The Please, No Wind Beneath My Wings Dress

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This is a franken-dress based on a bit of both the Burda Raglan Darted Dress (03/2015 #120B) and the Short Sleeve Maxi Dress (03/2015 #122). I used the hem length of the former pattern and the stretch jersey fabric and a pocket from the latter pattern.

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Yippeee! I love this dress!

I mail-ordered this Missoni-inspired jersey fabric from Mood back in February (but I just checked they seem to be sold out of it now). I don’t normally order from Mood because their shipping to Canada is too damn expensive, but I was taking a trip to visit my mom in Florida for her 80th birthday so I snuck a little cross-border online shopping into the deal. The fabric is super-soft and comfortable with great drape, like a favourite light-weight T-shirt. I found it *very* difficult to lay out and cut, as it was easy to distort the grain when laying it out, and the edges curled like a motherf*&^er. I only had 2 lousy yards to work with, and I had to make sure the stripes matched up. It was a feat of engineering, and when all was said and done I had about 4 square inches of fabric leftovers. Phew.

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As I discovered while shooting these photos on a blustery day, this dress is not suitable for windy conditions! Those side flaps are like the wings of a glider ready to take off in the breeze. I can just picture it: gust of wind on a city street, skirt wraps itself around my face while Bay Street financiers and overseas tourists try not to notice my ripped granny pants as I struggle to free myself and keep walking like nothing happened. Added to To Do list: buy decent pair of underwear to wear with this dress.

Pattern modifications:

  • I made the back hem a few inches longer than the front hem, but they actually look even when I’m wearing it…the extra length makes up for any junk in the trunk at the back (which is quite minimal in my case, but made a surprising difference before I altered it).
  • I added a neck band (the pattern calls for a facing instead), which I thought was going to be the death of me. I binge-watched YouTube videos on inserting a neck band before feeling confident enough to not fuck it up. It still took me three tries to get it right, and one of the tricky parts was getting the angle of the vee to be the same shape/angle as the zigzags of the fabric print.
  • I added a side seam pocket. (The maxi-dress version of this pattern has pockets while the woven-fabric version does not). I only added one pocket because one was all I could squeeze out of my limited fabric.
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See the seam down the back? ME NEITHER!!! Ok, I actually do see it, but I’m feeling pretty damn pleased with myself on the pattern-matching regardless. 🙂

I think this dress is worthy of space in my suitcase for my vacation in Italy this summer. Buying knock-off fabric of one of Italy’s great designers is, like, all pro-Italy, right? And the super-stretchiness of the material works for the fact that I am going to eat ALL. THE. FOOD. IN. ITALY. Sorry, Italians, it’s all going in my belly. You’ll have to make other arrangements for yourselves. I am learning crucial Italian phrases such as “Bongiorno, Io a fame” (hello I’m hungry), “Bongiorno Io vado a mangiare che!” (hello I’m going to eat that!), and “Per favore mi dia più cibo e poi mi danno gelato” (please give me more food and then give me gelato). I’m all set!

Burda dress

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M7099: Roomy Romper

“Romper” – there’s a word I didn’t think I’d have much use for in my adult life, but apparently they’re a thing again, so here we are. Here’s my rendering of McCall’s pattern 7099, Misses’ Romper and Jumpsuit, View A.

M7099 Romper

Look ma, no vaginas! Don’t be shocked — that’s a reference to the fact that there were vaginas all over this fabric that I didn’t notice until I got it home, draped it around myself, and looked in the mirror. It took some careful pattern placement to keep this garment PG-rated. Look below, see what I mean??

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I cut a size 6, but this is a VERY roomy pattern so I had to hack down the torso quite a bit to avoid drowning in it. I ended up taking it in one inch at each side seam, and folding the front bands in half because I felt a little too covered up at the front otherwise.

M7099 romper

Surprisingly, the shorts part of it are less roomy than you’d expect. I actually would’ve preferred a little more room in the front crotch to give it a bit more fullness at the front…just a personal preference. As it was, I ended up letting out the side seams of the shorts from the pocket to the hem by about 1/2 an inch to add a bit of width.

