any scary slashing on your jacket front!  Yay!  I really like this pattern, and definitely recommend it.  It’s sleek and sassy in black, but I bet it would look really cute in colors (I’m thinking of a red one– wouldn’t that be cool, in an equestrian way?).  I also like the idea of making a short version to wear over dresses.

This sounds insane, but this is my first black blazer!  I’ve never owned one before!  I feel a little square and boring in it, but I know it will go with so many things in my wardrobe.  I definitely feel older and more put-together wearing it, for better or for worse!

What’s your favorite way to take an outfit from day to night?  What are the most versatile pieces in your wardrobe?  Did you sew any special holiday outfits this year?

Here’s a little detail short– it’s tough to photograph black garments!

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Ginger Made: Burda Cocoon Cardigan (+ bonus Virginia Leggings!)

Hi, guys!  Hope you’re all well!  Here in NYC it has suddenly grown bitterly cold, so perhaps we can blame what you’re about to witness on the weather.

Burda cocoon cardigan by Ginger Makes

I’ve been really interested lately in the fun cocoon coats and jackets popping up on Pinterest and fashion blogs.  There’s something really daring about the exaggerated shape– I love it!  I chose an amazing plaid wool coating from Mood in an attempt to mix a pretty traditional winter textile with a more modern style.  The really special thing about this fabric is that it’s already backed with a contrasting red gingham cotton, and both layers are quilted together.  I’ve heard Carolyn urge her blog readers to take advantage of fabrics that come pre-lined since so much of the work is already done for you, and boy, she’s right (guys, she’s always right– I’m serious)!  This was practically an insta-coat!

quilted wool coating from Mood Fabrics

The pattern is a new Burda download, Cocoon Cardigan 11/2013 #107.  It’s so easy to put together that  you don’t need the instructions (which is a good thing, because they aren’t very good).  If you plan to make this, note that it’s very oversized– I cut my size, and, as you can see, it fits me very loosely.

My plan was to bind the seams as I went along so the inside would be beautiful and clean, but that just seemed too bulky, so I opted to press the seams open and serge each half separately.  This cardigan forms a sort of circle when it’s assembled, so the neckline and hems are finished all at once with a single hem band.  I drafted a two-piece band instead of the suggested one-piece so I could cut the inner band with some buffalo check flannel I had leftover from my Banksia top.  Wool can sometimes be a little scratchy right on my neck, but the flannel is sooooo soft and buttery!  I also added my very favorite thing– flannel pockets!  Seriously, try them in your next A/W garment– it’s such a treat for cold hands!

Burda cocoon cardigan 11/2013 #107 by Ginger Makes

I’m giving this a serious field test– it was 21F and really windy outside when we were taking these photos! Brrrr!

Matching plaid that’s as large-scale as this was not a pleasant task– I think I spent three evenings after work puzzling out my cutting layout.  The real problem was that I didn’t have enough fabric (a frequent problem when you buy fabric without having a plan for it).  But I made it work as best I can, although it’s not perfect.  Actually, I’m not sure there would be a perfect way to do it– the pattern is simple, but it has two-piece raglan sleeves, so I was trying to match at the front and back raglan seams, plus along the seams on the top and bottom of the sleeve.  I nearly pitched a fit when I realized I couldn’t cut the final sleeve piece on the cross-grain after all (the plaid looks square, but isn’t quite, so it didn’t line up at all).  When I calmed down, I figured out that I could cut the piece from two smaller pieces and seam them together.  While this was annoying, you can’t really see the seam, so it worked out just fine.

Burda cocoon cardigan 11/2013 #107 by Ginger Makes

Alright, that’s enough construction talk– let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.  Guys, I’m just not sure this style works on me or in this fabric!  I’m about 50% in love with it, and 50% in hate.  Somehow it’s sort of walking a line between Olsen Twin Chic and The Dude Abides.  I’m thinking that it might help to shorten and narrow the sleeves– there’s something a bit overwhelming about this huge garment, so maybe it would be a bit more balanced if the sleeves weren’t so oversized.  I also really like the curved hem, but I’m not crazy about how long it is in the back.  But again, I’m really on the fence!  What do you guys think– should I reduce the curve and shorten it a bit?

Burda cocoon cardigan 11/2013 #107 by Ginger Makes

I wasn’t totally sure how to style this, but I figured that I needed to be as streamlined as possible beneath the coat, so I whipped up a quick pair of leggings using Megan Nielsen’s Virginia leggings pattern and a cotton-Lycra jersey, also from Mood.  Would you believe I’ve never sewn leggings before?  Talk about instant gratification!  I made these in about two hours, which is INSANELY fast for me, and included putting together the PDF.  Now I want about 58 more pairs!  If you’re looking for a leggings pattern, this one is no-fuss and ridiculously easy.

