Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lou Box Top as Dress

For the last little while I have been chasing the perfect sack dress. A dress that can hit the moving target of what to wear today, without too much thought. Something that works for mothering, and satisfies my need to be a little bit pretty. A phantom most-basic dress, in a most-basic black.  This solid attempt to check all those boxes is a Sew DIY Lou Box Top modified into a dress with cuffed sleeves. I made a few rough drafts (one here) to experiment with key elements such as the ideal hem length, a neckline that just grazes the collar bone, and a fabric interesting enough to act as the only detail across a large blank rectangle. 
Part of the beauty of a simple dress is its versatility. Shoes, and jewelry (or total lack of it) can make very different looks. I've styled my dress two ways, whose dramatic difference is possibly only noticeable to me!

This fabric is Tencel Linen from Joann. I carry a running list of things I want to make in my head, and sometimes when my hand hits upon a particularly nice fabric, one item on the list jumps to the front of the line. The drape and subtle texture of this fabric compliment the pure geometry of the dress.

The material is substantial enough to be a bottom weight, and would make great wide leg pants, or billowing shorts. The only downside is its ability to carve the wearer's movements in permanent relief across the front. By that I mean, it wrinkles easily. There is a crease down the front where I cut the front pattern piece on the fold (no iron, just pins). I've steamed, and ironed, but it won't budge. I'm afraid Photoshop is the only way to fix it! Maybe the evidence of wear will add to the character of the fabric (that's what I'm telling myself :).
MODIFICATIONS: Narrow hipped ladies can probably sew the same size dress, as they would for a top. Ladies with a bootie (ahem, me) should choose their size based on the hip measurement, rather than bust. I compared the width of the Lou Box Top sizes to the width of a few of my other woven dresses, and chose a similar size.

The Lou Box pattern is drafted with different hem options that are separate pieces. The top shirt piece has a straight seam along the lower edge that I extended to just above the knee length.

I tweaked the neck curve a bit based on previous versions. My neck opening is big enough that I didn't need to use a button back neck opening, but I cut the back as two pieces anyway. The seam gives a more structure to the shape, and counteracts the tendency my full back version has of sticking to my butt. There are other sway back shaping tricks that would achieve the same goal, but I wanted to keep it as simple as possible.

Inspired by the many sack tops and dresses floating around the sustainable fashion inter web (here, here, here) I wanted to add cuffs to my dress. I like the addition of the clean detail to a very plain dress. Accentuating the shoulders, also gives visual balance to my pear shape.

HOW-TO ADD CUFFS to the Lou Box Top:
To add the cuffs cut a pattern piece based on the dimensions in the image above. This creates a 1 1/2" cuff. The long dimension will vary depending on the size you are sewing. With right sides together, sew the short edges with a 1/2" seam allowance. Press seam open. Fold the loop in half with wrong sides together, and press. Then make a 1/2" fold along one raw edge of the loop and press. With right sides together align the other raw edge of the loop with the arm opening, aligning the cuff seam with the side seam of the dress. Sew with 1/2" seam allowance. Press the cuff and seam allowance away from the body of the dress. Using the creases made earlier, fold the cuff in half toward the wrong side of the garment. Pin the smaller fold just over the previous seam line with the seam allowance sandwiched between. Pin. With right side up top stitch as close to the seam line as you feel comfortable (I stitched in the ditch). Be sure you are catching the inside edge of the cuff as you go.


Dress Pattern: Modified Lou Box Top by Sew DIY
Dress Fabric: Nicole Miller Solid Linen Blend from Joann Fabrics
Necklace: Tutorial Here
Bracelet: Wrist Ruler from Tolt Yarn & Wool


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Blanc T-Shirt Worn Two Ways

We spend most of the summer away from home. Living out of a suitcase for a few weeks at a time makes the idea of a summer capsule wardrobe very appealing. I followed the Style Bee 10 x 10 summer challenge very closely because I'm always looking ways to pack less, but wear more. At the end of last summer I made this crisp white Blanc T-Shirt from Blank Slate Patterns* for the Melly Sews blog. At the time I thought it was an exercise in white t-shirts (I also have a Jane Tee by Seamwork and a couple of styles of Lark Tee by Grainline Studio in the same white fabric for comparison purposes), but it's turned out to be a lesson in versatility. For the Melly Sews post, I came up with two simple outfits around the Blanc Tee.

