linen-chambray alder shirtdress

by Nicole on October 16, 2015

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This is the dress that did not want to be blogged. I actually made it at the very beginning of September, and had the best of blogging intentions at the time. I was even going to find a fun location for it as part of Gillian’s Better Pictures Project! But then I was feeling uninspired to sew, and uninspired to take pictures, and then the more I kept wearing the dress, I kept thinking that maybe it was just frumpy and not actually the easy, breezy casual-cool I was hoping for.

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My unease could be due to the fact that this dress matches my linen bed-sheets almost exactly. At first I thought this was a cool thing, like I guess my fondness for gray linen means I could totally make it in a commune or post-apocalyptic world. But then I was like, wait, maybe I shouldn’t be happy my clothes look like a cult uniform. Maybe I am wearing bed sheets and maybe that’s not a good look.

Photographic evidence of dress and bed sheets:

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Looking at these pictures, I’m still sort of mixed. I like the dress in some photos, but not in all. I’m definitely going to keep wearing it, but I’m thinking maybe this will be my only Alder. I think this style accentuates my bust more than I’d like. Combined with the lack of waist definition, the dress honestly makes me feel a little matronly.

So when I’m feeling a little meh on something, I turn to my feel-good shoes–my Swedish Hasbeens. I swear, these shoes fix every qualm I have with clothing. Anytime I’m meh about something, I just THROW IT ON WITH SOME HASBEENS, and guess what, problem solved! I can honestly say I feel kind of like a weird person to admit that I actually have “power shoes”, but uh, it’s true.

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Anyway, onto dress details…yes, more linen, because temps are still in the 90’s in Texas. Kill me. This gray linen-chambray is from… you guessed it, Blackbird Fabrics, my favorite fabric shop. I already knew I loved the fabric after making two linen-chambray Southport tanks in a different colorway, and again, the fabric was great to work with. It sews and presses easily, and the only thing you really have to be careful with is not to distort the weave when picking up pieces, pressing, or sewing seams.

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The pattern is the Grainline Alder Shirtdress in View B. I made a size 14 with my usual adjustments (a 2″ FBA and 1/2″ forward shoulder adjustment) and am pretty pleased with the fit. I admit to skipping a muslin entirely, as I didn’t want to do all the work of a shirtdress on something I couldn’t wear in the real world, and I felt confident I’d get a good fit with my usual adjustments. And hooray, I did!

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This was my first time making a shirtdress, and actually my first time making a collar and collar stand as well. It was fun! I used a mix of the sewalong and the pattern instructions and had no trouble whatsoever. And damn, this dress feels so well-made! All of the yoke seams are enclosed using the burrito method, I serged all the other seams, and the armholes are finished with strips of bias.

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Glad to have finally blogged this dress, even if I’m still unsure of this silhouette on myself. What silhouettes do you shy away from? What are your favorites? And tell me–do you have “power shoes”, and if so, what are they?

life lately 10/14/15

by Nicole on October 14, 2015

I know, it’s been a super long time since I posted last! I don’t have anything finished to share today, but just thought I’d give a little life update so you all don’t think I’m dead.

*I actually finished an Alder dress (the view with the gathered skirt) like a month and a half ago, but still haven’t taken blog photos of it. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it! It’s one of the most well-made things I’ve sewn, but I still feel a little mixed about the dress. Sometimes I wear it and feel cool and modern, other times I feel kinda frumpy. Hopefully I’ll get pictures of it soon.

*In general, I feel like I’m at a weird crossroads with what I want to sew. I’ve been thinking recently that the clothes that are my favorite to wear are the ones that are the most comfortable. I’m not talking “secret pajama dresses” here or clothes that are about lounge-comfort, but clothes that I can comfortably move around and be active in–crawling around on the floor with my nephew, walking four miles to a restaurant, etc. So I’ve mostly been reaching for activewear and tennis shoes. I felt tempted to buy Sewaholic’s new activewear line, but then I realized that I don’t actually WANT to sew my own activewear. I like plain black capris and all that’s important to me is that the fabric is opaque enough for me to do squats in! For a top, I actually prefer a plain cotton tank top to the usual exercise tops made with technical fabrics, and already have about 15 different colored cotton tanks, so I think I’m good there too. So I want to make some more comfortable basics for wearing to work or when I want to wear something other than workout clothes on the weekends. For me, this means Ginger Jeans and easy tops. So I think I’ll finally be making the higher rise Gingers soon, and simple tops like the Southport Tank (love it layered with a cardigan), Grainline Scout, and Deer & Doe Plantain. What else would you wear with high-rise jeans?

