Versatile Blogger Award

Sewing bloggers are a friendly bunch. Among other things, they like to give each other blogging awards! It’s fun, and a nice way to point people to new awesome blogs that don’t have many followers yet.

One such award that gets passed around the blogosphere (like a chainletter, but much friendlier and less annoying) is the Versatile Blogger Award. And, lo and behold, Becky from Springystitches has nominated me for it! :)

Thanks for the Versatile Blogger Award nomination, Becky (Springystitches)!

(Ignore my handwriting… Focus on the sentiment, and the sneak peek of this gray and pink plaid that I’ve earmarked for another Archer shirt.)

Here’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re nominated. (If you want. No pressure.)

1. Thank the person who nominated you and create a link back to their blog

2. Share 7 things about yourself

3. Nominate 15 other versatile bloggers

4. Tell the bloggers that you nominated them

Okay, so, some things about me:

1. I majored in biology in college.

2. I really like board games. Current favorites include Dominion and Race for the Galaxy.

3. I love fantasy novels. I’m re-reading Lord of the Rings right now.

4. The first sewing project I completed was a Lord of the Rings elf costume to wear to the opening of the Return of the King movie.

5. I really like British TV mystery series. Poirot, Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes (the Jeremy Brett version), Midsomer Murders, Rosemary and Thyme, etc.

6. I can juggle!

7. I love Shakespeare. I’ve seen almost all the plays at least once, except for some of the more obscure history plays.

(Basically what I’m saying is I am a giant nerd, okay? Okay. Glad we got that sorted out.)

Now for the best part!

I know you’re supposed to nominate 15, but I really wanted to limit myself to blogs that 1) aren’t already super well-known (under ~300 followers on Bloglovin), 2) I’ve been reading for a while and genuinely think are awesomesauce, and 3) haven’t already been nominated for the VBA as far as I can tell. These are the 6 I came up with:

1. Dandelion Drift for her relaxed, modern style.

2. Sew Pomona for her beautiful and everyday-wearable makes, and her sense of color.

3. Sewin’ in the Rain for super cute dresses.

4. SewStylist for her strong sense of her own style (which she summed up recently as “uncomplicated,” “interesting,” “timeless,” “sensual,” and “edgy”). Seriously, her blog is just beautiful to look at.

5. Under Alteration for her chic, wearable, and beautifully-sewn garments (and she calls herself a beginner!).

6. Two Random Words for awesome pencil skirts.

There you have it! Thanks again for the nomination, Becky. Now go forth and check out these lovely blogs!

A Coral Scout

See, I told you I’d make more Scout Tees eventually. :)

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I loved my owl print Scout so much that I knew I had to make some more. I also knew, from my Wardrobe Architect-inspired musings, that I needed more solid-colored woven blouses. So, on a recent afternoon, I found myself browsing the solid-colored rayons at Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics. This coral caught my eye, and ended up coming home with me. (I got some black viscose too, which was also ear-marked for a Scout. I actually finished it a few days ago, but have decided that my modifications to the pattern on that version were not terribly successful, so it needs to be re-worked a bit. Ah well. It was a learning experience.)

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This one turned out just fine, though. :) It’s actually one of my favorite things I’ve sewn lately.

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Just look at that beautiful top-stitching on the front neckline.

I fall more in love with Grainline Studio patterns every time I sew one. The patterns fit me well with almost no adjustments, they’re beautifully drafted (all the notches line up, etc.), and the styles are perfect — modern, minimalist, not fussy, but still pretty.

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The only fit adjustment I made for this Scout was to lengthen it by 1/2″ by slashing and spreading at the lengthen/shorten line. I also added the tiny pocket from the Tiny Pocket Tank, just to break up that expanse of coral a little bit.

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One more note: if you’re making a smallish size (I made a size 6), you can get away with using significantly less fabric than the pattern calls for. Just cut your fabric as a single layer and put the front and back pieces next to each other instead of cutting both on the fold. Works like a charm.