Burda cocoon cardigan 11/2013 #107 by Ginger Makes

Alright, guys, what’s your honest opinion– do I look like I stole a blanket from a horse?  What do you think of the cocoon coat trend?  Do you have any suggestions for making this more wearable?  Anyone else want to stay inside until May?

Burda cocoon cardigan 11/2013 #107 by Ginger Makes

Can we please go back inside now?

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Dude Sewing: Thread Theory Newcastle Cardigan

O, Autumn!, fairest of seasons, when the air is crisp and clear, lattes are pumpkin-spiced, and a sewist’s heart leaps at the thought of wrapping herself in wool from head to toe!  Just kidding, guys, I hate cold weather and I don’t like dropping an extra buck just to have someone dump nutmeg in my coffee.  But I do turn into a whimpering baby and reach for sweaters the second the temp dips below 65 degrees, so I hit the wool section at Mood Fabrics NYC determined to find the perfect cocoon to shelter myself from autumn’s advances!  They have beautiful fabrics for fall up there, and when I found this luxurious wool double knit, I knew immediately I had to make a sweater for my dad. It just looked like something he would like, you know what I mean?  He’s always cold, but lives in a cool climate (if you haven’t experienced it, you don’t want to know what Michigan feels like in the wintertime), so he layers up nearly year-round!

(Special thanks goes out to Man Friend, who graciously volunteered to model the cardigan for these photos despite the fact that it’s a good size and a half too small for him. He was a lovely model, so I’ll have to think of something special to make for him!)

Newcastle Cardigan made with wool double knit from Mood Fabrics

This is the closest thing I could find to a smile in the photos…

I used Thread Theory‘s Newcastle Cardigan pattern and cut a size small based on measurements my mom took of a few of my dad’s sweaters. The pattern comes together quickly and is pretty fun to sew. I chose version 1, with front and back yoke details, but cut them in self fabric as my pop’s a pretty conservative dresser and probably wouldn’t appreciate any extra “flair” in his garment! I opted for the larger shawl collar as it seemed cozier. The topstitched yokes are a really nice detail, even if they’re mostly covered up by the shawl collar. I added an extra button (pretty arbitrarily… six just looked better than five in the button size I selected!). If I made this for someone else, I would lengthen the body a bit– it seems a little short, especially in comparison to the length of the sleeves. Luckily my dad’s pretty short-waisted, so it won’t be a problem for him. I would also draft a waistband for the cardigan, I think. I feel like a hem band would look a little nicer and more RTW.

Newcastle Cardigan made with wool double knit from Mood Fabrics

“Oh, wow, this pipe is so INTERESTING! I think I’ll keep staring at it!”

The fabric is perfect for my pop– it’s warm and soft, but without any of the scratchiness that often deters people from wool. It’s got some heft, but it’s still drapey, which seemed like just the right weight for a cardigan.  To help it keep its shape, I used pro-tricot deluxe fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply for the collar, plackets, facings, and yoke pieces.  I really liked this interfacing– I was amazed to see that the fabric still retained its stretch after fusing!  I also stabilized the shoulder seam with twill tape, following the pattern directions to topstitch from the right side on either side of the seam. The fabric is stretchy, but not CRAZY stretchy, so I used a ballpoint needle to avoid skipped stitches, but stitched the vertical seams with a regular straight stitch. I used a zigzag stitch on anything that needed to stretch horizontally (like the cuff seams), and I used my Janome’s special stretch zigzag stitch for the hem to make sure it had plenty of give (I just discovered this stitch after, oh, two years sewing on this machine… facepalm).  Buttonholes… well, they LOOK pretty good, but my feed dogs couldn’t move the fabric forward while I was sewing them, so I had to sort of manually shove the fabric underneath the buttonhole foot.  I was trying to match the speed I thought the sewing machine would move to keep from stretching out the buttonholes, and I think I was fairly successful, but it was pretty nerve-wracking!

Newcastle Cardigan made with wool double knit from Mood Fabrics

The major difficulty of using a fabric like this for this pattern is BULK.  In some places, like where the collar attaches to the neckline, you’re sewing through six layers of fabric (not counting interfacing!)– whoa, Nelly!  My poor sewing machine was pretty sad trying to chomp through that much fabric.  I graded the seams and notched them aggressively, but there’s still a bit of bulk in some of the seams that just couldn’t be eliminated.  If you’re making this pattern or something else with a shawl collar, it might make sense to cut facings or the undercollar out of a lighter-weight fabric, something I routinely do when sewing with wovens but didn’t consider on this project.