*I’m also quite keen to sew up Deer & Doe’s Arum Dress and Fumeterre Skirt, and some Closet Case Files Netties to go with the Fumeterre. Maybe some Cake Espresso Leggings and a Deer & Doe Bruyere too. And some Grainline Archers. (Clearly my fall/winter list is a little ambitious…) And I also have a half-cut Zeena dress on my table that I need to finish.

So if I haven’t been sewing, what HAVE I been doing???

*Number one on my list has been working out. I’ve set a consistent schedule and am starting to feel really good with where my fitness is headed. I lift weights at Grassiron twice a week, do two days of harder cardio twice a week (currently loving Fitness Blender‘s free videos thanks to Sallie), and aim for one day of less-intense cardio (going for a walk or playing some easy tennis), and one day of yoga. I am LOVING how good I feel physically, how accomplished I feel when I can add more weight or more reps, and how much fun it actually is.

*As usual, we’ve been cooking a lot. I’ve actually been experimenting with my diet somewhat, as working out at Grassiron has taught me that I should probably be eating a lot more protein than I was. We don’t typically buy a lot of meat for a slew of reasons, but we’ve been adding more to our shopping list over the past few weeks and it hasn’t been so bad. I really hate the boring meat + veggie + starch formula, so we’ve been trying to make higher-protein meals that are at least more interesting. Right now I’m really digging meals with a mix of proteins so that I don’t have to eat a gigantic chicken breast for dinner. For lunches this week, we did one with a baked sweet potato topped with a mix of crumbled sausage and white beans, drizzled with a spicy-herby-yogurt sauce (in hindsight I would have added sauteed greens for more veggies). We also did another lunch with pureed beans (almost like mashed potatoes), mushroom gravy, sauteed long beans, and soft-boiled eggs. For breakfasts we do stuff like scrambled eggs with lentils or beans, some cooked veggie like squash or greens, and a raw veggie like tomatoes, plus some avocado or a tiny dollop of sour cream. Our aim is for nutritious meals that still have that little fun element that keeps them interesting. If you guys are interested, I can write up a post with a lot more of these simple, healthy meals. Tell me your favorites, too!

*I’m also (slowly) knitting this cool Dreiecke beanie for myself in a lovely wool-silk blend I picked up locally. Can’t wait to finish it and wear it (although today’s high is still 94 so it’s not like that will be anytime soon…why, Texas, why!?).

*Very very obsessed with the band Haim right now. I’m only like two years behind, what? Also, have you heard the Decemberist’s Hazards of Love album? I don’t know how I’d never heard it until recently. It’s an awesome rock opera from several years ago and totally blew me away. One of my favorites of all time now.

*Halloween is my favorite holiday and is just around the corner! We’ve been watching scary movies to really get us in the mood. Just watched The Loved Ones and that’s now up there with my favorites (I will say that it’s, um, a little hard to watch at parts, but the horror is super creative and fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously). We’re also working our way through Over the Garden Wall. What are your favorite horror movies? My all-time favorite horror movie is The Descent. If you like horror and haven’t seen it, it’s a must-see!

*And speaking of movies, a few weeks ago we attended Fantastic Fest, a genre film festival we’ve gone to every year for the past 4-5 years. This year, we broke our record and saw 31 movies in one week. I’ll have a post up soon sharing everything we saw.

Whew, what a brain dump! What’s going on with you guys lately? Are you dressing up for Halloween? What are your fall/winter sewing plans? What are your favorite healthy meals?

handmade lingerie

by Nicole on August 19, 2015

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Hello, hello! Who’s ready to see a bunch of pictures of BOOBS? Featuring real lumps, bumps, stretch marks, and bad tan lines! (And a shampoo cameo or two, oops!)

