Monday, March 19, 2018

The Work and Play Capsule Wardrobe

6 garments. They all make fantastic individual additions to my wardrobe, but they can also be worn together in multiple combinations. This is the mini capsule wardrobe I made for the pattern review contest. 1 cardigan, 2 pairs of pants, and 3 shirts.

When I began to plan my capsule wardrobe I knew immediately that I wanted to make it as versatile as possible. I wanted a wardrobe that would look "at home" in both "work" and "play" situations. I wanted my outfits to transition from a more formal look to a fun look with the exchange of just one garment.

For maximum versatility, I made the first item of my capsule wardrobe, the cardigan, reversible. After I made the cardigan, the next step of assembling this mix and match collection was to make two pairs of pants. In keeping with my goal of having a variety of looks with just the one set of clothing, I made these pants to be opposite of eachother. The first pair are loose, flowy, and made of dark gray wool. The second pair are skinny jeans made of bright metallic gold stretch denim.

When it came to the shirts, I knew right away that I wanted to make all three in different styles. One would be a button up blouse, one would be a tank top, and one would be a basic T shirt. These three things would look great with both pair of pants, and my cardigan.

After I picked out my fabrics and patterns for the shirts, I decided to start with most boring one - a plain, black, T-shirt. A wonderful wardrobe staple that I clearly needed. Easy to sew, but not very exciting.

To make the shirt I used my basic dolman T-shirt pattern and a remnant of  black Ponte de Roma from my stash. The stability of the ponte lent an edge of formality to this otherwise casual pattern, making the the T-shirt look just right with my wide-legged pants. Unfortunately, I didn't have quite as much of the fabric as I thought I had, so I had to piece together the back of the shirt. I used the ponte for a yoke, and some plain black jersey for the rest. I'm not complaining though, because I love the visual interest that the back now has. A happy accident indeed, as this top now can't be called boring at all!  

As another design feature, I also added sleeve ruffles. They add just the right amount of fun to this "boring" black T-shirt!

My next shirt, a tank top, didn't need any design changes at all to make it interesting. The fabric took care of that. 

I acquired this purple, floral, patchwork, soft, drapey, mystery fabric in Malaysia. Once it arrived home with me, I immediately saw that it was just the fabric to turn into the Burda 6969 tank top. This pattern had been in my stash for quite a while now, waiting for just the right fabric!

The capsule wardrobe contest was just the push I needed to actually make the tank-top. I put off making it until now because it's been much too cold outside to think of wearing anything sleeveless! Thankfully, my reversible cardigan solved that delema for me, as this flowy purple tank top looks good layered under the cardigan, or alone with either of my newly made pairs of pants.

For my final shirt, a button up blouse, I decided to match my tank top in color and stick with purple for two reasons, a) it's one of my very favorite colors, and b) having two purple shirts created a very nice cohesive look for my capsule wardrobe. The color however, is where the resemblance between the two shirts ends. Where the tank is loose and flowey, the blouse is fitted. Where the tank has a wide, open, neckline, the blouse has a modest V.  And where the print of the tanktop fabric is a little bit of everything, the blouse blouse fabric is a uniform plaid. These differences though, do not mean the blouse is any less fun! Oh no, not at all!

When I decided to make a button up blouse as my third shirt, I immediately knew just what fabric I would use - this purple plaid I acquired at the mennonite fabric store a couple months ago. The only challenge was deciding what pattern I would use. After rifling through my pattern stash multiple times I finally decided on Simplicity 1460.

The scalloped neckline, fitted bodice, and peplum made this pattern catch my eye, and I'm so glad it did! This blouse features double diagonal bust darts, a dart formation I'm never before used, and they give the perfect fit. This pattern will definitely be used again!

Of the three shirts, this blouse is definitely my favorite. The other two shirts look best tucked into the wide-legged pants and worn loose with the skinny jeans, but thanks to the peplum, this shirt looks good worn either way with either pair of pants. Truly a versatile garment!

So there you have it, 6 items that can be worn in 12 combinations and look fabulous in all of them! I think I nailed this challenge! 

You can see my official Pattern Review entry on my capsule wardrobe, with links to my individual project reviews, here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Why Not Metallic Gold Skinny Jeans?

I *think* I once said I had no interest in ever sewing myself jeans. Well, I was wrong.

This weekend I sewed myself a pair of jeans, real jeans, with a zipper fly, belt loops, rivets, a jeans button (the kind you hammer on, not sew on), lots of top stitching, and all.

Yes, I may have gone crazy. As you know, I made myself a pair of wide-legged wool pants as part of the Pattern Review capsule wardrobe contest. So, for my second pair of 'bottoms', I decided to make something that was the opposite of those.

