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Big bad bully Selfish Seamstress is back at it again, ruthlessly ripping off innocent, defenseless fashion giants like Kate Spade New York! This time, Selfish set her sights on the Victoria Faux Fur Pullover, which I believe was part of the line in late 2011 or early 2012, originally retailed for $845, and long since sold out. I only discovered it a couple of weeks ago though, and was immediately obsessed with this weird, weird garment. Seriously. A shirt made out of fur. And somehow that seemed like a can’t-live-without-it garment. Go figure.

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Here are the front and back views of the original. Dan just saw this photo on my screen and asked, “Is that you??” No. Really not.kate-spade-front-back

It was one of those projects that made me want to drop everything and sew. I was terrified of the thought that the weather might warm up before I could finish it. Within minutes of seeing it, I was trolling the web for the right faux fur. I found it on eBay and then waited weeks for it to slowly make its way to me via shady underground channels and very generous, helpful people because the seller wouldn’t ship here. In the meantime I drafted a pattern for it based very, very loosely (almost not at all) on the Burda 9-2007-105 jacket:

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The other thing I did while waiting for the fur to arrive was worry whether the fur would be right. I was pretty sure that the pile would be soft and dense and silky, as high-quality faux fur usually is these days. But I wasn’t sure whether the woven backing would be stiff or drapey, and I really wanted something drapey to avoid this sort of effect:

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When the fur finally arrived, I found myself (as usual) in the thick of a busy period at work. But rabid to make this bizarre garment, I squeezed in three nights of 10PM-1AM sewing, and it was mine…. ALL MINE. And most likely the weirdest, most unnecessary thing I have ever sewn for myself.

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The fur, as it turned out, was as delightfully drapey as a beach blanket, and sooooooo soft and silky and pettable- the best faux fur I’ve ever laid my fingers on. It was so nice that I started having second thoughts about using it to make a potentially unflattering wadder, and started considering using it for a safer bet like a proper jacket. But I decided to press on with the weird fur shirt. As you can see above, I’m wearing it with my DIY long combo gloves, which I also made while I was impatiently waiting for the fur to arrive. And yes, I did make them in anticipation of wearing them with the fur shirt!

I decided not to go with the same type of faux fur used in the original- the KS version has very defined channels, which I thought might create the illusion of more bulk than necessary (think Michelin man). The fur I used has some gentle, irregular striation, but it’s much more subtle. You can see well here:

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This garment is neither practical nor slimming. It’s not the easiest thing to get out of, it leaves my neck cold and doesn’t look good with scarf, and the 3/4 sleeves are just ridiculous for winter. I mean, an open-necked, half-sleeved shirt made of faux fur is possibly the most pointless winter outerwear ever. Really, as stupid as open-toed boots, which naturally, I have as well. Together they make for a stupid yet badass ensemble:

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All in all, this was a really easy project because the pattern draft was right on the first try (because really, this garment does not require a very precise fit) and there was just so little to it.  I used standard techniques for sewing faux fur, and it all came together easily. I did have a cold while sewing it, and all the loose fluff would send me into some bad coughing fits even though I was using the hand vac every 30 seconds.

I lined the garment with some impulse-buy Milly silk twill that I had picked up at Metro over the holidays while shopping with my cousin Evelyn. (Side note about Selfish’s cousin Evelyn: She is a bona fide fashion designer with a bona fide fashion degree, unlike Selfish, who is a charlatan who uses her intermediate sewing skills to do one-off knockoffs of upscale mass market fashion. Selfish will text her to say, “I’m going fabric shopping in 15 minutes” and Evelyn will show up without fail. She knows exactly where to go for whatever random thing Selfish wants, and supports Selfish’s every greedy fabric whim with patience and good cheer. And the craziest thing? Selfish has never seen Evelyn buy ANYTHING except a quarter of a yard of tan velcro. Clearly related by marriage.)

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The silk is cream and chocolate brown in a sort of geometric zebra-ish stripe and I like the idea of one fake animal lined in another fake animal. It’s like a sartorial turducken. By the way, I didn’t buy the silk to use as lining, but I realized recently that I have a huge, huge backlog of silk charmeuse and silk twill (mostly Milly) that I’m never going to work through unless I stop being so sparing with them. So Selfish is now lining garments with designer silk that will never be seen. Talk about hashtag-first-world-sewing-problems, right?

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I should note that the KS original was lined with acetate. Acetate?? For that kind of money?? Seriously, couldn’t they just charge $20 more and line it with silk? No one who would be willing to buy this thing at $845 is going to be like, “Nope, $865 is where I draw the line.”  Anyway. *Mine* is lined with silk, ha ha. (In case you’re interested, I used less than 1.5 meters of faux fur, which was about $70, and just over a yard of silk, which was probably about $12. So not the cheapest project ever, but still a bargain at 1/10th the price of the original.)

I made a couple of changes from the original- first I left off the front kangaroo pocket.  A pocket would be nice, but I really didn’t want any more bulk over the tummy. This garment already makes for a pretty roly-poly silhouette.  Here it is without the belt:

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Also I left off the twee little bow in the back underneath the collar. I don’t mind the bow so much, but it seemed very much like a Kate Spade signature. Adding it seemed like it would be just short of sewing a Kate Spade tag inside. I also think that the original might flare a bit to the hem, whereas mine is a straight silhouette all the way down. And my neckline might be a bit more open.

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Honestly, I don’t know if people think “WTF??” when they see me walking down the street in this, but I love it in all of its weird, furry glory.  Dan was initially skeptical when I showed him my plans but was won over by the final product, perhaps because he likes to hug me when I am wearing it. It’s really the only good thing about hugging Selfish since she DOES NOT hug back.

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That’s pretty much it for the Selfish Seamstress Kate Spade Victoria Faux Fur Pullover Knockoff.  Oh, except for one thing.  If there are any XS ladies in the audience who are jonesing for their own KS fur pullover knockoffs, I would suggest keeping an eye on my blog in the coming days, particularly the downloads page. I may just have a little something for which you should prepare to express tremendous amounts of gratitude and worship. Start shopping for your fur now!

P.S. I got a bunch of comments on my last post about the nail polish I was wearing – it’s OPI “Germanicure” and it’s one of my favorites. Highly recommended.

Oh my goodness, selfish readers, I cannot believe the outpouring of warm wishes in the comments on my last post.  Thank you so very, very much for your many kind notes.  Reading them almost makes Selfish wish that she had even a tiny little heart instead of a hard lump of rock in her chest, because if she did, she would surely have been very moved by all of your touching sentiments and congratulatory wishes.  And so, as a gesture of something akin to gratitude, here’s a little present to you- a DIY project so quick, simple, and trendy, you’ll either say, “Now why didn’t I think of that” or “Duh, I already thought of that. You always think you’re so smart, Selfish Seamstress, but you’re really NOT.” (Also, there were some questions in the comments on my last post, so I’ll address them at the end of this post- stay tuned.)

While I was in New York, I happened upon these fantastic long leather and knit gloves at Kenneth Cole (I didn’t do much shopping on my last trip, but Kenneth Cole is so conveniently located in Grand Central that I can’t help but zip through from time to time.)

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Now, $128 is not sooooooo ridiculous for leather gloves, but these are not the most practical style for everyday wear, as they’re not that easy to wear with, oh, say…. sleeves.  So even with the 20% off everything sale they were having in the store, the math still wasn’t working for me:

$128.00 * 0.8 + NYC sales tax = still too expensive for novelty gloves

But I loved how edgy they were- a ladylike shape with a sort of urban industrial mix of materials.  Some other $$$ examples:

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A New York Times bit showcasing long gloves featured the Rochas pair (third from left) which retails for almost $1300 (undoubtedly looks much better with an arm in it)

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This pair of leather and cashmere cable knit gloves from Barney’s is $280.asos-220

And this pair from Asos can be yours for a mere $220.

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And a pair from Echo Design for a comparatively reasonable $98.

What’s funny in retrospect is how it *didn’t* immediately occur to me to DIY these.  I mean, “I’ll just make them” was my first thought when I saw the similarly mixed media Helmut Lang combo pants. Instead with the gloves I was all like, “Hmmm… how can I justify this purchase?” (In fact, perhaps the only thing that didn’t stop me from splurging on these at the Kenneth Cole store was the fact that I obviously had to splurge on this at the Kenneth Cole store:

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But that’s a story for another day.)

