Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My Pin-Up Girl Moment

I am by no means fat, but when I look in fashion magazines, watch TV or rent a movie, I am hard pressed to find a woman with something close to my shape that isn't dubbed "the wacky chubby friend", if anyone over 115 pounds is represented at all (which we are generally not).  This can be depressing, and more than a little deflating to a girl like me who wants nothing more than to see average sized women represented as beautiful, or even just normal and acceptable, in the media. 

After years of fighting my natural shape, I made peace with it and even learned to like it (a huge accomplishment for a woman, I am sad to say) around the time I meet my husband.  It's hard to wish you were skinny when you find someone who loves your curves!  Contrary to the popular opinion that breasts and bums are the enemy of fashion, I think that curvy bodies look great in skinny jeans and make dresses fit like a dream.  I have learned that if you can't find external inspiration from the media, you need to learn to inspire yourself.  

Still, every May I start to sweat at the thought of hanging out half naked by the pool in a skimpy bikini, or worse yet, a one piece that covers but also smashes.  Finding a well fitting swimsuit has long been a quest of mine, the goal being to find one that compliments (not hides) my unique shape (we all have one!).     

Every single year, I long to swim but dread putting on a bathing suit.  Not this year!  This year I found the perfect suit, and although it didn't come cheep, it was worth every penny.  I believe in bargain hunting and sale shopping in almost every case, but I have come to believe that there are two things worth splurging on: a great fitting swimsuit, and pretty well made underwear (a post for another day).  Finding the perfect swimsuit that fits just right and makes you feel your best can be the difference between hiding under your towel all summer and letting yourself shine. 

This suit from Anthropologie not only offered great bust support (a dream come true!), but it also made my tummy and legs look their best. I have never felt so good about myself in a swimsuit.  I wish I could have one in every color!  

So this is what 140 pounds (give or take a few) looks like in a great swimsuit.  Too hot for Hollywood maybe?  ;)

But seriously, I was looking cute, right?  No need to answer.  A happy girl is a pretty girl, and I was so so happy being out in the sun by the ocean in this perfect swimsuit.  My advice is, no matter what your weight, size or shape, and no matter what the media is telling you you are supposed to look like, rock what you got, be happy, and never shy away from the sun and sand.  Finding YOUR perfect suit can be a challenge, but it is worth it if it makes you feel as divine as I felt wearing mine.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I made this! Whoo hoo!

Not a very exciting post for today, but I just wanted to show that I really do wear the stuff I make from time to time.  Here I am in my Jasmine top.  It was my first time wearing jeans (H&M) in a long time.  Funny how I used to be such a jeans girl! 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Jasmine

I made my first shirt!  Okay, I made a peasant blouse in high school, but that was a looooooong time ago so it doesn't count.

This is my version of the "Jasmine".

Front view.

Back view.
You can find the pattern here:

This, again, was a "beginner" pattern, but I found it to be pretty tricky!  In fact, I never really figured out exactly how to do the cuff on the sleeve right, so I kind of made it up and it turned out just fine.  The directions that came with the pattern were very clear, I'm just too green to really get everything just right yet, and that is okay.


I made this shirt out of the left-over material from the Hazel dress, and I just almost had enough.  So, I improvised and made the back of the collar out of some teal material I had laying around.  Personally, I think that it made the shirt look even cooler!   

Contrasting back of collar.  

Contrasting loop to mach back collar.  
I am very pleased with this pattern and plan on using it again and again.  It was a great way to make something awesome with very little fabric.  Meaning that I will have a use for the bits of scrap that are left over from other dresses.  Yay!

There is also a second version of this shirt that ties in a bow at the front of the collar.  I am looking forward to trying that too!

So, I know I can make dresses and shirts.  Now I am working my way up to making shorts and then (gulp) pants.

I also really want to learn how to make myself swimsuits.  Ahhhh!  So many things to make and so little time!

