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!
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