DIY: Super Simple Winter Kaftan

plaid wraps if you really hate sewing (but seriously this is so easy!)

I have a bunch of new projects coming up for blog tours and networks and stuff, but today I wanted to share with you a very simple project that I think is absolutely perfect for fall! I made this cozy popover out of a couple yards of this plaid washable wool (available in a bunch of different colorways) and it was a great afternoon project. (Skip to below the break for instructions!)

Inspired by the plaid kimono/poncho/wrap things I've been seeing these past few falls as well as by the classic 70s kaftan, this item (which I'm really not sure what to call--kaftan? poncho? I don't know) is as warm and snuggly as wearing a blanket but a little more put together since it is belted for waist definition! The belt shows on the front side, and then snugs around your waist, leaving the back of the garment hanging loose. It's basically this, but in plaid wool. Amazing how fabric choice affects the style of a garment, huh? ;)

I took my cozy blanket kaftan over to Perkin's Orchard, which is apparently Durham's oldest and largest fruit & vegetable stand. I'd somehow never been here despite it being crazy close to my house. It's very unassuming from the street, so I was surprised to find that they had a little pumpkin patch as well as mums, muscadine grapes, local honey and homemade jam, and $5 bags of apples. Very autumnal! The man who runs it (7 days a week) took over the family business at the age of ten and has been running it for about 12 years so I'll let you do the math on that one. He said they do all-you-can-dip chocolate fondue AND this year they will be expanding into Christmas trees and poinsettias so you can guess where I'll be spending all my time this fall and winter... and you'll probably be seeing some stereotypically wintry pictures when those trees come in! #shoplocalyall!

Do you have a go-to item on those days you really just want to wear your down comforter all day? I have an ancient and very pilly cardigan that I wear on days that I am feeling chilly and "CBA" as the Brits say, but I think this will be my new upgraded version. If you want to make your own, click to below the break for instructions!


ps: by the end of next week it's supposed to be back up to 80 degrees again :( ugh

Neon and Neutrals

Some more natural leather projects for you to break in just how you like (plus, luxe silk tanks):

I've been gushing over my Ogden tanks for a while now (see here), so I thought I'd take a couple quick snaps over the weekend. You may remember this skirt from the spring--it's tricky to match things with but this nude/blush tank goes nicely I think--the fabric is this silk crepe de chine from Mood in the "cream pink" color, although I also made it in "lavender fog." Wearing silk feels so lovely and since the pattern only calls for 1 yard, you may as well splash out on a $20/yard crepe de chine, right? (ps: this color is a bit sheer but the lavender one is less so. i would actually do a full lining rather than the half lining in a pale color but i think the more saturated colors would be totally opaque. mood has like 100 shades of this stuff so between all of us we can make them all into Ogdens, don't you think?) I made this pattern in a straight size with no alterations and I couldn't be happier.

My clutch is also handmade, not by me, but by my mom!! I sent her a link to this currently-unavailable clutch by Matine and after a trip to the leather store nearby she very (very) nicely made me one of my own! It's a natural, undyed leather, so it will take on a gorgeous patina over time, deepening from this pale nude color into a warm brown. I'll let her tell you a bit about the process:

"I am always up for a craft project so when Allie asked me if I could make a leather clutch purse for her I thought “sure, why not.” In all honesty I have been eyeing a leather sewing machine on Amazon for months and I just can’t justify spending the money.  I have sewn leather on my traditional household machine but have felt limited to sewing only thin leathers.  The timing couldn’t have been better because I had come to the decision that what I really wanted to do was learn how to hand sew leather.  I watched videos online, shopped at Tandy Leather and bought hardware online from The Buckle Guy.  After I gathered all of my supplies I practiced every step.  I made a paper template of the clutch shape and lightly traced it on to the vegetable tanned leather.  I cut the scalloped edge first and then away I went punching my holes and saddle stitching.  The entire process was pretty nerve racking.  One false move and it would just be junk.  Just like with items I sew I see all of the flaws with the clutch but overall I am happy with how it turned out."

