Neil’s birthday was in August and I was a bit stuck on what to get him. What do you get the man who had everything, got rid of heaps of it, and now has exactly what he needs?
He had noticed that his new workplace had a slightly different culture fashion-wise to his previous Australian workplace, although I’d argue New York and Melbourne are very different in regards to style. In Neil’s particular case, it meant less t-shirts and more button up shirts.
With all that considered, I decided to make him a button-up shirt. I went straight to Colette’s Negroni for a pattern. It’s relatively well-documented, bloggers like Lladybird and Peter have made it without complaint, plus the instructions were apparently legendary, so I bit the bullet and ordered the printed version. Admittedly, this was before all the Rue-ha-ha kicked off, but this pattern came through for me.
Neil is historically a straight Medium, all day every day. But while the man is a sample size in everything, I wasn’t quite confident enough to pick the fabric and features I thought he might like on my own, plus why not let him customise his own shirt? So the gift I gave him on his actual birthday was a toile. I sewed one long sleeve and one short sleeve onto the shirt, which got the laugh I wanted, and I explained he could customise the pockets, chose fabric and buttons, and determine the sleeve length himself. He chose the long sleeves and we shortened them slightly, which was the only adjustment we made to the pattern.
The fabric came from Mood. Neil had a Friday off so I suggested we visit the Garment District to visit some characters and get some supplies. I’d actually seen something at Metro Textiles that I thought he’d like, plus the whole store-on-the-9th-floor thing is still really interesting to us, but we didn’t make it that far from the subway. I suggested we quickly check Mood because they’d have everything, where we ended up buying the whole lot!
Neil picked a top-weight denim with tiny little palm trees on it (it’s this fabric, but a different colourway that doesn’t appear to be online). We found matching buttons and thread, and Neil got to pat Swatch the dog, who he said, “Is probably the most famous dog I’ve ever patted.”
Sewing the Negroni shirt was a lot of fun. In fact, if I ever needed some palette-cleansing sewing sorbet in the future, I would consider making another one of these for Neil. In Neil’s case, there’s no major fitting concerns, it’s all straight lines, no set-in sleeves and everything lines up just right. The fabric Neil chose was great to work with as well — it loved my iron, the interfacing, shears, everything felt like a breeze.
This is some seriously minor stuff, but I don’t think I matched the colour of the thread to the fabric very well. It’s slightly too grey and not quite blue enough for me. I don’t think the topstitching is perfect either, but topstitching is kind of like that, one stitch out and it’s looks wonky. I have to decide whether I want to buy another foot for my machine or place the topstitching a little further away from the edge of the garment. And while I prefer this method of sewing sleeves to set-in sleeves, I’m still figuring out how to make the seams under the arms line up exactly.
While the fit is pretty spot-on, after wearing it for a day, Neil did mention he’d like it a little slimmer at the hips next time, which is something I can definitely fix. It was also another case of matching the correct pattern to the correct fabric. While the denim is a top-weight denim, it’s still kind of thick, which meant Neil couldn’t really wear the shirt until the weather cooled down. A lovely winter shirt is a good thing, but it’s hard to be patient sometimes!
A catalogue pose if I ever saw one.
This is Neil wearing his new shirt on our trip to Beacon a couple of months ago. Note that the collar here is pressed slightly differently, more in line with the pattern description. Neil ironed a crease into it, which gives it a slightly different look and a little more like the other shirts he has in his wardrobe. I’ve read a little bit about how the collar isn’t to everyone’s taste, so if you’re in that boat, consider a crease that almost mimics a collar stand!
So, as mentioned, I made an after-party skirt for my wedding! I wore a RTW spring racing dress (so knee length and off the shoulder) from Hugo Boss for the ceremony, which I admittedly bought when Neil and I were first engaged. Not kidding, that was 4 or 5 years before we were actually married. I was very scared to try the dress on when we started actual wedding planning. I had learned so much about fit, I was worried about what past-Nyssa had done. Other than eat a few more muffins and pizzas than I should have, it was an amazing fit and nothing that some trips to the gym in the months leading up to the wedding couldn’t fix. Nice one! It was perfect on the day and Neil and I looked like a bloody catalogue because he bought his suit from the same store.
Up on the roof! The sun was facing the wrong way for me to show you Brooklyn, though.
My Mum calls my after-party skirt a “going-away” skirt, and it’s apparently a fairly normal tradition where I’m from in Australia. I just wanted something different for the evening portion of our day — we actually went dancing at Brooklyn Bowl and a white dress wasn’t quite the look I was going for. (I love telling people that ?uestlove DJ’d my wedding reception despite the number of groans I get in response). I actually kind-of planned this skirt and knew exactly what I wanted when I saw this skirt by Martin Grant.
Someone else pinned this with the caption “fancy schmancy”.
