Indigo tamarack: part IV

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All the while making this jacket, I thought to myself: this will either look crazy, or crazy good.

As I rounded the home stretch of binding the jacket edges, I knew that the latter was confirmed. Introducing my indigo Tamarack jacket: hand-dyed, patchwork-pieced, hand-quilted, lined in upcycled flannel, filled with locally made wool batting, bound by hand, a supremely cozy feat of skill-building slow fashion.

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It just feels so good —¬†crazy good —¬†to finally wear something that has been growing and evolving, stretching and reflecting over a year of creativity. In a way, this jacket charts my trajectory in style and skill, explorations and impulses. In a way, it’s less a statement jacket and more a summary.

In nearly any incarnation, the Tamarack Jacket pattern by Grainline Studio seems like the perfect transition-season outerwear. For mine, I lengthened the body by 1″ and the sleeves by 2″, my standard adjustments, and the fit is perfect for lightweight layering. It’s a little crowded with my Exeter cardigan underneath, but just right over a fingering-weight sweater or simple sweatshirt (may I suggest: Liv light or Linden). It doesn’t yet have any form of closure, though I plan to add a few hooks & eyes, which I’m waiting to see if I can find at a textile recycling event later this month, and the updated version of the pattern includes a delightful looking snap option.

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Should you choose to make a Tamarack Jacket in pre-quilted fabric, or perhaps a vintage quilt (yes, please do that!), you could probably have one in a day. Should you go for custom machine-quilting, you can probably still finish it in a weekend. Should you wish to make an indigo vat, cut apart and patchwork together your pieces, source your¬†batting locally, quilt it together with sashiko thread, bind all the interior seams, finish the exterior binding by hand, and embroider your heart into painstaking welt pockets — well, it might just take you a year and a half.

And it might be a crazy-neverending WIP, but the payoff might just match the persistence.

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Worn with: vintage silk tee & jeans, handmade shawl, favorite necklace & clogs.

Here & there, vol. 3

Here

Is the world melting or is it just some of the snow?

The past few weeks were challenging on many levels, and turning to manageable, tactile, creative tasks has helped me get through it. Of note:

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The finishing touch on ultra cozy Hudson pants (the better to spend a Saturday morning snuggling & writing postcards to Senators).

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Finding my own way to commemorate 2017. I think it’s critically important that we continue to define & document our own narratives — I’m starting in the pocket of this sweater (thanks, Beth, for the tip).

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Slow stitching inspiration, thinking about the role of thread and fiber in mark-making, heritage, and recording history in cloth.

There

Looking forward to this series interviewing slow fashion leaders

Honored to be included in this piece on slow fashion sourcing

One step at a time, times 3: to lead, to follow, to make a habit.

Other numerical comforts: take 5.

Finding hope in local: local knitting, local elections, and learning how to be an active ally.

Plus: Ebony’s interview & illustration series

Fair Dare fabric recommendations

Fight!

 

Project planning for fall

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Back to my point about project planning: whether or not you actually want to make/use/live with a capsule wardrobe, the free¬†Capsule planner can be a helpful tool to plan wardrobe addition. I’m going with a fall capsule wardrobe, but I think the foundation of taking stock of what I have, identifying what’s working & what’s not, thinking about weather and lifestyle and any needs for the upcoming season allows me¬†to easily identify and prioritize pieces I want to add to my wardrobe, capsuled or not.

From my wardrobe planning process, I have a clear color palette, an idea of my favorite silhouettes, and an inventory of what I have and what gaps exist in my wardrobe. I have a good number of boxy tops that I love, but am pretty low on pants and skirts to pair them with (especially pieces that are in good condition and can be dressed up a bit).

The Capsule planner also offered a nice time to reflect on my goals: moving slowly, keeping my closet pared down, and working with my stash. So now, the part I daydream about the most! What to make? How will the things I make pair with what I already have and love?

Since I generally¬†enjoy making most of my wardrobe, I use the shopping list part of the Un-fancy Capsule planner to think about what projects to prioritize. But, considering my current need for pants and the learning curve to make a pair (which I don’t have time for just yet), I decided to invest in a pair of Clyde pants after many many months of contemplation and budgeting. I also need another pair of shoes, ideally boots, which is a bigger budget item, so I’m¬†trying to keep my project budget lean and finish up a few WIPs.