And what’s funnier still is how when it first occurred to me to DIY these gloves, my initial thought was “Oh!  All I have to do is knit a couple of long ribbed tubes and stitch them to a pair of RTW gloves!”  And it wasn’t until much later that it I thought to myself, “Or, duh, I could just use socks.  You always think you’re so smart, Selfish Seamstress, but you’re NOT.”

Okay, so by now most of you can probably take it from here.  But in case you want some step-by-step instructions, here you go.

First, you’ll need some gloves.  Leather or faux leather would be ideal for replicating the designer look, but I didn’t have any that I wanted to use for this project. I found an old pair of Totes smooth fabric gloves that my mom gave me but that I never wore much.  They have some faux leather accents on them, so I thought they’d work well:

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Then you’ll need some knee socks or over-the-knee if you want them really slouchy.  You could get creative here with cables or Fair Isle socks, stripes, whatever. You could also use leggings or heavy knit tights, kids’ leg warmers, or slim sweater sleeves. I first went digging through Dan’s sock drawer, but when I didn’t find anything I wanted (why doesn’t he ever buy anything that *I* want to cut up and wear??), I went out and got a pair of heavy knee-high black angora blend socks (came in a two-pack with a white pair so there’s some white lint on them):

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Now, measure a consistent length from the top edge of the sock to somewhere above the heel (I got 12.5″ out of mine) and mark them.  I used pins because I don’t think chalk was going to show up on this fuzzy knit:

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And cut at your marked line.  (Dan photographed my “action shots” which is why the pictures with my hands in them are so much nicer than the other ones!)

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Finish the cut edges to prevent fraying. I used a cover stitch on my machine.  You could also zigzag the edge or use some sort of Fray Check type product.

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My stitching caused the edge to ruffle a bit, but it shouldn’t matter.

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Now, if you want, you could also cut the glove to make it shorter, or you could angle it (in which case you’d probably want to angle the cut of the sock) but I went for the simplest option which was to leave the glove as is and just stitch the sock into it. If you do decide to cut the edge of the glove and you don’t want any raw edges to show, what you probably want to do is put the glove and the sock with their right sides facing each other and edges lined up (i.e. right-side-out glove inserted into inside-out sock) and then stitch and flip the sock right side out.  But since I wasn’t cutting the glove, I did the following:

Turn both the glove and the sock inside out:

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And insert the top of the glove into the sock.gloves-make08

Pin evenly all around:

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And baste, easing the sock and glove as necessary for a smooth join. Be sure when stitching that you’re not stitching through and picking up both the front and the back of the glove, thereby sewing the glove shut at the wrist.  Gloves that are closed at the wrist are not conducive to wearing.

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Now carefully turn the whole thing right side out:

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And stitch the glove to the sock.  If you have a sewing machine with a sufficiently skinny free arm you can do it on the machine using a zigzag stitch or a stretch stitch.  My machine’s free arm is a bit… how shall we say… “big boned” … so I did this stitching by hand. I didn’t stitch along my basting- I just used the basting to hold everything together.  Instead I stitched invisibly very close to the edge of the glove, just on the inside of the hem.  And the final product:

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A pair of socks and a pair of old gloves, frankened into a reasonable facsimile of super expensive long mixed media gloves! (Incidentally, does anyone remember that Halloween episode of Community in which Troy and Abed exchange Pierce’s hands with his feet and then he can’t grope the butt that they attached to his chest? So awesome. Creating hybrid sock-gloves made me think of that episode. Also, Community is back next week! Excited though tentatively so because of the changes in writing staff and showrunner. Digressed!)

Perfect accessory for your cape, three-quarter sleeve coat, or in my case a wrinkly knit poncho:

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And super quick to make too.  I think I have a pair of old tan leather gloves somewhere so I might try another pair with brown cable knit socks, though it’s not really the sort of thing one needs a lot of in one’s wardrobe. If you make any, come back and show me how they turned out.

Ok- and response to some of your questions and comments:

  • Hahah, I think it’s cute that some of you think wedding planning is what’s been keeping me from sewing and blogging :) Our wedding planning was pretty much just this: “Mommy, can you get some food for our wedding?” “Dan, go make some tissue paper flowers for the decorations.” “Make sure I get TWO slices of cake.  It’s MY WEDDING.”
  • @BMGM: I still don’t entirely know what skirt stiffener is, whether it was just a synonym for interfacing, or whether there was actually a product you could buy that was specifically referred to as “skirt stiffener” – but it definitely wasn’t horsehair braid.  The stiffener is cut from the same pattern as the skirt, basted to the skirt, and then the two layers are treated as one, like interlining.
  • @Jo: Glad to hear that you were able to make the kimono sleeve adjustments.  I don’t have any pictures, but I think I did the same thing as you- trial and error until it fit smoothly.  I’m sure there is a logical and correct way to do this fit adjustment, but I have no idea what it is!
  • @Isaspacey: Thanks for the terminology!  And I love that phrase- “mounting a skirt.”  Sounds like 1950s innuendo.
  • @Rena & Hellene:  I am a jerk.  I totally haven’t gotten the pictures of you guys and Desi and me from when we met at Metro!  Post is coming eventually, and yes, I am an a*hole for being so lax about it! Hugs to you guys!
  • @Phoebe:  YES!  Sharp eye there, sister!  Dan was wearing a barong for our reception, sent to us from my cousin in Manila.  Our reception food was Filipino and deli, a nod to our Philippine and Jewish roots :) Funny how non-Kosher a meal can become once you have a lechon in the mix, btw.

Thanks again, everyone for all of your kind wishes for our future and the compliments on the dress.  Now go make some gloves and come back with chic results!

Oy.  Hello again.  Well, 2012 was kind of a bust for sewing and blogging, huh?  Since last I posted, I think I completed three sewing projects, one of which was a dress for my niece’s first birthday (Ugh, she didn’t even say thank you!  What is point of sewing for people who aren’t old enough to verbally express gratitude and indebtedness??) and another of which was a hat for my mother (who, I will grudgingly admit, did say thank you.) Seriously, what a shitty, shitty 2012 track record. No time to sew is somewhat excusable, but no time for selfishness… well that’s just shameful.

The third project I managed to complete is the lovely vintage pattern Butterick 9927, a lovely early 60’s cocktail dress with a boat neck, short kimono sleeves, and a tulip skirt with deep box pleats. I sewed this up about a month ago but hadn’t gotten around posting about it until now. I had purchased this pattern more than a year ago off of Etsy and stashed it away with my vintage evening gown pattern hoard. I don’t have a picture of my copy of the pattern so here’s one from the Vintage Patterns wiki:

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After such a long sewing drought this dress may seem a rather impractical choice, but as it turns out, it did fill a rather critical gap in my wardrobe:

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And lest you be fooled by the Christmas tree, no, this is not a poorly chosen Christmas party dress, but rather the dress that I made for the ceremony in which I assumed legal ownership of my wonderful Dan. This is the only full-length shot I have of the dress, and that attention whore of a tree just happened to photo bomb the shot. Look at it, creeping up behind us, trying to steal my thunder! And before you accuse the Selfish Seamstress of being anti-Christmas, let me just say that the menorah and kinara also wanted to grab the spotlight from me.

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I made the dress on something of a whim. Six days before I was scheduled to take legal possession of Dan, it occurred to me that I didn’t have a dress appropriate for the occasion. I had bought a pale blue vintage chiffon dress from the 1950s off of eBay a few weeks earlier, and was disappointed to find that the dress although beautiful, just didn’t work on me.  Every time I put it on and looked in the mirror, I felt like mutton dressed as embryo. Also the embryo was wearing someone else’s nightgown in a shade of blue that didn’t flatter the embryo’s skin tone and with a cut that created the illusion of oddly wide embryo hips. So just a few days shy of the wedding, I decided that I’d put my rusty sewing skills to the test. I dug madly through my pattern stash and unearthed Butterick 9927. I decided that with its short sleeves and modest boat neck, it would be very fitting for our super tiny, super informal winter morning (no spaghetti straps, thank you very much!) wedding at the New York City Marriage Bureau just a few days before Christmas. Interesting fact: although this is commonly referred to as getting married at “City Hall”, the Marriage Bureau is actually in a different building at the Office of the City Clerk:

IMGP0327-LMy little nephew loved hugging the puffy skirt of the dress- he was hugging me around the knees all day. He’s too young to know that YOU DO NOT HUG THE SELFISH SEAMSTRESS EVER.

