A Symphony in Indigo and Gold

Right before Thanksgiving, my sweetie picked out this scrumptious fabric for me to make a Christmas dress:

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Gorgeous! It’s one of the Les Fleurs patterns from Cotton + Steel’s collaboration with Rifle Paper Co., in a lovely deep indigo with a metallic gold print. It’s got a nice heft to it, and a good balance between structure and drape. Since I already loved Cashmerette’s Upton dress pattern (and I can always use more dresses with pockets), I figured that it was time to make a third one! This time I made it in a longish tea-length version, for extra twirliness. Because twirliness = holiday festivity.

I had a good time with the construction, and the inside looks almost as pretty as the outside! The bodice is lined with some Bemberg rayon that I had in my stash, and the skirt seams are all flat-felled.  I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out, although there are a couple of spots that demonstrate my continued struggle to sew a really straight seam. Let’s just say that I won’t be making topstitched jeans anytime soon. img_20161214_230020

However. I neglected to pay attention to the fact that almost my entire wardrobe is black, red, gray, or white – and that none of it went very well with my lovely new dress! Enter the cardigan:

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It’s a RTW cardi from Lane Bryant, found on a chance foray into the shops the night before the symphony to which I wanted to wear my new dress. It had sleeves, was reasonably warm, was in the right color range, and had enough metallic shimmer to be festive…but it was also too long, and the zipper looked a little cheap with the whole outfit. Then I remembered – I can sew! Which means I could certainly modify the cardigan enough to make it work.

As it turned out, it was a very easy alteration. I unpicked the zipper plackets, tucked the bottom 6″ or so underneath, and hemmed it to a cropped length by hand with a blind stitch. Leaving all the original fabric actually helped to weight it down enough to hang very nicely, too, so I’m glad I didn’t take scissors to it.

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And voila! It all worked out pretty well. It was a symphony of indigo and gold, which was lovely for going to the actual symphony with my mom for a Tchaikovsky violin concerto.

We’re fancy like that.

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Peace, love, and pretty fabric + good music,
Sumiko

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The Straight and Narrow (Grain)Line: or, The Snow Falling Cardigan

I am a big fan of ignoring instructions in many areas of my life, but when it comes to making the first cut in coveted fabric (like this suuuuper soft and cozy ponte from Tissu Fabrics in SLC) I am a complete and utter chicken. It looks kind of like snow falling to me!

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I have been longing to make a waterfall cardigan ever since I saw Mary’s gloriously stripey version. And once I spotted this fabric, I knew I’d found the right match. The dilemma: I love this fabric, but it’s a single-border print and laying out the StyleArc Nina Cardigan to get the border along the bottom of the cardi would require cutting (gasp) cross grain. Eeek. Guys, I must have read two dozen articles with varying opinions on cutting against the grain on knits. Holy cow.

Luckily, the Curvy Sewing Collective also has a Facebook group (or as I like to think of it, the Amazing Internet Council of Wise Sewists) and everyone on it is very generous with both advice and encouragement. After some tips both on sewing knits on a regular machine instead of a serger, and a recommendation from Wise CouncilSewist Gillian on adjustments to make when cutting across the grain on knits, I took the plunge. The neckband, front bodice, back bodice, and hip band are all cut across the grain – the only thing that is cut on the grainline was the sleeves because I kind of liked the way the pattern looked that direction.

The only modifications I made to the pattern were adding some extra room on the bodice pieces to compensate for the less-stretchy cutting choices, lengthening the sleeves by 3″, and doing a double-faced front neckband. Since the wrong side of my fabric was very, very clearly a wrong side and the neckband is most likely to show the wrong side I figured it might be a nice touch. And, if I didn’t like it, I can always go back and unpick it! Ah, the advantages of making one’s own clothes, eh?

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Inside of the double-faced neckband on my cardigan. Pardon the weird wrinkling – the corner of the kitchen table was poking into the fabric and I didn’t realize it until I’d already uploaded the photos and decided I was too lazy to re-take them.