Roughly in order of priority:

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Loose inspirations & interpretations: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

I wouldn’t say this planning method is totally foolproof — I could still end up with clothing that doesn’t quite fit or isn’t durable, or doesn’t ultimately move into regular wardrobe rotation. But I have a natural tendency (ok, borderline obsession) toward planning and I think laying it all out ahead of time is¬†really helpful.

I also know that this fall — really, the rest of 2016 — will be very busy for me, and there’s a chance that I won’t get through even half of the items on my list. Through my summer capsule wardrobe experience, I learned that making one full garment per month is a reasonable pace, so with my fall planning I’m trying not to set my expectations too high, and by prioritizing, I can focus on each item in due course. Still, if I don’t get to making or finishing the items on my list, I know that I have plenty to wear and lots of great options in my fall capsule.

This is my current practice of balancing excitement, inspiration, and desire, with gratitude, responsibility, and time management.¬†Do you have a fall list? I love learning about how others plan (or don’t!) their projects, and welcome your thoughts in the comments!

Summer capsule reflection

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What I wore

Looking back, I had a few clear summer silhouettes:

  1. Sleeveless, boxy cropped shirt + high waist + sandals. In heavy rotation were my self-drafted crop top, my blue striped t-shirt, my knit beach tank, mixed and matched with my cut-off jean shorts, vintage linen wide-leg pants, thrifted high-waist non-stretch jeans, and paired with my Birkenstock sandals or Zuzii sandals (which I bought for a wedding and have proved quite versatile).
  2. Breezy dress with pockets + sandals or sneakers. For me, dresses are the easiest thing to wear in the summer, and can be styled a little differently (more casual or a more refined) depending on shoes or jewelry. My most-reached for this summer were my wabi-sabi Dress No. 1, my hacked V1482, and my Charlotte Kan tie dress (see below). I love me-made dresses because I can make sure the length is in my comfort zone, and I can always add pockets.
  3. Wide-legged jumpsuit (sometimes layered under a top) + sandals. For hot and sticky weather, and bike riding all over town, my two jumpsuits were perfect and fun: one is a vintage linen style that I bought on ebay and dyed in indigo, and the other is a black organic cotton Sallie jumpsuit that I made last summer.

And a quick shout-out to a couple of me-made favorites that were in heavy rotation but never got a full blog post: tops and dresses made from Charlotte Kan Pocket-T and Tie Dress patterns:

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From left:¬†I first made the Tie Dress in a linen-cotton blend last summer as a birthday present to myself, and then I volunteered to pattern test the Pocket-T (so I received the pattern in exchange for my review; I used deadstock Cupro from Feral Childe) last July. Last fall I made a cropped version (with split side seams) of the pocket tee in Merchant & Mills Irish linen, and in the spring I used the sleeve shape and waistline¬†to create a heavily modified V1482 (a.k.a. Rachel Comey sack dress). If you’re interested in more details on any of those, feel free to ask in the comments, or let me know if a full post would be helpful.

What I didn’t wear

This summer was non-stop heat and humidity at home, and really didn’t cool down in the evenings at all, as it does in other places I’ve lived. This meant that I rarely/never wore any of my warm layers (light sweaters or jackets) except for travel. I also hardly wore my stretch denim jeans or my Prism dress¬†because long sleeves and pants just never seemed like something I wanted on my body.¬†Since my summer capsule extended into early September, I was able (and excited!) to bring these items into the rotation¬†at the very end of the time span.

I didn’t wear my¬†black high-waisted shorts often, but I still love them so much. They’re just a little too short for riding my bike or workwear but they’re great for going out with friends or dates.¬†I also pretty much never wore my wrap skirt! I need to make it a faux-wrap skirt because it always feels too fussy so I don’t reach for it.

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What I made (and what I didn’t)

  1. Just before I officially committed to my summer capsule, I made a self-drafted crop top and it was easily a summer fave (also made one for a friend), worn alone or layered over a jumpsuit or dress.
  2. At the start of June I also finished knitting¬†a lightweight shawl, which I intended to wear for my brother’s wedding but didn’t really end up needing. I think it will be great for fall and spring layering though.
  3. In June I made a rather wabi-sabi Dress No. 1, which exceeded my plans and expectations in how fun it was to make and wear (dressed up for a friend’s wedding, as well as my brother’s wedding rehearsal party, and dressed down for daily wear).
  4. In July I braved the unending humidity to draft and stitch my “Best Woman Dress” (full post coming soon! Inspiration post here)
  5. For a quick travel project and stash-buster, I knit a bright red Diode hat
  6. In August, I cast on a new sweater for my partner as part of the Fringe & Friends Knitalong.
  7. In the very first days of September I finished a set of silk Lakeside Pajamas

