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Dec 222015

Apparently I started the draft of this post on October 4th.  Yikes.  The semester that just ended nearly killed me.  I’ve never worked so tirelessly in my life, and I feel like I’m never going to recover.  I read over 2000 pages of student writing and had to comment on most of it, so it wasn’t like I was skimming.  I had 125 students, the most I’ve ever had, and I had three different classes to prep.  I hardly know what to do with all my free time over the winter break!  In theory, I want to sew, but I’m still so exhausted that I haven’t done much since we got back from visiting my mom in Florida a week ago.

I didn’t really get much sewn this semester.  The dress I’m going to talk about today was sewn before the semester started and was my first day of class dress.  I always like to make a new dress for the first day of class because I’m silly.  To my students, any dress I wear will be new, but it makes me happy to have a new-to-me dress!  During the regular semester, I think the only two things I actually finished were a Minoru coat and a corduroy 6696, and the 6696 isn’t quite finished.  It needs sleeves, but I’ve worn it with a sweater because I have a mustard sweater that I think looks awesome with the teal corduroy I chose, plus I was determined to wear my fall corduroy dress in the fall!


Anyway this is Simplicity 1803, which is a Project Runway pattern with a bunch of different bodice options.  It only has one skirt option, though, which is a gathered skirt.  I’m not the hugest fan of a gathered skirt on me, especially in thicker fabrics like the one I used, so I just used my trusty Belladone skirt, sans pockets.  I regret that choice and wish I’d made it avec pockets, but it’s too late now.  The fabric is barkcloth from Miss Matatabi, and I LOVE it.  I’ve since procured some Jessica Jones Time Warp barkcloth, and it has a very different feel, but I think I’ll like it too.  The barkcloth is nubby and soft, and it’s super comfy to wear.  I’ve worn it with sweaters and tights into the winter, but these photos were taken in August!


As you can see in the photo above, I clearly need to add a bit of length to the front bodice.  I didn’t do an FBA for the bodice because it was fine width-wise, but I obviously needed the extra length of an FBA.


This dress came out a little big, but as I’ve mentioned several times, I’m a fan of slightly big dresses because they’re super comfy.  In the above picture, you can see that I’ve used the back bodice from the Deer and Doe Belladone, which I modified to not have the cutout.  The back bodice for this pattern has a really low scoop, which I don’t like at all on me.

Below you can see the detail of the bodice a bit more clearly.  I wanted to take a closer shot to show the little split in the neck, but my face kept looking so stupid in every picture that I finally just turned my head.  I was probably super stressed that day about teaching stuff.  :/


That’s it for today!  I have another dress that I took photos of but haven’t had time to blog, but those photos are on a computer that had the RAM go bad, so I’m waiting on replacement RAM so I can upload those photos.  Everything is backed up, but the photos are unfortunately not backed up to any of my various cloud backups, so I have to wait to get them off my Time Machine hard drive.  Sigh.  I’m s-l-o-w-l-y working on a winter coat right now, but it doesn’t really matter that it’s taking me so long because we’ve only had a few days where I would have needed it.  I’ve been wearing my trusty Minoru tons and subbing in my puffy coat when it gets too cold.  I do want to get the winter coat done over the winter break, though, so hopefully I’ll be able to post about it soon.

Jan 062015

So, it’s 2015.  I’d been thinking about doing a reflective post about 2014, but when I looked at what I sewed in 2014, I realized that I hadn’t done very much!  If I wanted to participated in Gillian’s Top 5 of 2014, I’d have very little material to draw from.  Including the suit I’ll be blogging about today, in 2014, I made 19 items.  Two of them were household items and three of them were for other people, so that leaves me with only 14 garments for myself.  I wouldn’t say that any of those items were super hits, but if I had to pick one thing that got used more than anything else, it’s probably my Under Armour leggings.  They’re just so practical and fit me so much better than the fleece tights I’ve bought from Target.  I have more Under Armour fabric and would like to make another pair, but I’d like to use a tights pattern this time instead of a leggings pattern.  If I had to pick a miss, it would easily be my Victory Patterns Anouk.  Unfortunately, I just don’t feel comfortable in it for three reasons:  the fabric under the front placket blouses out a little, making me feel like I look like I’m pregnant (and that’s AFTER eliminating all the gathering there!); the little window at the neckline is too low and shows my bra a little sometimes; and I failed to notice or fix the swayback issue on the back of the dress, leading to all sorts of ill-fittingness.  That one makes me sad because I really like the design and the fabric I chose, plus I always get compliments on it when I wear it, but I just don’t like it.

