Fiesta Fun Fabrics Romper for Summer

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I first met Dana through a benefit auction online.  I offered up one of the dresses I used to design, and she was the second bidder–outbid by a dollar.  And we bonded over how, in a benefit/charity situation, maybe our goal shouldn’t be winning the auction by the least amount possible, because maybe the goal isn’t winning the auction, but rather making an impact and the “winning” is icing on top.  We became fast friends.

I love that Dana has the biggest, biggest heart.  She is exactly the person in real life that she is on the internet: she’s enthusiastic and humble and hilariously funny and sincere and generous and supportive and kind, and she doesn’t take herself too seriously.  She is a legitimate joy to be around, and really, you guys, when you’re with her you feel better about who YOU are, and it makes me want to be like her every day.  I just think she’s an awesome human being.

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And not to stretch a comparison, but I honestly think her fabric designs look JUST LIKE HER.  They’re bright, and fun, and cheerful.  They exude joy and whimsy, but with style and clean lines.  They’re engaging and light-hearted, but they’re still stylish and modern.  Her new line, Fiesta Fun from Art Gallery Fabrics, does for me exactly what Dana says she was going for: it invokes the mood and flavor of Mexico, in a bright and sophisticated way.  So when she offered to send me some, I seriously didn’t even hesitate.  It was like buying concert tickets, or finding a really cheap price on an airfare: I clicked so fast I got carpal tunnel.

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I was initially tempted to snag the Mexican Dress print in the morning colorway–gah, I love it so much, it totally reminds me of embroidered Mexican tunic tops.  Plus, it comes in a heavier canvas weight, and wouldn’t it make the best Moss Skirt or pair of swanky summer shorts??  I was envisioning myself wearing it to Disney and feeling very Southern California and summery.

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It’s also a miracle I didn’t choose the Citrus Sunrise print, because it is widely known that LEMON IS MY FAVORITE FLAVOR OF EVERYTHING, and I find citrus prints (and colors) very difficult to resist.  (As a matter of fact, I literally just remembered that I have all cut out and stored in a gallon ziploc an entire quilt of lemon/lime/orange prints with solids, and have completely forgotten it on the back of my shelf.  Which illustrates my point about the citrus, but really has very little to do with this post.)

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In the end, I asked her to send me the Mexican Dress print in the midnight colorway, because–wait for it–IT COMES IN KNIT.  And this is the butteriest, BUTTERIEST jersey knit you ever did see.  It’s just the softest thing.  It has a good weight to it, and drapes really nicely, and it is pleasingly thick without being THICK, if you know what I mean.  It feels healthy hefty, but not stiff or beefy.  It’s a seriously dreamy fabric, and the print is so, so good.

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I initially thought I’d make a tee shirt for myself.  But this color is one of my daughter’s favorites, the color that she drags me over to see at an art festival when she discovers a painting or photo or scarf and she wants to show me EXACTLY THE COLOR SHE’S TALKING ABOUT.  So it was a natural that I’d want to make something for her, something I knew she’d wear and love, love, love.

This cotton jersey is absurdly soft, but it’s also 5% Spandex, so it has good recovery.  Rather than make her a tank or a tee, I opted to make her something a little looser, where a close fit wasn’t terribly important, and she could have lots of movement and take advantage of how completely anything made from this fabric is going to feel like Secret Pajamas.

This is the Linville Romper pattern, which is really designed for a woven fabric, like a lawn.  In the knit, I went with a size 10, even though she’s between the 10 and the 12 in most things.  I wanted to avoid the danger of this drapey fabric hanging on her, and since she is generally super modest, I was concerned that the larger size would leave the neckline too low for her comfort.  So the smaller size it is (this is, in a lot of cases, a safe strategy if you want to experiment with sewing up a pattern intended for a woven in a knit: move down a single size to allow for the added stretch and different drape of the knit).

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The pattern has a ton of options, but I definitely wanted the shorts romper with the sleeves.  This print demanded a summery outfit, and I can’t even talk about how completely it fit the bill.  The sleeves went in without a hitch, and I only made a few small alterations because of the change in fabric.  For the neckline, instead of facing it with bias tape as the pattern instructs, I made a simple neckline like I do on all my tees: cut a strip of knit crosswise that’s 10% SHORTER than the total neckline circumference, measuring 2″ wide.  Sew the short ends together with a 1/4″ seam, then fold in half wrong sides together.  Mark center front, center back, and the two sides (halfway between center front and center back), and match those to the same points on the neckline.  Sew right sides together, stretching the neckband slightly as you sew, then flip and press to the inside.  Topstitch with a stretch stitch and MAGIC!  Perfect tee neckline.  This one got some steam after, and it lays beautifully flat.