Turns out, it was a risk worth taking. I love how it turned out. The extra weight combined with the thickness of the ponte gave it a sort of architectural drape that I get all sorts of giddy about. You know, it’s funny – I never thought of myself as a “clothes” sort of person until I started sewing. As it happens, I just am not a shopping person (unless it’s fabric, red lipstick, shoes, or groceries). Okay, so I’m not a clothes-shopping person.

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Anyway, I’m quite pleased with the way this turned out, and I can’t wait to wear it! All hail autumn, season of cozy cardigans, hot cocoa, and backyard evening fire gatherings!! I found the fit to be very comfortable – I have fairly broad, square shoulders and this has just the right amount of room to accommodate a wide range of movement. Lengthening the sleeves by about 3″ made them pretty much perfect for me, as I have gorilla-length arms and can never find RTW clothing with adequately long sleeves. collage

All in all, if you’re looking for a relatively quick and easy sew with the potential for high-impact payoff, try this cardigan out. Single-border fabric optional. 🙂

Love, peace, and carefully researched risk-taking,
Sumiko

Saving Vacation Fabric from My Enthusiastic-But-Rubbish Sewing

Vacation is the best. Meeting new people! Seeing new things! The being-away-from-work! The not-having-to-answer-your-phone! The lazy mornings! The late nights! The different food! And of course, the opportunities for buying fabric in faraway places. The last proper vacation I had was a trip to Fiji during the summer of 2015, which was every bit as blissful and amazing as one might imagine.

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Sunset from Ovalau, Fiji

I had just recently discovered an affection for sewing when this trip occurred, so I was excited to buy fabric – vacation fabric! – and then make something glorious out of it as a souvenir. However, with only the backpack I was carrying around, it had to be something that didn’t weigh much, and didn’t take up much space. So whilst rummaging around the shops in Nadi, I found a 6m long silk sari with a pretty teal/yellow/cream design and declared, “This shall be mine!”

Fast forward a few months, and I’m cheerfully hacking up the 6m length of fabric without a pattern. Because I like to live on the edge. (Or because I’m an enthusiastic idiot.) I made a maxi dress from this lovely silk, practicing my newly-acquired skill of making French seams, and it was light and floaty and delicious, and did not fit AT ALL through the bust. It was worn once to a reception, and has been languishing in my closet ever since. But can I bring myself to get rid of it? Heavens, no. This is vacation fabric.

So…the same annual reception is approaching this year, and I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be lovely if I could wear my Fiji maxi dress? Too bad the fit is all wrong.”

And then I realized that I had learned how to use patterns and had improved a great deal at sewing over the last year, so I should just take apart the old dress and refashion it into something that I would actually be seen in public wearing! A-HA! An epiphany!

(Side note: my sewing space is my kitchen table. Hence, I normally tend to lean towards easily-completed projects.)

So down I sat to unpick the French seams of the original dress…and lord almighty, unpicking French seams is the WORST. I streamed four complete episodes of Doctor Who whilst unpicking those unholy seams.

That was Day 1.

I’ll spare you the details of Days 2 – 6, but suffice it to say that after several days of staying up until 2 am, rubbing my bleary eyes and cursing my ambition, my kitchen table is back to being a kitchen table rather than a sewing room, and I have THIS to show for it!

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This is an Upton dress bodice from Cashmerette Patterns. It is my favorite thing in the world and I shall never stop making dresses with this. But since I was basically making this dress out of the scraps of my original dress, the back bodice is pieced together out of eight pieces instead of the intended four.

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Let me tell you…that took some doing. I’m relatively pleased with the pattern matching that happened serendipitously on the piece with the big leaves at the top. (Also, can I just say that learning about spray starch from A Fashionable Stitch was a complete game changer? That stuff is fantastic.)

But since I got lazy about unpicking seventy-billion yards worth of French seams, I just cut off the top of the original maxi, keeping the skirt, and then Frankenpatterned it onto the Upton bodice.

Which actually worked out pretty well, because it gave me these fun little swooshy secret side panels in the skirt!

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to swan about in a shiny new dress. Vacation fabric = SAVED. Hell yeah.

Love, peace, and Frankenpatterning,
Sumiko

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