I made my version out of a DKNY taffeta purchased from The Fabric Store in Fitzroy (much thanks to the A-Team, Michelle and David, for the gift voucher). It’s very simple — I used a curved waistband and then just gathered a rectangle of fabric, finishing the whole thing off with a handstitched hem and invisible zip. I also included pockets, because they were definitely quite hidden within all that fabric. I attempted to attach a lining, but didn’t have anything in the correct weight, so I omitted it in the end. I stood on the kitchen table at my mum and dad’s house where my Mum helped me get the hem just right.
I learned a lot with this simple garment and it really helped me maintain some sewing mojo going forward, especially during the move when I got rid of a lot of handmade clothes and my stash. Ditching the lining was a great move, as it ended up being 30-something degrees on our wedding day and I did not need that much fabric in my life in that kind of heat. I always have my high-school sewing teacher telling me to line all the things in my head, and I’m trying to shake her out of there because how can I trust someone who didn’t teach us to press seams (no kidding, I seriously learned this much later on)? Another thing I learned to do was relax a little bit. I’ve been known to overfit garments and get hung up on making them perfect, even though the imperfections bothering me are ones I tolerate in RTW. A simple project, with no fitting challenges, was what I needed to remind me of what I like about sewing. And you know what, there are imperfections in the skirt — the tension on my machine kicked up a fuss and sometimes I wonder about those gathers and my pre-washing methods, but then I put this skirt on and feel like a queen. And nobody has ever said, hey, why are the stitches so tiny in that part of the seam? (You know why they don’t say that? They can’t see them! Nobody can!)
I sought a bit of help for this skirt too, which I don’t normally do. Alongside my Mum’s hemming, I asked my friend Nico for advice on pleats vs. gathers and he kindly took the time to explain what impact each would have on the garment. He also helped explain what kind of fabric I would need to get that drama happening. As a result of his expertise, I have a skirt that really comes close to resembling the original image.
So on the night I wore it with a white shirt from Uniqlo and sparkly pink ballet flats (which I am wearing in the pictures!), but these days, I team it with band t-shirts and just go to the pub. I mean, I didn’t put all this work in to not wear it!
You coming to the pub or what?
I bought this pink dotted swiss cotton from Mood when I was looking to replace a circle skirt that was faded beyond recognition and needed some serious retirement. It was the wrong fabric for the job, but I faithfully wore the skirt, because I didn’t have a lot of clothes to chose from after a serious cull prior to moving. When the skirt was involved with a cleaning accident and bleach spots appeared, I was annoyed because I had spent time on the skirt, but not that upset because it wasn’t really doing its job of replacing my original skirt. That skirt was retired without being blogged about.
I had bought too much of this dotted fabric and didn’t want to make (another) replacement skirt. I am trying to concentrate on picking the right fabric for the job and thought that it might make an appropriate blouse — I have other blouses RTW blouses made out of a similar material, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong. The buttons are from Pacific Trimmings. I picked them out because they’re a match for some buttons on a blouse that belonged to my grandma. I intended to get some cute pearly ones, but I got a bit caught up!
I chose Vogue 8772 as my pattern. I had toiled and made up this pattern back in Australia, but encountered difficulty bringing my arms forward, and wearing a peculiar shade of yellow so close to my face. I finished it, donated it, and vowed to learn from it. Of course, it would’ve been easier to learn from it if I had of kept the damn garment, but here we are. (There’s a wrap dress in my future with the exact same story behind it).
The notes I had left myself in regards to the adjustments I made to the pattern made no bloody sense, so I went back to the start made some familiar adjustments — shortened the bodice by 5cm, a 2.5cm FBA, a 1.2cm narrow shoulder adjustment, and shortened the sleeves by 7.5cm. (My bodice piece also says I did a swayback adjustment, but I can’t confirm or deny any evidence of that). I made up a toile and using Sunni’s broad back adjustment, added in 2.4cm across the back and sleeves. I also experimented with making a Peter Pan collar, but after some serious reflection, decided against it. Yes, I’m twee. However, I figured there would be some room for contrasts in the shirt if I made it according to the pattern, which is with a pointed collar. It wouldn’t be too sweet, just sweet enough.
After my last shirt dress, I made sure to concentrate on cutting out more carefully, which paid off. I also did my first continuous lap and only made one mistake (it’s inside out I think). They’re not perfect, but better than I expected. I prefer plackets, so I think I might do that on my next shirt. I also don’t appear to have over-fitted it, which is good! Small victories! Obviously, there are adjustments to be made…
After making the broad back adjustment and shortening the sleeves, I didn’t true my seams on the paper pattern, and the sleeves didn’t match up at their seams. I fudged it during construction and you can’t tell from the outside, but it will need fixing for future versions.
Sleeves, man. This particular pattern has a very high sleeve head, which makes setting it an absolute nightmare. There’s still a few tiny creases in my sleeve, but I am not going to get hung up about that. On future versions, I’m going to reduce the height of that sucker and save myself from the tedium.
