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Twenty-Twenty: The Year of the Face Mask and New Things

Hi there! Remember me?

Since this year is strange and shocking in so many ways, I figured I would just add to the unexpected by actually sitting down at my computer to write a blog post! I hope all is well with you and you’ve found ways to make the most of life while everything seems to be stuck in limbo.

(If you’re curious what I’ve been up to for the past 5 years, you can surf my Instagram account. Teaser: I had my hands inside Dior dresses at a museum install last year!)

My seasonal full-time Opera Costume Shop work started back up as usual in February (after a two-month hiatus), and then a month later, a virus had shut the world down. It was a really good thing the shipment of locked costume hampers was late to arrive for the last big rented show of the season – since we never opened them, we didn’t have to do a complete inventory before sending it all back! As it was, we were able to walk away after doing a few weeks of in-house stock reorganizing & cleaning when the rest of the season was officially canceled.

As weird as life is for a lot of people this year, I’ve found that not much has changed for me personally. I’m used to long undefined breaks between jobs, and I was an expert in social distancing before it was cool. (My husband, thankfully, is able to work from home and he’s been busier than ever.) I found a few sewing projects to keep myself occupied with, and I can’t express how happy I am that I invested in a brand-new industrial straight-stitch Juki last summer! It has been soooo nice to have my “work” machine at home this year!

industrial sewing machine

I named it Thor.

I made a few rainbow color-spectrum swirl skirts – one for myself, 2 have sold, and 3 have yet to sell. I also made 3 other swirl skirts (I’m calling them “color swipe swirl skirts”). I’ve claimed one for myself, but I still have 2 more for sale. Using up lots of fabric I already had for these!

If I ever get around to it, I’ll put them in my Etsy shop (I set it up years ago and have yet to list anything!) unless someone claims them before I list them. Email me if you’re interested in details.

Then I ended up drafting my own multi-sized face mask pattern because I had non-sewing friends who needed masks for work, and were having difficulty finding any that fit well:

You can’t go wrong with Star Wars or a solid color mask.

Masks for my friend who works at a cinema

Soon after that, I was making masks for family in Michigan:

And then I had a flash of brilliance to make my 5 year-old nephew a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask (of course, I wanted one for myself too):

And then it morphed into a few commissioned TMNT masks – mostly for adults:

This was the first batch that was half Mikeys. I made a couple more batches after this that evened up the numbers a bit.

Some people sent me photos:

Fast forward to the end of summer when there doesn’t appear to be an end to the mask requirements, and I was inspired when I saw Jen’s craft foam mask frame on Epbot.

A mask that keeps everything away from your nose and month so you don’t feel like you’re eating it when you talk – yes, please! Being able to wear chapstick underneath is the cherry on top.

Face mask with craft foam frame underneath.

Ear-loops with Kam snap-attached cover.

Ear-loops with velcro-attached cover.

Here’s Jen’s full video tutorial:

I printed out her template, made a few modifications, slightly adjusted my self-drafted mask pattern to be the perfect fabric cover for it. I also graded the frame pattern to fit all my other mask sizes.

Mockups of original template on the left and my modified version on the right.

Stacks of prepped and cut mask frames.

Click the link below to download the pdf of my modified version of Jen’s frame and patterns for all sizes with fabric covers:

FaceMasks&FramesPattern_CustomStylebyBrooke

Print it out and mask some of your own!

I’ve been sewing my craft foam. It’s faster and less messy than gluing. Jen wrote a second post about sewing the frames after I told her how I did it.

Here’s how I sew craft foam face masks:

  • Use polyester thread (cotton-covered poly tends to cause problems and skip stitches)
  • Use a new needle – thinner is better (I used a 70/10 universal needle)
  • Set your zigzag stitch as wide as your machine goes and use a length of 2 or a tick bigger
  • Push the sides of the foam together and straddle the seam with the zigzag as you go
  • Start at the bottom of the V and sew out towards the edge, back-stitching at beginning & end

I stitch mine from the outside (side where the metal nose wire is stuck) and let it cup up around the back of the machine as I sew the seam. Then I carefully turn it right side out starting at the bottom edge. That way, the feed-dog tracks end up on the inside.

Stick-on nose wire added to the mask frame and velcro stitched before sewing center front seam. (Snaps can be put on before or after stitching.)

Stitching the center front seam of the craft foam frame.

The metal nose wire can then be carefully curved over your finger (don’t just bend it in half without a curve). I use stick-on nose wires instead of a paperclip sandwiched between two layers of craft foam.

Flat unbent nose wire.

Curved and bent nose wire.