Seriously though, I have made so many things at this point that I haven't even had time to wear them all yet!  Maybe I aught to take a sewing beak for a bit...yeah right.  I'm having too much fun!  

Close-up shot to show detail.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Hazel Dress

Here is my newest dress!  It is called "Hazel" and you can get the pattern here:

One thing that I have learned about sewing is that there isn't always one right answer that will work in every situation all of the time. A great example of this are all for the different ways of “finishing” a garment. "Finishing" is what you do to keep the fabric from unraveling after a garment is, well, finished. One way to do this is to use pinking shears all aroud the edges of a seam. Pinking shears are sciserses that are designed to leave a jagged edge rather than a smooth one.

A second method is to make a full or partial  lining for the garment, which basically requires you to make a whole separate item and sew it inside of your garment. It can be complicated, costly, time consuming and can add too much bulk in some cases. It can also lead to a super professional looking, beautiful final product. Making a lining makes sense if you are using a thin fabric that might be see-through, or to help add structure.

Another way of finishing a garment is to use a kind of stitching that I don't know how to do, and which I also suspect is the best and easiest way to do it.  Moving on...

And lastly (as far as my limited knowledge base can take me), a fourth way to finish a garment is to add bias tape around the edges of the seams, enclosing them so that it cannot unravel. This also makes the inside of a garment look as nice as the outside (theoretically).

I assumed, before I actually put this method into practice, that the only reasons not to use bias tape as your primary method of finishing were laziness (it is a time consuming extra strep), and to save money (not having to buy bias tape*).  

So I decided to use bias tape on the inside of my latest dress in an attempt to be extra awesome and fancy. I also felt that it would work well for this pattern because there were so many exposed seams on the inside of the front of the dress.  It ended up working out just fine in this case, but that was just because of pure dumb luck. It turns out that other reasons not to use bias tape to finish a seam include: it can add bulk to your garment and it can show through the fabric. I got lucky because the fabric I used is bright and thick, but I will be aware of these possible issues in the future.

The bias tape I added to the inside of the top.

This dress was described as an easy quick sew by Colette Patterns, but it caused me even more trouble than the last dress I made using stretch fabric. I got to know my seam ripper (it is exactly what it sounds like it is) very very well on this dress. BUT, the finished product turned out to be worth it. I am so proud of this dress, I don't even want to wear it. I just want to hang it on my wall an look at it. I haven't even tried it on yet for fear that it wont fit and the spell will be broken, but when I finally do wear it I will be sure to post photos here. :)

*Bias tape can be made by hand, but it is an arduous task that I will always be to lazy to ever do. 

Blue Crepe

I made a dress for my sister-in-law and friend Willow last weekend.  She ordered the fabric and had it sent to my house (she lives in Manhattan) and it got in while I was on my business trip last week. 
The fabric she ordered is certified hippy friendly organic cotton and it was just gorgeous soft and teal (my favorite color)!  The problem was that it had a lot of stretch to it, and I have never worked with stretchy fabric before and I wasn’t too excited to practice my skills for the first time using expensive fabric that someone else paid for. 

The fabric.
The stretch did present challenges, but the finished product looks great!  The hardest thing was cutting out the fabric, as it would stretch when I needed it to be still, making me afraid that the pieces wouldn't be the same size and wouldn’t fit together right.  I was also unsure about sizing since I don’t have her here for the fitting.  I also didn't know if I would need to adjust the pattern to allow for extra stretch while wearing. 
The dress after it was cut out, before it was sewn together.
So, I am still a bit nervous that it isn't going to fit right, but luckily she chose the wrap dress (the Crepe that I have blogged about before) which allows for a little bit of leeway between sizes because you can simply wrap it tighter or more loosely to adjust the fit. 
This is for sure the nicest fabric that I have ever worked with, and it shows.  The finished product looks the least hand made of any of my dresses that I have made so far.  I will want to buy some of this fabric for myself someday, maybe for a fall dress since it feels so cushy and warm. 

