Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Making the Made Again Patterns Joey Tank While Jet Lagged

Signing up for a pattern test while I was out of the country may have been a risky thing to do. The test was due to end about 3 days after I returned home. As it was for a fairly simple garment, I figured I'd be able to complete the test on time. As long as I wasn't too horribly jet lagged that first weekend home. Sewing while jet lagged? Sounds fine, doesn't it?

It was a bit of a gamble, but thankfully, I was able to complete the pattern test garment on time - and I even managed to sew a pair of shorts to go with it during that first weekend home.

I arrived home from Japan on a Friday morning. I was exhausted, but I needed to stay awake most of the day to get myself back on U.S. time instead of Japan time. Thus, while forcing myself to stay awake and drinking lots of coffee, I printed out the test pattern and assembled it. Then I located the fabric I wanted to use for the project.

After a solid 10 hours of sleep Friday night, on Saturday morning I cut out the pattern. Saturday afternoon, I helped my grandpa fix a fence where his cows were escaping. Saturday evening, I sewed up the pattern. 

After another good night's sleep in my own bed and church on Sunday morning, I decided to whip up a pair of shorts from a tried-and-true pattern to complete the outfit for pictures. Thus, on Sunday afternoon, I made a pair of shorts.

First thing Monday morning, I had my sister photograph my new outfit, then I emailed the pictures and my feedback to the pattern designer. It was a pattern worth testing - even while slightly jet lagged.

So, the real question is, what is this pattern I couldn't resist testing and what made it special enough to entice me to commit to sewing when jet lagged?

It's the Joey Tank by Made Again Patterns, and I just had to test it because it's a pattern specifically designed to use for refashioning/upcycling thrifted or otherwise unappreciated garments!!! (Also, it's a woven tank top, and I'm always on the lookout for woven tank patterns since I wear tank tops all summer long and happen to have a large stash of woven fabrics.)

I love refashioning, and hate the idea of textiles being thrown out until they are well and truly worn out (and even once they reach that stage, they've got to be used as rags for a while before I can even consider throwing them away.) Thus, when I read about the launch of Made Again Patterns on Instagram, I was instantly excited. This is pattern company is focused on designing patterns with the purpose of refashioning in mind and the pattern instructions walk you through how to "harvest" fabric from your source garment or other thrifted textile. This is an idea I was instantly behind and more than happy to support by volunteering my time to test this initial pattern and give my feedback on it.

Now you may be wondering exactly what my Joey tank began as. Well, it came to me about two years ago, while I was in Ghana, as a pencil skirt.

The skirt was gifted to a squad mate, who wore it for a while then gifted it to me. It got crammed in my over stuffed pack when I left Ghana specifically because I liked the fabric and hoped to use it for something, some day. The skirt itself wasn't my style and didn't fit me - but the fabric! Oh I like African fabrics!

 Once I seam ripped all three seams and the darts out, there was just barely enough fabric in this skirt to make my Joey tank. 

The front of the tank fit on the front of the skirt. The back of the tank fit on the back of the skirt. The facings were nestled into corners. The "excess" fabric was turned into bias tape for binding the arm holes and making the straps.

The resulting tank top is soft and wonderful! I love that I finally got to turn this African skirt into something I'll wear often! It reminds me of the season of my life where I spent three months in Africa, and my desire to go back and explore more of that continent one day. It reminds me of the dresses the ladies wore to church every Sunday, and how wondrously colorful the clothing was! American garments are so dull and boring by comparison. There is something wonderful about giving a garment new life as something I'll wear regularly!

After I finished the tank I decided it deserved a pair of matching shorts to go with it. I just so happened to have a bit of brown denim in my stash which would serve this purpose admirably!

I picked up the brown denim from an antique mall last fall, with no real plans for it. It was a narrow yardage and I definitely didn't have enough of it to make a pair of pants. Thus, it was the perfect thing to turn into a pair of shorts. I paired the denim with Kwik Sew K3854, view B.

This is quite possibly my favorite shorts pattern. I've made it four times now (though I've only blogged one other project from it), so I'm very familiar with how it goes together and can make it quickly. The button front construction looks complicated, but it's really not!

Making these shorts gave me an excise to try out the buttonhole chisels I brought home from Japan!

Since my Joey Tank is teal and brown, I decided to use teal cotton for the pocket and waistband linings of my brown shorts. It was fun to tie the outfit together in a little way that's not seen when the shorts are worn - a sewing secret if you will. For an extra little pop of teal, I zig-zagged all my seam allowances in teal thread. (I could have serged the seam allowances, but I was to lazy to re-thread my serger in teal thread, so I decided a zig-zag would do the job.)

The whole outfit is quintessentially summer - and has a story to tell! It was very much worth signing up to test the Joey Tank even though I knew I'd be slightly jet-lagged while sewing it. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

New Dresses for the 4th of July!