Another fun fact- inside the Office of the City Clerk there is a giant photograph of City Hall in front of which you can take photos of yourselves so it looks like you got married at City Hall:

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Okay, but enough about the boring wedding stuff and onto the important sewing details! After deciding that having a dress to wear would be a good idea, I made a quick trip to the ridiculously overpriced only-game-in-town fabric store, picked up ivory silk shantung for the dress and some stiff cotton organdy for underlining, and sat down for 12 intense hours of sewing.

I had to do a couple of iterations of bodice muslins because my pattern is for a 32″ bust, and Selfish is perhaps 29″ on a good day. I’m pretty sure I took out more than 3″ of extra room too. It turned out that it wasn’t so easy to resize because with this kind of kimono sleeve, if you make significant changes to the bust, it has weird effects on the angle of the sleeve, and can create some strange resulting bubbles of fabric right in front of the shoulder.  I pondered this for a long time and ultimately managed to get a decent fit through trial and error, though it’s still not obvious to me what the “correct” way of doing this fit alteration would be.

The pattern calls for skirt “stiffening” and I’m not sure what stiffening is (was?) and how it differs from interfacing. I hadn’t run across the term before but from the pattern instructions, it seemed like it was intended to be used in the same fashion as interfacing. The cotton organdy was perfect and gave the skirt plenty of shape and volume. I did tuck a not-too-poofy vintage petticoat underneath anyway, as the tulip skirt with this pattern can gape in the front. The organdy also really helped to define and shape the box pleats, one of my favorite features of the dress:

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The pattern calls for a facing at the neckline, but I opted to line the bodice instead using some remnants of nude Bemberg I had from another project. Considering the New York winter weather, I figured an extra layer of fabric would be a good idea. Also, although this was a quickie project for a low-key event, somehow leaving a bodice unlined with exposed seam allowances on the inside seemed to be setting the bar pretty low even for an informal wedding dress. Although the pattern didn’t call for it, I underlined the bodice with the organdy too to give it a little more body.  Here’s a good view of the boat neckline, another thing I love about this pattern:

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In this picture, Dan is about to feed me cake. Although it may appear that we are engaging in a wedding-specific ritural, that’s not actually what’s going on here. This is actually a daily service that Dan is expected to provide for me.  I don’t think I’ve lifted my own cake fork for the last 5 years. Usually I just yell, “DAN, CAKE!” while lying on the couch and he whips one up and feeds it to me. It’s awesome. The last two pictures are from the tiny reception we had with our families and I think the dress worked well for this also, even though it was in the evening. I could have gone with something a little more splashy and bare I suppose, but two dresses for such a casual, small affair seemed like overkill.

In the end, I loved my simple, hastily executed dress (and our simple, hastily executed wedding!) The pattern and cut were perfect for the occasion, I loved the crumply, rustling shantung bolstered with stiff organdy, and most of all, it was comfortable!

We’ll see if 2013 brings more time for sewing. I already picked up leaf green silk georgette and matching leaf green silk chiffon while in New York to make yet another wedding dress, this time for my sister who is getting married in the summer! And before you readers tsk tsk at me for taking on yet another S.W.A.G. project, let me point out that it’s a fair trade, considering what my sister just made for me:

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Three gorgeous tiers of chocolate buttermilk cake with mocha buttercream, decorated with handmade sugar snowflakes, no two alike. It was honestly the best cake that I have ever tasted. It was so beautiful that I couldn’t stand to look while cutting it!

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Happy 2013, everyone- I hope you get plenty of selfish sewing time for yourselves!  (Actually, I hope I get plenty of selfish sewing time for myself- who cares what you get! Hahahah!)

Once again, work has gotten to be so hectic that time for everything else has just about dried up. I tried at first to buy some extra minutes by eliminating unnecessary words and phrases from utterance, such as “please,” “thank you,” “are you going to eat that?” and “you don’t mind if I cut ahead of you, right?” And although I found myself at the front of queues much sooner after implementing these changes, I still found myself short on time, which meant no sewing for weeks on end. I finally squeezed a few hours this weekend to finish up a stagnating project (most likely at the expense of lectures that needed prepping or students that needed help- suckas!) – a dress inspired by the Kate Spade “Jillian” polka dot dress. Here’s the original:

Sooooooo pretty, right?? This dress has been drooled over by many a seamstress, including Kerry, who took a much smarter and more efficient approach to satisfying her covet. Not so for the Selfish Seamstress, who had to do things the slow way. (Kerry, incidentally, is so similar to Selfish in proportions that Selfish occasionally dreams of annexing Kerry, installing her in the sewing room, and using her as some sort of feisty, live-action dress form. Oh, what fun we would have, and what a precise fit!)

I don’t know on what blog or website I first saw the dress, but I am sure that the picture above is the first one I saw, and the one I fell for.  I don’t think I would have gotten quite so excited over it if I had only seen the modeled dress. Subsequent research on the dress revealed a slightly more sedate, less flared skirt than I had expected as well as a rather polka-dot-disruptive back seamed skirt that I wanted to avoid (as I had done before when knocking off other polka dot garments).

And so I set off to improve upon the original to make it more to my liking.  Yes, you read that correctly- a crankpot nobody sewing blogger with average sewing skills, no fashion design training, and paltry creative vision of her own actually claimed she was going to improve upon KATE SPADE. Improve. Kate Spade. Hubrisalicious!

Planned improvement #1: more flare in the skirt.  Planned improvement #2: side zip instead of back zip to ditch the back seam. Planned improvement #3: COTTON. Online retailers described the original polka dot Jillian dress as being done in “heavy silk organza.” Really?  Looks like taffeta to me.  Whatever weave it is, it’s strictly a party dress in sheeny, stiff silk. And Selfish never gets invited to parties on account of her tendency to ruin everyone else’s evening, so she was aiming for a little more versatility- something she could wear to ruin general everyday events for people.

Improvement #3 turned out to be a rather tall order, as it was hard to find the right navy and white polka dot cotton fabric. I didn’t want to wuss out with some rinky-dink mid-scale 1/2″ polka dot. I wanted a proper, robust, intentionally large, unashamed dot. Plus I wanted a regular dot pattern, like Kate’s, and not an irregular, scattered dot. See this?  Unacceptable:

After much scouring of the internet, I found this perfectly patterned navy and and white cotton on Denver Fabrics, with just the right size dot (slightly less dense than the original, but not a problem) and a smooth, sateen-like weave, for the just-right price of $5.50 . (Of course, I was so desperate to have the dress that I paid the $40 international shipping to procure 2.5 yards of it.  Oh, Selfish, there you go again.) The dots are perfectly circular in real life- they just look a little eccentric in the picture.

The fabric arrived and although it’s not lightweight, it’s softer and drapier than I was expecting- it feels like the high thread count cotton Royal Sateen bedsheets that my mom loves, after they’ve been through the wash a couple of times. So, rather limp and prone to wrinkling- better suited to a softer, looser style of dress than the crisp fit and flare silhouette that I had envisioned. But I was determined and certainly wasn’t going to find a better print so I pressed on.

I was going to draft the dress from scratch, and then I remembered that I had a custom-drafted pattern with just the right bodice for it that I could use as a block- my good old Coffee Date Dress (download the pattern and instructions for free here!). I slashed-and-spread the skirt in several places to give it a little more flare for good measure (the original Coffee Date Dress draft has a rather modest flare) and added a 4″  inverted box pleat in the center front à la Kate. I omitted the Coffee Date Dress’s back zip in favor of a side invisible zip to avoid the dreaded polka dot disruption:

The side seam polka-dot disruption is much less jarring since the side seam of the skirt is on the bias and no strong vertical elements to get interrupted:

And of course, I drafted the fun midriff drape and the bow (the tails of my bow are a little longer than in the original. Somehow I thought the little bow looked rather twee, but with this style of dress that’s kind of like further splitting hairs that have already been split.) The bow droops a bit due to the softness of the fabric so I may open it up again and line or interface it.