Since the wool pants are, well, wide-legged, and rather conservative in color, I decided I would make myself a pair of narrow-legged pants in a flashier color. Skinny jeans. In metallic gold denim. 
Once that was decided, I went to Joann's the next time a pattern sale rolled around, and flipped through the Simplicity pattern book looking for a skinny jeans pattern. I found Simplicity 8516, and brought it home with me.

Originally I planned to make these jeans out of a purple stretch sateen I have in my stash, but then I did a bit of online fabric shopping (oops. . .), and this metallic stretch denim from found its way to my front door to be turned into the skinny jeans instead. (It's a dangerous thing, the ability to have new fabric delivered right to your door.) Once that metallic denim got pre-washed, skinny jean making could commence.

The fun part of jean making is the pockets. I was excited to design and topstitch the back pockets, so I did that first thing to keep up my enthusiasm for the project. I used two colors of topstitching thread, ivory and bronze, and free-handed a design onto one pocket. I then mirrored the design on the other pocket.
I couldn't leave the front pockets out of the fun, so I decided to line them with this bright purple floral/patchwork fabric I brought home from Malaysia. It adds a pop of color to the inside of the jeans, making them lots of fun to wear. (As if metallic gold isn't fun enough on its own.)

The scariest part of making jeans, for me atleast, was the zipper fly. I just couldn't wrap my head around how one would construct such a thing. Luckily, the pattern instructions were incredibly clear and helpful, and in no time at all, the fly was done. And it turned out better than I expected!

The thing that took the longest on these jeans was All. The. Top. Stitching. The top stitching itself wasn't too bad, but rather it was re-threading the machine every time I needed to top stitch that took so much time.

As I mentioned above, I used two colors of top stitching thread for this project. Ivory and bronze both appear on almost every single top stitched seam. That's A LOT of re-threading.

Once I was done with all that top stitching, I decided that these jeans had better actually look 100% like jeans. So, I added rivets to the pockets and hammered a button onto the waistband. There!  
Hardware and everything, I had made a pair of jeans!

I pulled them on, buttoned them up, and felt like jumping for joy. They fit! They were comfortable! And they actually looked and felt like jeans! I'd done it!

These may not be the most perfectly fitted pair of jeans in existence, but that's ok. I made them, I'm proud of them, I will wear them, and they are an excellent start to my jeans making journey.

Because, now that I know I can make jeans, one of these days, I'll probably make another pair. Why not? 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Instructions Are A Good Thing - The Hickory and Spice Henley

One of the benefits of pattern testing? It forces me to actually read pattern instructions - something I rarely bother to do. Actually reading the pattern instructions makes fun design features, such as partial button plackets, much less intimidating. Imagine that, sometimes (ahmm, most of the time/almost all the time), things actually go better if I follow the instructions, rather than just winging it (my prefered method of sewing and doing life).

The look I get for my opinion on instructions.

The Hickory and Spice Henley, which I had the privilege of testing* back in December, reminded me of this fact. The testing call for this shirt came across Facebook, and, upon realizing that this kids' shirt pattern actually went all the way up to size 14 (my sister's size!), I quickly applied to test it!  

Once I'd applied to test the pattern, and my excitement of actually finding a pattern in my sister's size has slightly died down, I took a second look at the pattern line drawings. There were several fun features that made this pattern very appealing to me, the pieced shoulders perfect for color blocking (I actually copied this feature on my hoodie a month later), 3 different sleeve length options, the ruffle hem option, and a partial button placket. Oh dear, that button placket, it kind of scared me.

Last time I sewed a partial button placket it was on a nightgown for myself, which I didn't bother to read the instructions for. I remember it being a very frustrating experience. Eventually I figured something out (it's been a few years, so I don't remember what I did), and that partial button placket on that night gown turned out decent. Yet, clearly the struggles I had to get to that point of "decent", were enough to scar me when it came to partial button plackets. Thus, I slightly freaked out about the placket on the Hickory and Spice Henley. Would I be in for a repeat of my former frustrations?

Well, I need not have worried, as this was a pattern I was testing, and my job was to sew up the pattern and give the designer (Orange Daisy Patterns in this case) feedback on both the pattern and the instructions, I actually read the instructions this time. 

And guess what? They walked me right through how to make that cute partial placket. It was actually quite simple once I read how to do it! So simple in fact, that I wound up making three different shirts during testing, because this shirt was just so cute! Clearly my sister needed more than one in her wardrobe!