If the bottom edge is a little bit off after stitching, you can trim the foam with paper scissors to even it up.

Some colors of craft foam stick to a regular metal presser foot more than other colors do. If you find that the foam isn’t feeding though your machine very well and at the right speed (stitches are really close together), use a Teflon/non-stick foot or put a piece of Scotch tape (the invisible “magic” kind) on the bottom of your regular foot. If your machine has the ability to reduce the presser foot pressure, that can also help.

I’ve been using either Kam snaps (this is the off-brand snap kit I have) or Velcro to attach the frames to the fabric mask covers. That way I can make mine with ear loops or around-the-head elastic. (See Jen’s video above for another style option using eyelets and removable around-the-head elastic.)

Kit of plastic Kam-style snaps.

Snaps and velcro on completed craft foam mask frames.

If you order packs of craft foam, you’ll need to air them out for a couple days by spreading them out. My living room smelled like a shoe store for a few days, but that goes away once the foam has been unwrapped for a while.

You will also need to test each color of craft foam to see if it bleeds! I found that only hot pink, royal blue, and dark purple (the worst!) bleed when soaked in hot water. If your foam bleeds in hot water, it will also bleed color onto your face when you wear it.

Soak a scrap of each color in hot water for at least 15 minutes.

Results of color bleed test after soaking.

I sealed the craft foam with an iron set to “cotton blend” like Jen’s video shows. It gets a little stiffer and shinier when you seal it:

Heat sealed (shiny) on the bottom, untouched craft foam on the top.

For my fabric covers, I sew the center front seams of both the outer fabric and lining fabric, Then I stitch the seam allowances down on both sides of the seam. No need to press the seam open with an iron because the machine will do that as you stitch.

If you want a nose wire pocket on the fabric cover, here’s the photo step-by-step of how I do that:

Fold bias rectangle in half, stitch both short ends, press, and turn.

Baste to the right side of the top edge of either the outside or lining fabric.

Then sew the outside to the lining (right sides together) at the top and bottom. Leave the sides open and turn through one of them. After turning, edge-stitch the top and bottom.

Sew outer mask to lining with the pocket sandwiched between the layers. After turning and pressing, the result will look like the photo.

Another view after lining is sewn to outer fabric.

Top-stitch edge of mask with pocket folded down to the inside (on the lining).

Stitch bottom edge and one side of the pocket through all the layers of the mask.

Fold and press ¼” to ⅜” to the inside on both sides. Then fold in another 1” and press. This will be the casings for elastic. Attach snaps or Velcro before sewing the casings down.

Sides pressed and snaps attached.

To save time, pre-make ear loop elastics (cut them around 9½” or so) and put them on before stitching the last seams. If the elastic ends up being too long, you can just re-knot it to fit the person wearing the mask. And the knot can be rotated to hide in the casing.

Inside of completed face masks with nose wire pockets.

You can even make the mask frames to wear loose under disposable masks or others you already have.

Craft foam mask frame under disposable mask.

Craft foam mask frames.

Craft foam frames can be hand-washed with soap & water as needed. Fabric covers can be washed & dried as normal laundry (just make sure you preshrink any fabric before making the covers).

__________

And now on to new things besides face masks…

A few months ago, I started a new social media community on Locals.com called The Sewing Sphere. I even hired one of my online artist friends to help me design a great logo.

The Sewing Sphere is the place to go if you’re looking to escape the frustrating algorithms and hang out with others who sew. It’s not all sewing, and it feels so much more connected in real-time than other social media platforms. It’s free to join – you can see posts and give “thumbs up” to posts you like. If you’d like to participate in comments and posting, you have to subscribe (help support what I do!) for a minimum of $2/month. I’ll be coming up with new things and sharing special content there. Come help me grow it into a great community – free from trolls & spam!

This summer, I’ve also been learning to tambour bead from my friend and fellow costumer Janet Gershenfeld, who was trained by the ladies who beaded Michael Jackson’s iconic glove! We have plans to offer couture beading services in the near future. I just need to finish building our website and we need to take care of a few boring business-y things.

This crazy year has given me the time to consider multiple career directions, and I’m looking forward to what the future brings!

I hope we don’t need masks much longer, but if we do, maybe my pattern and photos will help you build some you don’t mind wearing all day! And if you don’t sew and would like to commission some craft foam frames and/or fabric covers, email me.

Now that I’ve dusted off my blog a little, we’ll see if I can manage to post a little more regularly again. I really need to give it an overall freshening up!

Piqué Cambie Dress

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:

Pique-Sewaholic-Cambie-Dress-ViewA

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!

Large-Weave-Pique-Fabric

Piqué fabric closeup.

