All posts by sputniksong

Completed: The Psychedelic Snakeskin dress

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A fun, quick  make of the Sewaholic Yaletown, out of a dazzlingly-patterned rayon challis, which was totally an impulse buy/make and which will totally become a wardrobe staple.

Enjoy the photo shoot. Most of it is legitimate. In the rest…well. The dress is VERY persuasive. It rules them all and binds them, and brings them all through the darkness and binds them…

OKAY I WATCHED THE TWO TOWERS LAST NIGHT YOU GOT ME.

But seriously. It’s hard not to act up a little when wearing this dress…

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Completed: The knit galaxy dress

Some of you may know that, in a previous life, I was an astronomer.

(By the way, that’s the scientist who studies the UNIVERSE for a living, NOT the person who studies tarot cards for a living OMG stop asking me about my astrology background plzkthx)

I gave up astronomy a few years back, and while the intense pursuit of my education and professional training has ended, my love of the visuals has not. So when I saw this space-print knit at my fabric store, I pounced.

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The design is a mash-up of a few patterns, with a bit of Morgan flair thrown in, and is only a mock-wrap. The original dress was a true wrap front that had a slim skirt, but I wanted something safer, and I wanted the skirt to be fuller:

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…because it’s way more fun to twirl in. 😀

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There were more practical reasons for me doing this dress, though. As I mentioned above, I have a pattern that is a true wrap dress, intended for knits. I made it about a year ago, when I had no idea what I was doing, and it didn’t take long for the soft, drapey rayon knit to drag under it’s own weight and become so embarrassingly distorted in the front that I no longer feel comfortable wearing it. I mean, I don’t have cleavage, but I do prefer to make my money and my friends by more wholesome means…

So this time I did my homework and decided I would use it as a learning opportunity, and try to get better at working with knits. I sewed twill tape into the neckline to keep it from drooping, and used 3/8” elastic in the shoulder seams and the waist, sewn at a 1:1 ratio with the (unstretched) knit material, to stabilize the other two areas that tend to distort the most over time.

And now I guess it’s just a matter of wearing the dress a bunch, and seeing if my fixes work.

Aaaanyway, back to less technical talk! My S.O. came out while I was in the middle of photographing myself and laughed at me, because I was trying to look pretty and feminine…and this apparently is not a natural state of things for me. Of course, he ruined the mood, so at that point I gave up on trying to be pretty:

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…or particularly conventional.

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I am the universe. I AM EXPANDING AT AN ACCELERATING RATE.

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Really, I like to blame him, but the photos were turning out pretty mixed, anyway. Some days people like me just can’t manage to be pretty and feminine. I even took separate photo shoots over two consecutive days, at different times during the day, to try to get better lighting, or be in a better mood…

But I’ve also been sick, so surely THAT has something to do with it…

Ah well. I DID have fun, though, which is perhaps more than a lot of people can say. 🙂

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Completed: Pleather Colette Ginger A-line skirt

There’s a contest running on patternreview.com right now in imitation of the Great British Sewing Bee. I am swamped with unfinished projects, commissions, and getting a business off the ground, and I also contracted the flu–so I thought, “May as well participate!”

Here’s my entry!

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It’s a faux leather rendition of the Ginger skirt by Colette Patterns. The contest was to make, in roughly a week, an A-line skirt with a waistband, a hem, a zipper, a button/hook&eye closure, and a lining.  Contest is judged based on execution, creativity, photographs, and the write-up. One required photo is of the inside–which is good, because that’s where all my creativity happened!

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What you’re looking at is a composite image showing the skirt flipped inside out, to show the pink bias tape at the hem, and the hot pink pockets I added, BECAUSE POCKETS.

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Honestly, I jumped into this contest because I wanted to see how far I could get–not, as I’m sure others did, because I like A-line skirts (never wore one before!) or because I was at all interested in the contest prize. In fact, I was a bit irritated with the first part of the contest, because A-line skirts strike me as incredibly 90’s–they remind me of ultra-thin eyebrows, stick-straight hair, and spagetti strap tank tops. NOT my thing.

But the pattern, outside of a few drafting/technical issues (adding extra room specifically for the butt made it IMPOSSIBLE to cleanly install the back zipper, argh!), I was surprised to find that I actually LIKE this skirt. Make it classy with a white button-down shirt and a bit of red lipstick and it actually sort of fits my personal aesthetic. Not to mention it’s surprisingly comfortable.

