Make Your Own Basics: The shirt dress

Make Your Own Basics: The shirt dress

In addition to the “little black dress,” I think every closet is well served by the inclusion of a good shirt dress (or shirtdress, if you prefer), whether it’s the ultra-classic knee- or calf-length button-front shirt or any of the million variations thereof in the world. Here are a few good sewing pattern options:

TOP: I’m sure you can find a super standard shirtdress pattern from one of the big companies, or you could lengthen your Archer (the very first MYOB). Grainline has posted a couple of tutorials for Archer+Alder mashups: a super simple one merging Archer on top with Alder on the bottom, or a more involved one fitting the Archer sleeve into Alder’s more tailored bodice (pictured)

MIDDLE LEFT: The Reeta Midi Shirt Dress from Named has a ’70s-safari vibe and drawstring waist

MIDDLE RIGHT: The Factory dress from Merchant and Mills is a popover with a hint of war-era flavor

BOTTOM: And Closet Case Files’ Kalle Shirtdress pattern is a bit trendier box top/shirtdress hybrid


PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The ski sweater




Idea Log: The cinched shift, take two

Idea Log: The cinched shift, take two

Ever since I cut out that black sleeveless top, I’ve been imagining it with pockets (inspired by my beloved linen tunic’s slant-patch pockets) and also as a very simple dress. My idea of the ideal dress length has morphed as a result of the muumuu and my acquisition of an Earthen Slip, which I want to wear every day, every way. So the hemline on this imagined dress keeps dropping. And after seeing the Ulla Johnson jumpsuit I raved about in last Tuesday’s post, the pocketed top and dress ideas bled into one, now with an elastic casing a la Ulla. The funny thing is, as I was sketching this, I realized it’s really an iteration of the cinched shift idea I posted last July. Which means sooner or later (sooner, please!) some version of this is going to make it off the page and into my closet.

By the way, if anyone knows of an existing pattern for this — seems like it must be out there! — please let me know.

(Fashionary sketch template via Fringe Supply Co., as usual.)


PREVIOUSLY in Idea Log: Field Scarf turned sweater

KTFO-2016.7 : The muumuu (and deep-sea knitting tales)

FO : The muumuu

So you know I had this funny fabric from Ikea and the even funnier idea that I wanted to make something caftan-ish out of it for our Florida trip(s). (And for swanning about on my screened porch when it’s finished.) What I didn’t have was the time. It came down to the Tuesday and Wednesday nights before our Thursday crack-of-dawn departure. I knew Wednesday night would be a maelstrom of packing and other prep, and Tuesday was my once-a-month knit night at Craft South. In the past few years, I’ve been learning to sew “the right way,” the patient and meticulous way — tracing off a pattern (with whatever tweaks I might be making), sewing a muslin to make sure it was going to work before cutting into my real fabric, and so on. By the time that Monday rolled around and I hadn’t gotten to it over the weekend, I knew it was too late — there just weren’t enough hours for all of that. Especially since I didn’t even know what I was making! Then I got home from knit night that Tuesday night and I said to myself, “You’ve got two hours, a nice cold beer, and zero attachment to this fabric. How ’bout you just get out your scissors and see what happens.” If it didn’t work out: porch pillows.

So I did, and not only did it work out, I had more fun sewing this thing than I have ever had sewing. And yes, there’s a lesson in that.

As previously discussed, the fabric doesn’t have a lot of drape, so I had been thinking it would be best to do something with a little more structure than a straight caftan — more of a muumuu, with a shoulder slope modeled after my beloved Harper Tunic. So what I did that night was lay the fabric out on my cutting table, folded in half. Then I folded my Harper in half and laid in along the fold. And, eyeballing about a 1/2″ seam allowance, I cut roughly along the shoulder/sleeve line. Then I also eyeballed the curve of the back neck and a deep V for the front neck. I estimated that 60″ might make a nice muumuu-ish circumference (I’m about 38″ in the hips, my widest part) so I just cut the sides perfectly straight up and down at 15″ from the fold, and I think I cut it to about 52″ or 54″ long — something like that — which wound up being determined by the length of the fabric.