The first outfit is the Blanc Tee tucked into brown linen, pull-on, wide-leg pants (my own pattern). Worn with classic black sandals, and a long necklace (that I got for my 18th birthday! #slowfashion :) it's an easy everyday look. 

The fabric for the t-shirt is Telio Organic Cotton Jersey Knit Off White (I would just call it white) from Fabric.com*.  I have at least 3 kinds of white cotton jersey knit in my fabric cabinet, and this is by far my favorite one. It is the perfect (perfect!) weight, drape, stretch, opacity, and resiliency for t-shirts I bought 2 yards. Knit tops tend to fit a little differently depending on the fabric, so I sew up a white muslin in this fabric so I can isolate the fit variables, and make the modifications that work for my body. My "real" version of the Blanc Tee never made the blog (not because I don't wear it, because this white one stole its thunder. You can catch a glimpse of it on Instagram.)

The second look is the same white Blanc Tee tucked into a knee length black rayon gathered skirt (my own pattern). I wear it with a brass and leather statement necklace and some snazzy "snake skin" sandals for slightly more dressed up occasions.  

A white t-shirt goes with everything, and I'm pretty sure you can never have too many. Of all my white t-shirts I wear this one the most. The dolman sleeve is an easy fit, and this knit is the perfect weight for tops. I've been rationing its wear lately because I want to keep it nice. Time to throw caution to the wind, I can always make another!


Shirt Pattern: Blanc Tee from Blank Slate Patterns*
Pants Fabric: Sew Classic Club Linen in Tobacco Potting from Joann Fabric
Skirt Fabric: Telio Viscose Rayon Challis Onyx from Fabric. com

*Blank Slate Patterns & Fabric.com links are affiliate links. 


Monday, July 3, 2017

Seersucker Polina Dress & Sunny Day Shorts

We are spending the long weekend as the founding father's intended, road tripping to a family reunion. I feel duty bound by a time sensitive color scheme to get these outfits documented before the last charred sparkler sticks cool. This is the Polina Dress from Coffee & Thread, and the Free! Sunny Day Shorts from Oliver + S.
In the evolution of gratuitous holiday sewing ideas, the dress came first. The moment I saw Rachel's beautiful chambray dot Polina I bought the pattern. It's not the first pattern I've purchased under her influence, and I'm sure I'm not alone! I was envisioning a patriotic twirly skirt worthy of L's now discontinued Molly doll. When the skirt gets moving it could steal the show from any PA legal bottle rocket.

In the spirit of embarrassing both children equally (a principe on which this great nation was founded), I picked up a slightly thicker stripe in the same seersucker color way to make J some summer shorts. Now we have star spangled matchy matchy outfits to dazzle at picnics, unless they fall victim to a cherry popsicle along the way.
I sized up on L's measurements to be certain she had some room to grow. Otherwise, I didn't change a thing. Even the hem length is exactly as the pattern specifies. The main fabric is Robert Kaufman Classic Seersucker from Fabric.com*. I used light weight chambray for the underside of the ruffles. It's whisky light and doesn't compete with the seersucker. I also used it to bias bind the neck, armholes, and hem (the easiest way to hem a circle skirt). 
These are the Sunny Day Shorts from Oliver + S made with Robert Kaufman Breakers Seersucker from Fabric.com*. I added length, as shown in my own tutorial from a few years ago, and Pockets as shown in the Skirt as Top tutorial. For the front and back pocket I mismatched the stripes to add some detail. This is a great versatile pattern that I'm sorry J has nearly outgrown. I made him the biggest size, and he's got precious little room to grow. This may be his last pair of Sunny Day Shorts!