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So: make another one? Probably not. But this skirt will definitely get some wear!

What do you think? Are A-line skirts classic wardrobe staples, or are they dated?

Gertie Pedal Pushers a la Cephalopoda

I got my hands on a copy of Gertie’s book for casual vintage sewing this past week. For those of you who haven’t checked it out, the book is a collection of what are commonly known as “blocks,” which are uber-basic patterns that can be relatively easily modified to become a wide variety of garments: a pair of pants that can be made into pedal pushers or shorts or wide-leg trousers, a basic straight skirt that can be made into a pencil skirt or an A-line skirt, etc.

As with most people, I have bad luck with pants. I also have weirdly bad luck in *sewing* pants–if I can get the crotch to fit, the hips are all wrong, or the seat is lumpy, or the front has smile or frown lines. I’ve read heaps of tutorials and blog posts about pants fitting and construction, and I’ve bought 3 patterns for pants, each from entirely different pattern companies. But it’s never panned out.

So when I got this book and saw the pants block, I said to myself, “Okay, Morgan, it’s time to learn how to make pants–for real!” Fortunately, I had some spare ULTRA AWESOME OCTOPUS MATERIAL laying around, and managed to squeeze a pair of pedal pushers out of it.

May I proudly present: The octopus pants!

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Gertie’s pattern both worked and didn’t work for me. The sizing is very different from mine–she goes for a MUCH curvier body than what I have–but I managed to make it work, more or less, by taking the darts out of the front of the pants, to allow for a wider waist. And since my abdomen is flatter than it is round, the loss of front shaping wasn’t an issue.

The good parts of the pattern were that the leg was SLIM–much slimmer than the legs of Big 4 pants patterns I’ve tried in the past. Which was glorious, really. Having to figure out how to take out 3 inches in the diameter of a pant leg, and whether to do it on the inseam or the outseam, and how to take it out of the crotch curve, is a freaking nightmare.

I was also stoked to find out that the pants were zip-up, without a front fly, because as I’m learning how to make pants, I didn’t want to make anything super complicated. The pants also fit quite well if I’m up and moving around.

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However, the crotch is STILL wrong. If I try to sit down it’s all right for a few minutes, but then it gets painful pretty quickly. The pants also sit all the way up to my natural waistline, which is WAY too high for me–not only is it a look I don’t think flatters my figure, it presses against my diaphragm and makes me feel pretty queasy and pained after about an hour or so. Definitely not pants to wear when sitting on a computer all day!

Fortunately, the pants are wearable to work, because I don’t have a desk job. I’m on my feet all day, and I took them for a test run after snapping these shots. Oh my god, QUILTING COTTON PANTS ARE SO COMFORTABLE. They’re easy to move around in, they breathe amazingly well, they allow for me to take stairs two at a time, and to bend down to *properly* lift heavy boxes without my underwear showing…so many good points!

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I also managed to figure out WHY the crotch doesn’t work, by comparing it to the crotch of a pair of pants I have that DO work–they’re Lucky pants, if anyone is curious, and I got them at a thrift store a few months ago, and they’re the best pair of pants I’ve ever owned. Turns out the back crotch length is a little too long and the front crotch length is WAY too short. So at least now I know how to modify my pants patterns in the future, and hopefully I’ll get an even better fit next time (I have some non-stretch denim to test my hypothesis with, and then hopefully it’ll be good enough that I can cut into the delicious black cotton-spandex twill sitting in my stash, waiting to become a pair of cigarette pants).

So what do you think about the octopus pants? Yes? No? Would you wear quilting-cotton pants?

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IN OTHER NEWS:

Remember my last post, in which I talked about how I was trying to juggle way too many things at once? I’m steadily progressing with all of them–I’ve been buried in immediate-deadline commissions, and steadily packing on a few longer-term commissions that will easily take me through November with a good amount of work outside of my part-time job at the fabric store. It’s been really nice to have the extra cash–a lot of it has been going toward this business venture of mine, which I hope to launch in January (more on that soon, I swear!), and the rest has been going to acquiring fabric for personal sewing projects. It’s nice to have the spending money again–my budget was REALLY tight after August.

Of course, having all the commissions means I have even less time to work on the business, so while I’m getting the money I need, I’m falling behind on my deadlines…

But I’m optimistic! I feel like this week will be the week that I can really start to sink my teeth into the first stages of getting the business prepared for the beta testers.

