Refashioners 2017: Suits You / Two-Piece Silk Setacular

When Portia Lawrie first announced this year’s Refashioners challenge, I wasn’t planning on joining in. But then the blogger posts started popping up and there were so many beautiful and creative makes like Toya’s and Allie’s that I couldn’t help but be inspired. (Portia is sneakily smart about how the challenge rolls out I think!) It was Beth’s gorgeous shift dress that really got me thinking that I wanted to give the whole Refashioners thing a try.

Initially I had a plan for a cool wrap skirt with D-rings and some kind of fitted top or jacket—but of course all that went out the window when I went to actually find a suit. I really wanted a wool suit in a somewhat unusual color or pattern, but everything I found was grey, black, or too small to use. I checked out the women’s suits and found a much bigger range of colors, but it was really difficult to find a full suit set. I was ready to give up and decided to give it a last look, but then I found this 100% silk large skirt suit with shell buttons. I absolutely love sueded silk and shell buttons are my number one favorite buttons, so it was meant to be! But the skirt was a wrap skirt—great for the amount of fabric, but not great for my plans. I didn’t want to make a wrap skirt that came from a wrap skirt, so I needed a new idea.

The original suit. Please excuse my weird face!

Around this time I started watching The Deuce on HBO, which is about pimps, sex workers, and pornography in 1970s New York. It’s a great show for many reasons, but I absolutely love the costume design. I was really intrigued by the tiny button-up shorts that Maggie Gyllenhaal often wears, so I did some Etsy searching and found several examples of these shorts (or hot pants, really). To round off the 70s-inspired look I decided to pair my shorts with a blousey off-shoulder crop top.

To make the shorts I started with the Lander Pant/Shorts pattern by True Bias. Right away I eliminated the waistband, increased the rise to make up for it, and drafted facing pieces for the two fronts and the back. I tried to figure out a way I could combine the fly and front waistband facings, but it was too much of a puzzle for me at the time. I also shortened the hem by an inch and a half and graded from an 6 in the waist to a 10 in the hips.

I knew that I wanted to use the entire skirt to get the blousiest top possible, so I was left with the jacket for the shorts. A nice thing is that the jacket fronts were mirror images, so I was able to get everything to fit and match each other. The princess seaming on the back of the jacket ended up on my butt, which is a detail I actually like.

Probably unpicking everything took the same amount of time as sewing it back together. What took the longest was getting all that interfacing off the front of the jacket! When I got down to sewing the shorts came together really nicely and the top was a breeze. Everything fit pretty much exactly how I wanted it to, which was lucky because I didn’t do a muslin (oops). I trusted Kelli’s drafting on the Lander Pant and I’m really excited to make them in a more traditional fabric. (and by that I mean an actual bottomweight…I’m going to make them in a crazy Japanese panel print, of course)

I’m super super happy with how this came out! I feel like I challenged myself with the fabric and pattern choice (I had never sewn a fly front before!), but I think it all worked out beautifully. I’m sad that it’s now pretty cold (last week it was 85°, boo) and I can’t wear the shorts out, but I wore the top to work today and felt super cute. I know that both will be a welcome addition to my wardrobe.

In the end, the only parts that didn’t come from the original suit were thread and a little bit of interfacing. I still have all the nylon lining left over, a few buttons, and the shoulder pads, but no useable silk pieces are left from the suit. Not bad, right?

What do you think of refashioning and the Refashioners challenge? I used to be a huge thrift store shopper but since sewing I haven’t been doing any clothes shopping (shoes are another story…). I had a lot of fun with this project, but I think I need to work through more of my stash before I start combing thrift stores for more fabric!

 

V9253 in Hand-Dyed Silk Noil

Do you ever sew something and once you’re finished and you try it on, you fall in love? Not with the pattern or the fabric (though I’m pretty in love with those too), but…yourself? That’s what happened with this dress. I’m proud of the work and thought I put into it, but also it just looks and feels really, really good on.

