Basic is Beautiful

Don’t you just hate it when a longtime favorite and much loved wardrobe staple of yours gives up its ghost?  Yeah, always a bummer!  My decade and a half staple – a bohemian-style, maxi length, lightweight denim skirt – ripped apart from too much love.  Well, for someone who sews all chances of having a replacement is not entirely lost.

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It took me two years to find the right pattern and fabric to finally have a lovely replacement that I love almost just as much as my original – this is saying a lot!  Sure, I had plans to make a pattern from my old favorite but I realized it might not be a bad thing to move on with my style and try something similar yet different at the same time.  Also, because one basic staple deserves another, I have my new denim skirt paired with a slightly seductive, vintage, knit white tee for another wardrobe filler.  I’m hoping my set has a slight nod to the 1970s era yet still stays modern.  To have a garment be an indispensable staple piece, yet also vintage and modern, is the best combo ever for those days when I want to blend in yet still wear styles which pay tribute to the past.

Every time I make something really needed and purposeful (not just what tickles my fancy), I realize how beautiful sewing the basics can be.  This is why my outfit (specifically my skirt) is part of the Petite Passions’ Wardrobe Builder Project for the month of May. As you can see, it is helping me get the motivation to build on my everyday casual wardrobe!

THE FACTS:McCall's 6623, year 1979-comp,w

FABRIC:  Skirt – 2 yards of a lightweight, light wash, denim chambray with scrap Kona cotton for the waistband lining; Top – less than one yard of a ribbed cotton knit

PATTERNS:  Skirt – Burda Style “Tiered Denim Maxi Skirt” #102 B, from April 2017;  Top – McCall’s #6623, year 1979

Tiered Denim Maxi Skirt 04-2017 #102BNOTIONS:  Besides the invisible zipper, which I bought because I don’t necessarily keep ‘specialty’ zips on hand, everything else needed was basic (thread, interfacing, bias tape) and came from on hand.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The top was sewn a while back now, finished on August 24, 2015 after only 3 hours’ time.  The skirt took me about 5 hours to make and was finished on May 16, 2017.

DSC_0416a-comp,wTHE INSIDES:  My skirt is all clean inside with both French seams and bias tape while my knit top is raw edged inside (as it doesn’t fray).

TOTAL COST:  The top’s ribbed fabric was a miserable little scrap remnant – technically it was about one yard but was badly hacked into with all the corners squarely cut off.  See below the “tight squeeze” to fit the pattern pieces on it.  The knit was bought for about $2 when Hancock Fabrics was closing.  The denim was bought the year before from Jo Ann’s Fabric store for about $9 (more or less I don’t remember).  I suppose my outfit is about $12 but priceless in utility to me!    

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Now, as for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My pattern was traced from the downloaded and assembled PDF bought at the online store but if you have a magazine issue, use a roll of medical paper to trace your pieces from the insert sheet.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t know.

There were only subtle changes that I made to the skirt for my version.  The main change, to lessen the gathers of the lower panel, was part taste.  I planned on doing that anyway, but the amount of the gathers was dictated by the fact I was working with only 2 yards of material while using a pattern calling for at least 3 yards.  I am a smaller woman, and on the edge of being petite height, so I figured such a full maxi skirt as the original design might be a bad idea.  I really do like the skirt fullness as it is now even if I did not get to choose exactly how I wanted it.  Sometimes “making do” works better than trying to start from scratch to be ‘perfect’.

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Other than changing the amount of gathers, I sewed the gathers onto the upper skirt piece like a normal seam rather than top-stitching on like the pattern called for.  This top-stitched panel would’ve created a frilly ruffle where the two panels came together.  I was decreasing the gathers for a slimmer skirt and a frill through the middle of a half-gathered panel would have messed with the silhouette.  This regular seaming also saved me the trouble of finishing the one edge of the gathered panel so I could equalize my time spent to invisibly hand-stitch down the hem.