Growing up, almost every 4th of July, my cousins and I would have brand-new matching American flag shirts to wear. I have fond memories of those July 4ths of my childhood, the family gatherings, the homemade ice cream, the fireworks, and the special red, white, and blue matching shirts. Now, as the Fourth approaches each year, I can't help but contemplate a new red, white, and blue outfit to wear on the holiday. It's just fun!

This year, my 4th of July outfit began months ahead of time. Back in March, my mom, sister, brother’s girlfriend, and I took a trip to a little Mennonite fabric store about an hour away from home for an enjoyable afternoon of fabric shopping. I, of course, left the store with a variety of fabric. Within the next week, I pre-washed all my purchases, ironed them, folded them neatly, and put them away. For once in my life, I was organized and on top of things.

While doing this, I considered what I might use each piece of fabric for. Most fabrics from this collection could be used for any number of projects. An apron? An Edwardian dress? A 1790’s dress? Anything was possible! There was one piece, however, that just begged to be turned into a specific dress for a specific occasion. The dark red, navy blue, and gray plaid would pair perfectly with Simplicity 8231, also known as the Mississippi Avenue Dress by Sew House 7, and I would have to wear it for the 4th or July! 

Thus, the fabric got put away until the week before the 4th of July, after I arrived home from my trip to Japan. At this point, out came the fabric, and I made my plaid Independence Day dress in one afternoon. The plaid fabric and my chosen pattern worked together just as splendidly as I’d hoped!

I had about two yards of this interesting 44" wide, plaid fabric of undetermined fiber content. This was just barely enough fabric for the dress I wanted to make - nothing but scraps were left over when I finished cutting the dress out!

I specifically did not match the plaid of the center front panel to the side panels, as I wanted the shape of the front panel to be obvious. That center, somewhat triangular, front panel is what drew my attention to this pattern when I first saw it in the Simplicity pattern book over a year ago.

I cut the length halfway between the two length options offered in the pattern. Thus, my dress ends right below the knee, rather than above it, or at mid-calf, as the pattern shows.

This pattern did not include pockets, which just wasn't going to work for me. So I added patch pockets to the side panels. I based these pockets on those of the Tea House Dress and Montevilla Dress, both by Sew House 7.

I also re-configured the shoulder ties so they threaded through the shoulder seams, gathering up the shoulders when pulled tight, rather than tying them around around the shoulder strap as the pattern recommended.

I finished off the neckline and armholes with some pretty bias tape I brought home from Japan last month.

Now, according to the Simplicity size chart, my measurements put me in a size 14 for Simplicity patterns (Please keep in mind that Simplicity sizing, and that of McCall's, Butterick, and Vogue for that matter, is vastly different from what current store sizing is.) However, I always cut a 12, due to the amount of excess ease added to the patterns. Simplicity size 12, has almost always fit me perfectly. This dress, however, came out a little snugger in the hips than I would have preferred and rides up on my backside a bit. So, I would have been better off to cut this pattern out in a size 14. As is, I find the dress perfectly wearable - this is just something to bear in mind for any future makes of this pattern.

After I finished my 4th of July dress, I decided I wanted to make my sister something new for the Fourth as well. At first I thought I'd make her a basic knit shirt or tank top. However, my stash of patriotic knit fabrics is woefully lacking, so that wouldn't have happened without a fabric shopping trip - which I'm trying to avoid at the moment as my stash is getting out of control. Then I remembered, I'd recently seen a length of red, white, and blue quilting cotton in my stash when I was looking for something else. I had no idea where the fabric had come from, but I decided it just might work for a top of some sort for my sister, so I pulled it out.

Upon unfolding the material, I discovered I had a good 3 yards of it - enough to make my sister a whole dress rather than just a simple top! Thus, a 4th of July dress she would have!

I didn't have a whole lot of time to make my sister's dress, just a couple of evenings after work, so I decided to just make her a classic, simple, sundress with a gathered skirt and a darted bodice.

I used the Night and Day Dress pattern by Charm Patterns, for the bodice. This was simply because I already had the pattern out so I could trace my size off for different project, and it was easy enough to trace off my sister's size while I was at it.

I traced off the size that corresponded with her high bust and bust measurements, and the bodice fits great through the chest. However, it is a little big in the waist - which I suppose is to be expected since her waist measurement is an inch smaller than the measurement listed on the size chart. Next time I use this bodice pattern for her I may have to mess with the fit a bit.

The skirt is simply two 44" widths of fabric, gathered to fit - no pattern required! I added pockets to the side seams, because a dress without pockets is just sad.

I made the dress without telling my sister about it - just in case I didn't actually get it finished in time. Thus, she was surprised, and thrilled, when I gave it to her on the 3rd of July! I'd finished it just in time!

She told me multiple times how much she loved her new sundress, and even let me braid her hair with ribbons to match!

