I made it! Ginger jeans: pants for a pants hater

Ginger Jeans. Have enough good things already been said about them on the internet? I’m going to say no, not enough, because I haven’t added to the chorus of “best pants ever” just yet. But now I am.

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I ordered the Cone Mills Denim these are made of way back when Heather Lou offered denim kits the first time, and then promptly left the fabric sitting in the box it came in on the floor of my sewing room. I finally pulled it out a few weeks ago and got so far as setting the fabric and the instructions on my table, with a commitment to stitching these up before fall. My pal Molly was over and saw the instructions and said “Are you making jeans? Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear pants!”

She’s right, I kind of hate pants. Partially because I just like skirts and dresses more, but it’s also a temperature issue. In the summer, it’s way too hot for pants. In the winter, all my pants are too slim for an under layer, so I wear skirts and pull on two pairs of wool tights to keep myself cozy. By my calculations, this leaves approximately 6 weeks in Minnesota where it is not too hot or too cold for regular old pants. In addition, like most women, finding pants in stores is hard- I’m short and my butt is big and my calves are muscular. I had one pair of jeans I kind of liked, but they were so tight that when I gained a few pounds they became downright painful to wear and got retired.

I made my first Ginger Jeans muslin for view A (the low rise version) last winter out of some extremely stretchy salmon pink denim I picked up off the discount shelf at Treadle Yard Goods in St. Paul. I’d dreamed it would be a wearable muslin, but my big ol’ butt had different ideas. I started off sewing a size 18, but it was way too big. I sized down to a 14, and with the stretch of the fabric it was closer, but not big enough at all for my butt, and a bit too small around my calves. This post from Tasha at By Gum By Golly   was very helpful, and I added a butt smile to my muslin- a whole three extra inches of fabric at the center! Like I said, my butt is big.

After I made my muslin adjustments I sewed up a pair in grey stretch twill. I wore them a bit during the spring, but the fabric was so much less stretchy than my muslin fabric that they’re not very comfortable. I then transferred my muslin adjustments on view A to view B and made pair of high-waisted purple short shorts. I’ve worn them all summer and loved them, although I realized that with view B I don’t need quite as much extra butt space.

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All of that brings us to these wonderful jeans you see before you. I truly couldn’t be happier! Some fabric just wants  to be made into garments, and that’s definitely true of the Cone Mills denim. I set up one machine for seams (my Singer Touch & Sew) and one machine for topstitching (my Singer 301A), which made it so much easier. I did a pocket stay, which gives you nice smooth front without too much tummy squishing. I also decided to just serge and top stitch my seams, since the last time I did flat fell seams (on the grey twill pair) I had to do a lot of unpicking in spots where the flat fell shifted while sewing and didn’t catch. I’m sure this just a skill that takes practice, but at the moment I don’t love flat felling, it always ends up looking messy on the insides.

The shirt here is an altered linen thrift store top that I’ll share more about next week.

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The design on the back pockets came out of sketching ideas with a chalk pen, and I really like how that came out. I copied the pocket placement from my purple shorts, but I think they turned out a bit too wide set unfortunately. I feel fine about it, but I do plan to be a bit more careful with the next pair.

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Since I’m pretty short, I actually have quite a bit of denim left over! Heather just posted an awesome Ginger skirt hack, so I’m planning to attempt to squeeze one out of what’s left. What can I say? These pants are amazing, but I’m a pants hater, so a skirt version may be even better.

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I made it! Deer and Doe Belladone #3

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This is my third Belladone, and dare I say it… I think I finally got it right! Not to say I didn’t like the previous versions – I loved them. But this one is just about perfect. In fact, it feels like a bit of a Goldilocks situation, and now it’s just right.

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My first Belladone (sidenote: damn am I glad my hair has grown out) was made out of a soft cotton fabric. It’s cute and, hilariously, perfectly matches my bike (both are light blue and hot pink). However, the soft drape didn’t show off the pleats and exaggerated A-line very well. And unfortunately, whether I iron it or not, it always looks a bit rumpled.

My second Belladone was made of some gorgeous black fabric with lurex woven in, which I picked up at Modern Domestic while I was on vacation in Portland earlier this summer. There were a few issues that have led to me (gulp) not actually wearing that dress at all yet this summer. First of all, it just feels too fancy for my day to day summer lifestyle- like it kind of feels like a job interview outfit, except the cut out back and the short skirt make it a bit inappropriate for that. Second, while I SWEAR the bolt said it was 2% spandex, that ain’t true. This fabric has zero give. So it’s just a touch too tight. I did, however, make some crucial fit adjustments that got rid of the back wrinkles I was plagued with when I made the first one.