I had hoped and planned to draft and sew a¬†tunic that I had envisioned when I received¬†a beautiful piece of khadi¬†from A Verb for Keeping Warm as a Me-Made-May contest prize (which I didn’t even realize I had entered!). I can see how the tunic would have fit into my capsule and silhouettes, but I didn’t necessarily feel that it was glaringly missing. I just didn’t have time, and I’m sure it will still be inspiring next spring/summer.

I also didn’t finish the¬†Penny Raglan¬†I had planned. I actually¬†started making it, and it’s not too far from being finished, but I just don’t think I’ll wear it. I love the penny raglan shape but I made it¬†out of a linen-cotton blend curtain I found at Goodwill, and it’s too sheer for my comfort level. I’m debating between tossing the unfinished garment in the scrap bin, or finishing it and giving it away.

Looking at this list, I essentially made one garment¬†per month, with one smaller project added in or wrapped up. It’s really helpful for me to better understand my pace so I can be realistic with planning my projects and purchasing supplies, and it’s also nice to realize that I posted about nearly all the finished garments here.

This feels good as in the past I’ve been somewhat on the fence with blogging, but I’ve really been enjoying it as a writing outlet and a place to record notes (like this post, which has been a running draft for several weeks now) and inspiration. Sometimes¬†I just don’t want to spend any of my free¬†time on a computer¬†(since my work involves a lot of screen time — that’s why my tactile hobbies are so nourishing for¬†me), and other times I’d rather move into the next project instead of re-hashing what I finished, but I value the opportunity to appreciate each project and learning process.

10 x 10 outfits

What I learned, and notes for next year

My biggest takeaway is that I actually didn’t feel limited by my capsule wardrobe — I had plenty to wear, and even felt a bit more adventurous¬†trying to experiment with new ways to wear what I already love.

Toward that end, I played with styling by trying a 10 x 10 challenge while on a 10 day trip, and it was really fun! I love layering and that can get tricky in the summer. Honestly, I have no issues with repeating outfits, but the 10 x 10 challenge to make 10 items¬†feel like 10 different styles was really interesting and showed me that my clothes have greater versatility than the way I typically¬†wear them. It also allowed me to pack a light carry-on and still dress appropriately¬†for a few days at the beach, a wedding weekend, and a few days in New York City. I thought about doing a full post on it but then I fell behind (and subsequently gave up) photographing the 10 outfits. The items from my 10×10 experiment are featured in the collage at the top of this post, and the first two looks are shown above (travel day and beach day).

Part of what draws me to the capsule wardrobe exercise and using capsule planning to pare down my project list a bit, is that I get stressed out when I’m growing my stash by buying things I don’t have time to use or make. My summer capsule was successful in helping me hone in on a projects I really wanted/needed to make, and stick to working through my stash!

To be completely transparent, I did buy a few things during this capsule stretch, like the Lakeside Pajamas and Penny Raglan patterns. And when I visited Fancy Tiger Crafts I bought lots of underwear elastic, and two cuts of hemp knit for shirts for Jenn. But I didn’t buy any new fabric for my own wardrobe. And I fought a very intense urge to throw my plans (and budget) out the window to make a stripey Fen dress — that was a fascinating rollercoaster of desire to witness within myself, and might become its own post soon.

My summer capsule wardrobe also affirmed my love for jumpsuits: if I had to live with only one item of clothing, it would probably have been my indigo linen jumpsuit this summer (it’s a vintage Flax jumpsuit that I bought on Ebay and overdyed at home). I recently read an interesting post¬†on the question of whether a love of styling is at odds with a minimalist approach to fashion,¬†and the author brought up how¬†garments that are versatile don’t have to be basic. For me, jumpsuits are a prime example. You know all those “wardrobe essentials” lists on Pinterest and in fashion magazines? They often include items I don’t own or rarely wear, like a classic blazer or pencil skirt, whereas because I love the jumpsuits I have, they’ve become essentials.

