“Saddle n’ Lace” Sleeveless Tunic Shirt

Howdy!  Here’s a loose and comfy western-themed modern shirt, made from a vintage novelty fabric with a little bit of lace, a little bit of denim, and a secretive bit of skin for the sun to shine on.  To go with the subtle motif of the shirt, we chose an equally understated western scenery of dry desert cacti and succulent plants.

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This is the garment of oxymorons – I’m wearing a shirt, just a really long one adapted to almost be a dress, and although it has a collar that comes up around my neck, I’m not all that covered up…my back and chest are showing.  The idea associated with a saddle and its gear, along with blue jean material, is one of general rugged toughness, yet there is a good amount of delicate sheer lace to add contrast femininity.  A front placket of brass buttons isn’t completely working, actually, and old fabric goes to make something modern.  I guess it’s merely a case of “opposites attract” or my enjoyment of making my own clothes…probably both!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The printed fabric is a vintage cotton/poly blend gabardine, the lace is a poly polka-dot ivory, and the denim is a medium-wash cotton.  The denim leftover from my arch-waist 1940’s jeans, the lace came from my untouched stash of laces, and the printed gabardine was bought as a remnant at a vintage market booth.Simplicity 1422 cover pic

PATTERN:  Simplicity #1422, year 2014

NOTIONS:  I had all the interfacing and thread I needed, but after a last minute design idea I had to go out around town and hunt down some denim bias tape in a matching color.  The buttons are modern, bought a few years back, and were in my stash of notions.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This took maybe 8 to 10 hours and was finished on September 9, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  All bias bound or self-fabric covered

TOTAL COST:  I’ m counting the lace and denim as free, so my only cost was the special denim bias tape and the vintage fabric – maybe $8 total.

I had as much fun making it as I do wearing it – very much!  Wearing a tunic is new to me (yes, believe it or not) so I did have some trouble figuring out how to make this and what to do with it, but now that I feel as if I understand how to make it work.

My husband’s workplace was hosting a family “picnic” get together at our town’s zoo, and this was in early fall when the weather here is generally warm, but the breeze and shady spots can become a bit chilly.  Thus, my ‘saddle and lace’ tunic was perfect for the day, besides giving me a reason to sew up a fun, new garment for the occasion.  Wearing leggings underneath as well as the denim collar around my neck kept me from getting too chilled but the open top half kept me cool enough in the warm sun.  It is modern, yet not too edgy nor boring at the same time.  Plus it has a level of nice casual wear that I really enjoy.  I really need more casual wear like this in my wardrobe.

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The fit of this pattern’s blouses is generous and but I tend to think the excess ease looks good here.  The pattern was easy, and everything fit together very well, but I especially love the all-in-one collar, where the neckline stand and the first button are part of the lapel.  I think this designing touch amps up the pattern from interesting and different to quite nice.  The overall lengths seem to run quite long in everything – the sleeves, the waistline, and the tunic hem.  Slouchy is the key here, anyway, so no problem, after all.

I must say my choice of using denim for the button placket was not the best decision, and neither was my choice in buttons, but I made it work.  The denim makes the front placket so thick and stiff, besides being quite a challenge to make button holes in and sew through to attach buttons.  The buttons are working but it is such an ordeal that wears out my fingers I never bother because the shirt is loose enough it slips on anyway.  The bottom band I added prevents my shirt from being fully un-buttoned anyway (the reason for adding the bottom piece along with the further contrast it gives), which is why I think of this as more of a tunic.  It was either add the contrast or make an arched-side shirt–tail hem, and you can see which of the two I chose.

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My unusual polka dot lace makes me happy.  With a solid or floral version of this shirt, I think a floral lace would work fine.  However, floral laces that I had just didn’t look good to me with the novelty print so I pulled out this dotted lace.  It’s been in my stash for over 10 years, and I didn’t have that much of it.  Working with this soft lace was worse than dealing with silk.  It was so slinky and shifty, as well as having crooked lines of polka dots.  The shiftiness of the lace was one of the main reasons I realized I needed a stable binding for the armhole edges – more denim.

100_6078-compThinking about it, I coined the print as western, but actually the detail of the print is a bit more about equestrianism, particularly English style.  The saddles are drawn quite nice, with a fancy riding whip cross-wise behind it, so it is more like a reference to classy sports riding for show.  Nevertheless, having saddles and their related gear pictured all over my shirt I couldn’t pass up a chance to ride a wild animal…on the carousel!  I chose a warthog and our son rode the giraffe.

