I like to plan things. For me, that’s part of the fun for most of the things that require planning: all the lists and brainstorming and editing and scheduling is my idea of a good time. In the early days of this blog, I put a lot of plans out there and quite a few of them never came to fruition. (No one was paying much attention back then, but still.) Even though I wasn’t really accountable for anything in the beginning, it bothered me that so much was going un-made or ignored. It all felt kind of scattered and disorganized. Every once in a while something will fall through the cracks, but I really try to follow through on the ideas and plans I share now. The look in today’s post is a direct result of such plans, and it’s so satisfying to see the exact idea you had in your head finally come to life.
Last month, I had an idea. This pants pattern had just been released, and I knew I wanted to include a version in the black and white collection I’m working on. At the time, I was altering a white button-up blouse I made last year (replacing the pussy bow with a standard collar), and I instantly loved the classic combination of a white blouse with black pants. I wanted to elevate my basic white blouse a little, and I did that with rhinestone and beaded embellishment. I’ve been thinking about doing that for quite some time, because whenever I thought about the occasions for which I would wear a white blouse I couldn’t think of a reason why said blouse couldn’t have some sparkle on it. In talking through this look in Stories on Instagram last month I believe my exact statement was “Here’s the plan: black trousers with an embellished white blouse and black pumps. Because that’s how I can do black and white – if there’s sparkle involved!” And here we are.
Let’s talk about these pants first. Contrary to the lopsided ratio of skirts to pants I have (I only made one pair of pants last year), I actually love trousers. I made quite a few back in the day, and they’re something I really, really enjoy sewing. I’ve been a fan of wide leg pants for ages, because I have pretty athletic legs and a more generously cut leg is just more flattering on me. I was basically the last person on the planet to wear skinny jeans, and I always have to buy wide calf boots – so pants or jeans with a narrower leg have always scared me a little bit. There’s a fine line between a flattering, tapered leg and “Oh, Emily, how unfortunate” but this pattern gave me hope. It’s sort of a throwback to 80’s paper bag waist pants, and the leg of the version that I made (B) isn’t too tight or too baggy.
I did not make a muslin for these pants (risky, I know), but I checked and double checked the finished measurements before cutting. I usually wear a size 16, but I cut these in a 14. The only alteration I made was to hem them 2″ instead of 1 1/4″ that the pattern calls for. I made view B in black cotton sateen from JoAnn. I didn’t follow the order of operations for sewing, because the pattern would have you finish the edges of the fold-over facing before sewing the side seams, which is completely opposite how I was taught. I think the idea for that was to make it easier to install the zipper, because if you haven’t sewn the side seams together yet it’s not such a tight space to get that zipper in.
I sewed these pants in this order: side seams, inseam, crotch. Then I installed the zipper and finished that edge with bias tape, and then finished the edge of facing – then I sewed and topstitched the pleats and attached the belt loops.
I had just a few scraps of the gingham shirting left (used for a blouse, accents on the lining of the striped jacket, and waistband lining of a skirt coming soon), so I cut some bias strips and used those to finish the edges of the facing, the crotch seam, and the zipper. If I’d had more of the gingham, I might have also finished the side seams the same way. Just a nice seam finish, and it makes the insides look so polished.
Here’s the one and only pair of pants I made last year.
The blouse is my umpteenth version of Vogue 8772, and I originally made it early last year. After never wearing it as it was, I decided to swap the pussy bow for a standard collar, just like I did for the Christmas plaid blouse in December, (see the original here), and just like I will do for a couple others. This is an older pattern, but it’s my go-to, tried-and-true blouse pattern. I just adore the fit. Funny story though: the sleeves are a bit too long. I typically roll up the sleeves when I wear this blouse, but I kept the white sleeves unrolled and halfway through picture taking the other day I stopped and went, “Huh, how ’bout that, these sleeves are too long.” So there’s that. I also swapped the clear buttons for black buttons, and that detail alone I think really makes everything pop.
Here’s the original version of this blouse. Super cute, but I (sadly) never wore it. I think the pussy bow would be much better (and wearable) in a drapier fabric like crepe de chine or rayon.
For the embellishment, I used black glue-on rhinestones, gold glass bugle beads (sewn on), and silver Swarovski hotfix crystals. I fiddled around with different combinations of beads but ultimately went with this because it not only fits right in with the rest of the black and white collection, but with both silver and gold I’m not limited in terms what jewelry I can wear. I’m the girl who really likes silver and gold together. I think it’s a great pair. (For more information on the beads see this post from a couple weeks ago.)
