Friday, June 23, 2017

Indie Sew : Biscayne Blouse & Mercer Tunic

It's the Great Tank Bonanza over on Indie Sew, where a bold group of sewists whip up two different summer staple tops to compare and contrast every aspect of fit, and construction. I'm excited to play along because woven tanks have a starring role in my summer uniform. 

Biscayne Blouse by Hey June Patterns

First up is the Biscayne Blouse from Hey June Patterns. This tank has gentle gathers along the front and back neckline, a faced neck band, two pocket options, and a shaped hem. The buttons on the button placket are concealed behind a decorative flap. The Biscayne is ever so slightly more fitted than the Mercer Tunic, though both work great worn loose over skinny pants. For comparison purposes, I'm wearing both tanks with my (often worn, but never blogged) Safran Pants by Deer & Doe
My Biscayne is made with the new Art Gallery Fabrics rayon print Mountain Mirror designed by April Rhodes. Rayon is a great choice for a design that really stands out in a drapey fabric. 

I chose my size based on my measurements, and I'm happy with the blousy fit. The only alteration I made was to raise the arm opening 1/2". 
The day I finished making this top I wore it the rest of the day with my Safran Pants as shown above. The very next day I wore it again. Two days in a row! I love it that much. Check out the last image of this post to see how I wore it the second time around.

Mercer Tunic by Whitney Deal

The Mercer Tunic by Whitney Deal is an uber simple top. It has an easy fit through the shoulders, and is oversized through the bust, waist and hips. The design highlights are the button placket, back yoke, gentle gathers at the front and back, and a straight hem. The arm and neck openings are finished with bias binding. The button placket, and yoke are a fun opportunity for color blocking, or using coordinating fabrics. This design has a very boxy cut. The wide shoulder is bordering on a cap sleeve, giving this design a respectable amount of shoulder coverage. 
My Mercer Tunic is made with my very favorite Robert Kaufman Chambray Union Light (also used as the contrasting fabric on the Biscayne Blouse). I sewed one size smaller than my measurements, and this top is still plenty roomy. I also took 2" off of the length so the hem would hit just at my hip. 
Both tanks took about the same amount of time to make from PDF to finished garment. Both are expertly drafted, and instructions are well presented. Either would be a great place to focus on perfecting your partial placket installation skills. I think the Biscayne blouse is a skosh more dressed up than the Mercer Tunic. The professional detailing of both designs would be great for the office as a shell, but the adult style lines, and modest coverage wouldn't prevent you from taking off your jacket or cardi. I wear breezy tanks with skinny jeans daily, here are a few alternate woven tank  outfits to get me out of that rut. 
I'm loving the chambray Mercer Tunic tucked into a self-drafted rayon midi skirt, and clogs. It's put together, but still heat friendly.
This is my favorite look and very "me" right now. The Biscayne Blouse paired with the longer of my Curved Copper Tube Necklaces, self-drafted wide leg pants (similar), and clogs. It's respectable, and easy to wear. 

You can get your copy of the Mercer Tunic and Biscayne Blouse sewing patterns along with a whole lot more summer tank inspiration over at Indie Sew. Check out Allie's blog post for a discount!

This post is sponsored by Indie Sew. All thoughts are my own.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Heritage Fabric Midi Skirt & Cropped Dress No. 1

Did April Rhodes peak inside my closet's soul when she designed the Heritage fabric line?! It goes with everything I own. This red Treasured Kermes print is a colorful counterpoint to the usual rhythm of my plain clothes uniform. I could wear it at least 6 ways with the denim, chambray, and cinnamon I already own. 

When I whacked the bottom off of this dark wash denim Dress No. 1 my first thought was "love it!" my second, "now what do I do with it?" That problem didn't last long when I hung it up next to this self-drafted midi, then tossed the clunkier of my pipe necklaces over the hanger hook. It's a harbinger of good things ahead when the makes on the clothes rack all go together. 
As soon as I realized this print was in rayon I knew I was going to make a midi skirt. I've made this skirt a few times in the past (first, second), and a new one was on the shortlist for spring sewing. This pull-on skirt is really easy to wear, and the flow of rayon elevates the simple style. I was a little worried that the bold colors, and detailed print of the Treasured Kermes design would be too far outside of my  normal uniform, but when I saw it in person I knew the tans, blues, and creams would make the saturated red very wearable. 

