The Plantain Stripes Back

So, I may have a bit of a pattern crush on the Plantain. And this is just the beginning.

I’ve made the Deer and Doe Plantain four times now: an unblogged muslin (super comfortable, and waaaaay too big), here and here, a project yet to be blogged, plus two projects yet to be sewn and two more that are still in the planning stages. That would make, all said and done, four different pattern variations not counting changing sleeve lengths.

I still haven’t gotten it quite perfect. There’s some bunching under my arms that I can’t quite figure out. I’m trying to add a bit of width. I’m thinking maybe it’s too tight. Either that or the armhole still isn’t right.

You can see that a bit in this little project.

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Sorry about the face. It’s what happens when I look at the camera.

What you can’t see is the topstitching.

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I used white thread for all the topstitching. And then painstakingly colored all the topstitching over the black stripes with a black Sharpie. If I were classier, I would have used a fabric marker. But I didn’t have any of those. The Sharpie worked, though. This shirt can’t stay out of the washer, apparently, and the black holds fast! Maybe because I ironed it right after thinking it might help set the marker.

The fabric is Riley Blake, probably a medium-weight. It keeps its shape beautifully.

And that is officially all I have to say about this shirt.

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I think my next plan for this pattern is to reshape it to a more fitted tee–which I kind of have already done with the dress variation I’ve made.

And now, friends–PANTS. They are happening. They are cut out. They are awaiting a jeans button. MY LEGS SHALL NOT FREEZE THIS WINTER.

Farewell, y’all. Stay warm out there.

It’s Sunday!

Hey, hey, y’all!

Just a quickie to tell you who can be expecting some free patterns in the near future.

After a random drawing (with which the cats refused to assist), congratulations to Elizabeth!

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Elizabeth, just use the email address or form on my “Me” page to send me your mailing address, please :)

I hope everyone had a fantastic Halloween (I stayed in and watched movies–so mine was exactly what I needed)! And can you even believe it’s already November?? My goal is to survive until Thanksgiving. It’s going to be a busy few weeks!

And hopefully, I will find the time to make myself a decent pair of pants!

Create the Perfect Fit Review (Plus a Pattern Giveaway!)

Hello, lovely people!

Today, is a rather historic day here on B&W, for today I am hosting my very first giveaway and my very first official book review.

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I got to know Joi a little over the summer when she took the time to respond to a post I’d written about a couple of Craftsy classes I’d taken (one of which was her Fast Track Fitting class). We emailed back and forth a bit, and Joi offered not only to let me take her new Craftsy class Fast Track Fitting: In the Details but also to send me a copy of her new book when it came out. I was super excited about both.

Here’s the thing about Joi: she is crazy passionate about sharing this fitting method with as many different types of sewers as possible. I would love to take a real class with her. Come to Atlanta, please, Joi!

Just a quick bit about the new Craftsy class: I haven’t gotten very far yet (School has taken over my life! Isn’t it summer yet???), but I can already tell this is the class that I really wanted the first Fast Track Fitting to be. I think the first class is good for those who are very new to altering patterns. In the Details is definitely more my speed! It, as you might guess based on the name, goes into more details about specific fit issues. (When I finish the class, I will definitely be telling you more about how it went.)

Joi’s book Create the Perfect Fit is a cheerful, spiral-bound volume chock full of easy-to-follow illustrations and adorable photographs. The design is bright and uncluttered, which I very much appreciate. I was particularly excited when I found the section on fitting forward-rotated shoulders–a problem I’ve been wrestling with for quite a while now. The Back Upper Half Cap adjustment Joi recommends is exactly what I needed back when I was struggling with my Simplicity 1776 sleeves.

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I think, though, that my favorite part of the book was the Garment Application Workbook chapter where Joi details how to apply your fit pattern to fashion patterns. She takes different styles (i.e. the boxy jacket, the A-line gored skirt, the Princess Coat) and tells you where the measurements need to be true and where you need to add ease.

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But, let’s be honest–I really liked looking at the pretty pictures! :) That polka-dotted dress and white coat need to get in my life!

As a girl who is about to embark on a pants-fitting odyssey, I would really like to see more than a page devoted to fitting pants. And while I love the look of glossy pages, they are rather hard to take notes on in pencil (which is my preferred method of jotting things down in books). But, I’ve been on an anti-gloss kick lately, so this may just be my Crazy Yearbook Lady brain kicking in.

