Vogue 8789 Part 1 – Buffalo Check!

Gosh I love this dress. It is easily my favorite dress of 2018. I spent a lot of time fitting it, but the outcome is 100% worth it.

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This is Vogue 8789, a darling of the vintage sewing community. So simple, but with so much opportunity to to play with bold fabrics. Really the fabric is the star of this dress so let’s start there.

The black and white buffalo check is some glorious twill weaved yet lightweight fabric I picked up at Portland, OR’s famed Mill End. It was labeled Ralph Lauren and is likely 100% cotton, maybe a blend. Just lovely. I’d bought 4 yards knowing I’d need plenty to be able to match the pattern.

The fabric also biased horribly in the wash and all that pattern matching had me screaming in frustration. Worth it.

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This version was meant to be a wearable muslin for my Costume College Gala dress, but it turned out so well that this will get far more wear in my life. It took about a month and 3 sets of plain black cotton mock ups before I was happy enough to move onto real fabric. The fit of the bodice was so terrible at the beginning. I think I started with a size 16, but I could have gone down another size. Aside from an FBA I took at least 2 inches out of the bodice length and at least 2 inches of width out of the center back.

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I started by deciding whee I wanted to match up the check and decided the neckline needed to be right along the change from black to white and that mirroring the center line was most important. The waist line and side seams need not match perfectly because the eye would be drawn to the front.

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The shoulders also matched because of the neckline pattern placement. A lucky thing that just adds to the magic of the ensemble.

This was just a fun dress to wear into a room filled with other sewists. I got so many compliments on my pattern matching and that is a true sign you’ve done something right.

Skirt was plain and pleated. It took some mind bending to figure out how to insert a side zipper with the pleats, but I totally had a lightbulb moment and it turned out all right. To get it just perfect the back and front have different sized pleats so the skirt could be the same width at the hem and different widths at the waist.

And here are a couple photos without the petticoat. This is how I actually wear it in my day to day life. Petticoats are fun for special occasions, but I just haven’t been able to make the leap into full vintage for my daily life.

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The real bummer is that after losing weight this dress is too big now. Even in these photos the fit isn’t as great as when I first made the dress, but I’ll hold onto it and keep wearing it because it feels so special.

 

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When Your Size Changes

I have a confession to make. I am a curvy sewist and I have been trying to lose weight.

This feels like a pretty bold statement to make right now. This article about obesity has been dominating my Facebook feed for the last 24 hours, and I identify with so much of what is said. I have experienced many of the examples from doctors blaming every health complaint on my weight to the judgement I feel at work being one of the largest people on staff. I’ve been the biggest ballerina in every dance class. I’ve been in stores where the largest size is too small. I feel uncomfortable being a fat lady with underweight kids.

Wanting to lose weight though has very little to do with my appearance. I actually like the way I have looked these last couple years. I’ve made some really beautiful clothing that makes me feel fantastic. My husband never complains. My kids think my softness is comforting. The truth is that I got out of shape.

I’ve tried various things to get more exercise, but nothing had stuck since I had my second child. I tried the gym, dancing, and walking. Then a little over a year ago some of my knitting friends started going to Orange Theory Fitness classes and they loved it. I tried it and fell in love too.

The classes kicked my ass. At first I couldn’t even really do the exercises. I had to modify everything. I couldn’t even walk on a treadmill with 0% incline. But slowly over the course of a year I got better. I got stronger. And by taking 4-6 classes a month I was able to lose 5 pounds. It was a start.

I’m not a huge fan of diets. I love carbs. I love baking. I love cheese. I also knew I needed to change things up. My friend Jeff started using Weight Watchers and she liked it. So I gave it a try and it turns out I’m largely enjoying it too.

I know there are a lot pitfalls to using weight loss programs so I’ve been trying really hard to stick to real food. It has mostly helped me eliminate fried foods, lessen the amount of beef/pork we eat, and most importantly it has helped me lesson the amount of refined sugar I eat. With growing kids in the house we still eat all full fat dairy, but we eat more beans, lentils, and fish than we used to. We also mostly stick to home made desserts.

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But the biggest difference has been my exercise habits. In addition to Orange Theory classes I’ve also been jogging and doing aerobics. I’ve upped my exercise to 4-5 times a week and that has made the biggest change. I am way stronger now regardless of my weight. I regularly run on the treadmill, with incline even! I can jog around my neighborhood and up hills. I can do the whole 75 minute Jane Fonda workout. Through all of my efforts I was able to meet my weight loss goal.