Really, really happy with this look. I like the versatility of both pieces, and it was super fun to make a pair of pants after focusing on so many skirts lately. I have these pants cut out in white denim, and then I’ll probably make them one more time after that, in the wide leg version. I think they will be gorgeous in linen for summer – give me linen pants, flat sandals, a cotton blouse, and a Panama hat and I’m good to go.
Now, about those plans I talked about in the beginning. I was “planning” to have this post published yesterday, but time got the best of me this week. Sorry for the delay!
Spring plans are in the works, and I’m really excited about returning to color in a few weeks. Lots of cobalt, white, coral, Kelly green, and pops of light blue and pink are coming soon. (I haven’t started on this yet, just gathering swatches and thinking about what pieces I’d like to make.) Most of these fabrics are from my stash too, so only a few are new.
These fabrics are new and in stock if you’d like to grab some as well.
Royal Blue Nylon Outerwear (Planning a raincoat with this.)
Have a wonderful weekend! I’ll be back next week with more from the black and white collection. We’re getting to the fun part where things are being finished! In the meantime, I have wallpaper to hang in our powder room. Floors are going in on Wednesday!
First thing: I’ve never been super into Valentine’s Day. It’s not a holiday (do we even call it a holiday?) Ty and I have ever really cared about, but after realizing last year how much I love looking at and wearing red I’ll take any excuse to whip up something pretty and crimson. (I do like a lot of the Valentine’s candy though, and I can crush some chocolate covered strawberries.) My birthday is in January, so I usually got a little something that was Valentine’s inspired when I was growing up. One year when I was in middle school, my parents gave me a pair of pajama pants with little red hearts all over them. They were cotton and so soft, and they had a red grosgrain ribbon drawstring. I loved and wore those jammies for years until there were too many holes and frayed edges to go on. I’m not sure why I didn’t remember those pajama pants until a couple days ago, but had I been more on top of things I would have made myself a pair out of this fabric – but this top will do just fine. In fact, it’s so loose and comfy that it almost doubles as loungewear, and I do have some fabric left over, so maybe pajama shorts are in order. (Seriously, why didn’t I think of that sooner?)
When I decided to make a couple quick and easy projects for Valentine’s Day, I liked the idea of using this pattern. I’ve made it a couple times before, and it’s comfortable and very, very easy to sew. (It came together in a couple of hours the other day. Super quick.) I’m not usually a big fan of novelty prints, but this poplin was just too fun to pass up. I think it will look great as a swimsuit cover up this summer or paired with linen pants or denim shorts.
This pattern calls for two rows of elastic in the neckline, but I omitted the top row. I was aiming for the delicate ruffle it created by leaving out the top row of elastic, and it doesn’t impact the fit at all. I opted for hemmed sleeves instead of an elastic finish, just in the interest of keeping things loose and billowy. And, I gave it a go, but off-the-shoulder simply does not look good on me. I was hoping I would love it, but when I put this blouse on and tried it, I was disappointed. Plus, this way is more comfortable, and I never have to worry about the sleeves popping up off my arms. (Surely I’m not the only one who has experienced this and got bored with it real quick?!)
I had three projects planned for this post but as has been the case lately with the remodel going on, I just ran out of time before I could finish the third piece. The funny part is that it’s a really, really easy skirt! No biggie – it will be in Friday’s post. The other piece in today’s post is somewhat of a re-fashion. (Or maybe it’s just a save? A fix? A do-over?) Re-fashioning is this whole big thing, and there’s a big community of folks turning thrift store clothes into wearable, trendy pieces. My dabble into this concept is similar, except I’m using my own garment. Back in college, I spent a couple weeks in Europe the summer before graduation studying fashion forecasting. It was a quick trip (one week in London, one week in Paris), but of course I managed to find some wonderful fabric shops while I was there. (So yes, my habit of fabric shopping everywhere I go goes back years.) The day before we were supposed to leave Paris, a few of us decided to spend our free afternoon walking what felt like the entire city to this tiny fabric shop one of us had found. I can’t remember the name of it or where it was, but it was magical. It was small, probably the smallest shop I’ve ever been in, and it was packed floor to ceiling with designer fabrics. I was immediately drawn to this fabric, a red silk gazar. Gazar is like a double, or 2-ply, organza – it shares a lot of those characteristics, it’s just a little weightier and more opaque than organza. It’s one of the most special fabrics I’ve ever worked with, but it does require a little extra patience, because it has a tendency to shift around. It’s a very voluminous fabric, so it does well in designs with some oomph like full skirts or ballgowns. It would also make a great top with big statement sleeves.