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I’m so pleased with how this turned out! This pattern is fast becoming one of my favorites. :D

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A Floral Flora

I’m pretty excited about this dress. :)

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This is the Flora Dress by By Hand London. It’s a combo of the wrap bodice from version 1 and the high-low skirt from version 2.

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It’s for a very special occasion, too — I made this dress specifically to wear to the upcoming wedding of a friend I’ve known since kindergarten. :) Yay weddings!

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For the most part, I liked the pattern and would recommend it. The high-low skirt, in particular, is great; the pleats are arranged in just the right way to make the most lovely cascading folds of fabric around in the hem. (Eventually I’d really like to make a Flora skirt!)

However, fitting the wrap bodice gave me quite a bit of trouble; it took 3 muslins to get it right! The main problem was that the vertical bust darts did not point to my bust apex at all, which made the bodice look simultaneously (and weirdly) too big in some places and too small in others. In the end I moved the vertical bodice darts about 1″ towards the center front, which seemed to pretty much solve the problem. (To do this, I literally cut a rectangle around the entire dart on my traced pattern piece, moved it over, taped it down, and filled in the gap with extra tissue.) So, if you too are having trouble fitting this bodice, my advice is to check whether the darts are in the right place for you!

Here’s a quickie sketch of the bodice modifications I made (not to scale at all). See how the vertical dart is closer to center front in the altered version?

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In addition to moving the vertical darts and lengthening the horizontal darts accordingly, I straightened out the bottom edge of the bodice a tiny bit. This pretty much had the effect of shortening the front edge of each half of the bodice. This pulls the bodice pieces in closer to the body and helps eliminate gaping.

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I added about 1.5″ of length to the center front of the skirt (tapering to nothing at the side seams), since I had seen other people mention that the high-low hem was, uh, pretty high in the front. I think the length turned out just about right!

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The construction went fairly smoothly. I used the tutorial from the Flora sewalong for stabilizing the wrap bodice edges with twill tape, which really helped eliminate the dreaded gape. I definitely recommend taking the time to do this step, if you make this dress!

The one major change I made was to add a full lining for the skirt, since my skirt fabric wasn’t quite opaque enough for my tastes. This was fairly easy, although figuring out how to deal with the lining at the center back, where the zipper is inserted, took a bit of thought. I eventually opted to sew the zipper only to the outer skirt fabric, and to hand-stitch the center back edges of the lining to the zipper tape, to give a clean finish.

The one mistake I made, which I didn’t even notice until the dress was finished, was to overlap the two halves of the bodice the “wrong” way–it’s supposed to be right-over-left, and I did left-over-right. Oh well! I don’t think anyone else will notice or care.

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I freaking love both of the fabrics I used. The bodice is a white cotton eyelet, underlined with white cotton voile and lined with white mystery cotton from my stash (which may or may not have started life as a bed sheet, I honestly don’t remember). The skirt is a lovely, floaty rayon challis lined with white cotton voile. Everything except the bodice lining was from Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics.

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Overall, I’m extremely pleased with how this turned out! It even goes with this awesome purple belt that I already owned, haha. I’m very much looking forward to wearing it to my friend’s wedding in few weeks!

Wardrobe Architect (weeks 7 & 8)

More Wardrobe Architect talk today! (See, I haven’t forgotten, even though I am atrociously far behind…)

The Wardrobe Architect

Week 7 was all about prints and patterns vs. solid colors, and figuring out which types of prints we like wearing.

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I’d say that my favorite and most-worn garments (me-made and otherwise) are about half prints and half solids. I don’t do a lot of print mixing — I tend to pair printed tops with solid bottoms or vice versa, or just go for all solid colors. This made me realize that I could stand to make/acquire more solid-colored blouses and t-shirts for wearing with patterned skirts.

