crafts · outfits · Sewing

Cord shirtdress: Vogue 8028

Pattern: Vogue 8028, view A

Fabric: Navy blue stretch corduroy (28 wale) from

Cost to make: Fabric $12, Pattern $4, Buttons $9=$25 total

Boots: Nine West

I’ve never given much thought to the humble shirtdress, but lately I seem to be a bit obsessed with them!  This dress was inspired by the Refined Cord Shirtdress at Anthropologie this season.  My dress has a few differences – the waist is pleated rather than gathered, and I did not choose to add pockets to the bust.  Other than that, I think it’s pretty darned close! This pattern suffers from one of the worst envelope drawings yet, but it’s really cute made up!

A few pattern notes… I made a size 8 on top, 10 from the waist down.  It isn’t tight, but it’s perfect with a belt.  I made the shorter length, but I still chopped 4 inches off the bottom – what height are they making dress patterns for exactly?  This was my first collar with a stand, and it went pretty well – I made liberal use of some online tutorials!  I interfaced the collar with plain muslin, but left the cuffs and buttonband alone – this fabric is pretty stiff!  28 wale is pretty fine, and it’s almost got a velveteen appearance.  I don’t like stretch in corduroy because it makes a non drapey fabric even worse, but it’s working pretty well for me here.  It does pick up every piece of lint within a 50 mile radius (that’s why no close-ups – I ran out of lint roller sheets this morning!)

I like this dress so much that I’m making another, in this fabric:

Love this shirting.  This pattern is decent for plaids because you only have to match the center.  The cuffs and collar will be bias cut.   Hopefully I will finish it this week as well.  I have another shirtdress that I’m refashioning (it’s almost done, I just need some matching thread for the hem,) and at least one, possible two more that I will make this winter.  I’m happy to have a basic shirtdress fitted to me – it can be done in so many fabrics with different results!



Thrift store Sunday

Thanksgiving weekend is apparently a great time to hit the thrifts.  The donation line was out the door (I guess when people have time off, they clean out their closets!)  I visited two stores this week, one in Cincinnati (my in-laws live there,) and the other in Indiana (I live downtown, so it’s often easier to get there than venture far into my own city!)

The first store I visited (in Cincy) was having 50% off clothing, and it was madness!  I managed some great finds by doing my squirrel impression, throwing everything that looked possible into my cart, and then finding a (relatively) quiet corner to sort.

Printed cardigan sweater (Ann Taylor.)  This is recent season – I’m pretty sure I remember it.  It’s light, almost tissue knit.

I also got several dresses to alter, including a silk military style shirtdress from Talbots that I’m certain will be great when it’s finished (I’ll photograph those after altering.)

The thrift I went to in Indiana often has recent season Target items – the local Targets donate whatever doesn’t sell.  They all had blue tags, so they were 50% off ($2.50) this weekend.

“Tucker for Target” designer collaboration, this was in stores earlier this Fall.  I bought two of these in different prints.  It’s a polyester, but it does feel nice.  This dress will work for most of the year.

Merona dress, also from this fall.  I don’t love the slippery acetate material, but look at the cute shoulder bows!

Coming tomorrow: photos of my completed corduroy shirtdress.  I love it so much that I’ve already started a second (in plaid shirting!)

crafts · fashion · outfits · Sewing

11-26-2010: thoughts on refashioning

Dress: Thrifted and refashioned/altered

Velvet Jacket: Express, circa 2005

Tights: DKNY (via TJMaxx)

Boots: Nine West outlet

Lately I’ve been doing a great deal of altering/refashioning thrifted clothing.  I took the wardrobe refashion challenge last year, though I didn’t really do much refashioning then.  It’s only since deciding that I don’t like myself in pants that I’ve started to be hardcore about making my thrifted items work.  Before I started sewing I literally had three dresses in my closet.  I’ve worked hard to create a wardrobe that makes me feel good about myself – before, I had too many clothes that I was hiding in!

Occasionally I tell someone about this hobby, and I’m often met with the response “Oh, but alterations are hard!” or “I wouldn’t know how visualize a new look!”  I’m here to tell you that you can do it!  I was afraid of alterations, even after I took up sewing for myself (I know, crazy!)  One day I forced myself to sit down and just try to make it work – and to my surprise it not only wasn’t hard, it was actually fun!