Newcastle Cardigan made with wool double knit from Mood Fabrics

Better keep inspecting that pipe– you might miss a detail!

So, brief sidebar– guys, it’s WAY more fun to be on the other side of the camera telling someone how to model than to pose for pictures yourself!  I was nearly mad with power and really had to dial back the impulse to shout things like, “What’s your character’s backstory?”  Man Friend was worried that he looked too much like His Excellency, the Duke of Fall.  There’s definitely a resemblance, huh?

HOLY CRAP, LOOK OUT! YOUR HEAD IS GLOWING, MAN FRIEND!  Someone take the camera away from me, please.

How about you– are you a wool enthusiast?  Are you a fall junkie?  Are you a member of the pumpkin spice latte cult?  What’s on your sewing table these days?

Bathroom graffiti at FIT where I’m taking night classes. It’s a cult, people!

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Better-Late-Than-Never Baby Dresses!

Friends, I’m gonna let you in on one of my ugliest, dirtiest secrets. I hate sewing things for babies.

I can feel the searing rays of your judgment! But let me explain– baby clothes are fiddly to make, fit for about 10 minutes, and are the object of more puke than toilets in a freshman dorm. It’s a lot of work for very little payoff! Plus, many babies are showered with so many tiny outfits when they could probably use a big box of Pampers much more than another cardigan!

But, when old, dear friends have babies, even the grumpiest baby grinch is occasionally tempted to dabble in the world of tiny clothes, hence these little dresses. I knew that I wanted something pretty and sweet, but I didn’t want to go completely pastel for these dresses. I found a nice compromise in these beautiful 100% cotton shirtings from Mood Fabrics NYC. The combination of gingham and stripes is cute for a tot, and the fabrics are much more soft and luxurious than you usually see in children’s wear. Another benefit is that cotton shirting is tough enough to take a beating in the laundry.  Plus, it doesn’t take much to make garments this small, so you can get a little fancy with your fabric. I had just over half a yard of each fabric and was able to make two dresses.

I used Made By Rae‘s downloadable Geranium dress pattern, which comes with about a zillion options.  I opted for cut-on cap sleeves and a pleated skirt. The bodice is fully lined, and I turned and stitched the center back seam and used French seams on the sides (I’ve heard that serging can be too scratchy for sensitive baby skin). The bodice has a back button closure– not sure how easy this is to get babies in and out of. Any feedback, moms and dads?  This was really easy to put together, although the directions were a little complicated to follow as they jumped back and forth between the different views, so I occasionally lost my place.  I’m sure someone more organized than myself would have no issues with this, though.

Although I wasn’t eager to make these, I found myself smiling as I stitched on the adorable buttons (a gift from Marie that I’m so glad I saved until now!) and put the finishing touches on the dresses. There’s just something so sweet about itty-bitty clothes! I really like how these turned out, and I caught myself planning future versions in blue, yellow, and gray combos. But before you think I’ve turned into Santa Claus overnight, you should probably know that I made these in the 12-18 month size… because it’s been a while since these little girls were born. Better late than never, right?

What’s your opinion of homemade baby gifts? A sweet potential heirloom? Better saved for older kids who are interested in what they wear? Tacky? Treasured? What’s the nicest handmade baby gift you’ve given or received?

Sidenote: I discovered the hazards of photographing finished projects outdoors– my neighbor spotted me shooting these, and before I knew what was happening, I heard myself agreeing to make a dress for her granddaughter! Whoops!  Guess I better get used to making clothes for small people!

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Ginger Made: By Hand London Anna Dress!

O hai!  I made another dress!  It’s a super practical bright orange silk maxi dress– a wardrobe staple, if you will!  OK, this might be the single most impractical thing I’ve ever sewn, but I loooooooove it!

Let’s just go ahead and ignore the Snapple bottled discarded on the sidewalk. I don’t even notice trash on the ground anymore!

This is the Anna dress, the fab fourth pattern from the fierce gals of By Hand London!  (Sidenote: I met the lovely and elegant Charlotte of BHL earlier this month as she was passing through NYC and folks, she is as cool and fun as you might guess, plus a little more!  There’s a huge part of me that wants to run away to London and sew amazing clothes with these girls allllll day every day!  Come back to visit, Charlotte!)  Oona eloquently told the tale of how she and I came to make the same pattern for our August Mood Sewing Network projects, and how the reigning queen of Nashville, Lauren, joined in on the fun!  In short, we now have an Instagram-instigated trio of silken Anna dresses tearing through the internet– fun, yes?

