DIY

shiny, pretty, reflux

Hi party people! My favorite greeting is very appropriate since this blog post is all about a party dress I recently made. Not too long ago, some college friends of ours got married in Chicago. About eight and a half days before the wedding, I realized that I had nothing to wear. Being a broke student, especially one working seventy hours a week on their sub-internship (medical school vocabulary for a clerkship you do during your fourth year where you basically have all the responsibilities as an intern but with more supervision/you don’t actually order any treatments on your own), I had neither money nor time to fart around doing my least favorite thing: clothes shopping. So, I decided to take the easy way out and sew my dress. If that doesn’t make sense to you – it shouldn’t! Because it doesn’t. I am a fool.

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…a DANCING fool.

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The pattern is Simplicity 1873, and the fabric is some polyester sateen stuff that I got at my cherished Textile Discount Outlet. (As the youths would say, that store = bae.) It definitely isn’t the greatest quality material, but the watercolor print just really spoke to me during one of my fever-dream shopping sessions there. So a few yards came home with me.

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I may have sewn multiple knit garments over the course of a day, but this is the first article of clothing from woven material that I made from start to finish in a less-than-24-hour period. I am very much a “let’s sew for an hour, make a mistake, put it down and come back days later” sort of person, not so much a “I’m going to sew until my eyeballs bleed” sorta gal. Unfortunately for my sanity, my work schedule prevented me from starting the project until 5PM the day before the wedding – consequently, I did what I could to save time here. First, there’s no lining – the armscyes and neckline are bias-bound. Second, I cheated on the hem and just did a straight stitch machine hem (sigh). Third, I usually sew a size ten and then fiddle with the bodice until it looks right, but this time I just sewed a straight size eight.(But I still sewed it all with French seams. Because I have no common sense.)

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Is this my best-fitted creation? Aw heck to the no. As you may have guessed by the title of this post, sewing that size eight was my downfall. It wasn’t that tight at the beginning of the evening, but after a very large rich meal full of red meat and some delicious meaty sauce type thing (clearly a foodie here), not to mention like eighty macarons because I have no dignity or restraint, the dress began to feel so tight that it ended up giving me the worst case of heartburn! I would have done unspeakable things for a couple Tums. But whatever. The night ended, I had lots of fun dancing, and I felt very shiny and pretty in spite of my terrible burps.

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taken at 4AM, after 6 hours of dancing and 5 hours of burping.

(All the nice-looking, obviously not-iPhone photos in this post were taken by Justin Barbin, a very talented photographer, NU alum, and former dorm-mate! You may also know him from his crazy bow tie style, which was recently featured on Buzzfeed.)

a gaggle of annas

Long time no talkies etc etc. I am not quite sure what I’ve been up to in the interim – still crafting a lot, but I think I’ve just been at work? Maybe? I may have also opened the Chamber of Secrets? It’s entirely likely because time is flying by so fast that I’ve gotta be possessed by Lord Voldemort’s diary or something like that. Yuk yuk. Anyway, like I said – I’ve still been crafting, but without blogging as much. I am dropping back into my corner of the internets to talk about my most favorite pattern of all time – the Anna dress from BHL. I know that I am super late to this excellent party, but I’m going to keep going with it until the cows come home.

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Anna One.

(This is a bit of a lie, Anna One is technically abandoned as a bodice muslin, in a very hideous pink and white and orange polka dot, but Anna One B is too cumbersome of a name so let’s just forget that the muslin ever happened. ANYWAY.)

I sewed this up in a wibbly wobbly stripey rayon challis from Girl Charlee. I really enjoyed working with this fabric, and when I went to the LA fabric district immediately after making this dress, I bought a ton more rayon challis. Yay! The biggest issue with this dress is the STRIPES. UGH. Another case of 2AM sewing on display right here – I wasn’t thinking, and didn’t make ANY effort to line up the stripes at all. Um. I am a fool. Anyway, this dress looks pretty darn weird because of it, but I still wear it because I love the silhouette so much and it feels so light and airy.

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my baby g is my #1 nerdy/90s throwback/annoyingly athletic accessory.

