Saturday, January 16, 2016

What I made to wear to the French Laundry

Spoiler alert: I didn't wear this outfit (insert sad face).

When I found out we had gotten highly-sought after reservations to the French Laundry, I immediately knew I wanted to wear something me-made.  After all, I was so proud of having worn a complete handmade outfit to Quince for my birthday.  But other than men having to wear a jacket, there isn't a lot of guidelines for what to wear to a 3-Michelin star restaurant.  So, I decided to try my hand at sequins...sequins are always fancy, right?

The fabric I selected online wasn't what I expected in person, and holding the length up to my body, I immediately saw the 70s (and not in a good way).  So my uncertainty of the taste-level of the fabric planted the seed of doubt into my mind.  My initial style plan was a simple A-line type dress.  Well, the dress length only accentuated the 70s-ishness of the outfit, so I scraped that idea and went with a simple top and navy slim pant outfit idea.
Sewing sequined fabric sucks.  We all know you have to remove the paillettes from the seam allowance, but you really do actually have to remove all the paillettes from the seam allowances. That took significantly longer than sewing the top.  The linear arrangement of square paillettes made matters so much worse (diagonal seams and darts were impossible).  I couldn't take it anymore, so I finished the neck, sleeve, and hem allowance with shimmery gold HugSnug.  I felt like this was a good solution, but the seed in my mind was growing and growing ("my garment is slap together!", kept running through my mind).  But, I figured with the right accessories, it might still be okay.  On to the pants!
I used the Amazing Fit slim pant pattern (Simplicity 1696) and this fabric from Mood for a pair of chic slim pants.  They turned out okay--not perfect.  But hey, I have these fab velvet heels to fancy it all up!
Our dinner reservations were at 5:30, and we were staying a 5 minute walk to the restaurant.  I dressed in my outfit but at 5:17, I got too nervous to wear a "handmade pants outfit" to the French Laundry and I quickly threw on my Plan B.  Plan B is NOT homemade, but designed by one of my favorites, Byron Lars (with the same awesome shoes):  

Between my uncertainty of the outfit, the grandeur of the restaurant's reputation, and the fact that I feel much more confident, stylish, and myself in a dress, I chickened out!  However, after seeing what other folks were wearing, I felt sad and disappointed that I didn't wear my own outfit.  It would have been perfectly appropriate, and even pretty cute, I think.  And much more comfortable.   By the end of the 8 course meal (and 7 desserts), I felt (and probably looked) like a stuffed sausage.  

So...unfortunately, the memory of our lovely experience at the amazing French Laundry now has a tinge of disappointment in myself for being a wuss.  Ugh.  We'll just have to go back again so I can supplant that memory with a new one (in which I proudly wear something homemade and tell the server that I don't like lamb!).  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Undocumented Garments of 2015

I don't need to review my year to recognize that I didn't blog a lot this year!   I sewed a lot less and had a lot less time to take photos and write posts, just in general.  But I sewed more than I reported, so instead of reviewing my "hits and misses" of 2015, I decided to post a photo or two of each garment I didn't blog about when I made it.  I just spent an hour digging through my wardrobe and photographing them all.  So, ladies and gentlemen, here are my Undocumented Garments of 2015.

Blouse and pants (made in June, worn to my birthday dinner at Quince in SF)

Blouse pattern: Myrtle, cropped by Colette Patterns
Blouse fabric: Britex Fabrics (not available online)
Pant pattern: self drafted
Pants fabric: Mood Fabrics (no longer available)

Summer top (made in July, first worn during our vacation in upstate NY)
Blouse pattern: self drafted
Blouse fabric: Britex Fabrics (no longer available)

Spotty blouse (made in August, first worn to my son's birthday party)
Blouse pattern: Alma blouse (with sleeve alteration) by Sewaholic
Blouse fabric: purchased in person at Hart's Fabric

Chambray shirt-dress (made in October, first worn to travel back to NY for my 20 year high school reunion!)

Dress pattern: elongated Granville button down, by Sewaholic
Dress fabric: Harts Fabric

Flannel PJ bottoms (made in October, I think)
Pants pattern: self drafted
Pants fabric: Harts Fabric (no longer available)

Funnel-neck dress (made in the fall sometime--maybe November?)

Dress pattern: vintage McCalls 2506
Dress fabric: Mood Fabrics

Lace-front top (made in December, to look "fancy" while spending way too much time outside on the playground with the kids)
Top pattern: Linden top, by Grainline
Top fabric: Mood fabrics (French terry and lace)

Silk peplum blouse (made in Nov/Dec as a muslin)
Blouse pattern: self drafted
Blouse fabric: vintage silk, purchased on Etsy

I didn't just sew garments that weren't documented!  Here are two Christmas gifts:

Jewelry roll (made in December, for my mother)

Roll pattern: Modkid 
Roll fabric: Tweed from FabMo, with some scraps from my stash

Waxed canvas shaving bag (made in December, for my husband)
Bag pattern: adapted from Thread Theory tutorial
Bag fabric and notions: Thread Theory kit

In 2016, I've already sewn a few garments.  I'll try to post photos before 2017 :)  Happy New(ish) Year!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fancy holiday skirt in silk taffeta

