Saturday, April 28, 2012

jim jams

YEP I'm wearing my PJs on the Internet (hello, employers of the future). After some waffling, I finally decided to join Karen's Pyjama Party. What good is a pajama party without waffles, anyway, right?

I wasn't planning on participating at first because I didn't think pajamas were a priority wardrobe item for me. But then I decided to truly assess the situation and I came to a very different conclusion. Also, I felt left out; there's like 10,000 bloggers in on this craziness.

The past few winters, I've made do with some size XXL Old Navy men's red flannel pants with a polar bear print. I don't really remember where these even came from... I think my best friend gave them to me? Why? Anyway, they have elastic in the waist but they're so big as is, the elastic is nonfunctional for me and I have to forcefully yank the drawstrings together to keep them up: 

I used to think the print was funny and cute, but it's kind of a sad image when you think about it... endangered polar bears stuck on tiny floating blocks of ice, lonely and starving:

I have a weak heart for cartoon PJ bears. Anyway, when it's not freezing at night, I usually wear some knit yoga pants that have paint splattered all over them from a long-ago apartment makeover. They also have holes in unfortunate places. I used to staple the crotch together to hide the holes. Staples, people. Staples create even more holes in fabric, did you know? I haven't even bothered to fix them now that I do actually use a sewing machine regularly. Does anyone else do the same nonsensical thing -- where you have existing clothes that need basic fixes, but you'd much rather start a whole new garment from scratch? Not like these pants are worth fixing anyway: 


Okay, fine, these just cannot do anymore. I need new jim jams! Karen's PJ sewing party came at a good time because my boyf and I are (currently) out of town this weekend and I really needed something that's not enormous or torn to shreds to wear overnight in someone else's home. And I have a reunion of sorts with some college buddies in a lakehouse this summer, which will basically be one long PJ party (there will most definitely be waffles -- the waffle iron was promised). I must have something decent to wear when we're all sipping espresso on the screen porch in the late mornings. Must! 

Surprise, they're blue. And plaid, which I matched halfheartedly so the print is kinda asymmetrical. I bought this 80s fabric from Etsy awhile ago. I underlined it with white cotton. There's an elastic casing. What else is there to say? 

I will say that I am perplexed by the amount of patterns out there that are supposed to be "sportswear separates" but are just pajama pants! I looked in my stash and I already had these: 

I think I only bought that second pattern because I thought the model had cool hair. 

But, seriously? Does Simplicity expect us to wear these elastic waist/drawstring cotton pants with a blazer to the office?: 

The 21st century power suit. 

Well, at least I didn't have to buy a new pajama pants pattern for this sew-along. I decided to use New Look 6013 because of the wider leg. I made em pretty long. 

And because I don't have enough humiliating photos in this post, I must leave you with the following. Only I could find a way to botch up the simplest thing there is to sew in the world. Somehow I sewed the side seams incorrectly the first time around. I couldn't stop cracking up last night when I realized my Oompa Loompa mistake, and I had to model them for you: 

I sewed the side to the side instead of the front to the back, or something, so they were upside down and all roundabout. A+ seamstress right here. That's what I get for trying to watch TV while sewing... how do people do it? It's obviously a bad idea for me to keep looking away from my sewing project to watch the screen. Please tell me I'm not the only fool who's accidentally made Hammerpants while distracted by reality shows.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

a possible & permissible pencil skirt for pears

Lately I've been feeling like a one-trick pony. A one-trick pear-shaped pony, that is. Wait.

To this point I've been highly dedicated to only sewing clothes that fit within the wardrobe "rules" for my particular body type. By most definitions I am a pear shape, in that my bust and waist are narrower than my fairly prominent hips. Maybe it's determined by a shoulder-to-waist-to-hip ratio, not a bust-to-waist-to-hip ratio, but whatever, I just know this baby got back. What I don't know is whose job it was to name the various female body types. I'm not sure how impressed I am by the resulting combination of fruit, geometry and mundane household objects.

