New Year, New Wardrobe: Week Two

Welcome to week two of New Year, New Wardrobe! This week I'm tackling color palette before briefly touching on what I currently have in my handmade closet.

I have a pretty good idea of what colors I want to focus on for this year's sewing. Using a combination of my mood boards from last week, the colors I know I enjoy wearing and feel good in, and the colors that are suggested for my coloring (I'm a soft autumn--cheesy, yes, but effective), here's what I came up with:

neutral colors (to support and balance the other colors): white/cream, nude, camel, navy
core colors (the essence of your style, the color you love to wear): ballet pink, coral
accent colors (add variety): pale blue, lavender, hunter green
(categories from the Curated Closet)

As far as patterns go, I'm not too much of a prints person--just look at my archives! I much prefer a bold statement color or a wonderful texture to a wild print. The exceptions are anything leopard, a classic navy and white or cream stripe, and a beautiful floral, about which I can be super picky.

I have been working on narrowing down this color palette for the past few months, which I think is reflected in recent posts. One secret I'll let you in on: having a restricted palette makes fabric shopping much simpler--it's easier to resist impulse purchases! It also makes getting dressed a bit easier, since most things match. I saw somewhere that any three swatches of your color palette should be easily worn together, and I think I've accomplished that. For example:

navy, blue, cream/white  camel, blue, pink  cream/white, camel, navy  camel, coral, lavender

camel, coral, pink  camel, hunter, pink  cream/white, pink, camel  pink, cream/white, coral

As for what's already in my closet... anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that I love pink. I have lots of pink items, in shades from palest pink to bright coral, and in shapes from statement coats to full skirted dresses to floaty little minis. I feel good in pink, I feel pretty, and I feel most like myself. I also have a lot of navy (in solids and florals and stripes). I have a few white, cream, and camel pieces, but I think this is where my closet is currently lacking. Fortunately, I do have some camel and cream fabric in my stash, waiting to be made into clothes... I just can't keep getting distracted by new pinks!

Recently I've been trying to pull these colors from my closet when getting ready in the morning. I'll be posting some #ootds on instagram this coming week with this in mind, so be sure to follow me over there and if you're posting outfits in your colors or silhouettes, use #newyearnewwardrobe so I can see what you're up to!


ps: you may notice i'm ignoring through this whole process all things black--and my alternate nighttime persona, which has a whole board dedicated to it. we'll dip briefly into this in february, i promise...

allie J.

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8 Patterns for Beginner Vintage Dressmakers

While working on the round-up of my 2016 vintage garments, I started thinking about getting started in vintage sewing. Two of my first ever makes were vintage dresses, so I've basically always been interested in vintage sewing and the 50s and 60s in particular. The whole reason I picked up a sewing machine was that I discovered I could buy a sewing pattern from 70 years ago for $10, and make a dress exactly like the expensive ones at the vintage store--but in my size. This was my introduction to sewing!! I was super lucky, though, to have a mom to teach me not only how to use a sewing machine, but also how to use a commercial pattern! 

I've rounded up a list of easily-accessible patterns that you should be able to find at any old JoAnn Fabrics, all but the first vintage reprints! These are archived patterns which pattern companies like Simplicity and McCall/Butterick/Vogue (all one company, did you know?) have started reprinting, so they're as authentic as you can get without using a real vintage pattern, which can often be hard to track down in a given size. (You can read my interview with Deborah Kreiling about Simplicity's Vintage line here!)  It's organized by increasing difficulty... but I know you can do whatever you set your mind to!

(Note: I see a lot of people who are used to indie PDFs struggle with patterns by Simplicity and MBV, but... that's really what you find when you're looking at true vintage patterns. Patterns from the 50s often have way fewer instructions than even modern "commercial" patterns. If you, like I was, are interested in sewing vintage but are overwhelmed by following a pattern, I really think learning a commercial pattern is your first step. There are indie pattern makers doing vintage, but if you want the actual vintage patterns, like on crumbly old paper, Simplicity/MBV is what you'll find, so it's worth it to use their repros and get used to their methods.

There's a reason you would have started with an apron if you took home ec sewing: view E of Simplicity 1934 will only require you to sew straight(-ish) lines if you leave off the sweet pockets, or try tackling the trimmed hearts for a challenge. This is a wonderful first project, and despite the fact that it's the only truly "modern" pattern on this list, it will look perfectly at home protecting your vintage dresses... once you've made them! 

