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I’m still alive* and sewing, I promise!
Most recently (aka last week), I made myself a Sewaholic Cambie Dress.
I know that anyone who has read sewing blogs for the past few years has probably seen one or fifty versions of this dress. Honestly, I’ve seen so many – and while I’ve always liked them – I just sort of filed the information away thinking that maybe someday I’d try the pattern for myself.
Well, that “someday” finally came and I ordered a couple of patterns from Sewaholic Patterns to see how they fit my body. Here’s my Cambie:
I made it in a brightly colored large-weave cotton with 2% spandex piqué fabric. I love textured fabrics, especially when they are a solid color!
The color of this fabric is incredibly hard to photograph! It really messes with the white balance on cameras. I’ve discovered that digital cameras want to read anything with a mix of green and blue as bright turquoise with all the green removed. (Must be that whole Orion slave girl makeup issue on film.) The fabric is definitely green but it has a drop of blue in it – a color somewhere in the zomp and Persian green range in this article about the color spring green on Wikipedia.
Anyway, I think I’ve come pretty close to color-correcting these photos to match real life.
I made a mockup of only the bodice to check the fit. (I knew both skirt options would fit just fine without adjustments.)
The only changes I made to the pattern were so minimal they’re almost not worth mentioning. I scooped out the underarm a little (it was awfully high and straight), smoothed the neckline curves slightly, and shortened the front shoulder straps by a full inch (apparently a commonly needed alteration for this pattern), as you can see in the mockup photo above.
I also decided to make a neckline facing instead of fully lining the dress. I chose to do this because my fabric was rather thick & didn’t need one, and I didn’t want to lose the comfort of its slight stretch.
Speaking of hard to photograph colors, this fabric is also hard to color-match with thread! I never did find a perfect match. Good thing there’s no topstitching needed with this design! I ended up using emerald green (too green!) thread on my serger and a teal (too blue!) thread to stitch everything together.
I made View A with the A-line skirt. I really like the full gathered skirt version too and will probably make one in View B at some point.
All the above photos show how I wore my new dress to church on Sunday. I went with neutral wedges and a simple necklace to make it all about the dress the first time. But I know I’m going to have lots of fun pairing it with other accessories later!
I particularly like it with the yellow shoes and narrow belt:
In the end, I was surprised how dressy this fabric actually is. (I probably shouldn’t be, considering piqué has long been associated with white tie.) I’ve always thought of piqué as somewhat casual because it’s cotton and usually used for summer dresses. But this larger weave has a shimmer to it as the light hits the texture.
You may have noticed that Wensley likes to photo bomb my blog pictures. So to conclude, here’s a goofy shot of me imitating him jumping at the back door during the shoot:
* After a bunch of costuming jobs, I came back to find that WordPress had messed with some of the settings for inserting photographs, making their newest “upgrade” more of a downgrade. Incredibly frustrating and un-motivating when it comes to blogging! So while I waited for them to get their act straightened out, I spent my time sewing a lot of things for myself. And now I have a backlog of things to blog.
I’m not sure I would have originally chosen to make myself a coat in this style, had I only seen the pattern for sale. After all, I already have 4 (store-bought) fancy coats to wear when I’m dressed up and I wasn’t sure I could justify a fifth.
But the collar was interesting, and the more I considered it, the more I could see myself finding a way to make it my own. Plus, pattern testing for a designer is always a fun challenge because it forces me to try styles I may have passed over otherwise. (How can you grow if you won’t step outside your comfort zone?)
I’m intrigued by Lolita Patterns for two basic reasons:
One, they are based on the Japanese style of dress called Lolita fashion that is both girly and conservative, meaning you get the cute anime look without the sleazy, Halloween-costume vibe. (Lolita fashion. Now I finally have a term for that style!)
And two, the pattern sizing is based on two separate blocks and has very little design ease. Technically, my measurements were not on the chart, so I was hoping that the “very little ease” part would work in my favor.
Disclaimer: My version of the Spearmint coat is based on the test pattern I was given. The test pattern needed more work than Amity originally anticipated, and the final pattern being sold has been corrected, but I’m not sure exactly how my end results compare to the finalized pattern.
Also keep in mind that this is being labeled as a “top coat” for a “California winter,” or a “transitional coat” for more extreme climates, and some of my alterations were done to allow me the option of wearing thicker layers with mine. (I plan to wear mine most during Spring and Autumn.)
I chose to make the shorter version of the coat, which is actually 6 inches shorter than the final pattern – it’s now drafted to hit more at the knee.