Using a bit of the same leather, she also made my husband a strap for his watch. For his 30th birthday(!!) he had his heart set on a Timex watch with a leather strap and I just could not find one! DIY to the rescue--the Weekender watch has a slip-through band, so the strap is basically just a tiny belt that the watch itself slips onto. He loves it and we all agree it will be interesting to see how the leather ages--in the picture above, you can see how much color his belt has taken on, and that was the same color as the watch strap was when I bought it (about 5 years ago, I think).


ps: a silk tank for $20 and like, 2 hours max. y'all. make this now.

allie J.

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Snow Leopard Tunic (+ Giveaway!!)

I am a big fan of Sarah of Goodbye Valentino's "luxe preppy" handmade wardrobe. I followed along eagerly as she tweaked and tweaked her ideal tunic a while back, so I was excited last year when she announced she and co-author Julie Starr would be writing a book focused on tunics! I was even more excited when Julie emailed me to ask if I wanted to try it out. Um, yes!

I'm sure you've heard all this before, but The Tunic Bible provides one tunic bodice to which you can add various sleeves, necklines, and hem details to come up with about 72648 distinct looks. I love my tried-and-true patterns (see my million copies of Simplicity crop top and multiple versions of Simplicity 4475), so this seems like such a good idea to me! (My own book, were I asked to write one, would be a billion different variations on a fit and flare dress, in case you were wondering.)

It took a long time for me to narrow down what I wanted to make--I thought about going full tunic and making a blue and white Sail to Sable-inspired number--but eventually I decided I really wanted to stretch the limits of the book and go a little bit off track (as I am wont to do), making the dress-length option with the ruffled collar (from the book), elasticating the sleeves (not in the book), and adding a little black velvet tie at the neck since we've seen a lot of that on the runway recently. Why not, right?

I cut a size small, grading the hips to a medium, and I made it in this black-and-white animal print from imagine gnats which is super soft and drapey. It's not too visible in this unstructured fabric, but I definitely didn't need to grade up the hips. I'll certainly be making more tunics, and next time I'll start by making a muslin and using the fitting tips in the book, since I want to get the fit perfectly before I start with all the modifications!! Julie and Sarah said they've made a combined total of about 60 tunics of all diferent styles, and I still want to make a couple of more colorful tunics to wear with white jeans next spring/summer. (I guess I also need white jeans.)

My only critique is that there is only one bodice onto which all the various pieces are applied--so if it doesn't fit you how you'd like, you're left making a lot of alterations in order to use the pieces! They do have a section on making a muslin, but given how many sleeve/neck/etc options they included, it would have been nice to have included several bodice options, for example, a princess-seamed front bodice as well as the darted bodice provided. Overall, though, I love all the options and a tunic is a perfect "blank canvas" for adding your personal style. I mean, if you want to see how flexible this single pattern is, just look at all the wildly different makes on the Tunic Bible website and on the tour!!

October 3 C&T // Pattern Review 
October 6 allie J. // Thanks I Made Them 

If you're inspired to start sewing tunics, leave a comment telling me what type of tunic you would make below for a chance to win a copy of The Tunic Bible from C&T publishing. Super preppy? 70s boho? Edit: This giveaway is now closed.


ps: these pictures were taken at our local science museum--they have these wonderful outdoor installations, this one is called Sweetgum Thicket.

allie J.

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Inspiration: The Try Something New Social Sew

While I've been attempting to use every Social Sew to try something new (my first bathing suit and my trench coat being the stand outs), this month is the first to be specifically dedicated to trying new things! Like last month's "Tried and True," this is totally dependent on you and what you decide it means to "Try Something New"... whether it's a fabric you've never used, a technique you've wanted to tackle, or a garment that's sadly lacking in your handmade wardrobe.

Remember, my main goal is designing the Social Sew link-up was to make the theme narrow enough that someone unsure of what to make next could find some guidance, but broad enough that someone with sewing plans could find a way to make their pieces fit. If you're a bit stumped on what to make for this month's theme let me suggest...

A pair of jeans (jeans!!): I feel like you've really made it once you can make jeans, you know?
Patterns: Liana, Birkin, Morgan, Safran, Ginger... there are jeans patterns sprouting up all over the place! Or try the pared-down Mia jeans from Sew Over It's new capsule wardrobe book.

