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.

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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?

Tropo Camisole Nightgown

Over at the Curvy Sewing Collective I have a full write up of the Tuesday Stitches Tropo Camisole. It’s a really nice wardrobe basic and I hope to make many more as pajama and work out tops. However, I thought I’d also try it out as a nightgown because summer is here and it is so hot at night!

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Erin has a tutorial to make the Tropo into a dress so that is a great place to start if your thinking about lengthening the design. One thing to keep in mind is there a lot of negative ease at the hip of the tank. This is great for anchoring a shirt, but not so great in dress form.

As you can see my nightgown is pretty tight across my midsection. I freehand cut the skirt section with about 4 inches more in ease, but it was not quite as much as I’d like.

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It won’t stop me from wearing this nightgown. It’s made from a soy blend knit I picked up on my trip to Portland back in January. I’m definitely considering ordering it in a couple more colors because while it is a little snug, this nightgown is incredibly comfortable. I need to see how much yardage I would need. Maybe 1.5 yards?

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I made this second nightgown from a firm cotton jersey from Sahara Fabrics and this time I swung out the hem more to add a bit more room. It is also a bit more snug than I’d like, but that is partly because the jersey is a little on the heavy side for the pattern. I’ve come to realize I need to shorten it above the waist. If I pinch out about 1 inch in length suddenly the whole bottom half fits. Whoops! This is also the first version I made without a shelf bra because I ran out of coordinating fabric.

In fact after making two tanks and 2 nightgowns I’ve run out of fold over elastic and the soft elastic I’d bought for the under bust band. This was a good little stash busting project, but I really feel like I’m not done. Just too perfect as a useful and quick project!


Otherwise in our lives we are settling into a summer routine. Though we’ve had some sort of virus rip through the family this past week. As the kids have gotten older we are experiencing fewer illnesses, but when something hits us, it hits us hard. Oh well. Thankfully we are all on the mend and 6 days of being house bound have given me plenty of time to catch up on my sewing to do list.

Ottobre Norma Blouse and the Dress Like Your Grandma Challenge

 

This year I just barely managed to participate in the Dress Like Your Grandma challenge Tanya (of Mrs. Hughes fame) made into an annual event. I aspire to sew as many vintage patterns as Tanya manages to produce! Anyways, I didn’t have a ton of time available to tackle this look and so I’m not quite pleased with what I was able to put together.

My mom’s mom is on the left looking saucy and rocking those ankle strap shoes. I’m not sure when this was taken, but my grandmother’s always been a bit of a ball buster. Definitely not one of those soft and sweet grandmothers who bake cookies. She’s more likely to ask me when I’m going to lose weight and can I sneak her some Jack Daniels? But she loved my grandfather and they are so adorable in the photos from their youth. Based on their wedding year and the fashion in this picture I’m guessing this is when when they were dating. (Any idea mom?)

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Trying to find a blouse pattern like Grandma’s was really tough. I didn’t have time to draft my own and I didn’t see anything readily available to download. Ottobre Magazine sent me a couple magazines to try out so I flipped through the pages and found the Norma Blouse. It’s a really cute little 1940s style shirt with a yoke at the shoulders, gathers at the shoulders, and fish eye darts for some subtle shaping.

I’ve never tried an Ottobre pattern before this, but the blouse turned out really nicely. Maybe a tad big in the shoulders, but I was trying not to do too many adjustments. Aside from blending sizes (44/48/50) I also did a full bust, sway back, and full bicep adjustment. I feel like I’ve been overly picky with fit lately and it was nice to just step away and accept the finished project instead of over analyzing it.

I also haven’t made a blouse in years. Or frankly anything with a button front. Unfortunately I probably need a touch more bust room, but otherwise I think I did a pretty good job making a professional looking shirt. I feel like my breasts look SO BIG in this and yet I probably do need to go down a size and do an even larger full bust adjustment.

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The Norma blouse was super easy to sew together. Ottobre sells magazines in English and that’s a big plus! I’m working on a project from another European magazine and it is just not as smooth trying to translate sewing terms.

The fabric for this blouse is the leftovers from the girls’ Baptism dresses and it was just perfect for a blouse. I’m really getting my money’s worth out of this purchase The Fabric Store. I still have even more!

So what do you think of the fit of this blouse? Does it look okay? Or is it worth narrowing the shoulders and doing an even bigger full bust adjustment? I think it is worth keeping this pattern and using it again. My husband said this is his favorite thing I’ve made in a long time and it is a pretty wonderful shirt.

 

Baptism Dresses

This spring felt a bit crazy for our family, so I’m playing a bit of catch up! We decided to take a family trip to Hawaii over spring break and it was wonderful. Our littlest one keeps asking to go back (like every single day, multiple times) and our older daughter loves volcanoes so she’s very interested in the eruption taking place right now. I mean how often does a 6 year old visit a volcano and then have it erupt a month later? Pretty cool in her world.