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.

Green-Pique-Sewaholic-Cambie-Dress-Back&Side

Oops! I blinked.

I made a mockup of only the bodice to check the fit. (I knew both skirt options would fit just fine without adjustments.)

Cambie-Bodice-Mockup

Bodice mockup.

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.

Neck-Facing

Neckline facing.

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.

Inside-of-Dress

Inside of dress. Seams serged and facing understitched. I may eventually hand-stitch the waistband seams together in the middle.

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.

Green-Pique-Sewaholic-Cambie-Dress-Front

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!

Accessories

I particularly like it with the yellow shoes and narrow belt:

Cambie-Dress-with-Yellow-Shoes-and-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:

Wensley-Jumping-at-Back-Door

* 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.

A Denim Spearmint

Back in October, I was a pattern tester for Lolita Patterns and got to test the pattern for the new Spearmint coat.

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.

Technical drawings of the Lolita Patterns Spearmint Coat.

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.

Blue denim for the outside and fun print for the lining.

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.

Is this back-side of the fabric great, or what?! The heathered-looking denim and contrast topstitching would add a casual vibe to the dressy coat design, making it easier to dress up or down, depending on the occasion. I couldn’t find topstitching thread in the coral color I wanted, so I used outdoor polyester thread because it’s thicker and shows better than regular thread.

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.)

The chopped & marked up version of the first mockup. It’s really wrinkled from being carried around in a bag for a few days.

Main changes made to the pattern, based on my first mockup:

  • Reduced the width of the collar – mainly at the shoulder and back – so it wasn’t so overwhelming on my small frame. I anticipated the need for this because I often have to shrink large scale design elements. (Photos of the first mockup show the collar at a stage where I had taken it too far in my experimenting.)
  • Narrowed the center front opening so it wouldn’t try to spread open to the sides of my bust in an unflattering way (the princess seams were in the correct place, but the neckline wanted to shift everything out to the sides).
  • Added just a slight bit of room to the center back.
  • Increased the armseye and sleeve ease so I could comfortably wear layers.

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.

Second mockup. Much better fit.

Side-by-side comparison of fit.
These mockup photos look like fancy lab coats, especially since I was wearing my glasses. Mockups for science!

You can really see how badly the sleeve was pulling on the first version. It was so tight it was hard to bend my arm. The sleeves also look a little short on the first compared to the second because they caught on my sweater underneath. I did not change the length of the pattern pieces.

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.

My 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.

After cutting out all the other pieces, I laid out my fabric scraps until I could fit the collar pattern (being careful to cut the mirror image of the piece I already cut out). I didn’t really bother with making sure all the scraps were on grain – in any case, it was just the under collar. Then I pinned and stitched the scraps before cutting.

For the most part, I followed the written instructions just as they were. I did, however, make a few exceptions based on personal preferences:

  • I did not use the horsehair canvas in the ruffle collar. My denim was plenty thick and I knew the two layers of the collar would be more than stiff enough to hold its shape on its own.
  • Nor did I use necktie lining to ease in the sleeve caps because I didn’t want to add thickness to the denim. (The pattern did fit really well together so there wasn’t much need for ease assistance.)
  • I chose not to turn the coat through the sleeve lining for two reasons. 1. Thick denim. 2. I like to construct collars completely separate before attaching them to a garment. There is more control, thus, the end result looks better. I turned my coat through an opening at the center back hem that was about 8 inches wide and slipstitched the lining to the coat hem to close it by hand.
  • For easier on and off, I used antistatic lining fabric for the sleeve lining instead of the same fabric I used for the rest of the lining.
  • I added tons of decorative topstitching.
  • I added a coat hook loop.

Ruffle collar assembly.
Constructing the collar separately allows for easier pressing of the edge seam (tailor’s ham inserted inside in bottom left photo). I also topstitched around the outside edge before attaching the collar on the coat.

Added coat hook loop at center back where the collar joins the neck facing.
I used the selvage printing dots from my lining fabric. I love how the dots add interest and still coordinate with the lining.

Outside and lining both constructed.
Final try-on before joining the two together. The lining reminds me of a kimono with its combination of fabrics.

After joining the coat to the lining and adding one large button, I had a completed Spearmint!

Finished Spearmint Coat.

And here are a few more photos of some of the details:

The fun print lining!

The pattern’s included instructions for the bound buttonhole are wonderful. I added topstitching around it to match the rest of the coat.

Because I did so much topstitching on my coat, I chose to reinforce the pockets to match. I decided to close my pockets up about 2 more inches after realizing the opening was a lot bigger than I needed it to be – thus, there are two bar tacks on the bottom. This also allows me to carry my phone in a pocket without worrying about it falling out.