A floaty, drapey top, skirt, or dress (in a gorgeous but tricky fabric): Since branching out from quilting-type cottons, my sewing world has expanded dramatically. I've tackled rayons, silk/cotton blends, and even a couple silk crepe Ogdens, but haven't quite made it to chiffon and charmeuse quite yet. Give it a shot!
Patterns: I've always loved the Cascade skirt for a romantic, bohemian look, and would it be lovely with a coordinating Ogden cami for a faux-dress look? (Plus, the simple-to-make Ogden is a nice entry into trickier fabrics!) Papercut has some gorgeous dress options crying out for charmeuse and chiffon, and Victory Patterns' new Trina is a kimono-style wrap dress that would also look stunnnninggg in a lush silk.

Something using velvet or leather (or faux fur!): Very autumnal right? If you're like me, you've never used either of  these materials, but velvet is "in" this fall (pretty sure about this, haha) and leather or pleather is cool year round/always but especially nice in the fall, I think. I saw some stretch faux-suede leggings at Tuckernuck and like, I'm pretty sure those are super impractical but also I have to have them--make some and let me know how/when/where you plan on wearing them, okay?
Patterns: Simplicity's new leggings pattern 8212 was made for stretch suede, don't you think? Or add velvet or leather accents to your favorite pattern; a bomber jacket would be super on-trend.

I'm going to be attempting my first pair of jeans--the Birkin flares!--so that will be really new for me: a few new techniques, a new type of garment, and a new silhouette, since I haven't worn any flare jeans in about a decade! What about you?? And which theme do you prefer: Tried and True or Try Something New? Would you rather stay in your comfort zone, or experiment a bit?


ps: i know i suggested the ogden cami in last month's inspiration post as well, but... i just really like that pattern! (despite not having blogged any of my three versions, oops!)

allie J.

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Social Sew #7: Try Something New

After everyone's lovely Tried and True makes last month, it's time for a challenge...

October's theme is Try Something New!

Never made pants? Why not give it a shot? Never figured out how to rethread your serger?? Just do it already and make a tee shirt (seriously, it's not that hard, y'all). Make a cosplay-style Halloween costume. Hand-tailor that blazer you've been talking about for a whole year (this one is directed at myself, sorry). Try something new!

I have a few things I'd like to try which I hope will stretch my sewing skills, the first of which being jeans. Yikes! Wish me luck.

The link up will be open from the 1st of the month (at about 8 am est) and will close the last day of the month. 

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 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.

Upcoming themes:
September (this month):Tried and True
October: Try Something New
November: Cozy Layers
December: Glamour
January: TBD
February: TBD
March: TBD


ps: can you believe this is the 7th Social Sew?? thanks for playing along!

allie J.

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Tried and True Social Sew Round Up!

Hello Social Sew-alongers! This month, you proved Tried and True patterns mean more creativity, not less, with a round up of really lovely makes that I know you'll get loads of use out of--best of both worlds. Take a look at all the participants' makes and maybe find your next Tried and True pattern!

Saturday Night Stitch-er Hila says she feels "uberfeminine, uberlovely, and ubersplendid" in her knockout roses shirtdress made with T'n'T (and perennial blogger fave) McCalls 6696. I think she likes it!

Carmen from See Carmen Sew sewed one of my own favorite tried and true silhouettes, a full pleated skirt, using McCall's 6706 for the second time and letting the fabric choice provide a totally different look!

Liz-o-matic made her fifth, sixth, and seventh versions of the Vesta Patterns Grail T-shirt. I really want to try out their Fable dress and her love of their tee pattern is not helping--it looks great and I can totally see why you'd make so many!

Sewing a la Carte Sonja made a "Basic, Never Failing Top Pattern" which I think we can agree is the very definition of a T'n'T! She used a bodice block to draft her pattern. (I have never done this but it could be a perfect task for next month's theme, "Try Something New," don't you think?)

Petite Passions nailed the fit on a beautiful lace dress. And such precision stitching!