Lovely. So here's basically what I know about how to dress to look my best (which, I guess they mean is to look my slimmest). According to YouLookFab's article "The Pretty Pear": "Strive to create an 'A-line' silhouette with your clothing. Choose styles that define your waist and show off your torso. Knee length A-line skirts with vertical panel seaming are best. Pants should make a straight line down from your widest point. Stay clear of bias-cut skirts and pencil skirts.
Translation: "Keep that fat bum outta sight, ladies." C'mon now.

This is all relatively easy to abide by, except when it comes to casual wear. I break the rules with my skinny jeans, even though I know they look bad on me and I feel pretty awful in them all day. I just wanna fit in with the cool kids, you know? For my business casual work environment, though, I've happily built a wardrobe of dresses and skirts that are fitted at my natural waist and flare out over my "problem areas." Here's a sampling of how dedicated I am to the waist-defining A-line shape, in case you haven't noticed. And, no -- though it may appear this way, I'm not really an obsessive patriot who has intentionally created a wardrobe palette based on the colors of the American flag:

1 - Red Trench // 2 - Blue Burda // 3 - Colorblock

Despite feeling most comfortable and confident in these kinds of clothes (USA theme aside), I'm also getting tired of this silhouette. I wouldn't be surprised if my friends, colleagues and blog readers are getting sick of it, too. Oh cool, Andrea, another tent-shaped sundress with a belt slapped around it. Good job, how fashionable. What a nice full skirt and tucked-in blouse you got there. You'd make a lovely 50s housewife, really.

So, folks, I've done the unthinkable, broken some rules, and decided to make myself a (gasp) pencil skirt. Truly scandalous!

OK it's not scandalous at all, really. I chose a tasteful one that still abides by other pear shape rules: emphasize the waist, use solid colors and structure on the bottom half, blah blah. After a Simplicity pattern fail and some additional research, I found a better pattern that looked like it could work for a pear shape: Vogue 8697

It looks a lot like Burda's Jenny Skirt with the high waist, but the key here is princess seams. Because I'm a princess. I mean, these seams are just much easier to fit around curves, and they help eliminate the horizontal pull marks across the thighs. The waistband is pieced and shaped -- not just a flat rectangle -- so the garment contours quite nicely to an actual human body.

The fabric is cotton twill with the color name "Tobacco." I'm instead calling it "Cappuccino," as caffeine is my preferred chemical addiction. This is my commitment to creating more basic items that I can pair with many things I already own (the whole cake vs. frosting thing -- but cake is still sweet on its own!). I do like this color despite its blandness - it has the practicality and matchability of khaki, but in a pretty golden hue. The fabric was 60" wide, so at 1 & 3/8 yards I was able to make this skirt and there's enough left to make a tote bag... in case I want to, you know, tote stuff. Like pencils.

I like the seaming quite a bit, and the pattern instructions were clear (surprising, since it's Vogue). Fair warning, though: all those small pieces meant a lottttt of cutting. There's a lining with the same seaming, and you are told to cut interfacing for both the waistband and waistband facing, so I must have had to cut like 450 pieces. That's when you realize Gingher scissors are kinda heavy, damn.

So if you, like me, have avoided pencil skirts forever but still want to try one out, maybe this is is your pattern! 

What are the "rules" for your body type, and have you ever broken them when it comes to sewing or shopping?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

modcloth dress knockoff

I like to imagine the ModCloth "warehouse" as an open green meadow with miles of dresses hanging daintily from clothing lines, blowing lightly in the breeze, back-lit by a warm golden sunset that never actually sets. When you place an order, a woman in a floppy sun hat prances out to pick the dress from the line, folds it gently in her wicker basket and sprinkles daisies on top before heading to the post office. 

"On Meadow" by Aleksandr Averin
Source: Art Russia

Then I remember their HQ is in Pittsburgh PA, so it's probably just in an old steel mill or something.