So that’s my mini review of 2014.  If I had to set a goal for 2015, it would be to sew more things!  And thanks to a crazy bout of productivity, if I can manage to finish everything I have in the works right now, I will have sewn more than I did in 2015 very shortly.  I mentioned in my last post that I was going to have my tonsils out, and indeed I did.  I decided that I would take two weeks off after the surgery to recover, and hoped I might feel well enough to sew during that time.  For a few days, I mostly slept, but once I felt well enough to be up and doing things, all I wanted to do was sew – I’m sure because I’d done so little sewing in 2014!  I also know that I have another very busy year coming up, so I guess I wanted to make the most of this little reprieve I granted myself.  So in the past week and a half or so, I’ve finished 7 tops and I’m in progress on 2 tops, 4 dresses, and 1 cardigan.  I’ve cut out 2 skirts and 1 more top as well (actually that’s a lie – one of those skirts is one I cut out like two years ago and started working on again).  Dear readers, if I can manage to finish all those things in relatively short order, I’ll have 17 items, which is almost equal to my total output last year!  What is the secret to my productivity?  I’ll share more as I blog about each item, but it was largely making multiples of the same patterns and using TNT pattern pieces to make alterations to new patterns prior to muslining.  I’m working on a McCalls 6696 shirt dress right now, and I used the pattern pieces from some of my Deer and Doe dresses to compare and make some quick changes prior to sewing up a muslin.  I still had to sew two muslins (and the dress I’m working on now is one I’m thinking of as a wearable muslin so I won’t be too disappointed if something goes wrong), but I shudder to think of the time I would have spent in muslintown if I hadn’t used a TNT pattern at the outset.  Oh, another secret to my productivity is KNITS.  So easy to fit, can be easy to sew if you don’t make a bunch of dumb mistakes like I did.  Mistakes which I will recount when the time comes.

Even though I wish I’d had more time for sewing in 2014, I am glad that I can say I was able to conquer a new garment.  I’ve really been wanting to tackle pants and jackets for a long time because it’s so impossible for me to find well-fitting versions of those garments in RTW.  I swore that I was going to tackle pants in 2014, but it didn’t happen.  I’m not going to swear the same this year.  I hope I find the time to figure out pants, but I’m not going to make it an official goal because I might be more excited about sewing other things during the limited time I have to devote to sewing, and I don’t want to feel bad about that.  But I definitely feel good about my blazer sewing accomplishment!

I used to love to wear blazers.  I would wear them constantly.  I have no idea why I got so into blazers as a 23 year old, but I totally did and I totally looked about ten years older than I was.  I hardly ever wear them now that I am ten years older than that (!), but I think that’s mainly because when I started sewing, I realized how ill-fitting they all were on me.  I always have problems with swayback issues and above the bust/near the armhole.  I thought I’d start with a Simplicity Amazing Fit pattern to help me with the bust issues, so I picked up Simplicity 2446.  It was a pretty darn good fit right out of the envelope, which is evidenced by the fact that what you see below is a wearable muslin of this pattern.  And there were no pre-muslins to my wearable muslin, as there were for my shirtdress.  I knew I wanted to make a muslin of this jacket that was fully complete with the collar and everything because I’d never made a jacket before and practicing the construction would be essential before setting out to make a real jacket that I’d wear to something like an interview (a situation that is not currently in the stars for me, but I will continue to hope!).


So with this wearable muslin, I can see some weird creasing at the armholes, and as soon as I sewed this up, I realized that I should have made sure I was getting a pattern with armhole princess seams rather than shoulder princess seams.  I’ve made both before and found that the armhole version was much easier to adjust.  I think if I had an armhole princess seam, that creasing would be gone or much less noticeable than it is here.  But even with that creasing, this still looks pretty good!  The only changes I really made were to take in the princess seams on the back to deal with excess fabric and bubbling above the waist.  You can kind of see a bit of this in one of the photos below, but it’s very minimal.


Since this was a wearable muslin and since I don’t have any quality interfacing and since I hate fusible interfacing anyway, I didn’t put any in this jacket.  It’s true; I’m an interfacing-denier.  The fabric was ridiculously cheap at the Textile Discount Outlet, so I wasn’t committed to making this a wardrobe staple or anything.  It’s some kind of wool blend and it’s super scratchy.  Wool and I don’t get along very well, which is incredibly sad to me because I love wool, and this is definitely one of the worst ones I’ve dealt with.  Very stiff and wiry.