I originally used this fabric on a project during my senior year. The assignment was to design something dramatic, and to think about the details in a non-traditional way. There had to be a collar, set in sleeves, some type of closure, and the garment had to be fully lined. I came up with something like a dress but not, like a coat but not. We ended up calling it the Opera Coat. The collar extended to the back, along with a row of non-functional but pretty fabric covered buttons. There were snaps in the front, and a fabric covered belt. It had a dropped waist and puff, 3/4 sleeves and it was fully lined.
These pictures are from the very first shoot we did in college. So, keep in that in mind – no one was a pro! (Also, I looked and looked, but I couldn’t find pictures of the back. If they eventually show up, I’ll add them.)
You know that box of unfinished or discarded projects we all have? Usually hidden in the attic or at the back of a closet somewhere? Yeah, I’m guilty of that too. I have a storage tub with a bunch of college projects in it, and every time we moved and I saw this project I always thought it was such a waste that it was living in a box. The fabric is too special, and the color is too pretty. So late last year I decided to save it. It was riddled with mistakes (I think I interfaced the sleeves – why, Emily, why?), and there was absolutely no way I’d wear it as it was. I removed the bodice, chopped off the skirt, cut a waistband, added a zipper, and dropped in a lining – and now it’s something I will wear. And this skirt is a perfect example of how gazar drapes: I am not wearing a petticoat. Gazar has natural volume and movement, and when it’s gathered it really goes to town.
The buttons down the back in the original version are very interesting, and I knew I wanted to keep that detail. There was a lady in California who had a small business making custom covered buttons and belts, and that’s how these came to be. I think she had an ad in Threads magazine or something (I can’t remember how we discovered her), but a bunch of us sent her fabric to have buttons and belts made for various projects. The buttons and belt are what makes this skirt special to me, but silk gazar is not necessarily the best option for things like that. Over time, the edges have worn and faded slightly, but oddly I kind of like that. It’s like piece of vintage clothing, which is kind of endearing and special. I’m wearing my embellished blouse with this skirt, and you’ll see it again on Friday. I am absolutely giddy about that blouse!
I’ve been working on this skirt off and on for a couple of months now, and I’m really, really glad I finished it. It’s not an everyday skirt, but it will absolutely get more wear now than it would have otherwise. It’s a fun reminder of a special time in my life and also how far I’ve come since then.
Now, about my last post. I want to say just a couple things about it, and then we’re never wasting another second worrying about it. I think I was more bothered by the whole thing than I thought, which is why I was so moved to address it. The fact of the matter is that I should have taken the high road and ignored it completely. After that post went live, I felt uncomfortable and icky for a few days. Here’s the thing: it will never, ever be the case that everyone likes you or supports you or thinks you’re doing good work – no matter who you are or what you’re doing. So, don’t worry about it. Instead, focus on the things that are worthwhile and meaningful and make you happy. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation where a group of catty, gossipy people are saying things about you, be better than me. Do better and react better than I did, and just rise above it.
If I reached other folks out there encouraged them by talking about it, great. But I think more than anything, I contributed to the ugliness, and only added fuel to the fire. So there will be no more of that in this space. We’re going to move on, and go back to what we’re here for, and that is to share information, encourage each other, and enjoy the craft of sewing and designing. So on this day of love, let me apologize for a brief walk through the gutters, and tell you that a great lesson has been learned. Let’s just be nice to each other, what you do say?! I greatly appreciate all of your comments, and I also heard from some of you via email, and I’m thankful for those notes too. Thank you.
Happy Valentine’s Day! <3 I will be back on Friday with more finished pieces from the black and white collection. I’m glad it’s almost finished, because I have more than moved on (in my mind) to spring and all the vivid, fresh colors.
P.S. A quick-ish, unrelated life update. The remodel continues, but we finally have running water again in the kitchen. Backsplashes are being installed as I type this, and floors are going in next week. A few of our light fixtures are being delivered today, and I’m really excited to see those. Still tons of work to do, but we’re getting closer to the finish line with every passing day.
The crazy part is that this is just phase one of this whole thing. The master bathroom is a complete and total disaster, so we’ll be ripping it out and fixing it next year. So even once the kitchen is finished, we won’t actually be ready to relax in this house as it is. But, one thing at a time. I’m so excited to see this kitchen when it’s finished!