I don't get to braid her hair near as often as I like!

And so, the new red, white, and blue outfit for Independence Day tradition from my childhood continues!

As does the homemade ice cream tradition! Yum!!

*The majority of the photos in this post were taken by my youngest brother, who is now the proud new owner of a camera!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The "Made Like Maisel" Rose City Halter Dress

While scrolling through Instagram about a month ago, I happened upon a sewing challenge I immediately got excited about. The "Made like Maisel"challenge, hosted by Mini Maedel Creates, is all about making an outfit inspired by the Amazon show "Marvelous Mrs. Maisel", which is set in 1950's New York City.

Now I started to watch this show a while back, and never really got into it. So I stopped watching it about 5 episodes in. That said, I loved the costumes in those 5 episodes. And I might go back to watching the show some time just because the costumes are, well, marvelous. I do love 50's style clothes!

Somewhere in the 5 episodes I did watch, I saw a dress I just had to make. Actually, I wanted to make all of them, but for this one I already had both a suitable fabric, and a suitable pattern, sitting in my stash.

There is very little that could be found on the internet about this dress that caught my eye, as it appears to only have shown up in one scene of the show (I guess). Thus, unfortunately, all I have to show for my time tracking down the inspiration dress is a few very grainy pictures. That said, with out further ado, here's the dress I've been wanting to (loosely) recreate for months now, which the "Made Like Maisel" sewing challenge has inspired me to finally make (before the July 5 deadline) rather than only dreaming of.

Despite the horrid quality of this picture I scrounged up, you can still see the basics of the design. It's a purple plaid halter dress with a very full skirt. What really caught my eye is the amount of movement and swish that gathered skirt has when you actually see it in motion on screen. It's marvelous. 

Immediately, this plaid beauty brought to mind a 3 yard length of the softest, floaty-est, white and black plaid linen I happened to have in my stash. No, white and black isn't quite the purple shown in the show, but the plaid had the same feel to it. This once upon a time thrift store acquired fabric was begging to be turned into a Mrs. Maisel inspired halter dress.

The pattern which immediately sprung to mind for this plaid halter dress project was the Rose City Halter Dress by Sew House 7, already in my collection. I received this pattern, free of charge, last summer in exchange for testing the Sew House 7 Montavilla Dress (formerly known as the Montavilla MuuMuu) The Mrs. Maisel dress had a modest v in the front, and a surprisingly high (for a halter dress atleast) back. The Rose City Halter pattern too exhibited these features. Thus, the choice was a no-brainier.

This fabric and pattern pairing, and the inspiration for it, has been in the back of my mind since some time over the winter, or even possibly last fall. Finally, last week, thanks to the encouragement of the "Made Like Maisel" challenge and the looming July 5 deadline for that event, I made my full-skirted halter dress.

 Now in my tracking down of the inspiration dress on the internet, I discovered Mrs. Maisel's dress was patterned a bit differently than the Rose City Halter. The bodice of the inspiration dress is fitted with tucks and gathers, rather than darts, and the back of the skirt is a partial circle to allow for extra fullness and movement at the hem. I considered majorly altering the pattern to reflect the cut of Mrs. Maisel's dress, but the reality was I did not have enough fabric for that endeavor.

I had 3 yards of 44" wide plaid linen to make my dress from. Full-skirted 1950's dresses use a lot of fabric, and 3 yards is the bare minimum amount of fabric required. This is just enough fabric for a straight-cut full gathered skirt and a sleeveless bodice. To make the gathered top and partial circle skirt of Mrs. Maisel's dress, I would have needed 4 or 5 yards of fabric to play with, which I just didn't have. Thus, I decided to make the bodice of the Rose City halter dress exactly as the pattern was designed.

The front bodice is fitted with two waist darts. Hidden in the straps are some deep tucks, which contribute toward an excellent fit. 

The very first thing the pattern instructions tell you to do is stay-stitch your neckline so it doesn't get stretched out, being cut on the bias and all. I was lazy and skipped this step. That was a mistake. My neckline is now slightly stretched out. Thankfully, not too horribly. But still, next time I make this bodice I will definitely be stay stitching as I should have done this time.

The back of the dress is cut on the straight-of-grain, as the pattern dictates, and comes up just high enough you can easily wear a bra underneath.

I didn't use any pattern for the skirt. It's simply two full 44" widths of fabric, cut as long as I wanted, and gathered to fit the bodice.

Each side seam features a very large pocket, which is anchored at the waist seam so as not to drag down the skirt seam.

The dress looks marvelously 50's-ish worn over the net crinoline I made several years ago. And I think it pairs well with my black boots - even though cowboy boots are distinctly not Mrs. Maisel-ish.

I love this dress. Being made from linen, it is very cool and comfortable to wear on hot summer days.

And, even though I'm not really into the show, dressing like Mrs. Maisel is marvelously fun!