I knew I wanted to make the V9253 pattern early on in the summer, but I really waffled on what fabric to make it in. A print didn’t feel right for such a bold silhouette and I knew I wanted something with texture. I considered linen, but I was concerned about bra-lessness and the itchiness factor (yikes!). I finally settled on silk noil or what’s commonly called raw silk. If you haven’t worked with this fabric, you need to get your hands on some RIGHT NOW. Stonemountain and Daughter has an amazing selection in gorgeous, rich colors (teal green and caramel are my faves), but I got mine from Dharma Trading Co. because I wanted to try dyeing it myself.

Luckily I had help from my incredibly talented friend and one half of Myth of the West, a line of gorgeous hand-dyed knit garments. If you check out their site you may see a familiar face because I did the modeling for their FW16 line and can personally attest that their garments are amazing.

Shameless friend-plug aside, I knew Ailee could help me dye 4 yards of silk noil and teach me some things about acid dyeing along the way. We used Jacquard Acid Dyes (you can buy a starter set complete with citric acid here), which only work on protein fibers like silk and wool. I wanted a terracotta red-brown color, so we started with concentrates of chestnut, tobacco leaf, saffron spice, and cayenne red and then mixed them in various amounts to test the results. We had to use a bottle-dyeing method because a pot that holds 4 yards of fabric would be MASSIVE and we didn’t have one.

The final color was a mix of chestnut, tobacco leaf, and a little bit of cayenne red. Though the swatches came out incredibly saturated, trying to dye 4 yards evenly resulted in a more muted color. It was definitely a challenge, with me spraying the fabric and Ailee constantly mixing more dye to follow behind me to make sure we had even coverage. Despite the difficulties, I love the finished result. Of course it’s not perfectly even and the color is less saturated than I first wanted, but it’s perfect.

Sewing the dress was way easier than dyeing the fabric! I went with the medium size and omitted the back zipper after I realized (when tracing my final piece) that I probably should have gone with the small size. But it’s not a big deal because I can just tie it a bit tighter in the waist. The only other changes I made were to sew a smaller seam allowance on the ties so they’d be a bit wider and to make a deep hem on the sleeves and skirt because I like that look.

For those of you wondering, this dress is actually surprisingly secure! I wouldn’t wear it out, say, dancing without some fashion tape, but I did wear it to dinner last night and I felt completely comfortable the whole time. It helps that this silk noil is already amazingly soft after just one wash.

It’s nice to have a garment that shows off my usually-hidden sternum tattoo. I got this one in Berlin when I was doing a one-month solo abroad trip in college. And no, I’m not in the Illuminati! Like most of my tattoos, the imagery is totally meaningless.

If you’ve been thinking about giving the V9253 pattern a try but were unsure about that neckline, you should just go for it! The deep v can easily be brought up higher and otherwise this is a great, easy to make and easy to wear pattern.

 

Deer and Doe Melilot Times Two

It’s rare that I make a garment and then immediately make the same garment in a different fabric, but I was too excited about this amazing silk to wait! The first make is technically a muslin, but both fit great and I didn’t make many changes to the second one. If you’re looking for a first shirt pattern to try, I highly recommend the Deer and Doe Melilot. I like that the finished garment is a little unusual, but it’s a fairly simple sew and has beautiful seam finishes built into the instructions. Completely enclosed seams, without having to plan ahead? I love it.

First up is this incredibly soft and light yarn-dyed cotton (lawn?) I bought in Japan last year. I’m slowly working my way through my Tokyo fabric purchases. Maybe in a year it’ll be time to plan a return trip!

This is a great summer shirt because the fabric is so light, yet pretty much opaque. I made a straight size 40 and I think the fit is pretty good. Looking at these photos, it seems like there’s some pulling around the hips so maybe I could grade up there. And maybe I need a FBA? I think I’m still stuck in the RTW mindset of the fit being good if it’s good enough. Also I’m lazy and don’t really enjoy pattern hacking because I hate feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing!

Have you noticed the buttons? I took the yellow buttons off an old RTW shirt that wouldn’t button up over my chest, but I was short by two. I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to find matching ones (haha, right). I went to two stores and then decided to just go with something that’s the same size and sheen, but in a completely different color. And I like it! Maybe it makes it look more “handmade”, but so does my first attempt at a shirt collar, so I’m not too worried about it.