The back neckline gapes quite a bit more than the muslin did, which I attribute to a couple factors – I didn’t add the facing to the muslin, and it was significantly less drapey compared to the rayon challis. I love the thigh-high split, although I have the terrible tendency to (almost) flash my nether regions when I’m out and about walking around and I lift the skirt to step over something. Just another reason for David to be mortified constantly by me.

Anna Two.

For my next Anna, I used Ginger Makes’ tutorial on the Anna back neckline adjustment (so specific – lucky me!) to address the issue of shoulder gaping. I had never really made such a serious pattern modification that I felt compelled to re-trace it (hence my complete lack of preparedness/using wrapping paper as my new pattern paper). I felt so much like a grown up sewist afterward! I still went with the boatneck version, but I sewed the knee-length dress without a slit this time. The fabric I used was this very lovely floral poly crepe I found at Joann’s one day. It caught my eye as I walked by to go purchase something sensible, like zippers, and continued to catch my eye all the way to the cutting table. Ooops.

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With the back adjustment and some more new-to-me finishing techniques (I tried hand blind-stitching for the first time! SO FUN, I now want to put blind stitched hems into everything), trying out bias binding for the first time, etc. this turned out to be my most favorite garment I have ever made. It makes me feel so pretty (: I think it fits pretty well – my one complaint (to no one in particular, really) is that I always feel like I’m going to pop open the bust pleats when I sneeze. God bless my ribcage. I have worn this dress quite a few times since making it – it’s always my “today is going to be a good day, gosh darn it” dress. (In the first photo, I am pictured with my lovely family wearing the dress to my sister’s blue coat ceremony! She just started veterinary school. Yay Annie!!)

me-made-may

Late to the party, as per usual. But I’m here! So let’s move on. I spent a lot of time thinking about my MMM ’15 goals, mostly because I’m going to have a weird month. As I mentioned previously, I’m spending most of May studying to take Step 2 of my MD licensing exam, which means that I will be spending most of May at home alone with my cats, not wearing pants. I cannot possibly describe my own level of excitement. However, this isn’t conducive to wearing me-made garments beyond my Madeleine bloomers. For this reason, I think it would be a bit silly to make a rock-solid MMM ’15 pledge to wear me-mades all the time. However, my need for sanity in the form of sewing breaks (in addition to my constant need for more clinic clothes) means that I want to take this month to focus on getting into a groove of sewing more regularly, even when I’m busy.

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Also, when I’m not at home, I’ll be in one of two very exciting places: Champaign, Illinois, watching my excellent and intelligent sister graduate from undergrad, and Los Angeles, California, checking out the city with David and his padres to see if we could possibly live there for a few years while I do residency. Both of these trips are very thrilling, and very deserving of an excellent me-made wardrobe.

I, Ellie Ryan, of jelliefish crafts, pledge to sew for at least one hour every day of May (with the exception of the days I spend on vacation and thus away from my sewing machine). While on vacation, I will wear something me-made every day.

Ultimately, my goal is to have a couple iterations of the Anna dress (the By Hand London version, not the Frozen version) done by the end of the month. I’m toying with the idea of sewing a jazzed-up version of the Anna as a wedding dress, but I don’t want to commit to anything until I make it at least once. I’ve finished the bodice muslin.

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Since it’s already Sunday/Monday, I figured I’d do my first roundup post of MMM. I’ve surprised myself with the ease of wearing me-mades over the past few days. Hooray!

time for some nesting

Way back when, I wanted to be an interior designer. I spent a lot of time filling up papers with notes and drawings about all my cool ideas for rooms for both people and Barbie dolls. Probably for the better, I eventually left that dream by the wayside and set my overly ambitious heart on medical school.  On a totally unrelated note, if anyone ever wants to have a penguin-themed room in their house, let me know because I know an inner 8-year-old who could hook you up.

Even though interior designer is nowhere near the list of current career aspirations, I’m still sort of enjoying the process of making our apartment homey. We’ve been here for two and a half years and would like to stay here until I graduate school, (moving sucks and our couch is bigger than our door) so we have no excuse for not settling in.

