Lonsdale in Mocha

Gosh, I love this dress.

The minute I put it on, I knew it would become a regular rotation summer dress. Next summer.

Back when I first bought the Lonsdale pattern, I envisioned a Riviera-inspired garment and found a lovely linen-rayon blend in a perfect Mediterranean blue. It was even more gorgeous in person than it looked online, but alas, was much heavier than the described “shirt-weight”. I’m glad I changed direction.

I’ve been taken with all the head-to-toe neutral-palette dressing trends the last couple years. Skin-toned garments have a certain unexpected glamour. (Apparently, fashion is revisiting pantyhose as well, although as the more fetchingly named “nude-colored tights”. My memories of pantyhose in the 80s are not good, nail-polish-fixed runs and all.)

This was one of my favorite inspiration images from last winter.

I love how she put these all together and how the effect plays off her complexion. Yes, I get lost browsing Lookbook posts. And that cable-knit bustier totally rocks.

I thought the Lonsdale would be perfect interpreted this way, since it has such unique neckline and so much fabric going on. For me, too much print or bold color would turn it into a special occasion dress and I wanted a oh-I-just-threw-this-old-thing-on bit of surprise.

I was lucky to find some bargain cheap rayon challis in a milky coffee color. I will have to be very careful when washing, since the fabric seems to want to pill the minute I look at it. I like rayon/viscose challis as an alternative to drapey silks, but quality really does vary. But it’s so soft and comfy.

The back:

I didn’t want exposed seam allowances on the ravel-y rayon, so worked out how to sew the zipper within the lining. I have a RTW dress which is lined much like the Lonsdale and features a centered zipper so I knew it was do-able. The lining and inner waistband have to be cut a little bit differently, and the order of construction is changed a bit, but I found the process to be quite easy. (I also took some construction pictures along the way in case it might help someone else–a future post!)

I finished the skirt with French seams and tried out my blindstitch foot for the first time on the hem. After trying to hand-stitch for about ten inches, I realized I’d be at hemming all day (it’s a lot of skirt). I’ve been afraid of that machine foot for some reason, but it was much easier than I thought.

The pockets are such a cool little detail. I actually stuck my hands in them all day, making it feel like a really functional dress, too.

The fit was pretty perfect right out of the envelope–Sewaholic’s fit and sizing is more or less made for my shape so I really look forward to more of her patterns if the styles suit my aesthetic. I made a quick muslin out of rayon scrap to test out the bodice and only had to take in a little bit around the neckline to prevent gaping. I love its almost-maxi length, hitting above the ankles, which makes it perfect for flats or heels.

Overall, I think the Lonsdale pattern is a very lovely style and except for some acrobatic fidgeting in order to tie the bow in the back, it’s incredibly easy to wear. It’s also one of the better drafted patterns I’ve made this year, both in terms of technical draft and proportional balance.


Warming up to Missoni

After awhile, certain patterns become so ubiquitous that I don’t even think about them being in my textiles anymore. Ikat, Celtic spirals, Hudson blanket stripes, what have you. For some reason it’s taken me forever to really warm up to Missoni stripes.

I loved this fall’s Missoni collection, like crazy.

This and an almost diametrically opposed collection by Jaeger were my two favorite fall collections.

Where one is reserved and so obviously autumn the other insanely extravagant and spring-like. I think I loved the Missoni because it lacked anxiety–which seems to be everywhere. (Here’s more of Missoni’s fall collection.)

But I also loved it because it wasn’t so obviously ziggy zaggy. While shopping for some new house things last week, I saw an imitative and economically-sound stripey Missoni blanket that had to come home with me, just to test it out on the couch and see if those ziggy zaggy’s wouldn’t drive me nuts. And of course there’s the Missoni for Target collection that had what seemed like a viral campaign around it for months on end.

While at Britex Fabrics a month ago, they piled their front door table with a fresh-from-the-recent-collection stack (and I mean huge stack) of Missoni knits. They are lovely to touch, soft mohairs and angoras. (They just listed some of these in their online store. Emma One Sock also has a few. Just in case you have an urge to drop $50 a yard. Hey, for some this might be a genuine investment.)

