Ginger Made: Ebony + Nanette + Scout Tee = Happiness!

Hi, guys! Hope your week is off to a great start! Let me start off with a word of explanation: I really, really, really didn’t mean to buy a summery print so late in the year. But I stumbled across this Nanette Lepore linen/silk blend (!) online and immediately fell hard for it (good news- it’s still in stock!!!). [Sidebar: while I can’t afford to wear Nanette Lepore, I would love to- I’m such a huge fan of the Garment District, and so I really appreciate her commitment to bringing garment production back to New York. For more about this, check out Overdressed, if you haven’t already read it!] But, it’s October, so I tried to talk myself out of it. I left the browser window open for two days when I saw Mary‘s tweet that she had just ordered the same print and, well, that little nudge, plus some encouragement from Roisin, was all I needed to pull the trigger! Friends, I’m telling you, Twitter is a DANGEROUS place sometimes! So, my October Mood Sewing Network project looks a bit like an August project! Oops!

I’d planned to use this gorgeous fabric to make a really special dress (check out Kelli’s dress made with a different colorway of the same fabric!), but after I thought about it for a bit, I just couldn’t justify making a dress that would be stuffed in my closet until May. I’ve recently noticed a major hole in my wardrobe- cute tops for everyday wear! So I figured a top would allow me to wear this fun print with a greater degree of frequency.

Haha, this photo shoot was made difficult by the wind swirling around… things don’t usually look this tent-y!

Since the print is so large-scale, I knew that I needed something with a lot of surface area to show it off. I remembered Ebony’s hack of the Grainline Studio Scout Tee pattern, something I’d been meaning to try since I first saw her post. Ebony has the best style and everything she makes I immediately want… she’s just so cool (#girlcrush)! Now, Ebony used a knit, but I thought I could get away with using a woven since the original pattern is designed for wovens and the fabric is quite drapey.

Ebony details how much width and length she added to her pattern, but I didn’t want to do quite as much as she did (plus, I suspect she’s taller than me). So I dropped the front hem by 3″ and the back by 8″ (blending from 3″ at the side seam of the back piece to 8″ at the center back, giving it a nice curved hemline). I also lengthened the sleeves by 4″ (Jen at Grainline has a tutorial for how to do this if you need some pointers!). I slashed and spread the front and back pieces by 8″ each (the most I could do and still fit the pattern pieces on 44″ wide fabric). That’s plenty of extra volume- 32″ total added to the sweep of the hemline! Whoa!

The fabric was super easy to sew and didn’t fray as much as 100% linen, luckily. But it tends to relax and rumple just a bit when you wear it, which I really like. Since it wasn’t fray-crazy, I didn’t bother with fancy seam finishings and just serged the seams. Sometimes you just want to keep it simple! The neckline is finished with bias binding, and the curved hemline got the narrow hem treatment.

I know this isn’t the most flattering garment, but it makes a big splash and is really, really fun to wear. I just feel so happy when I put it on! And isn’t that the best thing about sewing your own clothes? You can wear whatever you like! And, you can channel inspiration from as many sources as you like (in my case, Ebony, Mary, Roisin, Jen, Kelli, and, of course, Nanette Lepore! And the finished garment even makes me think of Liza Jane, somehow) and turn it into a cool garment! I’m really looking forward to seeing what Mary makes with this fabric!

What are you making these days? What are your favorite top styles?

I saved you my derpiest photo as a treat. DERRRRRRRRRRRP.


Ginger Made: Lace Belladone Dress

Hi, all!  I’m back– after only one day!  What?! What’s next?  Regular scrubbing ‘o’ the shower?!  Well, maybe I shouldn’t get ahead of myself…

So, have you guys been enjoying the lace projects over at the Mood Sewing Network this month?  I sure have!  It’s fun to see everyone’s take on the same theme.  🙂  Now, it’s probably pretty apparent to most people that I’m not much of a lace girl, so my goal with this challenge was to make a garment that I would actually wear and love.  I decided to avoid anything overtly floral or feminine, and with this in mind dug through a gazillion bolts of fancy lace (inadvertently missing an entire section of what I guess is “not fancy” lace, whoops!).  I settled on this gold mesh-like poly lace:

Pretty sweet, right?  I decided to pair it with a black cotton sateen.  Dude.  There is TONS of black cotton sateen at Mood, so I was having a hard time deciding which to choose when Michael pulled out the perfect bolt.  I had no idea that humble, inexpensive cotton sateen could feel so luxe!  It’s medium-weight and has an amazing sheen and body… I could hardly bring myself to cover it with the lace!  But I did.. and here’s how it turned out!