 The first shirt I made out of a thrifted green floral maxi skirt and some tan rayon jersey I found at Walmart. I sewed up the half-length sleeve option with the ruffle hem, and I think this is my favorite of the three shirts I made.  I love the green floral fabric! I wish I could buy it by the yard!

Fit photo taken during testing, first thing in the morning, thus the "You dragged me out of bed for this??" facial expression.
The second shirt I made out of a ridiculously stretchy green ribbed knit, and I used my favorite nearly sheer printed mystery knit (used for the sleeves on two shirts for myself here) for the shoulders, button placket, hem ruffle, and the sleeve ruffles I decided to add. (the sleeve ruffles are not part of the pattern, but they are very easy to make and add yourself!)

I decided to try out the long sleeve option for the third shirt, and used a ridiculously soft french terry, found at Walmart, to do so. For the placket, shoulders, and ruffle, I used scraps of a gray and teal striped knit (left over from this shirt). (And yes, this is the exact same fabric combo I used for my hoodie)

This pattern can also be made for boys, just make the plain hem, rather than the ruffle hem option, and overlap the placket in the opposite direction, left over right, rather than right over left. The instructions, if you bother to read them, actually include specific directions on how to make the placket overlap the correct way for each gender. (Although, now that I look at these pictures, I may have overlapped the placket the wrong way on my sister's shirts. Oops.)

Instructions. They're useful like that.

If you're interested in checking out the instructions and making your own Hickory and Spice Henley for any kids between the sizes of 2 and 14, you can buy the pattern here or here.

*I received this pattern for free as a tester, but all thoughts here are my own.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Most Comfortable Wide-Legged Wool Pants in Existence

I looked in the full length mirror and frowned. These pants I'd just made were not all I expected them to be. I wasn't sure I like them on myself. They were a total departure from my everyday style, but,  oh. my. goodness. They were the most comfortable pants I'd ever worn - like sweatpants, only better.

When I set about planning my capsule wardrobe for the Pattern Review contest, I was stumped when it came to the "bottoms" my capsule would contain. I mostly just wear jeans, and as I have a whole drawer of those, I don't need to make myself any! So what would I make? Skirts? Pants? What Styles? What would I get the most wear out of? With these questions in my mind, I thought back to what I wore most last year on the World Race. I had only one pair of jeans I wore occasionally, a maxi skirt I wore often, and a split skirt I wore almost as often as the maxi skirt. 

Well, I have plenty of maxi skirts in my closet right now, so I decided against making another right now. Split skirts, however, I only have one of those, but did I really need another? No, not really. One is enough. What about something similar, though? Maybe a pair of wide-legged pants? Yes! I decided I would make myself a pair of wide-legged pants. I already had the perfect pattern and fabric in my stash!

Fabric might actually be a bit of an overstatement. I had a pattern, Burda 6573 (an impulse buy during a pattern sale because it reminded me of my split skirt), and a gray wool pleated skirt (an impulse buy at a thrift store, because I love sewing with wool) in my stash. 

The first thing I did was go to work on that skirt with a seam ripper and an iron to turn it into a flat piece of fabric. Thankfully, this resulted in an incredibly soft piece of wool fabric just big enough for all my pattern pieces! The second thing I did was go to work on the pattern to take it from "nice pattern" to "fabulous pattern". 

The pattern didn't have a true side seam, rather it had a narrow front panel and a wide back panel that wrapped around to the front of the pants. This put the "side seam" on the front of the pants, a feature that was highlighted by non-functional buttons at the waistband. I loved the resulting look, but I figured I could make it even better by adding another seam, and of course, making those front buttons functional. 

 I split that wide back panel into two pieces so that I would have separate back and side panels. The new side panel made the perfect home for some nice deep pockets - a must for any pair of pants!

The outside and inside view of the side panel pockets
Originally the pants were supposed to have an invisible zipper in the center back seam, but I decided to omit that and make functional button plackets on the front side seams instead.

The result was an incredibly comfortable pair of wide-legged, button-up, deep-pocketed, high-waisted wool pants.

I love the look of them from the back! The darts shape the back waist just perfectly!

Now the front of the pants, well, they're growing on me. These pants are definitely a departure from my everyday style, but the more I wear them, the more I like them. Have I mentioned that these pants are incredibly comfortable and have great pockets??

So now, when I put these pants on and look in the mirror, I puzzle over what kind of shirt will look best with them. Then I put that shirt on and wear the pants with confidence. Because pants as comfortable as these deserve to be worn outside the house, and it's time my personal style consisted of more than just jeans and dresses. Thus, despite my initial hesitations, these pants are getting worn, and my capsule wardrobe is one step closer to done!

