Pink Toile Dress

I think I originally chose this pattern because of the sleeve, which, instead of having to be set, is actually combined with the bodice into a single pattern piece. It seemed like little work to create a kind of complicated-looking dress. I also liked the skirt: it’s hard to tell from the photos, but there is a large yoke, flat panels in the front and back, and then gathered sections on the sides.

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Pattern: Butterick 6946, I’m guessing from the 50s.

Obviously I was going for something shorter than the actual pattern. But I think I probably cut it TOO short. AGAIN. One of these days I will make something that I can actually wear to work.

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Fabric: pink toile

Pink Toile Dress

The trickiest part was the collar. It was not completely clear to me how exactly the piece was supposed to fit with the back of the dress – I used my best judgement – and then ironed it like crazy. Also unusual: the zipper starts about halfway down the back of the dress instead of at the neckline.

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With a belt.

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How I will probably wear it.

Thrift Store Couture: Sweater-Sleeve Coat

We’re reaching that time of year when I am absolutely sick of all of the cold weather articles of clothing I own—especially coats. Unfortunately in Chicago, it’ll be coat weather for a few more weeks at least. Time to mix it up a bit.

Lately I’ve been coveting the kind of slouchy, menswear-inspired silhouettes that I’ve seen the occasional blue-line hipster girl wear—like so:

slouchy coats

Clockwise from left: Philip Lim sweater sleeve maxi coat, Asos textured blazer coat, Asos vest in longline, To Be Adored coat, Clariana fleck wool drape coat by Theory

But the last thing I want to do in April is spend a bunch of moolah on a coat. My solution? Try to find this 90s-reminiscent silhouette at a thrift store.

I forgot to take a picture of the jacket before ripping the sleeves off the jacket—but you get the idea

I forgot to take a picture of the jacket before ripping the sleeves off—but you get the idea

I loved this coat (left)—it was less than $10 at Salvos—but it was slightly too big through the shoulders. Since I was going to take it apart anyway to work on the fit, I decided to Frankenstein it with a sweater (right).

Pattern pinned to coar

I used an old coat pattern that WAS my size as a rough guide for re-cutting the armholes.

I stitched the sweater sleeves to the coat—lining and all. So no, I didn’t really fix the lining the way I’m sure you’re supposed to. Instead I just made my own binding out of some ribbon to cover the raw edges.

Jacket Lining

You can see the raw edges on the wearer’s left armhole; the right armhole is finished.

Finished.

Finished.

sweater sleeve coat

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I wore this outfit to a jazz club with some friends—one of them told me I looked very Ralph Lauren, and another likened me to Katharine Hepburn. Not quite the look I was going for, but I’ll still take it!

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Less is More

Julia Bobbin's Mad Men Challenge
After seeing Julia Bobbin’s Mad Men challenge, I decided to create a look inspired by Megan Draper’s bold, graphic day dresses.

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Geometric and colorful.

This bright print seemed perfect.

Fabric: geometric, striped cotton

Fabric: geometric, striped cotton

I picked out a pattern from 1970. I know, I know. MadMen is only up to the late 1960s. But this illustration is enough in line with Megan’s style not to seem anachronistic.

I think.

McCall's 2386, 1970

Pattern: McCall’s 2386, 1970

Anyway, I started to make Option A, the dress on the far right with the high collar and sleeves.

It did not go well.

original

Even with only one sleeve half way done, I could tell that this dress was going to be crazy ugly.

Hells no.

I removed the sleeves and collar and decided to simplify. I used the facing pattern pieces to make up a Peter Pan collar. It didn’t turn out half bad.
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Mad Men dress

I originally thought I would belt the dress, as in the pattern illustration. Then I accidentally hemmed it kind of short (as I have a tendency to do), and now I think the proportion works better just as a trapeze dress.

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Peter Pan Collar

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Perfect for summer shopping. Assuming summer eventually makes an appearance.

Dance Party Dress

So… disclaimer: this dress is… a bit much. And not something that I would usually wear.

