Last week, I sat in the company of some, shall we say, seasoned gentleman waiting on a client. In between awkward silences, they passed the time sharing stories of Chicago and the way it was back in their glory days: the jazz clubs and movie theaters long closed, the best $9 steak downtown, the shops where you could go to buy "hot" stereos, and, the tailors that outfitted them back before retail ruined clothes.
This last story, in particular, caught my ear. I listened-on smiling as the man across the table recounted the first time he had a shirt made. He had just graduated from college and needed a suit to wear to interviews.
As the tailor presented him with options, he asked whether or not the shirt should have a pocket. The pocket cost an extra $0.50- a splurge. Wanting to look impressive, he opted for the pocket. To this day, he makes sure his shirts have a breast pocket.
This man has no idea that I sew, at least I don't think he does. He probably didn't realize how entertained I was by his account. The funniest part, as a person who does custom make her shirts, is that I intentionally make all my shirts without breast pockets. I just don't care for them. I wonder if my missing pockets prompted his story. Oh, the irony.
One of the cool things about shopping the remains of another sewist's stash is catching a glimpse into their process. It's usually pretty easy to tell what type of sewist's house I'm at based on the types of fabrics and patterns available and the ways they're stored. A lot of times, I find clips of newspaper articles or magazine pictures tucked inside pattern envelopes: RTW Inspiration. Wedding announcements. Shopping lists. Pattern 'notes to self'.
The ranges of fabrics I find can be diverse and tell their own stories. There's the family outfitter sort of sewist's who has piles of easy to wear/care knit and poly blend fabrics, usually in bulk. There are special ocassion sewist's whose collections are overflowing with trims and formalwear fabrics. There are collectors who have sought and carefully preserved vintage fabrics. The DIY couturier who buys high end fabrics and designer patterns. There are planners who spend time packaging their fabric, patterns and notions into large Ziploc baggies for future project preparedness. There's the resourceful sewist's who keeps every scrap, because they might be able to find a way to use it.
The latter sort, the resourceful one, is the type of sewist's house where I bought the fabric for this dress. It wasn't until I got home and started washing and sorting my treasures from this particular sale that I realized I had purchased a curtain panel. Just one. It was a homemade curtain panel with a channel for a rod and penny sewn into the corner of the hem to assist gravity. I can only imagine that the former owner liked the print as much as I do and was unable to toss them after she was done hanging them in her dining room. There was only one panel tucked into her stash. Maybe she found a use for the other. It's also possible somebody bought the match before I started searching.
The romantic in me likes to think that I have a match somewhere out there, like Fievel. What types(s) of sewist are you?
PATTERN: McCall's 7704
Who knew it would be so difficult to photograph a white blouse? Not me. My apologies, for the lack of blouse detail in these images. Fortunately, there's nothing new to see here. (Haha!).
I feel redundant talking about classic or staple pieces, (then again, I just sewed an entire closet full of the same garments, making redundancy unavoidable); however, classic and staple are the two words that resonate in my mind when I think white blouse and denim skirt.
Is there anything you can't wear with a denim skirt?! It's probably apparent from the gushing I did over my shift dress, I'm completely in love with denim at the moment. Someday I'll take the plunge and sew jeans. For now, I'm quite pleased to have denim dresses, and skirts, and shirts, maybe a jacket... don't stop me if if gets out of control. :-D
The construction of this skirt is the same as the ones that came before it, except I used flat felled seams, because, well, it's denim. It seemed appropriate. I used flat felled seams on my dress too, which I failed to mention. They really are... flat. They also look very clean and polished on the inside of the garment.
I carried the tower placket that I used on my Gingham and Oxford versions of the Archer into this blouse. This sleeve placket it definitely my preferred method and my new default for this pattern.
The one issue I had while sewing this blouse is the sheer nature of the fabric. If you've sewn the Archer before, you know that the yoke is comprised of an inner and outer layer that both attach to the lower shirt back. The method for construction is pretty fantastic, that is, with opaque fabrics. My shirting isn't totally sheer, but it has enough translucency that I can see the seam allowance sandwiched between those inner/outer yoke pieces from the outside of the shirt. I trimmed it as small as I could to make it less obvious. I know it's there, so it bothers me. Most non-sewing people will likely never notice. I would love a better solution. The best idea I've received is from Liz and Meg who suggested that I eliminate the inner yoke piece and french seam if I sew with sheer fabric again. What are your tricks/tips for working with sheer fabrics?