I went digging through my fabric stash and came up with 2 yards of heavy weight 100% cotton blue denim (I bought it 5 or 6 years ago because it was only $2/yard). I also had 2 yards of an amazing dress form print quilting cotton that I thought would make a fun lining.
The pattern called for 3 yards of each, but I am “The Queen of Eking” and I was determined to eke it out of something I had.
No matter how much I wanted to like the shade of the denim’s blue, I just wasn’t feeling it. It was a bit mom-jean blue or something. It might have worked well if I distressed it after making the coat, but since I couldn’t be sure, I didn’t want to take the chance.
So I pondered my options while I made my two mockups and preshrunk my fabric a total of 3 times (washed in hot and heat dried). I didn’t have any fabric to spare, so there was no room for error.
Ultimately, I deliberately decided to use the wrong-side of the denim as the right-side. It has a slightly heathered grey-blue look from a distance but it’s definitely a twill weave up close.
I simply liked the wrong-side color more, and it even coordinated better with the lining print. And, as you would expect, no two pairs of jeans in my closet are the same shade of blue, so I knew a coat this more neutral color would go with all of them. Besides, the head-to-toe matching denim look is a total fashion no-no for me anyway. My personal rule of thumb is: make whatever you wear look intentionally styled. If someone has to wonder if you meant to do something, you didn’t make the contrast obvious enough.
As I mentioned before, two mockups were made, and this was so I could be sure my alterations were satisfactory. I only tested the outer layer, and didn’t bother with the pockets for my mockups (Not bothering with things like lining or under collar saves time and muslin too, but I did make corrections to all the paper pattern pieces for the lining as I went.)
Main changes made to the pattern, based on my first mockup:
The second mockup turned out to be unnecessary because my alterations were good, but I’m glad I took the time to be sure and didn’t jump right to the real fabric.
These are perfect examples of why mockups are necessary! And don’t feel like you have to make a completed item! I didn’t do a lining, pockets, buttonhole, or true hems (I just folded edges once and basted down to check finished length).
So it was finally on to the real fabric!
Sure enough, I managed to eke everything out of the 2 yards of fabric. It helped that I had reduced some of the collar width and that the pattern has only 3/8 inch seam allowance. (Note: you may want to add to the seam allowance if you make a Spearmint with fabric that frays easily.) Astonishingly, I only had to piece two pieces!
I put a seam in the center back of the neck facing, which I then topstitched and mostly covered with a tag.
And I creatively pieced one side of the under collar, which no one will ever see unless I lift the back of the collar to show them.
For the most part, I followed the written instructions just as they were. I did, however, make a few exceptions based on personal preferences:
After joining the coat to the lining and adding one large button, I had a completed Spearmint!
And here are a few more photos of some of the details:
Overall, this is a great pattern! The pieces fit together very nicely and I love the separately drafted lining and finishing details. The instructions may be a little brief for a beginner, but with the extra tutorials and sewalongs on the Lolita Patterns blog, most sewists of any level should have no trouble making this lovely coat for themselves.
As payment for being a pattern tester, I was given one copy of the paper pattern.
Obviously, I do not need another copy since I have already altered and adjusted the test pattern to my liking. So it’s Giveaway time!
If you would like a chance to win a copy of this pattern in its beautiful packaging, just follow these simple rules:
Giveaway is open to all locations. Winner will be chosen at random.
Deadline for entry is closed
at 11:59pm on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 United States Central Time (GMT -6). I’ll announce the winner in a post on the following day. Winner announced in this post.
Good luck and Happy New Year!
And now if you’ll excuse me, Wensley sees that I am wearing a coat and thinks we’re going for a walk…
I’ve been super busy bouncing from job to job in the last couple of months (where did November go??). I can’t believe that today is my blog’s 3rd birthday!
(Sadly, the detailed posts about the Wonder Woman cape and boots will not be happening exactly as I’d planned because my cell phone was stolen & I lost all the detailed process shots I was going to use. I’ll still be doing a post about the construction, but not nearly as detailed as I was hoping to write.)
In my time off from work, I’ve been doing some “secret sewing” (aka pattern-testing) and I can finally share one of those hush-hush projects with you now – the Disparate Disciplines Honeycrisp Mittens!
I had just enough of some chartreuse polar fleece in my stash to eke out a pair of the wrist-length mittens.
I really love the longer, elbow-length version of the pattern because it has really interesting seams, but since I didn’t have enough fabric, I decided to appliqué my own interesting details with contrasting polar fleece.
Yeah, so I went a little literal with it and put apples on my mittens. I blame the name of the pattern because all I wanted was a Honeycrisp apple every time I thought about them.
