Kalle Shirt Dress

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I started this dress in March, fully believing I would finish it in a week or less. Finally in May, this dress is wearable. March and April were crazy months for me. My husband took a job in Oregon, so during my spring break in March we drove across the country to drop him off. Then, I flew back, leaving the car with him, to finish my semester in St. Louis. April marked the beginning of final paper season, which was intense this year (more intense than past years), and I felt swamped.

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I had little energy left for creativity – and reclaimed crafting requires that little extra bit of energy to address things like stains, yarn substitution, or pattern adjustments.

But let’s rewind, before I couldn’t finish this dress, I did start it – and make it most of the way through the pattern. My kalle is made from an old bed sheet (from Ikea) that had a few very subtle bleach spots. The fabric was in good condition (besides the pervasive smell of bleach) and I knew it would make a reliable shirt dress. It also pressed very well and feels quite stable.

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I knew I wanted to make a change to the pattern. Instead of a box pleat at the back, I gathered the excess fabric. So I have a small section of gathers at the back of my dress (which I love).

This dress hung mostly finished on a hanger in my room for six weeks. The thing that kept me from adding the final touches was one small stain on the back, about the size of a pencil eraser. It looked like a spot of permanent marker. This dark little stain was a huge thorn in my crafting side.

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Finally, due to the pressure of leaving St Louis to spend my summer in Oregon, and the added pressure of not having room to take my sewing machine, I knew I had to finish this dress if it was to ever see the light of day. I sat down with The Geometry of Hand Sewing by Alabama Chanin (which I just realized is a signed copy… woah), and tried to identify simple decorative stitches that would cover the stain in the back.

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I settled on an Algerian Eye variation that looks like an art deco flower design. I tried it out on the pocket and then tackled the back. I had to play around with various layouts for a while, and finally reached this triangle idea with the Algerian eyes in crossing diagonal lines. I was very chill (uninterested) in making this super precise – so one side of the triangle is about an inch higher than the other… but I can’t see it because it’s in the back and anyone who notices it would be far too close to my backside for my comfort.

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This dress has blown my mind. The simple stitching (which maybe was about three hours of work) has transformed this dress from basic to heirloom. I’m shocked with how well it turned out. I imagine I’ll be adding many more hand stitched touches to my dresses in the future.

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Alex Shirt – 2018 Make Nine

The Sew Over Alex shirt as basic as it gets.

I can finally breathe easy now that I have a basic white button up in my closet. The last time I had something this basic was when I had to wear a school uniform in 2008. This shirt is much better than that uniform.

This shirt is relaxing. I mean, the Alex Shirt is a relaxed fit, but it genuinely calms my worries and soothes my anxieties. I feel like the missing piece has been found. With this basic white shirt, I can shine confidently. My wardrobe has entered a new realm of creativity. This basic has me feeling inspired.

The Alex Shirt is my perfect basic oversized tunic length shirt. Dressy enough for presentations and casual enough for chilling around the house. It has volume, it has sheen, it has drama, but mainly it is pure basic bitch button up.

The pattern was simple to follow. I did make a muslin. I was concerned that my size wouldn’t have enough room for my shoulders. However, I was pleasantly surprised and relieved when my first muslin fit well. I could move my arms back and forth and in circles without busting any seams. The oversized nature of this shirt made it a perfect fit for my unique shoulder situation.

The Alex Shirt is labeled as an intermediate pattern in the City Break Ebook. I’ve been sewing for a year now and label myself as highly adventurous. This pattern was my first shirt yoke, and it was 100% successful thanks to the Sew Over It YouTube tutorial.

The best part about this 100% cotton shirt is the fabric origin: a secondhand bedsheet. Though if you’ve been following my sewing journey it’s probably not surprising as most of my clothes used to be bedsheets. This one is a beautiful satin weave cotton with a high thread count. It’s absolutely luxurious to wear; smooth and silky, but still structured.

I made a couple of small changes. First, I chose to do a regular box pleat at the back, rather than an inverted pleat. I think this highlights the pleat as a central feature of the shirt. Second, I curved both the back and the front of the shirt hem. In the pattern, the back hem curve is exaggerated while the front has a straighter cut. As a petit person, I find shirts that land at tunic length feel more comfortable than those that stop at the hip, a curved front hem helped me accomplish this length without adding bulk to the sides.