Because the fabric was so soft, I opted to do a full lining instead of facings to give it a little more body. I used a champagne taffeta lining from my stash- probably an acetate and rayon blend, but possibly full acetate. It has a bit more stiffness than Bemberg (a good thing for the soft fashion fabric) and the champagne color softens the sparkling whiteness of the polka dot fabric a little (also a good thing, in my opinion.)

I don’t regret adding in the extra flare to the skirt – this dress looks pretty much like what I imagined in my head. But the volume of the skirt does cause the front box pleat to get a little bit lost in the shuffle. And I always forget how short I drafted the original Coffee Date Dress- I’ve got about a 3/4″ hem only because I didn’t want to go any shorter with this style.

There you have it- inspired by the Kate Spade polka dot Jillian dress, knocked off and “improved” by the Selfish Seamstress on the cheap, ready to wear to any number of places and activities where you can fully expect that I will ruin your day and that of everyone around you. Oh, by the way, are you going to eat that? Thanks.

Lately I’ve been feeling the need for some clothes that are appropriate for fighting good guys. Yes, hard core villains will tell you that you don’t need special clothes to make you a bad guy, and I’m perfectly capable of fighting good guys in jeans or sheath dresses or whatever. But sometimes I just want some pro gear, you know?

Naturally, I fell for Helmut Lang’s combo pants, which I believe retail for about $800 and are likely built for women whose legs can double as lamp posts.

Fortunately the chance discovery of some perfect black stretch leather at Gorgeous Fabrics and the terrific McCall’s 6173 basic leggings pattern as a block made a little do-it-yourself villainy into a nice evening project. A little drafting here a little grading there, and ta-da, a perfect replica in Selfish Seamstress size:

Oh, haha, that’s the muslin, in some pea green ponte and some leftover graphic ponte from my wrap dress. Fortunately the McCall’s legging was a great fit from the start, and it was off to slice into my precious stretch leather and some leftover black wool doubleknit, a remnant from another wrap dress.  And, ta-da! Homemade Helmut-inspired badass.

The details are a little difficult to see in my wannabe-model shots. Here are better lit pictures of the pants while on a break from evildoing (a little wrinkled and stretched from wear):

You can see that there are faux welt pockets and a doubleknit insert on the inner thigh. The doubleknit above the welt actually wraps around from the back- there’s no side seam there. This was quite a puzzler to draft and it took me a while to engineer how it would all fit together with the welt, but I figured it out. True to the Helmut Lang original, the back is all done in the knit:

The one thing I didn’t try to copy from the original is the doubleknit faux welt pockets on the rear. After twisting my brain to figure out how the side wrap front welt pocket thingy was going to come together, I really wasn’t keen on slashing through my scarce materials in attempt to make a welt on knit fabric. Plus, I imagine I’ll usually wear this with a longer top (leggings make my ass feel vulnerable) so the welts would likely have been hidden from sight most of the time anyway.

As you can see, mine aren’t as bandage tight as the originals are on the model, but I like that as I prefer a skinny pant to leggings anyway.

And it’s really just the leather that wrinkles- as you can see, the wool doubleknit is pretty snug. I had actually planned to use a black rayon/poly/lycra ponte knit thinking that it would be better for leggings, but upon playing with both fabrics, I found that the doubleknit actually seemed to have better stretch and recovery. Plus it feels so luxurious- wool doubleknit and super soft stretch leather. The doubleknit is also great in that it conforms to your shape but doesn’t do that sausage casing clingy thing where you can see every fold and underwear line through it.

 

The leather was a dream to work with. I hadn’t worked with leather before, but the stretch leather, with its knit backing, behaves very nicely. I used a teflon foot and meant to switch to a leather needle but forgot to. It wasn’t a problem. I used the stretch stitch on my machine, and a rotary cutter and scissors to cut, and it all went off without a  hitch. I wish stretch leather weren’t so hard to find- after this experience I wouldn’t mind a couple more pieces of gear for battling good guys.

Or at least to wear around the house, posing like this.

About two weeks ago, Dan and I found ourselves with some vacation days to use and nowhere to go. After a quick consultation with our trusty advisor “The Internet” we had bargain flights and posh hotels booked and took off to Rome the following day. (Now, before you open your mouths to complain that Selfish doesn’t deserve the charmed life she leads, I should mention that this was no dream vacation. We were called back home after 3 days due to an emergency followed by a tragic and heartbreaking loss that I can’t even bear to talk about here, and that I wouldn’t wish upon any of my dear readers!)

Rome, as you may know, is home to something really big. Something amazing, huge, epic, and legendary that you can’t see anywhere else in the world. It’s so enormous, it’s monumental. One might even say it is … COLOSSAL.

That’s right, I’m talking about Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti.

Bassetti Tessuti (try saying it five times fast) claims to house upwards of 200,000 bolts of fabric. Selfish, as it turns out, is not good at visualizing large numbers of things. She know that she is 100 times awesomer than anyone she knows, and 1,000 times meaner. But what does 200,000 bolts of fabric mean?  How many bolts are displayed in your average Jo-Ann?  2000?  10,000? What about the big Vogue fabrics flagship store in Evanston, IL?  20,000?  50,000?  What about Mood in NYC? 100,000?  500,000? Seriously, I had no idea.

Well, after visiting Fratelli Basseti Tessuti (NY Times article here), I feel fairly sure that I had never before seen 200,000 bolts of fabric in one place. The place is an endless maze of rooms packed from floor to (very high) ceiling with bolts and bolts of Italian milled fabric. Room after room after room. Need some sweater knit?  Here’s just one of multiple walls of the stuff:

Or perhaps you need some wool suiting?  There’s a whole room’s worth:

And one for cotton shirting:

Just shirting here in this room, by the way.  All the prints and other assorted cottons have their own rooms. And if you need something really posh?

Let’s take a closer look at this, shall we?

Versace, Gianfranco Ferre, Armani, Valentino, and other names I’d probably recognize if I were fancy enough to shop that room of the store.

This should have been heaven for Selfish, but as wonderful as the store is, I found it quite overwhelming. (Though lately I find even Mood and New York Elegant fabrics overwhelming, which is why I seem to spend most of my NY time at the more manageable Metro and Paron.) There’s no junk to be had at Bassetti- this stuff is high quality, and it looked like most (if not all) of the fabrics were Italian. I certainly didn’t find bargains either (though to be fair I only took a close look at about .0001% of what they had.) Wool coating and suiting looked to be upwards of 100 Euros per meter, and I didn’t even go near the silks or cashmeres. Selfish, who usually leaves no bolt unturned, was so intimidated by the sheer number of rooms and volume of fabrics, that she resorted to shopping by gut. If it didn’t catch my eye immediately on the wall, I moved on.

So what did I get? Surely even an overwhelmed and intimidated Selfish doesn’t leave a fabric monument empty handed. I ended up splurging on two pieces of beautiful stretch cotton sateen. Cotton sateen may not sound like a splurge fabric, but Bassuti prices put it somewhere upwards of Liberty fabric, albeit lower than Marimekko yardage. So we’re talking some posh cotton for a vacation splurge. And even though 200,000 bolts were vying for my attention, I did something that I never do- I bought the same fabric in two colorways – fuchsia and aqua. I just couldn’t decide which was more stunning and would make you more envious.

Although cheerful florals are rare in my stash, I have noticed that I have a particular weakness for florals without greenery. I find them somehow modern and edgy in a way that cuts the usual sweetness of floral prints. I just noticed that most of the floral prints in my stash are leaf-free.

The service here is very nice, with plenty of staff around who will gladly scurry up ladders to pull down the bolt all the way up top that you think could be pretty. And they don’t hold a grudge if it turns out that you’re not that into it. Interestingly, you pay for your purchases at this old school bank teller-esque window while a guy at another table holds your fabric hostage:

A mere two blocks from Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti, I also discovered the charming Fatucci Tessuti (try saying THAT five times fast), a much smaller store at Via dei Falegnami 63. It appears they have yet to invest in a sign.

The store is smaller, but it still boasts a lovely selection of high quality Italian fabrics. And the prices are much more splurgeable, as you can see:

Boiled wool coating at 18 Euros per meter, silks for 13 Euros per meter, etc. I love how they have it written up like a café menu. The proprietor was very helpful and I found this fabric shopping experience to be much more comfortable. Here are some of their silks and other offerings:

So what did I come out with?  Surprise, it’s another greenery-free floral cotton!

