flower power

Mood Fabrics/Floral Silk/BHL Anna Dress

Well guys, spring has definitely sprung around these parts! And I for one could not be happier about it! This week also marks the end of what was a really busy couple of months for me at work, and I finally seem to have shaken off the respiratory infection that had been plaguing me (thanks antibiotics!) Yay!! So all in all, we're in high spirits around these parts!

What with the warming weather and more free time to actually enjoy it, I seem to have one thing and one thing only on my mind - silk dresses. Making them. Wearing them. Living in them for the next nine months... That and long, lazy, bike rides. Preferably paired together. At sunset. Sigh... paints quite a picture, doesn't it?

Mood Fabrics/Floral Silk/BHL Anna Dress

For this months Mood Sewing Network make I was irresistibly drawn to this gorgeous floral crepe de chine from Mood Fabrics online. Silk crepe de chine is one of my all-time favorite fabrics to sew with, and to wear. It has a bit more 'grip' than many of it's slippery silk counterparts, making it easy to handle, but it still has that lovely, fluid drape that you want from lighter weight silks.  And it's breathable, which is an absolute must in my hot and humid climate.

Mood Fabrics/Floral Silk/BHL Anna Dress

I absolutely adored the floral print of this fabric! It's so bright and playful, it made me instantly happy! I find the color palette to be sort of unusual and unexpected (magenta and poppy red, royal purple and inky black, viridian green and chartreuse... all on a soft, off-white background). It also reminded me a bit of vintage prints, but I couldn't decide what decade - 30's? 40's? 70's?? Maybe 70's-does-40's? (The consensus on the Mood blog was 70's-does-40's, which incidentally, is one of my favorite time period mash-ups!)  I don't normally go for a vintage look, but there was something so timelessly feminine about this print that was just calling me.

Mood Fabrics/Floral Silk/BHL Anna Dress

I thought it would be nice to pair this fabric with a pattern that also had a bit of a vintage vibe, without going totally overt, and felt like By Hand London's Anna dress totally fit the bill. I love this pattern - it's like all the best parts of being a woman rolled into one dress! This is my second time making the Anna dress (here's my first). For this version I opted for the v-neck and the shorter hem. However, rather than just chopping the pattern off at the knees, I kept the hem width of the maxi-version and adjusted the skirt panel pieces to compensate. This way I maintained maximum skirt swing-y-ness (very important for those warm breezes!)

Trust me on this one, this pattern hack sounds way more complicated than it actually was. I'm not saying that what I did was the right way to go about this - but, hell, it worked. Which is really all I care about. What I did was lay tracing paper over the skirt panel pieces, trace off the waist seam and grainline, and make a mark along the grainline the length that I wanted my new skirt pieces to be (I did 27 inches). Then I slid the tracing paper down, along the grainline, until my new hem mark lined up with the original maxi hem line, traced the maxi hem line and connected that to the waist seam, ignoring the original side seams. Done and done! 

Mood Fabrics/Floral Silk/BHL Anna Dress

One of the reasons I went with this silhouette and skirt length is because it's reminiscent of one of my all-time favorite handmade dresses, my purple linen Simplicity 1880. I love that dress. It's the dress I grab when I want to look pretty, and it's been my go-to dress for such a variety of occasions - weddings, parties, holidays, work events, and just regular old work days. That dress is a work horse. So I felt like it was time that I listen to my own closet and try to get more dresses like that in there! As I was sewing this dress up I could tell that it was definitely going to be giving my purple dress a run for it's money as my new go-to dress! I've already worn it to an opening at my gallery this past weekend and it was, as I suspected, perfect. It took me all the way through prepping for the opening (which entails buying assloads of beer, wine and ice, lugging it around and filling coolers, climbing up ladders to adjust lights, cleaning, hauling trash, etc. etc. etc...) to the opening itself, where I'm greeting people, serving wine, making chit-chat, and generally playing hostess. And you know what, I got so many compliments on this dress! She's a winner!!