Most of the alterations I make are not hard.  Want the dress shorter?  Mark a new hem and chop it off!  You don’t always have to hand hem – I’m about 50/50, depending on the style of skirt.  On some knits I don’t even use a hem, since they won’t ravel!  The hem is probably my most common alteration.  I like my skirts right above the knee, an alteration which often takes a dress from dowdy to fabulous.  I think everyone has a magic hemline length – the one that almost always works for you.  For some people it’s right below the knee, others shorter than mine.  Heck, maybe you can convince me about a mid-calf hemline.  If you find that magic length it takes some of the guesswork out of hemming.

My second most common alteration is to take in the side seams.  I will buy a dress or skirt up to 3 sizes too large.  In fact, too large is always safer than too small, if you can’t try the item on (or don’t want to… it was madness at the thrift store today with a 50% off clothing sale on!)  Any bigger than a 2-3 inch alteration and you’re looking at shaping issues, though I’ve seen some ladies really make it work (see: New Dress a Day.)

And in the event of a large dress?  Belts are magic.  Seriously.  Let me tell you about the dress in today’s outfit.  I bought it last Sunday.  It’s Faded Glory, which is a Wal-mart brand.  Usually I avoid wal-mart clothes because the quality is awful, but I go this since it was 100% cotton and plaid!  When I got it inside out I realized it was terribly sewn – loose serger thread all over the place, exposed elastic in the sleeves, half the hem machine stitched in red thread for some reason etc.  It had a really sad little self-fabric belt, which was actually sewn to the dress twisted (perhaps why it was donated?)  I removed the belt and the belt loops – I like my belts wide, and those loops wouldn’t help a bit!  Then I loosened the hem and restitched it with a more appropriate thread color.  I didn’t have to shorten the dress this time.  I took in the side seams by 2 inches total (so, I sewed the side seams 1/2 inch in from the serged stitching on each side.)  I left the sleeves alone because they seemed small.  After that it wasn’t exactly fitted, but it’s not that sort of dress – time for belting!

I used to have a major case of belt phobia.  It has required some intensive therapy to cure myself!  I recommend trying all different types of belts.  I like to buy them cheaply – Forever 21 is my favorite!  They can be thrifted, but I don’t have the greatest luck finding them in decent shape.  I prefer elastic backed belts, but that’s a personal issue – I find them easier to sing in.  I also find that I like really wide belts, and I like to belt a bit higher than my waist.  Experiment with different types and widths, wear them in different places, and you will find what works for you!

I’m wearing three different shades of purple today.  We went to a second Thanksgiving at my in-laws, and my MIL loves purple.  It’s one of my favorite colors too.  We got to see my niece (they live in Wisconsin – the last time I saw her she wasn’t talking yet, and today she knew my name!)  She spent all evening pointing at my tights… perhaps the sign of a fashionista in training?  Or just that she likes purple more likely!

I hope some of you feel inspired to try some alterations.  I haven’t touched on more complicated changes, but I will later on!  I’m going to start taking before photos of my refashions, and hopefully I can give a little inspiration.  I know that all the fabulous refashions online have been a great help to me!

crafts · outfits · Sewing

11-25-2010: Jalie Pleated cardigan

Pattern: Jalie Pleated Cardigan

Fabric: Rayon burnout jersey from, 2 yards

Top: Ann Taylor (thrifted)

Shorts: Charlotte Russe

Tights: Forever 21

Boots: Alfani

Black is notoriously hard to photograph, but I did my best here!  I have been meaning to make this cardigan since I first saw it.  I’m a big fan of the current trend for big drapey cardigans.  I usually wear them with a big belt, but this one actually looks pretty good open too.  I have no beef with this pattern – it was well drafted and went together easily.  The pleats are more like tucks, and a little annoying to sew, but that’s the only fiddly bit.  I made a size R, but cut it to the longest length.  I did not hem the sleeves or bottom (the pattern says to sew the collar on, stopping 2 inches shy of the bottom for the hem, but I had no trouble getting it to fit this way.  The sleeves are very long, which I really like.  I have super long arms, and sleeves are perpetually short on me.

I love the burnout pattern, described as a “spirograph print” on the website.  Having said that, it was a huge pain to work with.  My machine kept eating the edges, and my serger didn’t really love it either.  I have another 2 yards in the burnout white zebra, and I think it’s destined for a circle scarf rather than a garment.

I’m wearing this outfit to my family Thanksgiving.  My Mom had serious objections to these shorts when I bought them the other day, and I want to show her that winter shorts work!  I did probably buy them a size too big – I had just bought a size 8 jegging at the same store, so I figured going down one size, to a 6, would be good, but apparently not.  I really hate crazy retail sizing.  I have been seeing these all over, and I have to say that I love the look – it’s easier to wear than a skirt, and shows off more of my fabulous argyle tights (I would never wear a skirt this short!)

