In which we feel the power!

Vms necktie
yes, I fiddled with the tie all day. It’s a weird feeling to be wearing one! 

I drafted a necktie! There wasn’t much to it besides figuring out the right sizing for me. I used one of my hubby’s neckties as a guide. I measured both parts of the tie and his neck size. From there I was able to calculate how much extra length was needed beyond the neck size using percentages.

I just winged the construction, so I didn’t sew it together properly. I stitched the tip linings on first, turned them, then sewed the center back seam like I would a belt loop, turned the whole thing, then pressed.

Apparently, you’re supposed to slip-stitch the tie closed and sew the lining on in a certain way, so I will be doing that next time for a more professional finish.

Google did help me learn to tie this thing. I used a four-in-hand knot. It was easy!

I see many more ties in my future, each one a Power Tie.



In which I ‘draft’ a Kimono…

Getting caught on doorknobs is a drag, literally and figuratively. Wherever I went in my apartment, the large sleeves of my robe (Seamwork Almada) would get caught on a doorknob, jerking me abruptly backwards, or sweep random table-top items onto the floor as I passed by.

It was annoying.

I wanted a robe with more manageable sleeves. I also wanted a decadent robe worthy of my usernamesake, Chrestomanci, who is known for his opulent and gaudy silk dressing gowns.

I decided to make a traditional kimono robe because I didn’t want to use or make a paper pattern. And, as I’m not a wealthy nine-lifed enchanter, I didn’t use silk, but cotton.

To make a Chrestomanci-worthy robe, it needed to be made from 2 different fabric prints, the fancier the better.

The 2 cottons I chose were ones that I picked up at Firecracker Fabrics – one a Japanese cotton with lots of colors; the other a red quilting cotton with little hummingbirds and shiny silver flowers. The reds of both fabrics matched.

My main fabric was about 54″wide which was wide enough that I could use all of it for the shoulder width. I folded the fabric parallel to the selvage, draping it over myself to judge length and width.

The measurements I focused on were:

  • Center front/back length
  • Sleeve width (9″ flat)
  • Sleeve depth (5″ in from elbow)

I drew directly on the fabric using tailor’s chalk and a ruler. I used a French curve to make the underarm seam a curve instead of a 90° angle and flared the bottom out by .5″.

I also cut lengths of the coordinating red fabric for the sleeve cuffs, neckline hem, and waist tie. The finished width of each was 3″.

Sewing it was easy. I used French seams and I even added a fringed patch pocket on the front for extra faux extravagance. I have minor regrets about that but the pocket gets to stay…for now.

I chose not to interface the sleeve cuffs and neckline hem, as I wanted them to remain flexible, but I did interface the waist tie. I secured the waist tie to the robe at the center back seam so it can’t get lost.

I think Chrestomanci would be proud. And I haven’t gotten stuck on a single doorknob!

Some tunic to love

In which I draft a tunic…

It’s been a long time since I loved a tunic. The last one I remember having was sky blue with 3/4 length sleeves held up by epaulets,  with pin-tucks and simple white embroidery on the front yoke. It had little straps to cinch the waist and a mandarin collar. I think it bought it at Burlington’s.

While that tunic is long gone, I still miss it. I tried other tunics but they weren’t the same. Too many of them have empire waists or weird, unnecessary details that turn me off.

So now that I have a custom sloper and a fitted shirt pattern, I decided to tackle making a tunic I can love again.

There were a few crucial elements this tunic needed to have:

  1. It must be blue.
  2. It must have 3/4 length sleeves with cuffs and an epaulet.
  3. It must cinch at the waist.

Thankfully I had already found my fabric – a light blue cotton with Jackson Pollock-esque white and silver splatter. It was begging me to become a tunic!

I made some sketches to get an idea of what I wanted and set to work.

The very first thing (every time) is making a copy! For this project, I intended to use my fitted shirt pattern as the base for the tunic pattern. I also gathered my DD Airelle and DD Arum patterns for reference, as they are pull-over tops. I measured the width of these 2 patterns to make sure my tunic could be pulled over my head, too.

Math is a beautiful thing. Minus the placket allowance and waist dart, the fitted shirt pattern was just the right size to fit over my head! Minimal adjustments necessary!

I decided to keep the bust darts for shaping but completely eliminated the front and back waist darts. I also removed the 1.5″ button placket allowance from the front.