Anyway, with the extra material, I’ve got a bunch of small projects planned, so I should be able to post semi-regular updates here again. Maybe. Assuming I take time away from the business to do it…haha.

Update!

Hi friends,

I promise I haven’t abandoned the blog! I realize it’s been a while since I last posted, but several things happened:

1) my birthday was last Sunday

2) I suddenly got bombarded with commission requests

3) I’m in the middle of like 3 different, long-term projects, so there are no pretty, posed pictures to be taken

4) BUSINESS VENTURE. I’m going to be starting a business! I’m insanely busy right now with research and figuring out the start-up costs and timeline…I’ll post news as it’s available.

It’s interesting how blogging is harder to keep up with when, technically speaking, you have more going on in your life that is blog-worthy…

Anyway, I have to run off to work, but I wanted to post the update so you all wouldn’t lose faith in me 😀

Stay tuned!

Completed: Vogue 8519, Jacket designed by Claire Schaeffer

Guys, let’s talk for a minute about the really interesting Vogue patterns. You know the ones I’m taking about: the ones with tons of seam lines, or with really unique, structural silhouettes. Usually they’re by designers or masters of the craft, like Ralph Rucci or Claire Schaeffer (two of my favorites, by the way).

Despite how cool these patterns are, and despite the fact that they’re often listed as “owned” or “wishlisted” by a lot of folks on places like Pattern Review (PR), no one ever really talks about making them up. There usually aren’t reviews for them on PR. There usually aren’t a whole lot of blog posts, if any. The only time you see them made up is for sewing conferences, and they’re on a mannequin, and usually photographed with someone’s phone. So you look at the pictures on the Vogue website, and you look at the pictures and drawings on the package, and you say to yourself, “Yeah, that’s great, but what’s it like to actually make this thing?”

Making up these challenging patterns is a mixed bag. Each designer working for Vogue approaches silhouettes, ease, and internal structure differently—and oftentimes, the way they approach these aspects of garment construction are stylized, personalized, and a total train wreck to really fit.

However, obtaining a great fit is central to having a final product that looks just as bam!-pow! As the garment photographed on the pattern package—and sometimes even better (I swear, Rebecca Taylor and Ralph Rucci NEED to send model measurements to Vogue along with their sample garments, because the Vogue models consistently don’t fit in the garments they’re wearing, and that doesn’t help sell patterns at all!).

So how do you do it?

I’d love to say “Make a muslin!” and have that be it, because that’s the big buzz on the blogosphere right now, what with the Ralph Rucci coat sewalong and people getting more and more interested in challenging sewing designs. But I think a lot of people approach muslin-making the wrong way, which makes it a step that is much less effective than it could be.

I had to make this jacket four times to get the garment you see pictured here.

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An introduction is in order: audience, meet Vogue 8519. V8519, meet the coolest cats in the blogosphere.

The first time was a muslin. I thought I had it down after that: I did some pinning here, some marking there, and found, to my delight, that the fit seemed really good if I just took out the side panels entirely, and made almost no other adjustments other than the standard (taking in the shoulder width, because apparently Vogue designs for football players, and lengthening the arms by an inch, because I’m lanky).

So after making up this muslin, I said, hey, I got this down, now I can cut out the awesome purple leather I’ve had in my stash for a few months, and make myself a kick-butt purple leather jacket with all these cool seam details.

So I sewed up the bodice, left the sleeves off, and tried it on. Since it was such a disaster I couldn’t even bring up my arms enough to take a picture with my camera, I took a picture of it on a hanger instead:

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I ran into problems right away. The shoulders were still far too wide, and what was worse, the front wouldn’t fully close. On top of that, when I attached the sleeves, I found that they were way too wide, and I had almost no arm mobility: my shoulders were totally locked in by the overly-snug fit of the jacket.

Protip: if you find your shoulders are constrained, you can usually fix the problem by ensuring that the seam between the bodice and the sleeve cap rests directly over the shoulder bone (that bony bump sitting toward the end of your shoulder). So I marked where my shoulder bone was and cut the leather.

At the marking, not 5/8” beyond it.

This ruined the leather jacket, and no matter how hard I tried over the next three weeks, I could not salvage the project. Eventually, I gave up and tossed it, though it broke my heart, because that purple leather. But I had no choice—the pattern is made of so many little small pieces that I couldn’t even salvage the leather for a clutch or wallet.