There were so many ideas in my head of what I could make with the saddle printed fabric, yet what I did make was what really appealed to me.  Fancy western shirts, tailored with contrast details, or even a fun 50’s novelty-themed skirt were all on my list of possibilities here.  Then, as the indecision kicked in, I was tempted to save it, but it is too cute to hide in a fabric bin.  I suppose most of those who sew have one of these projects that somehow begs to be made up a certain way, no matter other ideas.  I’m glad I listened…

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Multi-Purpose 1971 Jiffy Garment

All I know is that it fits, looks great, and it is in a peacock print (my favorite – see this post) lined in fabric of the color turquoise (another favorite). Can’t go wrong there! Whether it is a dress, or a tunic, or a jumper depends on the weather and how I feel like wearing the garment. That is the versatility of my newest 1970s sewing creation.

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The printed fashion fabric is a 100% cotton from the quilting department, and the lining inside is a cotton blend, twill-looking gabardine solid.Simplicity 9461, year 1971, Jiffy dress or tunic or jumper & pants-comp

NOTIONS:  None were needed to buy ‘cause all I needed was thread…pretty simple, right? It was my decision later to use some bias tape on hand to finish off the armhole edges.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #9461, year 1971, a “Super Jiffy” pattern.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Only about 4 hours were put into making this dress/jumper/tunic thing. It was done in one afternoon and evening on December 3, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  What insides? Everything is tucked inside itself.

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TOTAL COST:  Maybe $8.00 for the gabardine and a few more dollars for the printed cotton.

This little number is kind of a mystery fashion item – one of the reasons why I wanted to try it especially since it’s a one piece “Super Jiffy” pattern. In other words, I’m not committing much time and not cutting into my fabric much since this line of patterns seems to frequently be a large portion manipulated into fitting with clever darts and shaping (see this other 70’s “Super Jiffy” dress). Anyway, what is the real point to this? It does make for a really cute dress, and is decent as a jumper, but the wrap doesn’t close as much as I had thought it would. The 70’s did have some trends of slightly nonsensical layers, such as short cropped sweater vests over blouses or skirts over pants. I will need to wear tights, pants, shorts, or a mini skirt under this for decency’s sake. Maybe I’ll even have to whip up the pants provided in the pattern for full retro effect.

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My pattern is in junior’s proportions, so I had to do some interesting and successful grading up. As this pattern is one big tissue piece, at first I thought I couldn’t just add the amount needed like regular patterns…but then I thought back, “Why not?!” Time for some unwilling slashing to the pattern! So I cut the vertical center front line apart (where the two front cross over) and added in ¼ of my total amount added in, and another ¼ of the total amount was added to the vertical back seam, turning it into something I cut on the fold (rather than having a center back seam like the pattern directs). Then just like the other 60’s and 70’s junior patterns I’ve done (see here or here), I added in 2 inches horizontally across the chest between the shoulder and the bust to lower all the bust, waist, hip, and hem lines in one simple step.

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If you have a strong aversion to doing darts, then this pattern is not for you because they are quite plentiful. However, the darts are practically the only work this garment involves. My consolation to sewing all the darts (and I had to do double because the lining is a second mirror of the dress/jumper) was the final way the garment fits so well. This is seriously the best fitting Jiffy pattern I’ve made yet. Some of those darts are in slightly unusual directions, but they do their job very well – the designers were smart here.

As I mentioned already, the lining is like sewing a second dress/jumper, so as to face the two right sides together, sew along the entire outer edge, leaving a small opening to turn inside out and top-stitch things in place. This dress/jumper could easily been made reversible doing it this way (already did that here), but I have plenty of garments in solid turquoise so I didn’t do this because I really wouldn’t wear it that way. Take note that making an entire second mirror garment for a whole body lining was entirely my idea. The pattern only provides for facing to the neckline/front closure edge and the armholes. Many times I opt out of facings, feeling like they are too fiddly sometimes, but as I didn’t use facings to this pattern I’m not including this in the same pool. The peacock cotton was very this and like Velcro to whatever else it touched except for the gabardine (or polyesters) so it needed to be lined. As my last step, I used simple single fold bias tape to turn under the edges of the armholes in lieu of the facings, too.