A few notes for next year’s warm season:

  • My Nisolo sandals are really a half-size too big, and wearing them in very wet grass for an¬†evening didn’t help that. It might be wise to replace them.
  • I’m pretty good on lightweight sweaters — I have three that I love, which cover different shapes, and meet my needs for this climate.
  • I love my Zady linen tee but it shows wear more quickly than other items, so it would be a good item to duplicate. Either with another of the same – maybe in black or stripes so I don’t need to worry about staining so much, or I could knit a similar shape¬†in Quince & Co. sparrow¬†(I’m looking at you, Moon Tee).
  • ¬†I think another shift dress in place of my Prism dress would be good, and especially one with pockets — I’m head over heels for Lily Schlosser’s Fen dress in stripes, so that might jump to the top of my spring/summer list for next year.

So there you have it – my first official capsule wardrobe and wrap-up. I¬†plan to keep going with this pattern for a while because I’m enjoying it and I think it’s a valuable tool for my goal of a maintaining a small closet.¬†What do you think — are you interested in a capsule wardrobe, would you try one? Do you plan your wardrobe and/or projects in other ways? Do you love having an expansive stash?

Upcycled silk lakeside pajamas

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A slinky, breezy pajama set – or – a slice of humble pie.

What do I mean?

That I am both grateful to have these lakeside pajamas to wear on muggy nights and perhaps more grateful to no longer have them on my sewing table.

That even though I’ve been sewing most of my wardrobe for nearly 3 years and was starting to think my topstitching and bias binding skills were halfway decent, there is still so much to learn and practice.

Ok, what I really mean is that these pj’s are what my dad would call a “ten footer” project — they look great from 10 ft. away, but upon closer inspection the stitching is what I would call a hot mess.

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No matter, they’re still wearable. And at some point after wrestling with approximately twenty-six feet of bias binding to complete the tank top and first step of the shorts construction (an exaggeration, but still), I gave in to the struggle and decided that thread matching isn’t always necessary. Which, maybe, is a lesson in going easy on yourself, especially when it’s 9 pm on a holiday spent working the same as any other day.

Also when the color blocking would have made thread-matching a particularly time-consuming challenge. But the color blocking itself is a fun detail that was surprisingly easy since I was working with an already color-blocked silk skirt and shirt combo, picked up from a tag sale several years ago. I’m not the best at identifying silk fabric types, but I think this would be classified as a lightweight china silk — plain woven, no backing, some sheen.

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Whatever it is, remind me not to attempt to work with it anytime soon. Whereas my upcycled Alamada robe is a fluid, drapey silk, and my best woman dress is a mid- to heavy-weight stretch silk (which I only discovered while testing my stitches Рmore on that another day), this was a flimsy, slippery little devil that seemed to prefer to skew to the bias, and did not want to stay in a straight line under my needle.

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But the pattern itself, even with all the bias binding, is a gem. I love the overall look, with the slightly retro gym shorts and flattering a-line tank. The clever layered back pieces of the tank offer a breezy vent for hot nights without being too revealing, which I love; the shorts, however, are super revealing and would definitely not make it outside the house even if the stitching were better. But then, I knew when I was cutting that I would probably want to lengthen the inseam, but I chose not to because I was fussy-cutting to arrange the pieces on the various color-blocked portions available.

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Fitwise, I find both the upper-bust of the tank and the low hip of the shorts to be a little tight on me. I cut my usual Grainline size 10, although my hip measurement actually matches an 8 — I think the slight tautness might be due to the fabric, which doesn’t have much give. It could also be due to the french seams I was determined to use but not so dedicated to measuring properly. But after one night wearing them, they loosened a bit and are perfectly comfortable. Next time, I would lengthen the inseam of the shorts, remove the length I added (on a total whim) to the straps, and add a little room to the upper bust.

Just as having a fancy, handmade silk robe feels like a treat, having a stylish, matching pajama set feels surprisingly delightful. I can already imagine that next summer I might want to make an alternate set, this time in a light linen or organic cotton voile, with more precise stitching and a few fitting tweaks.

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Self-drafted crop top, times two

A scrappy little crop top has been one of my hardest working garments this summer.

It’s sleeveless and breathable, but structured and cut with enough coverage that it doesn’t feel skimpy. It’s simple and chic with¬†something high-waisted, and surprisingly versatile when layered over a dress or jumpsuit.

And, it’s custom made & fit for me, by me.

