Roughing It!

I am the latest and greatest fan of the American west.  My recent trip last month to Nevada, then the drive to and from Los Angeles, has opened my eyes to a whole new environment I’ve never experienced before.  I – of course – have watched the “Wild West” in classic films and such, yet the great expanses out there are best appreciated in person, I can attest.  My casual and active wear wardrobe is always lacking and so I whipped up a cozy pullover sweater in preparation for the day I planned on going hiking. It was perfect to wear for the occasion… it adds to my experiences to have a memorable handmade item for wearing when I do equally memorable events!  Most importantly, though, was the lovely time in the sunshine, the beautiful atmosphere, and the company I had visiting with my friend!

For most of my pictures, my top will be partially covered by my overalls.  Hiking through the breathtaking Red Rock Canyon – where everything is prickly, rocky, rough and dusty – required something sturdy, sensible, and secure.  Heck with fashion photography this time, here is what I sew, being seen exactly how I enjoy it.  Thus I paired my self-made creation with Hell Bunny brand heavy cotton denim, vintage-inspired overalls (“Elly May Denim Dungaree”) for a sort of ‘Rosie the riveter’ flair with a modern, utilitarian aesthetic.  I guess vintage fashion is so ingrained in my life that I cannot help but take a pattern from today and merge it into my lifestyle’s flair for the styles of the past.

On my way down to Las Vegas, I paired my pullover with my Burda Style 1930s style Marlene trousers (posted here) for yet other variant of the whole vintage-made-modern thing I like to do, consciously or not. At the airport, my son did not want to see me leave him behind with daddy!  He’s mommy’s boy…at least for now!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a one yard polyester knit remnant – it has a wonderful brushed outside which makes it appear like a sweater, yet there is a smooth knit, plain white inside

PATTERN:  Seamwork’s “Astoria” pullover

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This pullover was made in one evening as a last minute project before leaving – in under 2 hours I had this top done on February 2, 2020.

THE INSIDES:  as this knit does not ravel and needs room to stretch, the inside edges are left raw.

TOTAL COST:  As the fabric was picked up at a rummage sale where all the sewing supplies are $1 a pound – and this lofty knit weighs practically nothing – this can be counted as good as free!

I am such a fan of the Astoria pattern on many accounts.  I love the shaping of the design, it has a figure-complimenting, high-waisted seaming, it only needs one yard, is super quick to make, and easy to sew together.  Except for the bother of printing out and taping together the PDF pattern, I truly felt like I blinked and it was done.  Isn’t there more that needs to be done, I kept asking?  Apparently, I am not used to such successful 3 hours or less sewing projects.  I figured it had to be a winner purely on account of the over 1,000 cute versions of it shared on Instagram alone!

Luckily, I read through many of the shared posts about others Astoria sweaters, and noticed the frequent mention that the sizing ran small, especially when it came to the sleeves.  My chosen knit barely had the recommended minimum of 25% stretch for I figured that fitting trend could cause an issue.  This was my true first Seamwork pattern (not exactly counting this sundress because, although it came from Seamwork, it is a Colette brand pattern) and so I had no idea what sizing to go by besides their chart.  Just to be safe, I went up a whole size than what their chart showed I should be making.  Now – even though my Astoria pullover does fit me, only in a snug fashion – I wish I had went up yet another whole size still.  I don’t know if this fit applies to all Seamwork patterns or just this Astoria, but it is easier to err on the side of caution for next time I try their designs and cut a generous size.

Please look closely and take a moment to appreciate the plaid matching I was able to achieve on an only one yard limitation!  This was not an easy to match, repeating print, either.  No matter how simple or quick and easy of a project I may be working on, I always make sure to do a really good job.  Among other reasons like personal satisfaction, a job well done gives me a reason to feel that my time is worthwhile enough to spend sewing versus buying something ready-to-wear.  (Most of the time RTW doesn’t offer anything close to what I have in mind to wear, so never mind!)  The wide, hem panel matches as well as the entire side seams into the sleeves.  Every little sewing victory deserves to be celebrated!

I realize it may seem frivolous to many to be focused on fashion and not dire events at hand happening in our world today, especially when it comes to travel.  However, in order to get through tough times, we need to find whatever helps us stay whole.  I am not the best version of myself being cooped up.  The memories of just last month – when I was free to travel out in the sun, fresh air, and open land, seeing new sights and going out of my comfort zone to visit someone I care about – needs to be refreshed for me.  Hopefully this post and its pictures provide a moment of respite for you, too, especially if you find yourself living vicariously through social media and telephone calls these days!  Oh, the great wide world out there might feel scary right now, but it is beautiful and it is calling for you to enjoy it!  Maybe don’t explore too ambitiously right this moment or in the next several weeks, but make sure to not grow content with the grind or stop seeing with your own eyes the real world outside of a digital screen.

I recently came across a quote from Travis Rice, as shared by the “Kind Humans Movement”, which strikes me as very relatable to both my post as well as today.  “Our lives have become digital.  Our friends, now virtual.  And, anything you could ever wanna know is just a click away.  Experiencing the world through second-hand information is not enough.  If we want authenticity we have to initiate it.  We will never now our full potential until we push ourselves to find it. It’s this self-discovery that inevitably takes us to the wildest places on earth.”  My thoughts exactly.

“Retro Forward” Burda Style – a Vintage Inspired Novelty Knit Dress

Waffles aren’t just for breakfast anymore!  Silly me, you probably knew that.  However, I’ll bet you didn’t know there was such a thing as a waffle knit fabric.  Plain, flat surface knit isn’t the only option in my mind anymore, and this opens up a whole new world of fashion ideas to me.

