First Summer Shot: Red Scallop Shorts

These shorts were really fun to make. Or at least I was having a lot of fun saying scallops, scallop. Isn’t it a cool word? The consonance, I guess.

They were finished over a week ago, but I really, really wanted to wear them with this exact top–a body suit, actually–which is a straight-up knock-off of Daughter Fish’s. And that turned into an adventure of drafting not one but two different bodysuits. (More on that later!)

As I got to my unshaded location, the sun went behind clouds and the chiggers came out. Ouch, ooh, ouch, they sting. Ahhh, signs of summer in Texas!

Now, I have to admit that styling shorts is not my forte. I have one pair of ikat shorts, kind of shorty shorts, that I love pairing with floaty blouses. There’s something about floaty and oversized with a smaller silhouette on bottom that looks right on me. I like these two together in a classic nautical way, but looking at the whole outfit in photos makes me feel a bit, um, revealed.

What do y’all think? A white button down with these might be cute. Or perhaps a drapey tank? Definitely not these sandals, if only because they are wearing out and I’m kind of bored with them. I’ve already got my eye on the “every day” sandals I want for this summer. They have just a smidge of a wedge heel, which I like. I usually only wear flat sandals with things that cover my legs, like maxis or long trousers.

Pattern: Pattern Runway Sweet Scallop Shorts. Lots of cool little details, like separate front pieces with lots of top stitching, hem facings, welt pockets, yoke pockets with again, facings. This pattern is facing-happy! I really like them on hems–they make such a nice finish. It also has some good little “industry” techniques, such as how the invisible zipper is inserted, by machine, into the waistband facing. I’ve used this method several times before to line and face zippers, and it really turns out beautifully.

(Note: I bought the pattern in September and it had incorrect instructions for the welt pockets, which gave me a bit of a head mash and I ended up sewing the underwelt backwards. If you make these make sure you have the updated instructions or see Sarah’s tutorial. She kindly pointed me to it when I thought I was going crazy!)

Fabric: Red organic cotton twill from Mood, a nice twill with a soft hand. It was terribly off-grain, but after a lot of pulling on the bias, I was able to get it all straight. They have some other really pretty colors, too. I only had a yard, and that was enough; I even had just the right amount left over to cut a 2nd front piece, after I serged a hole right through my original front while putting in the pockets. OOPS.

Fitting notes: I’m exactly in between an XS and S in the pattern sizing so I went with the XS and made up a quick muslin. I mentioned before that this pattern has a lot of ease, but when I made the muslin, it didn’t seem so gargantuan and in fact looked slightly more fitted than the model picture. I still think going down a half size was a good idea.

I also knew that my fabric would work better if the shorts were more fitted. This twill is stiff (and non-stretch), kind of like a mid-weight denim. I tend to think that the stiffer and weightier a fabric, the more it is suited to a fitted style, which is why it’s so hard to predict the look and fit if you use a lighter or drapier fabric on the muslin. I’m glad I didn’t overfit the muslin, though, because after adding all the fusings, facings, etc, the shorts felt even tighter. Thankfully, the fabric relaxed a little as I wore them about!

On the muslin, I folded out just a smidge of a wedge out of the back for a swayback, and took in the waistband by a teensy bit. I might be able to stand even just a smidge more of a swayback adjustment. I made the biggest change to the center front seam/crotch curve. Commercial pants patterns often do this weird thing right where the center front seam forks. That looks funny now that I’m writing it, but tailors use the term “crotch fork”–why can’t I? It looks baggy in the front but feels tight from side to side. In most of my rtw pants, including jeans, that curve is much shallower (and usually the inseam is closer to the front). So I redrew the curve to be shallower, which also makes it shorter AND adds extra room for the hips. Does that make sense?

Happy summer sewing!


Playing Catch-up and a Cote D’Azur Dress

This was a dress that started its life as part of my Mise En Place project over the fall.

Recently Amy of Sew Well asked me if I was back to working on one project at a time, or working on multiple garments at once. Coincidentally, I had just pulled out the remaining garments I cut for that project. My serger went on the fritz toward the end of a silk jersey dress, and I never got around to finishing the rest of the them so they’ve all been on my to-do list this spring!

One of the motivations behind the Mise En Place was to find an organizational system for myself. It seemed like every time I got down to actually sewing something I’d be missing something important–thread or notions, or forgetting to fuse part of the fabric and then having to salvage wadded up fusing. And it would just take so long to finish. I just wanted to sit down at the machine and sew when it was time to sew! This time I had a real pleasure out of having eight different projects all prepared to go, cut out, bundled up with their requisite notions, fused, etc. No more running out for something at the last minute. I liked pretending I was a small factory sewer for a moment.