Dress Pattern: Polina Dress from Coffee & Thread
Dress Fabric: Classic Seersucker from Fabric.com*
Shorts Pattern: Sunny Day Shorts from Oliver + S
Shorts Fabric: Breakers Seersucker from Fabric.com*

*Fabric.com links are affiliate links. I purchased this fabric.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Indie Sew : Biscayne Blouse & Mercer Tunic

It's the Great Tank Bonanza over on Indie Sew, where a bold group of sewists whip up two different summer staple tops to compare and contrast every aspect of fit, and construction. I'm excited to play along because woven tanks have a starring role in my summer uniform. 

Biscayne Blouse by Hey June Patterns

First up is the Biscayne Blouse from Hey June Patterns. This tank has gentle gathers along the front and back neckline, a faced neck band, two pocket options, and a shaped hem. The buttons on the button placket are concealed behind a decorative flap. The Biscayne is ever so slightly more fitted than the Mercer Tunic, though both work great worn loose over skinny pants. For comparison purposes, I'm wearing both tanks with my (often worn, but never blogged) Safran Pants by Deer & Doe
My Biscayne is made with the new Art Gallery Fabrics rayon print Mountain Mirror designed by April Rhodes. Rayon is a great choice for a design that really stands out in a drapey fabric. 

I chose my size based on my measurements, and I'm happy with the blousy fit. The only alteration I made was to raise the arm opening 1/2". 
The day I finished making this top I wore it the rest of the day with my Safran Pants as shown above. The very next day I wore it again. Two days in a row! I love it that much. Check out the last image of this post to see how I wore it the second time around.

Mercer Tunic by Whitney Deal

The Mercer Tunic by Whitney Deal is an uber simple top. It has an easy fit through the shoulders, and is oversized through the bust, waist and hips. The design highlights are the button placket, back yoke, gentle gathers at the front and back, and a straight hem. The arm and neck openings are finished with bias binding. The button placket, and yoke are a fun opportunity for color blocking, or using coordinating fabrics. This design has a very boxy cut. The wide shoulder is bordering on a cap sleeve, giving this design a respectable amount of shoulder coverage. 
My Mercer Tunic is made with my very favorite Robert Kaufman Chambray Union Light (also used as the contrasting fabric on the Biscayne Blouse). I sewed one size smaller than my measurements, and this top is still plenty roomy. I also took 2" off of the length so the hem would hit just at my hip. 
Both tanks took about the same amount of time to make from PDF to finished garment. Both are expertly drafted, and instructions are well presented. Either would be a great place to focus on perfecting your partial placket installation skills. I think the Biscayne blouse is a skosh more dressed up than the Mercer Tunic. The professional detailing of both designs would be great for the office as a shell, but the adult style lines, and modest coverage wouldn't prevent you from taking off your jacket or cardi. I wear breezy tanks with skinny jeans daily, here are a few alternate woven tank  outfits to get me out of that rut. 
I'm loving the chambray Mercer Tunic tucked into a self-drafted rayon midi skirt, and clogs. It's put together, but still heat friendly.
This is my favorite look and very "me" right now. The Biscayne Blouse paired with the longer of my Curved Copper Tube Necklaces, self-drafted wide leg pants (similar), and clogs. It's respectable, and easy to wear. 

You can get your copy of the Mercer Tunic and Biscayne Blouse sewing patterns along with a whole lot more summer tank inspiration over at Indie Sew. Check out Allie's blog post for a discount!

This post is sponsored by Indie Sew. All thoughts are my own.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Heritage Fabric Midi Skirt & Cropped Dress No. 1

Did April Rhodes peak inside my closet's soul when she designed the Heritage fabric line?! It goes with everything I own. This red Treasured Kermes print is a colorful counterpoint to the usual rhythm of my plain clothes uniform. I could wear it at least 6 ways with the denim, chambray, and cinnamon I already own. 

When I whacked the bottom off of this dark wash denim Dress No. 1 my first thought was "love it!" my second, "now what do I do with it?" That problem didn't last long when I hung it up next to this self-drafted midi, then tossed the clunkier of my pipe necklaces over the hanger hook. It's a harbinger of good things ahead when the makes on the clothes rack all go together. 
As soon as I realized this print was in rayon I knew I was going to make a midi skirt. I've made this skirt a few times in the past (first, second), and a new one was on the shortlist for spring sewing. This pull-on skirt is really easy to wear, and the flow of rayon elevates the simple style. I was a little worried that the bold colors, and detailed print of the Treasured Kermes design would be too far outside of my  normal uniform, but when I saw it in person I knew the tans, blues, and creams would make the saturated red very wearable. 