I used the Belladone pattern from Deer & Doe (which I’m now MADLY in love with).  The pattern suggests using a soft, drapey fabric, but I thought it would be fun to see the pleats in a more structured fabric.  I think it worked out pretty well!

This pattern is my new favorite– I absolutely love it!  It’s very straightforward to put together.  I made a size 38 with no alterations whatsoever, and it fits really well.  My advice for anyone making this pattern is to reinforce the diagonal lines of the upper back bodice pieces and to handle them as little as possible.  The pattern instructions suggest reinforcing light fabric with bias tape, but rayon seam binding might be a good choice, too.  If your pieces stretch out at all, you’re going to end up with some gross gaping at mid-back… never a good look.  Also, just to be clear, the pocket yoke pieces need to be cut out of fashion fabric rather than lining because they form part of your skirt (this may be common knowledge to you guys, but I’ve never made anything with diagonal pockets before so it took me by surprise).  One last thing… there’s no closure at the neck (you just pull the dress over your head).  It’s a pretty snug neckline, so I can just slip it on comfortably, but if you’re coming from the salon with a fresh new beehive, you may have to do some real wiggling to get this on over your head without harming the ‘hive.  🙂


Let’s see… what else can I tell you about the construction?  Since the lace is pretty stretchy, I basted each piece to the sateen underlining by hand and pulled the lace just the teensiest bit taut as I stitched it.  I basted the layers together up the middle of each dart (like I always do when I underline fabric).  The lace was tough to press without melting, so it’s a little baggy in places and I really had to work to get the darts to lay flat.  I decided not to line it A) because the dress was already pretty heavy and B) because I’m in love with the sateen and wanted to feel it against my skin.  I just serged the seams, which worked really well… until I caught a wee bit of the bodice in the serger and cut a hole right at the, um, apex, of the bust… sigh…  I had to tons of hand stitching to repair that screw-up.  It’s not invisible now, but it’s not immediately apparent.  Don’t worry– it wouldn’t be a Ginger project if I didn’t have some sort of massive, complicating issue on an otherwise straightforward project.  I also managed to slice my left index finger with my shears– be careful with those things!  I didn’t realize they could snip through a dadgum FINGER!  Luckily I figured out how to PhotoShop the bandage out of the photos!

The neckline and armscyes are finished with handmade bias binding.  Cotton sateen is pretty heavy for bias tape, so if you want to use something like that (I didn’t have anything else), you have to really grade the seam allowances to reduce as much bulk as possible.  I made the waistband out of just the sateen to emphasize my virtually non-existent waist.

The only thing I’m unhappy with is the hem.  I stitched a machine hem, thinking that it would make the dress a bit more casual, but I don’t think the stretchy lace played well with the feed dogs so there’s some twisting and such around the hem.  I’ll probably rip it out and do a blind hem by hand.

Overall I’m pleased!  The color is a bit more drab than what I usually wear, so I was nervous as I was constructing the dress that I was going to hate it.  But luckily I really like it!  I can’t rave enough about the magical sateen– it just makes the dress feel so fancy and fun!  I love the way the skirt hangs in a full-bodied fabric– I felt like a Parisian princess when I slipped the dress on (and not like someone who’d spent the better part of the afternoon cleaning up after a sick dog!).  Maybe I cheated a little by not choosing a really lacy lace, but I’m still going to count this as a successful lace project.  🙂  And the pattern is just so fun– I love where the shoulder seams fall, the length is perfect, the pleat looks super cute, and the cutout is an awesome surprise when you turn around.

Alright, so I’m pretty sure this marks the beginning of a serious love affair with Deer & Doe.  I’m already planning out three more versions of this dress, and I’m trying my hardest to ignore their new patterns, but… you know how good I am at not buying patterns.