The skirt is the Champagne from Capital Chic, sort of.  I had a pencil skirt pattern that I knew fit, so I just cut out the flounce pieces for the Champagne and adjusted them to fit the existing pattern.  I figured there was no need to reinvent the wheel.  I just wanted that cute flounce in the back because I can’t stand a plain pencil skirt in a solid color.  I just don’t have it in me to make something that boring.  When I got the skirt made up, I tried it on and showed it to Ben, very excited about my adorable flounce.  He expressed confusion about whether the skirt was supposed to be hanging like that in the back.  I expressed my resolve to never ask him an opinion about my sewing again.  I wore this suit to my practice job talk and everyone there assured me that they knew it was supposed to be like that, but looking at this picture, I can see where my husband was coming from.  The wool fabric doesn’t quite have the drape that would be most flattering for this style, and it also gets too creased after sitting.  Lest you think Ben is just some heckler, let me tell you that he was totally wowed by the jacket.  While I expressed some concerns over its shoddy construction (which I’ll get to momentarily), he said that it fit so well that no one would notice.  He was convinced that this was the best-fitting jacket he’d seen anyone wear, ever.  It’s definitely the best-fitting jacket anyone’s ever seen me wear, even with those two little issues I identified above (above-the-bust and back wrinkles).  I’ve never actually had a blazer that I could wear buttoned up – I always had to wear them unbuttoned to disguise the many fitting issues I faced.  This one actually looks better buttoned up, which I suspect is because it doesn’t have the interfacing to lend it the structure it would need to sit nicely when not buttoned.  But I’m amazed that I have a blazer I can button up!  It’s a first!


I like the way this jacket looks with jeans more than I like how it looks with the skirt.  Hmph.

Let’s see, how many things are wrong with this jacket?

1.  Have you noticed that the sleeves don’t have vents?  The sleeves are supposed to have vents.  I had to shorten the sleeves because they were too long, and when I was cutting the pattern, I didn’t know how much they’d need to be shortened.  I thought I could just deal with it when the time came.  Not so, because of the flap for the vent.  When you shorten the sleeve, you’re just hacking off a huge chunk of that flap at the bottom, and you can’t do anything to get it back except cut another sleeve.  So I decided to jettison the idea of sleeve vents.  I ended up having to really narrow my sleeve at the wrist as well because the other half of the vent construction has a mitered corner, so you don’t have as much room at the wrist as you’d need to just sew a straight seam.  I’m totally fine with this error, though, because I like the width of the sleeve at the wrist now.  It would have been way too wide otherwise.

2.  Have you noticed the weird bubbling at certain points around the bottom hem?  I had some issues getting this thing properly pressed, which I again blame on lack of interfacing.

3.  Do the lapels look too wide to you?  They’re not supposed to extend past the princess seam lines if the envelope photo is any indication, but mine do for some reason that I can’t fathom.

4.  THERE IS A PUCKER IN THE BACK OF THE LEFT SLEEVE THAT MAKES ME WANT TO SCREAM.  Ugh, these sleeves were nearly impossible to ease in!  After I’d set in the sleeves, I remembered that I’d seen somewhere that you can sew a slightly stretched bias strip around the top of the sleeve that will make it easier to ease into the armscye.  I was hesitant to remove any sleeve cap ease because I didn’t have enough fabric to cut even one new sleeve if I messed it up and I didn’t want to make another trip to the Textile Discount Outlet hoping that they had more of this stuff in stock.

5.  All manner of sloppiness on the inside of this jacket.  It’s shameful.  See exhibits 5a through 5e.

5a.  I ended up doing a lot of the finishing work the night before I had to wear it, and that did not bode well for me figuring out how to properly bag a jacket lining.  I still don’t understand it.


I don’t know if you can tell in this picture, but there’s really no bagging.  Isn’t the lining supposed to be sort of blousey at the bottom?  I have no idea what I messed up there.

5b.  And turning the corner for the collar/lapel on the inside nearly did me in.  It looks like a horrible mess, but it’s not visible from the outside, so I rolled with it.


Yiiiikes.  I have serious problems making this sort of pivoting look nice.  It’s part of the problem with my Victory Anouk, and my Grainline Alder has some issues in this area as well.  I think I’m too timid with my clipping.

5c.  I tried to add a pleat to the lining too, for wearing ease, since I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t drafted that way.  That was a fail.


What a sad little pleat!

