Jen's Handmade Wardrobe

Handmade Styling: Cozy Winter Blues

It’s one thing to make a garment you love, but often another to incorporate it seamlessly into your wardrobe – at least that’s what we hear from our customers all of the time. One of the many questions I get is if I can talk about how I mix and match my handmade items with my ready-to-wear garments to create a wardrobe that is balanced and really reflects your personal style. Obviously, as I mentioned in my last post, this process will be different for each and every person, but I’m hoping that showing the way that I mix and match 6 different handmade garments into outfits will get your creativity flowing and that you can imagine how you might apply a similar technique to your own wardrobe.

This post contains a lot of information about ease. In case you’re not familiar there are a few points about ease you should be aware of. First off there is wearing ease – the amount you add to your actual body measurements so that you can move in a garment. If you’ve ever noticed that the finished garment measurements are larger than the body measurements, that’s wearing ease. Ease can also be added to enlarge a garment or subtracted to tighten it. This only works to a point though, you’ll never reduce ease to turn an a-line dress into a fitted one, it simply will stop fitting your body at the bodice, and adding too much additional ease to a garment can make it way too large on you. Playing with ease takes some getting used to but once you’ve nailed it it’s a very useful tool in your wardrobe arsenal.

Personally I love layering so in this post I’ll be mixing the above 6 handmade items with a pair of RTW jeans, ankle boots, and the bag I carry daily. I’ve always been sensitive to temperature and my family likes to joke that I have a +/- 5 degree range of comfort at all times (it’s true). Due to this I’m almost never wearing one layer of clothing, or if I am, I’ve definitely got another layer with me in my bag. I’ve chosen the following garments because each of them was made in a specific way to fit a specific purpose in my wardrobe. That and the fact that they all play well together, though that’s not an accident as you’ll see below.

  1. Archer Button Up by Grainline Studio
  2. Martine Pullover by Julie Hoover
  3. BFF Socks by Cookie A
  4. Bellows Cardigan by Michele Wang for Brooklyn Tweed
  5. Lark Tee by Grainline Studio
  6. Wedding Coat – personal pattern

Lets begin with my recently finished Archer. I have a lot of Archers that fit the way the pattern was intended to but I’d been wanting to make up an oversized one that functions sort of like a cardigan for quite a while. When I saw this Grizzly Plaid from Robert Kaufman it was obvious that this was the fabric for the job. The flannel is a bit heavier weight than the average flannel (6.9oz vs the usual ~4oz/sq yd) which makes it an amazing top layer, but not heavy enough that it’s outerwear appropriate. I sized up in this version over my typical Archer size. Usually I’ll do a 4 shoulders and either a straight 6 for the waist and hip if I want a sleeker looking Archer, or a 6 waist and 8 hip if I’m going for a traditional slightly oversized flannel look. For this Archer I went up to an 8 at the shoulders, a 10 at the waist, and a 12 at the hip. On its own this a bit large, but when layered the other garments fill out the extra space quite nicely.

I talked a lot about my Martine sweater here and the construction of it, but I didn’t touch on how I picked my size. The Martine pattern is shown on the model in the 39 3/4” size with 5 3/4” ease meaning her bust measurement is 34”. Using this information I was able to determine that with my 35” bust I would have 4 3/4” ease which was perfect for the fit I was going for. I was a bit concerned about my hip since I’m larger there than my bust, but this is where I highly recommend purchasing the knitting pattern before you commit to knitting it so that you can check the schematic for the rest of the garment measurements. Knitting patterns are cheap enough and the work involved in making them is involved enough that in my opinion it really pays off in the long run to do this.

Here I’ve layered each piece with my favorite Lark Tee – boatneck with 3/4 sleeves made in a navy and white striped bamboo jersey. I followed the size recommendations of the pattern exactly for this tee which makes a great layering option that fits neatly under other garments but isn’t skin-tight. Nothing wrong with skin tight, just not my scene as I’m sure you all know! Anyway you can see how the ease choices I made with the Archer and Martine play with a layering piece under them. You could definitely fit more under the Archer while the Martine is pretty much at its under-layer limit here.