I followed the instructions pretty closely, except for the fisheye darts in the bodice. I did them last, so that I could leave them out if I desired, but that looked less twee than I wanted. If I had’ve done the flat Peter Pan collar, then it might have been okay to leave the darts out, but as it stood, I felt I needed the darts to maintain a certain sense of girliness. I made them exactly as the pattern pieces said I should, but when I showed Neil my finished shirt, he suggested I might want to make the shirt more fitted. I ummed and ahhed about this, but made the decision to go fitted and take the width out of the front darts and the sides. I often wear shirts underneath other garments and tucked in, so this move made sense. Neil suggested if the fabric had’ve been a bit lighter, then the fit was fine. Back in Australia he had to wear shirts all the time, so his practical experience is important to me.
This is how I’l be wearing the shirt 99.9% of the time.
The darts did give me a hard time, looking pointy and bubbly, but that’s got more to do with how large they have to be (they are Big Honkin Darts, I’ll give you that). I’ve beaten them into submission with my iron for now, I think they’ll relax a little with a wash. I will be updating the pattern piece to make the darts look more like Megan’s curved darts, because that’s essentially what I did, only freehanded on the machine instead of planned. There’s some drag lines on the front that suggest a forward shoulder adjustment might be in order. I also want to revisit my FBA as there is extra fabric over my hips (you can see it flouncing with the shirt untucked). Actually, you know what, this is making me want to do princess seams I think…
Neil and I took a trip to Beacon a couple of weeks ago to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, where it was finally cool enough to wear long sleeves. I kind of understand this obsession with autumn now — the cool change is such a relief!
I love a bar crawl. Neil and I did a fantastic one before we left Australia — every bar in Brunswick, our suburb and home for 8 years. That’s 32 bars for those counting at home.
I’d never been on a yarn crawl before though. I guess there just aren’t that many yarn stores in Melbourne. I used to go to Wool Baa or Morris and Sons every now and then, but found I didn’t make the time once I went back to work. I had a sizeable stash and no time to knit with it. However, I got rid of all my yarn when we moved, except for a project’s worth from Knit Picks, so there was a small gap in my overall craft stash for a little bit of yarn.
I stumbled across the NYC Yarn Crawl, and at first, was a bit skeptical. I was actually searching for knitting circles so I could meet some fellow knitters and crocheters, and figured the crawl would be fun, until I realised it was self-directed. I thought about it for a little while, but in the end, I figured I would go to a couple of stores because I did have a small queue of projects, and it’s quite nice to go out and touch the fibre.
I headed out on Friday, the first day of the crawl. I figured the weekends would be a bit busy, plus I had to go to the Social Security office anyway, which was very close to one of the stores, Seaport Yarns. Seaport Yarns is on the 4th floor of a non-descript building, just like some of the stores in the Garment District. I always feel like a bit of an insider when I get to go to stores like this. It was a treasure trove of all kinds of yarn, much of it I hadn’t heard of before. It was a little chaotic for me so I didn’t purchase anything this time, but it’s nice to know it’s there.
Unlike the Garment District, none of the yarn stores are that close to each other. I made the decision to walk from the Financial District, up to SoHo, where Purl Soho is located. I was excited about this one, mainly because I’d heard of Purl Soho before. It was there that I realised this yarn crawl was a Big Deal. The store was packed! There was a twenty minute wait on yarn winding! I bought some super-secret yarn which will be made into a gift and won a tote bag, so it was all very exhilarating.
My next stop was Downtown Yarns on Avenue A, which is the edge of the Lower East Side. Once again, I decided to walk. It was turning into a great way to see the city. Downtown Yarns have the fluffiest
bear dog that I’ve ever had the privilege to pat. They also had a selection of yarns that is probably a bit more to my taste, very colourful. I bought some blue Malabrigo for a pair of slippers here. (I was shopping from a list, so I didn’t go too mad and buy really pretty variegated yarn that looks great in a skein and terrible otherwise).
I am all for shop dogs.
Then I had to go pick up some medicine for the cat in Midtown. Not yarn related though.
From there, I was closest to Knitty City in the Upper West Side. I could have walked, but it was getting late in the day, and I knew that I wanted to meet Neil for a drink later, so I decided to catch the subway up there. I’ve not spent any time really up that way (there used to be a bar called The Ding Dong Lounge up there, but it’s closed now), so I was keen for a new neighbourhood. I think out of the four stores I visited, Knitty City was my favourite. It too was really busy, but the atmosphere was really lively. There were people knitting in store, the colours of all the skeins were amazing, and everyone was super friendly. I bought some Madelinetosh here for a new Bo-Peep Scarf (I gave my old one away).
They even put my photo on their Instagram! (Not pictured, but should be, seeing this shirt in real life was kind of amazing).
Being able to see and touch what are really notable yarn brands for the first time was super cool and a bit of a buzz for me. I considered dragging Neil out to some more stores on the weekend — I didn’t even hit any of the Brooklyn stores — but truth be told, I did buy most of the yarn that was on my list, and I have to be careful because I don’t have the room/will to store it anymore like I used to. Another nice side-effect of the tour was to just walk around the city for a day, which I didn’t consider initially. Sure my feet were sore the next day, but it was so worth it.