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Which brings us to Belladone #3. I picked up some wonderfully heavy stretch sateen at S.R. Harris recently and whipped this baby up. With this luscious fabric combined with my fitting changes from Belladone #2 it’s perfect! I love how sturdy it feels. For notions, I recently came across a bag of 20+ red invisible zips at the thrift store (so all my future dresses will have red zips for the time being). I was also the lucky recipient of a ton of vintage buttons and bias tape from a new sewing friend. I realized that I don’t love the exposed bias tape look, so although it’s red and matches perfectly, I hid it on the inside. My happy little secret- I mean, who doesn’t love nice insides, right.

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I’m really learning the beauty of a good TNT pattern. It feels so nice to sew a dress up when you know what all the steps will be! It just flies by, and soon enough, you have a new dress.

I made it! A big ol’ rock

I mentioned BareBones in my last post. What is it? Why, it’s the Outdoor Halloween Puppet Extravaganza, of course!

Each year here in the Twin Cities, we get together to put on an epic puppet show, featuring stilters, fire dancers, aerialists, enormous puppets, and a live 20+ piece orchestra, in a gorgeous park by the Mississippi river. The story is always different, but the themes of grief and remembrance stay the same. It takes hundreds to put this show on, and this year around 8,000 people came to see it over our five night run. BareBones is a 501(c)3 non-profit, and I’ve been on the Board of Directors for two years now. Since April I’ve been serving as the co-chair, which has been really challenging and fulfilling.

In the past I’ve been in the show and I even made some sweet sparkly jumpsuits for the aerialists in 2012. Because of my board duties, though, my time to be directly involved in the show was limited this year. I asked the director’s what I could help sew and they told me they needed a giant rock, which a crowd of people would gather under, pulsing, until the rock broke apart and lava flowed from it (in the form of a group of kids with red fabric). Another volunteer had already acquired and dyed a massive amount of grey sheets, donated by a linen supply company, and I just needed to figure out how to make those sheets into a rock.

Initially I had this crazy idea of cutting the sheets into triangles and then using my tent (which I brought in and set up in the middle of our build space) as a draping form, instead of following any kind of pattern. I made the first one this way and it didn’t go so well- it was really hard to put together well. I then realized I could use a faceted gem-like shape and sketched this pattern.

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Each triangle had sides of about 5 feet long, but that was by no means consistent, so a lot of the pieces had to be pleated as we sewed to make them fit together. The main thing was that it needed to create a draped shape and not just be a big flat sheet. We made four of these rocks, and I was able to get several other volunteers (including a former Cirque du Soliel costume assistant!) to help me with the sewing. When the rocks were done I doused them in leftover mache glue to make them look a little more crusty and rocky. This only worked ok… I had to put them in the dryer, which made a lot of the glue come off. If I’d had more time I definitely would’ve done something else, like added some cardboard inserts, to make it rockier, but we were only a few days from the show opening when they were finished.

Ultimately the rock scene was hard to photograph, as it was very dimly lit, but you can see the rock in the background here (as the lava kids run in front).

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I have loved working on sewing projects for BareBones because it’s a real opportunity to get away from my usual style. There’s a limited amount of time to work on these projects, so I can’t be a perfectionist. It’s also great to get out of my own head and help other people make their vision come to life. I can’t wait to see what I’ll get to help make next year!

Happy New Year!

A happy 2015 to one and all! Here’s a photo of me doing the splits while eating pizza (and wearing a handmade skirt, natch) in front of the Minneapolis skyline. I had a dream about this image, and then my friend Brian helped me make it come true. I’m not big on resolutions, but I really do hope to update the blog more this year! Here’s to another year of sewing and growing.

Photographed Dec. 30, 2014 at 4:30pm, 4 degrees F

Photographed Dec. 30, 2014 at 4:30pm, 4 degrees F

I made it! Desperately Seeking Susan jacket

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Halloween is a funny time for me. I absolutely LOVE the holiday. When I was a kid, my mom would make incredible handmade costumes for me and my brother each year. We lived on the north side of Chicago, and I loved driving out of the city with her to visit Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, where we’d leaf through enormous catalogs that I could barely even lift, looking for just the right pattern. I still get that same leap of excitement today when I sit down at a pattern catalog table.

Anyway, when I moved to Minnesota in 2011, one of the first things I did was attend the BareBones Outdoor Halloween Puppet Extravaganza. Like, literally, I went to it the day after I moved into my apartment. I was totally enamored, and the next year I performed in the show and then joined the all-volunteer board of directors (we’re 501(c)3 non-profit). This year I’m the co-chair of the board, which has been awesome, albeit very time consuming. All of this is to say that despite my deep seated love for Halloween and dressing up, I didn’t really have time to do it! On the night of Halloween I was helping strike the show until midnight, so by the time I joined my roommate Brie at a party, I was minutes away from deciding I should just fall asleep in a pile of leaves. Also I felt so old walking into the smokey, packed living room of a punk house.

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So, I knew all this was going to happen, but I already had a plan to do it better. I had a “Halloween” party for November 8th and invited the BareBones community- we’re all artists, so of course we want to wear costumes!