Are you sick of seeing my face in your blog roll?
I can't tell you how productive I suddenly feel after getting these projects posted. I put most of these garments into rotation as I finished them; still, somehow, I don't feel like I've completely finished a project until I take pictures of it and share it on the blog. I'm not sure why. It's a very tangible way of seeing results, or something.
Almost immediately after the Archer pattern was released, I bought a few shirting fabrics specifically for it. I'm usually a stash shopper, but I had some very specific basics in mind for this pattern. I bought this Oxford pinpoint in green and pink- a little preppy, but very classic and versatile. Then, they sat on the shelf.
Fortunately, I remembered that I had this waiting in the wings when I set-out to sew. This shirt looks every bit as crisp and classy as I hoped. I can't wait to wear it with jeans and Sperry's or some white shorts. Lots of possibilities!
For purposes of this endeavor, I sewed another See&Sew 5076. This time, the fabric I used was a piece of Waverly upholstery weight cotton. It's a bit heavier than the other versions of the skirt I've sewn, but it has a nice drape and I really love the print. I had barely enough to squeeze out this skirt, so there's no print matching. I think the print is busy enough to disguise the breaks in pattern. At the very least, it's not the first thing I notice when I look at pictures of the skirt.
While I love these garments individually, I probably won't wear these together. The fabrics in both are both a little hefty and could use balancing. The skirt looks really great with a fitted tank, for instance. Regardless, I've got two more solid staples in the closet!
Alright, enough. I'll see you next week with more of the same!
In addition to the Archer blouses and See & Sew skirts I've been amassing, I cut and sewed a small pile of vintage McCall's 7704 (speaking of vintage patterns, I shared some of my pattern collection over on Marie's blog as part of #VintagePledge). I sewed this pattern earlier in the year after realizing I had a minor obsession with shift dresses. It was always my plan to sew a few more. So, at the same time I cut my Archers, I cut a stack of shift dresses.
I pulled a couple bold colored fabrics and some funky prints, but the shift dress I was most excited to sew was this denim version. You see, I have this picture of Alexa Chung wearing a denim shift dress looking absolutely cool and completely gorgeous. Actually, I have every piece in her denim line for AG pinned on one board or another.... I just love her style. She's got that sort of easy way that makes me believe that she probably did wake up that way and a vintage vibe that makes me want to steal everything she wears. Fortunately, I don't have to steal her dress to steal her look. I know how to sew, so I can make my own!
Look at us! Practically twins... in a Danny/Arnold sort of way. :-D This is likely a true representation of my height compared to hers. :-D
I don't have anything to add about the construction of this pattern. It's good and basic and easy to put together. I have been wearing this dress every bit as often as I expected. It was one of the few garments that made multiple appearances during MMM15. Do you have a style crush?
You gals/guys are the absolute best. Thank you for your shared enthusiasm and support in this little wardrobe experiment! I feel really great about the results of these projects, and it's fun to share them here.
This next set of the Archer blouse and See'N'Sew 5076 is currently my favorite. Initially, when I chose fabric for and cut my pile of Archers, I held-off pairing them with skirt fabrics. Once I settled on my skirt pattern, I began to match them up. It was a little challenging. So many of the blouse/skirt fabrics I chose are interchangeable, I thought I might save myself some time by sewing a few fewer skirts and doubling-up when it came time to photograph for the blog. I was running out of ideas for combinations. By the time I went searching for a fabric to pair with this gingham, I had already matched the mustard, the white, and the denim fabric I thought I might want to wear with this blouse to other Archers in my pile.
I did, however, still have a few yards of gingham leftover. At first, I wasn't sure how I felt about wearing a matching shirt and skirt, but the more I considered the idea, the more I convinced myself that, together, they would look like a shirtwaist dress. And, golly, THEY DO! I'm pretty thrilled about it.
It's the best of both worlds. I get to create the illusion of a shirtwaist dress, but I have the flexibility and fit of separates. I know I'm going to have fun mixing/matching these pieces.
The whole time I worked on this blouse, I knew it was going to be my new favorite. I adore gingham. It doesn't get much more classic than a good gingham check, does it?
I had fun personalizing this blouse with little touches of detail. I cut the button placket, yoke, cuffs, and also the skirt waistband on the bias. I am really happy with the way they look on my finished garments. It's a small customization that makes a big difference. I matched my checks along the horizontal lines; next time, I want to be better about matching up the vertical repeats, especially if I have a bias cut seam, like on my skirt. Overall, I'm happy with the result.
