Wax Skirt by Sewing Tidbits

On my 2017 sewing year and why I don’t plan a #2018Makenine…

Dear readers,

It has only been a week since I last posted here, so this should give you an idea of how much I am boiling inside, waiting for my sewing machines! This year I sewed 23 items, which is a pretty good output for me:

  • 17 garments for myself. I’m happy with that number. I try to keep my wardrobe a manageable size and it wouldn’t make sense for me to aim for more. The big lesson here is that I probably shouldn’t buy sewing patterns anymore… This year, 9 garments were from patterns we released under Just Patterns, 4 were self-drafted, 1 was Burda, 2 from Indie designers (both free) and 1 is an mash-up of indie/Big4/self-drafting.
  • 3 items for the little human: a spring coat, a white special occasion dress and a summer hat. I’m terrible at documenting baby sewing outside of Instagram. Actually, let me rephrase: I’m terrible at baby sewing. I find it really difficult to find  clothes that would be 1/comfortable for Little Tidbits, 2/ are interesting to make and 3/ not too time-consuming because she outgrows them so fast.  Or maybe I’m just a  Selfish Seamstress (TM) and that even motherhood could not change that!
  • 1 Just Patterns sample in our fit model size (to be released next month).
  • 1 fabric basket to gather toys from Sanae’s lovely book: Sew Happiness. I very rarely do home sewing, but this was quick and it looks pretty!
  • 1 unusual item, I made a sample for a friend who runs a gender queer underwear business. She showed me a picture of a lapel to accessorize her line and I made the first sample. You can see it on the Play-Out website!

For the sake of accountability, here are the garments I included in my #2017MakeNine post. I sewed 4 out of the 9 garments below:

7cb446f2-76e7-44ce-97c8-bc3f79e985942 Blazers

I did finish the white Blazer (it’s the pattern mash-up mentioned above). I haven’t managed to blog about it but I have a few pictures I used for Instagram. The Balmain blazer on the other hand saw no progress. It’s in a box and well advanced. I hope to complete it in 2018.

Challenge 10x10 Sewing Tidbits-2

3 Skirts

I made 2 out of 3. The white pencil skirt was my submission for the first round of the Pattern Review Sewing Bee Contest. I also finally got around sewing a Stella Jean inspired skirt from one of the pieces of African wax I have in stash since leaving in Zambia. This one is un-blogged, but you may have seen it on Instagram. I sewed 3 more skirts but not the one included in the Makenine.

2 Dresses

I did sew my own sample of the Linda wrap dress. Actually I sewed 2 more variations. One sleeveless I posted on Instagram and one for Sew News that I will show you next year. I wasn’t sure about the Capital Chic sheath when I made my plan and I didn’t get even close to sewing it.

2 Tops

I sewed 4 tops  and 2 Tshirts this year, but nothing I had mentioned in the 2017Makenine. Oops…

What are the lessons for 2018?

In my last post, I did mention that my realization that I wouldn’t be able to document all my sewing in blog posts but when I counted how many garments I blogged vs sewed, I realized that out of the 17 handmade garments for myself, I only blogged 5. That’s really low in my opinion. Even if 5 of the 12 un-blogged items are samples for Sew News that I  cannot blog them before the issue they are featured gets published, that still leaves 7 garments that could have made it to the blog.  I will try to post some of them in 2018 and I hope it won’t bother you. Let’s just pretend that I’m super professional and I plan my content in advance!

I will not be making a #2018Makenine plan for several reasons. First, i don’t think that the #2017Makenine helped me focus my sewing. I sewed what I already knew I would make and, unsurprisingly, didn’t sew the ones I wasn’t sure about. Just for the sake of making a plan, I tend to include clothes that I’m not 200% excited about. There is no value in doing that. Secondly, in my experience, when moving to a different country, it takes some time to reevaluate what you need and want to wear. So I’m going to take some time thinking and maybe doing some planning. Just like everyone else in the sewing world, I’ve been reading the Curated Closet, and I also did a round of the 10×10 Challenge (you can read about it here and I’ll post more in details about it later). I want explore the intersection personal style and a handmade wardrobe and I will try to document the process.

Challenge 10x10 Sewing Tidbits-1

In order to plan be more mindful of what I sew and what I wear, I need to be realistic about my average sewing productivity. For 2018, my assumption is that I’ll sew between 15 and 20 garments for myself. 6 technically already decided on since I have a commitment with Sew News for 3 samples and we have already made plans for 3 pattern releases with Just Patterns. Ideally, everything I make this year will bring cohesion to my closet and contribute to a decrease in my fabric stash!