M7099 romper

These photos were shot on the first nice/warm day of Spring here in Toronto. The sunny appearance belies the fact that it was only 13 degrees and I was actually kinda freezing.

The pattern was quite easy to make…there are no zippers to install and simple gathering is probably the most challenging technique used in it.

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There’s a bit of weird pattern placement on my butt there, which I didn’t notice when I was cutting, but hey, at least there are no vajay-jays. And it’s much less weird than the woman I saw today wearing a patterned dress in which a single, dark coloured “x” was placed exactly where her — let’s use a polite euphemism here — ‘functional’ part of her rear end would be. It was a very attractive dress otherwise, but it was literally an “x”! I’m betting she forgot to check the back view in the change room before she purchased.

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I’m *lovin’* the pockets on this, and I’m lovin’ the fabric, which is a fantastic lightweight 4-way stretch with great drape. This is SUPER comfy. I did a slight modification on the fronts, inspired by Sew Wrong’s post on small bust adjustments to prevent gaping on wrap dresses. Of course I didn’t do it properly, seeing as I only thought of it *after* I had cut out the pieces, so although it’s a bit of a hack it still turned out alright. I’m still going to add a snap or two to secure the fronts together. If I sewed another one of these, and I just might, I would cut the shorts an inch or two longer. But maybe I’ll try the jumpsuit version next. I’ve seen a couple of versions of the jumpsuit on Pattern Review that used ponte knit or even scuba knit, but I’m having a hard time picturing how those would be drapey enough for this design. It’s designed to be quite loose fitting so I think a fabric with body and structure would be a bit awkward.

Overall I’m delighted with how this turned out, and I’m looking forward to taking it for a stroll on my vacation in Italy this summer. And good thing the elastic waistband has a lot of stretch, because I plan on doing an awful lot of eating and drinking while I’m there!

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Excuse me ma’am, there’s a little sumthn sumthn on your shirt

Notice anything unusual about this fabric? Look carefully. Or maybe not even that carefully.

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Yeah, that. I think it’s supposed to look like a knot in the wood grain. Alas, it calls to mind something else entirely.

I didn’t notice this when I bought the fabric…I was just excited about the ombré effect and the wood grain pattern. It wasn’t until I got it home and I stood draping it around myself in front of the full length mirror that I noticed a problem. In that moment, my pattern placement was, let’s say, bang-on.

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I’m bravely forging ahead regardless, making a romper using McCall’s 7099 — just placing the pattern pieces very carefully. I’ve got most of it sewn up and it should be ready for primetime after the usual hacking down by several sizes that seems to be a standard part of my sewing process. Details to come!

McCall's 7099 View A - Romper

McCall’s 7099 View A – Romper

Silver Clay Pendants: How I Make Them

This was my little fundraising project a couple of months ago when I was raising money for El Hogar, the organization I worked with when I brought my students to Honduras for a volunteering trip in February. They’re made of silver clay, and my wonderful friends stepped up to support the cause.

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My ‘customers’, or rather Facebook friends who put up with my fundraising statuses for a couple of months, could choose the shape (heart, circle, flower), size (large or small), font, and initial(s). One friend gave me an order for 10 different pendants, getting a lot of her family’s birthday shopping done for the year in one fell swoop. We were both glad she could accomplish this knowing all the proceeds would be supporting a great charity.

Silver clay pendant

If you’re not familiar with how metal clay works, it’s basically MAGIC. Silver clay can be manipulated pretty much like any other clay (you can roll it, shape it, texture it, carve it, etc.), then you let it dry out and fire it with a torch or in a kiln, and voilà — like medieval alchemy you suddenly have a silver piece. (Alright, it’s definitely more complex than that but you get the idea.)

Silver clay initial pendants

Here’s a brief explanation of how I make these pendants. I have left out a lot of detail that would be important if you’re trying to learn this on your own…if you want the long version, complete with explanation of tools and more detail on the procedures, feel free to get in touch, or check out some of the tutorials available online. I learned how to do this from Jenn at Metal Clay Atelier, who gives metal clay workshops in Oakville and Toronto; check out her website, too.