The pattern is a really quick and easy make (especially if you don’t have to plan for eking like I did) and only took me about an hour, even with my self-inflicted complications. It would be a great beginner project, but sewists of all experience levels can have fun with it.
This pattern was good at reminding me of my freakishly large hands. Everything about me is usually a small or even extra-small, except my hands. (I have skinny fingers, but BIG hands.)
I cut the main mitten body at a size medium and the thumb in XL! No wonder I have trouble finding gloves with long enough fingers!
So anyway, here are a bunch of photos of the finished mittens. With a Honeycrisp apple prop, of course!
The best part of the pattern was a feature I couldn’t even test. There is the option to make the fingertips conductive! Meaning, you can use your smart phone or any touch screen without having to take them off!
As payment for being a pattern tester, Mari is sending me some conductive fabric made with real silver in it. I look forward to trying it and plan to make an elbow-length conductive pair for myself.
If you are interested in buying your own copy of the pattern, here’s the link to the PDF pattern in the Disparate Disciplines shop. (Also available as a limited-time paper pattern.)
As it is, my non-conductive wrist-length pair of Honeycrisp Mittens is perfect for walking the dog. =)
Thanks, Mari, for another fun & practical pattern!
See some other people’s Honeycrisp Mittens:
(Warning: Major geekery ahead.)
Personal log, Stardate: 67158.4
Captain Mari Miller of the USS Disparate Disciplines contacted me via subspace with a request to test another one of her new sewing patterns. (See my last test for her Avocado Hoodie in this post.)
I’m honored for my blog to be the last stop in her Blog Hop for the Dandelion Dress & Top.
The previous stops have been as follows:
I started with a mockup of the sweetheart neckline top to check the basic fit. I’m pretty close to being an exact size 0 according to the pattern’s measurement chart, so I cut everything at that size.
The main alteration I needed to make was dropping the underarm seam just a bit because it felt a little high to me. (I’m picky about my armseye fit, and I will avoid wearing something if I feel like it gives me an underarm wedgey.)
The unusual style lines make this pattern perfect for color blocking, and I wanted to make sure I showed them off.
I decided to make two versions – a solid color sweetheart top (B2) and a color-blocked sweetheart dress (B1).
The pattern recommends using a woven fabric (aka non-stretch) but I wanted to see how it would work with a thicker t-shirt fabric (I was hoping the darts would fit me a bit better in something with some stretch), so I cut up a men’s 4X tee.
I eliminated the pattern’s center back seam and cut the back on a fold since the fabric had stretch. I also added a few inches to the length of the top.
The end result was a TOS inspired shirt with a black rib-knit edged neck. Unfortunately, the darts were still too pointy and not quite right on me.
Then I made the dress – TNG style, because Leila inspired me with her skant from a few months ago.
I made my dress out of a drapey polyester suiting fabric that came in both red and black. (Yes, I know, expendable crewman. I’ll just avoid any away missions while wearing it.)
I stitched the triangular side panels in as I do when sewing inset points and completely left out the darts.
After everything was assembled, I discovered that I needed to alter the back neck a little because it was gapping. (One of the disadvantages of fitting yourself – it’s hard to catch those back issues in the first mockup or two when you can’t really see your back!) So I reshaped the seam connecting to the back sleeve.
I fussed and tweaked for a long time with the front bust. Ultimately, I decided I needed the tiniest of darts, and put one in that was less than half the width printed on the pattern. (I could probably eliminate them altogether if I messed with the pattern some more.)
I had fun taking photos in my new Dandelion skant. And now I actually have a Halloween costume this year because of my Star Trek inspired dress!
I kind of want to make this dress in a less geeky color-blocked version, but I haven’t found the right fabrics yet. (I’m thinking bright green & grey, or orange & grey.)
To show that it can be styled a little less Trek-like, I paired it with some pointed pumps and a necklace. Behold the power of photo editing software (even in my amateur hands):
In conclusion, I think the silhouette and style lines of this pattern are wonderfully interesting, and once the fit is perfected, it’s magic. Both the dress and the top are super comfortable.
I enjoyed sewing this because the pieces were so different from normal. The instructions were easy to follow and because of its unusual construction, I would be sewing along, and suddenly, I would be finished! It was sort of strange not being able to anticipate the end.
The only real difficulty lies in the fact that it can’t be altered in the standard simple ways if it doesn’t fit exactly right – there is no side-seam to take in, etc.
Everyone who wants a fun and different construction challenge should definitely give this pattern a try!
Buy your own copy – here’s the link!
And make it so sew!