What’s your take on the Missoni stripe? Love or hate or indifferent? And if you got ahold of some of that insanely expensive yardage, what in the yeehaw would you do with it?

[Oh, and if you're a subscriber here, please excuse the hiccup of yesterday's post. Darn thing somehow got published and went into Google Reader purgatory, but it wasn't edited or really ready for publishing. But I promise, a re-post and Lonsdale pictures are coming!]


Silk Tank, Version 4.1a Beta

At long last, a deep drenching rain came to Austin over the weekend. The ground was soggy, the morning had a sweet breeze, and I celebrated by pulling out just about anything with long sleeves. Despite that, I’m still finishing up my summer clothes including the latest in my silk tank top experiments. The latest is a pattern from August’s Burda:

Before this, I’d been working and re-working a Kwik Sew pattern. My last version underwent my first-ever FBA (thanks to advice from pattern whizzes), and came out fitting well, but still felt too boxy and shapeless.

Some of my problem was the design of the garment itself. It’s amazing how something so simple as a tank or shell can have so many subtle style and fit variations. Since I was teen I’ve always instinctually veered away from wide scoop necklines–I just don’t think they frame my angular face very well. I fiddled with the neckline a lot, trying to narrow the scoop which also requires narrowing the back into a slightly more racerback shape, and eventually decided to just try another pattern.

I think I was taken in by all the romantic styling (I’m really obsessed with blush tones right now) so I dropped the Kwik Sew pattern and traced this this Burda pattern

I left out the side zipper and just sewed it as a pullover.

I love this fabric and darker coral hue (a half yard of stretch silk charmeuse that I ordered as a swatch a couple years ago–I’m trying to use up my yardage ends!). The recommended finish is a folded bias strip that is sewn to the right side then pressed inward and topstitched. I thought I’d try it, but think I prefer using facings. (You can see that the bias stretched too much and doesn’t lay flat against my neckline. You can also see, erm, that those darts are not the greatest.)

Just for the color and the fact that it’s sleeveless, I’ll probably wear this to death, despite the fact that its neckline is even wider than the Kwik Sew pattern. The straps almost fall off my shoulders. I’ll continue the hunt for next summer, or just perhaps draft my own darn tank.

Mondays are kind of like pajama day around here (rarely make-up, rarely even brushing the hair) but I decided to snap pictures anyway. This get-up is more or less representative of my default personal style (the kind which requires no thought when I realize I need to at least leave the house for groceries, or in this case, get in front of a camera)–jeans, a top, some kind of jacket or funky wrap, and brogues. I love brogues–flat ones, heeled ones. My husband calls them my collection of “teacher shoes”. Yep, I was a saddle shoe kid.

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The Instant Gratification Dress

It always gets down to the end of summer and all I want to throw on is something very easy–pretty but easy to live in for an entire day. It was a hard summer to feel comfortable and pretty. My “wear more silk” strategy got put to the test, especially after realizing how much hand-washing I was doing. Sweat ruins silk. Too much washing changes silk. And then of course there’s coffee. (Confession: I spill coffee on everything. And I mean EVERYTHING.)

I wonder why I didn’t think of something like this sooner. I was so desperate for a new summer dress that I cut and sewed this in a weekend, and while we were moving. This might be the zillionth online version of this popular Tracy Reese pattern (Vogue 1224) and for good reason. It’s inexpensive (only requires about a yard and half), incredibly easy and fast to sew and easy to wear.

Normally I pass on prints, especially in knits, but I was taken with this bright watercolor floral from EOS. And the fabric turned out to be such lovely quality, a silky, soft and light rayon jersey. I’m on the verge of ordering more for a drapey maxi for next spring or PJs or… or any other excuse, it’s just that gorgeous.

