lily/anna separates

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Two years ago, I stitched up a By Hand London Anna in paisley Liberty. I loved that dress dearly and wore it hard for over a year, but last winter it developed a rip above the bust. I’d like to blame my impressive circus muscles, but it was more likely caused by poor posture and subtle fit issues that put too much strain on the bottom of the armscye. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t about to give up on such a beloved dress and so I stuck it on my “to-fix” shelf for a few months. It needed a new bodice, but I couldn’t use the Anna bodice again unless I was prepared to tackle the fit to prevent further rips. Eventually I decided to use the bodice of the Colette Lily, which I got on extreme sale and hadn’t yet made up. I, like pretty much everyone else, have struggled with the fit of Colette bodices/sleeves (unlike everyone else, though, I haven’t had success with literally any other sleeved bodice either), but the Lily is delightfully sleeveless.

I followed my new practice of cutting out a pattern based on my measurements/the finished garment measurements, rather than guessing wildly based on upper bust, sloppily taken back measurements, and hypothetical FBAs, and the muslin fit quite well out of the envelope (graded from 6 at bust to 4 at waist to 10 at hip), though I had to pinch out a bit from the side seams in the bodice. The skirt is great and I will make it up in the future–I love the pockets–but unfortunately is probably not very bike-friendly.

I stitched the bodice onto the skirt, but I wasn’t loving it. The simplicity of the a-line skirt seemed at odds with the little flap on the bodice, but without the flap it was a bit boring. Oh well. Keeping the flap and forging ahead, I’m almost done anyway. I had to pick the zipper out of an impressive and thoroughly bound back seam and trim it down to the length of the new bodice back–at which point I thought “let’s see how this facing is looking” and zipped up the dress. The little zipper tab went flying off the not-yet-secured top of the zipper tape, and I yelled “NO!” and threw the dress across the room, prompting Ryan to look up and comment, “sewing seems like the worst hobby.”

Well, since I needed to unpick a zipper anyway, I decided I might as well turn a project I was no longer interested in into something that could hold my attention for long enough to get finished. Separates! I cut the new bodice off the skirt and added a circular peplum, and trimmed down the top of the skirt until I could wiggle it over my head, then added an elastic waist. A regular waistband would have been preferable, but I didn’t want to deal with a zipper and didn’t have enough fabric to make a waistband piece anyway. It turns out, I love the elastic waist. It stays put better than a woven one, and since it’s only barely gathered around my waist, it’s not bulky underneath sweaters or shirts.

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I love my separates, which make a cute outfit together and can be styled apart as well! They feel unique and a little bit avant-garde in my fairly traditional wardrobe. An added bonus is that the bodice will still be wearable with other high-waisted skirts after this skirt inevitably wears out, having a whole year more of wear in it.

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I tried to have a little bit of fun with my self-timer phone-camera photoshoot, and pulled out 20,000 Years of Fashion to use as a prop, but it turned out to be so big it obscured a lot of the dress and I had to go propless for the rest of my photos. I’m trying to get comfortable enough in front of a camera that I can at least take pictures of myself without feeling awkward, and then maybe I can graduate up to asking other people to take pictures of me.

twenties lawn party

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I have always loved to dress up. I relish any excuse for a costume, and almost as much as I love to wear it, I love to create it. The opportunities feel few and far between in my workaday life, so when my friend mentioned a weekend-long, 1920s-themed lawn party on a grand country estate, I was ecstatic!

My plans started out extravagant: I would need two complete ensembles (one for each day), to say nothing of period correct undergarments, and of course a three-piece suit for Ryan.

The time dwindled away to nothing while I daydreamed instead of acted, and our plans for attendance shrank likewise into a single day trip rather than a grand weekend excursion. I had to make certain concessions to practicality, but I think our outfits turned out rather smart regardless!

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I wore a thrifted slip, thrifted “good-enough” nude heels, a one-hour dress that I whipped up in a mere four and a half hours, and a thrifted hat that I unsuccessfully tried to reshape as a cloche and trimmed with bias tape to match my dress. I had been pretty unsatisfied with the one-hour dress, which I made as a practice round for my real party dresses that never got made. But! I loved wearing it! There are definitely things I would change, construction-wise, but I was pleasantly surprised by how put-together and confident I managed to feel in such a rectangular garment.