=/\= Personal log, supplemental: My husband loves my new light-duty uniform and says I could pass for a secretary on a starbase.
And now for something completely different.
(Well, maybe not completely – it is still about sewing.)
I recently had the pleasure of being a pattern tester for Mari of Disparate Disciplines as she launches her first sewing pattern for her new independent pattern business – the Avocado Hoodie, in versions for both men & women.
This is my brief review of both patterns.
She needed testers to be a variety of sizes and I just happened to be the small end size most others could not test for her. And since my husband was a size that she also needed to test for the men’s version, I was able to make one for each of us.
Part of what attracted me to this pattern is the unusual back pockets for your Significant Other to use. I love the details on the hoodie because they are interesting and something I wouldn’t want to take the time to pattern & test myself. For me, it’s always about the style lines and interesting details when I choose to buy & make a pattern.
(The Avocado Hoodie even has a sweet backstory that can be read here.)
The pattern is a downloadable pdf file that you print from your home printer and then tape together. The printing instructions are easy to follow and I had no trouble taping all the pages together and cutting out the appropriate sizes.
I cut mine at the pattern’s size 0 and cut my husband’s in his suit size.
(Tip: If you are cutting a size that is not the smallest or largest, use a highlighter to mark your cut lines because it can be a little tricky to follow the one you want through the nested pieces.)
I chose a dark grey microfleece with 40-50% crossgrain stretch (10″ stretched to about 18″) for our hoodies because the standard sweatshirt fleece options at my local fabric store did not have ANY stretch. (What’s up with that?? I still can’t figure out what you would want sweatshirt fleece without stretch for.)
I had fun playing with a new-to-me stretch stitch. I chose to use it for all my seams and the topstitching because it is like a straight stitch & serge all-in-one (at the moment, I really need to have my serger serviced) and it looks sort of like a coverstitch as topstitching.
My jersey options were limited (and boring!) at the fabric store, so I resorted to buying the biggest men’s t-shirts I could find (and they were only $4 at Walmart!).
Despite my favorite colors being green and orange, I ended up choosing the pink for my hoodie for three reasons:
1) I decided to use pink jersey,
2) I recently got a new pair of sneakers that would match,
and 3) I had already decided my husband’s hoodie topstitching would be blue (you know, the whole cliché boy/girl thing).
I followed the pattern & instructions as printed. The only small modifications I made were lining the hoods with the same jersey fabric I used for the pockets, stitching the seams and then trimming the seam allowance close to the stitching as I went, and adding some decorative topstitching.
The pocket was fascinating to me. I didn’t realize it would be all one pocket with 4 holes until I started assembling it. Nice engineering!
Oh, and I did manage to figure out a way to completely clean finish the thumbholes so there is no topstitching or handsewing necessary. I followed the pattern instructions up to the point just before you turn them right side out. Just before I turned them, I made two more stitchlines to attach the edges of both cuff holes to each other.
It is a bit advanced and hard to explain exactly how I did this with still photos, but here are some example pictures. (I might try to do a video if anyone is really interested in seeing how I did this and if the photos are too unclear.)
Both hoodies fit very well without any alterations! That’s something that almost never happens for me – most mass produced patterns seem to have ridiculous amount of ease. I can tell that Mari spent a lot of time and attention to the fit of her hoodie patterns. They’re very well planned & drafted and went together like a dream. These patterns are about as close to custom drafted as you can get with something that has been graded.
I liked the snugness of the sleeves on the women’s version; however, I have really skinny arms, so I’m guessing that the average woman might prefer the sleeves a little looser. (I might even cut my next hoodie a little bigger in the sleeves just for ease of wearing with more layers.)
And here’s a series of photos of me and the comic-relief husband wearing our hoodies:
I love this pattern and plan to make a few more variations of the hoodie for myself, probably with a center front zipper because that’s what I wear the most when I work (the zipper makes it easier to shed when I’m wearing a walkie and other costuming junk around my neck).
If you want to sew your own Avocado Hoodie, you can buy your own downloadable copy of the Disparate Disciplines Pattern. There’s the men’s hoodie, the women’s hoodie, and a discount if you buy both together.
Both versions fit true to measurements and have nice style lines, which keep them from looking sloppy.
I highly recommend these hoodie patterns! Thanks, Mari, for letting me test them! =)
I promise that my Easter dress post will be next! I’m presently weeding through all the photos for it. =)
In the meantime, I feel I need to write a post about pattern tracing and the wonderful paper I recently discovered since so many sewcialists have been asking me about it over on Twitter. Seems that everyone was looking for the perfect way to trace patterns at the same time – and I just happened to find the answer right before they started asking! (Weird how things like that happen…)
I have always tried to trace sewing patterns – especially if they are vintage patterns! That way I can alter and make design changes without losing the original, and I can keep all the sizes when a pattern is drafted in multiple sizes all nested together.