So this means along with my sewing projects, you’ll get to see some knitting projects in the future too!
A couple of years ago, I tried to make Gertie’s Shirtwaist Dress to no avail and after some serious contemplation, I decided to purchase the shirtwaist dress pattern to end them all, McCall’s 6696. Purchasing a well-documented pattern really saved my sanity and gave me the confidence boost I needed. I loved it so much I made two! And a half!
Well, actually, I’ve since made three.
I knew I wanted to make one last summery version. I was in a vintage store on Bedford Avenue a couple of weeks ago where I got to try on this lovely thing.
I think this is from Awoke Vintage on Bedford Ave.
Neil said it looked alright, but I explained I wasn’t entirely comfortable in it. The bust was very tight (you probably know to look for the straining against the buttons) and the waist was missing a hook and eye — I’ve tied the bow in front to cover it up, but you could totally see my belly. The annoying thing was, when I inspected the garment, I could see signs that there used to be another closure there. I do not pay $70 for vintage garments that aren’t perfect, so I snapped this picture and left it in the store, vowing to make my own floral version.
When we were last in London for a friend’s wedding, I told Neil I’d like to visit one of the two major fabric districts, either Goldhawke Road or Walmsthow Market. I’m not sure why I ended up picking Goldhawke Road in the end, but as we were staying near King’s Cross, we jumped onto a tube and headed out. I went out there with a mission, and that mission was flowers. Tiny little Liberty flowers, big flowers, it didn’t matter. When I saw this particular fabric, I knew that this is what I wanted to make my summer shirtwaist dress out of. It’s a different kind of fabric to the vintage piece, but as the main inspiration was the flowers themselves, I considered it a win. Alongside the bright flowers, there’s also a paisley print embroidered in black swirling throughout the fabric. I found out later that it doesn’t press very well at all, which is slightly annoying, but it’s hard to know that in the middle of a fabric store.
There are other alterations I made that make this dress different to the vintage one. I already had two shirtwaist dresses, the black one being the most similar, so I thought it would be nice to switch things up a bit. I also knew I always wanted to return to the shirtwaist dress from Gertie’s book, in particular the shirred back. Rather than using Gertie’s pattern, I added shirring to the McCall’s version. Instead of the back being four back pieces — the yoke, the back, the waistband and the skirt — I made two, the yoke and the back. I just laid out the back, the skirt and the waistband overlapped on the fabric and winged it and it worked out okayyyy… more on that later.
I also made tulip sleeves, as inspired by the second shirtwaist dress in Gertie’s book. They were very easy and satisfying to make up, although once I put the dress on, I realised that I would probably make them cap sleeves rather than actual sleeves. It’s hard to tell what Gertie’s done on her dress as she has her arms down. Anyway, I would make cap sleeves first — this is how to make that adjustment — and then make the tulip sleeve adjustment after that. I finished them with a narrow hem, which I’ve never done before. It came out lovely.
I also undid the sloping should adjustment from the previous version. Much better!
The buttons are from Pacific Trimmings. I learned from my last shirtwaist dress (the black one) the perils of choosing buttons that are Too Big, so I made a concerted effort to find some in a more appropriate size. I love these little guys, they’ve kind of got that swirls-on-swirls look that the fabric has. I swore I wouldn’t use shank buttons again, but I couldn’t resist them.
This dress came together much easier than the previous two. I spent less time with the quik-unpick than normal. At first I was skeptical. “Wait, that just went together like that?” Then I realised that I may have been experiencing some imposter syndrome. I always feel like the rug is going to be pulled out from underneath me when I’m at work. I guess the thing is that something usually does go wrong with my sewing, given the tactile nature of it (when I’m at work, I can just backspace and try different code, no harm no foul). I think I especially felt like I was getting away with something when I realised just how terrible my cutting was.
Oh my goodness, my cutting. So, I have been extra careful lately. I have been tracing pattern pieces and then cutting them with shears, and if I couldn’t trace because the fabric was too finicky, then I just used my rotary cutter (I have a huge A0 cutting mat which I love, but I don’t love my rotary cutter in the same way). This time, because the fabric laid itself out so nicely and I couldn’t trace due to the embroidery, I figured I would just cut around the pattern pieces. And it appears my first few pieces, like the bodice and the collar, came out just right. My button placket was a mess, but I didn’t realise it until I was attaching the interfacing. It’s meant to be straight, but it dipped by almost a centimetre in places! Although this dress went together very easily, the placket was definitely problematic. I’m not 100% convinced that it’s perfectly straight in places and there’s some sneaky handstitching on the inside to prevent any fabric edges showing up. The waistband on the front suffered a little too. The shirring has helped with some of these sins, along with the drape of the fabric, but still. The lesson here is: can’t trace? Use the damn rotary cutter.
