jean-ius strikes again?

IMG_1373.JPGanother pair of my elizabeth and james “crosby” style jean-ius jeans.  i got much better at my topstitching on this second pair, which i think shows, and i love the print on the denim.


it’s liberty of london stretch denim from B&J fabrics here in NYC, and even though it is 2% lycra (and should have 15% stretch), it was more like 10%, so the fit here is significantly tighter than on my original pair.

but i’m super-happy with the result.  again, i flat-felled all of my seams except the inseam for a true-religion-style look.  i used white metal zips at the fly front and at the inseams and rocked the heck out of them at my friends’ engagement party last weekend.

let me tell you, few people appreciate a rainbow unicorn t-shirt and a pair of flowery jeans like a hot tub full of san francisco gay men.  these were my people!  🙂

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from my soap box, i almost can’t see the book review (gertie sews vintage casual)


i’ve recently come to feel that a lot of my life lately is about my feminism. i feel like it’s suddenly me in that long-ago episode of law & order where jack is mocking claire kincaid for her “latent feminism” and she reminds him that it isn’t latent.

so, for example, i recently came back from an insane weekend with my best friend and his partner (now fiancé), celebrating their engagement, and had several conversations where someone asked me, “how did they decide who was going to ask?” and my answer, simply, was that b just went for it and c was ecstatic. they had no expectations to grapple with based solely on a chromosome in their dna; it was all about what worked for them.

or, a co-worker of mine (male) recently celebrated the birth of his first child and took a week of paternity leave as a result (cue my quebecois co-worker excoriating america for that measly week; i had enough lectures about canadian socialism to be convinced long ago, if vicki and heather lou still want me). but the brass around here in my corporate office kept saying, “their wives had children.”   as though these first-time fathers were ridiculous for taking time off to support their wives and snatch a few days home with their newly-born offspring.

even my beloved father fell prey to these assumptions. “did he have a baby or did his wife?” was a frequent point of conversation, at which point i reminded father that ejr’s wife had a c-section and couldn’t even get out of bed yet, so how exactly was she supposed to be home caring for her child all by herself? and furthermore, dad, this isn’t 1982 anymore.

“well,” he said, “in 1982 i would have been fired for taking an entire week” (a week! hah!) “when you were born.” yes, father, and in 2014 i am still making 77 cents for every dollar you are paying ejr.

thank goodness it isn’t 1982 anymore, is all i can say.

i say all of this as a long-winded introduction to a book review because these issues of gender and requirements and, dare i say it, feminism and what we ask of men versus women are very upfront in my world right now, and all of this was exacerbated by a recent piece i spotted in vogue patterns magazine. it was an innocent enough piece, a review of a new book by professor linda przbyszewski called the lost art of dress. its arguments are likely familiar to many of you, dear readers, because she espouses most of the reasons that we make our own clothing (as linda przbyszewski does, too):

  • an expectation of beauty and detail
  • an appreciation for the details inherent in each piece
  • an ability to create garments that fit and flatter in the exact color/style/fabric of our choice

yes! hear hear.

here is where she lost me, as she bemoans the decline of home economics in our schools (a worthy thing to bemoan, by the by, because we would all, men and women alike, be better off if we knew how to cook, sew, use a drill, balance a checkbook and change our own oil but i digress):

“the absence of home economics in the classroom has left generations of women unschooled and unskilled in the ways of dress,” przbyszewski says. in the 40s and 50s, home economics “was taken just as seriously as english and science.”

there are so many assumptions wrapped in that statement that i had whiplash just trying to process it. ultimately, my reaction was something like this:

1 – i cannot deny that juicy couture sweatsuits have a lot to answer for. but.

2 – how can a book about the “lost art of dress”, a book basically about the horror that was the rise of the a-line shift dress, in the interview with vpm, so casually elide the fact that the changing mores of our dress code happen in a direct correlation to women being able to choose from a wider array of goals when setting their dress habits?

3 – and why are women responsible for rectifying this supposed lost art? i mean, have you ever seen a frat boy with a popped collar and nantucket red trousers and not understood it to be a travesty of fashion?