How to Make a Silver Clay Initial Pendant

Step 1: roll out the clay to desired thickness. With my hands lubricated with olive or coconut oil, I roll the clay into a ball then roll it on non-stick surface using an oiled rolling tool. I use Art Clay Silver but there are other brands of metal clay available as well.

Here's the ball of clay rolled out flat. The plastic slats at each side allow you to roll the clay out to a specific thickness.

Here’s the ball of clay rolled out flat. The plastic gauge slats at each side allow for rolling out the clay out to a specific thickness.

Step 2: Cut out the desired shape. You could use a knife or clay cutting tools to do this freehand but it’s easier and more precise to use a shape cutter like the one below.

Here I've used a flower shape cutter from XXXX. The edge of the cutter should be oiled with olive or coconut oil to prevent sticking.

Here I’ve used a flower shape cutter by Kemper Klay Kutters. (I like K’s as much as anyone but that’s a bit annoying.) The edge of the cutter should be oiled with olive or coconut oil to prevent sticking.

Klay Kutters

I have a variety of shape cutters in different sizes.

Step 3: Add a hole for the jump ring and stamp the initial.

I use a toothpick to create a hole for the jump ring

I use a toothpick to create a hole for the jump ring

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I have a selection of letter stamps that I use for the initials. The stamp must be well oiled.

Studio G alphabet stamp set

These are great, inexpensive stamp sets that come in different fonts to use on metal clay. I have found some at Michael’s as well as from suppliers on Etsy.

Step 4: Allow the piece to dry — it must be completely dry or it can crack during the firing proces

Silver clay pieces drying on a mug warmer

You can let the piece dry by leaving it overnight, or set it on a mug warmer as I have done here for about 30 minutes, depending on the size of the piece. I leave them on the non-stick sheet they were rolled out on so I don’t mar the wet clay by trying to lift and move it.

Step 5: Sand and refine the dried pieces. I use various nail files and sanding pads to make sure there are no rough edges, scratches, or irregularities. This is the stage where it’s important to make the piece as perfect as possible, because it’s much harder to file out scratches after it’s been fired and turned to solid metal. The dry clay is fragile at this stage, so care must be taken not to break it.

Metal clay sanding tools

Filing & sanding tools. I do all the sanding in this little plastic tray, so that I can collect the silver clay particles and reuse them — too precious to waste!

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I have a little manual drill bit to make sure the hole for the jump ring is uniform. It’s important to do this on a spongy surface (polishing pad) so as not to break the dry clay piece.

Step 6: fire the clay pieces. They can be fired in a kiln, but small pieces like these can also be fired with a butane hand torch. These pieces generally take about 2 minutes of steady, even heating, constantly moving the flame around so the piece doesn’t overheat and melt. I don’t have a picture of the firing process for you — sorry! I’m pretty sure it’s a big safety hazard to be wielding a blow torch and taking a picture at the same time. 🙂

Metal clay pieces on the firing block

The pieces on the firing block. The one on the left has been fired and the other two haven’t. You can see how the clay shrinks a bit during the firing process if you compare the size of the fired and unfired heart.

Step 7: Marvel at the magical alchemy! When the piece is cool, I use a brass brush and water to remove the white coating that formed during the firing and discover that the piece has turned to fine silver! This is *always* cool. I will never get tired of this moment.

Brushing away the white coating to reveal silver!

Brushing away the white coating to reveal silver!

Step 8: Polish the finished piece. I usually tumble the pieces to work-harden them, then I use emery papers and polishing papers to bring the piece to a shine. This is a boring part so I don’t have pictures. 🙂 I also apply a little silver-blackener (Jax) to the initials to darken them and give contrast.

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Ta-da! Some cute, customized silver clay necklaces.

It’s a time-consuming process but a lot of fun, and I managed to raise a good chunk of money to donate to a great cause. Win-win-win all around, I’d say!

Silver clay initial pendants