What’s next for all of y’all?  Any fun spring dresses on the docket?  And how do you feel about lace?  Love it?  Hate it?  Are back cutouts heading out of style anytime soon (I hope not!)?

Ginger Made: The “Oona Made Me Do It” Simone Top!

Friends.  The internet is a dangerous and scary place.  One minute you’re innocently setting up a Twitter account, and the next you’re accepting dares from a madwoman!  BE VERY, VERY CAREFUL.  Gillian‘s #sewingdares spread like wildfire!

Obviously, I’m no sissy, so I immediately agreed to this dare and headed to Mood with Oona and friends!

This is what happened.

photo stolen from oonaballoona

Oona pulled many the bolt of fabric down and wrapped me in colors and prints from head to toe.  It was a difficult decision, but, like the loose cannon she is, Oona decided at the last minute to up the ante and dare me to use TWO prints.  WHAT?  I’m a plain Jane, yo!  I do NOT mix prints!

But.  I’ve been looking for justification to download the super rad and sporty Simone Top from Victory Patterns, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.  Is it not crazy cute?  I thought its modern lines worked well with these abstract prints, and it felt like a good way to mix patterns.  Plus I just really wanted an excuse to buy it.

Speaking of patterns, let’s talk about the fabric for a minute!  The blue fabric with the larger print is sold in 1-yard panels, which made the yardage perfect for a top rather than a dress.  It’s a stretchy silk blend of some sort.  The gray and orange fabric is silk charmeuse (I used the wrong, less-shiny side).  I had a sudden inspiration to separate these two partners in crime with handmade piping (chartreuse!)– I love the extra pop of color it provides, even if it’s a bit over the top!

I really liked both the main fabric and the contrast, but they were a nightmare to stitch together.  The slippery charmeuse and the stretchy blend slithered and bunched together around the curves of the placket and back yoke– it wasn’t pretty.  I unpicked those seams so many times that I eventually lost count (even though I hand basted all of the seams before machine stitching!!), and it definitely took a toll on the fabric (and my psyche… I cried… SEVERAL TIMES…).  I was ELATED when I finally finished it!

Let’s just pretend that I’m not so pale and slouchy. The back is way cute, though, yeah?

As far as the pattern goes, I took the liberty of raising the armscyes by about 1″ from the get-go since that was an adjustment I needed to make in another of Kristiann’s patterns, but then I trimmed them back unscientifically.  Since my main fabric was stretchy, I skipped the zipper and I can just squeeze into it.  Win!

I think Oona was acting as my spirit animal or something because for some reason I went rogue and totally skipped making a muslin.  I didn’t even check flat pattern measurements!  It strains a little bit at the bust… whoops.  But I can totally live with the fit.  Even though I can’t close the top at the neckline.

What?  I TOLD you I didn’t make a muslin.  Don’t be like that.

This pic is so terrible that it would be wrong to deprive you of seeing it.

So, what do you think of this?  Am I channeling our beloved Oona?  Did I do her fabric choices justice?  Would you let her pick out fabric for you?  Who’s in on a sewing dare?

Ginger Made: Anise Jacket

Here she is– my first make of 2013, and my very first jacket!  I’m so excited to add this little piece to my wardrobe!

This is my January contribution to the Mood Sewing Network.  I went to Mood NYC with every intention of leaving with a bright, saturated fabric, but once I laid eyes on this gorgeous Ralph Lauren wool, I couldn’t put it back!  It’s a twill-weave suiting with lots of drape, and the warm, paprika-red shade is really easy for me to wear.  I picked out a fun silk charmeuse in a Tetris-like print for a contrast lining.

I used Colette Patterns’ Anise jacket pattern, which is perfect for beginners.  I bought the The Anise Companion when it was on sale a while back, and it’s a great confidence booster if you haven’t sewn a jacket before.  There’s quite a bit of helpful information about how to correct various fit issues, but as it’s pretty straightforward to fit, you probably don’t need the companion guide if you’re an intermediate (or beyond) sewist.

Oh, look! There’s a mouse in my pocket!

The whole jacket is underlined with lightweight muslin, which helped to stabilize and secure the fabric (like most twill weaves, this stuff frays like a mother!).  I used Pro-Weft Supreme Medium-Weight Fusible Interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply after Gertie recommended it for her coat sew-along.  The interfacing feels like a quality product and didn’t pill, bubble, or come unglued the way that cheaper products sometimes do.