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We may have made a little too much headway, in the form of accumulating lots of stuff. I’ve recently made some headway with this, though, thanks to a really awesome book I discovered through Apartment TherapyThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Mari Kondo. After I read this I immediately got rid of so much stuff. It was AMAZING. I didn’t follow her (kind of extreme) method to the letter, because I’m a student and I don’t have a huge quantity of time to devote to disposal of all the possessions that don’t bring me joy (every pair of work slacks I own, I’m looking at you), but I still do feel lighter and happier.

My proudest achievement in the living room is probably the gallery wall, inspired by the how-to post on A Beautiful Mess. Theirs might be much more chic than mine, but incorporation of my dad’s original “TURDIS” artwork means that my wall is still pretty darn cool.  Something about picture frames makes me feel like an adult in ways that I cannot describe.

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A lot of these things weren’t purchased by me, or were purchased so long ago that I have no idea where I got them. I did include links to some things below in case you are interested.

One of my favorite elements was a DIY collaboration between my mom and me. I recently discovered a large stash of needle threaders in a sewing basket that used to belong to my great grandma, and even though I don’t use them I couldn’t help but keep them (hoarder alert). I wanted to find a way to display them, so I asked my mom (who is very talented at repurposing books) to make me a cool sewing-themed shadow box. This is what she came up with! I just hot glued the needle threaders on.

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Next up? Tackling that ugly, sad lampshade. I’ve had this lamp for four years and it never fails to garner interesting comments from visitors. It started like this:

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I painted it green, partially because those little pinprick eyes scared the shit out of me. But I left the horrid lampshade as is (that is, after I very unsuccessfully tried to rip one of the flowers off the edge of the lampshade). I thought about buying a new one, but then I actually looked to see what lampshades cost. Highway robbery, people. And I couldn’t get one that would go with the lime green cats, which I obviously was unwilling to change. Then I saw a post somewhere about using tights to recover a lampshade: genius! I bought the biggest pair of tights I could find on Amazon, and they of course just happened to be a ridiculously loud color. It has a bit of an ombre effect due to the conelike nature of the lampshade, but whatever, I’m counting that as a design element.

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Oh man. This was a long post, and a long time coming. Let’s not talk about how long I’ve been working on this gallery wall. If you made it through then hooray!

Komova poster. Yarn pyramid. Frames and canvases: Michaels & Unique. Postcards: Fringe Supply Co, Monica Ramos. All photos are my own.

sew groovy

Have you ever encountered a piece of fabric and immediately known exactly what it was going to be? This was one of those fabrics for me.  I went to a Jo-Ann Fabric in Chicago for the first time ever (normally I go to the one in the town half an hour away from my parents’ house) and it BLEW MY MIND.  The Jo-Ann location I normally go to has about 1/3 the fabric that this location did, with almost exclusively quilting cotton, baby flannel prints, and licensed character/logo fleece. Not exactly the most inspiring fabric selection. But this Joann… HOO BOY. So many apparel fabrics! It was distraction city from basically the second I walked in the door. Whoops.

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Anyway, I spotted this knit fabric in passing, and it was just dying to be a knit wrap dress.  So of course I had to take it home and do its bidding.  Luckily, I found a tutorial for a Lady Skater pattern hack for a pseudo wrap dress.  It was very useful, and given the fact that I managed to use this pattern hack without any incident, it’s also definitely foolproof.

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Cutting out the fabric was probably the biggest challenge – the Lady Skater pattern does that weird thing with folding to meet the selvedge edges in the center, and this fabric was really lightweight and sticky to itself. My kitchen is about four feet wide (not kidding) and six feet long and this fabric was >60″ wide and over two yards long, so I just could not get it to fold nicely for cutting.  Instead of continuing to struggle inside, I took it out to the hallway and did the cutting there. I am that neighbor, everyone.

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After a sweaty cutting debacle, the rest of the dress came together very smoothly.  My biggest gripe with the dress is that the back gapes a bit, but that might have to do with the stretch content of the fabric + my neck binding isn’t as tight as what the original pattern suggests. It’s not gonna stop me from enjoying this crazy-printed bad boy.