This cotton is so smooth and silky and crisp it feels like a light taffeta. Using my broken Italian (which is actually better suited to fabric shopping than any other kind of shopping in Italy due to having read quite a number of La Mia Boutique issues) I first asked whether it was rayon because it was so smooth and sheen-y. Nope, 100% Italian cotton. I was drawn to it because these “tribal” prints are so popular and modern-looking right now.  Though I don’t like referring to them as “tribal” because maybe actual tribespeople who read my blog are like, “Pfft. That’s not tribal.  That’s fake tribal.” Hello, tribal readership- thanks for visiting The Selfish Seamstress!

After returning home, I discovered as I often do that the newest fabric in the stash is the most exciting. Out came one of the sateens and Simplicity 2473 (previously made up as the English Tutor Dress). Apologies- they’re not the best photos and the skirt is a little wrinkled from wearing, which I didn’t notice until after taking the pictures:

I wanted the midriff in a black contrast fabric. I found some black suiting remnants in my stash that I think are a poly or perhaps poly rayon blend.  This seemed like a good idea because it had a little bit of a smooth sheen to it that I thought would go better with the sateen than a black wool flannel or other matte suiting.  I’m not sure about it now though because it’s also got a little bit more drape than I was expecting, which causes the midriff to sag a little bit, making it look sort of like a cummerbund.

The slim skirt variation is shaped more like a straight skirt than a pencil skirt- it doesn’t taper to the knees. So I ended up skipping the back vent as there is plenty of walking ease (plus the stretch in the fabric). I also skipped the neck and arm facings and instead went for a full lining in ivory rayon (again, wrinkled from wear- sorry):

Here’s the back view- I used an invisible zipper:

And finally, here’s this shot that I took of myself sitting – I thought it would look all elegant and dreamy, but what it really does is make my *size 5* feet look huge!

I’ve got ideas for the “tribal” print though it may be a while until I get around to it. I’m not sure what I want to do with the aqua version of the floral sateen though, as I want it to be substantially different from the fuchsia version. Maybe something full-skirted and sundressy- something to wear on my next Italian vacation.

It’s been a really long time since anything in BurdaMag has gotten me rabidly tearing the patterns out of the magazine within a day of getting it, until now. I’d been anticipating the March 2012 issue since the first preview went online with this pretty twist-front dress:

This dress is pretty much the same idea as the twist front dress that I had long coveted from Pattern Magic, but had never gotten around to drafting:

And once again, my selfish sloth seemed to be on the verge of paying off- wait around long enough and someone will eventually do the hard part for me. Or so I thought. I was dismayed to discover that Burda 3-2012-108 is the one pattern in the issue drafted for tall women. Argh, tall women! Not only are they able to take full advantage of the top shelf of the kitchen cabinets, but they also get the twist dress pattern that I’ve been lazily waiting for someone to draft for *me*? I punch you in the knees, tall women- in the KNEES!

Determined not to be defeated by Burda’s 72-88 sizing, I graded it down two sizes to what I suppose could be called a size 68 and traced it out. I figured that if I made up the pattern as drafted for tall women, this would potentially result in 1) a lower waist seam than intended, 2) lower armsyces than intended, and 3) lots and lots of extra length. The first issue seemed desirable given my desire to avoid an empire waist (contrary to popular belief, empire waists do not flatter every figure, and Selfish is stubby proof of that), and the second and third issues seemed easily fixable. As you’ll recall, the Selfish Seamstress is almost as short as she is mean, but has a fairly average torso length, so it would really be more like editing a tall torso pattern for a regular torso and not for a petite one. As it turned out, the bodice as drafted hit just slightly above my natural waistline (not too empire-y), and the armscyes were fine as is- no edits necessary! I simply redrafted the hem to an even 25″ from the waist seam (before hemming), and I was off! (Super bonus- if you make it this short, you don’t need to trace out the additional skirt piece that you’re supposed to tape to the bottom of the main front piece to get the full length- you can just skip it entirely. Only four pattern pieces to trace- yay!)

I used a beautiful navy and white zigzag print cotton voile that I got from Metro over the holidays for a $6/yard steal. I fell for it at first sight, and then discovered only afterwards that it is, of course, Milly fabric. This stuff is like a magnet for me- I buy it when I don’t even intend to; I’m inexplicably drawn to it. I must have a Milly-dar. It turns out that this print has shown up in different fabrics, at different scales, and in different colors throughout the Milly line:

And now it’s a favorite in the Selfish line as well. When I saw the Burda 3-2012-108 dress and the way the stripes play around the twist front, I just knew I had to pull out my precious Milly zigzag voile.

I used some cotton silk voile to line the bodice, leftover from my Heidi Merrick-inspired dress. I’ve decided, by the way, that cotton and silk voile is the perfect lightweight lining. It is absolutely weightless and adds no stiffness at all and barely any body, being even softer and floatier than Bemberg rayon. The cotton content makes it relatively easy to handle, but the silk makes it smooth so it doesn’t cling to the outer fabric the way cotton batiste might. I didn’t have enough to do the skirt lining (which in this pattern is made separately from the rest of the dress and then attached at the end) so I need to get more to finish it. In the meantime, please stop trying to peek at my underwear through the zigzag fabric, ok?  Seriously, stop. That’s just weird.

This pattern is fantastic- beautifully drafted and simple. I see myself with a couple more of these for summer. The skirt has just the right amount of flare:

And the best feature of the construction is that the bust of the finished dress is completely adjustable- no futzing with the pattern to get the bust to fit! Because of the way the twist is done, once you put it on, you can just sort of adjust the bodice fit by tugging a little at the looped-through front part of the skirt to get the bodice to lie taut against your torso. (Of course, you do have to make sure that you hem to skirt to an even length all around for *your* body. The more you’ve got up top, the less length you’ll have at the front of the skirt.)

The pattern is rated as a “challenging” 3 out of 4 dots, but I think this is only because the twist construction is unconventional. There’s actually nothing technically difficult about this pattern and an advanced beginner or intermediate sewer could easily put this dress together in a day or two. And this is the one pattern in the issue that has detailed, illustrated instructions (in the German edition at least), so deciphering the usually-cryptic BurdaSpeak isn’t so much of a problem.

So that’s it- short woman makes the Burda tall dress in unintentionally Milly fabric! I get the feeling that this is the dress I’ll be in all summer long. Get on it, petite (and average-height) online sewing world!

Of course, none of this changes the fact that I’m still short.  Well, except for 5″ heels.

If you’ve been thinking that the Selfish Seamstress has been a little scarce in these parts as of late, I would say that’s pretty accurate. Apparently all of the students at my university expect me to “educate” them, my research lab expects me to “mentor” them, and my colleagues expect me to “collaborate” with them. I ask you – do any of these words sound like things that Professor Selfish would actually do?? Grumble. So, things I haven’t had much time for:

  1. Sewing
  2. Reading and commenting on your sewing blogs
  3. Writing on my own sad, stagnating sewing blog

Things I do somehow manage to find time for (other than the aforementioned grudging educating, mentoring, and collaborating):

  1. Buying fabric
  2. Resenting stuff

So now that these appear to be my two main free time hobbies, I am in the fortunate position to be able to combine these two passions through my newest Selfish Seamstress Nemesis: Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics, aka “Gowachuss Nemesis,” “Fab-ri-licious Nemesis,” “Hawt Nemesis.” Ha, that’s right, Ann, I’m turning your own idiosyncratic spellings right back on you!

“Oh, Selfish!” you might protest, “Not Ann!  She’s such a positive, life-affirming soul, and gives such great, friendly customer service! How could you ever make an enemy of Ann?” Don’t let her fool you.  She made an enemy of me first. Let’s face it, the woman’s a pusher, a sneaky temptress.  She reels you in with enticing patterns and colors, and next thing you know, you’re hitting refresh on her “new arrivals” page 20, 30, 40 times a day. You’re looking at it first thing when you wake up and second-to-last thing before you go to bed (last thing, obviously, being saying a little prayer that she doesn’t post anything too amazing while you are asleep that gets all bought up before you wake up.)