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The button at the tab is completely for show and the real closure system is really hidden underneath. When wearing this as a jumper, I seem to need slightly more room than when just wearing as a summer dress. Thus I made to closure system adjustable by having the inner side have lovely aqua ribbons and under the outer tab there is more than one position of hooking for the waistband-style eye. By the way, the unworkable front button is the same as the decorative one used on another turquoise jumper garment – my ’67 jumper. This is the end of these same buttons, don’t worry…it was a two pack with no more to come.

I’m still unsure if this project is done until I can completely make up my mind as to whether or not to add on the hand level side pocket. I don’t know how much wear this dress/jacket will get (the gauge for whether or not to put more work in). Goodness knows, I’ve got the extra fabric for a pocket and can pull out the pattern whenever I feel like I need its utility, but until then it’s going to be basic I guess.

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Yikes! Check out those “headlight” eyes on my doggie!

It’s funny how I find myself gravitating towards 1971 again and again now that I’m sewing more from the decade. Perhaps it’s because of my love for the decade of the 1960’s, so please don’t tire of this trend on my blog. I see most of what our culture thinks of as the “60’s” as noticeably happening between 1967 and 1971, before this the earlier 60’s had more of a 50’s influence in my mind with random trends emerging from the popular music bands. The hippie looks and bell bottoms of the 70’s were obvious in style, fashion, and patterns after 1972.

Multi-use wear garments are my favorite pattern finds to make and therefore wear. They are something generally unavailable to buy “ready-to-wear”, and fun to make no matter how much wearing they get.  I’ve found that trying different styles, fashions, and garments has a higher success rate, lower monetary risk, and higher chance for personal partiality when you make it yourself, besides being so much easier, cheaper, and enjoyable.  It’s a win-win…teaching yourself something while ending up with something uniquely yours to wear!

Have You Ever Seen a Purple Snake?

Your answer will be negative, no doubt, because…neither have I, and there really doesn’t seem to be such a creature.  Somehow or another, nevertheless, there is a sweater knit fabric of a silver speckled purple snakeskin tunic dress in my closet.  Weird, right?  O.K., I might have introduced this dress on the wrong ‘foot’ (ha ha, snakes don’t have feet…), but my garment really isn’t all that bad.

The snakeskin dress was completed 3 years ago when my adventures in blogging first began.  Why it was made, I still don’t exactly know, nor can a final decision be made whether or not I like it on myself (…that’s still in limbo).  My consciousness has a strong suspicion I only picked out: 1) the fabric because it is purple (I cannot resist that color and would live in it if I could) and, 2) the pattern because it looks modern, fun, easy, and comfy.  Simply on account of the fact that I do wear my purple snakeskin dress, I did make it, and as it is awfully warm and cozy, I will finally get around to blogging about it.

100_2645aTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  A polyester/acyclic knit blend.  It is a lofty, but lightweight sweater knit, with a silver speckled pebble finish over the snakeskin.  The snakeskin knit is lined in a lightweight black polyester “active” knit to amp up the warmth factor and eliminate any see through issues.100_0832

NOTIONS:  I had all the thread and interfacing/hem tape that was needed.

PATTERN:  Butterick 5388, year 2009, view D

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I don’t remember anymore – maybe one or two night’s worth of a few hours.  It was finished on December 7, 2012.

TOTAL COST:  I don’t remember that either.  All I know is that the fabric was bought from JoAnn’s Fabric store, and I probably spent no more than $15, but in all likelihood, less than $10.

As you can see, the pattern I used is supposed to be a tunic, but I lengthened the bottom hem by about 8 inches to turn it into a dress as you see it.  (I’ve done a tunic/top into dress change before; see this post)  I am not really sure if I like this snakeskin knit as a dress, but at the same time I don’t know if I would like it (or wear it) as a tunic, either.  Besides lengthening, the only other changes I made to the pattern are the additions of a few tucks to bring in the tunic at the waistline.  There are three of these waistline tucks – a big one at the center back, and two off the center of the front.  Anything to provide shaping and avoid making me fat!  If you can’t see those tucks in our pictures, it’s because they get hidden under my belt.  Actually, the tucks I added don’t look bad on the dress if a belt is not worn, and they can be very easily unpicked if I so decide.  Besides the changes listed, nothing else was done to vary from the original pattern.