I suspect these shorts (and the matching brown plaid pair) will be turning up a lot this winter – so much more comfortable that pants for me!  And as for the cardigan – I totally recommend the pattern, and I want to make it again and again (just not in this fabric!)


crafts · Thrifting

Thrift store Sundays

Because I find that I tend to post more often if I have a theme, I’m declaring Sundays to be thrift store days – where I show you what I’ve found on my weekly thrifting excursions, and give tips for better thrift shopping.

When facing a large thrift store I find that it’s best to know what items you have luck thrifting.  For instance, I always search through the dresses, skirts, and jackets.  I almost never check out pants (which I hardly wear, ) and I only give the tops a cursory exam (there are more tops than anything at most stores, and I find they are often worn out or too short for me.) I usually look through the slip selection too, because I love vintage slips and modern ones aren’t as pretty.

This week I had great luck with dresses, and bought yet another new coat.  These items were all $5 each.   I’m only showing the items that work pretty much as is – I also got some things to alter, but I’ll show those as I finish them!

I actually found this coat by chance – it was misfiled, and another shopper saw it, looked at me and said “This would be so cute on you – here!”  and threw it into my cart.  I find this happens pretty often – there is a curious sense of camaraderie among the dedicated thrifters! I love the velvet collar (in perfect condition!) and believe it or not I didn’t have a peacoat before.   It looks like the coat is missing a button, but it isn’t – it appears to me that someone wanted a doublebreasted peacoat, and so they replaced all the buttons, neglecting to realize that there is only one buttonhole (the button is sewn on underneath.)  These buttons are cheap, and I’m going to replace them with buttons befitting the age of the coat (which I’m placing as late 60s/early 70s by this label:)

I love this BCBG dress!  The pattern is very me, and the fit is quite good (needs the belt, but dresses without a waist seam always do on me.)

Sorry for the darkness of these photos – I actually lightened them, but it’s a gloomy day!  This dress is by Maggy London, and it’s a petite.  There’s actually a black band at the bottom, but it’s still pretty short on non-petite me!  I’m planning to wear it with leggings and boots as a tunic.  Thrifting is a great time to experiment with shapes you wouldn’t usually wear.  For instance:  I usually wouldn’t wear this sort of 60s style shift, because it doesn’t have a waistline.  But this is actually really cute, at least when it’s this short, so I’m happy to try it out!

The details are hard to see, but this Ann Taylor dress has some really cute embroidered and gathered details, and a pretty eyelet hem.  In this color it will work for summer as is, or for fall with boots/tights and a jacket or cardigan.  It’s a little big (Ann Taylor is a bad offender in the vanity sizing I think,) but only a little – and with a belt it fits perfectly!

That’s it for this week – I also have a few items to alter, including a cute purple plaid shirtdress, but I’ll get around to posting those once I finish my alterations.

This was a busy weekend – my chamber choir had their first full concert, which was a great success (we will have another right before Christmas, if any of my local peeps are interested… leave a comment and I’ll get you the info.)  I have this whole week off!  We’re actually staying here for the holiday instead of going to Cincinnati, though we will be going up there one day.  I have sewing plans: to finish my shirtdress (I made the muslin last night,) and to sew two cardigans from a Jalie pattern.)  I leave you with this photo of Marc and I, heading out for the concert (he’s drinking vermouth, which for some reason I do not understand he likes by itself.)  You will note that I did not have time to make another dress yet, but I did wear different shoes which helped.


crafts · outfits · Sewing

11-17-10: more refashioning

Jacket: simplicity 2443

top: Alfani, thrifted

Skirt: Vintage (1970s?) Evan Picone skirt, thrifted and shortened

Boots: Kensie Girl

This skirt was at my most frequent thrift stop for at least six months.  I liked the color and pattern, but the length (midcalf) was not good for me.  I finally brought it home once I really started altering things.  I shortened it by 12 (!) inches, and replaced the buttons (one of them was broken.)  I find that I’m really loving this shape of skirt for fall (short dirndl with a high, fitted waistband.)

This outfit took me through: teaching, choir rehearsal, singing at a latin mass, and dinner and drinks with friends.

My friends have started to really notice that I make my own clothes, and I’m starting to regularly field questions about them when I go out.  Somehow I feel like I’m letting them down when I wear something storebought!  Actually, I’m surprised by how positive the reaction has been – somehow I was expecting a little bit more snobbishness, but my friends (who are, admittedly, artsy city types) seem to be into the idea.