Changing my body has been hard. I’m about to see if it is a sustainable change.

I’m hoping to level out now and sew up some fall clothes. All this exercising has really cut into my sewing time! It’s been great, but I need some new things. I have some really great vintage fabrics and patterns to sew up and I’m hoping to dedicate some of my weekends to freshening my wardrobe. I think first stop will be that shirtdress I’ve been planning for years. I think a navy snail printed dress will be the perfect reward for all the time and effort I’ve been putting in recently!

I’m also doing a ton of knitting as I prepare to go to Rhinebeck this year. It’s a bucket list trip and I’m so excited to meet so many of my knitting friends. I’m especially excited to see my fitness cheer team. Erica, Jeff, Stacey, and Larren have had my back through this entire journey and I haven’t even met most of them in person. The internet is so amazing and I couldn’t have pushed myself this hard without their support. I also have to thank my husband for taking over the lead parent role while I get in my workouts.

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Still curvy! Now stronger and better than ever!

Jalie Gigi Bikini Party!

Last March my family went on a trip to Hawaii! It was a trip my husband had been requesting for our entire relationship and finally we had a good enough financial streak to make it happen. Hawaii is not cheap!

As usually happens about one week before our trip I became absolutely obsessed with making a new bathing suit and matching suits for my daughters. I made matching suits 2 years ago and they were so fun. We definitely turned heads around the pool. Also, where did my babies go? All I have now are kids! No babies!

This time I turned to the Jalie Gigi Bikini which comes in size toddler 2 all the way to the lower end of women’s plus sizes.

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After taking this one photo on our last full day in Hawaii I then proceeded to get incredibly and horribly sunburned. Multiple sunscreen applications did no good against such a strong sun. Our new suits sat unworn for months.

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And then we pulled them out for a family trip to the beach just before the school year began again. It is miraculous that the girls suits still fit after so many months of growing. If you’re interested in how my suit fits I did a write up with the Curvy Sewing Collective. I like it pretty well, but there are things I’d change if I made it again.

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The kid suits turned out really well, but I wish I’d added more length to both. Charlie at nearly 4 years old still is too small for the smallest size according the Jalie patterns and Lu at 6 years measures somewhere around a size 3-4. But both girls are more average in height. I know I made Charlie’s as a straight size 2, but I can’t remember what size I used for Lu. I added length to both pieces, but it still doesn’t cover as much as I’d like. Much sunscreen has been applied for these beach trips!

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The fabric is the prettiest swim fabric I’ve ever seen. Its from Liberty of London and I bought it at The Fabric Store (LA location before it closed). I think it must have been a defective roll because the price was not this high. Plus there was a big seam down the piece and some discoloration along the selvedge. The Fabric Store generously gave me extra yardage to make up for the flaws and that’s how I was able to make 3 swimsuits with the fabric I’d purchased to make one for just myself. Actually, I made 4 because Lu’s doll got a matching swimsuit too!

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This project was so so so fun. I’m really enjoying making these matching projects while my girls will want to match me and have doll clothes too. Right now I’m making them coordinating gymnastics leotards and they have coordinating Halloween costumes in mind too. The girls don’t always play nice, but it is clear they love each other.

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And happy birthday to my own mommy! She’s moving away soon and I’m going to be just crushed to see her go. I love you mom! Thanks for providing me a good example of parenthood.

Costume College and a Charm Patterns Rita Blouse

A couple weeks ago I had a chance to attend Costume College for the very first time. Like many people I avoided attending for many years thinking I wasn’t good enough at sewing or that I wouldn’t fit in. I was WRONG on both counts. But mostly I have to thank my roommates Danelle and Kristine for letting me share their hotel room and being my buddies for the weekend. If they hadn’t included me, I’m sure I would have felt too intimidated to attend. Also thank you to Tanya for answering my hundreds of questions before I arrived. Now I can’t wait to go back next year!

What is Costume College? The most important part is the classes. They are all taught by volunteers and range from constructing weapons to learning to make a 16th century smock. I found the classes to be sort of hit or miss. I had some great teachers and some that were unprepared. Overall I found them to be informative and worth my time. In the evenings there were different themed events. You can dress in costume or not. You can dress to the theme or not. You can skip the events completely! I went to each event and had a great time. There are also lots of other things, a tea, a gala, a costume exhibit, a market place, etc.