Next was the neckline. I wanted clean-finished v-neckline (without a center front seam on the bodice). After some measuring, I marked a point on the shoulder seam and another on the center front line, connecting them with a ruler. I adjusted the back neckline on the shoulder seams to match. Using this new neckline, I traced facing pieces for the front and back, making them 1.5″ wide.

I attached the facings and understitched, meticulously clipping and layering the front “v” so it would turn out sharp and crisp. Then I hand tacked the facing to the shoulder seams to hold it in place.

For the sleeves, I used the same ones I drafted for the fitted shirt. I traced a facing for the sleeve cuff, hemmed one edge, and attached it so the cuff could be folded to the outside with its right side facing out.

I stitched the epaulet on by hand for the inside and attached it to the outside with a  9mm button. To finish, I slip stitched the cuff to the sleeve in a few strategic places.

That’s it….I love this new tunic. It turned out just as I wanted and I have already made a second one with a deeper neckline and short sleeves.

The Longest Journey (of a shirt)

In which I draft a fitted shirt from a sloper…

When I picked up sewing 3 years ago, the indie pattern companies glittered like a magical girl group, using their Hearts and the Power of Friendship to help me learn to sew. Supporting small businesses over corporations is important to me, but I took for granted how much work goes into a pattern and getting the right fit for a wide array of sizes.
(Click here to skip the intro)
I trusted the patterns I was buying were drafted well and made with care. But I kept running into issues that I attributed to my own naivete. As I gained more experience, and took more care with my projects, that notion bothered me.

Recently, I discovered my discontent wasn’t exclusive to me. Many others felt the same disillusionment, the same disappointment in the magical girl patterns as I did. The fit issues I’ve encountered weren’t due to my lack of skill (most of the time), they were due to problems in the blueprint.

I felt lost.

I know, there’s the Big 4, but I have a strong aversion to them from my botched Middle School attempts to make my own clothes. I really want to avoid using them. But who can I trust?

So I began the search for tutorials to make my own sloper. I landed on one from Madalynne, which was more visual than verbal, acting like a big geometry problem.

The tute was easy enough to follow, but my poor first round of measuring left me with a bad sloper. After another 2 tries, I had it right. I created a muslin complete with a zipper to test it out. I made a front, back, and sleeve sloper.

(I used another Madalynne tute to make the sleeves. I used a french curve ruler to make the initial curves but edited them by hand.)

The next step was taking that sloper and turning it into something. I really wanted a fitted shirt.

Converting the sloper to a shirt pattern was a bit tricky. I had no idea where to start.

****Warning: I’m no expert, I’m no drafter, the following could all be rubbish****

I knew I wanted to add a bust dart, so first I did a slash’n’spread to create the space for one. I rotated the side seam inward until it pointed toward the waistline. This also condensed the waist darts a bit.

To create the full diamond-shaped waist dart, I traced my existing dart, folded it in half at the middle, and traced again. Voila! A waist dart.

I ended up having to move the darts a few times to get the placement right on the front. For the back, I folded up the little shoulder dart before cutting my fabric and I doubled the back waist darts without changing their size or position.

Going through 4 muslins, I made the following adjustments:
-lengthened the front waist dart by 3″, further tapering the bottom point
-removed excess fabric between bust/armscye
-lowered the bust dart .5″
-added length to front armscye to match sleeve by adding curve and .25″ to side seam                   –reduced the sleeve cap height by .5″

Finally, I used a modified version of the Melilot’s collar pieces, placket allowance, and button placement for the deets.

Since then I’ve made 3 shirts from this pattern. Each has gotten progressively better, due in part to improving my technique for marking and sewing the darts.

I have begun marking the middle of the waist darts and the top/bottom edges of all the dart points with chalk. At about 1″ away from the dart point, I reduce my stitch length from 2.5mm to 1.4mm and begin to taper towards the marked end point. The goal is to have the last 4-5 stitches right on the fold of the fabric and still terminate at the marked end point. This has greatly improved the fit over the bust with no puckering at the dart tip.

I started this project around Thanksgiving and have only felt completely satisfied with the pattern now in February. It’s not perfect but I am so proud of myself. The shirt fits great and it looks like a shirt!