Because this had to be quick, I just folded the sleeve edge in twice and stitched it down, then sewed along the shoulder and side seams, stopping somewhere north of my knees, and pinked those seam allowances. At that point I could pull it on and see that it was kind of hilarious and wonderful, and I desperately hoped I’d have time the next night to finish the side slits and hem, as well as the neckline. Of course, I wound up staying up super late to do it the night before leaving, because by that point I couldn’t bear the idea of not having it.

Pattern: None (but you could get much the same result by making an oversized, ankle-length Fen top)
Fabric: Tillfalle from Ikea
Cost: no pattern + $15 fabric = $15

Knitting at sea

The next day we drove to Florida, slept, hopped out of bed, and spent three solid days (and two nights) on my brother-in-law’s boat in Bahamian waters, which are the most incredible, bright turquoise blue imaginable. You’re bouncing along on the dark blue Gulf Stream waters and suddenly, bam!, turquoise. I’m completely fascinated by the sea and sky — a scene that can change every five minutes — and love nothing more than being out there in the middle of the ocean, in my favorite knitting seat on earth (pictured above), with not another boat or human or building or land mass in sight as far as the eye can see. This time I participated in the fishing and stared at the changing bluescape for hours on end. Because it turns out linen is the exact wrong thing for deep-sea knitting. I’ve always taken wool on the boat before and never had any issues. There’s no such thing as humidity out there, and with the constant breeze and my penchant for sticking to the shade, it’s never been too warm to knit with wool. But I decided to take the Kestrel for my Flex tee on this particular boat trip, thinking maybe I could even start and finish it before our return. But what I never imagined was how the linen (plant fiber) would leach salt out of the air, making it literally impossible to slide along the needles. So instead of knitting, I mostly took a lot of photos that looked like this:

deep-sea knitting

On the second day, we dropped anchor near a pretty little sand bar/reef to do some swimming and snorkling. I swam over to the tiny beach and immediately began lamenting to everyone that it was the absolute perfect spot for taking muumuu photos, except there was no way to get it or a camera out to the sand bar. CURSES! A short while later, as I was surveying the array of shells and sea fans with my niece, I glanced back toward the boat and saw my husband and sister swimming toward me. Bob was pulling himself through the water with one hand while holding a ziploc bag aloft with the other (“is that my muumuu?!?!”) and my sister also paddled along with one hand while holding her phone up out of the water. And that’s how those photos up top came to exist — because I have the best loved ones a girl could ever hope for.

So after all that talk of how much knitting I could get done on this trip, in the end what I came home with was a stockinette rectangle, a cooler of fish, and a bunch of great sky photos. Not bad at all.

Deep-sea knitting

PREVIOUSLY in FOs: black Anna Vest

Vacation plan, part 1: Making to take

Vacation plan, part 1: Making to take

There are only 8 days between me and my spring vacation and I can only think about two things: things I want to make to take; and things I want to take to make. You know what I mean! Today let’s focus on the first part: making to take. We’re road tripping to my sister’s house in Florida (our favorite home away from home!) and rumor has it that, weather permitting, we may be sneaking in a little weekend jaunt to the Bahamas on their boat. I bought this length of retro/hipster/ethnic tropical print fabric from Ikea a few weeks ago, and now all I want to do is make some sort of Mrs. Roper-worthy ankle-length caftan out of it for this and future Florida trips. The sort of thing you throw on upon arrival and don’t take off until you head home. You know, wear it barefoot on the boat, with Saltwaters on the dock, and trade up to nicer sandals for dinner in some beach hut restaurant. I’m slightly torn over whether to keep it ultra basic — wide and boatnecked — like this Craftsy tutorial, or to model it more on my beloved Harper Tunics from Elizabeth Suzann (which I scored at her sample sale), with some shoulder slope and an actual neckhole. Or maybe a nice deep V-neck? If you have a favorite caftan pattern, let me know!