After the success of my wearable toile, I cut into my silk for my second Melilot. I got this fabric from Mood NYC and when I first saw it I surprised myself by being completely enamored. A novelty print? And it’s bright pink? But the jaguars/leopards are really beautifully illustrated and the pink has super faint lines of blue running throughout. And it’s silk! So a little more elevated than your typical novelty print, right?

I tried to cut this really carefully and match up the big cats, but soon realized they’re kind of random…or at least the 4 different jaguars didn’t repeat regularly in the 2 yards I had. I just tried to keep things balanced and made sure the pockets were perfect. The only changes I made were shortening the shirt overall by an inch or so and making the back the same length as the front.

My boyfriend says this is my best make yet and I think he might be right. I get compliments on it whenever I wear it, but oddly the first thing that most people say is “Are those tigers on your shirt?” And then instead of being rude and saying “Obviously not! They have spots!” I just say “I think they’re jaguars?” as if I’m unsure of the obvious differences between big cat species. I guess people don’t watch as many BBC nature shows as me…

I’ve since made another Melilot shirt, which you can see here! For my third Melilot I switched it up by going cropped and a little oversized.

A Handy Ogden Cami in Designer Silk

A couple of days ago on Instagram I posted about my personal style and I said that I stick to neutral colors. I’m sorry, but I lied. Or at least wasn’t entirely truthful, because I have one exception to my usual palette: printed silk. I’m not interested in cotton prints at all, but I can’t resist a unique print on beautiful silk. And judging by this Ogden Cami and my recent Mood Fabrics buys, it seems like pink is a favorite. Who even am I?

This silk was found at Stonemountain and Daughter, of course. They also had another colorway in green and yellow, if I’m remembering correctly, but this pink and blue is much cheerier. It’s actually a designer end by Opening Ceremony! They made it into a teensy little wrap skirt. (Which of course costs like $450.)

At the time it was the most expensive fabric I had ever purchased, so I only got a yard. Just enough for an Ogden with some tiny scraps leftover that may work their way into some underwear.

I made a semi-wearable muslin in rayon and found that the pattern ran rather large. I think I could have sized down more, but I like how flowy it is. I also didn’t like the boob flap thing in the original pattern, so I fully lined it in more silk. The construction is really nice and the lining helps get a good v-neck point.

I feel pretty special whenever I wear this and it’s one of my go-to “fancy” tops. It looks great peeking out beneath a jacket or layered over a long-sleeve shirt.

The back isn’t super bra-friendly, but I don’t worry about that too much (I’m a tramp, I know). I should probably sew a little ribbon or something in the back so that I’m not always trying to figure out which way is which when I go to wear it. I usually go by the designer mark (the letters OC in a circle) directly in the middle in the front.

I made this top back in October or November and I’m excited to make more for the summer. I have one cut out in (surprise) that pink jaguar print silk I got from Mood. I sized down a bit, so we’ll see how that changes up the look.

Catarina Dress in Monochrome

This Seamwork Catarina dress was one of my first projects with “serious” fabric, but it didn’t actually cost me all that much. My favorite shop Stonemountain and Daughter always has half-off designer fabrics and I scored this gorgeous dark navy sand-washed silk with the intention of recreating the Catarina worn by the Seamwork model. This silk is so soft and has a beautiful matte finish. I think the scraps are destined to make their way into me-made undergarments.

Sewing it up was fairly simple. I French seamed everything, so hopefully it won’t fall apart anytime soon. I’m not sure if I like the blousey look of the bodice. I might take apart the waist and shorten it. Or maybe just shorten the straps? I think if I make another one (maybe in this Melody Miller for Cotton + Steel cherry print rayon?) I would bring up the hem and make tie-straps for maximum cute.

It’s really more of a summer dress, but I wanted to wear it the other day so I layered up for Berkeley “winter”. This grey wall was perfect for my basically monochrome outfit!