I'm With the Bandana

Been a while since I posted a new dress, huh? Here’s one that’s been waiting patiently in pieces for ages:

Bandana Simplicity 2389 front

This is in some black bandana print so old that I can’t remember when or where I bought it. It is not great fabric — it’s pretty stiff and there were plenty of print faults and slubs. Not sure why I was all excited about sewing with it, but I think playing with the print motifs was part of it:

Simplicity 2389 bodice

Here’s a closer look at the bodice matching:

Simplicity 2389 bodice motif matching

Here’s the back — I was really interested in having the back bodice look as much like a standalone bandana as possible:

Matched the motif across the skirt panels too (this is the altered Burdastyle Heidi skirt, again again again, I really should do a separate post detailing all the changes I’ve put it through):

Bandana Simplicity 2389 motif matching

And the piped pocket and zipper:

Bandana Simplicity 2389 side zip and pocket

I bought a bunch of invisible zippers with very lightweight, almost knit tapes in Vancouver and they’re a bit trickier to sew with than I thought. As in, I’ve already broken two of them. I’m hoping it’s more “practice makes perfect” and not “you bought a bunch of lemons”. This one went it more or less okay, though. (Fingers crossed.)

I still have some orange bandana fabric yet to make up, probably the last piece of my epic 2008 Japan fabric binge.

(If you like odd bandanas you will almost certainly like the Calamityware Bad Bandana project.)

Oh, and if you missed it, I wrote about answering customer-service email on The Pastry Box! Very exciting, I know.

It's another shirt-shirtdress!

I finally found the right old shirt to complete this particular shirt-shirtdress: shirt-shirtdress

I’ve made this particular … can’t really call it a pattern; let’s call it an agglomeration, okay? twice before. (This one I blogged about.)

Here’s the back:
shirt-shirtdress back

I made the back panel wider this go-around, and used the same shirt for the back side and pocket panels (and you can see that there are three different sizes/shades of gray gingham here, and no, I didn’t match any of them):
shirt-shirtdress: I put pockets in my pockets

My favorite, favorite part of this dress is putting the front shirt pocket as the pocket panel. For some reason this just pleases me all out of proportion to how much use that little pocket will actually get. But EVEN MY POCKETS HAVE POCKETS, y’all.

I also like making sure the front center skirt piece has a pocket in it. I have put back otherwise lovely shirts at Goodwill if they lack this essential element:

shirt-shirtdress: lotsa pockets

The piping above isn’t made from shirts, it’s some bought-in-NYC Japanese piping I had left over from a gray chambray Simplicity 2389 that I don’t think I’ve posted about yet. Anyway, back to the matter at hand. The buttonholes didn’t really line up well at the center front (you can see here how one buttonhole is actually caught in the waist seam) so I just made a new one (that’s the second buttonhole down). No worries.

shirt-shirtdress rebuttonholing

My second-favorite bit of making these shirt-shirtdresses is unpicking the front pocket, sewing the darts, then sewing the pocket back down over the darts. Which you can’t really tell from this picture, but that’s what I did:
shirt-shirtdress dart and pocket

Matching the shirttail hem is also very satisfying — especially at the sides:
more shirt-shirtdress hem

And, of course, using some of the shirt fabric to make bias tape to finish the sleeves:
shirt-shirtdress sleeve

(The sleeve opening is actually a bit too wide here — next time I’m going to see if I can actually shorten the sleeve and gather it into the sleeve cuff from a different shirt. We’ll see if I can find some XXL shirt with big cuffs to go around my biceps …)

Fabric-wise, this dress took 2 extra-large, 1 large, and 1 medium shirt (for the bodice). The extra-large shirts really make it easier to match up the side panel hem curves without having to use part of the sleeve underarm (never the best part of a secondhand shirt!) at the top of the skirt side panels.

I have one more of these cut out (in different shades/sizes of *blue* gingham) and I hope to take some construction pictures to roll up into an eventual tutorial … these are really not hard to make. (The hardest part is finding the coordinating shirts.)