If you're coming from Britex, welcome!
With the holidays coming up, surely there are a few parties to attend, right?  The iridescent magenta-black color of this stunning silk taffeta is so joyous and opulent that I knew it had to be a sassy, swingy skirt for an evening fête! When the fabric arrived, I was surprised by how stiff, yet light, the taffeta was. My experience with taffeta is pretty limited, so I knew I had a challenge on my hands!
For the pattern, I used Sewaholic's Hollyburn skirt really only as a jump-off point.  First off, I removed the pockets.  This is the opposite of what I typically do, but I knew the style wouldn't look quite right with pockets (the sacrifices we make for fashion!)  Second, I increased the circumference of the skirt hem by about 18" by slashing and spreading the front and back pieces.   With the stiffness of the fabric, I felt like more weight would help it drape and increase the drama.
Finally, after attempting to insert the self-fabric waistband, I realized it simply wasn't going to work with the amazing stiffness of the fabric (at least in my inexperienced hands!).  Instead, I applied wide elastic to create the waistband.  This provided the needed give, and allows me an ounce of wiggle-room for all those party hors d'oeuvrs!
Even after significant pattern changes, the construction of the garment was a bit different than normal. I bound all seam allowances with hug snug, but chose not to press them open; the unusual shape of the skirt is accomplished by allowing the seams to fold inward.  For the hem, I eased the fullness and finished the edge with lace hem binding before hand-stitching it in place.  I worked on each section of the skirt independently (instead of continuously around the circumference) to maintain the in-folding of the seams.  
I channeled fellow Britex Blogger Laura Mae by pick-stitching the zipper--a first for me!  It was way easier than I expected, and while not perfect, I think it looks lovely on this garment.  I tried to make the stitches on either side match up, which makes a big difference, I think.
There is no crinoline or structure under this skirt, so while the rounded shape is due to the nature of the fabric, to keep the shape consistent while I move around, I utilized hem weights at each of the seams.  I have to say, it was kind of fun walking through the hardware store knowing I was shopping for a fashion project!  I used 4 (four!) stainless steel washers at each seamline (two stacked on each side of the seam).  
Did anyone else go to the Legion of Honor in SF to see High Style this past summer?  Clearly, the most amazing dress of all was the Four-Leaf Clover gown by Charles James--stunning!  My little skirt was greatly inspired by that amazing creation.   

Truly, I was thrilled (and a little scared!) to have the opportunity to work with this silk taffeta, so thank you to Britex for the drop-dead gorgeous fabric.  While it had some unique properties, it was surprisingly nice to work with and wasn't nearly as finicky as I had feared.  

My husband helped me with all my photos for this post.  I didn't use these pretty fall foliage shots for the Britex post, I still love them! While it looks pretty safe, between the heels and lack of peripheral vision with my glasses on, I almost tumbled from that fountain more times than I care to admit!  
2015 Resewlution, November garment #1

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wool knit Linden with lace overlay

If you are visiting from Britex, welcome!  

I was won over by the Linden sweatshirt, designed by fellow Guest Blogger Jen from Grainline Studios, after making it in a sporty quilted fabric.  But the wheels started turning immediately, and I felt like a lace-overlay version would take this basic wardrobe staple up a couple of notches.  

As luck would have it, I was due for my next project with Britex working with one of their amazing knits!  After working hard to narrow down the choices, I decided on this beautiful medium-weight wool knit fabric, in an extra-dark loden (almost black) color.  I'm a sucker for pale pink, so this cotton-blend lace was the perfect contrast.  The image below shows how nicely this wool drapes.  Very luxurious!
The Linden is a super quick sew, and creating the lace overlay only adds a few short minutes (with big impact!).   I wanted to adjust for turn-of-cloth, so instead of cutting both lace and wool exactly the same size, I first cut out the front piece from the wool (in the image, it is shown folded down center front).  I placed the wool on the length of lace, lining up the center front (the fold) with a motif on the lace that I wanted smack-dab in the middle of my finished garment.
Then, the lace was folded around the wool, carefully matching everything up and smoothing the fabric all around.  I pinned around the perimeter to avoid shifting, and cut along right along the wool fabric.  The dark wool is pretty well camouflaged inside the lace!  

After cutting, I carefully opened out both pieces and pinned along the edges, then basted them together.  

From there, the construction is exactly the same, including handling and sewing the neckline and hem binding.

Between this stunning wool knit and the cute lace overlay, this is quite the high-end and fashionable garment!  Such a satisfying project, and good foray into working with both knits and lace.  
Many thanks to Britex for providing the wool and lace fabrics! 

2015 Resewlution, October garment #2

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Renfrew top and a neckline conversion

I've made the Renfrew cowl neck top a couple times (here and here), and I love it.  The cowl is more like a floppy turtleneck, so for it to hang nicely, the fabric has to be pretty lightweight and drapey. After sewing up the Renfrew in this cute bicycle print (purchased at Harts, but it doesn't seem to be available at their online store), I realized that the cowl was just annoying.  It's kind of big and bulky, and doesn't lay quite right.

So after wearing it a couple of times, I realized that I could fix it!  I carefully cut off the cowl and used the fabric to cut the neckline binding.  In about 15 minutes, the neckline conversion was complete!
I love that--being able to make a garment into what you want from the start and/or making adjustments when you're done.  
And check out this completely unintentional awesome feat of matching (the arrow is pointing to the head of the rider from the binding matching the body on the shirt--crazy!)
I've made a few other garments lately, but I've been less good about documenting my work--I've got a Britex project (with mini-tutorial) coming up soon, and a Sewaholic pattern hack on the way!

2015 Resewlution, October garment #1