The other thing I learned on this project was about “winging it”. Instead of making a new pattern piece for the back, I just laid out the back, the waistband and the skirt piece and cut around that. I wondered about it as I was doing it — I chose the straight skirt from the pattern envelope, which has a slightly curved hem at the waistline. This means that I couldn’t place it exactly 4cm below the back piece (the waistband is 7cm wide, minus the seam allowance of 1.5cm x2). Plus there’s every chance these pieces moved as I was cutting because as explained, I got a bit giddy. So when I attached the front to the back, I found I was out by around 2cm (!!) at the waist. Given the flexible nature of shirring, I let this 2cm fall down to the hem and just cut it off there, but next time I want to make such a dramatic adjustment, I would like to do it on paper. That way, I can walk and true any seams and basically have my shit together so I don’t lose it later. I got away with it on this project, but I haven’t always, so it is something that I need to keep learning and remembering.
Tilly continues to help me.
By the end of the project, I must admit, I was a little… well, bored. It’s my third version of this pattern, plus I used a variation of it on my gingham skirt. It’s a detailed garment to make, there are a lot of pieces, and it can be a little more time consuming than other projects. I mean, when you’re sewing on eleven buttons (twelve if you’re like me and sew a spare onto the inside of the placket), you can be forgiven for thinking, damn, are we done yet? There is one more version of this I’d like to make, with long sleeves for the winter, but I think I might leave it for the actual winter.
I felt that I needed a “palette-cleanser” after the disappointment of a spending forever on a dress that simply did not hit the mark (I haven’t quite finished the dress yet, it’s in timeout while I contemplate it. My first NYC UFO let’s say). I was pondering my sewing sorbet — I don’t have any TNT patterns at the moment that I can just whip up, so that was out — when Karen from Did You Make That? posted a Gighamathon challenge. The rules were simple, use gingham and post about it.
Despite my limited stash, I actually had a piece of gingham knocking about, leftover from my Dorothy dress. My intention was to actually use it as toile fabric, but when this challenge idea came up, I figured I may as well turn it into a real garment. And because cutting and sewing gingham is so easy (I’ve never had issues with finding the grain or cutting straight lines!), it was perfect sorbet project. One final bonus, I needed another summer skirt, something unlined to help cope with this ongoing NYC heat, so I could even cross an item off my to-sew list.
(The heat, people. I’m know I’m Australian and it did get hot in Melbourne from time-to-time, but not like this! RELENTLESS! Remind me of this in December, k?).
The shirt should say “COURTNEY BARNETT” but I’m too short, so Courtney B it is.
I was inspired by the skirt-only version of McCall’s 6696 Fiona of Diary of a Chainstitcher made, so I used that as my starting point. I used the full-skirt portion, and instead of pleats, I decided to do gathers instead. I figured rather than trying to pattern-match any pleats to the waistband (which would’ve been quite clever), gathers would be much, much easier. I usually do the three lengths of long stitches, then pull the bobbin threads to make gathers, but this time, I tried Gertie’s method of using shirring elastic. I was very happy with the results and how much faster it was than my usual method, so I would definitely consider it on future projects.
The buttons are from Pacific Trimmings. I considered white or blue buttons initially, especially since the skirt is already a bit loud and not-available-in-stores, but I knew that I really wanted coloured buttons. I was thisclose to buying some yellow buttons in the shape of daises, but figured that perhaps something a little more “grown-up” might be better. (I don’t know if anyone else did this, but my friends and I used to replace the buttons on our plaid school uniforms when we were in high school). I’m still not sure these buttons are perfect, but I’m finding the Garment District a very overwhelming place and decided that I would prefer chose buttons from one store, rather than visiting several stores. Too much choice can definitely drag me down.
Using up stash fabric is one of my favourite things to do! Especially since it was fabric that wasn’t marked for garment construction. I like to make toiles because then I’m not ruining fashion fabric, but I am concerned about the environmental impact of all that calico I don’t keep. I’m glad this piece of fabric turned into something useful and pretty.
I also let myself relax with finishing the inside of this garment, to a point. I like to pink my seams, because it’s important to me that these clothes are not like RTW clothes. I made them, which to me means they should look professional, but that including details that demonstrate I took time to make it are also important. However, this garment was sorbet, so I zig-zagged those seams up in no time. I spent that time slip-stitching the hem and placket instead. If I try to zip through a project like a speed demon, I inevitably make mistakes. Slowing down helps, and let’s face it, nothing is slower than hand stitching. I used to hate it, but I really relish it now.
I know I said that working with gingham is sooo easy, but that said, there were some instances where I simply wasn’t careful enough. The pattern matching on the sides, the back and the front placket is slightly off. I remind myself that while I should always aim to improve, regular folks out there in the real world don’t notice these things. I saw a striped RTW dress the other day where the stripes did not match at all, and girl wearing it still looked super-cute and happy in it. I also wasn’t very careful with lining up the button holes and there is one or two that are off by a centimetre or so. Once again, not something you really notice from a distance, but as my almost-got-slapped-for-this husband said, “measure twice, cut once.”