This dress, made from a novelty, reversible (yes!) textured knit, is sewn using a modern Burda Style pattern with strong features of 1960s and 70’s fashion.  Thus it is part of my ongoing blog series, “Retro Forward with Burda Style”.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a polyester blend knit bought from my local JoAnn’s Fabric store

PATTERN:  Burda Style #116, from February 2014, “Dress with Buttoned Back” view B, or “Jackie Dress” view A.  (Both views look the same to me, by the way!)

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread, some cotton scraps, and some buttons and snaps were needed and I had all of that on hand already.  Yay!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was made in about 8 hours and finished on October 15, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  As this knit is a polyester and it is a dense weave, it does not fray so the innards are left raw.  Hey – even the dress hem is left raw and unfinished!

TOTAL COST:  I don’t clearly remember, but I believe it was between $15 to $20.

When you look around at it, novelty knit fabric is ah-mazing, especially this waffle version, which is totally reversible, too (in a “photo film negative” sort of way), making it all the more open to crazy fun possibilities.  Novelty knits hold a certain balance that amazes me about modern fabrics – they keep their surface quality while still having a forgiving stretch which still acts like a normal knit, with a “memory” to go back to its original texture.  From what I have seen in my research, I have realized modern knitwear has been around since the 1920’s, but it seems as if novelty manufactured knits exploded into the designer fashion scene beginning with the end of rationing after WWII (in the 1950s), and have been out there ever since.  Look at this 1950 “blistered” textured knit dress from the great Claire McCardell, or this 50’s puckered knit wiggle dress for two examples of how a solid color becomes so interesting with this kind of fabric.  Then, after the 50’s, avant-garde fabrics (made of plastics, paper, and metal, to name just a few) were popular in the late 60’s and in the 70’s, so I feel this unusual fabric especially suits a design of that era.  After all, the pattern is called a “Jackie” dress, and as Burda calls it a “classic” design (which I really don’t agree with), I would like to think they are referring to the Presidential fashion inspiration for the 1960’s, Jackie Kennedy-Onassis.

This was really an easy-to-make dress that is so versatile and comfortable.  I found the sizing right on, and the instructions very good. 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.

I did not make any changes to the design, but I did take advantage of it by using both sides of the reversible fabric.  The main body of the dress is in the side that has more grey than white undertones, while the belt which is sew-in to the front shaping tucks was made from the side which is mostly white.  I love how using the other side of the fabric for the belt helps it blend into the dress without getting lost over it at the same time.  I kept the dress a little on the shorter side, and I think it looks better that way…it also gives me a reason to wear fun colored tights in the winter!  Looking back on it, however, I now wish I would have left out the center back, between-the-shoulders, vertical closing because when this dress is sewn out of a knit it is not necessary.  I could have sewn a basic center back seam rather than making a proper placket with fake, sewn on, non-working buttons as I have.  It looks good in the end, so I shouldn’t complain.

I am proud and happy with the way I figured out how to interface the back placket and back belt after all.  I have seen but never tried the interfacing fabric stores sell that is labeled for knits – it is a lightweight tricot mesh with an iron on adhesive back.  I do not see how this would help much or even really work well.  A good knit dress needs certain areas to be non-stretchy, and this is what true interfacing should do.  However, anything iron-on can rip off a knit if stretched too much, and a thick facing would not look good.  Thus, I used a basic 100% cotton broadcloth and basted it in place of the interfacing with some stitching, and have it inside the waist belt straps.  This works wonders to let the back facing and belt be pliable without stretching and be stabilized without undue bulky thickness, besides being an easy, on-hand solution to something that could have been more complicated.  Basic cotton bias tape was used to finish off the neckline edge, as well.  The cotton tape, though on the bias, is not all that forgiving – it is primarily stable in character – which is what I needed to keep the wide V-neckline from losing its shape.  Cotton woven fabric used as interfacing or a stabilizer for stretchy knit fabrics is a match made in heaven and one of the best tips I have discovered!

I’d say the trickiest part to the whole dress was the back belting.  Now, it wasn’t hard to do.  It was just fiddly and required my being precise with matching up the alignment of where the belt straps came into the bodice tucks.  I did lower the belt pieces slightly by about 5/8 inch so they would land just above my natural high waist rather than be at a true empire waistline.  Even still, I was and sort of still am self-conscious about the style and how it compliments (or doesn’t compliment) the tummy and hips.  I do receive tons of compliments by people when I wear this, so it must look alright.  I fudged with the closures of the back straps and sewed on fake buttons to hide the oversized snaps underneath…so much easier to do on myself blindly reaching behind.  Thread loops at the sides and center back keep the belt in place.

This “almost-mini-dress with a back waist band that comes from the side front seaming” is something I see a plethora of when it comes to sewing patterns in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  I see variations of it in patterns from every single year from 1967 to circa 1972, even with many designer names attached, so this must be good style for it to persist for at least 5 years straight in the Disco era!

Simple, straightforward and uncomplicated fashion is needed and has its place.  Solid colors and basic fabrics are staples that many times become a most-reached-for item to wear.  However, stretching the limits of what is conventionally available (the boon of sewing) can be such a likeable refreshing change for both yourself and others to see.  Doing so also stretches one’s habits of dressing and provides fun to an everyday need and unique personal expressiveness.  Novelty fabrics and creative uses for patterns can do all this!  Don’t be afraid to go find that odd fabric that speaks to your wild side and whip something up with it!  I have thoroughly enjoyed my trial with a newly discovered fabric, and a newly found vintage-does-modern fashion style only helped me like it all the more.