“when the 60s rolled around, all of the grown-ups wanted to look like teenage girls. there’s this extraordinarily sophisticated, wordly look in the 50s and just one decade later everyone is wearing what would have been known in another era as toddler clothing.”

the entire interview had an undercurrent here of ‘knowing one’s place’ (as a woman) that makes me hugely uncomfortable. this kind of presentation, the idealization of this image, is hugely disturbing to me because it discredits the real work that is being a homemaker, or a stay-at-home-mom, and suggests that it be above all things well-dressed – not because that woman chooses to be, but because it is expected.  (and maybe, just maybe – at least if you read divergent and understood it the same way i did – maybe there is comfort in knowing one’s place?)

all of this has nothing to do with the new book hitting our shelves, gertie sews vintage casual, except that it completely does. in a section reminiscent of one of her more infamous blog posts, gretchen includes a small sidebar on the evolution of women’s casual dress. “the evolution of women’s clothing in the 20th century is closely linked to the rise of feminism,” she writes in the intro to her new book. “it generally wasn’t acceptable for women to wear trousers to work, school or church until the 1970s.”

and yet we continue to be fascinated with the details and the styles of vintage, classic casual dress, and i think it is because we want to be comfortable and fashionable whenever possible. the simple fact is that the state of rtw, especially to those of us who sew, is fairly heinous, and it’s easy these days to look at the beautiful casual clothes of the 40s and 50s and think only, ‘le sigh.’

enter gretchen.

her book is a rundown of every vintage vogue weekender pattern you ever wanted but didn’t want to spend the money on (because those bad boys can be expensive). they are every excellent capsule wardrobe for a “full-blown mini break holiday weekend” in one book. imho this book has a stronger, more developed point of view than the NBfBSand a more authentic aesthetic. the first book often felt like a re-hash of garments and patterns that hirsch had already tested and adapted from the vogue patterns that were the original highlight of her website. this book has a clear, specific point of inspiration and sets about expressing that point in every pattern and hack laid out in the book.

as in the original book, gretchen spends some real estate discussing basic patternmaking, and then uses that knowledge in a wide array of style variations suggested by her basic patterns (i.e., trouser to short to pedal pusher to jumpsuit to romper). i like that she included trousers, by the way, and will be interested to compare her trouser draft to my own moulage and potentially make it work.

gretchen also continued the art direction and style of the first book, two of the things i liked most about her initial offering. in this one, she includes a list of inspirational movies (for costume details), and an expanded section of fashion drawings that she calls a “gallery of styles”. the photography is better, the presentation of garments is stronger, although not what i would hope for or look for in a finished book. here in the SBC we often ask a lot of our fellow bloggers WRT their photographs and these are not the step up into style or fashion photography that i would love to see in a book with such a specific aesthetic. that said, they are a giant step up from my own (ahem) jumps in front of an isight camera, so your mileage will definitely vary.

on a closing note, i almost don’t want to say that gretchen’s new book is more authentic (even though it feels that way to me as a reader), and here is why. there’s a lot of navel-gazing going on in the sbc interwebs right now – some of it i agree with, some i think is overblown, all of it makes me a bit angsty, and let us not forget that some people are just mean. without editorializing, here’s an interesting reading list for you.

Want nothing but the best for your friends, because when your friends are happy and successful, it’s probably going to be easier for you to be happy.

– If you’re having a rough go of it, and a friend is having the best year ever, and you need to think some dark thoughts about that, do it alone, with your therapist, or in your diary, so that when you actually see your friend, you can avoid the myth discussed in item 1.

If you and your friend(s) are in the same field and can collaborate or help each other, do this without shame. It’s not your fault your friends are awesome. Men invented nepotism and practically live by it. It’s OK for women to do it, too.

Don’t tear other women down, because even if they’re not your friends, they are women and this is just as important. This is not to say you cannot criticise other women, but understand the difference between criticising constructively and tearing down cruelly.