Mood Fabrics/Floral Silk/BHL Anna Dress

I reinforced the v-neck with silk organza strips, which helped a little with gape-age, however there is still more gape than I would like. Perhaps I should have eased the v-neck to the silk organza a bit? Ah well - ya live, ya learn.

I also lined the entire dress with silk habotai, because the floral fabric was ever-so-slightly sheer. Silk habotai (or china silk) is a wonderful lining fabric, especially if you're like me and like to keep your silk dresses silky - inside and out! The habotai I used was from my stash, but Mood has an awesome collection online in, like, every color imaginable. And I don't know about the fabric stores where you live, but silk habotai at my local fabric store is sooo much more expensive than what they sell it for at Mood - that's including shipping, and there is much less variety. But probably the most economical source for silk habotai (and, really, any silk fabric) is Dharma Trading. Of course everything there comes in either white or black, but if you feel like getting crafty with some dye, you can make it any color your heart desires!

Mood Fabrics/Floral Silk/BHL Anna Dress

And because I always like to learn new tricks, even on patterns that I've made before, I decided to try my hand at using my machine's blind hem foot for the floral silk. Can you believe I've never used that little gadget before?! That's one of the reasons I love sewing - there's always something new to learn! I'm not totally sure if this type of hem was ideal for this type of skirt and fabric, but eh... it worked (moral of this post). Anyway, I love how clean the hem turned out, and it saved me so much more time than if I had hand-picked it myself. For the skirt lining I just used my serger's rolled hem function. I always feel like I'm cheating when I do this, but it's just so quick and easy, it's hard to resist!

Mood Fabrics/Floral Silk/BHL Anna Dress

Let's talk real quick about caring for silk garments. I feel like this is something (or maybe one of many things?) that always intimidates people from buying, sewing and wearing silk. You guys may have noticed that I sew with silk a lot, and, as I said, silk crepe de chine is my number one favorite fabric of all time. I wouldn't be sewing all these silk clothes if I wasn't actually wearing them, and with wearing your clothes, comes washing your clothes (unless, of course, that's not your thing, in which case, you do you...) For the record - I never go to the dry cleaners. I can't afford it, and I don't like all the icky chemicals. I wash all my silks at home. In the washing machine. The key is to prewash your silks the same way you intend to care for the finished garment. So I usually wash on cold and hang dry. Occasionally I'll throw my silk in the dryer (I did that for the habotai lining of this garment) and it works out just fine, but typically I won't continue to care for my finished silk garment this way. Although every so often one of my silkies accidentally ends up in the dryer, and it usually fares okay. In her recent post about silk jersey, Lauren noted that the color and sheen can dull a bit when you wash and dry your silks. This definitely can happen, though it's not too dramatic, and in my experience, this mostly occurs in the dryer, which is why I usually hang dry. But I'm all for throwing your silks in the dryer if that's more convenient for you, just make sure to do that when you prewash too!

And for any of you non-sewers out there, this is also how I care for store bought silk clothes as well - machine wash cold and hang dry. Silk is an amazing fiber, and not nearly as delicate as people think.

Well, there you have it! I can't wait to wear this dress on the balmy summer nights that I know are right around the corner! What sort of fabrics have you thinking of warm weather?


summery separates

Mood Fabrics White cotton brocade separates

Hi everyone! Wow, I can't believe it's April already... time is really flying by! I had a very busy March - both at work and in the sewing sphere, and, perhaps most importantly, I had a birthday! I am now the ripe old age of 29! 

This month's make for the  Mood Sewing Network was a bit of a challenge. Literally. We were given the task to choose a designer and make a completely unique look inspired by their 2014 spring runway collection. I was pretty psyched about the concept - and also a little nervous! It felt a bit like being back in school and having to problem solve my way through an assignment. How do you make a look that hearkens to a designer, yet doesn't directly copy them, and also maintains a sense of your own individual style? Tricky stuff indeed, my friends. However, choosing a designer was a total no-brainer for me. Rachel Comey is probably the only designer who I continue to keep tabs on, no matter what, and I've had a long standing girl-crush on her for, literally, years. I love her collections, I love her shoes, I loved her patterns for Vogue (hint hint... could we get more of those please??) Like this one... and this one...