100_2658a     I did find the sizing to run very generously…by that I mean very large!  Technically I could have went down a size, or two even.  It is always easier to take in a garment than it is to fit one that turns out too small, so I’m not really complaining about this pattern, just forewarning others.  I don’t remember exactly, but I think I had to take in several inches, on each side, out of the dress all the way down the entire side seam, from the bottom hem up through the hem of the sleeves.  I have a feeling that with a lightweight fabric like challis, the generous fit would be appropriate and look good with the design.  For the first winter I made this dress, I just left on the excess fabric in the side seam – why, I think ‘just in case’ I wanted to take the seam out.  But, in winter #2 for my dress that excess was indeed cut off and cleaned up, trimming down on the dress’ bulk considerably.

For being a knit pullover tunic dress, you do need to stabilize the neckline to support100_2657 keep the large scoop neck from losing its shape and, in my case, support the rest of the dress.  I guess I could have omitted interfacing the facing since I also sewed in, well, I hate to admit it…hem tape…into the neckline to stabilize it.  Talk about overkill!  As I said earlier, I had made this dress when I was just getting back into sewing full swing, and as of yet, did not have a whole lot of experience with knits nor did I know in entirety what was available at the fabric stores.  I should have sewn in seam stay tape into the neckline.  The hem tape did do the job just fine, beyond adding a bit more bulk than was needed (and it was significantly thick already from the two fabrics and the neckline pleats).   Bad girl, I didn’t even sew this dress together in a proper knit manner.  I used loose straight stitches, which still work decently, instead of zig-zag stitches which ‘give’ with the knit.  One tremendously good thing about this dress is the fact that it makes me realize that my sewing skills have significantly improved.

100_0855     My snakeskin tunic dress was an easy and quick gratifying project to learn off of and also wear when the mood strikes me.  This is a very warm item to have on when the temperatures drop, even despite its open scoop neck.  A thick and chunky scarf can fix the open neck ‘problem’.  As much as I like the cowl/loose turtle neck option on the pattern’s other views (see picture earlier), I like the open neck.  I think it helps keep this dress from looking too overpowering, and besides, it keeps me being too confined and overheated in a dress this cozy.

To make my outfit more complete, I like to wear my dress with a grey snakeskin belt which was bought from my favorite (now closed) resale store.  As a disclaimer, my belt is printed vinyl, not the real reptile product, but it sure looks more like the real thing than my dress’ fabric does – purple, silver speckled snakeskin, really!  Kim at the blog “Kopy Kat Kim” made a wonderful version of this same pattern in a red snakeskin.  (Her tunic is indeed styled beautifully and looks amazing!)  Furthermore, I found an interesting page which briefly runs through snakeskin fabric in fashion history.  That page can be found here.

On the humorous line, when I say or think the two words, “purple snakeskin”, I can’t help but think of a silly song that always made me laugh as a little girl:  “One Eyed, One Horned Flying Purple People Eater”, dating to 1958, believe it or not.  Having something so scary be a funny color lightens things up, making them funny instead of fearful.  Maybe there is a purple snake that is a distant relative of the “one eyed, one horned flying purple people eater”?  Silly me!

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A Compliment by Contrast – My Leather and Chiffon Dress

Many times I have special vision when sighting a rather disappointing pattern envelope cover.  Somehow I can see past the wrong fabric or trims or styling that was chosen.  Maybe I can see the creative potential of patterns because I love being artistic and thinking outside the box…who knows.

Nevertheless, this leather and chiffon dress was definitely one of those surprising, creative, out-of-the-box projects which turned out to be wonderful staple I turn to wear frequently.  It feels so nice to have a quite distinctive modern dress when I’m not in vintage wear.  To make my ‘complimenting contrast’ dress even more associated to Sew Weekly, I took my inspiration from an amazing contributor to Sew Weekly, Kazz Pell of Australia.  She recently stopped blogging, so I’d like to dedicate this post to her and to everyone else who proudly loves to wear one’s own art.

100_2926aTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  One yard of faux leather fabric for the neckline and sleeve trim.  Four yards of polyester sheer printed chiffon were bought for the outer dress.  The chiffon is a very loose weave animal-style print with black, grey, light blue, and white colors.  White rayon challis is the under dress, lining the sheer chiffon.