The shoulder pads gave me a bit of trouble.  I used 1/4″ shoulder pads, and I had a great deal of difficulty getting them to lie nicely and not look lumpy and unattractive where they meet the sleeve.  I think this was due to my fabric– since it’s a drapey, lighter-weight wool, the pads were really visible.  I solved the problem (mostly) by drafting sleeve heads out of cotton batting (instructions for how to do this are included in the Anise companion).  The weight of the batting makes the sleeve cap a bit more substantial, so it looks worlds better now.

All buttoned up…

I made a size 4, but cut the shoulders and sleeve caps as a size 2.  If I made this again, I would narrow the sleeves a bit more as they’re a tiny bit baggy (I was worried that they would be too tight once they were lined and I had a shirt on underneath the jacket).  I also added 2″ to the length to keep a cropped, vintage feel but avoid flashing my tramp stamp lower back when I bend over (don’t worry, ma, only kidding!).

The jacket comes together easily, but it’s really time-consuming.  I spent basically every spare evening/weekend moment this month working on it (granted, I’m pretty slow, but still…).  Steps like constructing the welt pockets are explained really clearly, but they do take time to do correctly.  I hand-basted the markings for the buttons and buttonholes, hand-stitched the lining pieces together to avoid slippage when I sewed them, and spent ages pressing and steaming to get everything to look right.  I’m really glad that I took the time to do a good job, but it was really hard to keep other projects and ideas on the back burner while I slogged away at this one for a month.

This jacket is a little dressier than what I usually wear day-to-day, so I just machine-stitched buttonholes and used 1″ faux-tortoise buttons to keep it looking casual.  But I think this would look really cute (and very early ’60’s) with bound buttonholes and covered buttons, maybe even paired with a skirt to make a sweet little suit.

Overall, I’m happy with this jacket and think it looks alright for a first attempt (although it’s definitely not perfect).   The wool suiting is really easy to work with, too.  It presses neatly, is warm but lightweight, and the seams aren’t bulky at all.  I highly recommend the pattern for anyone looking to make their first jacket.  But I can definitely say that I’m looking forward to making a few quick and dirty projects after this one!

What about you guys?  Are you tailoring fiends, or are you working up the nerve to make your first jacket?  Do you like investing time in slow projects, or do you prefer to sew a top in a day?

[Note: If you’re a Mood Sewing Network reader, you may notice that my posts are different there than here on my blog.  I keep my posts pretty brief over on MSN, but I thought that you guys might want to read more details about construction and the pattern.] 

Ginger Made: Renfrew for Mom!

Pardon the photos– it’s just so dang dark these days and nearly impossible to take good pics!

Happy holidays, everyone! Hope you’re enjoying celebrations with dear ones and staying warm (if you’re in the northern hemisphere, that is)! Like some of you, I bet, I swore off handmade presents this year. I’ve spent far too many Christmas Eves feverishly knitting at 2:00am, desperately trying to finish a gift before the morning. Not this year! No handmade gifts, and no stress for me! But when I spotted this gorgeous, heathered wool jersey at Mood, what could I do? It’s my mom’s favorite color, and I knew I could make her a top quickly and easily, so I broke my vow.

This is yet another Renfrew top, a versatile pattern that’s a snap to fit and sew. Since I only needed two yards to make a version with long sleeves and a cowl, this sweater turned out to be a serious bargain and, in my opinion, a lovely gift. Wool jersey and sweater knits are perfect for sewing for others– you don’t have to do much fitting, but the wool adds a luxe quality to the finished object that’s really nice (plus it’s WAY faster than knitting a sweater for your mom… and your dad… and your sister… don’t ask me how I know that!)

So what about you? Did you stay up later than Santa making homemade gifts? What are your favorite handmade gift ideas?  Are you addicted to the Renfrew pattern, too?