ModCloth Distribution Center
Source: IUP Fashion Association 

Anyway, I hope ModCloth doesn't mind that I was inspired by (okay, tried to copy) one of their looks. I want them to like me so they'll hire me one day. A friend of a friend actually works at ModCloth as a writer. She gets to sit in a posh studio with a rack of beautiful clothes hanging next to her probably-a-Mac computer, thinking of clever puns and styling options for the item descriptions. And, she says, you can take your dog to work. UM, DREAM JOB, even without the meadow. Do they just, like, giggle & wordplay their way through team meetings? I'm evergreen with envy. 

The inspiration dress is called the "Diamond Fund Dress" (out of stock as of today), and I bookmarked it in my browser awhile ago but forgot about it. I also bought this rayon fabric awhile ago from Hancock, but couldn't decide what pattern or style to use it for. So when I came across this dress again on Pinterest, I immediately knew what I had to do. I looked in my pattern stash and even had a pretty good match; McCall's 6503, which I used to make my colorblocked dress, has an option with a cross-over gathered bodice and curved midriff band. So I didn't even have to make any new fabric or pattern purchases to get started. I just had a little pattern modification to do, and you all know how much I love that.

I tried to stay true to the original dress as much as I could, but didn't get the midriff band right. Mine lacks the horizontal pintucks (seemed unnecessary), doesn't really have that inverted V curve on the midriff and therefore no buttons (unfortunately; my fault), and has a more modest neckline. I also couldn't squeeze out a proper A-line skirt in the amount of fabric I had, so my skirt consists of two gathered rectangles and is slightly more fitted. My fabric print has circles instead of diamonds but it's pretty darn close. I like theirs better when I compare them side by side, but I like mine just fine on its own.

Since I had previous experience with the M6503 pattern, I knew that the gathered bust was basically drafted for a double-Z cup, so I went down a size and narrowed the bottom so there wouldn't be as much fabric to gather. It was still tricky getting it to lay right, with the crossover front and gathered shoulders. I wish I could have called ModCloth to ask for their advice, but doubted they had patternmakers readily available to answer phone calls from copycats. I just kept taking the bodice up and in until it worked for the most part. It still is a bit saggy.

The back has a V neck and a shirred waistband like the original. I've never shirred fabric before, but it was so easy! I always thought the look was pretty juvenile, but it's pretty fun to sew and definitely practical to wear. SURE I'LL SHIRR. I just extended the back midriff piece by three inches, then stitched five rows with elastic thread on my bobbin. Elastic magic.

So, why bother? I'll show you:
Inspiration dress = $71.99 with shipping.
My dress = $9. BOOM. This makes me feel better about it being slightly less cute than the original.

Can't forget to acknowledge my little helper:

(Not my actual dog. Not my actual yard.) 
(Don't worry, I'm housesitting, not trespassing.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

spring top sewalong - top of the tops!

If you didn't know it, Rae of Made by Rae is currently hosting her annual Spring Top Sewalong -- a contest for which seamsters submit tops they've made for themselves beginning March 2012. Now, I made a LOT of tops in March (see here for a few examples) but one of my favorites was the Hello Yellow Top, which I didn't make with my OWOP pattern. I entered it at the beginning of Rae's contest, and the esteemed judges voted it as one of Week 1's Top of the Tops! Amazing! I'm so thrilled and honored.

The final contest winners are ultimately determined by reader votes, so I encourage you to stop by her Top of the Tops post and check out the 13 top tops this week. There's definitely some tough competition -- lots of lovely pieces, for sure -- so please vote for your true favorite! If it happens to be mine, I'd love to have your vote! I'm letter K, for Keen, Kind and Knowledgeable Kool Kid with Killer bow-tying sKills. Right? Okay, there's my gentle nudge. Thank you!

Voting for Week 1 ends this Friday the 6th at 12 noon (EST). And YOU can still enter your adorable tops in the contest until April 22nd, and then kindly nag me to vote for you when your top becomes top of the tops one week. Remember to check out Rae's blog for the next three weeks' features, if only for the sewing inspiration. I've discovered some new and interesting blouse patterns I want to try out eventually. Wait, I said blouse. Do we have to revisit the "top" versus "blouse" issue again? Fashion's so complicated, you guys. 

Number of times the word "top" appears in this three-paragraph post, even with my attempt to edit some of them out = 21