NOTIONS:  I had everything on hand, but I didn’t need anything out of the ordinary, anyway: black thread, white thread, sharps machine needles, interfacing, and white bias tape.100_1302

PATTERN:  Simplicity 2891, year 2008, without the pattern’s sleeves or bust ties and lengthened by about 12 inches into a dress length.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was finished on March 9, 2013, after not much time to complete, maybe 8 hours, 10 at the most.

THE INSIDES:  Except for the sleeve seams, which are covered in bias tape, all other seams are French seams.  Of course the hems aren’t French, just tiny 1/8 and 1/4 inch seams.  The neckline has self-fabric facings, so the inside is as cleanly finished as what you see from the outside.

TOTAL COST:  All fabrics were picked out and bought back in early 2012, so I don’t exactly remember all the totals.  I believe my dress probably cost $30, more or less.

Compared to the tacky, outdated top sewn up and modeled on the pattern envelope front, my finished dress is, I feel, a tremendous improvement which gives Simplicity 2891 some of its due justice.  Nevertheless, compared to Kazz’s original “Bamboo Banga Dress”, my dress is just a poor, toned down version of a knock-off.   This was what I was comfortable with and came up with using my own style of ingenuity.  I do, however, owe my leather and chiffon dress to Kazz, in the way that her artistic taste and sewing abilities are so awesome, she inspired me to try a mix of fabrics completely new to me and explore my creativity, too.  That’s the best thing about the sewing blogger world – we inspire and encourage each other to grow and learn!

100_2932a    Kazz gave me the wonderful idea to double up the printed chiffon to create an off-inked appearance like when the layers of printed colors are miss-matched.  Thus,  I had to buy double the amount called for in the pattern, and extra, as well, to lengthen the tunic into a dress.  Buying double was a bit more costly than I wanted, especially when combined with the faux leather fabric and the rayon challis under-dress.  I did not want to wait until the perfect fabric was gone before I decided to go buy it!  My idea needed to be sewn together in real life, not just in my head, and I’m glad to be able to enjoy wearing this dress.  Discount coupons were used on the material to help my dress be totally worth every penny!

100_2933a     Like I had said above, I lengthened the tunic by about 1 foot (12 inches) to make it a decent tunic dress for my taste, and this took some redrawing of the bottom half of the pattern.  I also did my usual drastic grading between sizes (such as here and here) to make sure I didn’t end up with an over-sized, ill fitting sack for my sewing time and trouble.  The center front gathers (under the neckline placket) were left as they were on the pattern, even though I considered taking out an inch or so to avoid any possible silly bust fluffiness that sometimes happens with such a design element.  Now, remember, I had to cut out 3 tunic pieces – 2 from the chiffon and 1 of the rayon – so I was glad to have the main body pattern be two very simple and easy, slightly shaped squares which get cut on the fold.  There was minimal marking to make, also.  I only chalked on the rayon under dress, and used thread to mark on the chiffon.

It was just a tiny bit challenging to work with all three of those fabric layers together while making my tunic dress.   The two layers of chiffon were stay-stitched to the rayon under layer so I could finish the neck, its gathers, and the neckline placket.  Next, I tacked the armholes together to sew on the petal sleeves that I drafted for my dress (I’ll address more about the sleeves in a bit).  I was kinda being too much of a perfectionist when trying to smooth out and match the two chiffon layers when it came to doing the bottom hemline, but I pinned while my dress was hanging free from a hanger.  A few days (just a few) were taken up just putting off doing the hem, so I could look at my hem pinning job and smooth it out again just to re-pin and overall uselessly obsess.  In the end, I tacked the hem together with a loose stitch so I could finish the chiffon hem in a tiny 1/8 inch hem then try to perfect and match up the rayon under dress hem.100_1641

In lieu of a label (like what’s on store bought RTW clothes), I kept a selvedge edge label along the vertical side seam, right at about the hip/upper thigh, on the chiffon fabric of my dress.  It plainly displays, in rather subtle, but obvious words for those who know, “Exclusively for Hancock Fabrics”.  That store don’t carry already made clothes, people!  There isn’t any thing better than advertising my favorite fabric store to others.  I really tend to prefer the Hancock Fabrics exclusive fabrics…they tend to have the best hand, print design, and value out of all the other fantastic items they carry.  I will have to include this selvedge label method again.