I’m pleased to check another item off my 2018 Make Nine list. The Alex Shirt (along with my Mia Jeans) brings my current completed total to two. It’s only February, so I feel comfortable with my progress so far.

Happy Making!

Most of my Clothes Used to be Bedsheets

 

It’s true, most of my clothes were originally produced to cover mattresses. Other people’s mattresses. Now, those old sheets have become my arsenal of t-shirts and dresses. I love transforming bedsheets into everyday garments.

The Practical:

It’s already been established that I’m operating on a tight making budget. $40 a month doesn’t go very far for everything needed to make clothing. Plus, I’m a newbie. I’ve only been sewing regularly for nine months – and teaching myself no less. If I hope to get any better, I need to practice, which requires access to materials. Sheets have a ton of yardage. Thrifted bedsheets, which I can sometimes buy according to weight, are a perfect solution to a tight budget. Most of the time I can get a bedsheet for $1-3, and each bedsheet will make two items (50 cents a shirt! that’s even cheaper that fast fashion). But the practical is only one piece to this grand making adventure.

The Philosophical: Beyond the practical reasons for sewing with bedsheets.

When I use my hands to create a garment from a discarded textile, I give those materials new life. I honor the hands involved in producing those materials – from the farmer who grew the cotton, to the workers who processed the fiber, to the artists who compiled the pieces together. My transformed garment remembers all of their efforts. I’m remembering the nameless and faceless. I’m refusing to let their efforts be masked. I’m recognizing that behind every item is a collection of hands desperate to make a living because my community demands absurdly cheap materials. And by remembering them I can resist my own urge to demand the same. I consider making garments out of discarded items as a gentle but powerful act of resistance. I resist the structures of capitalism that equate human beings to energy – simply cheap resources to get the job done. I resist the culture of waste – that new is always better and the old is better off discarded. I resist the idea that making things by hand is useless and meaningless. I resist the concept that handwork is too costly and inefficient.

Each time I choose to transform a discarded item into an everyday basic, I am habituated to see the good in the unwanted and discarded. This act small act of resistance reminds me not to give in to the demanding voices of an economic system that feeds on cheap labor and easy access to anything I want.

Making from unwanted items satisfies more than just my small budget, it creates the space for thoughtful reflection and critical engagement with economics, culture, and capitalism. I’ve grown to love my practice of sewing from bedsheets. But it doesn’t end there, while the practical and philosophical reasons for sewing with bedsheets are necessarily entwined, I wonder what would happen if my craft budget increased? I’m committed to the philosophy behind making with used materials, but I don’t believe that used materials are the only answer to my environmental and ethical commitments. Used materials fit within my budget at the moment, but I’m confident that ethical options are available at any budget point. I know if I had the resources, I would gravitate towards newly produced materials that acknowledge and valued the work of farmers, producers, and makers.

I’m purely speculating. I don’t have the resources at the moment to buy new, and I don’t think I’m good enough at sewing to use new ethically produced materials without the fear of ruining them forever. So while I’m building my skills with needle and thread, I feel confident and comfortable with my choice to use discarded items.

All that from an old bedsheet!

Happy Making.

 

Review: The Laneway Dress

I’m all about stretching my skills and leveling up in sewing. Every time I make something I hope I can improve my sewing and patience… especially attention to detail. The Laneway Dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade was the perfect chance to up my game. When the review call went out for the Laneway Dress, I was a bit hesitant. The Laneway it all it’s vintage glory isn’t exactly my everyday style, it was definitely out of my comfort zone. But I decided to put my name in the hat for the chance to sew a vintage inspired dress because, who knows, maybe I’ll love it and the worst thing that happens is I’ll get to sew a cool dress.

The Laneway Dress is slightly 1940’s inspired, has an a-line skirt, open ended bust darts, pockets, and three collar options (centered collar, asymmetrical collar, and a classic collar). I gravitated right away towards the classic neckline, which made the bust darts the most noticeable feature of the dress. I was hoping for a classic dress to add to my wardrobe that would be suitable for presentations and lectures as well as something that might be dressed down for more casual wear.