Costume College was also totally overwhelming. I took zero photos. There are people everywhere and the costumes can be incredible. Far better than I can ever hope to achieve! But there is a wide range of sewing skills on display. I took a slip making class and found myself on the more advanced end even though I don’t think I’m an expert sewist. Not everyone makes a House of Worth reproduction out of silk. But I can see how on social media it looks like the costumes are all perfect. That’s just not the case in real life.

Anyways, I’ll share the two dresses I made for Costume College soon, but in the mean time here is a top I made to wear to the daytime classes.


Charm Patterns is a pretty new brand, but the owner, Gretchen has been writing a blog, books, and designing patterns for Butterick for the last few years. I own one of her books and a few Butterick patterns, but so far I had avoided her new pattern line. I love the look of her designs, but I do find them a little impractical and over the top for my everyday life. Plus her sizing isn’t very inclusive. Boo! But with Costume College a few days away I decided I really needed a blouse to go with my amazing hand painted Mexican skirt. Off I went to research downloadable options and the only one that seemed like it would really work was the Rita Blouse.

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It turned out really cute!!! The Rita Blouse has become pretty popular and I can see why. It was quick to assemble, quick to sew, and comes with cup sizing. For my 42 inch bust I picked a size 10DD, no FBA needed. I heard the waist is generous so even though my waist and hips put me at a size 14, I kind of ignored it. I cut the back as a straight 10 and the front midriff as a 12.

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The fit is pretty good, but not totally perfect. I used a fraction of the recommended elastic in the neckline and it still fits wide enough to show my bra straps. I need to put in minders, but haven’t done that yet. There is also too much fabric in the front right under my bust. The first photo looks pretty good, but this one below shows better that my Rita doesn’t fit snuggly and gives me kind of a low boob look.

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In order to meet my deadline I had to se fabric in stash. This ivory shirting is kind of like a gauze and I got it from a friend who was destashing some of their fabrics. All I know is it is 100% cotton, a tad bit stiff, and breathes super well.

Will I make more Ritas? Yes I probably will. I need to sew more tops and I have better suited fabrics in my stash. Right now I’m in navy twill hell making my daughters some new school uniforms, but the weather has been so warm that short sleeve tops will be needed through the fall. Plus I have a cute bird print rayon all washed and ready to sew up!

Sister Gift – Charlie Caftan

My sister has had a shitty year. When her birthday came around I really wanted to make her something beautiful. While we were on vacation in Hawaii I hit up a local fabric store chain Discount Fabric Warehouse with the mission of finding caftan appropriate fabric for my sister.

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I was able to find a ton of cotton or cotton/poly blend fabrics, but the apparel options were tucked away against the wall. There were only about 20 options in rayon so I selected the print I though suited Kat best. She and I have very different taste when in comes to color. She inherited olive skin that tans easily and looks great in reds, oranges, and other warm colors.

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I wasn’t able to finish her dress before her birthday, but I was able to surprise her at our family reunion. I think she likes it!

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I used the Charlie Caftan pattern from Closet Case Patterns. I made a version for myself last year and found the insert extremely annoying to install. However, this time around everything went really really smooth.

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I measured my sister a few months ago and she easily fit into the size 20. I probably could have sized down, but a caftan is forgiving. I went extra dramatic with the deep sleeves and the only alteration I made was to lower the inset 1 inch so she had plenty of boob room.

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I think she looks absolutely fabulous in her new caftan and I hope she’ll be able to enjoy wearing it through the heat of summer and maybe even on her annual trip to Burning Man. I can’t take away all the crap life is throwing her, but I love my little sister.

Sibella Sweater

Nothing says July like a hand knit sweater! Right? Right?

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Well to be fair I finished this sucker back in April when our morning temperatures were still slightly cool.

This is my new Sibella Sweater, a pattern I’d had in my knitting queue for 6 years! Of course for 4 of those years I was pregnant and/or nursing so pullover styles didn’t have a good place in my life. As a dress wearer, I’ve always struggled to incorporate this style. However in the last year I’ve made a few skirts and a pullover sweater works with skirts really really well.

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I started knitting this, but as often happens when I’m knitting in the round my gauge went wonky. Riiiiipppppp, start again.