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The keyhole opening at the back is from the original pattern, and it’s such a great detail.  For the oldest girls (the pattern goes through size 16), I think this opening should be made higher–the bottom of the curve would for sure show a bra strap in the back (we’re ALMOST to the point of getting our girl her first Yellowberry, but her dad and I are holding tight to one another and trying to treasure these last little girls years a liiiiiittle longer).

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At the top of the opening, the instructions would have you place a button on the right and a thread loop or elastic on the left, but I had a bunch of KAM Snaps sitting in my drawer, and the color was a perfect match, so I thought, why not?  KAM Snaps are flat on each side, so there’s nothing to catch those baby-fine hairs at the back of her neck, and they’re made from high-grade plastic, so they don’t get cold.  They went in EASY EASY, and are super snug and firm, so there’s no danger they’ll pop open.  Much simpler and quicker solution to a closure–I was tempted to omit the closure altogether and simply extend the neckband around the entire opening, like a bridge that holds the keyhole closed at the top, if that makes sense?  But I realized that a tee shirt-sized neckline wouldn’t give her enough room to pull the romper on and off, so it really needed a functional closure, even in the knit.  The snap is perfect.

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Before it was even off the machine she was jumping with excitement and asking over and over and OVER, “IS IT DONE YET?”  I swear, I’ve never mastered my aversion to sewing a hem as fast as I did on this project for her.  She loves the color and the print, and she loves that it’s a romper.  The hem on the shorts is a basic twin needle stitch.  I finished off the lower edge with a serger first, then turned and pressed it under with some steam to hold it before stitching directly over the serger stitches with a double needle in matching thread.  Lots of stretch and movement, no popped stitches, and it looks super profesh.

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On the sleeves, the hem is identical to the technique used for the neckline, except that the length of the binding strip is the same as the sleeve circumference–the 10% deduction at the neckline allows for recovery after being stretched out, so there’s no gaping or sagging, but that’s not really necessary here, and I was tired of doing math.  I think the sleeves look a little more finished and have more POP with the little banded hem.

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You can see from these photos just how much movement she has in this romper–for reals, I don’t think I could have dreamed up a better match between fabric and pattern.  The waistline allows for an optional drawstring in addition to elastic, which I would absolutely do in a woven, but with this knit, I wanted easy, easy, easy fitting and play.  So just the basic elastic waist, which gives her a huge range of motion.

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But at the same time, she looks very polished and…well, GROOMED.  I mean, how many of us get out of the house and look over to realize our children are wearing clothes that may very well have been picked up from a pile on their floor??  In this romper, she looks like she got dressed ON PURPOSE.  Which makes her look a little too grown up, but c’est la vie.

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I think a big part of the success of the outfit is the fabric.  It’s such a clean, sophisticated take on the Mexican embroidered motif.  I love, love this color on her–somehow, it’s both updated and modern, but still age-appropriate.  She looks groomed, but also like a little girl.  That’s such a tough balance to find, and I suspect all of us know that the clothes in the shops for girls this age AREN’T FINDING IT.  Dana gets it, obviously, with two girls at home, and I love that she has designed fabrics that are playful and vibrant but that are also sophisticated and wearable.

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Our girl absolutely did not want to take this romper off.  She said over and over, “Mom, it’s so soft!  Mom, it’s so pretty!”  We both love the quality of the jersey fabric, and I was impressed by how well it washed up.  I did launder it twice before sewing, which I do with all my knits–it’s not at all unusual for a good quality jersey to shrink as much as 20% when laundered and tumble-dried, so I like to run the yardage through twice before cutting and sewing.  There was zero fading in the print, and the color is so vibrant.  And honestly, I think it even got SOFTER in the wash, so this is officially her New Summer Outfit.

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Also: pockets???  Yes, please!

You can find Dana’s entire collection at Hawthorne Threads and The Village Haberdashery in quilt-weight cottons, canvas, and knits–and at lots of local independent fabric shops.  You can also see some of the other insanely good projects folks have sewn up with these fabrics on Instagram under #fiestafunfabrics, and view the whole collection at Art Gallery Fabrics.

Thanks, Dana, for letting me play with your stuff!!  Hit it out of the park on this one, lady. xo

Last Chance to Find Your Sewing Buddy for 2017!

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TODAY is the final day to register for the 2017 Sewing Buddy Project!  After nearly a decade and over 1000 sewing friends matched, the Project is here to find you your perfect sewing pen pal!  A one-time fee gets you hand-matched to another sewing enthusiast for a year of sewing prompts, chances to connect, and the kind support of someone who really GETS you.

Already registered?  Don’t forget to log on to your account and visit the main group page to complete the Google doc with your information in order to be matched!  Matches will be emailed directly to your inbox by Feb 2, 2017.  I can’t wait to introduce you to your new sewing best friend!