I’ll be back soon with my thoughts on a year of selling PDF sewing patterns but in the mean time I would love to hear your thoughts about wardrobe planning and sewing plans! Did you manage to follow-up on your 2017 plans? Are you taking part in the  #2018MakeNine? Happy new year!

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Linda Wrap Dress by Sewing Tidbits

My Just Patterns samples – Linda, Kate and Christy!

Dear readers,

 

First, let me thank you for your reactions on my last post. I received lovely messages in the comments, on Instagram and by email. In addition to people volunteering to become part of the Just Patterns Development Group, I had some great discussions about sewing, patterns and fashion!

With over 70 volunteers for the development group, it has been very difficult to restrict the  selection to 20 but we managed and now everybody is hard at work and already providing great feedback! To offer an alternative to those who want to ask questions while they sew our patterns or post their finished makes we also created a Facebook Community Group. I’m not much of a Facebook person myself but I’m surprised already at the fluidity of conversation it enables…

But let’s talk about today’s topic! This dress is my first version of our latest pattern release, the Linda Wrap Dress. I have been obsessed with this dress since Eira – The Pattern Line – made it. It’s for garments like this that I originally wanted to launch Just Pattern. I am just thrilled that it has finally joined of my closet!

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I could go on and on about this design because I love everything about it! I think it has great details, such as the collar, the metal buckle  and the big pockets. It also has a kind of uniform vibe that makes me feel extra confident on days I have to attend important meetings. A little like a man suit, but more interesting that its traditional female counter part, the sheath dress.

In case you are wondering, the only closure is at the waist. I recommend wearing a slip underneath unless you like to live dangerously! The skirt overlap does generally a good job at revealing only an attractive yet appropriate amount of leg. But I’ve been caught in some crazy NYC winds and luckily I was prepared!

 

Pattern


Pattern Link – Linda Wrap Dress by Just Patterns
Size – We ended up not releasing this size, equivalent to a 32 in our size chart.

The biggest disclaimer of this post is that I did not sew the pattern as is. As you know, I’m petite and I deliberately wanted to try a more fitted look than the one intended. I used the size we initially planned to release as a 34, I removed 1″ to the skirt length and 2″ to the sleeves length.

I think sizing down works  great for the bodice and the waistband, but I could have done with the extra ease in the hips area. For future samples I will also skip shortening the skirt and remove only 1″ of the sleeve length.

When we reviewed the fit and measurements of the final garment, we decided that it would be too small on most people. We moved all of our grading up one size as a result. But in case you are not into the relaxed look, sizing down is a great option.

 

Making


Fabric – Wool from Mood Fabric, I believe it was Rag&Bone
Notions – The 35mm buckle, eyelets and snaps (inside the belt) are from Botani in the NY Garment District.
Helpful resources – a list of useful resources for this pattern is available at Just Patterns.

Of course I am biased, but I find the construction of this dress very straightforward. I love that using french seams and sandwiching the bodice and the skirt between the 2 layers of the belt provides clean finish on the inside, no serging or binding required!

You may have seen on Instagram that I bought a Dual Compensating Raising Foot for my industrial machine and it really made the double topstitching easier. Since buying it I keep looking for excuses to double topstitch ALL THE THINGS!

The belt buckle is probably the only unusual part of the construction but I posted some pictures of the process and if you take your time it shouldn’t be hard to figure out.

Just Patterns Bias Slip dress by Sewing TidbitsJust Patterns Bias Slip dress by Sewing Tidbits

Pattern


Pattern Link – Christy Slip Dress and Kate Bias Top by Just Patterns
Size – 34

I used our bias slip dress pattern to create a lingerie style slip. I needed a V neck to match the wrap dress plunging neckline,  so I used the neckline of our bias top pattern. And since I was going to cut some silk I decided that I may as well make a lingerie tank too!

Making


Fabric – Nude Silk Charmeuse from Mood Fabric
Notions – Gold lingerie strap hardware from Botani.
Helpful resources – a list of useful resources for this pattern is available at Just Patterns.

I used a single layer of fabric instead of 2, finished the edges with bias binding and made adjustable lingerie straps instead of spaghetti ones. I wouldn’t say that it is a very quick sew because of the time it takes to cut properly but the construction is relatively fast. I always find my slip/tank projects very rewarding. The garments feel luxurious and get worn a lot (including just to sleep!!) and the time involved is reasonable.

 

I really love those 3 additions to my handmade wardrobe and I can predict that the wrap dress is going to remain a favorite for the years to come. After all, isn’t creating pieces that will last longer than some cheap fast-fashion option what we try to achieve as sewers? Which of your handmade garment(s) has endured the test of time? I would love to hear your thoughts on creating a wardrobe that lasts!