One step up from an apron and solidly in the realm of "real clothes" is this 70s apron dress, Simplicity 8073. With a tie at the neck and in the back, it has a flexible fit and there are no fastenings to worry about if you're shy of buttons and zips. I love the center one in denim! You can always leave the pocket off if it looks too apron-ish to you.

Simplicity 1252 (above, in rose pink) and Simplicity 1609 (below, in hot pink) are similar "Jiffy" (meaning simple and quicker to make) shift dresses from the 60s, each "with two main pattern pieces" as the envelopes used to say--excluding facings, of course!

Both dresses have center back zippers, fisheye darts in back (darts that don't run off a seam, they start and finish in the middle of the pattern piece) and bust darts in the front, with 1609 having an additional set of darts in the front for a closer fit. As you can see by the difference in looks seen here, both are super versatile: make it in a bold print for a mod look or a solid suiting fabric for an office-appropriate jumper. 

If you want that 50s/60s cupcake look (as you know, my favorite silhouette ever) Butterick has a few entry-level options: Butterick 5748 (the blue one above) is a sleeveless dress with a scoop neck in front and back and a circle skirt. Butterick 6318 (in stripes, and my version in chambray here) has a center back zipper, a gathered skirt, and kimono sleeves, a type of sleeve that's connected to the bodice--no extra pattern pieces required! It also has a built-in sash which you can either use, or leave out for a more streamlined look.

These are both basic shapes that you can make over and over, changing the whole look by choosing different prints and textures of fabric! Both are rated easy by Butterick, both have darted bodices, and the most challenging thing being is inserting a zipper. 6318 also involves (lots of) gathering. It will be worth it for that skirt!

Simplicity 1059 is another "Jiffy" pattern, this time boasting "only three main pattern pieces" (front, back, and sleeve). Although this dress is easier to fit than the shift dresses or full-skirted dresses I chose, I've put it down here in the more advanced section because it will look best in a drapier fabric like a rayon challis, not a stable cotton. It also has optional set-in sleeves--but if they aren't eased in perfectly and have some gathers, it will still look great.

If you want to try your hand at outerwear, a cape like Simplicity 8017 provides a great introduction to coat making, but requires minimal fitting since it basically just drapes over your whole body. The trickiest part might be the collar, but you'll also need to either tackle buttons and button holes, or purchase some sew-in snaps for a sleek look.

I hope one of these eight patterns is inspiring you to sew vintage! If you're new to sewing (or sewing big 4 patterns), you can ease in with an apron and progress to the more complicated patterns. If you're just new to vintage, I challenge you to tackle one of the vintage reprints--

If you're already somewhat experienced in sewing, but a little reluctant to dive into vintage, you can also read my article on finding inspiration in vintage patterns--and applying them to modern patterns--here!


ps: this vogue pattern is the first vintage reprint pattern i made... it was not the best choice for a first dress project, but i wouldn't change it for anything! 

allie J.

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New Year, New Wardrobe: Week One

I mentioned Sunday that I was planning on doing something a little different, and here I am with a little four-part mini-series entitled "New Year, New Wardrobe"--just like this month's Social Sew. If you aren't a fan of introspective/wardrobe planning posts, you've been warned, but don't worry, I'll try and keep it short.

In the past few years, I've made big strides in becoming a more practical sewer. In addition to improving my sewing skills, I've also learned a lot about which shapes work with my body, and which fabrics work with those shapes (no more quilting cotton shift dresses!). Through all this, I've never sat down and really processed what sewing bloggers are probably familiar with as "Wardrobe Architect"-ure but most people would maybe call capsule wardrobe planning. I've taken some time this year and last year to think about gaps in my wardrobe, especially after Me Made May with all it's challenges, and now it feels like time to do something a little more structured. I'm borrowing from Wardrobe Architect, Five Piece French Wardrobe, The Curated Closet, and a bunch of random ideas gathered all over the place. Here's my schedule:

Week One: Introduction & Inspiration
Week Two: Colors (& my Current Closet)
Week Three: Silhouette & Shape
Week Four: Planning & Priorities

If you want to join me, I'll be posting some outfits and updates using the hashtag #newyearnewwardrobe and I'd love to see you there! So, there's my intro, now to the inspo. As my first step, I made some mood boards...

 all from pinterest

I feel like I see myself and my style reflected in these mood boards somewhat--the clothes reflect to some extent what I've been creating and sharing with you here--but in other ways, I definitely see these as aspirational! For one, I think these are a bit more retro than I tend to dress on a daily basis. That often comes down to hair and makeup, though--which is also something to think about!