I also really like working on the same type of project for extended periods of time. So all said and done it was a good experiment, allowing me to give all that attention to individual stages of the process. (And I got much faster at tracing patterns and refining seam allowances as a result.) Thinking eight projects ahead was fun, but I don’t know if I could do that all the time–no room for whimsy or the latest pattern a blogger made and I just have to have!

Speaking of which, I’ve been having a hard time coming up with a summer wardrobe sewing plan. There are just so many good ideas swirling around my head and my original list was about 10 or so garments. I’d love to join one of the palette challenges and I’m wondering if three is a better number. Leaving room for whimsy. I love the Me Made concept, too–but I think my personal challenges in the months ahead relate to fitting more than wardrobing. (I’m dreaming of a custom dress form. Just dreaming, at the moment.)

Anyways, that was a long answer to Amy’s question but I’m trying hard to put periods on some of my ellipses!

Now that you’ve made it this far: the dress!

Pattern: HP Cote D’azur Dress. Last summer I really wanted to try a Hotpatterns pattern. (And that sounds funny funny.) I have a few that I bought in some mad discount. I figured a knit dress was a good way to start.

Fabric: This is a somewhat weightier rayon jersey (I think 14 oz?) and it was purchased for a draping project for a friend, as a birthing dress. I will have to share that story some day but it remains my second ever draping attempt and it was a blast. Anyway, I’d ordered far more than her dress needed just in case.

Details: This is basically a t-shirt dress with seams down the center back and front. Super simple, the whole thing is serged. The special part about it is the bias shaping down the center front seam that forces it to drape as it does. (Sort of like a cut-on godet?) It also has hem facings, which I like, because it allows a for the nice, curvy hem shaping.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about a design with a gathered seam going down the bust, but I decided to give it a shot and just use up my fabric. It’s pretty cute, I think. I like the fact that it’s a maxi (or midi?) and that it’s purple. I’m not very good at binding knits yet, and I had to rip out this binding THREE times to get that V right, but I’ll get there.

One word about fit: I didn’t measure or alter this pattern before cutting (a risk, I know). And there were no reviews of it on PR at the time–but I learned afterward how much bustage is in this pattern. If I did this again I’d take out some little darts in along the neckline and gathers. (This review is helpful in explaining that.) Guaranteed, if you are a B or below, you will have to do some bust adjustment for this pattern. It’s not an ideal fit for me, as you can see:

It doesn’t bother me too much because the overall dress is nice, and looks even better when I don’t have a belt on–it weighs downward. There is a t-shirt version of this, which I doubt I’ll make but if I did there’s no way I could get away without taking it in in this area. Yes, this is going to be the summer I learn about small bust adjustments. No more balloons of fabric!

Summer + maxi(midi) dresses + my iris garden = happiness. (Sadly the irises have all bloomed and left by now!)


Sweet Shorts, Sour Shorts, Spicy Shorts

Well, hello hello, and happy belated Easter! We do celebrate and this year’s holiday was pretty laid back, just spending the day talking with friends under a big oak tree and a little stroll through my garden to pick flowers. I got me an Easter bonnet, too! A fine big-brimmed straw hat that I wish I would’ve had when modeling my Lonsdale last summer. It will work its way into one of my future blog shoots, I’m sure.

This week I’m dreaming of shorts. And tank tops. Alas, it’s that time again.

{credit: google images}

I haven’t really worn sleeves in two weeks. This is why I never made a proper spring wardrobe plan, because heck, spring just flits in and out of Texas like a hummingbird. Now you see it, not you don’t.

My shorts fixation of the moment is being taunted by all the images of scalloped hems and lace shorts on Pinterest. (See my board.)

And serendipitously, today Colette released a cute little sailor short pattern in their new spring collection. You bet I’ll be trying these!

Last summer I wrote a bit about the way my style has changed living in Texas. I was never much of a skin-barer and I never had a need to be. I never really wore sandals, even in midwestern summers, and now they’re at least half of my shoe wardrobe. So slowly, over time, my tastes and my eye has adjusted to a breezier, skin-showing style.

I’ve liked the way summer clothes have taught me to celebrate my figure and make peace with those parts of the body I used to try and hide. I mean, I guess in a roundabout way I could blame Texas for actually giving me the courage to wear skinny jeans. (This year I even treated myself to SKINNY LEATHER pants. For reals.)

It took me awhile to be okay with shorts, for example, but now I can’t imagine living outside of them. A couple years ago, I timidly bought a pair of pretty little Ikat shorts on clearance at Anthropologie. And they became my uniform. I barely took them off for a couple summers straight. I need me lots more shorts.