The really cool part, however, is I’ve used this pattern to make 3 other patterns already. They didn’t take nearly as long as the hard work of drafting and achieving the proper fit have been done. I’ll share those sometime, too!

Old Skirt Meets New Techniques

Oh! The things you will learn…

The very first garments I made were gathered dirndl skirts with elastic waistbands. I wore them with long t-shirts that covered the bulgy, gathered waist. Among those skirts (most of which now reside in a storage box for posterity), was one made from vintage plaid wool, given to me by a friend.

The fabric is beautiful and I love it. But my style has changed over the past 3 years and I don’t have any t-shirts to cover the waist up anymore. So it was time for a revamp with a proper waistband and back zipper.

Looking over this old skirt was like examining an ancient artifact. There were SO many things I didn’t know about sewing back then. I was in awe of my own ignorance.

wp-image-338884082jpg.jpgFor starters, I didn’t finish a single edge. That’s right – all the edges were totally raw! Apparently I also hemmed the 2 skirt pieces separately before joining them together, which isn’t necessarily bad but quite bulky.

The first thing I did was unpick the waistband and remove the elastic.wp-1486738192099.jpg

Next, I cut the top of the skirt across the width so I had fabric for the new waistband. Before I went any further, I finished the raw edges with a zig-zag stitch. Whew! Crisis averted!

Now I had an un-gathered skirt and fabric for the waistband, but the skirt had to be taken in so it would fit the new waist size. I referred to a couple of my skirt patterns for the sizing – both my DD Chardon skirt and my CP Zinnia had finished garment waist sizes of approximately 27″, which provides me with enough moving/eating room to be comfy so I went with that.

I measured the width of my skirt top and subtracted the desired finished waist size to determine how much excess fabric I had to deal with. I had already decided to use pleats to use up the excess without reducing the overall volume of the skirt (I really love a voluminous skirt).

I did a few calculations to decide how many pleats I wanted or would need. I did this by simply dividing the raw width by the prospective number of pleats, which told me how wide each pleat would have to be. I wanted the pleats to be about 3″, which meant I needed 6 of them.

Using the Chardon as a guide, I marked the pleats on my fabric and basted them. They were so close to being right but were ultimately too big! I unpicked and adjusted until they were perfect.

Now that the hard work was over, I took my waistband fabric and cut it lengthwise, creating 2 waistband pieces that I interfaced and stitched together in the usual way.

I happened to have a red 9″ metal zipper  in my stash. I installed it as a simple lapped zipper. Unexpectedly – the red zipper lined up exactly with one of the red stripes in the fabric pattern! Happy accidents! If I had been more proactive, I could have matched the waistband stripes to the skirt, but I thought of it too late!

The last order of business was to press the pocket openings. With the new design of the skirt, they sat a little higher on my body and were bulging out. Pressing with a little steam got them back in line. In the future, I would drop those pockets about an inch.

The skirt fits great and looks nice with a shirt tucked into it. It’s a big improvement from its previous iteration.wp-1486740617569.jpg


I am very pleased with the finished product!



The Karri Dress

It feels like forever since I bought the Colette Rue pattern. As luck would have it, I cut out my paper Rue pattern the night before they announced there were fit errors in the design. After the announcement, I stashed it away to revisit once the corrections had been released. I had planned a teal and magenta color blocked version of Rue. Both fabrics were light cotton with a bit of body. For the lining, I had a light voile.

Buuut….then the Karri pattern from Megan Nielson came out. I immediately loved the fitted bodice and the versatility of the pattern pieces. I decided to reallocate my Rue fabrics for the Karri.

This was my first Megan Nielson pattern. As such, I was a little wary of the fit, even though my measurements were exactly size XS. I’m always worried something will come out too small and unwearable, so I decided to preemptively make a 5/8″ broad shoulder adjustment before doing anything else.

Making the shoulder adjustment to the pattern was surprisingly fun! I used the tutorial from the Rue Sewalong, so at least it was good for something. Essentially, you make two little triangles, leaving a small bit of paper at one corner of each that acts as a hinge. This allows you to adjust the width of the shoulder while maintaining the pattern piece’s shape. It’s sewing witchcraft and it’s marvelous.

The Karri dress is fun and easy, but you definitely want to take your time with it. The first thing you do is assemble the front bodice pieces on each side. Then you sew them together in the middle. It’s alot like taking a driver’s test where they make you do the parallel parking first – if you fail that, you fail the rest.