Ultimately I used a size 38″ as my starting point and added extra stitches for the hips. Considering my bust is 42″ I expected the sweater to be kind of close fitting, but is ended up skimming more than form fitting in the front. The negative is the back bags out badly.

How to fix this? Well, I think in the future when I split for the sleeves I’ll put more stitches in the front and fewer in the back. This had been my plan, but for some reason I chickened out when the moment came. I’ll claim exhaustion from knitting late in the evening.

Probably partly because of the fit issues this sweater slides back on my shoulders over the day until it is choking me 😦 So much work put into it and it’s uncomfortable to wear.

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I’m sure I’ll wear it anyways because this sweater is just so pretty. And it is light enough to wear around the office without over heating. Plus I used some long stash lingering yarn and it would be a shame to see it unloved. I used Hermosa Fiber Company’s Hermosa Sport in the color Always A Bridesmaid. Hermosa has since stopped dying yarn which also makes this sweater a symbol of the changes in the yarn industry.

Several years ago there were lots of local yarn stores, but over the years they have closed down due to rising rents, competition from online retailers, and the yarn craze starting to wane. New yarn dyers come along all the time and it is hard to stay current in the world of fangirls and fanaticism. For some businesses the work just isn’t worth it. I can’t blame them. However I do love pulling those much loved skeins from my stash and knitting them into beautiful garments. Hopefully my current project will have a better fit.

Anyone know how the Canadian v. USA tariff situation will affect the yarn industry?

Lanvin Reproduction

Okay, this was THE MAJOR PROJECT of spring! Heritage Square holds a fashion show and tea every spring. In previous years I worked the event, but this year I asked if Lu and I could walk in the show. Then I lost my damn mind and spent way way way too much time trying to figure out something that met the theme that also worked for our ages and was a known mother/daughter duo. I also needed to find something that was achievable.

I ended up finding 5 or so options and then asked the organizer which she preferred. And she was very unhelpful by telling me to choose. Darn it! In the end I selected Jeanne Lanvin and her daughter Marguerite.

Here is the fashion plate I selected.

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From the Museum of Fine Arts Boston

And here are our finished ensembles!

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I’m pretty darn proud of how nice our dresses look. Not exactly like the original design, but certainly close enough for real life.

I drafted both dresses from a basic bodice. Lu’s was based off the bodice block in the Building Block Dress. I used the pattern I fit for Christmas and then added cut on sleeves. It is a little tight to get her arms in, but it works! Then I added a densely gathered skirt. Mine is based off my sloper with a very slightly dropped waist. I’m sure on a slim woman there would be no bust darts and the waist would be lower, but I altered those things to better suit my figure. I love trying to be historically accurate and making clothes fit is an accurate direction to go. People have always preferred clothes that look nice!

I also drafted Lu a simple slip to wear underneath. I used cotton lawn for the top and organdy for the skirt. Jokes on me though, organdy is…sheer! I had to go back and line the slip with more lawn. On the plus side the slip organdy was a freebie my boss brought me years ago. She was so pleased to hear I’d used it. I had enough to do both our slips, but mine is not fully lined I think. My memory is kind of foggy on the details at this point. I made my entire ensemble in less than a week and did not have the time to sweat the small stuff!

Both dresses are made with organdy I ordered all the way from India. I’ve never ordered fabric from so far away, but I found the recommendation on Historical Sewing and figured Jennifer wouldn’t recommend a crummy business. Pure Silks‘ website was a tad clunky, but they had organdy of various stiffness and in colors, glorious COLORS! The prices were also really good even with international shipping.

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Our ensembles were topped off with hats I purchased off Amazon. I had such anxiety over hats. Finding the right shape, color, and size is so darn tough, but I haven’t learned to make my own yet. So two plain straw hats were ordered and then I trimmed them to match our ensembles.

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I’m most proud of the appliqué on the front of the dresses. I had planned to do it by hand, but that would have been so time intensive. A friend suggested appliqué and she was so right. Much more realistic in a time crunch. I used left over baptism dress fabric for Lu’s and some silk organza from Renaissance Fabrics on mine. Then I embroidered the stems by hand.

My mom (and two of my aunties) were able to attend the fashion show and captured this sweet video. Lu had such a blast that she is already thinking about next year. And I’m so happy to see my girls love the museum as much as I do. Next year maybe Chi Chi can join us?