Find Your Best Sewing Friend: The Sewing Buddy Project

sewing-buddy-button-2017At the beginning of 2010, I sent out a quick survey to see what it is that most of us see as the reason we aren’t able to successfully get our sewing goals met each year.  Is it time?  Or how much space we have to work in?  Is it lack of accountability?  Or something else?  The answers were varied and came from all over the globe, and I was fascinated to see what everyone had to say–and even more fascinated to know how many of us are having the same experience, despite very different backgrounds!

The results of the survey said that all of us had some goals to meet–goals we’d been sadly ignoring in years past.  Some of them were expected, and others were a surprise–not all of us felt the same way about every aspect of our goals and obstacles, but there was a lot of overlap in the answers.  Want to see my super-scientific-I-have-a-social-sciences-degree analysis of the answers that were submitted?  Here ya go!

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Make This The Year You Sew Your Own Wardrobe: The League of Adventurous Dressmakers

Years ago, before I started Whipstitch, I was a schoolteacher.  Schoolteachers are not, as a cultural group, widely known for their fashion sense.  For the most part, I suspect I dressed like a sad librarian.  I know this because the most common days on which I received compliments from my students for looking “nice” were the days when I DIDN’T get dressed by choosing the top thing from the unfolded pile of clothing and instead ironed something that had been in the closet.  Short version: I didn’t dress like I cared all that much about how I dressed.

But that wasn’t a wholly accurate reflection of how I felt on the inside.  In point of fact, I cared a great deal about how my clothing fit and looked.  I was (and remain) particularly focused on silhouette, and in how garments work together to create a pleasing whole when layered and combined.  Most of my inspiration came from magazines and window shopping–this was before the internet, so I couldn’t Pin my ideas or create a virtual inspiration board.  Instead, I tore sheets from fashion magazines and made literal, actual, old-school bulletin boards of looks and colors that I loved, that I felt reflected on the outside how I saw myself on the inside.

A teacher’s salary, though, wasn’t really up to the price tag of my taste level.  Most of the clothes that I admired were far beyond my reach financially.

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The Murder Mystery Quilt and The League of Adventurous Dressmakers: BACK FOR 2017!

This past year has been one of the happiest, most rewarding years I have ever spent sewing, and that is down to a single factor: the people I spent it with.  I made the decision almost exactly one year ago that I was going to focus on two groups in 2016: The Murder Mystery Quilt and The League of Adventurous Dressmakers.  The first has been a pet dream of mine for ages, because who doesn’t love a mystery??  The second was a passion project, born directly out of my desire to sew better clothing with people who love to learn.

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The End of the Stash

I wore my Driftless Cardigan–photograph below from Instagram, and yet another garment I have yet to blog about because I’m too busy wearing it–this morning, and a friend asked if I had made it.  And what I told her is this weird revelation that I’ve been having over and over, and that feels so obvious that I keep doing a double-take, because how have I failed to see the truth of this so many times?  It is this: I wear the clothes most that I like most.

navy Driftless Cardigan | Whipstitch

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Do I Really HAVE to Block My Knitting?

It is finished!  My amazing yellow yellow merino-and-silk sweater is all done.

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Well, finished depending on whom you ask.  Seems like nearly all the knitting sites I’ve seen say it isn’t really finished until I block it.  Which appears to involve soaking it and laying it out to dry, and if I understand it right, will make the fibers fluff up and then hold the shape better?

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#aggressivelyambitious and the Handmade Wardrobe

I did a personality profile recently.  Not like an online quiz kind of thing, but like a detailed personality assessment with a 39-page analysis and a person-to-person de-brief with the consultant.

It was so, so fun.birkman pages

I mean that completely un-ironically.  I LOVE test-taking.  LOVE IT.  Always have.  I would get all a-twitter on days when we had standardized testing, I thought it was like a treat, like Christmas coming early and ALL FOR ME.  I thought the PSAT was a PARTY.  (Side note: I am not normal.  I embrace and delight in this.  My personality profile told me so.)

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Supertote Backpack with Leather Handles

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I have never made a bag I liked nearly as much as this bag.  It is possible I have never OWNED a bag I like nearly as much as this bag–and I am deeply emotionally attached to my yellow full-grain pebbled leather Ralph Lauren satchel with brass hardware, so that’s saying something.  This is the Supertote pattern from Anna of Noodlehead, which I originally bought thinking it would be a great shape for a ballet bag for my girls (spoiler: it will be), but then realized would also make a great backpack for me for our upcoming family travels.  BOOM.

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Jen Aniston tailors her tees: Fit is Fabulous

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One of the most revolutionary “Hollywood secrets of the stars” I’ve ever read (well, maybe the ONLY one) was the interview where Jennifer Aniston was asked where she gets such flattering tee shirts. Instead of directing people to a $300 tee (like Gwyneth, bless her heart), probably made by an 8yo in China who wasn’t getting an education, Aniston admitted, “The trick to t-shirts is I that I usually tailor them. Which is silly, but it works.”

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