Summer Wardrobe Round-up

 

Fall classes started last week. I’m already mourning the loss of so much making time. I’ve turned a corner this summer in my wardrobe philosophy. I’m making things that replace ready to wear items, I’m planning my projects, and I’m fixing mistakes rather than rushing to finish.
So, in honor of the end of a season, here’s a round-up of garments I’ve made. I have some thoughts about each item, some were great choices, some weren’t. By cataloging those thoughts hopefully I can learn from my mistakes each season and discover what works!

Total items made: 15

  • Shorts: 2
  • Skirts: 1
  • Dresses: 5
  • Tops: 3
  • Outerwear: 2
  • Sweaters: 1

Shorts

 

 


My first shorts ever (left) might not last into next summer. These were basically my “I know these will be awful but you have to start somewhere” shorts. Pattern is a vintage 1970’s that was two sizes too big. I took in the waist, but the legs are still kind of roomy. The zipper is sort of a fly construction… without the back? There are no back pockets. The waistband is weird. All signs point to “let this pair go.”

Second pair of shorts = 100% success. I love these shorts. They’re perfect. These are the spring shorts pattern from peppermint magazine (free!!) and I used an old linen tablecloth. All good things to say about this pattern.

Skirts

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This has been a great casual skirt. The high slit is a fun detail. However… there are a few mistakes… the hem is super botched, the waistband was cut against the stretch, and there are a few holes growing in the fabric. So I might remake it and turn this one into a cleaning tool…

Dresses

 

 

Takeaway from the summer: I love sewing dresses.

My first Cleo (purple corduroy) was a bit premature – definitely more of fall outfit. So I’m looking forward to wearing it this fall.

My every other day dress is holding its title… every other day. Love it. I haven’t machine washed it, I just rinse with cold water and lay in the sun for less than two hours. It’s stayed nice and bright.

My denim Cleo has also seen a lot of wear. It already has a few dye spots and stains from teaching workshops! I consider that a success since it was an intentional work dress.

My Orla also hasn’t had much wear this summer, it’s kind of a warm fabric. So I’m waiting to see if fall will be its time to shine

The Laneway Dress is so new! It’s perfect for school and I feel super classy.

Tops

 

 

Two Megan Nielsen Rowan Tees. Both huge successes, though the white one almost gave me a run for my money. These are two basic tee’s that will see heavy rotation in my wardrobe. The navy is perfect for all seasons. The turtle neck is a bit warm for summer, but I plan to love it for fall and winter. These are both made from thrift shop bedsheets. The sheets had less stretch than the pattern called for, so I went up a size and they fit perfectly!

Outerwear

 

 

The Mountain Gods vest has really been a dream. All good things so far.

I made the SOI Kimono out of a thrifted silk wrap skirt (the kind with two layers). I need to revisit this – perhaps fix some of the seams that look a little sketchy.

Sweaters

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This sweater has not really seen much action this summer. A little very early on in June, but I was unsure if I really liked it. The sleeves are tiny bit too tight. And I don’t know if I want to lengthen the crop top by an inch or so. Only time will tell if this will survive. I think it’s super cute though, and it’s just calling to be styled with some high waisted black jeans… that I hope to make… someday.

Summer was so productive. I am so happy with all that I made. My biggest lesson learned: I can tell when I’ve rushed through something. If I want my pieces to last and experience wear, I have to make them well and attend to the details. As a big picture person, sometimes I focus too much on my overall goal of a handmade wardrobe and forget that each piece has its own complexities. So, with my autumn wardrobe in mind, I want to work on taking each piece slowly and carefully.

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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. 

Recycled Denim Cleo

Plus some newbie pattern hacking!


This style of dress has the most names I have ever encountered. Overall dress, dungaree dress, pinafore… I grew up calling it a jumper, so that’s what I’m going with here.

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This is my second version of this pattern. It’s the first pattern to receive the high honors of a repeat project. Though I do wonder why I need two jumpers in my closet, but something just screamed at me that these two are both incredibly worth it. Is that a sewing gut instinct?

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The Inspiration

I was totally enamored by this denim jumper from ASOS I found while perusing the internet.

I was like, oh my god I could make that out of jeans.

So I did. Shamless copy.

The Pattern: Cleo Dress by Tilly and the Buttons

This is an amazing pattern. It’s already all over the internet. Just google it.

The Hack

Okay hacking this pattern was actually more complicated than I thought it would be. And I didn’t take many pictures… lame. I’ll do my best to describe the process.

The most difficult part was the diagonal section on the front of the dress. To create a pattern piece, I traced the pattern on a roll of large paper. I basically created the front piece of the dress as if there were no center seam (I subtracted the seam allowance from the center). I drew two diagonal lines to create my new pattern piece. I then cut these out and traced them again to add seam allowances (important step).

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I did a similar process with the back, but since I kept the center back seam, the process was a little easier. I took one picture of this part 👍🏼

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I followed the instructions as written, making sure to stitch up my extra pieces before joining the center seams.

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The Fabric

I deconstructed three pairs of jeans for this jumper. All were around a US size XL. I first took my seam ripper to the pockets. Then I cut off the waistbands of each pair of jeans. I then cut around each zipper (saving it… for something?). I then cut the crotch seam apart. Finally, I seam ripped up the outside leg seam on each leg. This left me with four usable leg pieces.

I didn’t use interfacing in this dress. Mainly because I haven’t found a reclaimed alternative. My facing pieces are from the same denim and I found it provided a nice amount of stiffness.

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Final Thoughts

This pattern is great for recycled fabrics. I especially like the button option; it’s much easier to come across used buttons than used overall buckles. Plus, the no-sew buttons on overalls and jeans are rather impossible to reuse. If anyone has found a way to do this, let me know.

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This is my new favorite workshop dress. It’s sturdy, tough, and I can imagine myself wearing it all year long. I’m already dreaming about this dress over leggings and boots in the winter.
P.S. Shoutout to Kyle for the photo cred.

 

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.