OK, so, I know that “less is more” is a good mantra, but I was kind of in a “go big or go home” mood when I grabbed this amazing silk crepe de chine from Mood Fabrics NYC.  I’ve ogled this beauty before, twice in fact, but never really knew what to do with it, but the third time I saw it I knew it was destined to be an Anna dress!  I love the print so much that I wanted to wrap myself in it from head to toe, and a maxi dress is a slightly better option than a makeshift toga, right?

Hahaha, check out my neighbor in the background! You guys are seeing all the amazing sights from my ‘hood today!

Back to the pattern!  It’s a seven-gored skirt with pleats under the bust and kimono sleeves, all of which were new to me.  This is a real departure from my usual style, but it’s fun to play dress-up once in a while!  The pattern comes together easily, but holy cow, it took f o r e v e r to French seam all those long skirt panels!  It gives a nice, clean finish, though.  I removed 1.5″ of excess fabric at the back neckline after a muslin showed some gaping (I’ll show you how tomorrow, if you’re interested), and I shortened the skirt by 7″, based on a quick eyeballing of the length.  This was way too much!  I didn’t want this lovely fabric dragging on filthy New York sidewalks, but I got over-excited and didn’t really think it through.  Next time I’ll only shorten it by 4.5″.  Maxis can be a real fabric-suck, but luckily, with my shortened pieces, I could squeeze the whole dress out of 3 yards– hooray!

The crepe de chine was surprisingly easy to sew with!  It’s not slippery at all, especially compared to silk charmeuse or similar fabrics.  I used my walking foot to help keep the long seams lined up correctly, and I pinked the facing to stop it from showing through this lightweight fabric.  I understitched the facing, too, to help keep it from peeking out, and blind-stitched it to the shoulder seams on the inside.  Another thing that’s helpful to do with fabric this floaty is to stabilize the zipper opening before inserting it.  This prevents a wobbly, ripply zipper (yuck!).  You can baste strips of silk organza to the seam allowances, or just iron on some fusible interfacing– I’ve had good luck with both techniques!

This is such a happy dress!  The colors just make me feel so perky and fun!  I’m sure I’m an eyesore walking down the streets of New York in this shrieking color, but I can live with that.  There’s something kind of weirdly ’70′s about it that I’m not 100% thrilled about– you know those polyester floral maxi dresses worn by the likes of Dusty Springfield?  So I’m not sure about that, but I’m choosing to commit to this dress in its entirety.

I like to pretend like I’m heading to a fancy dinner in Waikiki when I put this on!  Hmm, I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii… Sadly, there aren’t any trips on my horizon, so I’ll have to settle for posing in front of my neighbor’s hibiscus.

Anyway, you should check out Lauren’s version of this dress here, and be sure to peep Oona’s fierce sheer version here!

Alright, how about you guys?  Anybody planning to sew the Anna dress?  I’ve really enjoyed the ones I’ve seen so far– there doesn’t seem to be a shape that it doesn’t flatter!  If you’re scared, there’s a sewalong gearing up on the By Hand London blog– details here!  How do you feel about maxi dresses– love?  Like?  Hate with a burning passion?  Finally, do you love Dusty Springfield with a passion that sometimes scares you?  Do YOU listen to “Dusty in Memphis” every time you’re home alone?

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I made a swimsuit… whaaaaaaat????

I can’t believe I made a swimsuit!  I mean, I guess it’s not that surprising since everyone and their mother is making a swimsuit this summer (has anyone made one for their mom?  I’m guessing my mom would love it… but don’t give her any ideas or I’ll be running a swimsuit sweatshop… my sister already has her eye on this!), but the thought of sewing swimwear has always made me say, “No way, Jose!”

If my photos look a little nicer than usual today, it’s because my bro-in-law was on the camera and my sis was calling the shots. Thanks J and B!

But, along came the Bombshell Swimsuit pattern from Closet Case Files to tempt me into sewing swimwear!  It’s a very flattering suit with a lot of coverage, perfect for those who don’t feel like baring it all at the beach. This has been a super popular pattern this summer, so I’m definitely not the first person to sing its praises, but it’s pretty fabulous.  Not gonna lie– this is the first one-piece I’ve had since I was about 10 years old, so it’s kind of a change of pace for me, but there are definitely occasions when a bikini is a bit too revealing that this will be perfect for.