The words I've picked for my overall look (and which you can see at the top as part of my series header) are:

feminine | classic | vintage | preppy | ladylike | polished

What do you think of my selection of words? Have you ever made a moodboard? If you want to play along, I'd love to see or hear about your style "mood" for the upcoming year... which words would you pick to describe your look?


ps: and a few "no thanks!" words a la erin: quirky, corporate, kitschy, trendy

allie J.

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5 Ways to Use Quilting Cotton (If You're Not a Quilter)

Thank you to Stash Builder Box for providing the supplies for this post.

I don't sew much with quilting-weight cotton. Although I used to make all my clothes with quilting cotton, now that I'm generally more confident in the success of my garments, I'm more willing to splash out a bit and pick up a fabric more suited to the garment, like a rayon challis for drape or a pretty seersucker for a summer dress. However, there are certain fabrics that you just have to have and that only come in quilting cotton (Sommer Plockade I'm looking at you). Here are five ways to use quilting cotton as a dressmaker!

1. Bias tape. Making pretty, special bias tape to finish your hems and enclose your seams is a wonderful way to use that fabric that you just can't leave on the shelf. All you need is a bias tape maker, a little tool which you can pick up cheaply on amazon or at JoAnn, and a tutorial on how to use it! This works well with small-scale prints, but also looks cool and abstract in a large floral, for example.

2. Pajamas. Although you probably can't squeeze a whole pajama set out of fat quarters without some creative piecing, the Stash Builder Box contains three full-yard cuts in coordinating prints, which was enough for me to make an Ogden Cami and a pair of Carolyn pajama shorts with a little bias trim! Mine contained three fabrics from Maureen Cracknell's Garden Dreamer collection for Art Gallery Fabrics which (obviously) go together perfectly, and anyone who's ever touched AGF's cotton knows it is soft, not stiff at all, and perfect for fun and comfortable pjs! It's a little bit cold to be wearing tank tops to sleep but I think Ogden and Carolyn will be my go-to summer pj set.

3. A full, gathered skirt.  This will always look great in a quilting cotton. (I used a quilting cotton from Sarah Jane's Sommer Collection for Michael Miller in my class on how to make a gathered skirt.) If you can find a border print, you're really in luck!

4. Children's clothing. I'm not much of a childrenswear sewer, but if you love quilting cotton, have some little ones in your life and do. not. quilt. some selfless sewing could be your answer! There are a lot of prints that are absolutely adorable and I know I won't wear them since (in my opinion) they're too childish for adult clothes--I'm always tempted to buy them just to have them. I obviously need to befriend some small children.

5. Whatever you want! Although I wouldn't recommend going after a bias cut 30s dress in this quilting cotton, I often make wearable muslins of my 60s dresses in printed quilting cotton, and guess what? They're called wearable for a reason. They look really cute, with a huge array of pretty patterns and prints suitable for day dresses. Some people swear off quilting cottons entirely as apparel sewers, but you really can make a lot of stuff using this oft-maligned weight... so go for it!

Do you use quilting cotton, or just stare longingly at them in all their variety? Would you consider a subscription to something like the Stash Builder Box as a non-quilter? How cute is the pencil--a new crafty phrase each month!


ps: the bias tape (#1) is extra cute as piping on your (#2) pajamas! :)

allie J.

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Silk Flounce Swing Dress (Simplicity 6820)

Ever since graduation, my college girlfriends and I have always gotten together for New Year's Eve, (dragging along our boyfriends, slowly turning into fiances and husbands). We all go somewhere and get a hotel room or rent a house--we've done Chicago, New York City, Raleigh, and this was our second time returning to a place we're all in love with, Charlottesville, VA. We generally get a bit too rowdy and have too much fun. St-Germain, gin, and champagne sent some of us to bed a bit early this year, but that just meant I was able to hop out of bed at 8 for a New Year's Day run (during which I rescued a lost dog, so there's my good deed for 2017), shower, and feel fairly presentable by 9:30. That never happened in college!