Winter is Coming (so you might need a new dress)

So hey, new dress:

Camo McCalls 6727 front

This is a very faithful (for me) rendition of McCall’s 6727:

McCalls6727

(pattern image from VintageMoms)

I mean, I did change up a couple of things; the pockets in this pattern are topstitched to the skirt front, so I added a facing instead (as I am not under any kind of wartime fabric restrictions). And of course I made them significantly bigger (they’re bigger on the INSIDE). And I added piping. Here’s a view including the side zip:

McCalls 6727 side zip and pocket

I keep getting that little diagonal pull at the top of the zipper, I think I’m adding ease to the side seams wrong.  ¯_(ツ)_/¯

I also added a few inches to the center back — I usually need more ease in what I will euphemistically call my “lower-lower back” and this is a lazy way to get it:
McCalls 6727 back skirt gathers

The skirt here is longer than my preferred summer skirt length — I like a nearly tea-length skirt in the winter to wear with knee socks and boots. (That gap between the top of the sock and bottom of the skirt irritates me.)

The square neckline is a little deep, but not uncomfortably so (so far):

McCalls 6727 bodice

And I did the bodice facings in gingham, because I like the contrast of camo and gingham and also because why not:

I’m planning on wearing this (and have worn it) with a thin long-sleeved black tee underneath, black socks, and black roper boots. (And, of course, camo is a neutral that goes with everything.)

I’ve made this one more time, in a thin silk-cotton basketweave fabric in a deep deep olive-y/loden green, which I’ll be wearing it to give a talk about words on Saturday. :-)

Because It's There

So the other night I went to a Designers + Geeks meetup because it was about “Fashion Tech Design.” I always think that I will like the idea of fashion tech design but I usually come away slight less than whelmed.

The speakers were fairly interesting — my favorite was Meg Grant, you should check out her work here — but they left me with more questions than answers, the biggest question being, “Why?”

Grant’s work was a very straightforward answer to the “Why?” question … much of her work is art-project-y, and and such raises art-project-y questions. There are dresses that emit poems when touched, and gloves you can whisper secrets into, and a blouse where lights shining behind you seem to shine right through you, thanks to a clever arrangement of light sensors and LEDs. They’re intelligent and thought-provoking, but not something you’d necessarily wear every day. (Her recent work is investigating wearable textile solar panels, which *does* seem to answer a practical “why?” question — it makes perfect sense that if your coat could charge your phone, a sunny day would be even better.)

The other two speakers’ answers to the “Why?” question were less satisfying to me — Switch Embassy being able to animate light-up messages on a t-shirt or handbag is cool, but just because something is cool is not really reason enough to do it. Tech as decoration is really just battery-powered embroidery, or a new kind of sequin.

Sensoree’s answer to the “Why?” of tech + fashion was more therapeutic: their GER “mood sweater” is essentially a mood ring. Only, you know, in sweater form. (It also comes with a new word, extimacy, ‘externalized intimacy’.) Given how much trouble some people go to in order to hide their moods, I’m not sure that the mood sweater is really ready for the office. (Boss: “Here’s your 3Q goals!” Employee’s Mood Sweater: RAGE.) Sensoree also makes self-calming garments for people with sensory integration disorders, which seemed very practical and helpful.

The separation of “fashion” and “technology” just seems weird to me. I mean, clothing IS technology. We’ve been making clothing for tens of thousands of years. And we improve our clothing with “technology” all the time — what else would you call Scotchguard, Lycra, or laser-cut leather? And we apply technology to the fashion industry as well — what else would you call rapid prototyping, the rise of online shopping, and Pinterest? But when people talk about bringing technology to fashion, what we often mean is making it so a pair of jeans now needs batteries, and I’m not sure that’s really either a pressing need or an appropriate goal.

If you say that, no, what people mean by technology + fashion is adding sensors to clothing — making your shoes part of the Internet of Things — then again we should answer the question of “Why?” Do you want to put sensors in clothing so that you can track them as they pass through the economy? Then you’d better be prepared to only license your designer handbag, and give up the right to resell it, like you do with ebooks. Do you want to use sensors to track your health? Okay, then who has access to that data, and what happens when your sister borrows your dress? Who gets notified when your waistband figures out you’ve put on five pounds? Your spouse? Your doctor? Do you want to track your kids’ whereabouts through their sneakers? What happens when the signals are hacked and everyone knows where your kids are? Or griefers decide to make it seem as if every high-school freshman is now at the local dive bar in the middle of the day? (Which will happen …) Should the sensors communicate something about you to the world around you, a new form of self-expression? Then be prepared to listen to half a dozen PSAs at the movies telling you to please switch off your scarf and enjoy the show (after visiting the concession stand, of course).