After Me Made May I realized I have a lot of garments from when I first started sewing for myself that I don't wear for small fit and fabric reasons. I really loved Dress No. 1 when I made it, but it's a little short of my taste, and shrank quite a bit since I made it. Strategic cutting allowed me to make the bottom into a skirt for L without even moving the pockets. 
Crop tops make me think of the belly bearing styles of the 80's. Pairing a cropped trapeze top with a high waist  bottom, creates more demure proportions.  I could see this top with cigarette pants, or a pencil skirt, but then I would have to concentrate on sucking in my stomach all day. The flowing volume on the bottom is more forgiving, so I can give my stomach muscles a break. 
Skirt Pattern: Self-Drafted Midi Skirt
Skirt Fabric: Treasured Kermes Rayon from Finch Knitting & Sewing Studio
Top Pattern: Modified Dress No. 1 by 100 Acts of Sewing
Top Fabric: 4oz. Denim from Joann Fabrics
Necklace: My own DIY Curved Pipe Tutorial 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

DIY Curved Tube Necklace Tutorial

My sewing super powers may have gone to my head, now I think I can make anything. Pants, sweaters, jewelry...I wanted a curved tube necklace, so I made a curved tube necklace.
Wearing a modified Lou Box Dress
The copper pipe for this necklace came from the plumbing section at Lowe's. Most hardware stores have precut short sections of small diameter copper piping for about $6. I tried this necklace with two different diameters of pipe. The one above is 1/4in inside diameter, the one below is 1/4in outside diameter. The smaller pipe is much easier to work with, and is probably the best place to start.

I was feeling pretty pleased with my $6 necklace until I saw what a pipe-cutter cost. The only one at our Lowe's was $40, pretty steep for a single DIY. Luckily, my husband has as many well stocked hobbies as I do, and he already has a very sturdy pipe cutter. If you don't see much plumbing work in your future, I think this $6 pipe cutter from Home Depot would be just fine. This copper piping is soft enough to bend with your hands, it would work with a cheap-o tool.

I used a Pyrex bowl to set the diameter of my necklaces. I experimented with parking bollards and street sign posts. They both worked just fine, but the bowl was way more convenient.

For the string, I cut a strip of cotton knit from my last cardigan. Any knit that rolls when you stretch it will work. I suggest a 1" wide strip, but you'll have to play with that to see what fits through the pipe. I prefer the rolled knit, to an actual cord because you can easily adjust the thickness to fit any size pipe. For both necklaces I made short "beads" from the pipe to add a little interest at the back.
Wearing a Jane Tee from Seamwork Magazine.


You will need: A 1/4in OD (outside diameter) copper pipe, 12-24in long. Strip of jersey knit fabric (that will roll when stretched) approx. 1in x 48in. Something sturdy, and round with about 5in diameter. I used a Pyrex bowl.
Use the round thing as a form, and bend the copper pipe around the outside curve. Bend slowly and carefully, being careful not to kink the pipe.
Make a mark along the pipe where you would like the necklace to begin and end. I used my cutting mat to make sure the curve was symmetrical. The pipe cutter makes a slight rounded edge at the cut, so it is best to cut both ends of the pipe to ensure the finish will be similar. Align the blade of the pipe cutter with the mark. Tighten the cutter until the blade is just gripping the pipe, and twist the pipe back and foutth so the blade rolls over the entire circumference of the pipe.
Tighten the cutter a tiny bit at a time, turning the pipe along the blade, until the pipe is cut the whole way through. It is important to tighten the clamp on the cutter slowly so you don't crimp the pipe.
For my necklaces I cut the main curve, and two 3/4in long beads for each end of the string. Feed the string through each bead, and the curved piece. Depending on the thickness of your string, you may be able to do this by hand. I attached my string to the end of a pipe cleaner to feed it through the pipe.  (and now my pipe is also squeaky clean inside;)
Knot each tip, position the beads along that knot, then knot the two ends together at the desired length. That's it!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

One Garment Four ways : Lodo Dress

The Lodo Dress from True Bias, a modified Hemlock Tee as a Cardigan, and a self-drafted leather obi belt. Three pieces that can be mixed and matched for maximum versatility. 