I’m really just talking about matching up the seams. If you take your time and press everything, it’s very easy and quite rewarding. And it looks awesome! I want to make one out of scraps to fully take advantage of those small pieces. Additionally, as this is a fully lined dress, there’s no need to finish the edges of the bodice pieces.

Karri has in-seamish pockets with a unique construction (well, it’s new to me). They are sewn to the skirt, and then folded over and attached to the bodice. It sounds weird but was super easy to execute and has a nice look.

As for the fit, it was nearly perfect. Keep in mind, I did adjust the shoulders, but everything else fit well. I have the right amount of room to breathe, move, and sit. However, there is a little gaping in the back neckline down to the zipper and shape is  boxier than I would prefer (and I fear these are NOT good colors on me). I probably should have made a muslin first!

I ended up doing a fair amount of hand stitching to finish the dress, which may or may not be due to my own inexperience with fully lined dresses. The instructions only call for hand stitching the lining to the sleeve seams. I did that from the outside of the dress, which was a bit challenging, but yielded a good result.

Instead of under-stitching the neckline with my machine, I opted to hand sew the lining to the seam allowance, being careful to keep my needle from puncturing the outer shell. I used this same technique to secure the lapped sides of the invisible zipper, as they kept wanting to pull apart, exposing the zip.

This is definitely more of a summer dress to me, however, with some thick tights, boots and sweater, you can probably wear it in winter too. I like this pattern enough to try it again, perhaps with a lighter fabric and some adjustments for fit. As for this particular dress, maybe with a belt and a sweater I can make it work.


We pressed it, we swears!


Meh/What’s up with that fold?

Personal Style for the Anti-Trendy

In which we face a conundrum…

Personal style is a tricky thing, especially when you draw from non-fashion sources. Nearly every post I’ve read about determining one’s personal style recommends deferring to your favorite fashion icon. But what if your fashion icons are all fictional or fantasy characters?

Dear friends, that is my problem. Here’s a little inspo block:

And my inspo page for fall/ winter 2016:

See? Nary a real person. So how am I to translate the characters’ fantasy style into everyday garments?

I should note that you can apply your inspirations to fashion from just about anywhere – architecture, art, science, etc. (check out blueprints for sewing’s architecture-inspired patterns, for example).

Things like color and silhouette can easily be adopted into a wardrobe. For me it’s about subtlety. To the average person, I want my fictional references to go unnoticed.

The main point is how the garment makes me feel. And wearing certain clothes can make you feel differently. They embolden and empower, or make you feel lovely and calm. I like to use my wardrobe as a versatile set of status buffs (for non-gamers, “buffs” are akin to spells or potions that affect the user positively).

The theory is: If I feel confident, I will act confidently. If I feel powerful, I will act powerfully.

Take the fall winter inspo page- my choices were based on what “buffs” I anticipate needing in the near future. This year has been one of standing up for myself, so my inspo page was based on female strength and power.

One of my two chosen characters is Khaleesi. I love her outfits and her attitude. But I cant walk around in a loincloth dress like her, now can I? So instead, I’m making a long blue cardigan and kid gloves. Earlier this year, I made a test version (totally wearable, yay!) of the Safran pants in a very Khaleesi-esque fabric, reminiscent of her leggings. I can’t wait to wear the whole outfit.

{ Side note: My other character choice is Lao Ma, from the show Xena. I chose her for her famous philosophy (which the show borrowed from a real life philosopher, Tao Te Ching), “to conquer others is to have power, to conquer yourself is to know the way”. She’s got this ultra-serene presence but she’s a deadly fighter.}

You can also use color and color combinations to pay homage to a certain character. I have a green dress with a pink bow (DD Bleuet) ala Sailor Jupiter.

Pink & Green Thunder

My second pair of Safran pants are brown with blue top stitching – a color scheme I stole from Ash of the Evil Dead movies. (Side note: I wore those pants with a button up shirt to Thanksgiving and my husband said I looked like Westworld’s Delores – bonus!!)

Ash and Delores

Essentially, the key is to find the usable elements from your inspo, whatever they may be, and incorporate them as best you can, even if you’re the only person who recognizes your references. I feel like it adds a little secret touch to my clothes that make me feel true to myself and gives an extra boost.