Hand Sewing the Lila + June Wrap Skirt

I finished my first proper sewing project from a pattern this weekend! I’ve been sharing some little updates along the way as I work on this lovely skirt, but I thought I ought to write a longer post detailing my process, how I deviated from the original pattern, and lessons I’ve learned along the way. Perhaps others who might be interested in sewing this pattern, but who don’t have a sewing machine, might be interested in my thoughts.

So first of all, I chose this skirt because 1.) the pattern is free, 2.) it’s a wrap skirt so sizing is very forgiving, and 3.) I know Kirsten, who owns L+J. Also, I’ve been spending a lot of my time exploring sewing YouTube videos and it’s inspiring me to sew, plus I enjoyed the embroidery project I picked up recently. I find the physical act of stitching to be very relaxing. But my one experience with a sewing machine, when I tried to “help” my mother with my Halloween costume one year, went poorly and I don’t really have a good place to put a machine right now anyway. So I decided to see if I could hand-sew the entire thing. Yes, I’m a little mad. But we’re all mad here, so here we go.

Fabric Choice:

I chose a medium-weight, quilting cotton from Fabric.com because it was inexpensive, solid colored, and machine washable. I didn’t want to break the bank with my first project because there was always a chance I’d fail utterly and have to scrap it, but I wanted something in a color I would wear, and solid so I could pair it with more tops. I also chose some all-cotton green thread.

Of course, when the fabric and thread arrived, I discovered the pitfalls of shopping online, namely that the colors don’t match as well as I’d have liked. But they match well enough and the very little stitching that is visible on the outside of the garment isn’t too jarring. When my fabric arrived, I washed and dried it, and then got ready to go!

Time Commitment:

So from the day I cut out the pattern until the day I tied off the last stitch, it was exactly a month to make this skirt. I did sit on the fabric for a little while because it arrived while we were in the process of moving house, and for a while I didn’t really have any space to lay out fabric. But after the initial move finished, I found myself with the time. But I will say that I only worked on the skirt maybe two days per week because I have a full-time job, a baby, and family and friends who insist on claiming some of my time on the weekend. If I had worked on it for a few hours every day, I might have been able to finish in a week or two. One day, perhaps I will take off a week from work to test this theory.

The biggest time sink was the hem. It’s a circle and then some, so that’s understandable. And I chose not to do the topstitching on the waistband and ties to save some time. Surprisingly, I found the side seams to be relatively quick. I actually cut the back panel of the skirt on a fold to save myself a seam, but in retrospect, one more seam wouldn’t have been that much work, and it would have been nice to have that center back seam to line up the waistband.

Stitches:

When I first started out, I was inordinately grateful for this video from Bernadette Banner on the basic stitches for historical hand-sewing. I found that going to historical practice blogs and YouTube channels was really helpful because they’re the ones using hand sewing to construct garments, rather than just for finishing or decorative work. I also appreciated this page on hand-finishing stitches. I used her Frenched seam finish on my side seams, rather than sewing each seam twice like you would on a machine.

I did my side seams in backstitch, finished the seams with a whip stitch, and felled the hem. I backstitched on the waistband, twice (my pride and joy is the inside waistband seam, which I backstitched without pricking through to the front), and used a slip stitch to close up the rest of the waist ties. As mentioned before, I skipped topstitching the waist band and ties. Those are the only deviations from the printed pattern.

So that’s my skirt process. It’s delightfully twirly and I’m thoroughly enjoying wearing it. Of course I welcome any questions you might have for me! Let me know if you have any sewing projects you’re working on, as I’m definitely planning my next project.

My Very Favorite Dress(es)

Yesterday, I mentioned that I wore one of my favorite dresses for a head shot session. And last week I teased that I would share my favorite Etsy shop. Well, the favorite dress is from the favorite Etsy shop. I cannot remember how I first found Ellaina Boutique on Etsy, but I do remember getting my first crossover-front dress from her. This dress is the most amazing thing ever on my body.

All my life, I’ve been blessed and cursed with a small bust. In fact, it got me one of my first local stage roles! But I yearn to look feminine and curvy. This dress’ unique styling accentuates what little I have up top, while narrowing to a small waist, and then flaring out again to give me the hourglass figure that I wish I had in earnest. But the crossover top is also quite modest. I love the way the top is constructed. It’s a very vintage-inspired look, but in a modern dress. I actually wore this style of dress to the auditions for the 1940s-era play I’m currently in.

I loved this dress so much that since that first purchase, I’ve bought three more in different colors and prints. Sue has an amazing array of fabrics, and she’ll send you a link to her fabric store so you can pick something out that isn’t on her site. Plus, she’s a joy to work with. She’s always willing to bat ideas around and help you come up with something fun. And I love that she’ll always make a dress a bit longer, as I’m taller than the average woman, and I like my dresses to graze my knees or else I feel I’m showing too much leg.

Besides the dresses, I’ve also purchased a retro-print shirt and a custom-made nightgown. I converted one of her dresses into a nightgown by removing the belt and adding lace to the neckline and sleeves. It served me so well during the cold winter months that I’m thinking I’ll need to get a sleeveless summer version soon!

I hope you’ll check out this lovely shop so that she stays in business for years to come!

{the photo above is from Ellaina Boutique and shows one of the prints that I don’t have personally but find lovely!}

Cozy Winter Style

As you can tell by the title of my blog, I love to wrap up in warm fabrics and drink hot tea. I really do like tweed, in all its scratchy woolen glory. And this time of year, my collection of tweeds and knits and scarves really gets to shine.

Monday, I was thrilled to receive my new winter coat, a brown herringbone tweed overcoat from a vintage seller on Etsy. It has nubs of blue and orange in it, and a subtle tartan pattern. Not only did the photographs on Etsy not do it justice at all, it fit perfectly, with just enough room that I might layer it over sweaters. It makes me glad the weather has started to taken on more of a chill.

Holiday Weekend Shopping

Underneath my coat, my cold-weather staples are long trousers and blue jeans, cabled sweaters, scarves, and my wonderful knee-length black riding boots. A pair of leather boots zipped up over a pair of slim-fitting straight-leg jeans, with a cabled sweater and a squishy scarf is the quintessential winter style to me. On the rare occasion I venture out into the cold air in a skirt, I wear a pair of thick tights or leggings, with socks over top, all tucked into my riding boots.

Cozy Workday Outfit

My favorite sweater is a fisherman-cabled sweater in a mottled oatmeal color that I wear most weekends, but it lacks the necessary elan for the office. To that end, I have a cream-colored cabled sweater in a butter-soft wool blend, a collection of cardigans, and two cowl-necked merino wool sweaters. Paired with a pair of jeans on the weekend, or a pair of vintage tweed trousers for work, my sweaters are vital for keeping warm while I walk from place to place. Whether I’m taking a stroll around the lake, or a hurried walk from my car, parked ages away from my building, I need to keep from suffering the bite of winter air.

I’ve put together some sets in Polyvore to show what I mean. Of course, I chose items mostly based on looks, so some are quite expensive, but it is the look of the thing I mean to convey. Hopefully, they will help inspire your cozy winter wardrobe!