I’ve always been enamored with the jacket in Desperately Seeking Susan. Starring a young Madonna as a semi-homeless punk babe and general sexy hoodlum, who does things like dry her armpits using the hair dryers at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and eat cheetos while wearing white lace gloves. I rewatched the movie recently, and I have to say that it’s solidly mediocre- the screwball caper plot involving stolen Egyptian earrings and Rosanna Arquette getting amnesia when she hits her head on a light pole only kinda makes sense. (I’m a big fan of this review, if you want to know more about it.) But the production and costume design are awesome, and really capture the spirit of New York in the ’80s (or at least what I like to imagine New York was like in the ’80s). I wanted a fun, challenging project for Halloween, and it was between this jacket or a hardcore Victorian witch. Ultimately I chose the Susan jacket because it felt like it would have more of a life in my closet than a full length black gown.

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At first I thought I’d go for serious accuracy and try to recreate the jacket as closely as possible. But as much as I like the original, the extreme shoulder pads and odd tuxedo shape are a bit too ’80s for my style. I used the By Hand London Victoria Blazer pattern and cut a size 16. Since it’s cut a lot of ease I didn’t need to make any changes except for shortening the arms (’cause my arms are stumpy, yo). The black/gold tweed, sequins, and the gold I used for the pyramid are all from Mood. I bought some silver-grey lining at Treadle in St. Paul and fully lined it (although the pattern leaves the sleeves unlined, I live in the coldest state in the continental US, so I can’t have those kind of shenanigans). It all went really quickly except for those sequins- I broke six needles. One broke after only two stitches! I finally realized that I was sewing against the grain of the sequins, which was causing them to twist and break the needles. Oops. So if you are sewing sequins, pay close attention to your grain!

While I was researching the design on the back I realized that it’s a copy of the pyramid on the US dollar. Well, the dollar says “new world order” on it in Latin, and that creeps me out. So I changed it to “carpe noctem” (sieze the night!) and changed the date to my birth year, which I drew on with a fabric marker. (Sidenote: While my roommate was taking these pictures for me in the alley, a neighbor drove up and asked if we were taking senior pictures. “Um, nope, I’m 32!” I responded. Oh, the curse of the babyface. I swear I’m gonna get carded until I’m 50.)

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I‘m super pleased with this project, and it was really fun to work on! Next up, though, I’m sewing some easy, boring leggings and t-shirts before I dive back into the wool motorcycle jacket I abandoned at the end of last winter. It snowed today (no joke! UGH!), so it’s time to get crackin’ on the winter wear.

I Made It! Purple Chambray Hawthorn

Oh look… it’s been two years and suddenly I’m blogging again! I swear this time it’s gonna stick. I read many sewing blogs a day and love seeing other people’s makes. I love posting my own makes to my friends on Facebook and Instagram. So I figure it’s time to join this darn amazing online sewing community and get into the thick of it!

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The right corners of downtown Saint Paul are quite charmingly picturesque.

This is my new favorite fall dress, the Colette Hawthorn in purple chambray from Treadle Yard Goods in Saint Paul, MN (I bike right by it on my way home from work, which is mighty dangerous, lemme tell ya). I’ve made this twice before, once in red kona cotton (which I never wear because the nap of the fabric picks up EVERY DAMN PIECE OF LINT I encounter, and as the owner of a fluffy white cat, that’s a problem) and one wearable muslin of the peplum version (it’s cute as hell, but I don’t wear it as much as I should, perhaps because I don’t have a lot of peplum-complimenting garments).

Over the summer I was admiring Lauren’s sleevless Hawthorn and inspiration struck. Lawd knows she isn’t the only sewing blogger to have made one, but that’s who I was copying. I went to Treadle to buy fabric for some other summer projects and got sucked into the Chambray, but determined to not be a total copycat I bought the chambray in my favorite shade of pinky-purple.

I had originally intended to make the sleeveless version, but by the time I got to sewing it, fall was upon us here in Minnesota, and it seemed way too cold to be making a sleeveless dress. I barely had enough fabric, though, so I eked out the sleeves and left off the cuff. This was a little dumb, as I ended up just turning them into hem, which made them much tighter than usual, but after an hour of wearing they loosen up a little and are fine. I used some contrasting batik I had in my stash for the pockets and facings, which also saved me a little fabric. The buttons are some adorable, chunky burnt wooden buttons I bought at Savers for a couple bucks. Ah, Savers, my secret favorite place to score cheap material and notions.

I really love this pattern. Other than minor dart adjustments and adding pockets, I have made no changes to it, sewing a straight size 16. When I add pockets I always grab the pockets from Simplicity 2215, which are the perfect size. (Sidenote: why are dress patterns designed without pockets? Everyone loves pockets! And they are easier to remove than add… though I digress.) Truth be told, Hawthorn was the last Colette pattern that really grabbed my attention- almost everything since has been a bit too simple for me (the toggle front coat is nice, just not my style). But Hawthorn is a gem, and I hope they release more like it again soon! I’m excited to see what the new Seamwork magazine delivers…