Reflecting on Me Made May 2017, I'm feeling pretty happy with my handmade wardrobe, at least the part I shared during this month's festivities. I'm not feeling so great about the garments I didn't show, and that I don't wear. I don't do much to limit myself in what I sew, because it's important to me to try new techniques, learn new skills, satisfy my creativity, and let my personal style reveal itself. 

As I've become more confident with fit and technique, I want to be a more disciplined with pattern and fabric choices. I want to make clothing I know that I will wear, and that fit into the body of work I'm actually using. This spring I've been sewing with versatility at the top of my priority list. With that in mind, here are three recently made pieces combined to make four different outfits. 

- No. 1 -

Lodo Dress

Look 1 is the Lodo Dress pure and simple. With it's deep V neck, and minimalist silhouette, a black Lodo Dress might be the must have for Spring 2017. I bought this fabric after I saw Katie's short (view b) black one. It's clearly a wardrobe staple, and I had to have one. Just before I put scissors to fabric I saw Meg's long (view a) black one. Still a wardrobe staple that can be dressed up or down, but the midi length makes it feel extra modern and sophisticated. In the end, I made the midi (view a). 

- No. 2 -

Lodo Dress + Hemlock Cardigan

For look 2, I've added a cardigan extending a summer staple into cooler weather. I'm calling this my Hemlock Cardigan, because I started with the free Hemlock Tee pattern from Grainline studio. Mine is heavily modified, but with such a simple iconic shape, it's a blur where the Hemlock ends and my cardigan begins. This design is inspired by the Only Child Cardiff Work Coat that I have been mildly obsessed with since I saw it on Style Bee. It has a relaxed fit that goes well with the Lodo Dress (or jeans and a woven tank), and clever slanty pockets that are so big you can carry your keys, wallet, and phone!  I hope Only Child will accept this knock-off as the sincerest form of compliment for which it is meant. I was considering a full diagram of the alterations I made to the Hemlock Tee to end up with this cardi, but after seeing the designer herself behind the sewing machine on the Only Child instagram feed, I decided that wouldn't be fair to her hard work. As a compromise, I've got a brief written description below. There will be some trial and error unless your preferences, and measurements match mine exactly. My cardigan is made with a dream-come-true double knit I got at Jomar in South Philly. It's smooth on one side, and has a bit of texture on the other. I had no plans to make an homage to the Cardiff Work Coat until I saw this fabric. When I'm sifting through the disgusting piles at Jomar I often wonder why I bother. This. Is. Why. 

How to make a Hemlock Cardigan: Add 1" to each side of the sleeve width. Shorten the sleeve length by 2". Add 3" cuffs (actually 6" to account for folding in half) the same length as the sleeve opening. Add 1" to width of body front and back along the under arm side. Add 2" to the body length. For the open front, cut from the furthest point of the neck opening down to the hem, parallel to the side seam.  Use 3" wide binding (6" then folded in half) the same length as the back neck + left side + right side.  Cut back as 2 pieces to add structure. Add seam allowances where required. Start bigger than you think is necessary, and baste the pieces to start. The square fit makes it easy to shave off size as you go. I normally shave a little off of the Hemlock when I'm sewing it as a tee, and I added generously to it for this cardigan. 

- No. 3 -

Lodo Dress + Obi Belt

For Look 3 I've added a simple self-drafted obi belt. Sashes are prominent in indie clothing collections this spring, and as a maker of my own clothing it's an easy trend to latch on to. This version is in black leather to add some texture to the matte black dress while maintaining the visual length from shoulder to feet. In truth, I am much more comfortable in dresses with a defined waist, and have to be in just the right mood (and wearing just the right strength of shape wear) to feel comfortable in an unstructured cocoon. 

The leather came from Baldwin Leather & Fabric in Philadelphia's Fabric Row. Baldwin has a nice, but completely random, selection of leather in the back of their store. You pay by the square foot (it's highly subjective, but reasonably priced) so take your pattern pieces to be sure you buy the right amount. Fabric Row is on South 4th Street between Bainbridge Street and Christian Street in Philadelphia. It has a bunch of nice shops for upholstery fabrics, and a few with apparel fabric. There are enough gift shops (my favorite is Moon & Arrow) and restaurants (Hungry Pigeon and Red Hook are both solid options) to keep you busy for an afternoon. If you're in Philly, skip the cheesesteaks (actually, you can get a respectable cheesesteak at 4th and South, just a few blocks away), and shop! It's a 15 minute walk from Independence Hall through a few of Philadelphia's nicest residential neighborhoods. 