(I also cheat a bit and use my printer/copier/scanner to make copies of many of the small pieces. And I’ve even been known to copy the big pattern pieces in sections and tape them together.)
My previous pattern tracing method involved rolls of craft paper (white or brown). Craft paper is best for pattern drafting from scratch, but it is a pain when you want to trace something because you can’t see through it. To trace a pattern, I would have to place my pattern on top of the paper and use a tracing wheel to punch little dotted lines into the paper. Then I would need to go back and mark over the dots with a pencil. It was like tracing everything twice and it took for-ev-ER!
So I started hunting for a roll of thinner paper that was more see-through.
I couldn’t find anything sheer enough in wide widths in my local craft stores. Thus, I began searching online.
First, I found this 36-inch wide roll of vellum tracing paper by Pro Art brand. I added it to my wishlist and received some for Christmas. It is wonderful stuff, but it’s a bit pricey and only comes in a 5-yard roll, which doesn’t last very long. I plan to use it for patterns I need to use a million times. (It’s actually what I used to trace the vintage pattern I started with for my Easter dress, and you can see it in this post.)
My search for more affordable tracing paper continued.
And then I found it! Same brand as the tracing vellum but it’s actual tracing paper. I didn’t see it in my original searches because you have to click the 12-inch wide roll link to see that you can get it in all sorts of widths. Pick your width up to 36-inches and pick your length from 8 yards to 50 yards! (I like the 36-inch wide.)
Here’s a photo I posted to Instagram when I first got my roll (you can see how nice and sheer the paper is):
It’s exactly what I’ve always wanted – affordable, thicker than tissue; thin enough to see-through; relatively strong so it doesn’t rip too easily; and marks well with pencil, pen, or marker! Just what every serious sewist or sewcialist needs. =)
While I am partial to the cheerful girliness of 1950s styles, I find myself gravitating to the styles from the 1960s as well. To me, Sixties fashion was when Fifties fashion “grew up” and sort of branched into two groups: simple sophistication – think Audrey Hepburn & Jackie Kennedy (both women seemed to bloom into fashion icons during this decade), and artistic “Mod” – think modern new things like Star Trek, The Beatles & Marimekko prints.
We will start out with two of my favorite patterns, which are both from the year 1960:
Then there is one more from 1960, but it’s a bit “costumey”:
The seams are so interesting on this dress from 1961:
Then I have a girls’ dress that doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else on the internet. The year is unknown, but it has to be from the Sixties:
My reasons for thinking that it belongs in the 1960s are: the price (45 cents) is similar to the prices of other early Sixties patterns; the hairstyles on the girls look ’60s; the colors match the previous pattern’s; the floral print looks correct for that decade; and the skirt of the dress also has an inverted box pleat like the previous pattern. I’d say it’s pretty safe to assume it belongs at this point in the timeline – do you agree?
Here’s another girls’ dress and a wrap skirt from 1962:
This next one from 1964 epitomizes the sophistication of Sixties fashion:
A more formal dress from 1965:
Then the Mod Styles really start showing with these next few. 1960s (specific year unknown):
A mini-dress with shorts for beachwear from 1967:
My one vintage pattern from 1968 has incredibly interesting style lines, and it’s Karen’s fault that I had to have it because she talked about it on her blog:
This pattern is from 1969:
The date on this next one is unknown, and different sources put it in different decades. I can’t decide if it’s late 60s or early 70s:
The overall shape is Sixties, but the big collar and one-piece “jumpsuit” version seems rather Seventies. Even the hairstyles are in that transition stage.
The 1970s get a bad rap because of awful plaids and horrible-feeling synthetic fabrics, but I’ve always loved the style-lines (especially on women’s suits) and how slim & leggy they make people look. (I’m glad I can say I was born in this decade and not the Eighties, which I think was the ugliest fashion decade ever!)
I have a short list of vintage patterns from the Seventies starting with 1973:
And another suit pattern, also from 1973. I actually just have a self-traced brown-paper copy (with Xeroxed envelope & instructions) of this one because I found in my size in a theatre costume shop’s filing cabinet:
This next jumpsuit pattern from 1977 was so hilariously 70s that I had to keep it. Cue The Carpenters!
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of my vintage patterns. I’ll be sharing some of my current projects using a few of them in the weeks to come. =)