One of the comments on the striped jacket post was from Sarah May (hey, Sarah!), and she very sweetly mentioned Olivia. Some of you have mentioned her or asked how we’re doing since she died in October, and I can’t quite put into words how touched I am by that. I miss that little dog every single day. After trying to distract myself for the first few weeks after we put her down and ultimately having a bit of a breakdown because I suppressed my grief about it, I feel better about it these days. I’m not even remotely ready to get another dog though. Harrison is quite enough for now, and he’s doing just fine. He’s lazy and funny and cute, and we love him.
Ty and I had to swing by the flooring place a couple weeks ago to pick our baseboards, and the shop owner was there with her dog. I forgot my coffee in the truck, so Ty went into the showroom before I did. When I walked in I saw him crouched down petting a dog. In front of him sat the most darling little lab mix with coloring and big brown eyes just like Olivia. She had the sweetest face and cute little floppy ears, and had sat down in front of him and given him her paw. Lots of dogs are trained to do that, and our Olivia was one of them. The moment I saw that dog I completely lost my composure and started I crying. Big, uncontrollable Texas-sized sobs.
You know how dogs sense our emotions? Some can be very comforting in a situation like that, and this dog’s reaction to my overwhelming sadness was both heartbreaking and comforting. She all but climbed into my lap and nuzzled her face into my neck and licked my face. Harry, bless his heart, doesn’t really do that. He’s much more interested in his next meal or chasing the deer out of the back yard. He also loves a good nap on the balcony.
All of that to say that I’m still dealing with the loss of Olivia, but I know we’ll welcome another dog into our family one day. I just have to get past wanting another one because I want it to be her, not because I want to enjoy a new puppy that has their own personality. I’ll get there. In the meantime, we have a house to finish, and garments to sew!
I have always had a thing for stripes. Talk about charming and interesting – and don’t get me started on the potential for playing with directions and angles and placement. Stripes are one of those prints that always catch my eye (along with gingham and florals), and over the years I’ve logged hundreds of hours making garments using striped fabric. Most have been successful, like today’s jacket, and some have been massive disappointments (I still cringe when I think about this dress). One of my all-time favorite things ever is this skirt I designed a few years ago. Essentially, It’s just a half circle skirt with pleats that I separated into sections to create the stripes. So striped fabric doesn’t always have to be something you buy – you can absolutely create it yourself. At the end of this post, I’ll include some photos of a few things from the archives that are great examples of that. But first, back to the reason we’re here today: the black and white striped jacket.
I mentioned last week that I’m currently working on a group of garments that are all black and white. The collection is just about finished, and with only two exceptions, it is exactly what I planned – and this jacket is one of those exceptions. After cutting a black and white striped dress, I had some fabric left over. I’m making a concerted effort to use every inch of my fabrics, and when I saw what I had left to work with it came to me that this jacket would be a perfect use for it.
Also, side note: the black and white striped dress is the other exception. It turned out to be a disaster with a broken invisible zipper and a so-so fitting bodice. I scrapped the bodice entirely, but I saved the skirt so I was able to turn a negative into a positive, and the skirt is a great basic. I’ll probably get more use out of the skirt than I would have the dress, so it worked out. But then I had a group of separates and no dresses, so I added a white linen shirtdress to the lineup and called it good. I’ll probably have the collection finished in about a week or so. Finally, yay!
I post progress pictures on Instagram a lot, and when I posted a shot of the front of the jacket last month, someone asked me what view of the pattern it was, or how I knew to cut it like this. The answer is that there is no “view” for this jacket – I just knew it would work. The jacket is designed in sections which is a great canvas for something like this, and it’s also a great showcase for embroidery (you saw that in its sister jacket in December). That’s the thing with patterns: look at them less for what’s presented to you on the envelope and more with an eye for what you can do with it. This pattern is also a great opportunity to mix prints together. Pair a stripe with a floral or go with a solid and a coordinating print. Another option is something like view B, with the same fabric in a different scale. So, a larger scale eyelet for the middle pieces and a smaller scale eyelet for the yokes and lower bands. Instant interest!
I cut the front, back, and sleeves on the bias, and the yokes and lower sleeve and jacket pieces are all cut on the crosswise grain. The front band is cut on the straight of grain. This fabric is something I found at Ikea of all places (happened to see it when I was there for a couple lamps and storage boxes), and it’s 100% cotton duck. It would also be great in home dec applications, but there’s no finish on the fabric and it’s not stiff or scratchy – making it just as useful for certain garments. I never considered shopping the home dec department for fabrics until I was in college. A girl came to tailoring class one day with her project, and she was using the most gorgeous yellow and white damask that she’d gotten at from an interiors showroom. It was soft and all cotton, and seeing that jacket was all it took for me to look at fabrics differently. Now, not all home dec stuff will work for garments, but a lot of it will.