I think posting half-nakey pics of myself on the internet calls for a bit of explanation. Not about why, because I don’t think I should have to justify that. People see me in public in a bikini, right, so why should a bra & undies be any different? I guess the explanation is more about why I felt it was important for people to see a body like mine in garments like this. The thing is, I don’t think there should be anything shocking, or brave, or sexual, about posting pictures like this. I like my body and I’m proud of it because of what it can do. This body takes four mile walks to grab a bite to eat. This body swims laps for 30 minutes straight, can run an 11 minute mile, can downward dog with the best of ‘em. This body rides bikes to the park and plays tennis and lifts weights and does squats and even sometimes does burpees. A year ago, I couldn’t do a lot of that stuff. But a year ago, I decided to stop hating my body and wishing it was smaller, and instead decided to accept myself as I was. Only after accepting my body and learning to love its softness and curves did I finally feel committed to taking care of it. And as sort of a funny a result, I have lost quite a bit of weight in the past year or so, but it hasn’t been to look skinnier. It’s because I finally appreciate my body for what it’s like in this very moment that I want to take care of it, to feed it food that makes it feel good, and to do activities that make it feel good. And feeling good and strong and happy makes me feel proud of my body, almost the way you feel proud of a garment you really took your time on. We tend to feel proudest of the garments with the prettiest ‘guts’, yeah? These might not always be the most flattering or the trendiest or get the most likes, but we feel good about them because we took the time to show them love, to say that this garment deserves something special. So I’m posting these pictures as a love letter to my body, in its current state, to remind myself that this body deserves something special. And I think yours does too, no matter what it looks like on the outside.

So, uh, now that we’re done with the sappy stuff, should we move on to the pattern?

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This is the Cloth Habit Watson Bra & Bikini. First off, let me say that this was my first stab at making lingerie, and HOLY CRAP, IT WAS FUN. Seriously, I got all the same feel-goods that I get from making jeans. There’s just something about that kind of specialty sewing that gets my brain all excited. In fact, I made both the bra and underwear in one sitting, and when we went to dinner later that night, my brain couldn’t stop thinking about how much fun it is to sew lingerie elastic, haha!

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For a first attempt at lingerie, I highly recommend this pattern. The instructions were really great, so great that I barely even needed help from the sewalong (although I did use the sewalong method for the undies to get a cleaner finish). I did make several mistakes along the way, but nothing a seam ripper couldn’t fix (and it was all user-related, like applying elastic to the wrong side or getting a pucker in my cup, grrrr). Also I do have some wrinkling in the cradle (my milliskin must have stretched out a little more than the lining, oops), but it doesn’t really bother me.

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The fabric and notions all came from a kit I bought from Blackbird Fabrics, and I definitely recommend them. Caroline has such good taste in fabrics, and I love how pretty this bra came out. Plus it comes with literally everything, even the powernet and a little bow (!), and I’ve heard that some of the kits out there don’t come with all these things. The only thing I didn’t like about the kit is that the notions weren’t labeled, so for a total lingerie novice like me, it was a little confusing. I wasn’t sure which elastic I was supposed to use where. I ended up using the thinner elastic on all parts of the undies (which I made first), but I’m not sure if that’s right because I ended up running out and had to use the thicker elastic on the neckline of the bra. It looks fine, but I’m pretty sure I messed that part up.

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I made a 38C for the bra and an XL for the undies. Word to the wise–trust Amy’s instructions for the sizing! I was seriously skeptical as I made this bra because all my RTW bras have smaller bands and larger cups (my sports bras are all 32H, and my everyday bras are 34DDD), but I think the fit is pretty comfortable and wearable. The top of the cradle doesn’t sit flat against my chest, but I highly doubt a bigger size would fix that. It seems like big boobs will always sag a little in a soft bra like this and will cause that part of the cradle to push out, so I’m not too worried about it. I do have a bit of breast tissue under my arms that isn’t all the way encapsulated by the cups, but I don’t know if that means I need a bigger cup altogether, or if I maybe just need to slightly redraw the cradle & cup to accommodate that extra half-inch of side boob.

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Will I jump into more lingerie making now that I’ve made my first set? I do have plans to make another Watson using another kit I bought from Blackbird, but I think I’ll just stick to sewing lounge bras like this for now. I’m really happy with the bras I buy locally, and don’t really want to have to learn all the extras that come with underwires and whatnot. But I definitely want to make more undies and soft bras, if only so I can have more fun sewing in lingerie elastic!