Just because you had to solder as well as sew doesn’t mean that your dress is all of a sudden more “techie” than it was when the highest-tech thing about it was the zipper. Technology isn’t a seasoning — it’s a solution. And if you’re not solving an explicit problem, then you’re leaving your solution open for other people to match their problems to. (And if there’s one thing nobody wants, it’s other people’s problems!)

But solutions wandering around in search of a problem to solve often cause more trouble than the problems they end up being applied to … and we haven’t even touched on the ecological and human-welfare problems involved in manufacturing clothes that integrate electronics.

That said, it’s perfectly okay if the problem you’re solving is “I’m bored and I want to make a dress that lights up!” I will totally admit that I’m a big fan of kerblinkety lights, and I do have half-a-dozen “LED Dress” tutorials bookmarked. They’re fun! (Watch this space!) But just because you can add a battery pack to something doesn’t mean you should.

Hearts and Bones

I finished this dress up last weekend:

queen of hearts bodice

This here is the part I like best. I was going to do plain red piping, but the reds didn’t match. (And neither did the maroons or blues. I have more piping than a Scottish funeral.)

hearts with striped piping

The striped piping is from Britex. Every time I go in I have this little surge of hope that they’ve decided to carry even more patterned cotton piping, and then I see that the choices are basically pinstripes, leopard, and neon. I’ve bought all the stripey ones; I’m just not really a leopard-print kinda gal; but I’m sure someday I will manage to avoid the gorge-rising nausea upon seeing neon colors that the early 1980s left me with and you will see some fluorescent pink piping here in these pages.

Here’s an off-center and slightly unfocused front view!

queen of hearts

I suppose at this point I should mention that the bodice is Simplicity 2389 (again) and the skirt (for a change) is BurdaStyle Heidi with some alterations.

What alterations? Well, I added 6″ to the skirt center back and front, and lengthened the skirt by about 8″ to ensure a deep, deep hem. I really like this version of the Heidi skirt — it’s very comfortable, and for some reason manages to cohere with the 1940s bodice and feel modern at the same time.

I piped the back yoke seam this time, too:

queen of hearts back bodice

Except I forgot that the yoke has to meet the facing at center back and had to kludge in a little bit more piping. Also, the back facing DID NOT want to turn nicely over that piping bit, so I finally just said “this is a design feature” and left it at that.

queen of hearts back afterthought piping

Here you can see the piping meeting at the underarm (probably another reason that piping the back is not as good an idea as it might seem), as well as the pocket piping and the zipper:

queen of hearts side seam and piped pocket

The whole back view (I’m not sure what was up with the lighting when I took these, weekends have been fairly sunny lately):

queen of hearts back

 

This voile is lighter than I’m used to, so I thought I might have to line it. Instead I settled for a heavier slip than usual and cutting the pocket lining and neck facing from this weird pale pale pink linen/cotton voile I had lying around. Since I’m mostly pale pale pink too, it seems to work. I have another one cut out where the fabric really was translucent, so I ended up underlining it in black voile, which is creating a kind of goth-flavored mallard color effect (that fabric is teal).

I ended up wearing this to a Javascript conference last week — I hesitated a tiny bit about wearing something so flat-out girly, as the gender ratio at these things approaches that of your typical offshore oil rig and/or professional football team (only with more ironically-worn mustaches and skinnier jeans). But it wasn’t as if I was going to magically become any less of an outlier in a plain denim dress (choice #2) than I was in this one, and since I hadn’t really worn it yet (and really wanted to), on it went.

Honestly, since I’m not looking for a job, I have a whole lot less risk in wearing something super-girly at tech conferences. And if I wear something like this, I can set some kind of upper bar and make other people look moderate in comparison, and gradually move the whole bar of “conference wear” further in my direction, right? That’s the plan, anyhow.

It was a total luxury to be able to go to this conference, by the way. I’ve been dabbling in Node.js for a bit and have finally reached the stage where a tiny archipelago of scattered knowledge is emerging from the receding seawaters of my ignorance. However, I am still looking for navigable channels between the islands, and a conference is one of the fastest ways I know of to connect the dots.

There’s something about going into a talk where you know nothing about anything in the description, grabbing onto the first idea tossed out by the presenter that connects to anything you know, and following along, knot by knot and intersection by intersection, until you have a lovely net with which to catch the entire topic.