I’m trying to spread out my outfit posts a little (maybe you’ve noticed!)  It gives me a reason to post more often, and makes Wednesday less stressful.  So far the experience has been positive – I find myself very motivated to be creative, and not just throw on whatever.

I have the muslin cut for my cord shirtdress, but so far no time to work on it.  I have a dress rehearsal tomorrow night, and a concert Friday… but after that I am off work for an entire week!  I can’t wait to see how much I can accomplish with the time off.

outfits · Sewing · Thrifting

11-16-2010: banishing the demons

I woke up in a bad mood this morning, having come to the decision last night that my muslin for the Vogue Cynthia Steffe pattern was not going to work out.  It has eight(!) inset corners in the bodice and bodice lining, and I really hate sewing those.  So that wasn’t great, but what really did it in was the massive size of the sleeves – even pleated the way the pattern asks they were a bit overwhelming for my frame.  So I put it away (I am planning to rescue the skirt portion as soon as I get some wide elastic for a waistband.)  I’m going to start my cord shirtdress instead.

To cheer myself up I finished a few refashions from my pile (yes, I have a backlog of things to alter from the thrift store!)  Here is the first:

Dress: Merona, thrifted

Scarf: Merona (current season)

Tights: Betsey Johnson

Boots: Unisa

It was so dark and rainy today that I had to snap photos on the back porch (which, if you will notice, is falling apart… must remember not to stand on that corner!)

This dress was thrifted back when I lived in Bloomington, so about eight years ago.  It’s made of a thin t-shirt material, and has all the style of a potato sack, seriously.  It used to have a sad little self belt, but that has long since been lost.  For years this was my funeral dress.  You see, part of my old job required me to attend an average of one funeral a week,  and this was safe and basic.  I nearly got rid of it my last closet purge (as, thank goodness, I no longer have to attend a crazy number of depressing funerals,) but I held onto it, thinking it might be worth a refashion.

I cut 4 and a half inches off, and did a wavylettuce edge hem with the serger.  Then, paired  with a belt and some colorful accessories, the dress starts to lose some of its funeral connotations!

Other thoughts:

– I actually paid full price for this scarf.  How could I not?  It’s both leopard print and one of my favorite colors!

– I’m experimenting with colored tights.  I like the look with boots because it gives color without being overwhelming.

– I need to make a few black dresses – they work so well as a backdrop, but they are so boring to sew!

fashion · outfits

November 15th: A lumberjack PJ party

Dress: Simplicity 2443

Flannel shirt: Aerie

Tights: Hot Sox

Boots: Alfani

Belt: Forever 21

I was in high school during the grunge era, and I thought I had seen as much plaid flannel as I ever wanted to see in my life.  Yesterday I was at TJ Maax buying tights (they have some great patterned tights right now) when I found this plaid pajama top on clearance.  For $5 I thought I could make it work as a regular top, and I was right!  I was going to try it as a tunic, but it’s not quite long enough – and it doesn’t really fit my hips either, so it’s best either unbuttoned (as above) or tucked in (so I can leave the last button undone.)  I rolled up the sleeves to give it a more casual look.

To my surprise I really like this look!  The ruffles make it different from the plaid of my youth, and the green is my absolute favorite color (I had my hair colored this weekend, so I’m wearing colors that really go with the red while it’s bright.)  My husband is a few years older than me, making him college age during the flannel era 90s, and he really liked this look on me.  He suggested I needed some Doc Martens, but I told him I’d leave those to him.

I bought some buffalo plaid poplin from, and I’m planning to use it to make a tunic similar to this (minus the ruffles but with a drawstring waist… I have both a McCall and Simplicity pattern that would suit.)  The dress I’m wearing above is a lot more versatile than I thought – it works like this, and I’m also thinking of wearing it with a blouse underneath like a jumper.  I need to resew the hem – it came loose the last time I washed the dress.

So I’m definitely back on the plaid bandwagon, and you should expect a great many plaid projects and outfits this winter!

fashion · outfits

My coat collection has reached critical mass

Coat: Merona

Dress: Simplicity 2360, blogged here

Belt: Forever 21

Tights: Hue

Boots: Target

Worn: To take my Mom out for her birthday brunch at the Seelbach hotel Oak Room.

If you’re ever in Louisville on a Sunday, I highly recommend the brunch at the Seelbach hotel.  The Seelbach is a lovely historic hotel (famous for being mentioned in The Great Gatsby.) Cheap it is not, but the brunch is totally worth it!   My Mom had never been (I’ve been lots of times with my classical music friends,) so I wanted to take her for her 55th birthday.