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.

You can buy the Spearmint coat pattern (#5013) from Lolita Patterns in either paper copy or instant PDF download.

The paged PDF is 64 pages, so if you get the PDF, I highly recommend using the print shop version and having a place like Staples print it on large paper for you. I love having the ability to print off small “fit to page” copies of the large print shop version before I taking it to the printer, and the copies also made handy references to overall pattern while I was working.

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:

  1. Leave me a comment on this post and be clear that you want to enter. (Any comments are welcome, even if you don’t want to be entered in the drawing, but you have to let me know if you are entering!)
  2. In your comment, include your plans for your version  – fabric, color, etc. How do you intend to make it your own?

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…

How ‘bout Them App-…er…Mittens!

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!

Honeycrisp Mittens

I had just enough of some chartreuse polar fleece in my stash to eke out a pair of the wrist-length mittens.

Because of the puffy nature of the fleece, I found it easiest to trace the pattern onto the fleece with a Sharpie and then pin the two fabric layers together before cutting.

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.

Apple appliqué detail.

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.

I had to piece one cuff in order to eke out matching cuffs.

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.

I used the same stretch stitch for the mittens that I used for the Avocado Hoodies.

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!

I used the lightbox that comes free with every building to trace the larger thumb onto the correctly sized mitten palm. (I forgot I wasn’t the small when I took the picture and retraced it onto the medium.)

So anyway, here are a bunch of photos of the finished mittens. With a Honeycrisp apple prop, of course!

Wensley wanted a bite of apple so badly! He kept circling my hands while we took photos trying to figure out how to get some without getting in trouble. *Lick*

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.)

And you can even buy the conductive fabric in heathered grey or black directly from Mari! No need to go searching everywhere for the special fabric (and just in time for Christmas).

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:

A Dandelion Skant

(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:

When I first saw the technical drawings for this pattern, I immediately thought Starfleet uniform TNG skant. And the lines of the shirt reminded me of the seamlines of TOS uniforms.

I couldn’t help coloring in the outlines with a pencil.

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.

Meh. Not bad right out of the envelope, but the dart at the point of the side panel wasn’t quite right for me.

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.)

Redrawn underarm seam.

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.

I’m going to make this version over again because I have an outfit planned, so better photos will come in a future post. For now, just these crummy mirror selfies.

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.

Back neck alteration and corrected pattern piece.

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.)

Dart as printed on pattern traced on the mockup and actual (smaller) width of dart I put in my dress.

Finished dart on dress.

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!

Do not mess with me. I have a phaser.

Wensley considers the tribble his prey. He goes into stalker-mode every time he sees it.
No, you cannot kill it!

Some amusing outtakes.
I’m so “at ease” I look like I’m sleeping on my feet in the photo on the right, hehe.

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):

Now I wish I could find some bright violet fabric for real!

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!

Hmm… I guess tribbles really are born pregnant!

=/\=  Personal log, supplemental: My husband loves my new light-duty uniform and says I could pass for a secretary on a starbase.

A Couple of Avocados

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.

Pattern pieces taped and cut out.

(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.

Samples on scrap fabric of the stretch stitch I chose.

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may remember that I asked for opinions about topstitching color on my hoodie. And you sewcialists were no help – it was a perfect 3-way tie, lol!

Lime, Orange, or Hot Pink?

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!).

A men’s 4X t-shirt is perfect for cutting up when you need nice jersey fabric!

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.

Pocket assembly.

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!

Bright jersey lining!

For the decorative topstitching (on both hoodies), I used two spools of thread at the same time through the needle. It made for better topstitching and the slightly different shades of the same color added some visual depth.

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.)

I tested what I thought would work with safety pins first (so I could turn the cuff right side out). When it worked, I replaced the pins with stitching.

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:

Non-overlapped hood on his. Overlapped hood on mine.

Hoodies from the back.

Men’s Avocado Hoodie

Women’s Avocado Hoodie

His Emperor Palpatine impression.

And my pockets don’t really gap in the back, but no one told me I was pulling forward with my hands in the front pocket. Where’s my costumer when I’m in front of the camera?

Crummy self-mirror shot. See? No gapping pockets.

Hood detail.

Men’s Avocado Hoodie with back pockets.

These shots just make me laugh. =)

My “Vogue Sewing Patterns” pose and a cheesy sitting pose to show the hoodie with my matching shoes.

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! =)

Tracing Sewing Patterns

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. =)

If you ever have a sewing dilemma, feel free to leave a comment, ask me by email or find me on Twitter – I’d love to help out if I can!

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