In August, I sewed my first pair, pretty purple silk shorts, from a Burda pattern. They were so beautiful. I was so proud of the fly I drafted for them and how it all came out. And then I committed the ultimate sewing mishap–I’d completely sewn the wrong size (down). It could’ve been a costly mistake but thankfully the silk was left over from another project so I chalked it up to a fancy muslin. I’m determined to get them right this summer, and even ordered more of the same charmeuse.

The first pair on my agenda, however, are Pattern Runway’s Sweet Short.

After Oona first alerted me to this new line last summer, I promptly ran over to Etsy and ordered a few of their patterns. And now I really need them.

Thankfully, before I went a-cutting I found Liz’s pretty, gauzy take on these and her original assessment of the fit, or I would’ve banged them out without measuring or even making a muslin. (Do I learn?) According to my measurements I’d fit exactly halfway between their X-Small and a Small. The thing is, there are rather big distances between the sizes, unlike many of my shorts or trouser patterns (like Burda). Rather than cutting out some willy-nilly in-between size, I decided to do some measuring first and drew in the seam lines along the X-Small to get an idea of the ease. The finished measurements of waist and the hip have 4.5″ (11.4cm) of wearing ease! Just FYI. That’s quite a bit for fitted shorts, or at least a fitted waistband. Hopefully, the half size down will be good enough but I’m definitely making a muslin dammit. Tonight.

So stay tuned for further shorts developments. And a full-on summer wardrobe plan. I’ve got some drafting ideas up my sleeves!


I Need a Brain File Cabinet

I so so want of these to put all my little treasures. Lost keys, weird European change (oh, I saved all the pre-Euro coins!), sewing supplies.*

Lately, my brain has felt like it’s on inspiration speed. So many ideas coming at me, all at once. When I was younger, I’d just ride the wave, worried that the muse wouldn’t strike twice. But since then, the tsumanis can be as much of a burden as the droughts. Every single idea being “a rare opportunity, the one that never knocks!” And I keep hearing that song in my head.

I’ve taken personality tests in the past just to get a grip on what tends to motivate me and how I organize (or don’t). On the popular MyersBriggs, I’m usually an INFP which explains my passion for ideals, intensity of feeling, love of learning new things, and a lot of my past jobs and education (and my not infrequent changing of jobs and education). It also, unfortunately, tells me I have trouble organizing, setting goals and sticking to them. I do like finishing things, the sense of satisfaction that comes with it, but if something very interesting and important and new comes up, it’s hard to concentrate.

The one thing I’m always wishing for more of is organization. I’m just not the personality type who comes up with brilliant organizational strategies although I love to death the kind who do. (Y’all are a gift, and you know who you are!) At this point in my life I’ve made peace with my creative impulsiveness, but I’m always searching for a better way to sort through all the ideas that come at me. For awhile I was trying to keep a visual logbook, sort of like this one.

I also get real pleasure out of following my mental rabbit trails until a few of them connect in some meaningful way. Lately I’ve taken to mind-mapping software.

I have two highly organized business-owner friends who’ve suggested I try it out. I downloaded MindNode because it has a Mac-friendly interface. (There are free ones, but they run on Java which I don’t like.) For example, I used it recently for a blog post idea. As I started writing, the post started turning into a tome (a frequent problem) and I needed to map out all the rabbit trails I was going on. Visually, my mind works more in circles than branches, but it’s been really helpful to use this so that I can 1. find the theme that ties all my ideas together, 2. happily follow the ideas to their extremes, 3. decide which branch is important–at this moment.

So for example, remember in my last post I was talking about re-doing my website? I had a theme all redesigned and almost ready to go and then some other ideas popped in my head. I tried them out and kept fiddling and fiddling. At no point during all this did I take notes on what I had done or why. Did I want a typographic-y theme that felt like an old book? and how old? Did I want a very clean look, kind of modernist and straightforward? I have a soft spot for designs with little clutter, with simple visual cues. Or did I want some feminine-y sort of retro vibe? I should’ve had my mind-mapping software when I started!

And as a sort of creative exercise this week, I did some serious spring cleaning of all my sewing stuff and my books and files in my home office. This was really good. I spent hours and hours going through papers and tossing. I fasted a bit from Pinterest and other distracting muses.

And I weeded, a lot. Weeding is good for the brain, too.

(See, Oona, I got dirty hands!)

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your ideas and how do you organize them, just the ideas?

*As a kid, I loved flipping through these for hours and was endlessly fascinated with the Dewey decimal system and book titles. I remember sitting in a farm country library circa 1998, researching for my grad degree. I was the only one in there with a laptop; it was just at the the beginning of the dot-com boom. There were two lone card catalogs left and I felt a little pang of sadness; I knew the weight of that type of organization, the beauty of its craftsmanship, would be gone in a matter of days, months. (I remember thinking, time to get one now on ebay before they are like $1000. Um, too late.) These things are a beast though, the smallest weighing at least 150 pounds.