Sew the Kimono Look – Simplicity 1318 

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If you’ve abandoned your sewing machine to visit the alluring aisle of your favorite retail haunt, you’ve probably seen a kimono or two on display. I first noticed this fun trend, when we visited San Diego this Spring. Kimonos were everywhere, worn over cut-offs, shorts, jeans, even over short dresses. The look seemed easy-to-wear and I liked the lightweight fabrics in prints and solids. In short, sign me up!
For inspiration, here’s one by Herve Leger.
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And another. Love the fabric combo here!
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I like how that one’s belted.
Maybe I’ll make a belt for mine.
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Pattern: I used Simplicity 1318, a very ‘easy-to-sew’ pattern with trim and hi-low hem options. From cut to finish, it took only two hours. Other great pattern options: Butterick 6176 or Vogue 9115. 
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Fabric: Simplicity suggests using lightweight woven fabrics with drape for this pattern. I used a cotton lawn with a border print that I found at Mill End. I think it would be great out of a silky fabric as well.
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Modifications: The pattern includes lots of sizes, ranging from  XXS – XXL. I cut a small which fit, but I did have to adjust for my narrow back. If I make another kimono, I will go a size down as the pattern is so loose-fitting. I’d like it to hang open a bit more in the front.
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Challenges: Because I used a border print, I had to figure out how to lay the pattern on the fabric to capture the border trim most effectively. This was tricky and at one point, I headed back to the fabric store to buy more. Lesson learned! Do not be cheap. Buy more! Tip: If you’re using a border print, buy an extra half yard (at least) to give yourself some wiggle room.
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Do I recommend this pattern?  Yes!!  It’s super easy and I love how you can fiddle around with it to create your own look with a fun fabric. Because it’s summer, I’m definitely into patterns that offer instant gratification and this one fits the bill.  There’s nothing tricky about the techniques required, and you can whip it up in an afternoon. I might try it again in a silkier fabric with contrast bands.
Stay cool! And thanks for stopping by.

Kimono sleeves or bell sleeves? That is the question!

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For months, I was sure the sleeves on this top were called ‘kimono sleeves’ until I was corrected by a clerk in a local fabric store. “No,” she insisted. “Those are NOT kimono sleeves. Kimono sleeves are cut as part of the bodice. Those are definitely bell sleeves.”

Really? I was doubtful. But, well, yes. According to the Craftsy website, she was 100% correct. Bell sleeves are are always narrow at the shoulder, wide at the bottom and they are never cut as part of the bodice. Live and learn.
For me, the Bell sleeves are the major attraction of this otherwise simple top.
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I fell in love with those fun sleeves all over again this Spring, when I noticed them in the Chanel resort collection.
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And this is by Oscar de la Renta….
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 I’ve been a bit obsessed ever since for reasons I can’t explain. Perhaps, it’s because they’re a bit retro?
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Or is because they’re so comfortable? Who knows?
I used Butterick 6175 for my bell sleeved top, a semi fitted pullover top with sleeve variations.
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Since the top has a very simple design, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to use a not-so-simple fabric. So, I chose a Japanese border print I had in my stash. It has a large floral design as the main motif, with a contrasting (but subtle) checkered print as the border. I cut  the bodice from the flowered motif and the sleeves from the checkered border.
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The tricky part was laying the pattern out in a way that captured the directional focus of the floral print. Because the pattern’s ‘repeat’ is widely spaced, it was a bit tricky, since I’d purchased a (very) scant yard and a quarter (when will I learn to buy a little extra to be on the safe side?). I also wanted some pattern at the neck for interest.
After struggling for well over an hour to get it right, I decided, I’d had enough torture for one day. So, I simplified things and made the liberating decision to cut the sleeves from the contrasting border print, which didn’t have a pattern repeat to contend with.
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 I made one slight variation to the pattern. I skipped the back neck line slit, as I am not a fan of that look and used a short zipper in the back instead.
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The construction of the top was easy. But do I like the finished product? Hmmmm.  I’m not altogether sure. In hindsight, a boxy, cropped top probably isn’t the best choice for a short-waisted girl like me.  But I do like the fabric, so I’ll probably wear this top, anyway. I guess I could always add a couple of eyelash darts to the back to give it a bit more shape (?). Regardless, the project was worth the effort as I learned a lot from the challenges posed by choosing a fabric that has a one way print with a repeating pattern. Next time (if there is a next time) I vow to buy way more fabric than I think I need!!  And, I do love those sleeves!
How do you modify patterns to make them less boxy? Or do you just skip the look? Thanks for stopping by!

Dress or tunic? That is the question!

My latest sewing project is having a bit of an identity crisis. It’s a bit too short to be called a dress, but a bit too long to be called a top. In spite of this, I have to call it something to blog about it. So, I’m going to call it a dress. In fact, to be specific, it’s a Little White Dress (LWD), my second one, a trend in my sewing that’s bit surprising since white is definitely not my color.

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I blame this garment’s identity crises on the fact that it was made from unrelated pieces of linen, found in my large, unwieldy fabric stash.
I don’t know about you, but my stash’s girth issues are a direct consequence of my frequent visits to the irresistible remnant selection of my local fabric store. There are so many gorgeous pieces there, all priced to sell, usually at about 50% of  retail. How can one resist?
 But here’s the problem with that. The down side of these ‘economical’ purchases is that, inevitably, finding ways to use the remnants is a challenge. These pieces of gorgeous fabric may be cheap, but they’re often less than a yard. But as my mind registers this fact, my heart says, “It’s not too small!! Go ahead. Buy it. There’s enough fabric here to make…..something!!”
Remnants are such teases.
My latest LWD is made from those remnants; a half yard of graphic print linen and 3/4 yard of white linen. Alone, neither was enough to cover much of…anything! But together, they became a dress.
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 I used one of my favorite basic patterns, Vogue 8840, (see it also here, and here) a tunic top with dropped shoulders, a round neckline, and a front and back center seam. This pattern is a favorite because it’s so easy to modify. With its center back and front seams, it’s also easy to adjust to fit my narrow shoulders.
I used the pattern as designed with one modification. I added a long but narrow eyelash dart to both sides of the back. This was necessary to give the pattern a bit of taper at the waist, a must because this particular piece of white linen was a bit stiff.
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After cutting the main tunic from the white fabric, I cut a ten inch border from my print, making it the same width as the tunic and sewed it to the bottom of the tunic, converting it into a dress (?). Of course,  I could have made it a bit longer if I’d had a little more fabric, (and who’s fault is that?). I did the same thing to add a border to the sleeves, which gave them a bit more body and finish. I also top stitched both sides of the front and back center seams for interest.
I love this pattern. Because the sleeves are cut as part of the dress, it’s easy and fast to sew. The neck is finished with seam binding, also super fast and easy.
But, even though this pattern is simple, the project wasn’t boring at all. I enjoy simple patterns because they give you room to add something. This time, adding the border was the fun part of the project. Also, because the top is so basic, I had fun shaping it with my own well placed darts.
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Here’s my finished remnant creation! Even as I look at it now, I’m not sure what it is, though. A dress, a tunic…who knows? But that’s what happens when you do the remnant shuffle right? Maybe, it’ll be a long top until Summer, when the hot temperatures will make it the perfect dress. And yes, it’s wrinkled and always will be. But that’s okay! I give wrinkles a free pass when they’re on wonderful, beautiful linen!!
What about you? Do you find the remnant section enticing? What do you do with those lovely, but strangely sized pieces?