5d.  The lining sleeves are somehow longer than the regular sleeves and have to be tucked back up the arm when I put the jacket on.  OH!  While typing that sentence I realized why the lining sleeves are so much longer!  When I cut length off the sleeves, I didn’t make the same change to the lining.  Writing really does help you think things through!


5e.  Because everything else about this jacket is so messed up, I never felt like sewing up the hole in the lining sleeve that I pulled everything through after bagging the lining.  What’s the point?


6.  And the whole thing is just a bit too short.  I thought I’d be safe making the cropped length because I’m short, but apparently I’m not that short.  I ended up taking the smallest possible seam allowance on the bottom front to avoid a super short blazer.


I’m looking forward to making my next jacket, in which I hope to solve at least half of the problems I had with this one.  Can anyone recommend a good resource for bagging a jacket lining, preferably a video?  I used Jen from Grainline’s tutorial, and it was by far the most helpful–I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing until I used her tutorial–but I’m really terrible at figuring things out from diagrams or even photos, so I think a video would be better for me.

One final note about this suit.  I’d wanted to sew a shell to go underneath it using this gorgeous teal fabric I got from Emma One Sock.  But I ran out of time, so I just used the only other thing in my closet that went well with the color:  an activewear shirt from Eddie Bauer.  It has a little tab along the bottom hem that indicates its status as an activewear item, and the whole time I was wearing this for my practice job talk, I kept having to check to make sure the bottom of the shirt wasn’t exposed below the hem of my jacket!  It’s the shirt I wore to trek through the ruins of Chichen Itza when we went to Mexico last May, and it cracked me up that I could also wear it with my suit.  It has a pretty decorative neckline that’s kind of hard to see in the photos above, though, so I felt like it was sort of okay to wear with the suit.  Again, not something I’d wear to an interview in a billion years, but it served the purpose for my practice job talk.

Oh yeah, and my hair was purple!  Can you even tell in these photos?  It was totally purple and this particular color got me so many billions of compliments from strangers (including one comment noting that I had “awesome hair” in my student evaluations for last semester – teaching goals accomplished!) that I must be crazy to have already dyed it back to my natural color.  There’s that whole potential interview thing, though, and I didn’t want to be caught off guard, having to dye my hair the night before an interview.  I can think of at least ten potential disasters lying in wait in that scenario.  But here’s the thing – I dyed it that semi-permanent purple color probably two months ago.  I dyed it a permanent brown-black color two weeks ago.  The brown-black is already fading and the purple is showing through.  I’m telling you, if you want a so-called semi-permanent dye that will survive nuclear winter, Pravana Chromasilk Vivids are for you.


Dec 162014


Hey!  I’m back, and I have pink hair!  At some point between taking the photos for my first two Daturas and taking these ones, I used hair dye remover to get the red out of my hair, bleached it a second time in hopes of getting it to be platinum, and then realized I would probably never have hair that was both healthy and platinum.  Instead of attempting a third bleach (not right away, mind you!  Double-bleaching without rest time in between is a great way to fry your hair), I decided to just dye over the yellowy orange post-bleaching color with pink.

Oh, hey, that’s also a new skirt!  It’s Simplicity 2152, which is out of print.  I decided that I had to have this specific skirt and no other would do, so I had to buy it from sewingpatterns.com, which is an AWFUL company.  They don’t actually give you a pdf of the pattern; you have to download this weird pattern viewer software that doesn’t work half the time and print your pattern from there, and they only give you like three prints.  HELLO, HAVE YOU HEARD OF A COPY MACHINE?  If I really wanted to make more than one copy of this, I could easily just take my printout and copy it.  But who on earth wants to do that?  And who on earth has done that?  I feel like the sewing community is pretty honest.  I’ve never heard of anyone attempting to get away with using someone else’s pdf pattern rather than buying their own.  Independent pattern companies make lots of money by only selling pdf patterns, and they don’t use weird, buggy, obtrusive software, so I feel like sewingpatterns.com needs to calm down.  I honestly don’t remember what I did to get the software to actually work for me eventually aside from screaming profanity at it.  I was worried it wouldn’t ever work based on some comments on Pattern Review, but it did work for me.  You can’t really see the detail here, but the skirt is paneled and has pockets on the front.  It’s made out of denim I bought at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL.  It’s a very strange denim – it’s white on the other side and is very stiff, though it’s not a heavy weight.  Unfortunately, I think I ruined the fabric by using too big of a needle on it.  I thought denim = huge needle, but I soon realized from the way my sewing machine sounded that it wasn’t necessary, so I switched to a smaller needle.  The places where I used the larger needle are fraying now!  I guess the large needle really just made holes in the fabric.  Also, this skirt looks sort of crappy now because the denim got these stress marks on it the first time I washed it, so it has these whitish spots that make it look old and ratty.  I want to remake the skirt with different fabric, because I just don’t care for the weird stiffness, even aside from all the problems.