- No. 4 -

Lodo Dress + Hemlock Cardigan + Obi Belt

Look 4 combines all three pieces. I've already worn this outfit a few times, and I think it's my favorite. While I may wear my Lodo this way most of the time, I like that I can mix things up when I feel like it, or have some built in versatility for summertime travels. 

Dress Pattern: Lodo Dress by True Bias
Dress Fabric: Ponte Knit from Joann Fabrics
Cardigan Pattern: Modified Hemlock Tee by Grainline Studio
Cardigan Fabric: Double knit from Jomar
Belt Pattern: Self-Drafted
Belt Fabric: Leather from Baldwin Leather & Fabric on Philadelphia's Fabric Row

Monday, May 15, 2017

Vintage Floral Wrap Dress from schneidernmeistern

This is the new 'noch ein Wickelkleid, bitte' wrap dress sewing pattern by schneidrenmeistren. This is the same designer who brought the Karl Dress into the world. She has a talent for making a strong statement that is also completely wearable. This wrap dress is a classic knit wrap dress that is knee length, and has 4 sleeve options. I'm wearing mine tied snuggly at my natural waist, but Monika and the other sewists on the 'notch win Wickelkleid, bitte' blog tour (list at end of post) have some way cooler styling suggestions for those looking for a more laid back urban vibe, or layered look. 
Monika kindly gave me this pattern to sew as I like. In this case what I like, is not my normal chambray, or linen. It would seem that is you're looking for consistency, you've come to the wrong place. This is my muslin, made with a miserable vintage polyester knit. I promise you, I have a characteristically reserved ponte variegated gray knit picked out for this little number, that was well within the typical SweetKM color palette. I took this vintage floral out of the "donate" pile on the sewing room floor so I could confirm fit and construction method before I cut into the good stuff. But every time I tried on the muslin, I liked it more, and more (looks great sleeveless, too!).

I initially hated this fabric. I bought it on Etsy a few months ago intending to make a 90's inspired flowing midi dress. It was miserably photographed to appear to be on a black background, and was described as a cotton blend with nice drape. Neither of those things are true. This is 100% spun plastic. If I stand too near a flame, or sit in a hot car I'm pretty sure this dress will shrink wrap to my body. It doesn't breathe, you can't iron it, it is likely to give me a rash. The fabric has a bit of stretch, but the ground and the print are screen printed on, so when it's stretched you can see the white polyester substrate between the rows of knit. Luckily, the flexible fit of a wrap dress minimizes the need for the dress to stretch that far. With all of these shortcomings the antique pink flowers make this feminine design just as romantic as I want it to be. I feel pretty, even in brown polyester! 

Honestly, I think the great fit of the dress is what turned my opinion of the fabric. It's still crap, but well fitting crap somehow looks good. I'm going to initiate a new rule of thumb, similar to no white after Labor Day. You can use a bad fabric on a well fitting dress, but must use good fabric for a poorly fitting dress. Now, we can all go forth and start flouting that rule. 
Based on my bust measurement I made a straight size 38. Unlike any RTW wrap dress I've ever worn my chest is safe from wardrobe malfunctions making a camisole optional. I normally grade up a size or two at the hips, but the flare of the skirt makes up for my curves. I love the close sleeve and arm opening. This is the 3/4 length sleeve option. I made two tiny changes to Monika's original design. I doubled the thickness of the ties to add to the vintage feel of the fabric. I also doubled the width of the neck edge band. As with most European patterns seam allowances are not included. I knew this, but still forgot to add it to the neck opening. I added it back with the width of the edge band. The open edge of the skirt has a built in facing that makes a really nice finish at the end of the neck edge banding.

Is there a woman alive who doesn't look good in a wrap dress? It's the perfect cure for my pear-shaped affliction. And, so comfortable I never want to take it off. I've been wondering what I'm going to do with that "good" fabric I never cut into, but I suspect it will end up as another 'noch ein Wickelkleid, bitte'!
Quick Links:
- Get the Pattern: 'noch ein Wickelkleid, bitte' wrap dress (it's 15% off during the blog tour!)
- Read Monika's description on her blog
- Check out the hashtag #nocheinwickelkleidbitte on instagram.