But V8519 continued to nag at me. I was convinced I could get it to work, and what’s more, the spectacular failure had felt like a challenge. Like the pattern was fully expecting me to give up at that point, like it had defeated me. Claimed victory.

Well I wasn’t going to stand for that. It may have won the battle, but I was going to win the war!

I was at work when I found a bolt of burgundy wool suiting and everything started to fall into place. I had bemberg rayon at home, and I knew I had enough to make the lining for the jacket if I was clever in fitting the pieces together. I had shoulder pads and lightweight hair canvas ready for a jacket project.

THIS jacket project.

I gloated as I swept up a few yards and took it home, pretreated it, and then set to work on a third rendition of the jacket—out of cheap cotton, NOT out of the wool. I was hell-bent on getting the fit to be as close to perfect as I was humanly capable of. So I stood in front of the mirror, tweaked the fit. Tested my arm mobility. Pinned the front closed at the button marking and tried again.

Then I marked down everything I had done in a notebook, took all the adjustments out, and tried a different set of adjustments.

I did this what must have been half a dozen times, then eventually settled on the adjustments I thought would work best for me.

Then I set the muslin aside for a week, and worked on something else.

After my mind had cleared of the project, I pulled the muslin out and tried out the fit again. Took out the adjustments. Tried some of the other options. Tested some more, always watching how it looked, whether or not it hung right. I tested my mobility by windmilling my arms, bending down to pick up a pencil, reaching up to pull spices from the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet. I tried hugging my S.O. a bunch of times (he didn’t seem to mind). Punched the air as if in triumph (practice, you understand).

And then, I finally got a fit I was happy with. If you’re curious, here are some recommendations based on my work:

-the bust is actually very shaped: because of the center-front curved piece, the bust is actually able to be cupped over each breast, and this is built (somewhat) into the pattern. This pattern–as with all Vogue patterns–is meant for women with B cups, so you’ll have to be careful about how you do your FBA or SBA. Also remember that when you add/subtract space in the bust, you will have to correspondingly lengthen/shorten the top arc of the center-front curved piece, and you may also have to change the shape of the front yoke. If you’re curious, these are all adjustments that I had to make, since I always have to do an SBA.

-the pattern is designed to be a very loose fit and VERY structured—I think there are only two pieces on the bodice that aren’t supposed to be interfaced with hair canvas. I thought that the style lines suggested something more feminine, so I took everything in quite a bit, and only used hair canvas on the facings, the center-front curved piece, and the bottom hem.

-If you plan to get a tighter fit, here’s the best way to do it: look at the bust/waist/hip final measurements for each size as printed on the tissue paper. A snug-fitting jacket has about 2-3 inches of ease throughout, with a bit more ease around the hips (to enable you to sit comfortably and without the jacket doing unfashionable wrinkling, puckering, or buckling). Choose the WIDTHS of the size that gives you that 2-3 inches of ease all around, but make sure you keep the LENGTH of your true Vogue size, as based on the chart on the back of the envelope. In my case, I am usually a size 10/12, but in the bust and waist I took in the pieces to a size 6/8, left the hips a size 10 where I normally expand out to a size 12, and kept the length a size 10. (This approach also keeps things in much better proportion in the top of the jacket where all that curved-frontispiece nonsense is happening, so you have to do fewer eyeballed modifications for the FBA/SBA! 🙂 )

-Claire Schaeffer must have sloped shoulders, because her designs always call for 1” shoulder pads. I have very straight shoulders that I think are beautiful, and wearing anything substantial over them makes me look WAAAAY too ’80’s, and like I’m trying too hard to be corporate or something… So I chose raglan 1/2” shoulder pads instead, so that the shaping was more feminine and natural, but still gave the garment the structural support it needed.

-the only other stylistic change I made was to omit the front button. Honestly, it just looks a little awkward to me, and I feel like it breaks up the flow of the design as created by the seam lines and piece shapes. Not to mention I had no intention of trying to get a button hole through something that had been interfaced with hair canvas. 😛

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I was absolutely terrified to start cutting the wool, once the muslin was finally finished and the changes had been transferred to the pattern pieces. Occasionally, I had to stop working on the jacket for a week or more, and sew something easy and gratifying (like the By Hand London blazer I posted a few days ago!), because the anxiety over this project was killing me.

But! I’m happy to say that after over a month of fiddling with this pattern, I got something that fit well, and the final result is a bam!-pow! rendition of V8519 that I’m very proud of, and will be wearing a hell of a lot.