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In terms of types of prints, I tend to go for organic-looking patterns, florals, and novelty prints. I don’t really care for strong geometric prints on me, except for stripes. Oh, and plaids are really nice for button-up shirts! In this post I’ve included a sampling of prints from my favorite garments and fabric pieces from my stash. I think lately I’ve actually done very well at steering clear of prints that I love the look of on a bolt of fabric, but don’t actually like to wear.

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Week 8 was all about hair, makeup, and other beauty products and routines. This is an area of personal style I’d like to explore more! I’ve pretty much always had long hair. I like it, but I’d be interested try short hair to see what it’s like.

I’ve only just started dipping my toes into the world of makeup–somehow I missed the memo on this in high school and college. (I’ve found lurking in r/makeupaddicts to be very educational in this regard, by the way.) I suppose my core, essential makeup products at this point are foundation; black mascara; neutral, brown-ish eye shadows; and pinkish lip colors. The amount of makeup I put on really depends on the day. I actually enjoy doing a full face with foundation and everything, but realistically I don’t bother most of the time. (I still need to acquire some kind of really light foundation/bb cream/tinted moisturizer for days when real foundation seems like too much… Recommendations?) As with clothing, if something takes a huge amount of effort to put on or wear, I can’t be bothered most of the time. And that’s fine with me. :)

Me Made May! (And a Portrait Blouse)

It’s May 1st! That means it’s time for Me Made May!

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If you’re not familiar with Me Made May, head over here and read all about it. Basically, it’s a month-long challenge to wear your handmade clothes more often! There are no specific rules (each participant decides on their own pledge), and no winners or losers. The point is to challenge yourself to actually use the garments you create. (And to have fun admiring everybody’s awesome handmade outfits, and show off your own!)

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I signed up at the very last minute (last night!). This is the first time I’ve participated in one of these challenges, so I’m pretty excited. Here’s my pledge:

I, Katie of UmbellulariaDesigns.wordpress.com, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I endeavour to wear at least one garment sewn by me (including re-fashioned garments) at least 3 days per week for the duration of May 2014.

So, without further ado, here’s today’s outfit — including a brand new make. This is the Portrait Blouse, from Gertie’s book.

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I’m quite pleased with how this turned out. I made no alterations except to lengthen it by 3″. I also ended up omitting the zipper (after I’d already basted it in…). I found that I could actually just pull the blouse over my head, and the zipper was making one side hang weirdly (probably because the fabric is quite flimsy).

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Here’s a blurry back shot:

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I especially love this fabric. It’s a rayon challis from Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics. It’s incredibly soft, and very lightweight (great for summer!). I still have a little less than a yard left — what should I make with it?

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Get ready for lots of outfit photos for Me Made May. I’ll probably try to do weekly updates — we’ll see how it goes. I’ll also be posting photos to the Me Made May ’14 Flickr group — come check it out and admire all the beautiful handmade clothes! :)

Owl Print Scout Tee

I made a Grainline Studio Scout Tee!

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And it has adorable owls on it. LOOK:

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Is that not the cutest print you’ve ever seen?

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I really, really like this pattern. It has only four pattern pieces (three, if you don’t count the neckline binding), so cutting it out is super quick. It goes together really easily too. It took me a couple evenings to put together, but that’s only because I decided to be fancy and do French seams everywhere. If you didn’t do that you could totally make it up in one session.

See? Fancy insides.

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I also really like this rayon fabric (from Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics). It feels very light and flowy. It does wrinkle pretty easily, but I can put up with that.

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And a back shot:

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This is definitely a winner–I’ve worn it several times already, and I only finished it a few days ago! The only change I made to the pattern was to lengthen it by 1/2″; otherwise it fit perfectly as drafted.

There will definitely by more Scouts in my life soon. :) (First I have to finish my current work in progress, the Portrait Blouse from Gertie’s book, and then I have to make a dress to wear to a friend’s wedding in June… But after that, more Scouts!)