The other change I made to this Archer was to substitute the sleeve placket for a more traditional placket. I used the same tutorial demonstrated by Heather on her recent Archer. Prior to making this modification, the sleeve placket was my most dreaded part of constructing this blouse. No matter the number of times I've sewn the placket as drafted, I can't seem to sew it completely free of puckers. I have some minor anal-retentive tendencies, and this drives me crazy on my other versions of this blouse. I prefer this alternate placket and implemented it on several other blouses in my pile.
Have you sewn coordinating separates or multiple garments from the same fabrics? Would you?
As promised, I'm back to share more of my new uniform pieces. Even though I've sewn piles of the same garments, I tried to keep variety at play. The most obvious way I have variety is that I chose different fabrics for each iteration. While I'm certainly not opposed to the idea of owning a dozen black Archers (maybe next time!), I knew that I wanted to have a range of blouses to choose from. When I chose fabrics, I was conscious of choosing palates and patterns that complimented another. And, I pulled a few pieces of fabric just for the sake of fun, like this blue on blue polka dot.
I also played around with different customization options. On this Archer, I decided to sew a half-sleeve version of the blouse. All throughout May (#MMMay15), I found myself rolling up the sleeves on my Archer blouses. It occurred to me that I could save myself the trouble by shortening the sleeves.
I've long loved the sleeve Adey's vintage blouse. I really love the look of the overlapped cuff and decided to use it as the starting point for this sleeve hack. It was simple, really. I used the original cuff pieces and assembled them as usually but with a reduced seam allowance. Then, after I cut my sleeve to the length I wanted, I gathered it slightly, at the center of the underarm and stitched it to the cuff. Slightly overlapping the edges of my cuff, I stitched with the seam allowances facing the wrong side of the sleeve. There is a raw edge folded under the cuff, but it's completely out of sight once the cuff is flipped into position.
I was a little stumped when it came time to choose a fabric to pair with my blue dots. You know me and color (or lack thereof). But, I'm really happy with the way these blue spots looks with this mustard version of Butterick See&Sew 5076. As an added bonus, I think it's going to look great with my Gingham (stay tuned) Archer too! I've really been able to push myself with new colors/patterns during this experiment. All the fabrics I sewed with were stash, mostly estate sale fabrics. WINNING!
A couple months ago, I got it in my head that I would stop dreaming about having a closet full of Archers and make them. I pulled a pile of fabrics off my shelves and started cutting. If we hang-out on Instagram, you may have seen the madness. While I was at it, I also cut out a pile of shift dresses using the same vintage McCall's pattern I used to sew my LBD. Slowly, surely, (and sometimes not at all), I've been working my way through that pile.
My goal with sewing has always been to completely sew my own wardrobe. This has been a bigger challenge than I realized at the onset. By the time the year ends I'll have five years of sewing and projects under my belt. I've learned a lot along the way, but the hardest lesson I've struggled with is figuring out which types of garments I really want in my closet. I've sewn pretty vintage party dresses that spend all their time on a hanger. I have a number of impractical garments that should only be worn on weekends. I have a pile of ill-fitting garments that it's time to part with. Most importantly, I have a group of garments that I reach for time, and time again.
In truth, I'm a very boring dresser- Normcore all the way. I feel most comfortable when I have a basic "uniform" to work with. I decided to embrace my vanilla-ness and use that last group of garments, the ones that spend more time in the laundry than they do in my closet, to build a foundation for my ideal wardrobe.
As I finish each project, I get more excited about the direction my closet is heading. Granted, this type of sewing makes for very boring blogging. For that, I apologize in advance. I'm not a fan of repetitive project parades either, but I blog, in addition to the social element, as a means of personal record keeping. Finding my stride with wardrobe staples is a pretty big chapter in this epic. I'll make it as quick and painless as possible. Promise.
I really feel that once I have a strong foundation, I can build on top of it. I have plans to mix-in some new patterns and styles this summer. The biggest irony of this whole experiment is that being totally boring and sewing the same things over, and over again somehow makes it feel easier to take risks- it's like I have a safety net now that I have clothes to fall back on.
Who knows, I might find more favorite patterns as I play around and push boundaries. I'm very happy to wear some combination of this outfit in rotation with my shift dresses until I do! Many of the fabrics that I used work well in a variety of combinations. It's like algebra class and story problems but with real world applicability.