I already took out 3 inches from the overall length but my hem even still became a wide 3 ½ inches.  This baby runs very long as if it is a “Tall” sized pattern.  It does sit on the hips, with the top of the skirt riding just below my true waist.  As one who wears a lot of vintage, which almost always has a high-to–true waist, I still like this feature which is more modern, it’s just a change for me (not a bad thing, as I said above).

DSC_0404a-comp,wAs I went through the extra effort to make no stitching visible, under stitching the facing at the waist and having a hand-done hem, I figured an invisible zipper here was the only way to go.  After having my last invisible zipper failing on me and trapping me in my dress back in 2012 (post on that here), I have taken a long hiatus from this specific notion but coming back to it has been a refreshing and rewarding success.  I love how you don’t see anything but the zipper pull…but, yes, I realize that’s why they are called invisible!

My top is the third time I have used McCall’s #6623 pattern – this is unprecedented for me!  (Here are my first and my second versions of this pattern.)  I still yet want to have the gumption to make and wear that strappy cold-shoulder version.  The tank is so lovely and basic I need to make a few of those in some basic colors.  For some reason I really love this one pattern, and it loves me by the way it fits me so darn well.

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I find this pattern interestingly unique, not just from the fact that each view top has its own pieces (none shared), but because of the small “From a Norton Simon Inc. Company” logo next to the McCall’s logo.  This pattern’s year, 1969, was a decade after Norton Simon himself retired from active involvement in his business.  What’s up with that?!

McCall's 6623, year 1979-comp,zoomNot too many people know that Norton Simon, the smart art collector and businessman behind Max Factor cosmetics, Avis Car Rental, and Canada Dry Corporation (to name a few), also controlled the McCall Corporation and all its publishing (magazines and such) between 1959 and 1969.  How I have not heard of this man, who seemed to have an influence in so much of the companies and products that are a part of our modern lives, before recently?  He was on the cover page of TIME magazine on June 4, 1965, in People magazine (1976), and even ran for the United States Senate (in 1970).  His conglomerate is now ranked 112th on FORTUNE’S list of the 500 largest American corporations    I wonder why this is the only McCall pattern I have seen with his naming rights on it.  See – patterns are so interesting in so many ways!

Sewing this top was super simple and easy.  This is the first time I have used this pattern un-altered.  I did have to add in snap on lingerie straps made from ribbon to anchor the shoulder to my underwear.  Otherwise the shoulders on this open-back hottie piece slide a bit all over the place.  Basic bias tape adds a bit of soft shaping and contrast finishing for the neck edges, and a little left chest pockets adds some small utilitarian interest.

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My biggest setback was working with the rib knit – a very first for me to work with.  I thought I had this pattern understood but not this time.  I had to sew the side seams several inches smaller than normal to accommodate the give of the ribbing.  It acts like a slinky toy!  It was a tough call to figure out the sweet spot between too loose of a fit and too snug.  I didn’t want the rib knit to lose its design when fitting over me yet I wanted it to be body complimentary without being a second skin.  After several stitchings, un-pickings, and re-stitching spells I like the balance I found.  This top does look so hilariously small on the hangar – the ribbing springs back so it seems like something for a 10 year old girl.  It also is best dried flat after washing.  The weirdness of the rib knit also meant all my hems are unfinished – not by choice but at least I think the raw edges look good on this occasion.  This quirky material has a definite personality!  Working with it was a definite learning curve.

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Between all the challenging and involved projects that I want to make (from my too numerous ideas), sewing basic necessities always is a pain to get around to.  Who completely wants to sew something merely because you need it, when nowadays ‘stuff’ is so easy and available to buy?  And yet, such sewing also always ends up so satisfying for me and it always amazes me.  The staple clothing necessities that you reach for everyday can be an uncommon source of creative pride and possess better individual style if you don’t exclude them from receiving the personal touch of hand sewing.  I’m practicing what I preach lately by giving away a good amount of the ready-to-wear that I do not like or use so that my ‘me-makes’ and my vintage pieces can take over my wardrobe.