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Ryan wore a thrifted suit–a real stroke of luck! I was just putting in the zipper on a pair of grey linen trousers for him, we had thrifted a gray vest, and had resigned ourselves to no jacket, but a last-minute trip to the thrift store turned up a wool three-piece suit in this lovely vintage-looking brown color. The suit itself probably dates from the 70s to judge by the cut, but passed quite well with the rest of the ensemble. I let out the pants and stitched in buttons for the suspenders, but otherwise the whole outfit was assembled by Ryan so I can’t really take credit there.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of pockets and a dying phone battery, I got almost no pictures of this event. Fortunately, our friend took this one of us that more than makes up for it.

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The estate the party took place at was on the ocean, and absolutely stunning. I will definitely be back next year for the party, and hopefully before then too for some wandering!

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may

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Spring has finally arrived–the sun sets later and later, the days are warmer, and the rain and sunshine have made the grey city lush and green. Lilacs are blooming everywhere.

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Yesterday I gathered a bag of dandelion heads, painstakingly pulled the leaves and stem off, and set the petals to steep in vodka. In a few weeks I’ll strain it, add sugar, and have a dandelion liqueur. When I left the house this morning, there were even more dandelions than yesterday. I’d like to pick some more and repeat the process sometime in the next couple of weeks before they all go to seed. I want to make dandelion wine eventually, but I have to start easy if I want to get anything done at all. Wine takes research, and possibly specialized equipment. All I had to buy for this project was a bottle of vodka.

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autumn

I’ve been living in Boston for over three months now. Fall is well and truly here, and it really is pretty in New England, if you can make it through the summer. Fall has always been my favorite season anyway; there’s no real pressure to do much of anything besides eat soup and go for walks. I’m still walking to work every day, and plan to continue doing so until the first blizzard. Every day I go over the Charles and it’s been quite pleasant watching the change of the sky and the foliage.

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I’m afraid there’s not much sewing going on around here these days, besides curtains. I vowed not to let myself start a new project until I’d figured out my sleeve fitting issues, but it’s nearly impossible without a friend to analyze back fit, so the whole process is stagnating. But there is a lot of cooking! I am making acorn flour and preserved lemons, and I finally got my hands on some sourdough starter so I have been experimenting with that! There’s a certain amount of math involved and of course I struggle there, but it turns out the hardest part is time management–when to take it out of the fridge, when to feed it, how long to let it rise. On my first batch I went with a 1-2-3 formula, where 1 is the starter weight, 2 is the water, and 3 the flour. Then it was too wet, so I had to add more flour, and I ended up accidentally making four loaves!

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In other news, there’s not much other news. I started my first Boston aerials class yesterday, and it’s very exciting to be back at it. I have lost some strength, but not nearly as much as I’d expected.

Other autumn highlights: going to a Renaissance Faire on a cold and rainy day, a brief jaunt to New York City back in September, playing board games as often as possible, and daydreaming about getting a cat. Also planning the costumes that I’d like to sew, eventually (rat queen, Rococo princess, a whole line of glamorous insects at a cocktail party). In the meantime, perhaps I should get started on my Yuletide present sewing…

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shift

This summer, I dreamed of shift dresses. Big 60s florals, bell sleeves, mini hems! The actual 60s patterns in my stash had been purchased without a true sense of my own measurements, so I turned to the Sewaholic Alma to satisfy my shift dress fantasies, extending the hem to a suitably mini-dress length. I cut according to my full bust measurement instead of trying to fiddle around with FBAs and guessing at cup sizes, and it fit surprisingly well out of the envelope–except for the sleeves, which I quickly dispensed with in the name of 90-degree days. My first version was sewn up in a bold, blue-and-white, surreal floral, but the fit needed tweaking (more fullness at the hips, less at the waist) and the color didn’t feel “me,” so I gave that dress to a friend and shifted my vision from mod to hipster.

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This dress then, is my second shot at the shift dress style and it’s been a huge hit. Simple and versatile in a navy swiss dot, I can wear it with sandals and pendant necklaces in the heat, and cardigans and oxfords when it’s gray and drizzly. In fact, it’s been in such heavy rotation this summer that it’s already starting to fade around the seams and across the bust where my purse strap rubbed against wet fabric in a summer storm. I’m not sure how much longer it will last, but I do know I will my making another version when it finally does give out!

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The pattern is the Sewaholic Alma, but I grafted on the sleeves of the Anna dress and mashed the necklines together for something a little broader and shallower than the Alma. Obviously the hem has been lengthened considerably (I can’t remember how much), but I tried to keep the lovely curved shape of the shirt hem. I omitted the zipper, as it slips over my head easily, french seamed the insides, and bound the neckline and sleeves in my Liberty bias-tape. The whole process from start to finish couldn’t have taken more than a few hours–as close as it gets to instant gratification!