Usually when I learn anything new it’s like taking the Tube in London: I get on at one subterranean stop and clamber back up the light in a completely different place, and couldn’t for the life of me say how to get back to the first stop overland. Going to a conference is like riding around on the top of a bus: I can finally see how all the different neighborhoods join up and how to walk between them. And coding is such a lovely city …

 

Conscious Incompetence

photo by LESLIE DELA VEGA
This photo was taken last Friday by the very nice Leslie Dela Vega, of OZY, for this article. She was super-nice about taking photos, and I hope I was nice back, even though I really really hate having my picture taken.

I’m glad she took this photo, even though I don’t think it’s all that flattering, because now I can show you this style of dress I’ve been working on, badly!

So for year and years and years I’ve been doing really only minor alterations to patterns, switching out a skirt here, adding pockets there. But lately I’ve been SERIOUSLY modding patterns, and doing it … badly. In other words, I am at the stage of “Conscious Incompetence” as laid out here.

The dress above (in a just-enough remnant of Liberty poplin) is the bodice from Simplicity 1577, with added length (and sadly, added girth, more on that in a minute) and the skirt from Simplicity 5238, with added front-slash pockets AND added girth AND added depth of front pleat AND a slight adjustment to the back skirt length to account for some junk-in-the-trunk issues.

If you can ignore the fact that I’m pulling the side seams askew by shoving my hands in my pockets like that, you can see that this dress is still a little off. I don’t think I’m good at the alterations I’m trying yet, and it’s irritating. I know that the only thing to do is to DO IT MORE, and PRACTICE MORE, and READ MORE TUTORIALS ON THE INTERNET, but … I don’t have that much time, and I had to update my wardrobe a bit because of some aforementioned girth issues.

[Short aside on girth issues … I had some back/hip pain, which led me to start lifting weights to strengthen what they so cheerfully call my “core”, which always makes me think of nuclear reactors, somehow, which led to me slacking off on running, which means … girth. Back pain is mostly gone, hip flexor pain is mostly gone — if I don’t do stupid things — and I now can back squat and deadlift 200 lbs, always fun at parties … but I’m a good bit heavier than I’d like to be. All my extra fat seems to have huddled in my midsection for warmth and protection.]

And it’s remarkably hard to find instructions on how to adjust bodice patterns for a large waist! It’s not quite just adding inches to the side seams, somehow. I think there must be some way to add to the center front and back as well without messing with the bust darts too much, but it’s eluding me (and my large library of alterations books). Conscious Incompetence, again! Anyone have any hints, pointers, lovingly-created diagrams?

After doing about half a dozen of these full-teardown altered pattern mashups, I think I really, really have to put in the time and effort to make a sloper. (And relatedly, start running again!) I think a lot of what I’d like to make would just be easier if I were working from a sloper, instead of sort-of-sloping-off a bodice pattern I like. Any pointers to the most painless sloper creation, while I’m here asking for helpful suggestions?

I’ll try to get a few more pictures taken this weekend of some of the other teardown/mashups — I’ve done three now with a collar (pattern reference eluding me at the moment), and two with the bodice from this pattern (the no-collar version), which is really nice.

As abashed as I am about the not-quite-rightness of these new mashup dresses, it is a little exciting to be trying new things again. I love a challenge, even when I’m not exactly rising to meet it …

Hats, Ranked By How Much I Enjoy Seeing People Wearing Them

Untitled

  1. Church Lady, in Church Crowns-style hat. Bonus points if the hat is part of a monochrome ensemble, where the hat was clearly decided upon FIRST.
  2. Old dude wearing a Kangol. Extra points if it’s with a suit and tie.
  3. Unironic Stetson, when paired with a belt buckle that was achieved through some display of testosterone.
  4. Smiling baby in sun hat. (Tied with cranky baby trying to pull sun hat off and throw it out of the stroller.)
  5. Tween or teen in ironic-cute animal, cartoon, or cartoon-animal knit cap. Earflaps optional, but appreciated.
  6. Full-on vintage perch hat with veil.
  7. Queen Elizabeth II’s hats. All of them. But this one in particular.
  8. Dude in a porkpie hat who knows it’s faintly ridiculous, but is okay with wearing it anyway. [NB: this set should include all wearers of porkpie hats]
  9. Doctor Who in a fez.
  10. Everyone, in propeller beanies.