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alright meow

Do I look like a cat to you, boy? Am I jumping around all nimbly bimbly from tree to tree? Am I drinking milk from a saucer? Do you see me eating mice?

Okay. That gets me every time. ANYWAY. Another sewing project completed!  This is Simplicity 2258 in that lovely Lizzy House Catnap fabric that I picked up at the Needle Shop a few months ago.

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This project was originally supposed to be done in time for my birthday, but you know how things happen (“things” being very upsetting booboos that make you squawk around the house and then promptly wedge the thing into a corner, out of your sight, until seeing it doesn’t make your eyelid twitch anymore). What happened to this lovely dress, you ask?  Well, you see. I have had this pen. I really liked writing with this pen – I liked the ink, and it had a little light on the tip that made it very convenient for clerkship. There was one problem with said pen. Every so often, it would glob out a big fat ink booger. This happened fairly infrequently, and like 100% of the time it did happen, the ink booger just ended up on my hand because I am a lefty and that is my lot in life. But one day, one fateful day as I studied for my Pediatrics shelf, unbeknownst to me, said pen globbed out a big ol’ ink booger right onto my desk.  Very shortly afterward I decided it was time for a sewing break, so I pulled my dress out onto the desk, and… you know where this is going. TRAGEDY!!!! Even worse, I didn’t notice until I had already ironed over the damned spot. Then I saw it – a small (but not insignificantly small) ink blob front and center at the top of the skirt. My reaction was not unlike this. Needless to say, I immediately threw that pen away with relish.

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I was pretty stumped as to how to deal with this issue (not enough fabric left to cut a big new skirt panel, too poor to justify buying more fabric just because I’m a dumbass), but of course my amazing mom came up with an answer. Why not just shorten the skirt at the waistband?  The blob was only about 2 inches down from the edge of the fabric – I could definitely shorten the skirt by that much, be judicious about hemming, and still probably get away with wearing it to clerkship!  “Genius idea, Mom!” I said, and then I promptly put the damn thing away and forgot about it until just a few days ago.

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The fix was very quick and now I am so satisfied with the result. I blogged about making the bodice here, and talked about how the princess seams went infinitely much smoother this time around.  I self-lined the bodice instead of doing facings (I hate when those things pop out of the armhole), which went very smoothly. The only gnarly (in a bad way) part of the dress for me was the armbands – the first time around with the dress, I chalked their awfulness to me f’ing it up, but this time I am beginning to think that the armbands just were not drafted with my shoulders in mind. Overall, I’m so happy with this make and I’ll definitely be wearing it over and over again.

elegant octopus

Every now and then, I feel a strange hankering for a really difficult craft project.  A seriously fiddly, pain in the ass project.  It’s usually when I a) haven’t been doing much crafting lately and b) the crafting I have been doing is unchallenging and repetitive (stockinette sweater body, I’m looking at you).  As you can probably guess, this happened to me recently.  I found myself thinking “Man, I really need a project that is going to make me really need to focus, and probably frequently swear under my breath.” (What is wrong with me?) So I picked up the Knitted Amigurumi Sea Creatures book again and chose the octopus pattern.  I made the jellyfish last year, and while the project was fun, it definitely introduced me to some new and challenging techniques (and for some reason, I couldn’t make the jellyfish look like the one in the instructions although I’m pretty sure I followed the directions right – gah).

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Here’s the finished product!  It was definitely fiddly, although perhaps not quite as impossible as I was expecting. There were some tense moments though: by the time I cast off the mantle, I realized that I had been gripping the DPNs so tightly that I couldn’t feel the ulnar side of my right hand.  It’s still tingling more than 24 hours later.  Nerve damage by knitting. Could I be any more metal?

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On another note, have you ever taken a few minutes out of your day to learn how awesomely, terrifyingly intelligent octopuses are?!?!? Seriously folks. They play! They have personalities! They are capable of very subversive sneaking around and rare fish consumption in aquariums! While knitting this thing, I went on an octopus information overload and basically just read a bajillion stories about how smart these excellent creatures are. In case you are interested in doing the same thing, here (and here) are some reading materials.