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boston

Nearly two months ago, I packed up all (well, most of) my worldly goods, bid farewell to my beloved lush green PNW, and got on an train going just about as far as it possibly could go without ending up in the ocean. And here I am.

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a little home sewing

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I almost never do any sort of home dec sewing. Partly it’s boring, just cutting rectangles and sewing straight lines, and partly a little bit of me feels that it’s a waste of time and fabric. Who knows if the curtains will fit the windows in the next house, and couldn’t this yardage be clothes instead?

But yesterday afternoon, casting around for something creative to do in the few hours before work, I noticed the grubby, boring throw pillows in the corner of the couch and decided to do something about them at last.

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I had a raw silk sack dress that I had stopped wearing because I don’t particularly like sack dresses and the neckline didn’t agree with my shoulders, and had been saving especially for pillows, but there wasn’t nearly enough of it to make pillowcases for both of the old pillows, so I had to hunt through the stash for something complimentary. Doing only half of each pillowcase in the striped silk meant I had enough to make a third pillowcase for an uncovered pillow form I had lying around. There are still some scraps of the dress which will eventually become gorgeous bias tape.

I should have put zippers in, but I didn’t feel like it, so I just handstitched the fourth side of each pillow closed, which means I’ll have to unpick and sew them back on when I wash them. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, I guess.

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This was actually a very satisfying project. Fast, easy, and I’m really pleased with the finished product. They feel much cozier than the old pillows (being half corduroy!), and a lot more grown-up. I’m happy that the fabric previously languishing unworn in my closet finally gets to be on display!

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Well! It’s been a long time since I dusted off this old blog. As long as it’s been (9 months!), it’s been just as long since I sewed something that wasn’t theatrical in nature. I’ve sewn dresses, vintage swimsuits, and biblical robes galore for at least three plays. I’ve altered countless pairs of trousers, I’ve taken dresses apart only to re-sew them, and I’ve torn beautiful tomato red wool to shreds with sandpaper. But, with the exception of an ill-fated tweed miniskirt that ended up several inches too large in the waist, I haven’t sewn a thing that’s meant to be worn in real life since Ryan shipped off to Morocco with a new shirt sometime around the first week of January.

Until now! We had a long stretch of house-sitting in which my sewing machines languished unused, my Kenmore gave out, I purchased a new one, and I discovered that all my machines were broken!–until I realized that I’d simply been threading my Featherweight from the wrong direction.

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So finally, I have a dress, and it’s destined to be a hit, I think. How could one go wrong with a TNT pattern and paisley Liberty?

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The fabric was given to me sometime last summer by my then-housemate’s mother, though why anyone would get rid of paisley Liberty I can’t think. I can’t find any information about the print, except that if I wanted, I could buy sneakers to match my dress.

With a fabric this precious I wanted to make sure it was really the right garment. After wearing my turquoise Anna for most of the weekend at Pickathon, I knew I needed another. I had hopes of finishing it for my birthday, but a month later is not so bad! It is a perfect late summer dress, being cool enough for hot days, but the colors will go with nearly all my winter clothes and with layers I can wear it right through to next summer.

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The pattern is By Hand London Anna, of course. I’ve made it twice before and wear the other versions a lot in their respective seasons. I like the simplicity and the shape and have to do very few alterations to the pattern as I cut it. For this version, I shortened the pleats by 1/2″ to make a little more room for my bust and it is just about perfect now.

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Grisly Details:

The insides are all french seamed, except for the back seam which is bias-bound in self-bias tape (catching the edges of the zipper tape for a super neat finish!). I used the same bias tape to finish the neck and arm holes. Neck, arm holes, hem, and zipper are all topstitched, but the pattern is busy enough that it’s barely noticeable, and I have greater confidence in its durability than if I had hand sewn them. The pattern in my size used a little over 3 yards of 33″ wide fabric. I could have got it out of less if the print wasn’t directional, but I still about 50″ left, enough for little bits of lining/bias tape.

So that’s that! I am back on the bandwagon, I hope! I have plans for my next two projects, both skirts. I got rid of a lot of my clothes in a panic while moving, so I am trying to slowly rebuild a grown-up and cohesive wardrobe. Here’s to layering season!

ashland, v.2

 

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This dress was the labor of more or less an entire semester, plugged away at in bits and pieces for a couple of months. It’s been finished for a couple of months, and I wear it often, but I only now have got around to taking pictures. It’s even harder than usual in winter, as the light goes so quickly.

I wanted to make a comfortable, simple dress that could be worn with layers and boots for winter. My ideal winter silhouette is a short, a-line dress with long or three-quarter sleeves, ideally cuffed. I love sweater dresses but I can’t seem to find good sweater-knit fabric anywhere, so woven it is.