Then we got home. Our plane landed at the airport at midnight and that very same day we had to get ourselves together to attend Baptism class at our church. I’d always intended to baptize our kids, but before last June we were very infrequent attendees of services. Since June the girls and I have attended nearly every week. We love our new church home! So I started seriously looking into having the girls baptized. I opted for the mass baptism date held as part of the Easter Vigil services so that it would be easier for friends and family to attend, particularly my mother in law who would be traveling quite a distance (hi Widget!).

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Our kids were the oldest and I was tempted to make their dresses in something other than white. Delicate white fabric is not really the best for rambunctious kids who have a mother who likes to procrastinate on the laundry. Tradition won out and so the girls wore this darling white dresses.

 

For inspiration I turned to this sweet little dress at the V&A Museum. The original is from about 1870 and made with velvet with satin ribbon and lace. I just love this dress so very much.

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Poor Chi Chi. Easter is so rough on 3 year olds! Anyways I think my version of the V&A dress makes enough of a nod to the original, but these were a little easier for me to make under a deadline. Plus I just could not afford that amount of lace and ribbon times 2 dresses! I splurged on some lovely trimmings, but there is a limit to what I’m willing to spend on a one time use garment.

The fabric is some lovely super sheer shirting I grabbed at The Fabric Store. I bought 8 whole yards! Way too much, but now I have plenty of leftover for another project or two. Then I lined them with cotton lawn. The lawn was a slightly different shade of white, but it isn’t noticeable in the finished dresses.

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I drafted the pattern from The Building Block Dress from Liesl Gibson. It’s a genius little book that is well worth the cost. I’m not afraid to slash and spread a pattern, but it is nice to have a little hand holding from a trained professional. I used the basic bodice with a puffed sleeve and gathered a-line skirt. Thankfully the bodice size for both girls was the same as at Christmas so I could use those dress patterns as a starting point.

 

I doubt these dresses will be wore very frequently, but they did turn out so perfectly and I’m glad they got at least two days of wear out of them, Baptism and Easter. As for the baptism ceremony, the girls were just perfect. So happy to participate and then come home for cake and presents. Just as fun as a birthday!

Scroop’s Miramar and Gertie’s Side Pleated Skirt

Earlier this week it was 90F here in LA, so here is one last winter post before this space turns into sundress city!

I’ve been eyeing Scroop’s Miramar pattern for a little while. I need more tops that I can wear to work with skirts, but I struggle to find knit styles I like. I don’t want a t-shirt and I already have some wrap top options. Miramar works as something different, but a little more elevated than a basic tee. I also like the dress pattern. I’ve been wearing a ton of skater dresses and I’m kind of sick of sewing the same pattern over and over.

I’m a little torn over how my first two attempts worked out.

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This is my first try. I went with the dress version and cut out my size (40B/42W/44H) based on the size chart. In the pictures it actually looks pretty good from the front. The sleeves are slightly snug, but I figure the main problem is the fabric. This is a rayon blend from JoAnn’s and so clingy that I can’t see wearing this as a dress. It needed a slip underneath, but you can see all the seaming and my bellybutton. Boo.

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The back view reveals another problem, the massive pool of fabric at my back. This was not a deal breaker since I often need the back length shortened on patterns and a sway back adjustment. Given this was my first try at the Miramar Dress I thought it was a pretty good starting point.

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For version two I made a shirt so I could work on the back pooling issue without committing to an entire dress worth of fabric. The shirt only took 1 yard, so I could actually make two of these with the white jersey I’d also purchased from JoAnn’s. But ugh, I hate this shirt.

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Even though the fabric had the correct amount of 4 ways stretch, it wasn’t at all a good fit for the pattern. The Miramar directions recommend fabric with a soft stretch and well duh. This jersey doesn’t not have that at all. It is much more firm and that’s why this shirt didn’t work. But it was still disappointing to have it turn out so unwearable.

So I’m still on the fence about Scroop’s Miramar. I don’t think the dress will ever work for me. I’m not comfortable with soft knit fabrics on a clingy dress, even with a corrected back length. The shirt is much more promising in the right fabric, but finding 4 way stretch fabric in natural fibers is not something I’ve done very successfully. I’ve found plenty of polyester, but not many other options. Maybe this pattern gets put away until I find the right fabric to try again. I’ve ordered several fabrics that claimed to have the right stretch and hand but none of those have been true to their description. Boo.

All of these items were made a couple month ago when I got in some sort of craze to make something right this second. I don’t know what processed me. I finished a project and didn’t have the next fabric pre-washed so I launched into making a skirt that I probably shouldn’t have made.

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This is the Side Pleated Skirt from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book with a waistband added. It is actually a really cute skirt, but it too has a issue. I really wanted to make a skirt with the corduroy, but I had an odd amount. There wasn’t enough for my plan A or B. I even had to majorly alter the width on Gertie’s pattern to make it fit 45″ fabric. This should have been a sign to walk away, but instead I persisted.

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The corduroy fabric clings to everything including itself. It is really annoying to wear. Wearing the Miramar dress tucked into this skirt does actually help some. And when I wore the ensemble to work I got a lot of compliments. But the color combination feels more November-February than April so off to storage it goes. I guess I’ll wait and see how I feel about both pieces in the fall. The white shirt is a definite no. But white jersey is good to have on hand, so it’ll probably live again as a kid garment.