At first, I was nervous about working with the faux leather, after reading Kazz’ point about her small stitching line being similar to a line of perforations, giving a slight doubt as to whether or not the dress will hold together well.  Mindful of her experience with real leather, I sewed on the faux leather with a long straight stitch line, and was careful to get things right the first time (so I wouldn’t have to unpick and leave holes).  Adding interfacing to the back of the faux leather was tricky and almost impossible, but I wanted the neckline stabilized, so I made it stay (somehow) in the end.  A Teflon (walking) sewing machine foot wasn’t needed, or even any wax paper, since the faux leather had a slightly brushed, softer finish with shiny patches, like a sort of snakeskin.  I made sure to use a new sharp needle in my machine because an old needle might not glide through a tougher fabric as precisely.  Yahoo!  My first experiment with an ‘inexpensive and easy-care alternative’ to leather turning out so nicely has given me more confidence to attempt a try at working with the real thing in the future.  Another one of my  sewing hurdles was passed and conquered.100_1324

I just could not bear the thought, or even the idea, or doing the sleeves that are shown to go with the pattern.  Ugh!  I knew I didn’t want a sleeveless option, either.  My dress seemed to me to need an added interest…sleeves which would perk up the design by being different but without getting distracting from the simplicity of a tunic dress.  Thus, it occurred to me to use yet another new technique on my dress – petal sleeves.  I have been wanting to do this type of sleeve on an outfit of mine for quite awhile (since 2011).  All this time I had bookmarked a web page which gives an excellent tutorial on how to adapt your favorite classic cap sleeve pattern piece into a re-drafted petal sleeve.  The step by step petal sleeve tutorial can be found by clicking here (@ My Sparkle blog) and it is full of pictures, very clear, and quite easy.  I used the basic cap sleeve pattern piece from a past made project of mine, a McCall’s 6433 “Red Flame” knit sweater dress. I had already fixed this sleeve piece so it would fit my larger upper arm, so I traced it out onto some leftover paper from a torn trash bag, then got to work adapting it into a petal sleeve pattern cut out of wax paper (since I could see through it) and marked with a sharpie pen!  I was just trying to be smartly economical with whatever was on hand.100_2929     The petal sleeves are everything I hoped they would be, both for the balance of my dress’ image and for a wonderfully comfy fit.  The two overlapping sleeve pieces allow for full freedom of movement, which I can always use because of my thick upper arms.  However, at the same time, someone with thin arms would also love petal sleeves as well because of the way they fold over (like a flower) to fit you so beautifully when not opened up by movement of the arm.  Petal sleeves were on the dresses of my bridesmaids in our wedding, and I thought they were so pretty then…but now I’ve made my own!  Strips of the faux leather were cut out, folded over and added to the edges of my dress’ petal sleeves to highlight the crossover pieces and finish off the hem edges nicely.

Faux leather on the sleeve edges gives a great finishing contrast to my dress in more ways than one.  Leather is seen as something tough and masculine and durable, thus to use it to bring out the beauty of a sleeve, made out of the sewing world’s most delicate and feminine fabrics (chiffon), named after the most fleeting beauty of a flower (its petals), provides an amazing and curious irony about my dress that I find very appealing.  Maybe the reason why I love this contrast of fabric, image, and ideal has to do with me: deep down there is a small wild part of me that enjoys an equally small part of the punk music listening/motorcycle babe/modern feminism crowd.  As an example, it’s a shame you really can’t see in our pictures the fishnet stockings I wore on my legs and my chain jewelry worn to match my dress in the above photos.  I did try to “dress up” my dress in a toned down, classy way, as you can see in our other picture here (at right) showing me100_1314 sporting pearls at my neck with a suede belt and strappy flat shoes.  There is more than one way to wear this dress, but the hip and funky way, like what Kazz sports, is definitely my favorite with this leather and chiffon project.

Inspiration comes in all shapes, colors, places, and media.  Kazz Pell’s blog and her participation in Sew Weekly showcased her talent and let others, like myself, look and read with a hope for catching a bit of that inventive spark.  Let something inspire you and make it your own – be it an old family photo, a painting or even a song.  The world needs creative people like us!