I thought this would be fiddly and difficult to sew, but it was actually really easy!  Stretch (not ballpoint) needles are a necessity, and a simple zigzag stitch is your friend.  The fabric isn’t slippery at all, so it was very easy to cut and sew.  Because the main fabric is gathered and ruched, then attached to the lining, I used my walking foot to help keep the layers and gathers even.  Heather Lou’s sewalong posts are packed with helpful tips and photos, and she covers everything you need to know!  This was the perfect pattern for my first swimsuit sewing experience.

I bought this fabric at Mood Fabrics NYC for my July Mood Sewing Network project. It might surprise a few people to know that they sell swimwear fabric, but yes, they have lots of it! I planned to get a solid color, but this print had a fun retro appeal that I couldn’t resist. It’s a nylon/lycra blend with a matte finish and a fairly loose weave. The suit is fully lined with a champagne-colored mesh-like nylon blend. Both fabrics are four-way stretch– definitely what you want in a one-piece swimsuit!

My sister insisted that I include this shot, even though (well, probably BECAUSE) I look like a big dummy!

Swimsuits are one of those things that I hated buying even before I sewed.  Even if you find one that you love and it fits, they always seemed so expensive considering how little fabric they used!  This project was very economical– I used a little over a yard of fabric, a half a yard of lining, and a couple of yards of swimwear elastic, and it was a fraction of the cost of a similar RTW swimsuit.  I just cut out a bikini using less than $10 worth of materials!

Don’t forget your sunscreen!

I think this swimsuit looks really lovely on girls with an hourglass or curvy figure.  Since I don’t have a very defined waist, the ruching kind of obscures my waistline and makes me feel a little boyish in this style.  I’m also a little on the fence about the print paired with the pattern– I’m pretty sure I’ve made a swimsuit that my grandmother would love!  But these are minor concerns and overall I’m really happy with the suit.

This is my sexy fish face.

If you’re on the fence about sewing a swimsuit this summer, give it a go!  You can totally do it!  I think you’ll be really pleased with the results, and you’ll love telling your friends “I made this!”.

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Deer & Doe Reglisse Dress (or, the Summer Seaside Dress)

Hi, everyone!  It’s finally summer here in NYC, so for my June Mood Sewing Network project, I wanted to make a dress fit for a vacation (even though I don’t have any trips planned, boo).  I feel like I’m ready to sail away on a yacht in this dress!  Well, maybe a dinghy… not sure if I’m quite posh enough for a yacht…

I used the Deer & Doe Reglisse dress pattern that I coveted the minute I saw.  It’s easy to put together, but I took my time with it since I’d never worked with fabric cut on the bias before.  I put out a call on Twitter for your favorite tips for sewing on the bias, and your advice was invaluable!  I used a longer stitch length (3mm) and placed strips of paper under the seams while I stitched.  The longer stitches keep your seams from popping when the bias flexes and relaxes, and the paper kept things from getting messy under the presser foot.  Then I let the dress hang on my dress form for 24 hours to let the bias sections of the skirt stretch out before trimming the hem even.

Please excuse my rumpled look– these photos were taken at the end of the day!

I picked out a lovely cotton voile from Mood Fabrics to keep the dress light and floaty on sticky days.  Originally, I wanted a lighter color, but when I laid eyes on this blue, I was hooked!  It has a lovely sheen, and I like the classic pairing of navy and cream.  I chose a shirting cotton for the contrasting collar and sleeves.  It’s a bit crisper and more opaque than the voile, which is just what I wanted.  I really loved working with voile– it’s easy to sew and press, and just feels so breathable and lovely.

The bodice is self-lined, and the skirt is lined with bemberg rayon.  I used a narrow rolled hem, which worked well, but man, does that take forever!  I felt like the hem was a mile long!  I’ve never worn or made a skirt this full before… well, not since elementary school, at least!  It’s really a change of pace for me, but I like it.  But girls– do you get used to feeling, um, insecure, on a breezy day?  It was just a little breezy when I wore this the first time, and I felt like I was seconds from a Marilyn moment the whole time!

Overall, I really like this dress, although it verges on the twee (if I haven’t crossed that line completely).  If I could change anything, though, it would be to find a way to make this without an elasticized waist.  The dress pulls over your head, so it’s really easy-wearing, but I hate how elastic waists look and feel so I’ll always wear this with a belt on top.  I definitely recommend the pattern!  If you’re thinking of making it, check out Ami’s cute version and tips for enclosing the seams (helpful if you don’t want to line it like I did).  Also, you should know that the dress is pretty short as-is.  I’m 5’6″, and the hem lands a few inches above my knee– doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but I know lots of you guys prefer things to hit at the knee.

Ahoy, mateys!

Alright, I’m off on my imaginary seaside vacation!  Just give me one quick minute to load up on Dramamine and we’ll heave anchor!

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