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In one of our early summer heat waves, a crop top suddenly seemed essential, and I fell in love with the wider shoulders and hem band of this one by Elizabeth Suzann. I had a length of thick, cream-colored linen on hand in the form of a curtain that fit the windows in our old apartment but none in the new one (go figure), and while cleaning my sewing space I unearthed my bodice and skirt sloper.

Do you have a sloper? I made mine in a class last summer and really enjoyed the process, but then left them untouched for a year. A crop top, it turns out, is a very simple first project to make from a bodice sloper.

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My process was very intuitive, so if you have tips or techniques that you swear by, I’d love to hear! I relied a lot on measuring existing clothes and patterns to get my¬†target measurements, and then traced from my sloper (far right) onto Swedish tracing paper to create the pattern pieces (far left is the final piece).

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I made two muslins out of an old sheet, and each time I tried on the garment I wore it around a bit to get a feel for the fit, and then adjusted with pins and pen marks as needed. With each muslin I decided not to add the seam allowance to the arm holes and neckline, that way I could see where the final lines would lie on my body. The hardest part to get right was the width at the hem, because I didn’t want it to hug too closely nor swing out; it started out too wide, and then I pinched out the excess. I also carefully considered the bust dart placement (in the mirror and in my inspiration images) and ultimately lowered it by half an inch.

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Once I had the fit right,¬†sewing it up was a breeze! When I posted a progress photo on Instagram, my friend Anna asked if I would consider making one for her, and after emailing back and forth we set up a trade — a crop top for some homemade bath and body goodies (Anna has been exploring¬†zero waste living and developed some favorite recipes to replace products like makeup and lotion, and I’m excited to try them).

I don’t often sew things for others because I tend to have higher standards than when I’m just making for myself — like if the top stitching is wonky on my own shirt, I can deal with it, but for someone else I don’t want to mess it up, which can get stressful. So I explained to Anna (who lives halfway across the country) that I couldn’t guarantee a perfect fit or finest stitching, but I would be interested in trying.

Aside from a fun handmade swap, I thought it would be a good motivation to try grading my pattern. I looked up a few tutorials online and luckily Anna’s measurements were an even¬†1″ smaller than mine. I calculated that I needed to take .5″ out of the front and back each, and thus reduce the pattern pieces by .25″ each (since they’re on the fold). The guide I found online suggested dividing the pattern piece in thirds and overlapping or spreading at those lines to get an even grade.

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So I duplicated the pattern out of scrap newspaper and I think it worked well! Above you can see the original is slightly larger than the graded pattern piece beneath. I didn’t have any more of the linen I had used for my crop top, so I offered Anna a few options from my stash, and I think she chose the best one for this garment – a plain woven mid-weight organic cotton that I found secondhand (and then discovered it had an original label confirming its content). I shipped the finished crop top off to Anna and am looking forward to hearing what she says.

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Summer wedding dreaming

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An indulgence: putting¬†words & images to the summer wedding look I’ve been daydreaming about…

  • A silk shift dress in deep navy (inspired by¬†this¬†and¬†this)
  • Simple sandals, a bit fresher than my current pairs (these arrived just in time)
  • An airy, earthy handknit shawl
  • A little bit of shimmer
  • Messy-chic hair (like this)

My brother’s wedding is just around the corner and I’m thrilled to join our family and friends to celebrate in a little mountain town in Colorado. They are keeping the ceremony quite small and I was honored when he asked if I would stand with him in lieu of a traditional bridal party; I’ve taken to calling myself “the best (wo)man”

Then, of course, came the question of what to wear. My soon-to-be sister-in-law is so lovely and relaxed, and was open to pretty much anything. Still I wondered,¬†anything¬†anything? So I’ve been collecting and sharing ideas with the bride and her sister, who is the bridesmaid. My ideas really started to take shape when I found an amazing length¬†of deep navy blue washed silk crepe de chine at a local fundraiser full of donated supplies and cast-offs.

Then¬†I had to narrow down the exact form¬†I was going for: something I could re-wear, something understated but elegant, flowy but flattering. I’ve settled on a simple shift shape inspired by slip dresses, with a scoop neck on one side, deep V on the other, and side slits and a midi hem for a modern twist.

To complement: neutral sandals (to re-wear with casual attire), a handmade shawl for when the sun drops, minimal jewelry that I already own, a bit of shimmery highlight and a low-key hairstyle to polish up the look.

Later this summer I’ll put together a post on self-drafting the dress, as well as details for¬†the resulting dress (sneak peek over here) and shawl.