Everybody gossips, so if you are going to gossip about your friends, at least make it fun and interesting. Never say, “I never lie” or, “I never gossip”, because you are lying.

and finally, a note that i jotted to myself at a recent presentation by author, essayist, and professor roxane gay. an audience member asked why, when we look at books by women, we are often looking for “likeability.” it is a question almost never asked of male authors of serious literature, so why do we demand it of women? and roxane’s answer was another question: ‘do we mistake likeability for perfection? do we look for likeability as an entree into certain milieus? when we demand likeability, aren’t we just policing our behavior because likeability is what we, as women, are supposed to present?




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me-made-everyday: style report


  • megan neilsen crescent top (again!!) in lizzy house catnap for a casual friday romp
  • franken-patterned 1960s mccall in liberty of london ‘dorie’ for a political cocktail party
  • simplicity 1803 in overscale rose cotton, avec blazer and boots
  • butterick circle skirt in liberty of london ‘windsor house’ for an early fall day at the office
  • ‘cammo couture’ simplicity 1873 with a sweater, long blazer, tights and booties for a political fundraiser breakfast
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what jean-ius have i wrought?

many, many, many moons ago i set out to re-create my favorite pair of RTW jeans: the elizabeth and james crosby. it’s a carpenter-style jean, with patch pockets, not a classic five-pocket variety. i loved the slim fit, the industrial details, the seaming and the leg zip.

textile-elizabeth-and-james-sunny-lime-crosby-pants-product-6-7883041-056905700 textile-elizabeth-and-james-sunny-lime-crosby-pants-product-3-7883041-055436211happily, it was a fairly straight-forward trouser to copy.  it has a very straight leg, and once i wrapped my mind around copying the back leg (a tad bit more involved than copying the front leg) i was totally in business.

IMG_1293.JPGnone of this would have been possible without the work i’ve done with kenneth king, both in-person and using his jean-ius class on craftsy.  the craftsy class is essentially a demonstration of his garment-copying method using a trouser (or a jean) as the base garment.  (cindy has made a shirt for her husband using similar techniques by lynda maynard)  instead of de-constructing a garment for pattern pieces, you trace out the grainlines and seamlines of each piece using thick embroidery thread, and transfer those markings to paper (or muslin) to make a pattern draft.

it’s easier than it sounds, i promise.  clio has also done it with excellent results.  she also shares my opinion that kenneth’s fly-front method should be a go-to.  first try, every time – and this weekend i did three in a row on three more pairs of these babies.

IMG_1295.JPGi knew from the outset that i wanted my trial version of the draft – it really came out too well to call it a wearable muslin – to be in a stretch cammo.  it has, perhaps, a bit too much stretch, and man, that cammo really does blend into my rock wall, no?

the crotch fit is perfect (key!!), and i used kenneth’s straight waistband technique.  this involves utilizing the crossgrain of the fabric to give the waistband some shape without using a contour waistband or interfacing.

the back yoke, alas, stretched, probably because it is slightly curved.  that bias, plus the stretch of the cammo, means that i will likely need to suck it up and add belt loops.  (insert sadface)

i had a heck of an adventure with my topstitching.  my little janome, which i keep as a backup machine, had all kinds of tension fun as i used the topstitching thread in the needle and regular thread in the bobbin.  there was much re-stitching of seams as i worked out the issues, but in the end i got a beautiful, thick flat-felled seam that i think is a bit reminiscent of early day true religion jeans.

1000x1000everything has a 1-inch seam allowance, which gave me plenty of room for a generous flat-fell and some insurance for any fitting issues.  like i said, the fit is fairly bang-on and any future variations on that front will likely be dependent on the stretch content of the denim.  i’m working on a series now with only 2% lycra and the fit is considerably tighter.

IMG_1294.JPGany other jean-iuses out there?

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crescent moon power, make-up!

because, look, i can be one of the cool geeks making stuff out of awesome sheets too.