Just Patterns Linda Wrap Dress

A project 17 years in the making…

Dear Readers,

I remember vividly why I started sewing and I bet you do too. In my case, I was 14, I had my mind set on a particular dress I saw at the mall for the holiday season and I had no money to buy it. It’s was a bustier dress with a floor length a line skirt. The fabric was a cheap purple woven with some stretch and a tulle overlay. One of my friends was fortunate enough to own it, so I borrowed it and decide to recreate it. I went to “Marché Saint Pierre” in Paris, bought inappropriate fabric and a plastic zipper. I went home and got to work. No pattern, no tutorial, nothing… Unsurprisingly, I ended up with a big mess. But I took it to a professional seamstress, aka my grandmother, who was very encouraging and ended up saving the day.

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Just Patterns – Bias Slip Dress

With time sewing has become something more than just owning clothes I couldn’t buy, I learned to enjoy the process of making and recognized it is an essential part of my inner balance. But why I sew has never really changed, it has always been about making the clothes I couldn’t afford or find. The clothes that I find appealing today are not the same but I still can’t buy them… Setting high-end RTW as my standard is a sure way to get frustrated. With some exceptions, there are no patterns, books, or YouTube videos teaching you how to make what is for sale in Galeries Lafayette or on Net-a-porter. I bought all the books, trying to teach myself pattern making. I took drafting and draping classes at FIT. I even took a CAD pattern making class.

Getting the fit and the silhouette right is a time consuming affair. And even more time consuming than drafting a shell/sloper/block is adding everything else, the pockets, the closure, the collar, etc. All the little elements that make or break a design. As you witnessed if you have been following this blog for some time, I kept going back and forth between making my own patterns, hacking existing ones and sewing garments straight out of the envelope.

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Just Patterns – Linda Wrap Dress

In addition, sewing patterns are only one side of the equation. Construction is the other side, and home sewing has its own set of rules. Some of those rules are linked to the home sewing machines, some are from past practices and some are adapted from “industry” or from “couture”, etc. What they have in common is they are not equivalent in terms of the results they provide. For instance, like many others, I find that sewing with smaller seam allowances is more accurate and reduces the need for trimming/notching, etc. But, because home sewing is somewhat codified, many pattern companies still release patterns with 5/8″ seam allowances. Yet in some cases, for instance when your fabric frays a lot, wider SAs may be a good idea. Let’s just say: it’s complicated…

How much the sewing world has changed in the last 5-10 years is something that I recognize and I write about regularly here. But I still feel that there is more to be brought to the table, and I’m going to assume that there may be others like me. Or rather, I’m going to test if others feel like me! While on maternity leave, I was obviously not seeing things clearly and I decided it was the perfect time (??!!) to release sewing patterns… I convinced Eira (from the The Pattern Line) to follow me in my madness, and we used her existing pattern library to choose five patterns. They were digitized and graded and four of them are already available in our Etsy Store.

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Just Patterns – Kate Bias Top

In a way, we followed the Minimum Viable Product approach that is so popular with Tech Start-ups. It consists in developing a new product with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters and to take their feedback into account to refine further iterations. This is guiding a lot of our choices for the project. The website, Just-Patterns.com is nothing fancy but hopefully it is functional. Our only “marketing” (that’s a big word for what we are doing…) currently is Instagram with @just_patterns and the patterns are for sale in an Etsy Store so that we don’t have to run our own e-commerce. The instructions are minimal by choice, because we want to keep the costs down and we believe that dressmakers have a mind of their own. You can suggest things but they always end up doing it their way. That’s for sure how we do things around here!

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Just Patterns – Pleated Skirt

To understand better how to improve, it’s crucial for us to get systematic feedback from our users. We currently systematically email a survey 30-45 days after the pattern purchase and we maintain a log of comments made to us directly by email/IG or that we find on blogs and sewing boards. This is something that we really want to take to the next level and in order to do that we are about to set up a pattern development group of 10-20 sewers to review our existing and future patterns. It’s similar to pattern testing, in the sense that the patterns will be provided for free and there will be some sort of deadline. But we want to make it a wider discussion space to review what is working and what is not. If you are interested, you can email me!

I think that’s already quite a long post, so I will leave it at that for today! I will of course keep running this blog for my personal sewing but also to keep you updated on how the Just Patterns project is going. I hope you find it interesting and that you don’t hesitate to comment if you have questions/suggestions/comments/criticisms! Everything is welcome and you know how much I love to discuss what is going on in the sewing world in the comments!!