I recently purchased Famous Frocks—a book of patterns for recreating the iconic looks of the movie and music industries’ leading ladies. Inspiration dresses range from Bette Davis’s low-backed gown to Madonna’s corset and tutu.

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The Diana Ross dress

I decided to begin with a simple one—and by far the easiest was the Diana Ross-inspired number. Plus, the sequined fabric I happened to have lying around (yes, really) just BEGGED to be made into it.

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Beautiful cranberry sequined fabric

And how did it repay me? By ruining a pair of scissors. RUINED I say. Serves me right for talking to the fabric. Ahem. Anyway, I ended up with a crazy dramatic dress:

Diana Ross inspired dress

Final result.

The reviews for this book on Amazon tend towards lukewarm. But from the perspective of someone who really has no idea what she is doing and mostly just wings it (see scissors and sequins), I actually really liked this book (at least for this project). I found the directions to be clear and easy-to-follow, and particularly appreciated the glossary in the back.

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Another angle. Yep. Still looks a Disney Princess at a disco.

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Hmm page boy at Medieval Times?

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Built in sleeve storage! No purse necessary. Nor lunchbox.

Seriously though… someone find me an 80s dance party. Fast.

Thrift Store Couture: Green Silk Dress

When I spotted this green silk dress at a thrift store for $7.99, I couldn’t pass it up, even though it was a few sizes too big. The style was also a little bridesmaidy, and only really flattering on ladies with a bustline (not me). So rather than simply take it in, I decided to try to rework it a bit.

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I couldn’t help but be a little inspired by Keira Knightley’s iconic green dress in Atonement. I decided to go for a vintage 20s/30s feel with a drop waist.

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Skyline Tote Bag

Every year, my friends have an intensely festive Christmas party that involves the exchange of Secret Santa gifts. A lot of thought is put into these gifts—recipient names are usually drawn about a month in advance. Expectations run high, and those who fail to measure up are never allowed to forget it. Good-humored but merciless mocking is as much a holiday tradition as the exchange itself.

This year, I played Santa to a friend who is originally from St Louis but who now lives in Chicago—she loves the two cities. Inspired by pillows on Etsy, I decided to create something that incorporated both skylines.

This gift exchange also has a strict budget. I bought a large button-down shirt at a thrift store for $3 and used that as the primary material. I zig-zag stitched the skyline effect and then sewed up a tote bag loosely based on this tutorial.

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Chicago on one side…

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St Louis on the other. I also added the pocket from the button-down shirt as an external pocket. Crazy easy.

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Detail of stitching.

60s Shift Dress

60s shift dress

I’ve been working on this 60s shift dress on and off for the past few months.
Finally finished!

Pattern McCall's 9406 from 1968

Pattern
McCall’s 9406 from 1968

Fabric Black and red boucle that I found on sale at Hancock Fabrics in Madison, WI. This was probably a really poor choice—it unraveled instantaneously, was difficult to work with, and shed shreds all over my apartment. I decided to make the neck facings and finish the sleeves with a cotton paisley, because the boucle was so bulky.

Fabric
Black and red boucle that I found on sale at Hancock Fabrics in Madison. This was a terrible idea. It unraveled instantaneously, was difficult to work with, and disintegrated into shreds all over my apartment. Because the boucle was so bulky, I decided to make the neck facings and finish the sleeves with a red cotton paisley.

Voila.

In addition to the fabric struggles, there was one supremely terrifying moment when, just after deliberately and painstakingly installing the zipper, I pulled the zipper tab right off the top of the unfinished garment. A panic attack, a temper tantrum, and a few zipper-repair youtube videos later, I managed to re-thread the zipper from the bottom. I only had to snip a few stitches. HUGE sigh of relief.

In addition to the fabric struggles, there was one supremely terrifying moment when, just after deliberately and painstakingly installing the zipper, I pulled the zipper tab right off the top of the unfinished garment. A panic attack, a temper tantrum, and a few youtube videos on zipper repair later, I managed to rethread the zipper from the bottom. Huge sigh of relief.

Voila – finished product.

I really do like how it finally turned out though!