Now lets talk about the Martine. In the first photo it’s layered under my favorite slim coat that I wear almost every day. It’s a fairly sleek silhouette (I think at least) and I love how the gorgeous sheen of the mercerized cotton Shibui Rain yarn used for the Martine plays with the soft velvety texture of the cashmere/wool blend coat. I think another thing that really helps a handmade wardrobe stand out and fit in with your RTW wardrobe, besides mastering ease, is having a good mix of textures and depth of color.

I wear the next combo of Martine and Archer layered together all the time. If it looks like I made these two garments to fit together, it’s because I did! I love using a button up in the place of a cardigan as I mentioned above, and a button up layered with a cozy sweater is perfect for my every day life.

You all originally met my Bellows Cardigan way back in January of 2015 and it’s been a faithful companion ever since. I opted to knit this cardigan as more of a jacket than a cardigan and it’s been one of my best knitting decisions to date. At the moment it lives at the office where I toss it on between radiator running times, but soon it will transition back into my spring / fall jacket. This was another garment where I used wearing ease to get the look and function I was going for. The Bellows on the model in the Brooklyn Tweed photos is shown wearing the 3rd size, 43 1/4” bust with 9” of positive ease. At the time that equalled 10” of ease on me but I’ve since gained a few inches at the bust so, between that and stretching the sweater out slightly by wearing it constantly, it’s currently at about 9” of positive ease.

Now for a brief discussion of the RTW garments that appear in this post! I’ve had this Clair Vivier bag for over 4 years now and I have yet to tire of it. I think it’s neutral enough to go with my entire wardrobe (green only works as a neutral in certain wardrobes, I know) but still is interesting enough to punch up a dull outfit. My jeans are the same Madewell 9” rise pair that I buy time and time again in the regular length. I have deceptively long legs so they hit at my ankle which is absolutely perfect for me. I’ve made jeans in school and honestly it’s not something I enjoy doing so for now I’ll just keep on with this style. The shoes are also from Madewell and are super versatile. They’re crazy comfortable because of the platform – it’s like barely wearing heels at all – and they’re exactly the type of put together casual style that I love. And they were a great price point so I don’t feel bad wearing them out in the salty Chicago streets, unlike some of my other prized ponies.

It might seem that there isn’t much to say about hand knit socks, but oh I’ve got things to say! When I first started knitting socks I quickly realized that, being thicker than the average store-bought socks, they often didn’t fit well with my shoes but I absolutely love them due to the above discussed body temperature issues. Keeping my feet warm really seems to help me stay comfortable through the chilly, and sometimes quite damp, Chicago winters so I really needed to figure out a way to make them work. With my love of hand knit socks in mind I bought these boots 1/2 size up from my standard size knowing that I’d wear them with my hand knit sock collection most days over the fall and winter. I can easily layer a low sport sock in if I feel like wearing them sans knitted socks as well. The other thing with my hand knit socks is that I’ve learned that I love a 7” tall sock so usually add to the length of the sock leg. This works really well with my extreme devotion to ankle length pants year round. Not sure why I love my pants that length, just some weird personality tic that’s been going on for over a decade. But this goes to show you that even something as simple as socks or a pair of shoes can do for a bit of customization to fit into your wardrobe.

Well that turned out to be a long post, but a really fun one to put together! I hope that helped some of you think more about how you can put together outfits using your handmade garments and also made you think more about exploring the wonderful world of ease. I’d love to hear any thoughts, tips, tricks, etc. you have on these topics!

Also this photo has nothing to do with anything I just think it’s a funny snapshot of having a blog and taking your own photos.

30 Comments Posted in Jen's Handmade Wardrobe
Journal Entry

A Few Thoughts on Wardrobe Planning

One quick thing I want to touch on after our last post about my Martine Pullover is that I don’t think there is one correct way to plan a wardrobe!