The finished dress- front view.  

Back view.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dressing for work

Not everyone has the freedom to dress how they please in work situations, but if you do have the freedom to dress how you like for work, how do you choose to represent yourself?      
In my office, there is a wide range of how people dress for work.  Some people dress in suits and ties every day (or tan jackets and pencil skirts for the women), while others are less formal. 
I personally don’t see any reason to represent myself differently in the office then I would in my everyday life, although I do try to make sure that I am never showing too much skin or dressing too young to be taken seriously.  Other than that, I let myself express myself creatively with my clothes.  After all, I spend more days of the week in the office then out of it. 
I had to take a work trip to a training center in West Virginia last week, and so the question became: how do I dress professionally, dress comfortably for travel, make sure that I wouldn’t be too fussy or need too much time to get ready in the morning all while repressing myself creatively at the same time?  My answer?  Comfortable loose fitting dresses, floppy easy to pack hats, and easy flats.
Here are some examples of what I wore on a few of the days at the center. 
Day one- (taken in the airport bathroom) I wore a loose fitting white Emily and Fin dress for comfort while traveling.  The hat is Forever 21.  I think the scarf was from American Eagle but I can’t remember, and the sweater was an old target cardi that I have had forever.    
Day two I wore another Emily and Fin white dress, a headband from Urban Outfitters and a Gap cardi. 

Day three I wore a floppy Urban Outfitters hat, a dress made by me, with gap leggings.   I wore teal Urban Outfitters flats with everything. 

And this is what I woke up to every morning.  Pretty awesome, right?
So, how do you represent yourself at work through how you dress?   Do you have the flexibility to show your personal style?  If so, do you take advantage of it?    

Monday, May 14, 2012

Summer Dress

Here is the start of a new sun dress I am working on.  It is called “Hazel” and the pattern can be found here:
It will be (if all goes according to plan) a lovely little dress just perfect for summer.  I am making it in a bright orange fabric with a large bluish flower print that I am just in love with.  I have never used a pattern quite like this so I am a bit nervous about how it will come out. 
I’ll post new pictures when this is a dress instead of just bits of fabric pined to a dress form.  If it comes out well, I am sure that this pattern will be put into heavy rotation.  It has so much potential! 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My boat dress

Before I head out on my work trip, I just wanted to show off my newest creation.  I was ga-ga over this awesome boat dress from British brand Lowie but it is way out of my price range.  Then I thought, "I could make that!"  Or at least, a version of it.  

Here is the original awesome dress that I cannot have.
Shirt Dress - Sailboat Blue - Click Image to Close 

And here I am in my version.  This was not the finished product (you mat notice the pins in the collar, and my stocking feet), but I didn't want to miss the light.  Look how great the fit of the dress is!  I finally got it right with the size 6.

I used the Peony pattern again, but I added a Peter Pan collar.  This is my favorite dress so far!  Here is the finished product on my dress form.  Pretty cute right?  I can't wait to wear it out!  

I'd really like to do a series of boat themed garments in the future.  It is suck an adorable free design.  I will be keeping my eye out for boat themed fabric from now on, and make as many variations as I can.

Best Friends!

I had the best weekend!  My awesome friend Rachel flew out to visit me from Portland OR as a surprise!!!  My husband told me to meet him after work at this cute little French restaurant, and when I got there, Rachel was there instead!  Ahhh!  It was so great and I was so surprised!  We had such an amazing weekend of shopping, eating, sewing and hanging out.  

Here are just a couple of photos from the trip.  Look what she is wearing!  She LOVED one of my Peony dresses that I made and awesomely enough- it fit her perfectly!  It was as if I made it for her instead of for myself.  So she flew back to Portland in it today, looking just so stinking cute! 

 The dress I am wearing was from Buffalo exchange.  Great color and shape right?  

Also- Rachel came to town with a brand new adorable haircut, and then gave me this cute pixie cut this morning.  I love it!!! 