This year we were pretty casual, but of course I can't resist any excuse to make a party dress so I spent the last few days of 2016 making this, my first dress of 2017! It's my third dress from Simplicity 6820 from 1966 (see my leopard print one and my Rifle Paper Co. version). This time, I added a ruffle to the bottom and a lace overlay to the sleeves (leftovers from my wedding dress jacket "muslin"). It's super easy to add a ruffle like this to any dress or skirt you want: just cut it shorter and add a gathered rectangle the same length that you cut off (plus seam allowances). The fabric is a gorgeous silk my mom picked up for me in the remnants section of G Street Fabrics. It's heavy and more liquid than floaty--she thinks it might be triple-ply? This will be a dry-cleaning dress.

I couldn't resist stopping by the Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Universalist church for these pictures--it's where my husband Alex and I got married! Most UU halls are more modern-looking, but I love this one's traditional architecture, it's very Charlottesville. The prettiest Unitarian church ever is the one in Charleston, though! I could stare at that gorgeous lacework ceiling allll day.

It feels right to be starting off 2017 with a tried and true vintage pattern, since I really want to perfect my tried and trues and simplify a bit this year. I love making sewing resolutions, but more on this Friday! Are you resolving to do more sewing? Perhaps you are vintage pledging this year? I encourage everyone to try a vintage pattern. I'm biased, of course... but you really should.

Happy 2017, y'all, I can't wait to see what it has in store for us all!


ps: if you are UU (or curious!) i also have this instagram which i am resolving to update more frequently in 2017.

allie J.

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Social Sew #10: New Year, New Wardrobe

2017 is here and lets hope it better all-around than 2016, shall we? The new year is time to make a fresh start--even the Social Sew logo got a bit of a makeover! (and did you notice that my site changed color slightly? it's not your screen, it's my css!)

January's Social Sew theme is New Year, New Wardrobe.

If you've resolved to quit skipping your yoga class (like me) maybe a brand new handmade yoga top will give you the boost to make it to the studio, or maybe you just need to replace those old ratty tee shirts with some Carolyn sets? (I am--pop on back Thursday!)

Some rules: 
1. This is for adult apparel sewing, so no kids clothes or home decorating (unless specified otherwise in the theme).
2. Newly blogged garments, please: the things you add to the link up should be made or blogged in the month the link up is for. Remember, the theme and the link up are there to inspire you to create something new!
3.  Please click on the logo above to download it, and put it either in the post you are linking up, or in your sidebar. I'd also appreciate you linking to the Social Sew--the more people who discover it, the more participation we'll have, the more inspiration! Thanks, y'all.

An InLinkz Link-up

Upcoming themes:
January (this month): New Year, New Wardrobe
February: Date Night
March: TBD

And don't forget--if you'd like a mid-month Social Sew reminder (or you just want in on all the extras and fun I have planned), you can sign up for the allie J. newsletter! I'll be running the occasional subscribers-only giveaway and selling some of my vintage pattern collection as well as sharing progress shots. Sign up here by January 6th to receive the first newsletter of 2017:

Join the fun!

* indicates required


ps: i'm doing something a bit different as my part of this month's social sew, i hope you like it!

allie J.

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Holiday Glamour Social Sew Round Up!

Sequins and satin and velvet, oh my! Y'all outdid yourselves this month sewing up lots of glam handmades!

Katryna of Boots & Cats is in the spotlight this month with this gorgeous draped stretch velvet skirt (and cool pink hair). Such gorgeous fabric and she got it on clearance!! Be sure to check out her blog post for all the details!

Liz says her houndstooth cape is less glitzy, more English country house glam... and I couldn't agree more.

More pretty pink hair and an asymmetric tunic from Tenille's Thread.

Sew Luxy (a perfect name for this month, don't you think?) made a festive "Grinch-green" Christmas dress. Too funny!

Ashley's black sequin and satin dress is perfect for the season (and so her).

A luxe silk tank with just enough interesting detail from Nathalie Sews (who suggested this month's theme--thanks Nathalie!) She also used an interesting pleated fabric for a last-minute cocktail dress!

The Dress Bakery baked up a cute Christmas outfit with a red burda dress.

Seam Racer used a textural floral fabric to make a gorgeous vintage-inspired party dress.

Lassemista closed out the year in a copper lame dress drafted from her bodice block!

I loved seeing everyone's glamorous makes this month, from sequin cocktail dresses to houndstooth capes. Did you wear handmade to your holiday parties this year? As this posts, I'm trying to finish one last dress for a New Year's Eve party--it will be my last make of 2016 and my first completed item post of 2017! January's theme is New Year, New Wardrobe, and I for one am looking forward to a fresh start, what about you?


ps: if you have future theme suggestions, email them to hello at i'm always looking for new ones!

allie J.

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