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The pattern is the Sew Liberated Ashland, which I initially was not too keen on, but I wear my other version fairly regularly, so I guess I’ve been won over. The fabric is an extra-long twin bedsheet, but I’m pretty sure it’s sateen. It’s 100% cotton, anyway.

I sewed the same size as before, size 2, D cup, and my only real issue came with adding the sleeves. When I finished the dress I couldn’t put it on! I could barely wriggle my arms into the sleeves and couldn’t raise them at all. I did an upper arm adjustment to add an inch, but I could add more. One thing I’ve also noticed is that the bodice ends about half an inch above the underwire of my bra, so I could probably safely size up to a 4. The shoulders seem about right though.

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I don’t have any pictures of the guts, as they’re not really much to look at, but they’re sturdy. I used a combination of lining, handsewing, bias binding, and zig zag (now that I finally got my zigzag machine to work! I have to warm it up with a hairdryer before use). I’ve washed the dress a couple of times and it’s holding up well.

This dress is more or less exactly what I wanted it to be. It’s simple, pretty comfortable, and goes well with a variety of tights, scarves, and sweaters. I never feel like I’m lacking the right shoes or coat or accessories to make an outfit with the dress, which makes it the sort of easy-to-wear piece I want more of in my wardrobe.

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a blue dress

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It seems as though nearly everything I sewed this summer was blue. My Lisette lawn Anna, my Alice dress (since disassembled and waiting for pattern inspiration to strike), my nautical shirtdress, two bridesmaid dresses for my friend’s wedding… And this dress, which I actually made over a month ago for the Summer Sundress Sewalong, but am only just blogging now!

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In the middle of sewing the bridesmaid dresses, I decided that I wanted to sew myself something. Naturally. But what with full time work I didn’t feel like I had a great deal of time to sew at all, much less things that weren’t related to the fast approaching bridesmaid-dress deadline, and so my dress came out a little slapdash and messy as I tried to cut corners.

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The fabric is a Lisette lawn that my mother gave me, with rough, almost diamond-shaped white polka dots that have little teal polka dots in the centers. The pattern is a mash-up of my own invention. I knew when I saw the fabric that I wanted a fit-and-flare with a sweetheart neckline, a waistband, and a bias-cut skirt (a la the Sewaholic Hollyburn). The bodice was easy, as I used a heavily modified version of McCall’s 5927 (I added the sweetheart, and scooped out the back, and shortened it to accommodate a waistband), which I used for my bridesmaid dress–that way I could call it a wearable muslin! The skirt was trickier–I wanted a Hollyburn skirt, but I can’t justify spending money on such a simple skirt pattern that I could draft myself. BUT, I couldn’t just draft it myself without feeling guilty, because you’re supposed to support indie pattern designers and all that, rather than blatantly copy their designs. Which I would love to do, if I could afford it, but I can’t.

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In the end I went with a slimmer bias-cut skirt pattern that I took off of a RTW skirt last fall, and I really like the shape. I wear a lot of full skirts but lately I have been feeling that I want a slimmer line. The bias-cut nature of the skirt turned out to be quite disappointing, as I realized after cutting the first piece that the polka dots are printed on diagonally, so that rather than forming a nice V on the center seams, they would go straight up and down. “Ah, whatever,” I said, and kept cutting. (I did actually consider making the skirt into a half-circle cut on-grain, but my fabric conservation instincts got the better of me, and I decided not to waste the skirt piece I had already cut.)

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The slapdash nature of this dress means that it is definitely not without its problems. I need a giant swayback adjustment to my skirt pieces, and the hem is longer in front than back due to the swayback (easily fixed though). The bodice is a little tight in the bust (and after looking at these pictures, damn it is low cut), and the waistband is about half an inch too long. I made a hot mess of the zipper since I didn’t want to “waste” too much time handsewing, and the pattern matching on the center seams is, frankly, abysmal.

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Another thing I noticed is that the back gapes whenever I put my shoulders back, which does not exactly encourage me to improve my posture!

Normal (bonus trying-to-look-into-the-sun face):

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Shoulder back:

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See? Gaping! Any suggestions on how to fix this? Should I take out width and risk it being too tight, or is this just normal on low backs?

OH WELL! I still think it’s pretty. And since we will eventually be going into cooler weather, the flaws will mostly be covered up by sweaters, so no harm done.

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And the insides are tidy. There will be some retroactive seam finishing when I get my zigzag machine back from the shop, but it hasn’t fallen apart yet, so we’ll count it as a win!

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