In my last post when I said that I’m not into doing wardrobe surveys and drawing each garment out, that doesn’t mean I don’t plan. Or that the way I do plan is the “right way” to plan. Or that everyone even needs to plan! If you’re into going where the wind blows you sewing wise, then great! If that’s what works, that’s what works. There are so many ways to go about your sewing projects – from a simple list in your head, in Evernote (which is what I’m currently doing) to a full on wardrobe planning book such as The Curated Closet and other similar books.

Sometimes the garment making world seems like everyone is planning one way or making in one type of style, and if that’s not the way you work or what you like it can feel slightly alienating. At least that’s how I felt when I realized that a strict capsule wardrobe wasn’t working for me and also how I felt a many years ago when it seemed like I was the only one not sewing form fitting garments. I got over that when I realized that this is what works for me and what makes me happy in my making and my wardrobe though.

Are you a basic list maker? A full on capsule planner? Do you just make as the inspiration strikes? Or somewhere in between?

20 Comments Posted in Journal Entry
Journal Entry

Our Squirrel Stuffed Toy Pattern is Here!

You might remember that back in November we had a cute little squirrel stuffed toy pattern in the Fall issue of Making. Well that issue has sold out and the Spring ’17 issue is on the way, so that means that you can grab a copy of this little squirrel as a PDF pattern in our shop! It’s a great quick project to give as a gift or to keep for yourself.

Grab your Squirrel Here! 

2 Comments Posted in Journal Entry
Jen's Handmade Wardrobe

Finished Garment: Martine Pullover

Martine Pullover
Ravelry Post
Pattern: Martine by Julie Hoover
Yarn: Rain by Shibui Knits in Ash

Usually I condense all of my knitting projects into one of 4 quarterly posts since this is primarily a sewing blog, but this sweater deserves its own post for a multitude of reasons. One of them is that I’d really like to talk more on the blog about the act of wearing your handmade wardrobes day to day whether they’re sewn or knit. I also hear from a lot of people that they have trouble incorporating their handmade garments into the existing ready-to-wear portion of their wardrobes and this also something I’d love discuss more since it doesn’t have to be hard or confusing at all!

I used to do a lot of wardrobe planning here on the site, sketching, making plans, laying things out, then I never got around to making them. I’ve realized over the years that that’s just not how my brain works. Sitting down and coming up with an entire seasons worth of things to make, or following books and plans for determining your personal style, it’s all too rigid and restrictive for me. I would lay out a list of things I needed, or was supposed to need, and it ended up that in reality none of it was what I actually needed or wanted. I’ve found that by relaxing, trying things out that may or may not work, and just really easing up on myself has actually been the way that I’ve best honed what I like and what I want to wear. After a few years of this method I think I’ve really gotten myself to a place where when I see something I almost immediately know whether it will become an integral part of my wardrobe or not.

That’s exactly how it was with the Martine sweater for me. I’d been semi-stalking Julie Hoover’s Instagram account while she was in development of this and Wintour, which launched at the same time, thinking that Wintour was the one I would knit first. When Julie published the patterns however I knew immediately that Martine would become an important part of my wardrobe and purchased the yarn and pattern the same day.

Let me briefly talk about how I knew this pattern was 100% made for me since this is something people often want to know. I spend a lot of time up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin during the summers and am constantly searching for the perfect lightweight sweater for the occasional chilly late afternoons that also looks good (and fits) under a long sleeve button up or cardigan for when we’re out on the lakes in the evenings. I’ve almost found it multiple times, first with a raglan sweater that was slim but too thickly knit, then with a thin knit cotton/linen blend sweater that had the right weight but wasn’t quite the right shape. Both of them were worn till they died nonetheless, but in noting that what was lacking in one was present in the other and vice versa I was able to realize what the perfect sweater would be. A slim, but not tight, raglan sweater, with a loosely knit stitch pattern in a cotton or linen lightweight, breathable yarn. So when I saw Martine I basically saw fireworks and knew this was for me.