I’ve decided I should make a second of these dresses – I really just love this one, and I always get positive comments.  I’m planning an order from fashion fabrics club, so I’ll try to get something that will work.  This one is a peachskin, and any drapey (but not too light) fabric will work.  I’m thinking of trying it with a long sleeve shirt under it soon, so that I can extend the season.

Marc went to a scrabble tournament out of town yesterday(yes, he does play competitive Scrabble,) so to entertain myself I hit the thrift stores and Target.  At Target I was able to fulfill two of the items on my “must have” list for Fall (I do have this list, but I’m cheap enough that it takes me forever to finish it off!)  I have wanted a faux leopard jacket for ages and ages, but the price of the true vintage ones put me off, not to mention the trouble I have getting vintage jackets to fit.  This coat was on clearance for only $20, so that’s something to check out if you’ve also been wanting one!  It’s nice and soft, with a good quality lining and buttons.  The only thing I would say as a criticism is that it doesn’t have any pockets.  I spent all morning wanting to jam my hands in my pockets to no avail – I guess it’s time to buy some gloves!

I got the Mossimo boots at Target as well.  I have been wanting a pair of brown boots, as well as some scrunch-type boots, and these fill both.  I had to go down 2 sizes (to a size 7) to get them to fit – maybe it’s because I don’t wear thick socks with boots.  I’d link to them, but they don’t seem to be on the Target website yet.

I had a pretty good day thrifting – I got some skirts to size down and shorten, and a long J.Jill jacket that will be great over dresses.  But what I’m really excited about?  This coat!

It’s a size small, wool boucle trench coat from the Gap.  I’ve been wanting to join the trench trend, but I’ll be honest – camel doesn’t suit me, and I’m not the biggest on waist ties.  This was I can do it for five dollars, so if I end up hating it there’s no real loss.  I have a ridiculously large coat collection, especially considering I’ve only worn a coat maybe 3 times so far this year.  I can’t wait for it to get colder so I can work in this one.  In the meantime, it’s living in my freezer for a bit just in case (I can’t wash it the way I did everything else, but I’m not due to the drycleaners for awhile… I’m not really paranoid, but better safe than sorry.)

I’ve been working on my dress – the instructions are of the type that frustrate me, a lot of matching squares and circles.  Hopefully it turns out nicely, and I’ll have a report soon!

crafts · patterns · Sewing

Friday randomness

You know what they say – best laid plans and all!  I am once again working on something not in my November plans.  In my defense, my black knit was back-ordered and canceled, and I’m waiting on my corduroy (UPS says it is “out for delivery,”) which in my experience means it won’t turn up til 7 pm tonight… I think we must be the last stop on the UPS guy’s route.

This is some sort of matte charmeuse satin, polyester of course, but I’m wanting to test this dress in an inexpensive fabric before committing to silk:

This is a Cynthia Steffe design from the winter Vogue patterns.  It doesn’t look too complicated, but I want to see how the back looks on me.  I may end up raising it, but I am not sure yet.

Butterick released their winter patterns this week.  Since, as I mentioned yesterday, they are back in my good graces, I’m glad to find several “must sew” dresses.  Here are my picks:

I like both these Maggy London dresses.  The tucks on the ponte dress (on the right) are really interesting.   Love the full skirt and high waist of the second dress!

New retro patterns!  The dress on the left is a great full-skirted holiday dress (calls for shantung, taffeta etc…  I imagine it in silk taffeta!)  I would shorten the skirt.  The dress on the right it very cute, but I would lower the front neckline to mirror the back.  They’ve made it up on the site, and it’s one of those vintage styles where the neckline looks oddly proportioned (too high for a square neck) to modern eyes.  I don’t look good in that sort of neck, it needs to be just an inch or two deeper.

Finally, I like these two cutting line patterns, which I would make in between tunic and dress length, and wear them with leggings (I find that if you are a little pear shaped you need to keep tunics longer, so they don’t cut you off at your widest part.)  And look at this skirt – very Anthropologie-esque, yes?  I love the tucks, but I wish they had made it up so I could see it!

I also like the other new ponte dress (colorblocked for a slimming effect),) and there is a cute jacket (though not my favorite ever… and I do like to thrift jackets.)  Overall it’s a very strong collection, and I will be picking these up when they go on sale.

Today I am having dinner with my in-laws (MIL is in town for a conference) and getting my hair colored (finally!) Hopefully I can fit in some sewing!