After Me Made May I realized I have a lot of garments from when I first started sewing for myself that I don't wear for small fit and fabric reasons. I really loved Dress No. 1 when I made it, but it's a little short of my taste, and shrank quite a bit since I made it. Strategic cutting allowed me to make the bottom into a skirt for L without even moving the pockets. 
Crop tops make me think of the belly bearing styles of the 80's. Pairing a cropped trapeze top with a high waist  bottom, creates more demure proportions.  I could see this top with cigarette pants, or a pencil skirt, but then I would have to concentrate on sucking in my stomach all day. The flowing volume on the bottom is more forgiving, so I can give my stomach muscles a break. 
Skirt Pattern: Self-Drafted Midi Skirt
Skirt Fabric: Treasured Kermes Rayon from Finch Knitting & Sewing Studio
Top Pattern: Modified Dress No. 1 by 100 Acts of Sewing
Top Fabric: 4oz. Denim from Joann Fabrics
Necklace: My own DIY Curved Pipe Tutorial 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

DIY Curved Tube Necklace Tutorial

My sewing super powers may have gone to my head, now I think I can make anything. Pants, sweaters, jewelry...I wanted a curved tube necklace, so I made a curved tube necklace.
Wearing a modified Lou Box Dress
The copper pipe for this necklace came from the plumbing section at Lowe's. Most hardware stores have precut short sections of small diameter copper piping for about $6. I tried this necklace with two different diameters of pipe. The one above is 1/4in inside diameter, the one below is 1/4in outside diameter. The smaller pipe is much easier to work with, and is probably the best place to start.

I was feeling pretty pleased with my $6 necklace until I saw what a pipe-cutter cost. The only one at our Lowe's was $40, pretty steep for a single DIY. Luckily, my husband has as many well stocked hobbies as I do, and he already has a very sturdy pipe cutter. If you don't see much plumbing work in your future, I think this $6 pipe cutter from Home Depot would be just fine. This copper piping is soft enough to bend with your hands, it would work with a cheap-o tool.

I used a Pyrex bowl to set the diameter of my necklaces. I experimented with parking bollards and street sign posts. They both worked just fine, but the bowl was way more convenient.

For the string, I cut a strip of cotton knit from my last cardigan. Any knit that rolls when you stretch it will work. I suggest a 1" wide strip, but you'll have to play with that to see what fits through the pipe. I prefer the rolled knit, to an actual cord because you can easily adjust the thickness to fit any size pipe. For both necklaces I made short "beads" from the pipe to add a little interest at the back.
Wearing a Jane Tee from Seamwork Magazine.


You will need: A 1/4in OD (outside diameter) copper pipe, 12-24in long. Strip of jersey knit fabric (that will roll when stretched) approx. 1in x 48in. Something sturdy, and round with about 5in diameter. I used a Pyrex bowl.
Use the round thing as a form, and bend the copper pipe around the outside curve. Bend slowly and carefully, being careful not to kink the pipe.
Make a mark along the pipe where you would like the necklace to begin and end. I used my cutting mat to make sure the curve was symmetrical. The pipe cutter makes a slight rounded edge at the cut, so it is best to cut both ends of the pipe to ensure the finish will be similar. Align the blade of the pipe cutter with the mark. Tighten the cutter until the blade is just gripping the pipe, and twist the pipe back and foutth so the blade rolls over the entire circumference of the pipe.
Tighten the cutter a tiny bit at a time, turning the pipe along the blade, until the pipe is cut the whole way through. It is important to tighten the clamp on the cutter slowly so you don't crimp the pipe.
For my necklaces I cut the main curve, and two 3/4in long beads for each end of the string. Feed the string through each bead, and the curved piece. Depending on the thickness of your string, you may be able to do this by hand. I attached my string to the end of a pipe cleaner to feed it through the pipe.  (and now my pipe is also squeaky clean inside;)
Knot each tip, position the beads along that knot, then knot the two ends together at the desired length. That's it!