Many reviewers of this dress didn’t like the skirt’s tight fit and sewed a larger size and lengthened it as well. I was a bit nervous about the fit as this was my first experience sewing a Vogue pattern for knits so as insurance I rounded up a size, too. But it ended up too big, almost swimming, so I serged off the extra width. I kept the original length–I rather like the design’s intended proportions–but I’ve got these short legs so it doesn’t look so mini.

There was one little thing that felt missing–drawstring tips, which I have been searching for high and low since making a knit jumpsuit with neckline drawstrings a couple of years ago. They seem quite rare.

I finally found these cool tips at a little online store, Fashionista Fabrics. They have a nice weight and shape but unfortunately use these microscopic screws to secure the drawstring, and are very resistant to screwing in and out. Anyone know of other sources? Or another term for these? (I searched for aglets, which are usually the tips of shoelaces and can be metal at times.)

It was still hovering near 100 at the start of October, my birthday month, which I always associate with pumpkins, and hay and browned trees and boots and scarves and warmed cider. Now I’m doing it like a true Texas gal.


Purple Silk Shorts by Burda. Process by Me.

Every garment has a Big Story, even if it’s small or rarely worn. This is what I love about sewing–it’s taking the narrative of fashion and making it very personal. Making something is such a stretched-out process of meditation–from research to finished garment. Sometimes I think about a person who loves this color, or a place I have been that feels like this fabric.

Or sometimes, as in the case of these silk shorts, the story becomes about the very process of craft.

Pattern: from Burda June 2010. Fabric: purple silk charmeuse leftover from my Lady Grey coat. I’d been wanting to make this pair since last summer so I added them to my multi-pattern project.

This is a really classic and easy-to-wear pattern. The shorts are slightly loose with a nice subtle contoured waistband that sits just below the waist, yoke pockets, and a fly. (The pattern had two styles with options for cuffs, back welt pockets, a front closing bow, or belt loops. I left off everything but the cuffs.)

Before cutting them I did a bit of zipper research. Rather than try and deciper the Martian Burda instructions, I compared various online tutorials and and the instructions in one of my sewing books. Most fly zip instructions include basting the center front, and I wanted to know if it was possible to do them without basting or even pins (partially to avoid stitch marks in silk and partially out of my experimenting curiosity).

So I turned to my favorite sllk crepe trousers and did a bit of examination of the pieces and possible sewing order. Then I cut a couple of templates in rayon scrap, using a similar fly front but with a very short crotch rise, adding a fly shield and making a few seam adjustments. I tried one sample with a cut-on fly facing and another with a sewn-on facing.

I was very pleased with the outcome of both–sewing a fly without basting is quite easy and just requires a few placement marks/notches. I transferred the pattern adjustments to my shorts and here was the final result from the outside:

From the inside (and still need to tie up the loose threads, oops!):

Things pretty much fell together after those exercises. And this was such a great feeling that I forgot to try them on till the end. And when I did, I realized I’d gone and done the ultimate sewing mishap: I’d completely traced and sewn the wrong (and much too small) size! In my past sewing life, this would’ve produced a seam-ripping frenzy, but I happily carried on hemming. At some point, I must have subconsciously felt these were less about an addition to my wardrobe and more about learning technique. I’d approached them almost as a sample-maker would–testing out the engineering and design, so to speak.

Now this got me thinking–how many garments (other than fast and unfinished muslins) had I made just as an exercise or practice, for the sake of practice, without the pressure of the end product? Very little, actually. Sewing tends to be goal-oriented, and coupled with a fear of waste, even the process of making muslins can have a certain goal-pressure around them. I liked how K.Line described muslins as a separate practice, a chance to learn, more like applied engineering.

Whatever your passions or hobbies, there is always more to know or learn, right? Even my most treasured writers filled notebooks with pure writing exercises to the end of their lives–which stretch fluidity in language, try out technique on smaller scales, and improve the process of self-editing. As I was putting these together, I thought, becoming a master at anything is not so much about skill acquisition but a willingness to keep practicing and learning and improving–these things eventually compound on each other and create experience and greater understanding. And those practices are valuable, even enjoyable, for their own sake.