Front pattern piece with bias grainline.
I made bias tape from scraps of the black and white gingham I used for a blouse, and sandwiched those between the yoke and lining. It’s a nice detail that uses scrap fabric and elevates the inside of the garment nicely. I love doing things like that. (The wrinkles on the lining will happen after a good pressing or steaming. It’s normal and no biggie.)
I cut two of the middle back piece instead of cutting it on the fold, because I wanted a chevron down the middle.
Fabric.com has a great black and white stripe, and it’s very similar to what I used to make this jacket. It’s part of the Premier Prints Collection, which are traditional home dec fabrics. Just be mindful of the care instructions when shopping for this kind of fabric. Always pre-shrink, and avoid anything with a special finish on it.
Because there’s so much potential with this jacket, I’ll probably make it again later this year. It’s very, very easy to make, but the fit is boxier so keep that in mind. I’ll have more photos of this jacket on me in a week or so. Things are just so crazy here right now (as I type this our countertops are being installed and we just got a delivery with the powder room toilet and sink, as well as our kitchen faucets and disposals). Taking pictures is already such a hassle, so I’ve had to put that on the back burner until I have a big group of things to photograph all at once. Sorry about that, guys. I know how helpful it is to see these things on a real person. I’ll be back on my photography game soon.
Now, for the archived projects for a little stripes inspiration. I designed this dress a few years ago for a spring collection, and I love it. I’d actually like to make this one again. Love the baby blue and white together too. Each section/stripe is its own pattern piece, so this dress took quite some time to make. The pattern took a while, and so did the construction. It’s all worth it though, because practice and experience is what makes us better.
This is another striped dress I designed back in the day. I think some of the sections are a bit wide and so much white right across the bust is a bit distracting, but I still like this. Funny side note: I entered the navy version of this dress in a contest sponsored by Threads a few years ago and won. It’s how I got my DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 25!
This dress is from Spring 2013. I’d really love to have some of that fabric again!
I designed an apron collection for holiday one year, and this was one of them. This was called “The Gourmet” and as soon as I remembered this apron I immediately put on my list of things to make. This is so charming! I’ll have to add some pockets for functionality this time though. Ha!
Striped projects are always such a fun challenge, and I’m excited to tackle a few more throughout the year. The next striped project you see will probably be out of this raw silk. Love those colors!
I want to end today’s post by mentioning something that’s been on my mind for the past couple of days. The admin dashboard for this blog shows me all sorts of data, including referring sites. The other day, I noticed a new link that had directed someone to my blog. Out of curiosity, I followed it and I was led to the ugliest, most absurd discussion amongst fellow bloggers and readers about the people and things they hate in the sewing community. I was stung by some of the things that were said, but I was also simultaneously disappointed and not surprised that there’s a group of folks out there who delight in taking others down. What kind of person must you be to intentionally sign up for a site like that and then take time and energy to actually post on it?
I mention this because I know there are a lot of you who follow this blog because you’re on a journey like mine, and you’re also putting yourself out there every time you write a post or present your work to the world. It’s so sad that the jealous, talent-less wannabes come out of the woodwork and bond over their shared disdain for someone, and turn what is supposed to be a supportive, encouraging community into something nasty and lot like a high school cafeteria room. I’ve developed a pretty thick skin over the years (I’m getting better, anyway), so the initial sting of the comments has worn off. I have to laugh at these parasites and the toxicity they are carrying around. What a burden that must be! The funny part is that I know who a few of these people are and, ultimately, I’m sorry that they feel the way they do. You know how I feel about them? I don’t. I am too busy living life and trying to do good work to even worry about it.
One of my goals with this blog is to encourage fellow sewists to keep learning, try new things, and enjoy the process of being creative. The minute the joy is sucked out of that and we start to worry about what everyone else thinks, especially the morons hiding behind fake names and a computer screen, is the moment we join their ranks. I choose to live my life and present everything I share in a positive, fun way because I can’t imagine doing it any differently. You should do the same. And remember, if you ever stumble upon the haters, let that serve as your motivation to keep on keepin’ on.
I hope you have a great weekend, and I’ll be back next week with a fun post for Valentine’s Day and another piece from the black and white collection. But first, I’m headed to JoAnn for some white linen and black buttons for my shirtdress. Happy sewing!