Do you make your tees, and jeans, and anything else basic?  If yes, do you like them better than the ready-to-wear option?  Have you ever worked on sewing up a replacement for an old favorite garment?  Is sewing what you need something that you have a love or a hate attitude towards? Maybe, like me, you feel a bit of both?  What is your experience (if you have one) with rib knits?  One last query – has anyone else seen a McCall’s pattern with a “Norton Simon” logo?  If you have any feedback for these questions, please do share – I like to ‘hear’ what you have to say!  As always, thanks for reading.

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Believe It Or Not…It’s My Favorite Re-Makes

Since last year when I began sewing more often (every week), re-making a pattern is a rarity. I like to use a pattern piece here or an idea there, incorporating a little of every other pattern into most of my projects. When I have a nice, full file cabinet of patterns yet to make, there has to be a real winner among them to deserve a reason for a repeat. I like variety in my clothing, and thus my favorite pattern remakes gladly look totally different.
It actually feels quite nice to depart from vintage and explore my own modern, updated style! Both ideas surprisingly came from looking at a lot of 20’s to 30’s patterns and fashion posters after missing out on the Sew Weekly Gatsby Challenge in early September.

Here, I made a casual ‘Saturday’ t-shirt knit dress.  It was made by magically combining two patterns together – a top pattern and a skirt pattern to turn into a dress.

100_0722In this second picture, I made a fancy black sequin top, re-fashioned from an over-sized and sloppy knit t-shirt.

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THE FACTS:
FABRIC: for the dress- a thin, loose, and somewhat unsubstantial, but very soft, cotton knit and a soft beige stretch lace for back and pocket – both from stash so basically free; for the sequin top- a Michael’s craft T-shirt, found in my stash, but bought about 5 years ago for $2.50, and 1 yard of sequin netting fabric, bought recently for $9 something; the chain necklace and bracelet- put together by me and bought at JoAnn’s for $6.30
NOTIONS: I had proper needles, seam tape, and thread already; just bought some black bias tape for $2 or less
PATTERNS: McCall’s 6623, year 1979, for the top, made twice now, as you can see in this post.  New Look 6470, year 2005, for the skirt (used three times now), to make two skirts back 10 to 7 years ago, and then for the franken-patterned dress in this post.

100_0672TIME TO COMPLETE: for the dress- about 5 hours, finished on Oct. 5, 2012; for the top- about 5 or 6 hours, finished on Dec. 20, 2012
THE INSIDES: for the dress- just o.k., the seams are just zig zagged together nicely, as the knit fabric did not want to be ‘restrained’ too much into a nice seam; for the sequin top- I am so proud of this part! I sewed hem tape into the shoulder seams, sewed bias tape around all the other seams, and hand sewed a line of bias tape along the inside of the neckline, my extra work is SO worth it…because there is no itchiness!

FIRST WORN: for the dress- worn on a Saturday outing to some antique malls to look for home stuff and old patterns; for the sequin top- over my Aunt and Uncle’s house for a Christmas get together. This is my new go-to fancy top for the holiday season.

100_0886For both creations I did the same pattern combo. The New Look skirt pattern was used as a ‘benchmark’ for the perfect hip fit, since I’ve made it before. The skirt pattern was layered over my top pattern at 1 inch below the waist, as the skirt hugs the hips a bit. The cutting instructions were improvised by me in order to match with the layout of the top. The skirt piece is supposed to be cut on the bias. However, I simply folded the full skirt pattern in half to cut on the fold, coming out with a one piece dress or a great measurement for my top. I usually don’t throw cutting and grain line instructions out the window but it was a happy experiment. Then I just did free hand grading in between…I know where I need my clothes to be forgiving 🙂 You can see a little of what I did in the picture below.