Ginger Made: The Wild Side Pencil Skirt

OK, there’s nothing very wild about this skirt, but I really like Lou Reed, so let’s just go with it, OK? First off, a wardrobe confession: this is my first pencil skirt ever!  Not the first one I’ve made, but the first one I’ve worn (or even tried on)!  I love the silhouette on other people, but I worried that it would make me look like a big rectangle since I don’t have much waist definition.  But when I spotted this sweater knit at Mood, I knew it had to be a pencil skirt!

Don’t worry– I had my bangs trimmed after this photo was taken. I KNOW YOU WERE WORRIED.

I didn’t have much time to sew this month, and really didn’t want to tinker with fit and muslins, so I used the skirt portion of my vintage McCall’s 5995 pattern and added a waistband.  Now I know why Carolyn loves TNT patterns so much– it’s such a breeze to jump right into sewing without worrying about fit!  I felt a little dumpy after I put the skirt together, so I pegged it at the hemline (8″ total), and now it feels just right!

I really like this fabric– it’s heavy enough to give me plenty of coverage (no gross bumps, lumps, or panty lines!), but it’s got enough stretch content to make it sleek and figure-hugging.  And I love that it’s a subdued (dare I say sophisticated?) spin on a leopard print.  I wavered a bit about the fabric at the store, but when I put the bolt down, several other shoppers started hovering around it and I nearly had to wrestle it out of another woman’s arms!

The only thing I’m not crazy about is that the thickness of the knit fabric makes it tough for the kick pleat to lie flat.  Any suggestions for this problem?  I suppose I could always go back and cut it out, leaving just a slit, but I do prefer the look of a vent.  Any thoughts?

Super invisible zipper! Invisible zipper foot = best purchase ever.

I realized as I was nearly finished with the skirt that I don’t have a single black top.  Not one!  So I dashed off to Mood at the next available moment and bought some organic jersey to make a quick Renfrew.  The jersey washed up really soft, and it’s one of my most comfortable tees!  I’m sure I’ll be getting lots of use out of it!

How do you guys feel about pencil skirts?  Love ’em?  Hate ’em?  Fearful?  And what about animal prints?  Do they bring out your inner “meeeeeyooooow”, or do you think they should be reserved only for Real Housewives of Wherever?

I’m pretty sure I’m hooked on pencil skirts now!  I can’t wait to make a Charlotte skirt!  Are any of you guys joining in on the sewalong?

Ginger Made: The “Climbing Mt. Fuji” Dress

Well, whaddayaknow?  It’s a fancy new dress, my latest Mood Sewing Network creation!  Now, I’m not usually a print gal, but when I saw this Oscar de la Renta raw silk at Mood, I HAD TO FREAKIN’ HAVE IT.  No question about it.  I brought it home, petted it about 1000 times, then… could NOT decide what to do with it!  My original plan was to make Simplicity 1873 (how cute would that have been?!), but the selvedge was only 36″, so I couldn’t quite make that happen.  I knew I didn’t want to break up or detract from the print, but I also didn’t want my dress to scream “kimono” or look costumey, so I had a tough time choosing a new direction.

Capes and hats and gloves, oh my!

My sister actually dug up the pattern on one of our “shopping trips” (i.e., talking on the phone and sending Etsy links back and forth on G-chat… #hipsterchicks).  It’s Simplicity 5359 from 1964, a simple shift dress with a little button-tab self-belt.

I spent AGES matching up the print and attempting to avoid any unfortunate pattern placement scenarios, with a reasonable degree of success, I think (if you need help figuring out pattern matching, check out Tasia’s post here).  In a perfect world, the side seams would match up as well as the back, but… well, this ain’t a perfect world (or lactose intolerance wouldn’t be a thing).  I removed much of the ease from the back– I like the idea of gathering up the excess with the little belt, but in reality, it just looked messy and unintentional when I tested it in muslin.  I could probably stand to tighten the belt just a tad.  I also shortened the dress by 6″– maybe a little much, but hey, what’s a little leg between friends?  It’s fully lined and I spent like a gazillion hours hand-stitching (LIKE A BOSS)—with fabric this special, it only seems right to treat it like a lady!

This is really different from what I usually wear, but I really like it! I’ve been trying to try new things and meet new challenges in my sewing lately, in no small part due to seeing what the other Mood Sewing Network gals have been up to. What about you guys– trying anything new lately? And how do you feel about large-scale prints?  What would you make with a fabric like this?