The Archer is amazing, but it doesn't stand alone. I needed a suitable bottom to wear. I started my search on Pinterest. I have a board of separates where I've pinned and continue to pin all sorts of tea-length and midi skirts. Thanks to my overabundant pattern stash, I was able to find a pattern that I think checks all my boxes in terms of a great skirt. Vintage (80s?) Butterick See&Sew 5076 might not be the first pattern most people would reach for, but this skirt is FABULOUS. I'm wearing my first 'mock-up' of this pattern in these photos. The fabric I used is kinda sucky. It's a poly-blend suiting fabric that I bought at an estate sale for the purpose of muslining. However, this skirt fit so well, I decided to fully finish it. The fabric doesn't feel horrible, but gosh is it a nightmare to press.
The skirt falls directly from the waistband without darting and flares toward the bottom to create a nice amount of volume. It's got enough swish to satisfy, and it only takes two yards of fabric to sew. With four seams and a waistband, this skirt is also a very quick project, which made it great to alternate with the somewhat more complicated Archer.
The Archer is a contemporary pattern, the skirt is awesomely 80's; together, I think they look very 70's. Most importantly, they're totally 'me'. Have you found your sewing spirit animal?
The sweater parade continues! I wasn't joking when I said I planned to bombard you with woollies. Like I mentioned previously, balancing between knitting posts and sewing posts is something I haven't been able to get a handle on. I'd really like to have my knitting slate clear before June, so bear with me. Two more after today and I'm down to socks... and a shawl... But, I'll get some sewing in there soon. :-D
This sweater was knit from the Arvingen pattern by Pia Herno. It's a poncho-like sweater with an abundance of positive ease. Mine is knit using Rowan Polar (60% wool, 30% alpaca, 10% acrylic), and it's delightfully squishy and soft.
Yesterday, the weather turned cool, and I was able to wear my Arvingen as part of my Me Made May line-up. This is the type of garment that is incredibly easy to wear... even if it does make one look somewhat like a flying squirrel. (HA.)
Similar to my last project, this was a quick and uncomplicated knit. The shape of the sweater is created through a series of increases alongside the center seams. The sleeves are a spin on a classic raglan. This is sweater knitting 101, in a very "not your granny's knitting" kind of way.
This is a "one size fits most" pattern. I'm wearing it here with approximately 18 inches of ease through the hip, for reference. I think that it would be easy to modify, but I didn't attempt to do so on this project.
That's all folks! Tune in next week when Bullwinkle and I teach Boris and Natasha to knit. :-D
I'm truly racing against the weather as I attempt to unload my knitting UFO pile. There's still room for cuddly sweaters, however. It's going to reach the 80's by the end of the week, but yesterday was damp and cool and the perfect opportunity to wear and photograph my Winter Weeds cardigan.
I don't have a lot to say about this one. It was quick and easy. There's nothing complicated or unusual about it, unless you count the back where there's a bit of contrast stitching and bobbling used to create a lovely little wildflower/weeds design.
The lapels are knit directly onto the body of the cardigan. There's a slip stitched edge on both sides, but it doesn't prevent the fronts from curling. Even after blocking, they want to roll. If I had any yarn left, I'd be tempted to apply some sort of border to keep them turned out.
But I don't, have any yarn leftover, that is. I very nearly wasn't able to complete the collar. I was short a few rows on both sides and had to stretch it a little bit to attach it. In fact, I had so little yarn remaining, I needed to use a contrast yarn to seam the collar. Talk about cutting it close!
The yarn is my favorite part of this sweater. It's Rowan RYC Cashsoft, and it was a delight to knit with and incredibly squishy and soft to wear. However, it's not very forgiving. There is an irregularity showing on the back right shoulder- either from tension or some inconsistency in the yarn. I'm hoping that, in time, with enough washes, it will relax into the background.
I don't mean to seem so underwhelmed by this project. It's a solid sweater that I'm sure I'll get a lot of wear from. I was glad to have it yesterday. It's got an easy sort of style to it, and I like the back. But, it is a bit of a bore to knit. Fortunately, I finished this in under a week; otherwise, it wouldn't have held my attention.
P.S. I'm pledged participation in Me-Made-May '15. I've been keeping track of my daily me-made outfits on Instagram. Are you wearing your me-made clothing this month?