Knitting this pattern was an absolute dream. I constantly tell knitters that I always learn something when I knit one of Julie’s patterns and Martine was no exception. I usually shy away from knitting raglan garments because I am very specific about how raglans are formed and should fit, being a flat pattern maker and all. Many of the knitting patterns I’ve seen have raglans shaped almost identically in the front and back which I have a hard time with knowing how they’ll fit me in the end when structured like that. This isn’t the case with Martine, and with some clever decreasing Julie managed shaping that looks so much like a flat drafted raglan that I wanted to squeal with delight.

Another thing about Martine, and all of Julie’s patterns I’ve knit so far, is that she really doesn’t skimp on the construction and finishing details. What that means for you is if you simply follow what she tells you to do you’re going to end up with a really professional looking garment. Everything – from the cast on to the raglan shaping, to the neckband and the blocking instructions – is so well thought out that by the end you won’t be able to believe you knit something so beautiful.

Now lets talk about the yarn. I used the recommended yarn, Shibui Rain, in Ash which is also the color the original sweater is knit in. I sometimes feel weird doing that but honestly the gorgeous silvery sheen was too much to say no to. I was a little nervous using cotton yarn since I have a lot of random hand pain and fatigue, but decided to give it a go anyway and I’m so happy with the result. According to the Shibui website Rain is “a mercerized cotton elevated by lustrous sheen. Its elongated chain construction retains shape and drapes with fluidity.” I’d agree with that description and found the yarn didn’t end up hurting my hands like I thought it would. I’m not sure if it’s something to do with the chain construction or the larger needles the pattern requires but I was just fine. When I first received my yarn I was a bit worried because it felt rougher than I expected, but after blocking my swatch I found it softened up quite nicely while still retaining the stitch definition and sheen it had before blocking. I’m really glad that I decided to try something new and use Rain, and it has me very excited to try other Shibui yarns now!

My last few sweaters (Hawser, Stone Lake, Bellows, and Stonecutter) have been much more stylized, though still very wearable, than the Martine is. While I always love sewing elevated basics that I can wear a million ways every day, I’ve been slower to reach that point in knitting, and I think a lot of that is because although I’ve been knitting for 16 years I’m really still learning with every project. I taught myself how to knit before YouTube, or Ravelry, or even Knitty or any of those amazing resources we now have existed and that combined with the fact that I didn’t know a single other knitter in real life until a few years ago made for a very slow learning curve. I’m really excited to have reached the point where I can knit in the same way that I sew, if that makes any sense.

So that’s it for my Martine novel! I spent a day last week styling the Martine and 5 other handmade pieces into a few outfits for a post that I’m excited to share soon with more thoughts about some of the things I touched on in this post. In the meantime I’d love to know how you decide what handmades to add to your closet!

22 Comments Posted in Jen's Handmade Wardrobe
Tips & Tricks  |  Uncategorized

Tips + Tricks | for sewing with silk

Silk… the only fabric that has its own adjective; of or resembling silk, especially in being soft, fine and lustrous. It elevates garments from casual to formal. It’s elegant and of course… expensive. But there is no reason to be intimidated by it. With the right techniques it is easy to work with! Here are some tutorials we have done in the past that will teach you the best way to cut silk and to finish your silk garment with roll hems.

2 Comments Posted in Tips & Tricks, Uncategorized
Farrow Dress

How to Line the Farrow Dress Pt. 2: Sewing Instructions

Today I’ll be walking you through assembling the lining pieces of your Farrow Dress. If you missed our previous post on how to draft the lining pieces, you can find that here.

To begin, assemble the main (or self) fabric of  your Farrow according to the instructions through Step 8. Stop here and set the dress aside. This will be the shell of your Farrow.

Start by fusing all of your facing pieces according to the instructions included with your fusible interfacing.