When I got the email about reviewing the Laneway, I was ready to step up to the challenge. My first challenge… finding a reclaimed fabric that would work well with the pattern. I stoped by Perennial, my local reclaimed project supplies store (I hope every city has one of these), and found two options, a poly/cotton blend fitted sheet in a light blue and a cotton geometric fitted sheet in darker blues and whites. I ultimately choose the poly/cotton blend because it had a little more movement to the fabric. The geometric cotton would have made a lovely version, but the overall print would have hidden my favorite feature (the bust darts) and would have made the skirt quite stiff. The total cost of both fabrics was $2.

My next challenge was fitting. I cut out the pattern in a size 10 with a B cup as is, no mods. I constructed the bodice and noticed there was a lot of extra fabric above the bust darts. I stared at this in the mirror for perhaps 30 minutes, trying to decide if raising the bust darts would solve this issue… but what I really needed to do, and ultimately did, was shorten the bodice, which mean recutting. So I unintentionally made a muslin, and I was lucky enough to have more than enough fabric left from the fitted sheet to make another bodice (what a relief). I now know to measure the pattern pieces before I cut to determine if I need to shorten a pattern for my 5’3″ frame

My third challenge came in fitting the sleeve. For some reason, I could not get the sleeve to fit into the armscye. The underarm section (the non-gathered section between the notches) was about an inch higher on the bodice than the sleeve. But, because I have climbing muscles, I always find I need more space in the underarm than patterns usually have. So I considered this a sign and shaved about an inch off the underarm bodice section. I’m happy with this decision, the underarms fit well.

I did not interface the facing with conventional interfacing. Rather, I used a tight woven cotton sheet (same one that’s covering my ironing board). I basted the facing piece and my new interfacing piece around the edges using a 1/8 seam allowance. This certainly provides enough stiffness to the facing for my liking.

Overall I am happy with this dress. The instructions were clear and precise. Because I shortened my bodice and I’m new to fitting, I did have to do some extra research about shortening patterns and redrawing bust darts. But this was all accomplished on the internet and with sewing books from the library. Though I was a bit apprehensive about the vintage-inspired style of this dress, I found that it translates very well into a non-vintage wardrobe. Whenever the dress catches my eye, the first thing that comes to mind is Cinderella on a casual day. Paired with sandals it’s perfect for a picnic or a day at the art museum. With a flannel and boots it’s great for errands or a night at the brewery. I had a lot of fun imagining different outfits for this dress… and that’s probably the most important thing for a wardrobe staple. So, Laneway Dress, you have converted a non-vintage girl to a vintage believer… what a feat!

 

In Progress

It’s halfway through August and I’ve been on a making spree. Classes start on August 29th so I’m trying to work at peak making speed before most of my time will be spent reading academic jargon. 

I have one sewing project and one knitting project in the works at the moment. 

Sewing

I was selected to review the Laneway Dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade. I’m almost done, just have to insert the invisible zip (my first one!), the facings, and the hem. I’ll be writing a separate post to review the pattern- so look forward to that. 


So far this dress feels very Cinderella to me. Not in the modern massive ball gown way… More like everyday Cinderella pre-prince style. The dress is 1940’s inspired, which, combined with the light blue color, probably contribute to the Cinderella feelings. Also… could use a good press. 

Knitting

I’ve joined the Brooklyn Knitfolk #hipsterKAL. Very excited about the whole theme of the KAL – knit a pattern that has less than 30 projects. I’m knitting the Circlet Shrug by Norah Gaughn in the newest issue of Making (this is the most amazing knitting periodical in existence). It’s a beautiful pattern that uses cables and lace to create a really unique fabric. 


 I’m using unused yarn, Brooklyn Tweed Arbor in the Potion colorway, because this thing requires a ton of yardage… and I was doubtful I could create the right fabric type from salvaged yarn. I’m pretty stoked about Brooklyn Tweed though. I love that it’s 100% American made


Im trying out the KT method of knitting all the parts at once. Rather than knit the entirety of one side, I’m keeping the pattern fresh in my mind by knitting similar sections all together. I’m almost done with the ribbing which means I’m about to start the cables! I feel really excited about this knit. Lots to keep me interested. 