To avoid the pattern matching problem, ideally I would’ve cut the placket and the waistband on the bias. Lladybird Lauren did a post on matching plaids, and her advice is don’t, if you can at all help it. I didn’t have enough fabric for cutting on the bias and decided to persevere with trying to match those little square suckers instead. As I was staring at that placket during all that hand stitching, I did think of other ways the slightly-off pattern matching could’ve been mitigated. Some piping could’ve been cute for example. The lesson learned here? Don’t start cutting into a limited about of gingham five minutes after you read something on the internet. (Fun fact, I am really only spontaneous in my sewing life).
I’m happy with the end result. Happier than I thought I’d be when I noticed the button issue for sure. I wore the skirt to brunch the other weekend and it was nice to have something so airy but opaque. I thought skipping a lining might be akin to sewing-cheating, but given how perfect the skirt felt in the weather, I know I’ve done the right thing.
Back in April, my first project on my new sewing machine, with fabric bought in this new-to-me country, was actually a pair of pyjamas, and while they’re functional, they’re not terribly exciting or sexy. They’re also a bit worn now, so there’s that.
That new-to-me fabric came from Mood Fabrics in New York. Going to Mood was like visiting a TV set. Everything looked so familiar! Tell you what, I was not prepared for how large Mood is. I’m used to stores the size of The Fabric Store in Fitzroy, maaaybe a hugeass Spotlight like the one in Essendon. This was next level. And I’ve since learned that there are some stores even bigger than Mood, but that’s a topic for another day. I picked out some seersucker for my pyjamas — stripy seersucker, because my cutting mat hadn’t arrived yet and I wanted to guarantee what I did ended up on grain — and despite furiously studying the back of the pattern envelope, I ended up with a lot of left over fabric.
Leftover fabric was not something that I wanted. I had spent all this time and energy downsizing my stash to fit into a suitcase (which at the time was on a boat), I certainly didn’t want to start hoarding more. I committed to finding a use for the fabric ASAP. I had brought a select couple of patterns in my checked luggage with me, one of them being McCall’s 6696, AKA The Shirt Dress That Everyone Has Made. The pattern envelope said I didn’t have quite enough fabric, but who was I to trust a pattern envelope these days?
Our balcony, which Neil duly tends to.
I bought 6696 some time after my failed attempt to make Gertie’s Shirtwaist Dress. I elected not to salvage the project in the end, which was hard. I really loved the fabric ($4 for around 4m of plaid from an op shop!) and I really wanted the project to work, but my enjoyment of sewing was more important to me than how frustrated that garment tried to make me feel. The move allowed for these kinds of fresh starts, so in the bin it went. The decision to buy the 6696 was because it is, hands-down, the most documented shirt dress on the entire Internet. If there was something wrong with this pattern, I was going to bloody know about it. This documentation provided the safety net I needed to get back on the wagon.
I managed to eek out the slim skirt version with the short sleeves out of my leftover fabric. I had to throw stripe matching to the wind, but that is something you truly only notice when you sew. I went back to Mood for the buttons. I had my heart set on these very sweet pink buttons, but at $2 a pop or whatever, I settled for something a little less expensive!
Tilly came to help.
I was so enamoured with this dress, that when my fabric stashed arrived from Australia, I set about making a second one, this time with the big, swooshy skirt. The fabric is from Phillip’s Shirts in Melbourne. Every now and then they have a warehouse sale, where you can buy lengths of fabric and old stock, plus have a poke around their studio. I got 3m of this black, polka dotted seersucker but didn’t have time to sew with it before we left.
This is my pattern envelope pose.
If I thought I had to be frugal with fabric before, I was really challenged this time. The fabric wasn’t very wide at all, as in, not even 115cm wide. I still had dreams of the full skirt though, so I played pattern tetris like I had never played before. Once again, I ended up with just a handful of scraps in the end, which does make my heart sing.
Trying not to stand on someone’s tail.
The buttons also came from my stash, they’re originally from Jimmy’s Buttons in Fitzroy. I was very excited about using them until it actually came time to make the buttonholes. The buttons are HUGE. They’re shank buttons made for a coat I assume (that’s what I originally bought them for anyway). I said “fuck it,” and made huge buttonholes. Upon reflection, it looks slightly ridiculous, but only if you’re staring right at my chest. Black seersucker hides a multitude of sins.
The fit! It was my first time using a pattern with different pattern pieces for different cup sizes, and I must say, it saved a bit of work. I used the C cup pattern, because the difference between my upperbust and bust is almost 3 inches (note that in the Real World, this doesn’t make me a C cup, but I’ve found it’s easier to think of myself as an actual FF cup, but a sewing C cup, if that makes sense. It’s suggested to use a lot more measurements than just two to determine a cup size). On the black dress, I did a tiny 1cm FBA — I refitted myself for a bra when we moved, and which has made me feel a lot better, but has had a dramatic effect on how my clothes fit!