100_0673My T-shirt dress is remotely like Gatsby style day dresses that had a long bias ruffle slanted up one side of the hem. In early fall I actually had too many nice dresses, and I needed a casual dress that would stretch my sewing wings a bit further. When I finished my dress, I knew it wasn’t my coolest project, but I felt like I could really sew anything if I tried.

100_0723At right is my very fun back detail. This super soft stretch lace solves any drooping of the shoulders on account of such an open back, and (I think) lends a special touch to what might otherwise be drab. I certainly find myself not wanting to cover the back up with a sweater! Besides, I needed a way to make a dent in a large cut of this stretch lace. I really don’t remember why I bought so much, but I am sure I’ll use it in some future projects again.
Unfortunately I don’t have a picture to post of the skirts I made years ago from the New Look 6470 which was used to make this dress. The one skirt I made then must have turned out alright since I remember a clothing store worker complimenting me, even though, (STUPID ME) I used a woven navy/white tweed for a stretch pattern. Oh well. I think I buried it amongst stuff somewhere in my parents’ basement back then when I realized I wasn’t happy with my sewing skills. I will keep looking for both skirts or a picture at least…

My black sequi20s-Chanel-sequin-dressn top was an idea spawned from admiring a Target sequin tank, and telling myself, “Hey… you can make your own better!” Soon after, I found an over-sized T-shirt while going through my old stuff. Then, I was crazy enough to buy bags of sequins and plan on (yeah right) sewing them on by hand, in a decorative Art Deco design. Wow…I am ambitious sometimes.  At left is one of the ideas I was working from: a Chanel beauty of a 20’s dress.

My plans drastically changed for the easier when I found a sequin-covered ‘fabric’ netting on a trip to the fabric store. I suppose it came in for the holiday/New Year’s sewing. I pulled it off the rack and couldn’t wait to get it cut and take it home. The fabric store employee might have had something there, when she hesitated to cut it, because cutting and sewing this sequin ‘fabric’ was so much more of a mess than any fur I have worked with in the past. The sequins would pop and jump at every cut I made, even hitting me in the face. Those sequins were sticking to my skin and left a messy trail everywhere I would work with my top.  I found myself growing and murmuring complaints and breathing heavily while sewing or working with the sequin fabric.  I know some sewing bloggers get driven into a very especially “unwelcoming” mood when working with sequined fabric, and now I can commiserate with them.  However, I am not discouraged from sewing with sequins again!

100_0834a100_0833I will write this re-fashion story short and sweet. I cut all original seams off, keeping the sleeve hems. Then I re-cut the pattern top exactly as I did for my dress, and cut another front piece from the sequin fabric. The sequin front piece was pinned onto the T-shirt front, then I re-sewed the whole top back together, stabilizing seams.

Next I used chalk to draw my own plans onto the back of the dress. I took advantage of the wide netting edge along the selvedge to fill in a large  open back, similar to the lace in my knit dress above.

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Voila! I like how it is, as it is, so I plan on using the sequin bags for another Art Deco type dress.

I kept switching between needles the whole time I was piecing this together, using the sharp where ever I was sewing through sequins and using a knit ball point where I was only sewing on the T-shirt knit. I hope this was right, but I don’t see how I could have done it otherwise.

Just a little FYI : I did a ‘sort of’ funny mistake when I finished sewing this top. When I was done, I was so excited to try it on and I completely forgot there was one last pin on the inside armpit seam. OUCH! I had one long, swollen scratch that luckily didn’t bleed much. My husband actually thought it was rather funny that my scratch was in the shape of the letter Z…the Mark of Zorro, maybe?!  It makes me want to get out my old black and white Zorro movie…the 1940 Tyrone Power movie is my favorite!
Here is an outtake of me enjoying feeling like a rock star!

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If I don’t post before the end of the year, Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to another great year of sewing ahead. Cheers!