Dixie O'Dare made some improvements to her second version of a favorite pattern, resulting in a better fit and a comfortable, throw-on-and-go dress with loads of vintage appeal.

The Little Cave's pretty and practical feather-print maxi dress was born out of patterned-fabric print placement stress... but I think you'll agree the maxi skirt looks lovely paired with the surplice top!

SewsNBows made two pairs of floral shorts, including a pair of knit shorts without a pattern. Now that's impressive.

Melissa of Mahlica Designs took on a cardigan with her name on it--the Melissa Cardigan by Zeirstoff Patterns--which will be a lovely trasitional piece as she says "sew long" to summer.

Nathalie of Nathalie Sews returned to a surprise favorite... culottes! After being hesitant about culottes, she ended up wearing her first version out, and replaced them with an upgraded pair.

Jinx & Gunner blogger K10(!) made a graphic black-and-white stripe maxi dress out of a mysterious unreleased pattern... it looks great, so we'll all have to check back for the eventual pattern reveal!

Nicole's cozy turtleneck over on her blog The Wild Stitch just makes you want to snuggle up with some cocoa, doesn't it? (Plus, bonus kitty!)

Liliana Lassemista cut into some gorgeous Strawberry Thief Liberty and made a really lovely blouse from one Gertie's books. (She also mentions having something in mind for next month's challenge... can't wait to see what it is!)

Seam Racer made an adorable set (y'all know how I feel about those) from a 1959 pattern. The shorts are a great fit that little front-tie crop top is so adorable!

The Kninja's Tania Culottes are not only quite flirty but also so practical since they coordinate with several other sets she's made.

Who's found a new pattern to try? Thank you again for all your participation, and I hope I'll see you next month where we'll Try Something New! Yikes!! What new thing will you be trying?


ps: there's still time to join! The link-up closes at midnight EST and I'll add you to the round-up is you eek in under deadline :)

allie J.

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Early Autumn Chambray

More favorite denim dresses...

Although everywhere I've gone recently smells like artificial cinnamon-scented pinecones, it is still pretty warm here in the South(ern United States). But I'm so ready for fall! Chambray is such a wonderful transitional fabric--cool enough for late summer highs in the 80s, but equally appropriate layered with boots and a sweater.

This particular fabric is really a super-lightweight denim with a distinct right and wrong side, so I wanted to use a pattern that would highlight that. I took my inspiration from this Shabby Apple dress I keep seeing all over my pinterest board and added some simple cuffs to Butterick 6318, a retro pattern with a boat neck and kimono sleeves. I also has adorable waist ties, which I thought would show off the denim's wrong side nicely, but I didn't end up liking them! I cut them off and replaced them with a simple bow sash instead. I think the fabric takes this "retro" dress and makes it really modern and wearable--denim goes with everything, right?

I'm pretty pleased with the fit of this dress straight out of the envelope, but there are a few changes I'd make before it would qualify as a go-to pattern. The bodice is a bit long; I think it could come up at least half an inch, maybe a whole inch. You can really see this in the picture of the bow--gosh, it's lumpy in the back isn't it? (Simplicity 4475 is a bit long in the bodice as well--I'm beginning to wonder if I'm long-legged and short waisted as I'm 5'7" so certainly not petite!) The bust darts are a bit long, as well, and could be dropped down some. It's not super noticeable (especially if you're used to rtw) but they are definitely too high. The bodice is a bit loose overall--I'm unused to Butterick's sizing, so I chose the larger of two possible size choices to be safe--but I think it suits the casual, modern style, and I'd rather have a bit of wiggle room with kimono sleeves. I can cinch the waist in with the belt and I don't think it's unflatteringly oversized, just not quite as fitted as my usual style of dress.

Are you squeezing in any last summer dresses or are you fully in winter mode, neck deep in wools and flannels?


ps: eagle-eyed east coast readers may notice this isn't actually in north carolina--i wore this to my husband's best friend's wedding rehearsal in norfolk, va. technically fall but it was 80 degrees and sunny, and a lovely weekend all around. best wishes to andrew and jason!

allie J.

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