Comey's spring collection was really all over the place. Above are a few of my favorite looks from it (you can view the whole collection here). Crazy, tattered denim culottes? Check! Lace getups that are both seductive and frumpy? Check! Velvet slip dresses reminiscent of the 90's? Check! Psychedelic swirly printed sweatshirts? Check, check, and more check!! Really, it was hard to come away with a cohesive statement from this collection, but that's also what made it so great to work with - it allowed for a lot of freedom of interpretation.

Mood Fabrics White cotton brocade separates

In the end I decided to create a look that was maybe a bit more feminine than what Comey was showing, but I think it would still fit into her collection with ease.  I tried to focus in on a few key elements from a few different looks - the fabric of a piece here, the midriff baring there, skirt lengths, layering and accessories...

Mood Fabrics White cotton brocade separates

I used this white cotton brocade from Mood Fabrics online store to create this crop-top and pencil skirt.  As soon as this fabric arrived I knew I had made a good choice. It was almost identical to this textured, white fabric that appeared in Comey's collection:

This cotton is more ivory than white and has an almost slub-like texture to it, and a very pretty, subtle sheen.  It's 100% cotton, but has a generous amount of width-wise give, which made it perfect for this sort of curve-hugging silhouette.  It was super easy to work with, as cottons often are, but it did fray something awful, so I was very careful not to handle the cut pieces more than necessary and definitely made sure to enclose all my raw edges.  I fully lined both the skirt and the top with white cotton batiste, which I love as a lining for warm weather clothing.  It gave a nice sturdiness to both of these pieces, while also adding much needed opacity.

Mood Fabrics White cotton brocade separates
Please excuse that attention-whore of a bra strap... always trying to steal the show...

I used the top portion of By Hand London's Georgia dress for the crop-top, simply adding a back button placket so I could get it on and off. This was a really great way to test the fit of this pattern, without committing to the whole dress. I simply lopped the pattern off at the waist notch, then added an additional inch for a hem.  I did have to make a few adjustments to the bust cups - mainly taking out some of the volume from the bust apex. Now that I've got the fit figured out (mostly at least... I could still tweak away...) you can bet that I'm dreaming up other versions of this dress! 

The skirt is Burda 117 which I liked because it has the perfect mix of high-waisted, long-hemmed, body-hugging silhouette, and includes a back vent (an absolute must for this type of skirt). Of course I still had to take it in some sort of ridiculous amount through the side seams to get the kind of fit I wanted, but all in all that's an easy adjustment to make.

Mood Fabrics white brocade separates
You can see the texture of the fabric a bit better in these close ups
DSC_0020Mood Fabrics White cotton brocade separates 
One thing that is definitely for certain - Sonja and I have totally been drinking from the same crop-top + pencil skirt kool-aid this spring! If that's not a sign that this trend has arrived, than I don't know what is!  You heard it here first folks - crop-tops and pencil skirts are so. right. now. If I'm being completely honest, I kind of can't believe I not only decided to make a crop-top, but then photographed  myself wearing it and posted it on the internet!! I can honestly say that I have never worn a crop-top before in my life! Not being blessed with abs of steel (more like abs of marshmallow) I always thought it was a look that I couldn't pull off, but I think the proportions of these pieces really help make this outfit more flattering.

Mood Fabrics White cotton brocade separates

Also (true confessions) I actually had the best of intentions of making another Tessuti Tokyo jacket in denim to go along with this outfit. I was even planning on distressing the hems and pockets, like my girl Rachel Comey. However my plans were utterly foiled when I was struck ill mid-month with... well I'm not quite sure, but I've been calling it consumption which pleases the Victorian Gothic in me, and also the plague, which suits the Medieval Mystic in me. In fact, I can still be found hacking out my lungs most nights! So, alas, the denim Tokyo jacket got put off and instead I donned my beloved shibori dyed Tokyo jacket, since I thought Rachel (yeah, we're on a first name basis... in my head) would approve. 

Also, how do you like my new clogs?? I'm in looooovvveeeeee!!!!!

Happy spring everyone!