Wardrobe Architect (weeks 5 & 6)

I bet you thought I’d forgotten about the Wardrobe Architect project, huh? Okay, you probably didn’t–I don’t think anyone except me thinks about my blog enough to notice that I’ve fallen behind, which in this case is convenient! (If you want to read my previous Wardrobe Architect posts, you can do that here.)

The Wardrobe Architect

Weeks 5 & 6 were all about color. The exercise for week 5 was simply to create a palette of colors that you like and feel good wearing.

This was actually a really useful exercise for me because it forced me to think critically about what colors I think look good on me (as opposed to just what colors I like), something I admit I had never put a lot of thought into before. I found this series of posts (part 1, part 2, part 3) from the blog Into Mind (which I recommend, by the way) really helpful and interesting while I was thinking about this. Apparently, according to the “color seasons” idea, I am a “warm autumn,” or possibly a “warm spring.” Now, I don’t subscribe to the idea that one should feel obligated to cling slavishly to the colors one is “supposed” wear, but figuring out which type you are is an interesting starting place for figuring out which colors you might like to wear.

Figuring out which “type” I am was pretty illuminating for me, actually. I had never really considered before that I tend to look best in warm colors, but now that I have thought about it, I can see it’s totally true. My favorite garments are warm colors, and I can even think of specific cool-toned garments that I don’t wear very often because I don’t think the colors flatter me.

The exercise for week 6 was to organize your color palette into three categories: neutrals (black, cream, etc.), near neutrals (colors you’re comfortable wearing as neutrals, that go with almost anything), and statement colors. So, without further ado, here is mine:

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This is a combination of colors I already wear and like, and colors that I’d like to wear more often. I really enjoyed putting it together, and it’s definitely been useful to think about while fabric shopping.

Up next in Wardrobe Architect: prints vs. solids! Also, I just finished a Scout Tee today (and I love it!), so you’ll be seeing that up here as soon as I have a chance to photograph it. :)

Another plaid shirt (for me this time!)

I finally made an Archer shirt! I think I’m the last sewing blogger in the world to make this pattern, but better late than never.

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The pattern went together fairly easily. I think having just made two button-up shirts for The Boyfriend helped a lot, since I was already familiar with the techniques for attaching the collar and cuffs. The only other tricky part was inserting the sleeve plackets (the technique used in the Archer pattern is completely different from the plackets I’ve made on previous shirts), but once I figured it out it wasn’t that difficult.

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I made a size 6 with a few tweaks. I graded down to a size 0 at the cuffs (either I have extremely skinny wrists, or the cuffs are designed to fit much more loosely than I prefer–could be a bit of both). I also added just a tiny bit (maybe 1/2″) to the hips, just on the back, which seemed to help the back lay flatter.

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I also shaved off about 1/4″ from the top of the armhole to narrow the shoulders a little bit (I think the shoulders are designed to be slightly dropped and loose-fitting, but I wanted the shoulder seams to fall on my actual shoulders). I’m sure there’s a more “correct” way of doing a narrow shoulder adjustment, but this seemed to work fine. I didn’t alter the sleeve-caps themselves at all (the top part of the sleeve that gets sewn into the armhole); the pattern is designed so that there is some ease in the sleeve-caps, so making the armhole slightly bigger by narrowing the shoulders isn’t really a problem.

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I can’t decide if I should go down to a size 4 for my next Archer or not (because there will definitely be a next Archer!). I know this is supposed to be a loose-fitting shirt, but I think I might prefer a slightly slimmer fit. It looks fine when I’m wearing it unbuttoned (which, to be fair, is probably how I’ll wear it 90% of the time), but when it’s buttoned up it looks pretty boxy on me.

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Next time I might go for a size 4, but with the length of a size 6 (or even a tad longer). Next time I’ll also shorten the sleeves just a tad–maybe 3/4″ or so. I’ll probably mostly wear this with the sleeves rolled up, so the length isn’t a big deal, but these sleeves did turn out a little long on me. (From reading other blogs, this seems like a pretty common occurrence with this pattern.)