An Orla Affair


The Orla Dress is my first fitted bodice dress. After scanning the internet for free dress patterns to use as skill builders, I came across the #anorlaaffair sew along on Instagram. The organizers had such a supportive schedule that I felt confident someone on the internet could lend a hand if I got stumped. So I jumped straight into sewing.


The Pattern: Orla by French Navy

As a beginning sewist, free patterns are so helpful. I love the chance to jump on the opportunity to test out a new pattern without much investment. It’s also a great way to keep the cost of sewing down while gathering skills.

The instructions on this pattern are basic: like sew the side seams or insert the zipper. I’m glad I had constructed a few garments before jumping into this one. 

This pattern has darts in both the front and back bodice pieces, as well as sleeves, a back zipper, and a gathered skirt.


The Fabric: Vintage 1960’s(?) Cotton Bedsheet

I love the pattern of this fabric. Mid-century florals, who could go wrong. The recommended fabric for the Orla Dress is viscose or rayon, or fabric with drape. This sheet is quite stiff. Also, it’s see-through… But I thought this would give me the chance to line a dress bodice. So I grabbed another old white bedsheet and watched about five videos on youtube and declared myself a lining expert.


A note about fitting: I have athletic shoulders. I’m a regular rock climber, which has added a lot of muscle to my shoulders (specifically the latissimus dorsi for those anatomy geeks). I always find that choosing a size on my bust measurement will lead to tightness in the shoulders, especially underneath the armscye (sleeve opening). But, I don’t have broad shoulders. The actual distance between my shoulders is quite proportional.

So, to avoid tightness in the Orla bodice, I used my upper bust measurement to determine my size. That meant I had a lot of extra room in the waist. Even though I made a muslin, after completing the construction for my Orla, I realized I didn’t like the extra room in the waist with my fabric choice (more on that below). So after some playing around, I took in 1/4 from each dart (including the lining…). No idea if this was the right fitting method, but I’m happy with the results. I would be happy to hear if any sewists with strong shoulders have any suggestions.

I also added pockets to my Orla following Anna Zoe’s instructions. This is one of my favorite features of this dress.

 

I love the basic silhouette of the Orla. It’s quite adaptable to different fabric types, which makes it great for using reclaimed fabric. My first Orla is so sweet, almost too sweet. I call it my Easter dress, because it seems like it would fit in so well at a pastel garden party with dainty pastries and tea. While I do love all those things, I am a little more rambunctious in my everyday life. It’s also mainly a white dress, and I am guaranteed to spill marinara sauce on every white item I own. But, despite it’s dainty-ness and gleaming white fabric, this dress might be miraculous and find regular rotation in my closet. I am already planning to make another version of this dress from a light chambray fitted sheet, definitely with pockets, and maybe try to stretch my skills in some more pattern hacking.

 

 

My Every Day Dress

I love this dress

Okay: time to actually stop swooning and talk about this beauty.

The pattern: the Peplum Top by In the Folds. It’s a free pattern from Peppermint Magazine. It’s a loose fitting peplum top great for warm weather and those heat waves. You can grab the pattern here.

The instructions were so simple to follow, the back has a great v-neck detail and the shoulders have these cute separate panels. As a beginner sewist I managed this pattern with ease.

I lengthened my peplum pieces to hit just above my knee. After checking the total length measurement on the pattern, I held a tape measured at my shoulder and let it fall to the ground. I found the desired length. Then I subtracted he bodice measurement from that new measurement to get my peplum pieces.

The fabric: this was a cotton king sized bed sheet. It might even me a California king… that’s how big it was. That’s all I know. It also has slight bedsheet stripes where the weave of the fabric changes direction. It doesn’t come across as obvious bedsheet though, and isn’t even visible in the photos. Sheets like these are everywhere at thrift stores. And most have tags that reveal fiber content.

I did a burn test to identify if it was a natural or synthetic material. Natural materials like cotton or wool are great for natural dyes – which is exactly what I was hoping to do with this sucker.

The dye: INDIGO!

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This was a very successful resist-dye. I chose to dye the entire sheet… which was a massive undertaking. I basically twisted it from the corner, wrapped it with cotton yarn, and rolled it over a broom handle to make it more manageable.

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Indigo is an amazing dye material. Maybe one day I’ll devote more time it’s glory, but for now I’ll point you to The Modern Natural Dyer for a guide to all things indigo.