I guess there was something really interesting on the floor to the left of me that day.

So that’s the skirt – what about the shirt?  This is the first Datura I made with a collar.  My next one also has a collar, but it’s a print collar on a solid fabric.  I really love this shirt – the fabric is quilting cotton from Joel Dewberry’s Heirloom line, and I love the green color and the pattern.  I was originally going to put a grey collar on this, but then I had a vision of this scrap of navy blue fabric left over from a doorway puppet theater I made for my nephews a few years ago.  I searched high and low for this scrap that I knew existed, and when I finally found it, it was a lot smaller than I remembered, and I could only just fit the pattern pieces for the collar on it.  Serendipity!  I sewed the collar with smaller seam allowances because, silly me, I kept thinking that if I used the full seam allowances, the connection between the two halves of the collar wouldn’t even be visible anymore!  Well, yeah, it’s not supposed to be!  The idea of any real collar is that you have two halves of a shirt that you’re buttoning together, meaning that the collar pieces are separate and don’t connect in the center.  So if you’re making a mock collar, you wouldn’t want the two pieces to be visibly connected.  I guess unless you’re me.  For whatever reason, I was convinced that the two pieces should visibly connect.  So that’s what I have here, and I don’t hate it.


Oh, hey look at that!  Pink hair!  Well, it was pink before, but there’s pink and then there’s pink, you know?  I like this color.  I’ve moved on to something else, but this was a good one.  I wasn’t sure I’d like pink hair on myself, but I really do.  I thought the lighter pink might make me look jaundiced because my skin tone is pretty yellow, but I don’t think it looked bad at all.  And I really love this richer, more jewel-toned pink.


I really wanted to make a solid Datura with an accent collar, and I have almost no solid fabric, so I dug out this piece of fabric, which I got to use as a bag lining back when I thought I was going to make tons of bags.  It’s the same as the teal fabric on my first Datura.  As soon as I decided on this fabric, I knew I wanted to make the collar out of this awesome floral fabric that I used in a quilt a few years ago.  Yes, I’ve made a quilt.  It’s just a little lap quilt, but I made the whole thing myself, including some really terrible free-motion quilting.  I’ve had a second quilt top and back pieced for like two years now and I’m too lazy to start quilting it.  Soon, I hope!  Anyway, this is an Art Gallery print by Pat Bravo, I think.  I love love love it.  I’ve always been sad that I used it to make a quilt instead of something to wear, so I’m glad I shoehorned it into a garment finally.  And bonus for using a scrap!


This scarf is one of my absolute favorites.  I think my mom got it for me at Talbot’s a few years ago.  You can’t tell in this picture, but it has sparkly threads woven through parts of it.  So pretty!  I can wear this if I don’t want the collar to show.


I haven’t shown you the buttons on any of my other Daturas because I’m too lazy to take pictures of them, but for this one I went with green.  Green doesn’t really match anything on the shirt, but they were the right size.  I don’t have enough smaller buttons!  These are from a boatload of buttons I bought back when I was making cards.  Buttons used to be (maybe still are?) a really popular decoration for cards.  I’m really glad I bought all those buttons now that I’m sewing!


There’s that pink!  I’ve moved on to a new color, but I really liked this one while it lasted!  I had it for like a month and a half I think and it never faded!  The brand of dye I used is amazing – it’s Pravana Chromasilk Vivids.  I did a ton of research to find a dye that wouldn’t just wash out immediately, and this is what I came up with.  I can confirm that it’s ridiculously long-lasting.  In fact, it’s impossible to get out.  I shampooed with the harshest shampoos I could find in hopes of fading it enough to dye teal over it, but no dice.  You can’t bleach it out, apparently (it drives the color into your hair shaft because bleaching opens up your hair cuticle), and hair dye remover doesn’t work on direct dyes.  Since teal wouldn’t end up looking teal over pink, I just went with another color that would cover pink well.

That’s it for today.  On Friday, I’m having my tonsils out, but I hope I’ll be feeling well enough to do a post about the suit I made before too long.  We’ll see!