sewing

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.)

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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!!)

a routine

One week of MMM ’15 down! Time flies when you never leave your hobbit-hole. True to my initial me-made-May pledge, I’m NOT wearing a whole lot of me-mades, and when I am, I’m not documenting it a whole lot because let’s be honest, it’s a lot of bloomers and I’m not into showing the internet my upper thighs on the reg. However, also true to my pledge, I have been doing a LOT of sewing – two dresses down, and I’m starting a third today. My days are pretty predictable, but definitely enjoyable. I wake up, study until I go stir-crazy, then sew, and then study a little more. The studying keeps me from having marathon sewing days (which, ironically, were what I think kept me from sewing as consistently as I would have liked), and vice versa.

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In terms of my makes, which are both currently unblogged: the first one was a (sort of?) wearable muslin of the Anna dress. I had a bit of an issue with print placement (read: there was none), which was a huge brain fart on my part. It did not occur to me until I was piecing the skirt together that maybe I should have tried to line up these stupid stripes. WHATEVER. I’ll post more detailed photos of my horror later. Otherwise I am a big fan of the make, and the dress I’m starting today is another Anna! My other sewing product thus far is an infinity wrap dress that you have seen on every internet bridesmaid ever and will eventually be featured on my bridesmaids(!). More on that to come later, as well. Off to more sewing (:

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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!

don’t be fancy just get dance-y

Um, yes. That is a Pink lyric. I know, I know. But it’s relevant.

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I got this deep blue stretch velvet at one of my favorite Chicago fabric stores, the Textile Discount Outlet in Pilsen. The thing about this store is that it is enormous and has about a jillion employees. The only way you can identify them is by their facial expressions (they look much less lost/confused than the customers do). If you would allow me to pull out my conclusions mat and hop right onto it, the employee that cut my fabric seemed to have a particular hobby. A very earthy, herbal hobby, one might say. Why did I make this assumption? He stopped in the middle of cutting this fabric to run his hands all over it and exclaim, “ahh, I love how this just dances, you know?” Yes, my friend, yes I do (as evidenced by my little dancing photo).

IMG_8990I turned this textile dance party into another Lady Skater, sewn with three-quarter length sleeves with no pattern modifications. The sleeves are a little wonky and I’m not sure why, but I didn’t bother to fix them. My devil-may-care attitude about the sleeves was largely due to the fact that I sewed this whole dress the day David and I left to spend Christmas in California with his family. Thank goodness for simple patterns. I wore it on New Year’s Eve while David and I hung out with his family. They got a cake to congratulate us on our engagement and his cousin gave a very cute speech and it nearly brought a tear to my normally crabby eyeballs.

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The photos are by David – I think he did a very good job (:  (We took them on a very snowy day at my parents’, and I had only brought home a little pair of ankle booties – hence the velvet dress + shit-kickers outfit combo. I am not nearly that fashion forward otherwise.)

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* Note to curious, novice sewists: I do not have anything that could be defined as mad sewing skills, but this stretch velvet was NOT hard to sew with. I was even able to cautiously press it on the wrong side with a lower temperature and it did okay.  I would definitely recommend trying it! It makes for a very luxe-looking party dress, which is deceptively simple/comfy once you pair it with the Lady Skater pattern.

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IMG_9011 Shady’s back, back again, this time with more knits in a Ren(/Skater)frew overload. I got a buttload of this green knit from Girl Charlee ages ago and it just recently reached its final form: clinic clothes! But clinic clothes that don’t feel too awkward to wear outside of clinic. A true Christmas miracle.  I had actually started on these, and done most of the Renfrew, way back before Thanksgiving but then some weirdo just had to go and propose to me so I got a little sidetracked. I finally finished psychiatry, went home and then came back to Chicago after visiting my parents, and decided that since I had about 24 hours before I had to leave for California, I was going to make myself some clothes. Of course. That totally made sense. By some miracle, these things (and all the chores I had to do) were finished by the time I had to leave. Woohoo!

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This is my first Skaterfrew, but it definitely won’t be my last. The grading process was surprisingly easy, considering that I had never done it before and didn’t even bother to look up anything on the Internet, I just kind of went and did it. Heh heh. I have come to the realization that cowl collars are really 100% my jam and I love to make them/bury my face in them like a little turtle. Overall, I’m really happy with the dress, except for my performance on the skirt hem. It’s pretty gnarly down there. If I were to make an excuse for myself, it would be that I was watching the Balrog scene from The Fellowship of the Ring while I hemmed and things were pretty dicey for both myself and the Fellowship.

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Aaaaaand the Renfrew. Pretty standard, not much to chitchat about here*. Ta-da!

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*The only pattern change I made with both of these items is to omit the bands on the sleeves (and on the waist with the plain top). Overall I’m not a big fan of armbands/waistbands and find them a bit uncomfortable. Since the top will mostly be tucked into work pants, I didn’t want it to a) be so short that it stuck out when I bent over, and b) have extra bulk from the waistband.

I have one more dress I made in this mad rush to outfit myself for hanging out with David’s family but it’s all different and cool (even though it is still a Lady Skater it is special) so I will blog about it later.

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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