Geometric Lines of the Times – My 20’s Inspired Tunic

Here is one project that couldn’t help the way it turned out!  It was one of those special garments that kind of makes itself…and in this case, that is a VERY good thing.  I merely knew what era I wanted (the 20’s), knew what color (mustard yellow) and fabric (linen blend) I wanted to be working on, then, with plenty of fashion research, did whatever seemed right.  I can’t lay claim to any one specific pattern or garment as an inspiration.  The finished tunic is simply my best expression of the Art Deco styling I love about the 20’s.  There is a one-of-a-kind historical accuracy about this tunic that seems so perfect for our modern times just as well as 90 years ago.

100_2199a     This is the second 20’s inspired tunic top I have made.  My first one can be seen here.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  I used 3 1/2 yards of a 62% linen/38%rayon blend fabric.  It has a loose weave, almost like lightweight burlap (perhaps you will notice this in some close-up shots), and has a slightly scratchy, natural feel to it.  The color is a unique mustard yellow that has a bit of green undertones in the shade. 

NOTIONS:  I only needed thread, so, with such an odd color, I did buy one matching spool of Dual Duty thread.   I also bought a pack of golden yellow pearlescent square buttons for the back closure.

B6140Butterick 4230PATTERN:  I used a modern out-of-print pattern to make my tunic, on account of its similar fit to 20’s style clothes.  It is a Butterick 6140, year 1999, view F, shortened and without the pockets.  I also used one of my favorite patterns, a Butterick 4230, year 2004, for the long bell sleeves.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This top was unbelievably quick and fun!  It was done in a total of 10 hours, and it could’ve been less but I took my time enjoying this project.  My 20’s tunic was done on December 3, 2013.

THE INSIDES:  The neckline is self-encased by the second layer of fabric (the tunic’s main body is double layered).  The side seams and sleeves are French seams, the back center is a clean finished (turned under), my shoulder/sleeve seams are raw zig zagged edges, and the bottom hem is covered by brown lace hem tape (see right picture). 100_2589

TOTAL COST:  somewhere around $15.00

HISTORICAL ACCURACY: Relatively accurate; I built upon ideas from old original posters.  (The posters below are “Australian Home Journal, March 1, 1930” and “L’Echo de Paris” newspaper fashion page from the 20’s)  I believe I only used sewing methods and fabrics that would have been available for the 20’s/maybe early 30’s.  I also opted for a simple self-fabric loop and button closure since zippers (or technically slide fastener) were not widely accepted yet in the 20’s. 

100_2592    The basic tunic, like I mentioned above, went together in such a flash you could’ve blinked and missed it.  I made some slight changes to the construction to suit my needs, such as doubling up the main body of the tunic and shortening the dress pattern to a hip skimming length. Double layering the body helps my 20’s tunic hang better and it guarantees no see through.  Besides those reasons, I was able to easily make a cleanly finished neckline without facings.  How?  I sewed the four shoulder seams (two on the ‘lining’ top and two on the ‘good side out’ top) first, then sew the entire neckline and back button placket with the right sides together, and wrong sides out.  When the right sides get turned out, the neckline merely needs a top stitching to cleanly set everything  in place, and the rest of the tunic (side and back seams, hem, and sleeves) goes together as normal.  I have done this “doubled-up” method to other projects (link here and here) so as to simplify an already easy project.  I love anything that helps me make the most of my time!

My Butterick 6140 had never been made up yet, and I’m surprised that such a gem in my pattern cabinet never got noticed before.  Such a basic pattern has great potential in my eyes, especially knowing now that it fits me “to a T”, needing no adjustments to be my instant perfect size.  There is just enough ease in this dress pattern to really be a pullover (perfect for the relaxed 20’s styles) without any difficult wiggling to  get into it, either.  You bet I’ve got a few knockout 20’s dresses in mind to make using some spruced up reincarnations of the dresses from Butterick 6140.Home Journal 1920'sParis 20's drop waist dress poster

At first I had planned on adding a bow and/or a collar once my basic tunic was sewn together, like the three poster ladies in yellow above.  But once my tunic was together, a bow at the neck just didn’t seem like it would work well, and I began tending towards taking a different style, a simple Art Deco.  I loved the vertical stripes on the dress of the lady in yellow (from the “L’Echo de Paris” poster).  I still wanted the brown/yellow day suit combination on the left half of the “Home Journal” poster.  Over the course of a few non-sewing days, I did some passive brain crunching to figure out a simple, decorative way to add a Deco design.  Self-fabric tubing and ribbon were some of my first ideas of what to add to my tunic, but I was wanting something more simplistic.  Using tiny pin tucks to jazz up my tunic gives me the perfect answer to my design desire.  The pin tucks also give me a combo of both inspiration poster pictures – I get to be truly authentic while also true to my personal taste.