One set of bottoms sewn, what will the next one be?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Unders - a Corset Cover and Petticoat

Now that I have an 1890's wool skirt that fits me, I clearly need a shirtwaist to go with it. What is a shirtwaist you ask? Well, today we would call it a blouse. It's a (typically) unlined garment, that covers the top half of the body, and is worn with a skirt. Shirtwaists can be made of cotton, silk, linen, or wool.

Shirtwaists pictured in The Delineatore, 1898.
Picture found on Pinterest, originally from Ruby Lane Vintage 

So, a shirtwaist. That should be an easy enough project. Decide what I want it to look like (Done! The yellow one on the right in the above print), figure out a pattern, (Done! More on that in a later post), and make it. There's just one thing I have to do before I can complete that last step. Make a corset cover. What is a corset cover you ask? Well, today we would call it a camisole. It's a sleeveless garment worn under the shirtwaist, or dress bodice, and over the corset. It smooths out the ridge made by the upper edge of the corset and prevents the corset from potentially showing through the unlined shirtwaist.

On the right you will see illustrations of corset covers, one in the upper right corner and one at the bottom, next to the text, originally pictured in Harper's Bazar in 1892.
So, as I am making myself a shirtwaist, I need a corset cover to go under it. Thankfully, this is an easily accomplished task. First I decided what I wanted my corset cover to look like. After looking through multiple books in my collection, I decided to copy one from 1892 that I found pictured in Victorian Fashions & Costumes from Harper's Bazar, 1867 - 1898, edited by Stella Blum.  

Once I decided what my corset cover would look like, I quickly draped a pattern on my dress form. Then I went digging through my fabric stash for an acceptable white or ivory cotton to make my corset cover from. Well, I have a lot of white and ivory cotton! While searching through this collection of fabric, I happened across a half-finished 1890's petticoat. I must have started it before I went on the World Race (so, well over a year ago). As the petticoat needed to be finished, I decided I might as well go ahead and do so, and make my corset cover to match it!

The petticoat was cut out of an ivory cotton sateen bedsheet. So, I found a similar thrifted sheet in my stash and used that to make my corset cover. (Unfortunately this second sheet was a slightly darker ivory than the first)

I cut the corset cover out (using the original sheet hem to make my center front button placket) and sewed up the side and shoulder seams using french seams. Then I tried it on over my corset and pinned up the back darts and front tucks in place until the entire thing fit properly. The darts and tucks were sewn in place and I completed the corset cover by finishing the neckline and armholes with lace, hemming the bottom, and sewing buttonholes and buttons up the front. The finished product isn't quite perfect, but it will do its job!

Altogether, from pattern draping to button sewing, the corset cover only took about 3 hours to make! Once it was done, I started in on finishing up the petticoat. It was already basically sewn together, just needing be set on a waistband and have the wide eyelet band sewn onto the bottom. That was pretty quick to do. As a bit of extra "umph" I also added some flat lace where the sateen and the eyelet were joined, and a 1" wide tuck right below the lace. That tuck brought the originally too long petticoat up to the right length, and gave it a bit of extra body to poof out my skirts!

With one button sewn onto the waistband, the petticoat was done! I now have a matching corset cover and petticoat set to go under my 1890's clothing! Along with that, February's Historical Sew Monthly challenge was "Under". So despite goats taking up most of my month, I actually completed the HSM challenge! Woo-Hoo!

What the item is: An 1890's corset cover and petticoat
Material: Cotton Sateen, harvested from thrifted sheets, and wide eyelet lace harvested from a thrifted bedskirt.

Pattern: My own - I draped the pattern for the corset cover based on an illustration of a corset cover that appeared in Harper's Bazar in 1892. For the petticoat I used my basic 1890's skirt pattern which I drafted a couple years ago.

Year: 1890's

Notions: China buttons, Polyester lace, All-Purpose thread.

How historically accurate is it? 65% The look is decent, but not perfect. (The corset cover came out a little short and too low-cut, while the eyelet on the petticoat should really be attached as a ruffle, but I didn't have enough for that.) The fabric is good, though I'm not sure cotton sateen was used for corset covers, but I the lace I used on each is synthetic and I wouldn't be surprised if the wide eyelet on the bottom of the petticoat is a poly/cotton blend. Both items will give the correct look under my 1890's outfits however, and that is their purpose :

Hours to complete: Approximately 3 hours on each item, so 6 in total

First worn: Just for the pictures, 2/28/18

Total cost: Less than $2 for the corset cover and less than $5 for the petticoat.

Now, onto the shirtwaist!