Sure, I could treat this like any ordinary nemesis post and go on and on about her gorgeous silk Pippa dress, or her closetful of let-me-show-off-my-couture-sewing-skills Chanel jackets, seething with envy all the while. But I think you’ll get a better feel for just how powerful a foe this woman is if you check out her designer fabric page while simultaneously staring into the face of pure fabric-pushing evil:

That warm, dazzling smile, that chic haircut, that stunning dress … shudder. I have chilling flashbacks of typing in my billing address just looking at her. And even more dangerous – do not underestimate the ways in which Ann can mess with your head and turn you into your own worst enemy just by adding new stuff to her store. She makes me like things I didn’t think I liked (florals??), she makes me want things I didn’t think I wanted (charmeuse??), and lastly she makes me buy things that I don’t need (silk??). No, no, actually, I do need them. Like this forsythia print Milly silk charmeuse that makes one long for spring in the dead of winter. Absolute necessity and haha, sold out, suckas!

She knows what she’s doing too, that crafty, crafty Ann. I thought I had won this one.  I resisted it until it sold out. She got another bolt, and still I resisted, remembering my shame from the last time I binged on her silk supplies. And then, sensing my strength decaying, she delivered her perfectly timed shot – a sale. My resistance crumbled like a week-old cookie, and that was that. Two more yards in my shopping bag. She won. (Sigh, she won again earlier this week with another sale during which I succumbed to two pieces of black stretch leather. She knows she’s the only person on the whole internet who sells stretch leather by the piece, and she wielded that silently over my head like a giant, lethal seam ripper.)

And so, what of it then?  What did this wicked woman drive me to next?  I’ll tell you: Vogue 1236, the DKNY blouson dress.

Given how precious few my sewing hours are these days (I actually finished this a week ago, but didn’t have time to photograph and post), I figured I would opt for something very simple so that I could actually finish it. Vogue 1236 is indeed delightfully simple, but the pleats at the neckline make it far from boring, and very on-trend in the silhouette. It also doesn’t require a precise fit, which made it a lot easier to put together in my few scraps of sewing time. But, like many of the DKNY patterns, it starts at size 8, which meant I had to grade down 2 sizes, and that’s sort of time-consuming.  Plus, my choice of silk charmeuse made everything take three times as long because my clumsy fingers aren’t good at cutting, pinning, and stitching slippery, drapey fabric that changes shape when you so much as look at it. But I managed:

Argh.  I’m showing this one so you can have a better front view of the dress, but only reluctantly because I hate when photos make me look like I have an enormous balloon head, and teeny tiny freaky rubber hands! What is it about photos that make my hands so small??

I ended up using the wrong side of the fabric, because I liked the matte side better, and I thought it might be more appropriate for work, unshiny and tucked under a cardigan. The bonus is that the silky slippery side is against my skin, which feels all kinds of posh.

Other than the grading down, I didn’t make any significant changes.  I did French seams on the sides, and I used a different method of attaching the facing than the one recommended in the instructions. (The method in the instructions leaves little openings that you close with hand stitching, but I opted for my usual version that lets you do the whole thing by machine and in my opinion gives a more consistent finish.) I also omitted the pockets because having them would be a temptation to put stuff in them, which probably isn’t a great idea for a light, floaty, delicate dress.

Here’s a close up on the front pleats, which take on a nice, fluid softness rendered in the charmeuse:

So I guess something good came out of my little losing battle with Selfish Seamstress Nemesis Ann. Sure, she’s going to keep posting irresistible fabrics faster than I can sew them (especially these days) and sure, I’m going to keep buying them faster than I can sew them. But a new dress in an absolutely gowachuss forsythia print silk is still a tiny little victory that I’m going to savor. Take that, Nemesis!

Animal print is all over the place now, and as you know, The Selfish Seamstress has a bit of a weakness for the stuff.  Python is hot, leopard is a ubiquitous classic, snow leopard is waiting in the wings. Admittedly zebra and tiger have yet to pique my interest.  But what I have really wanted for the longest time is a giraffe print wrap dress.

A suitable giraffe print stretch fabric is surprisingly hard to come by.  Giraffe shows up frequently in decor fabric and quilting fabric, on velboa, and on minky. (ARGH do NOT get me started on minky and why it is that certain online fabric stores that previously sold Vera Wang and Ralph Lauren fashion fabrics at great prices appear to have switched to an all minky + cutesy cotton flannel format.  WHO is keeping the minky business afloat?  WHO is buying that much minky?  Don’t say it’s the unselfish seamstresses who sew for kids (ARGH do NOT get me started on sewing for kids…) – even if you have kids and you ugh sew for them, can you really be putting that much minky in their wardrobes?  Do they really need a whole lot of minky garments? Do your kids wear jammies all the time? Seriously?  Minky?) Umm. So, as I was saying, it took me a long time to find the right giraffe print fabric. The thing about grown-up-appropriate giraffe stretch fabric is that when you do find it, often much of the giraffiness has been abstracted away, sort of like these:

Now, there’s nothing wrong with these fabrics.  They’re perfectly lovely prints.  But this was not the effect I was going for, not the wrap dress that had been simmering in my head for more than a year.  No, I wanted something a little bit more naturalistic and detailed, something that looked as it if had been ripped right off the soft, warm neck of an innocent, adorable baby giraffe, like this one:

Or this one:

Or even this one:

You know, all the animal-y goodness with none of the cruelty. After much searching I found a suitably realistic (now sold out?) ITY jersey in shades of giraffey brown, tan, and beige at Spandex House:

I basically sat on this project for a while because I’m not fond of sewing knits. I graded the pattern down to 32, traced it, cut most of the fabric pieces and then put it aside out of a lack of desire to deal with it. And then this past weekend, a new love showed up at my door:

It was my new Babylock Evolution!  And so I replaced Dan with the new serger. And then Dan had to go out of town for a 2-day offsite at which point the Evolution, the giraffe fabric, the 9/2006 issue of Burda and I found ourselves with a few hours alone together.

(Yes, I am standing by a window in our living room that houses a small collection of carnivorous plants.  Did you expect that Selfish wouldn’t take joy in watching the helpless insects who venture into her home being viciously trapped or slowly drowned by hungry plants, leaving nothing but slowly decomposing exoskeletons?)

I have to confess that I had never used a serger before, nor watched anyone use one, so I was kind of winging it.  But the Evolution is so easy to thread and you don’t have to worry about tension adjustments that within an hour of pulling the German language manual out of the box, I was four-thread overlocking in glee:

The machine only came with black and white serging thread, so I used the black for the seams, and then used a twin stretch needle with brown thread on my Husqvarna Platinum (I still love you, sweetheart) to finish all the hems and openings.

I made some small changes to the pattern, such as making the ties narrower, removing a lot of ease from the sleeves, and omitting the facings (who does facings in jersey?) Instead I turned under the edge and used twin stitching to finish. I also shortened at the hem by four inches for an above-the-knee length.

The back could have benefited from a pinch taken out for swayback, but with this kind of lightweight stretchy fabric, I really don’t mind having a little bit of extra creasing in the lower back.

The one think that’s bugging me about this dress is that the shoulder sticks up a bit if I don’t have my arms hanging down by my sides, as you can see above. The sleeves are serged into the armscyes, so it’s not a matter of trimming seam allowance. Anyone have suggestions?  Did I need to shorten the neck-to-shoulder length a little bit? The seam doesn’t stick up if I have my arms down:

Oh, and one other thing- although I don’t *have* to pin the neck closed, I am doing it anyway, as otherwise the neck is very deep and threatens to do a little sliding door action.  The neck doesn’t gape (thanks to a SBA that I did on the pattern, and which I am thinking about rebranding as a DBA – Dainty Bust Adjustment) but it is a risky cut when not pinned, and one that I definitely couldn’t get away with wearing to work if my bust were any less dainty than it is. I’ll probably stitch a snap on.

So there you go, my first serger project and long-desired giraffe wrap dress. I must say, using the serger feels almost like cheating. The whole thing (minus pattern grading and tracing) took maybe 2 hours. I didn’t even pin most of the seams before I stitched them, and now there’s no finishing on the inside on which I am procrastinating. Just instant gratification.

And that’s right up Selfish’s alley.