I also enjoyed all the documentation the internet provided me. I knew to try Jen’s burrito method for making the yoke, and the Four Wall’s method of attaching the collar. I love handsewing, but there’s a lot on this dress, so if there’s a feasible way to skip it, sometimes I will elect to do that.
Hello down there.
I used calico as interfacing in the first dress. Do you think I remembered to prewash calico? Of course I didn’t. The collar on the dress looked amazing when I finished, but when it came out of the wash for the first time, I knew immediately I’d made a mistake. A shrunken, puckered mistake. I actually have enough fabric to cut a new collar and stand, so I just have to decide whether I want to or not. A heavy duty pressing and steaming session usually makes it wearable. I’ve documented it here as-is for future reference.
The second dress fell victim to overfitting. After I finished the first dress, which had a 1.5cm forward shoulder adjustment and not much else, I felt that the shoulder needed more work, so I went to town on a sloping shoulder adjustment and a narrow shoulder adjustment. This ended up in a dress that was too short at the waist for me, alongside a neckline that hit my earlobes almost, mainly due to the sloping shoulder adjustment. I’m not sure if I executed it badly or not, but I don’t think I need it that much. I trimmed down the neckline, which of course, resulted in the collar not fitting correctly… what a calamity. I still wear the dress — that creeping waistline is a reminder to just relax sometimes.
Look! He’s looking at the camera!
I did learn from one dress to another. I bought some proper interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply for the second dress, which turned out much better. I learned some fitting tweaks between the dresses too, which was handy. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that sure, I can make toile after toile after toile, but sometimes it’s better to just cut into the fabric and make something. Will it be perfect, as in the perfect in my mind? Of course not. Will it be wearable? Likely! The lesson here? Just fucking sew it!
This guy is the reason why I spent 1/2hr with a lint roller today.
I doubt I ever had enough followers to have anyone worry about me (mainly because my mum knows where I am), but this was always a blog about my sewing and I want to document why I didn’t really sew for what felt like a long time.
Lots of things happened though! Neil and I got married! We travelled to New York City to get married, and then we had two receptions, one in England and one in Australia. Early on in the planning process, I was going to make my dress, but I ended up buying one I really like. I love seeing handmade wedding dresses, but making my own was not a task I was ready for because I would be that bride hemming her dress the morning of the ceremony.
We had our wedding photos taken in Bushwick, in front of murals by The Bushwick Collective
I did make a “going-away” skirt, although I’ve been calling it an after-party skirt. I will write a post dedicated to its construction in the near future.
So, after the wedding, Neil and I sat on a big secret for awhile, until around Christmas time. Neil was offered a job at an agency in New York, so the three of us — Neil, Tilly the cat and myself — packed up our lives and made the move in March. We spent two months in Manhattan but have now settled in Williamsburg (fucking hipsters).
I chose to get rid of most of my stashed fabrics and yarn. A lot of it was given to me or purchased without purpose and it was weighing me down. The stash I did keep fits in a vintage leather suitcase that belonged to my grandparents and since unpacking, I’ve elected to only have as much fabric as will fit in the suitcase. If the suitcase is ever full, then no more fabric. I only brought enough yarn for one project, so that’s neatly tucked away in a cupboard. I like this arrangement much more than the milk crates and tubs of fabric and yarn back in Australia.
The suitcase belonged to my grandparents, it’s beautiful but so. heavy.
I also had to get a new sewing machine, so for the first time I own a brand new machine! I ended up getting a Janome 2212, which is a mechanical model very similar to the 70’s one I had in Australia, except not nearly as heavy. It was very inexpensive, but as I prefer vintage techniques that don’t require a complicated machine, plus who knows where Neil and I might go next, it felt better to not invest in a sexy computerised machine right now. I did look into some dual-voltage machines but they weren’t very feature-heavy for their price.
Less metal, more plastic.
I decided to celebrate the move by shaking up my website a bit. The original shoesandblues.com is now my portfolio site. (I’m a junior-level front-end developer with experience in WordPress and responsive email if you’re wondering slash hiring). This is now makesit.shoesandblues.com and is dedicated to the things I make with fabric and yarn. I removed all the old posts that weren’t crafting related and made a new layout. I wanted a retro, 50’s theme but wasn’t sure where to start until I was going through through my sewing box one day and saw the packaging on some vintage notions.
A collection of notions I also found at my grandparents’ house before it was sold.
I’ve made quite a few garments already and I look forward to showing them to you over the next couple of weeks!
Gosh, I didn’t expect that break. I have blogged in the meantime, but the internet appears to have eaten it and I haven’t made time to re-write the post. I returned to full time work last year, which reduced the amount of spare time I had to blog and sew. I also had quite an old and tired computer, hence the lack of energy. However, I have started a brand new job, I bought a brand new computer and I am currently putting the finishing touches on a new layout, which will hopefully make this place a little more modern and demonstrate some of the things I’ve learned since I started front-end programming and now designing full time.
Previously on Shoes and Blues though, I mentioned a dress I made to wear to a friend’s wedding.
Outside the villa in Begur.