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The fabric is from Denver Fabrics, and it was marketed as flannel…but it clearly isn’t. It’s not the least bit fuzzy. But it does seem to be cotton and it’s fairly soft and has a tiny bit of stretch, so it worked out just fine. I quite like it!

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I’m pretty proud of the workmanship (workwomanship?) on this. I flat-felled all the seams, so it’s just as neat on the inside as it is on the outside.

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Overall, I’m really pleased with how this turned out! Can’t wait to make my next one–I have some super soft flannel in my stash that’s just calling out to be made into an Archer. :)

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Blue Plaid Shirt

It’s finished! Finally!

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Plus, since it’s blue, it counts for Blue February, and since it’s a button-up shirt, it counts for It’s On Like Donkey Kong’s Shirt, too. Two birds, one stone, etc.

This is the second button-up shirt I’ve made (you can see the first one here). This one is from the same self drafted/draped pattern as the first shirt (made to fit The Boyfriend). (For more info on the initial pattern-making process, check out this post.) I haven’t yet had a chance to snap some photos of The Boyfriend actually wearing it, but I can report that it fits quite nicely and he seems to like it (he’s even worn it to work a couple times)!

This shirt still has some issues, but on the whole I’d say it’s an improvement over the first one. I definitely felt more comfortable with the techniques this time around, and I also lengthened the sleeves a little bit to improve the fit.

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I think the collar turned out pretty well! I still haven’t settled on a collar shape I’m entirely happy with, though; this one is just slightly wider and pointier than I was envisioning. I’m content with it, though. I’ll just have to do some more experimenting the next time I make a shirt. (Anybody know any good resources that talk about the fine points of different collar shapes? They really make a huge difference in how a finished shirt ends up looking, I think.)

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The cuffs came out well too, I think. Look at that even edge stitching.

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I’d also like to reduce the fullness in the sleeves a little bit on the next one — I think two pleats instead of the current three (where the sleeve is sewn to the cuff) would be about right.

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I’m basically happy with it, though. Not bad for a second-ever attempt at a men’s shirt!

I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that the plaid matches perfectly (horizontally and vertically) at the center front. (This is much easier to achieve when your fabric isn’t stretched off grain, let me tell you…) They match at the sides too, but you’ll just have to take my word for that.

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I’m happy to finally have this finished; shirt-making is really satisfying, but also pretty exacting and fiddly. I’m looking forward to sewing up a few less complicated garments for myself at this point! :)

#WardrobeArchitect (weeks 3 & 4)

More Wardrobe Architect talk today! Week 3 was devoted to thinking about the shapes of individual garments, and week 4 was all about outfit silhouettes.

The Wardrobe Architect

In week 3 we filled out a questionnaire to get us thinking about which garment shapes we gravitate towards. (Mini, midi, or maxi skirts? Full, A-line, or fitted?) Then, for week four, we used those preferences to come up with outfit silhouettes that fit those preferences. In this case “silhouette” means a formula for an outfit: skinny jeans, a button up shirt, and boots, for instance (which just happens to be one of my go-to silhouettes).

Silhouette 1

Coming up with a collection of the silhouettes you tend to use over and over again can help you zero in on the kinds of garments you’re likely to get a lot of use from, and decide how to spend your precious sewing time! I came up with nine silhouettes that I wear often. I’ll only post a few of them here, but you can check out the rest on Polyvore if you’re interested. (Pay no attention to the colors or patterns of the clothes in these–the point was to focus on shape!)

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This was actually quite a useful exercise for me. It confirmed that I should really make myself some Archer button-up shirts, if nothing else! More loose, casual tops would be good too (Scout tee-shirts, perhaps?!). And more Renfrews, and maybe a few more versions of my self-drafted batwing top pattern…

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That’s all for now. The button-up shirt for The Boyfriend is coming along! Hopefully I’ll have a post about that up here soon. :)