UPDATE: Since there have been a couple of comments about the shoes, I thought I’d mention that they’re “Barbara” in shade rust, from Plenty by Tracy Reese. I got them over the summer and they’re fantastic- definitely some of the coolest shoes I own, and I can feel the envious stares of other women as I walk along the train platform in them. They also come in an awesome “calcium” shade, which I ruled out on account of already having another pair of wedge sandals in that color. Anyway, I just checked and they’re on sale at Endless for less than $70, which is a pretty good deal.

A few months ago, I chanced upon some pictures of the Melissa plaid shirtdress by Milly, and I wanted it. I wanted it the way a toddler wants a gummi bear. I wanted it the way that annoying guy in your office wants the new iPhone and won’t shut up about it. I wanted it the way Dan wants out of the domestic prison in which I have ensnared him (just kidding, Dan’s not allowed to want things.) Basically, I wanted it the way that only the Selfish Seamstress could want something – violently and aggressively.  After all, just look how cute:

So after seeing it, I trolled the web hunting for any plaid fabric with a similar feel and colorway to make my own shirtdress and found nothing. I’m fond of plaid in general, but once I had this particular plaid in mind, every other plaid just looked comparatively dorky. I did have a moment of hope when I discovered Cidell’s plaid silk knit tunic, which was in the right plaid flavor category, and super cute on its own merit. But of course, the fabric was already sold out, which leads me to think that she planned the whole thing to get a rise out of me. It wouldn’t be the first time she’s bested poor Selfish.

So I did what any rational person would do in a state of despair – I threw myself down on the floor and pounded at it with fists and feet, screaming at a high pitch, “I hate you I hate you I hate you” at no one in particular. As usual, it worked.  My efforts were rewarded when a few yards of the exact Milly silk (a plain woven with nice body to it, and minimal sheen and slipperiness – perfect!) appeared magically on Gorgeous Fabrics, almost certainly because of my temper tantrum.* I immediately snapped up three yards of it to make sure that none of you would get to it first, backstabbing vultures that you are.

Next up was finding the right shirtdress pattern.  Given the huge scale of the plaid, I wanted to avoid piecing to the extent possible. None of the current Big 4 patterns, nor anything in my stash of Burdas had quite what I was going for, so it was off to Etsy, where I found a vintage Simplicity 8294:

(This actually isn’t my copy- mine is a size 6P with a *sigh* 30.5″ bust, but I forgot to take a photo of it.) The pattern was missing the sleeve (and it wasn’t really the kind of sleeve I wanted anyway) so I drafted my own. No princess seams or waist seam on this pattern. The only places I had to worry about matching were at the side seams, across the chest and onto the sleeve, and the center front, so my three yards was more than enough. A bit of taking in through the torso and waist and ta-da! Once again, Selfish gets everything she wanted. (Excuse the photos- the light was fading outside and it was freeeeezing.)

I realize that the navy of my shoes is not the same as the navy of my dress, but I still have every intention of wearing the two together.

Hmm.  There seems to be a little wrinkling across the bust near the bottom of the armscye that I didn’t notice during fitting.  I’m going to have to check that out. Also, I think I need to wear the sash a little looser (the way the Milly model is wearing it) so as to give it less of an Urkel-y effect.

The dress isn’t an exact copy of the Milly version, as I made mine a more work-wearable slightly-above-the-knee length, and it’s got a different placket and sleeve. Incidentally, I wasn’t too impressed with the RTW version’s placket stitching (you can learn a lot from the zoomable views on department store websites!):

Fortunately it’s not my problem now that I’ve got my own. By the way, you may be wondering more generally how it is that Selfish always gets exactly what she wants, despite being a person with no redeeming qualities, one who contributes little to the world while simultaneously exploiting it and everything in it for her own purposes. Is there a trick or magical secret, you might ask, to continually evading the karma police while managing to end up with everything one desires and never giving anyone anything?  The answer is yes. Yes, there is. Have a good day, y’all.

*Okay, perhaps I should acknowledge the the amazing Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics for having procured this wonderful fabric, rather than attributing it solely to my impressive and highly effective tantrums. But you know how I am loath to give credit where it is due unless it’s to myself.

Good news for you, Selfish readers! On Saturday, soon after setting off on a lovely hike, I got stung twice on the butt by a wasp! Well, not exactly on the butt, but high enough on the back upper inner thigh that I was sitting on one cheek for the rest of the day while periodically squealing in pain. And yes, though it is my nature to antagonize all living things without provocation or justification, this time it wasn’t my fault. I actually was just walking along the trail, minding my own business when the wasp decided completely of its own accord that it was time for some target practice. And why is that good news?  Well, with every step sending shooting pain through me, I decided it was best to turn around while we were still close to the trailhead and head home for the quiet pleasures of an ice pack and my Husqvarna (which I bravely pedaled while sitting in an awkward, lopsided fashion.) And now you have some sewing to read about.

Here’s the result- a very loose interpretation of Burda 5-2008-125 (a.k.a. my favorite Burda dress), rendered in a black wool and silk blend flannel suiting with subtle white pinstripes, and off-white (though looks white in these pictures) silk and cotton voile:

I’m generally not a fan of wearing a sheath over a blouse or turtleneck.  I’ve seen other people work that look to good effect, but it never looks right or feels comfortable on me.  But when I saw L.A. designer Heidi Merrick‘s “Kate” dress (I believe from her Fall 2009 collection), I fell for the dress and for the nifty optical illusion yielded by the clever voile puffed sleeves and scarf attached directly to the sheath.

You’ll notice it’s not a completely faithful copy of the Heidi Merrick dress, but rather a Heidi Merrick-inspired dress. Among other differences, the original was done in solid black cotton piqué, has an exposed back zip and pockets, which I didn’t add to mine. I don’t have a shot of the back of mine, but it’s just a regular centered zip because that’s what I had in the house.

The pattern is my go-to for sheath dresses, actually the lining pattern of Burda 5-2008-125 with some edits to the neckline. This lining pattern also formed the basis of my Audrey dress and vintage-inspired blue roses sheath. I drafted the puffy sleeve and the scarf bow thing.

Because there’s so much scarf and the voile is quite soft, it’s a little difficult to get it to wrap nicely around the neck and keep a little body.  I can arrange it nicely while standing in front of the mirror, but it does kind of sag eventually. Maybe a little spray starch will help. Really, it’s a lot of bow.

By the way, thanks for all the lovely comments on my last post!  I tried to go through and high-five everyone back, but after a while I was starting to annoy even myself.  But suffice it to say, I have mentally high-fived all of you. And for those of you who are demanding to know where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months, oh, you know how I love when people ask me to do stuff for them :) I’ll get around to posting details but it’ll probably be a boring and disappointing post.

Figure 1-1. Wasp posterior with stinger and venom. N.B. Wasps are a-holes.

In the meantime, thank the wasp who gave his life such that you might have something comparatively interesting to read about on this blog today. Personally, I hold a little bit of a grudge against that buzzy jerkwad on account of the fact that I was deprived of my hike and in an insane amount of pain for a good chunk of yesterday. But a new dress almost makes up for it.

Face it.  Sewing makes you awesome. And I looooooooove being awesome.  How awesome am I?  Am I (left) Michael Kors awesome? (center) Tahari awesome? (right)  Via Spiga awesome?

No? Am I perhaps alice + olivia awesome?  Karen Millen, L.A.M.B, Jones New York, Dolce & Gabbana, or Lanvin awesome (awesomeness pictured clockwise from left)?

Unlikely.  But I am completely and totally 100% Selfish Awesome, thanks to my old friend McCall 5525 (awesomeness pictured front, center and in your face)!

I finally got around to completely gutting my previous attempt at this jacket, and bringing it back to its pre-sewn state (note: ripping out miles of triple straight stitch topstitching is tedious). I interfaced every single piece with heavy, sew-in woven interfacing, and that finally gave me the body I wanted in this gorgeous, slightly sueded leopard fabric that I picked up last year in Montreal from Sam Textiles. And of course with that fabric, combined with my trusty McCall 5525 that has now yielded three favorite coats, my just-finished leopard version, the Key Lime Trench, and the Guggenheim Coat, I am feeling Selfish Awesome.

Here’s the obligatory photo pr0n, taken by Dan using his fancy schmancy new Nikon D7000 and budding artist’s eye:

What are you looking at?