Now lets talk about lining for a quick minute. For my linings I typically use either silk or Bemberg lining. Bemberg is a brand name for a certain type of cupro lining, which contains round fibers that are thinner than regular rayon giving it a finer hand and drape. I highly recommend working with either of these as both are lightweight, breathable, easier to control and sew, and neither will collect static as much as other fiber contents will. Bemberg is a bit stronger than silk so consider that when choosing a lining. The above, which I’ll be working with in this tutorial, is rayon Bemberg. One thing to note about Bemberg is that it can shrink with heat and steam so give your yardage a press before you cut!

Begin by aligning your center front neckline facing piece with the neckline of the front lining piece, right sides together. Pin in place and stitch around the seam allowance.

Press the seam allowance of the facing and lining down, clipping the lining seam allowance every inch or so. Stitch along the lining side of the seam line through both seam allowances to anchor them in place. Repeat this for the back neck facing and if you’re making a sleeveless Farrow, repeat these steps for the front and back armhole facings. I’m making the sleeved version here so there’s nothing to attach to the armholes.

Now assemble the lining the same way you did for the shell. I have it shown inside out here so you can see the seaming better.

Now we’ll attach the lining and shell together at the neckline (Steps 20-21 in your Farrow booklet) and the armhole facings if you’re making a sleeveless version (Steps 10-11). Start with the lining turned inside out and the shell right side out. Put the shell inside the lining and align the neckline edges.

Once the facings are attached and the seams are pressed, slip stitch the lining to the shell at the back opening. I prefer to slip stitch this rather than machine sew because you have more control over where the lining falls and you can ensure more easily that it can’t be seen from the outside of the garment when worn.

Since we’re making the sleeved version here we’ll want to anchor the two layers at the armhole before we set the sleeve. Stitch within the seam allowance or baste the two layers together. Then follow Steps 13 -18 in your instruction booklet.

The dress is almost finished, we just need to hem our layers. Hem the outer layer of the dress first.The lining and dress were cut from the same pattern (save the facing adjustments) and you can see how the lining has stretched in length along the curved hem. Rather than cut the lining shorter than the dress, I prefer to cut the lining the same length and measure the amount to cut off of the actual hem of the dress while it’s on my form. This way you can be sure your lining is even with the hem all the way around.

With the dress on my form I simply measured up 2″ from the lower edge of the dress hem. Trim this excess off and hem as usual.

And that’s it! In addition to the Farrow dress you can use this technique on many different garments. Hope this helped those of you asking about lining the Farrow, it was pretty fun to put together. As always, if you have questions let us know in the comments below!

Leave a comment Posted in Farrow Dress
Farrow Dress

How to Line the Farrow Dress Pt. 1: Pattern Alterations

Today I’ll be showing you the first step in how to line your Farrow Dress! It’s really very simple and great for slightly sheer or very silky fabrics. The dress above has a shell and facings made from ivory 4-ply silk crepe de chine with a slightly warmer neutral silk charmeuse lining. Now lets draft our pieces.

Find your two front pieces, 1 and 2. Draw a line across the pocket stitching lines to separate the pockets.

Cut off the pocket pieces and discard. You won’t need them for the lining.

For the front: Align the two cut edges to make one solid piece. Remove the center front seam allowance (1/2″) since you’ll want to cut this piece on the fold.

For the back: Align the stitching lines of the two back pieces to create one pattern piece. The seam allowances will overlap. You’ll still need to cut 2 of these.

Now we’ll need to mark the new facings and remove them from the patter pieces to create them and the final lining piece. I prefer to start over making new facings at the same time as the lining rather than use the facings that came with the pattern. There’s less room for error doing it this way.

To start, mark off a 2″ facing around the front armhole and front neckline on your pattern piece.

Cut the facings apart from the lining. You’re almost there, we just need to add seam allowances so that you can sew the pieces back together.

To each of the cut edges of the facings and lining, add a 1/2″ seam allowance. These will be your finished pattern pieces. Repeat these steps for the back.

The diagram above shows the pattern pieces you should now have as well as how many to cut of each one.

You’ll need about 2yds of lining fabric no matter whether you’re using 45″ or 54″ wide fabric. This measurement will also work for all sizes. Please note that in the layout above we have the back pattern piece flipped wrong side up!