Art Deco designs are characterized by rich colors, bold geometric shapes, and anGatsby line preview embrace of technology, as seen in many architectural designs.  For a recent reference, see the line designs of the opening credits (see left small picture) in last year’s “The Great Gatsby” movie.  With this in mind, and with my adoration for the mathematician/designer Vionnet, I made the measurements and lined pin tucks on my tunic very precise, symmetrical, and exact. My sleeve hems end at 1/2 inch above the tunic hem, to compliment the tunic and create a square look.  Remember, my back neck closure is also a square button.  The ‘V’ neckline adds another geometric shape.  The two rows of pin tucks are on my left side, and 1 1/2 inches apart from each other.  The first row starts 1 1/2 inches away from the center of the tunic.  What number do you get with 1 1/2 inches times two?  That’s right, the horizontal pin tucks start at 3 inches up from the bottom hem.  How’s that for someone (like me) for whom math isn’t a strong point.    100_2190

I did the lines of tucks on the front only, at first, then, after talking it out with my hubby, decided to extend the lines around and back up again.  My left sleeve also was bestowed pin tucks when I discovered it was slightly longer than my right one.  I guess I had done a slightly imperfect hemming job but it was turned to my advantage because the tucks made the sleeves equal in arm length and matching with the design on that side.  I measured and double checked to get the sleeve tucks perfect and I’m proud of how cool it turned out.  The horizontal pin tucks on the left sleeve lines up exactly with the ones on the left tunic side, creating the illusion of a continuous line when my arm hangs down (which you can see in the 100_2585apicture, if you look closely).  A corner turner was a necessary staple to keep the two layers of fabric together to make all these pin tucks at only 1/8 inch big.  The tucks are also tapered to end at the neckline as well as on each side of the side seam because these spots were too thick to go through (see small picture).

100_2201     Modern RTW items helped my tunic turn into an outfit.  A staple in my closet – an Old Navy brand skirt – became an era appropriate match for my tunic.  With the skirt’s “high-low” hemline, bias cut, and knit fabric I suppose this outfit I put together would be a late 1920’s style.  Check out my shoes!  They are “Maxin” by Chelsea Crew, found at ModCloth or DSW, to name a few providers.  Bought at a good price, my shoes are so comfy!  I think they are THE piece that ties my outfit together with my tunic, both era wise (having the 20’s t-straps) and color wise (very rarely do my shoes exactly match when it comes to such an odd color).

Our photo shoot location was at two 20’s/30’s era buildings a few blocks away from our home.  It’s so fun to try to match my outfits I make with era appropriate locations around our town; it gets us out to explore and pay attention to what’s in our own town!  Several passerby’s who saw our photo shoot really seemed to enjoy watching our photo shoot and I hope I brought to life a past era for them.

I certainly enjoy imagining myself back 80 or 90 years ago, when these buildings were new…I’m hoping I would fit in wearing my handmade tunic.  The thought of “would I fit in if I were in year -” is my true historical test for my creations.  I happily feel that my geometric pin tucked tunic passes this test.

100_2183      The picture above is showcasing a very decorative doorway lintel, dating from the 20’s/30’s.  This is the second photo shoot taken under a Deco doorway lintel found in our neighborhood – the first pictures are at my “It’s De-Lovely” blog post.

In this second picture, I’m posing in front of a different building, dating to the 20’s, carrying an old original sign, “Frank Hardt Memorial Medical Building”.  It is our photo shoot’s second building (and also in our neighborhood), still serving to fulfill medical purposes as a family owned pharmacy which has proudly been around for 80 years.

100_2210    What’s cool is how it’s actually hard to tell the two buildings apart, other than these two last pictures.  Both buildings share the same builder, even though they’re a half mile apart!  You just can’t get a better example of Art Deco architectural art in the area where we live, than the two buildings which we included in our photos.