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It is so rewarding to see something like this grow beneath my hands, and to be able to wear it is…inspiring (not to mention I feel like a million bucks wearing such a unique and TAILORED jacket!). I can confidently take the next step and try things that are even more challenging. I’ve taken my sewing abilities and knowledge to the next level. The project was daunting, and hard…but it was so worth it.

Friends and followers, I am pleased to present you with the remainder of the photo shoot of V8519, in all it’s glory. Enjoy—you’ve earned it if you read through all my notes! Haha!

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Completed: By Hand London Victoria Blazer: Cooling Down

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My favorite article both to sew and wear is outerwear, in all its glorious forms: blazers, jackets, or coats, zipped or buttoned, long or cropped, full sleeved or half-sleeved, tailored or minimalist.

In this case, the Victoria blazer is untailored, and even lacks interfacing. Shoulder pads? Nah. Buttons? Ew, no.  It is slouchy, oversized, and oh so very, very cool.

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The By Hand London ladies are a hoot. If you haven’t snapped up one of their patterns yet, do it, if only for the highly informative and entertaining instructions. These gals are punny. I’ve never seen anyone crack jokes in instructions before, and it’s refreshing .

The instructions are also geared toward absolute novices, so if you’re on of those I’ve-only-ever-made-like-one-skirt-and-I-never-let-it-see-the-light-of-day types, I highly recommend getting your feet wet with a BHL pattern. They’re fashionable without being obviously dated, they’re incredibly versatile, and they’re drafted for a good range of sizes.

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I’m already planning to make this blazer up in its various looks (the pattern also has options for a cropped version and a sleeveless version). Guys, this is gonna be a wardrobe staple. I love how I look in it. I love how confident/cool/detached I feel when I wear it. It’s like anarchy for my wardrobe. It’s great.

By the way, a reaction like this is a very good indication of what direction you should be taking your wardrobe in, if you’re the sort of person who curates or “architects” your wardrobe. While I wear quite a few cotton dresses in conversational prints (mostly because they’re easy to throw on in the morning and I get a lot of compliments at work), they don’t exactly do wonders for my self-confidence. I feel pretty normal, maybe cute, but also a bit…”home-made.” And I don’t really want to feel home-made. I want to feel like I ooze style, like someone can see a look and instantly say, “Oh man, Morgan would love that.” I want to reach the point where people are complimenting me on my style, not on my chosen sewing project.

But this untailored, oversized blazer? Heck yeah. Clearly, I need to start steering my wardrobe in a more minimalist direction (which, if any of you follow me on Pinterest, probably should have been obvious to me from the sheer number of pins I have on my “minimalist fashion inspiration” board.)

Now, onto the gritty details!

My only issue with the pattern is that it doesn’t call for lining the sleeves. I don’t know what sort of armor-plated skin the BHL ladies must have, but if you’re making a wool blazer, you DO NOT leave any part that is touching your skin unlined. Yeeeeeech. Fortunately, it was super easy to just throw in the sleeve lining, because the sleeves are finished with french cuffs.

French cuffs, by the way, are utterly genius little things. They’re like sexy facings, where instead of having to do 6 steps, you only do 2. A supremely elegant solution. The ex-researcher highly approves.

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But I have a confession to make:

I miss Midwestern autumns.

Back home, October was the perfect month for blazers and jackets.Temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, crisp winds blowing in from the north, scattered showers.

Here in the Bay Area? It’s been a blistering 85+ for several days. A coworker of mine showed me a picture posted by a friend of hers from the L.A. area, in which the candles were melting from the ambient temperature. They were saggign against each other and the wall, and drooping onto the table from their candlesticks.

Anyway, the temperature is the reason for my expression above…haha.

At least I was only in the blazer and pants for the photoshoot–you can bet your bottom dollar I stripped and slipped on my airy rayon challis dress as soon as I was done taking pictures.

But whether or not the Bay Area weather cell is in denial, fall IS coming! So next up: coats! It’s been so hot I’ve hated even looking at the material for them, but they’re well on their way to being done, and soon enough the weather will warrant wearing them (YESSSSSSSS. Favorite season EVER.). I have a Gareth Pugh rip-off I’m making (looove sewing: designer fashion, fraction of the price!), and then I’ll start regularly posting along with the Ralph Rucci coat sewalong.  So stay tuned for season-appropriate sewing!

What are you guys sewing up for fall?