It’s like I can’t stop checking myself out.  Ooh, what’s that on the inside?

Hey, it’s turquoise jacquard lining! Awesome! I picked the lining up on a recent trip to London to visit Martine. She’s like my snarkwife. And she’s never asked me to sew anything for her in 15 years of snark marriage, and she went fabric shopping with me for a whole day even though she doesn’t sew. She is also awesome.

Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the store- AAA Fabrics?  A-Plus Fabrics?  It’s the big place on Goldhawk Road right near the tube stop. It is also awesome. I was going to go with green lining at first, and I was all like, “Turquoise or green?  Green, obviously.” And Martine was all like, “Duuuuh, turquoise.” And then I was like, “Well, duuuh. Obviously.” And that’s how that decision came about.

Here’s the macro shot with all of the redone topstitching:

As usual, I took everything in at all the seams to make for a slimmer fit.  I’m also considering adding the button bands on the sleeves but with buckles, but I have yet to find the right buckles so that’s a project for the future. And that’s about it.

How about you?  Are you sewing yourself some awesome today?  How awesome are you? Are you Selfish Awesome?

By now you know that I’ve stooped to exciting new lows, such as knitting a Missoni knockoff scarf with sock yarn. Here, I wear the fruits of my carpelly tunnelly labors at the market:

(For those who have asked about the Miele knockoff sweater, it’s on a bit of a hiatus because I decided after finishing it that I want to rip out the collar and make it a little narrower, but haven’t gotten around to it. All in all, it kind of looks like you’d expect it to. If you thought you were going to like it, you’d probably like it. If you thought you were going to hate it, you’d probably hate it.)

With that out of the way, I made the rash decision to go back to my roots – crocheting. Crocheting is definitely my “first language” of crafts, having been at it for about 27 or 28 years now. But I’ve never been much for crocheting clothing because in my opinion, most patterns for crocheted (non-accessory) garments look boxy, crafty, or Contempo Casuals circa 1997, none of which are my favorite aesthetic. But then I found this pattern from the Let’s Knit series…

… and thought it could perhaps look edgy over a long-sleeved fitted T, some skinny jeans, a wool cap, and my new knee-high slightly slouchy grey suede boots of which you’d be jealous if I had a picture to show you.

I thought about going with a color, but then decided to opt for my usual standby of charcoal grey to cut the sweetness and frilliness of the pattern. It’s a charted pattern and easy enough, but I can’t read the Japanese instructions so I think my gauge may be off. My version will undoubtedly be slimmer fitting than the one in the picture. Here’s where I am so far after a day or two:

Basically, you crochet two “bib” pieces – one for the front and one for the back, then join them at the sides, and then crochet the border and the sleeves. I’ve made a couple of changes to the design so far, but nothing major.

At this point you may be thinking, “Crocheted sweaters?  Is nothing sacred anymore?  Is there no low to which the Selfish Seamstress won’t sink while NOT sewing garments?”

Nope. In fact, my next project…

… is curtains.

buh buh BUHHHHHH!

And now that you’ve been sucked in by the misleading title of this blog post, allow me to show you the fruits of my non-sewing efforts. The Selfish Seamstress has been known to bake on occasion. Ordinarily these occasions would go undocumented and unblogged, but as I am currently blogging about “whatever” during my involuntary sewing hiatus, here you go.  Whatever.

From left to right we have glazed apple cake, leche flan (Filipino-style caramel custard), Ostfriesentorte (German cake with two yellow cake layers, two meringue layers, a whipped cream and cherry filling, topped with sliced almonds), flourless chocolate cake with fresh berries, Maulwurftorte (German chocolate and hazelnut cake filled with bananas and whipped cream, topped with “excavated” cake crumbs), and angel food cake with fresch blueberries.

Why all the cake? Well, in order to function in society, the Selfish Seamstress does occasionally need to curry favor with people to balance out the damage done by her unpleasant temperament and attitude problem. So she makes herself less unpopular with her colleagues and friends using the occasional cake (so much quicker than sewing things for people. Plus you can please a lot of people with just *one* project. People are so easy like that.) And so the Selfish Seamstress and Dan threw themselves a little farewell party with plenty of cake for their friends. You know, so as not to burn any bridges upon departure.  You never know whose goodwill you may want to exploit down the road.

And lest you read this occasion as a gesture of unselfishness and consider chiding me for it, keep in mind who is not getting any cake… YOU. Enjoy some close-ups!

Oh yes, I’m wearing The Last Dress… for Now. At $4 for the fabric, that dress has more than earned its keep in the last week!

Packing… is insane.  Going through years of accumulated crap is on one hand frustrating (it never ends!) and on the other hand entertaining. I packed up my stash yesterday and finally cut off all of those little hangy bits from my remnants that would only be good for making a single spaghetti strap for a kid’s dress. (You’d be surprised how quickly those little hangy bits pile up.) There were a couple of secret thrills (Hey! I didn’t know I had more of this blue-gray plaid wool! There’s enough here for a skirt!) and a whole lot of “Ugh, what was I thinking??” But more on that in a sec.

Trena recently wrote an interesting post about the emotionally difficult task of parting with your own hand-sewn garments. Well, let’s just say that my past is a lot more embarrassing than Trena’s and a LOT easier to part with. Like many sewers, my sewing history has two main chapters.  The part where I start sewing as a kid and continue doing crafty projects and occasional kludgy garments, and then the part during which I decide I’m going to learn to sew properly and make things that I would actually wear as Real Clothes. What I’m about to show you all comes from the first chapter, circa 2003.

I call this collection “Misguided Attempts at Vintage Patterns and DIY Tango Outfits.” Please excuse my just-out-of-the-shower hair and the fact that I didn’t feel like pressing these clothes for their pre-Goodwill trip photo shoot.

First up- partial circle skirt in dark navy with white print.  Actually nothing horrible about this except that it’s really not the sort of thing I’d wear.

Another 1950s pattern frumpified. this one in periwinkle.  This one actually has boning and a side zip which makes me think that maybe I knew more than I think I did. I put this one on and Dan exclaimed, “Ooh! Pretty!” Sometimes I don’t get that guy.

A 1950’s slip pattern done in Swiss dot. Check out the amazing fit on that upper bodice. Yuck!

And another 1950s dress pattern in white cotton with sky blue flowers.  I have to say, by complete coincidence this one actually fits well and it has pretty shoulder ties and a cute ruching detail at the bust. And it’s rather delightfully twirly.  I may keep this one.

Moving onto the more “contemporary” portion of the collection, we have a one shouldered cherry print top (to be fair, I made this as the top half of a tankini *shudder*. I didn’t actually wear it out as a normal top. By coincidence I had a purchased bikini in this exact same print.) The Britney-esque stretch velvet bootleg hipster pants are also a relic of the same era, albeit a purchased one.

And finally, to be completely honest, I did make a one-shoulder top that I did wear out. This one for going tango dancing.  It’s so awesome that I think you need to see it from two angles:

The fabric on this top is an atrocity. It’s practically skin-toned and the red rose print looks like veins.  But I will confess that I sometimes think about pulling this pattern out again and doing a two-sleeved version in all black for my ever increasingly infrequent tango outings.  That crazy slit sleeve was sort of awesomely dramatic for gliding around the dance floor.

And now back to the subject of culling the stash. Yesterday I met Tanit-Isis for an all-too-brief hot chocolate once again.  As you know, The Selfish Seamstress is incapable of affection towards other human beings.  But if she could like people, she would certainly like Tanit-Isis. Not only is she incredibly fun to talk to, but she is the universal accepter of fabric.  There was no fabric too horrible or ugly in the Selfish Seamstress’s collection that Tanit-Isis wouldn’t take it! Acid green and violet iridescent slinky something?  Yep! Mint green polyester georgette?  Tanit-Isis is all over that. A partially cut up fake fur coat? She’ll take it! Vera Wang navy jacquard taffeta? Wait a sec, how’d that get in there?  Dammit.

So readers, if you’ve got fabric to get rid of, send it over to Tanit-Isis. That lady will take anything.  And the Selfish Seamstress has a soft spot for people who like to take things.

About this blog

The Selfish Seamstress loves to design and sew garments, but only if she gets to keep them. I'm Elaine, known in the online sewing world as elainemay, and welcome to my selfish sewing blog.

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