That’s it for the pattern alterations, we’ll be back in our next post with how to sew it all up!

9 Comments Posted in Farrow Dress
Sewn Other

Handmade Everyday: My Four Winds Quilt

We talk a lot about handmade wardrobes over here since we’re in the wardrobe business, but we also love having handmade items in our home as well, so I thought I’d share my recently finished Four Winds Quilt on the blog today.

After we moved and went from a full to queen sized bed our old IKEA down comforter just wasn’t really cutting it anymore. It was definitely time for an upgrade. I don’t have a lot of time for off the clock sewing since I’m on the clock most of the time, even at home, so I needed a quilt pattern that wouldn’t take forever to assemble. Enter the oversized block genius of the Four Winds quilt from Fancy Tiger Crafts!

If you’ve never made a quilt before or are short on time, I highly recommend this pattern. The triangles in this pattern are known as Flying Geese which are traditionally much smaller and because of that, more labor intensive. Since the pattern is blown up here it not only offers a quicker path to a finished quilt, but it also packs a huge visual punch. Bonus points to the fact that the Four Winds Quilt is made to work with fat quarter packs which is a low-stash person’s (aka my) dream.

For the blue triangles I used an older version of this Robert Kaufman fat quarter pack from Purl Soho. I supplemented it with a bit of RK chambray and Essex Linen I had leftover from a few Grainline samples just to add a few more colors and to bring the backing I ended up using onto the front. The white is Kona Cotton in snow and it’s the perfect almost white. Reads white to the eyes but very importantly it’s not so white that you’re afraid to use it.

There was no way I could cram a quilt this size under my standard arm sewing machine so after assembling the quilt top I took it and the backing to a longarm quilter who assembled the quilt sandwich and quilted the whole thing for me. It’s hard to see in the photo but they used a variegated grey quilting thread that picked up all the colors of the denim. The backing and binding are Robert Kaufman Essex which is a cotton/linen blend and adds a really nice weight to the whole thing.

Now that the quilt is finished and being used I can’t wait to start on another project for our home. I just need to decide if it’s a throw quilt (our basement is pretty arctic) or some pillows for the couch. I’d really like to make some log cabin style pillow covers out of the scraps of more Grainline projects. I think it would be a fun way to bring some of the garment sample fabrics I fell in love with home to enjoy myself, as well as use up some of the larger scraps I’ve been saving.

I’ve made a few quilts prior to this, some of which you can see in these posts: Owl Baby Quilt and Laying Out the Catnap Quilt. I guess I never blogged the finished Cat Quilt, but you can see it here if you’re interested.

 

 

15 Comments Posted in Sewn Other
Journal Entry

How to level up your project photography

 

We love exploring our hashtags on Instagram to see what you are making with our patterns! With the advancement of cameras on smart phones it is even easier to share professional looking photos. Back in 2016 we shared our photo editing techniques with Karen Templer of Fringe Supply Co. in this great post about how-to edit and improve your project photos.

Karen sheds light on how “a lot of us have discovered that part of the joy of knitting (and the knitting community) is sharing our work, and in discovering the joy of documenting things well”. This sentiment extends to the sewing community as well! It’s exciting to share our creations with others. Especially because on Instagram we are constantly being targeted by ads to buy new clothes. It’s refreshing to see that we, in the sewing community, are  making beautiful lasting garments. 

Leave a comment Posted in Journal Entry
Journal Entry

Be our Valentine?!

Happy Valentines day! If you have been following along with us via our newsletter, Instagram or Twitter then you already know that we just moved to a new studio. If not, then (hey!) we are filling you in now.

With moving comes the frantic need for new modes of organization. Finding a place for loose sewing tools has been our life since January! That being said, we created this present for you! And well… for us too 😉

It’s a free printable needle book! Its perfect for storing all of those loose sewing needles that you find at the bottom of bins and drawers. We hope you love it!

xx

Sarah, Lexi and Jen

8 Comments Posted in Journal Entry