Photos: Hat from J.Crew; Saltwater Sandals from Zappos

New Favorites: from Olga’s “Capsule” collection

New Favorites: from Olga's "Capsule" collection

The week before Thanksgiving, Brooklyn Tweed released their first collection of knitting patterns by a single designer, in this case Olga Buraya-Kefelian, which was also the debut of a new series of printed books they’re calling Capsule. Olga’s Capsule 1 collection is a little bit of everything — cables, lace and colorwork; garments and accessories — and definitely shows her range. The peplum sweater, Nobu, is completely fascinating from a construction point of view (the back of it, in particular, is just stunning) but my favorite pieces in the collection are the simpler ones:

TOP: the Tatara curved/scrunchy fingerless mitts are reminiscent of those bendy straws and promise to be a fun knit

BOTTOM LEFT: the Ebb ombré dress is a 60s-meet-90s mini knitted top-down with contiguous sleeves and sweet pockets

BOTTOM RIGHT: the Jujika colorwork cowl features my favorite interlocking crosses motif, so I’m an easy target!


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Mega blankets

So thankful for this

So thankful for this

I’d planned on having a nice juicy Elsewhere for you guys today, but this week has been utter chaos and yesterday got 100% derailed with both mortgage and factory concerns vying for my attention. However difficult and time-consuming it may be, the good news is A) we’re buying a house! and B) the project bags are being made! Today I’m actually visiting the factory to see the first of the completed bags, and I should have more news about that at the beginning of next week. The other good news (if you’re me! haha) is that in the midst of all of this, I had a tiny window — maybe 45 minutes — of some of the happiest, most blissful making of my life. On Wednesday night (a day which also brought us a desperately needed break from the oppressive heat), I managed to get my sewing machine running again and fell into a trance while working through the first few steps of that Gallery Dress I wrote about on Monday. I don’t think of sewing as a good time. I find it tedious but rewarding, frankly. Maybe it was the mayhem I was escaping; maybe it was the magic of creating that placket (I kept thinking of the first time I did Kitchener stitch — being stunned by the sorcery of it) but I had the most fun working on this dress for that short span of time. I know not everyone finds their bliss the way we do, knitting and crochet and sewing and whatever, but I was so thankful that I have this outlet at times like this. And I hope for everyone that if they don’t have this, they have something.

Here’s to a weekend with at least a few happy making moments for every one of you. See you next week!

Idea Log: The cinched shift

Idea Log: The cinched shift

Apparently all my best ideas come from Madewell emails. In my inbox there recently appeared a pic of their Lakeshore Midi dress (top photo) — super simple and comfortable but also the perfect dress-it-up, dress-it-down dress. That shirred waist reminded me instantly of April Rhodes’ Staple Dress pattern (middle left), with some obvious key differences. Pulling up the images of that one, I started thinking about Frankensteining something together — using the fitted bodice from my Liesl Gibson class, the Staple’s waist treatment, and maybe the shirttail hem from the Wiksten tank-dress.

While I pondered that one, I cut out the next thing I intend to sew, which is Liesl’s Gallery Tunic/Dress pattern (middle right). I’ve been planning to make it knee length, with the band collar, but sleeveless. (First in plain linen to try it out, then in one of those amazing fabrics I scored from Imogene+Willie.) My machine has been acting up after all the sewing I’ve been doing lately, but I went ahead and cut it out a week ago and hoped for a little equipment miracle of some sort … which didn’t come. Even after a good cleaning (I watched Fancy Jaime’s CreativeBug class!), it’s still no go. So the pieces have just been draped desolately over my ironing board, begging to be sewn. As I stared at them longingly one morning, I realized the answer to the Madewell-inspired dress was right there in front of me, in the form of the front and back pieces of the Gallery Dress: sleeveless, jewel-necked (before the placket gets cut into it), and shirttail hemmed. I held the front piece up to myself in the mirror and it’s perfect. All I have to do is cut the back in half to create a center seam and neck closure — it already has extra width built in for a back pleat, so that will just become center-seam allowance. The bodice will be less structured and detailed than the original, but that will suit me better anyway.

Now my conundrum — machine woes aside — is whether to go ahead and sew up the linen pieces into the Gallery I meant it to be, and then follow my plan for this other dress with other fabric, or go ahead and modify the linen pieces into this dress. But as you can see from my sketches up there (and last Friday; sorry for the repeat!), I’m already imagining multiple versions of it in my wardrobe. Linen for now, flannel for later. Sleeveless and sleeved. And layered with every single sweater in my closet …

(UPDATE: Hey look, Kristi and I have fraternal-twin blog posts today!)


PREVIOUSLY in Idea Log: The pinstripe dress