So happy.  I can't wait to see her again later this summer when I go out to visit her.  :)  So lovely and wonderful.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Shift dress!

I made this dress in ONE NIGHT!  It still needs a hook and eye (little clasp) at the top of the zipper, but that is all.  Actually, it’s not that much of an accomplishment to be able to sew quickly.  It is much more impressive to take your time and get it just right, but I am too impatient for that!  As soon as this fabric came in the mail, I started sewing!  To be fair to myself, I do take a good amount of time in the sketching and planning phase of each project.   It gives me more time to obsess before my fabric comes in the mail! 

I used the Licorice dress pattern from Collette’s Sewing Handbook, but I modified it to the point that it is unrecognizable.  I used heavy fabric rather than the light fabric that was suggested (risky!), I omitted the lining because the fabric I used was so thick, and I omitted the sleeves and the collar.  I had all of the pieces cut, and I actually intended to make the sleeves and collar, but once I had them pinner to the dress, the fabric made them way too bulky and 1970’s for my taste.  For the record (1970’s pun!) I love retro-inspired clothes, but they still have a modern twist or else you end up looking like you are in costume. 
This is the pattern that I used for reference: 
Just like the Crepe dress, as soon as I started cutting, I thought, “what am I doing???  This is going to look awful!  Why  do I have to be drawn to such crazy patterns???”  But again, I stuck it out, and I love the result!  I actually haven’t even had time yet to try on the dress to make sure that it can fit over my bum (might be a problem considering how fitted the dress is) but I am so happy with how this turned out!  This was the first time that I used this pattern, but it will not be the last.  I’d love to make another shift in heavy material like this, but I would also like to eventually try to use the pattern as it was intended: soft fabric, lining, sleeves and collar.  The only thing I plan on not doing is adding the elastic to the sleeves.  I think it would be fun to leave them free flowing.  I could also see leaving the sleeves free flowing, adding the collar and shortening the dress just a bit to make it a tunic.  So many possibilities!  :)
***Also, I used my sewing machine to put in the zipper and add the bias tape!  Yay! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Purple Crepe Dress

Here is my newest creation!     These pictures are pretty bad, but hopefully my sweet husband will take some pictures of me in it when I wear it for the first time tomorrow. 
The pattern I used was the “Crepe” by Collette.  It is described as a “simple wrap dress” and now that I am finished with it I realize that it IS a simple pattern, but making it for the first time it felt a little confusing.  I think my second attempt will be a breeze, now that I know what I am getting myself into. 
I made this dress a size 6, and somehow I still made it too big!  I am scared to go down to a pattern size 4, but I would like to make at least one of these dresses more fitted!  Hummm…
Over all, I am very happy with how it turned out!  The whole time I was making it, I kept thinking that it was turning out horribly and that it would look too home-made to actually wear.  I was worried about my color and fabric choices, and basically pretty unhappy to be wasting my time.  Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised to see how good the finished product turned out!  I also thought it was going to be too long for my taste and need some tailoring, but because of the drape, the standard pattern length turned out to be just right. 

Here it is from the back.  This dress has a pretty crisscross shape that shows of my back nicely.   

I added bias tape from merrigoroundandme on the sleeves.  This not only adds a cute touch to the dress, it also protects the edge of the sleeve and keeps it from getting frayed.  The coolest thing about this bias tape?  I got it FREE when I purchased some other bias tape!  It was just a happy accident that it worked so perfectly with the colors in the dress.
I will for sure use this pattern again.  I already have big plans for future dresses.  However, this pattern takes a lot of material, so it can end up being a pretty expensive dress to make, especially if you want to use an expensive fabric (which I do-I already have it waiting for me in my Amazon cart).  So, I am thinking the next time I will be using this pattern won’t be until late summer or early fall.  I already can’t wait, but I have a ton of projects in my head to keep me occupied until then!