Neil took my photo out the front of our hotel in Begur, Spain, which was near where the wedding was. What a destination!
Anyway, the dress. It’s made from some soft, sheer cotton I got from Kinki Gerlinki, although it’s underlined with some plain navy cotton. The top half of the dress is Licorice from Collette and the bottom half started its life as New Look 6896.
The top half of the dress actually started off as Collette’s Taffy. Perhaps it would’ve stayed as Taffy if I had of considered the underlining a little more. Using the right fabric for the right job, rather than getting caught up in polka dots, is something I’m looking to improve on. In this case, I switched up the bodice instead. I feel also that the topstitching on the bodice is wonky as well due to the inconsistencies between the fabrics. Or it’s due to my excitement to finish a garment, either way. The draping on the skirt isn’t underlined, so the polka dots get to shine.
The fit on this bodice isn’t perfect. The darts are in all kinds of crazy places, which is also true of the Maudy Arabella dress I made, although I only learned recently some of these dart secrets. I also think there’s some excess fabric above the bustline and it gapes at the back. I find these smaller fit issues once I’ve been wearing a garment out in the wild for awhile. Blogging about them is my reminder to take note next time.
So the skirt, while not perfect, I’m quite happy that it came out as well as it did.
This is a closer look at the front of the skirt. There’s some extra fabric at the front that drapes in the front, and the pockets angle out. I was inspired by a dress that I bought from an op shop ages ago. I must admit, I still wear the op shop dress more often because ironing this dress is quite a feat, however I’m going to chalk that up to another learning experience about the right fabric for the right job.
I’m not quite experienced enough to provide a tutorial on how to adapt a skirt pattern, but I figured a couple of diagrams might be of help.
Firstly, the draped front panels. Using a compass, or a pencil on the end of a string, I put the point at the top of the skirt front, then dragged the pencil from the bottom of the skirt until it was level at the top.
The next alteration was the slash and spread on the pockets. I moved the slashed piece out until the skirt side was level with the bottom (not a terribly precise process, but I had the original dress for reference). One pocket piece is adjusted, but the facing is not. Instead, the pieces are eased together later. They do a lot of the work when it comes to shaping the dress.
If you’re looking to do some more reading on an alteration like this — because advice from me should be carefully considered! — I recommend reading up on how cowls are drafted, as that was my initial reference point when I started thinking about this.
My other piece of you-didn’t-even-ask advice is about hair. If you’re after sun-tousled beach hair, just go to the beach. Best hairdo I’ve ever achieved without a second pair of hands, seriously. Thank you, Spain!
Well, perhaps not short shorts. Shorts nonetheless.
I only recently read Tasia’s summary of Frosting vs Cake, but it struck a chord with me, which I briefly mentioned when making my Maudy Arabella dress. I often make party dresses and wear them to a wedding or two, but they’re not something I get to wear everyday. Like many others, I would like to make more every day items, which for me would be skirts and blouses.
Neil and I just got back from Spain where we attended the wedding of Captain Paul and Beth. I did make a dress, which I will blog about another day once I can wash and iron it properly. I also made two pairs of shorts. I remember last time we went overseas for a summer holiday, I didn’t have any shorts and — TMI warning — my thighs chafed from all the walking around we do when away. “I will make shorts!” I figured, which would also give me the chance to fit a trouser pattern without having to sacrifice too much fabric.
I made two toiles of McCall’s 8473, a pattern I found in an op-shop, before cutting into my two fashion fabrics. I shortened the waist and lengthened the crotch, deepening the curve in the back. I then replaced the straight waistband with the curved waistband from New Look 6896, admittedly after the shorts were finished. The waistband stood out from my hips, but the back seam was riding up. My researched indicated it was the waistband shape, which makes sense. Am I a square? No? Curved waistband then.
(I’m trying to find a link to McCall’s 8473. Do McCall’s always reuse pattern numbers? Because I certainly didn’t make any children’s garments, not did I make a doona cover).
I probably should have stopped here — I also widened the legs, which I think is the reason why the shorts would sometimes bunch and ride-up when I walked, although I plan to have a cup of tea with the Pattern Review forums to learn more (I also plan to stop eating so much cheese).
They didn’t photograph very well on the hanger. The stripey shorts are made of cotton and are underlined with cream cotton lawn. The spotty shorts are cotton too I think, my Mum brought the fabric back from Bali, and are underlined with black cotton. The stripey shorts are probably the better make, the spotty fabric shifted a lot and many pieces turned up slightly off. Both are finished with flat-felled seams, fly-front zippers and hook-and-eye closures.
The shorts definitely did make a lot of difference to how comfortable I was on holiday, even if they’re not perfect. For next time, I think I would make them a little bigger at the waist, perhaps with a partial elastic waistband, to accommodate all the ‘tapas y cervasas’ I end up eating and drinking while away. For a first — and second — attempt, I’m fairly happy with the results and look forward to experimenting with more shapes and getting the fit absolutely spot-on. I’m thinking floral shorts for the summer perhaps…