I really do like how it finally turned out!

Muy Megan Draper, no?

DIY Halloween Costume: Degas’ Little Dancer

One of my coworkers has a truly spectacular annual Halloween party with elaborate decorations and themed refreshments. There’s even a creepy, life-size, animated butler that acts as a photo backdrop. Showing up in costume is an absolute requirement.

Coming up with a costume idea this year was a struggle. But then I attended the Joffrey Ballet’s fantastic fall program, Human Landscapes. The dancers in the middle piece, Pretty Ballet, wore long, sheer tulle costumes that floated as they moved in a way that reminded me of Degas’ paintings of dancers. Truly lovely.

Then I recalled how a friend of a friend had dressed as Degas’s Little Dancer sculpture for Halloween one year in college. It seemed like the perfect idea to borrow.

Degas’ Little Dancer

So after some serious thrift store rummaging, I came home with these items:

before: tacky vest and flower girl dress for a small child

I removed the skirt from the bodice of the dress and re-gathered it to fit an adult (It broke my heart a little bit to take apart that dress, but only because at age 5, I would have thought it the best. dress. ever.) I altered the vest to make it look more like a bodice, fastened it with snaps, added buttons for show, and gathered the neckline. I think the result is pretty successful.

after: completed costume

not bad for a less-than-$10 Halloween costume!

Ruffle-front Jacket

I just finished up this jacket as a gift for my mom’s birthday. It’s basically a drawstring capelet with raglan sleeves—not terribly difficult to make. Because it’s adjustable and not very fitted, it works well as a gift—you don’t have to worry so much about getting the size exactly right. The one problem I foresee is that it could make the wearer fidgety—constantly ruching and unruching the ruffles.

Pattern
Simple Modern Sewing, Shufu To Seikatsu Sha

Fabric
I picked up this fabric at a thrift store in Niles, Michigan. It’s medium-weight and quite soft, but I’m not actually sure what type of fabric it is. The black-and-white twill ribbon is from Paper Source.


Sparkly Pompon Wristlet

The good news is that this project was cheap (less than $10), easy (mostly hand-sewn), and quick (it only took one evening to make). The bad news is that it only took one evening to make because it HAD to only take one evening—I decided to make this for a going-away coworker the night before her last day in the office. Thank goodness for multi-tasking (two episodes of BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, two episodes of Doctor Who, and one long phone call later—basically 5 hours—and I have a whole new appreciation for Project Runway).

 

Inspiration: I found these felted wool pompon wristlets at Paper Source. I thought they would be fairly simple and satisfying to recreate.

Sparkly pompons

I walked into the Blick on North Avenue, where there were lots of hipster artist types buying things like glass breakers and carving hammers and screen printing chemicals. I picked up 3 bags of 80ct SPARKLY pompons (ages 3 and up), paid, and walked out. I might have been judged a bit.

Stringing Pompons

I strung 8 rows of 10 pompons each, using extra-strong, button craft thread.

I then strung the rows of pompons together, through the first pompon on each strand.

Stringing Pompons

Next I strung thread through the last pompon of each strand.

I strung thread through the second pompon in each strand, then the third, the fourth, etc, creating an 8-pompon x 10-pompon panel. I repeated the process from start to finish to create a second panel. I connected the two panels by stitching together the pompons on three edges (carefully positioning the stitches to conceal them as much as possible), leaving the fourth side for the opening.

For the lining, I cut two panels of red felt approximately the same size as the pompon panels. Then I connected the two lining panels with a zipper.

I stitched the remaining three sides of the lining panels together, then trimmed the seam allowances.

Pompon Wristlet

I inserted the zippered lining into the pompon pouch. I stitched the top row of pompons to the top of the lining on both sides, again careful to conceal the stitches.

Last step: I strung approximately 20 pompons together and attached them to the bag for the strap.

Finished product: Pompon wristlet

Tacky? Yes. It does not photograph well—particularly with my crappy digital camera and less-than-stellar skills—but this sucker sparkles magnificently. At a glance, it looks beaded or metallic, and weirdly expensive. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out!