IMG_5826it will likely surprise NO ONE reading this that i once owned a set of sailor moon bedsheets, in the late nineties and early aughts. i even had a set in my freshman dorm room, and not ironically. count me in as the kid in the hall who had all of her identity up on the wall for all to see: CDs and books neatly stacked on a small shelf, photographs and snapshots (and movie posters, god help me, the movie posters…) on the floor-to-ceiling corkboard, twinkly lights wrapped around the wardrobe and keith haring chalkboard in place of a dry-erase on the dorm door.


and lest anyone wonder if i had any, you know, actual friends in college, allow me to point out that i was the only kid on the hall with cable and a VHS player. people LOVED me.*

*actually, though, my freshman hall was pretty awesome – exactly the land of misfit toys that a college freshman dorm should be, with all of the wacky hijinks that such a mixture should encourage. see also: midnight ultimate frisbee, 4am pizza parties, 5pm group dinner followed by 2am pizza delivery, et al.  also, i went to college in the blissful time of napster and AIM away messages.  NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!

umm….right. so anyway, allow me to (over)share my sailor moon sheet crescent top. unlike my later iterations, this one i did up pretty properly with bias binding and all. i had a rough go of the bindings on such tiny seam allowances, and i definitely forgot to install the collar and had to go back, unpick the binding and shoulder seam, insert the collar, re-seam, re-bind…

but seeing the finished version in all of its glory, paired with its matching rite of spring shorts and a wraparound skirt for the playsuit look, i sort of wish i had finished my subsequent versions the old-fashioned way instead of via serger. something about the open shoulder looks cleaner (even though it does indeed pull a bit) with the binding instead of merely a turned-under serged edge.


and the collar is a fun touch. without it, i do not think my un-ironic sailor moon sheets would be as effective a fashion fabric.


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simplicity 2192: i promise that no muppets were harmed in the making of this garment

i swear that it is oona’s fault.

have i ever told you guys (excuse me, gudes) this story?  the story of the terrible influence we have on each other sometimes when we shop?  classic examples include clio buying ewok fur; suzanne and susan teaching oona about sequined bomber jackets, and my obsession with muppet fur.


the muppet thing actually goes back, i think, as far as the “oona does it” days on the sew weekly and the very first new-york-based meetup.  now, i could be making this up – memory does play tricks – but i think the way the story goes is that me, oona and nettie were giggling over a bolt of something on 39th street and attempted to dare oona to make something out of muppet fur.

and yet, all these years later, how am i the one that followed through?



seriously, sometimes i am just too easy.  the pattern is simplicity 2192, from the cynthia rowley collection.  i swear, these patterns come about as close to perfect-out-of-the-packet as possible for me.  they’re cute but not cutesy, and modern without trying too hard, and just have a vibe that i find very easy to incorporate into my vision.

this sweatshirt was a cinch to make up.  front, back, sleeves and facings.  i didn’t even do my usual tweaks to the sweatshirt (i.e., shortening it a bit, re-shaping the sides) because i wanted the slightly-boxy-oversized look.

that said, facings were a mistake with this fabric.  TOO MUCH BULK.  alas, we live and learn and wear it anyway.

(also, i just now noticed from the fashion drawing as i pasted the image in that the facings were meant to be attached on the outside as a design feature.  RTFM, much?  sheesh.)


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vintage simplicity playsuits for the end of the summer

gudes*, let’s get real.  summer’s over (in the northern hemisphere), the wind is starting to smell like fall.  days are shorter.  the world is (yet again) going to hell in a handbasket.  and this past weekend was the two-year anniversary of a huge personal challenge.

i am not in an awesome place this week.  i’m not gonna lie.  so i’ll just post some fun end-of-summer outfits i finished just in time for a summer vacation weekend in california.


(and watch some buffy the vampire slayer.  obvi.  maybe read some really trashy sailor moon fan-fiction?  wait, did i just admit that out loud?)


these are both 1930’s-era simplicity playsuit patterns and can i tell you how much i love them?  they were beyond perfect for beach-strolling.  and high-waisted shorts!  awesome!


the skirts are identical and i used two different shorts patterns.  keep an eye on the pleated pair; i have a new set nearly ready (#missionarea51, much?) in some liberty of london wool from NY-Lon.


i think i just need to hole up for some quiet time with the new bernina.  i have jean-ius to accomplish!  and drapey rayon challis trousers? and a list a mile long of UFOs!


and buffy.  let us not forget buffy.


* i am reliably informed that this is how the cool kids are referring to their “girl dude” friends 🙂

so, yeah, this really happened to me.


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