All-in-all, the book really is a great fitting companion for anyone who’s struggling to attain the elusive “perfect fit”–especially if you’re working with one of Joi’s new patterns for McCall’s. Here’s the thing I mostly love about these patterns: Joi has added several fitting lines and markings that you usually don’t find on commercial patterns. In addition to the usuals–waist, bust point, maybe even bust line–she’s also included the high and low bust, full upper back, and mid back. She even tells you how far below the base of the neck the back neckline should fall. This blew my mind because I’ve never seen that on a pattern before. And if you’re measuring your back neck to waist from the base of your neck but the pattern falls a couple inches below that without your realizing it, then your back waist is going to be all sorts of wrong.

Dear Pattern Companies: Start adding this information. Many thanks, J.

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Joi has two new patterns. One for a peplum and flared/godet skirt combo (I’m currently making peplum A). I love the exposed zipper and the split peplum. The other–well, at first I thought it was for a coat dress and wasn’t at all interested. But then I realized I was an idiot and it was an actual coatAnd then I started thinking about how I wanted to break all the rules and make a short version of the coat and how adorable would that be???

Today, friends, I’m offering you the chance to win these patterns for yourself! All you have to do is leave me a little comment letting me know you’d like to enter. And just for funsies, since it’s almost Halloween and all, tell me what your dream costume would be!

The giveaway will be open until Saturday, November 1, at midnight EST. I’ll announce the winner on Sunday. Only US residents this time (sorry, my international friends!) for the sake of shipping costs.

And do check out the other blogs in the tour! Next up is Joi’s big giveaway on her blog!

The Sewing Loft www.thesewingloft.com  September 19th

Lindsay Wilkes www.cottagemama.com date in October 9th

Threads Magazine www.threadsmagazine.com/blog/threads-daily October 10th

Shop the Garment District www.shopthegarmentdistrict.com October 10th

BabyLock Totally Stitchin  www.totallystitchin.net October 10th

Amy Ellis www.amyscreativeside.com October 13th

Marly Bird www.marlybird.com October 14th

Melissa Mora www.mellysews.com October 20th

Amy Barickman www.indygojunction.com date in October 22nd

Elizabeth and Liz www.simplesimonandco.com October 24th

Kate Blocher www.seekatesew.blogspot.com date in October  26th

Nancy Zieman www.nancyzieman.com/blog

Nicki from Australia www.thisismoonlightsewing.com

DESIGNER JOI www.designerjoi.com BIG PRIZE GIVE AWAY October 31st

Good luck to those of you who enter. And Happy Halloween!

Denim Maritime Shorts

(Aaaand now we continue with the muchly belated summer sewing posts that I really should write again, but I just don’t wanna. I should also point out that in between the sewing/writing and the photographing, I lost quite a bit of weight, so the shorts don’t fit quite as they should. Alas and alack, right? Also, I wear them all the freaking time, so they weren’t exactly “clean” for their blog debut. Oops ;) )

This being my third pair of Maritimes, there’s not that much more to say.

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For this rendition, I used for real cotton denim (with a teensy bit of lycra for stretch)–no poly to be found! The difference is remarkable. They breathe and keep their shape and are generally awesome.

I did make a few adjustments. I removed about 1/2″ from both side seams at the waist and the hem. I also took in about an inch at CB tapering to nothing somewhere along the curve. The fit is much more secure. I think these adjustments would work only for stretch fabrics. So, I’m thinking I should trace a fresh pattern before I make the changes on paper.

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I also extended the right front waistband so that I could add another secret button so that the waistband wouldn’t pull so much at CF. It’s so much better now. Seriously. I wish I’d done this on my white pair.

Here’s the weird thing: I’d inserted three fly zips before these shorts. On the white Maritimes, I barely even glanced at the directions. So, I cannot explain why when it came time for the fly to go in, I totally blanked! I read the directions and got really confused and kept doing things backwards and had to unpick lots of times. So bizarre! It was like being in a play and suddenly forgetting lines that you’ve always had down cold!

And then there’s also the top stitching.

Maritime Shorts

I really didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t sure what was supposed to be top stitched and what wasn’t. I’d thought about flat felling the seams but wasn’t sure which ones to do. In the end, I figured it didn’t matter. It’s not like these are a hardcore pair of jean shorts. There are no rivets, no coin pocket, and no heavy duty button.

My machine did not love the gold top stitching thread. For straight seams, we were okay. But as soon as I tried to bar tack or do a buttonhole? NOPE. Lots of frustrated stitch removal occurred during the course of this project. I used regular thread in the bobbin and when I tried to do any sort of zig zag stitch, the gold thread would get sucked down to the bottom. I played with the tension and kept a tight grip on the thread tails and rethread the machine several times. I have no idea why that was happening.

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I’m just really sad that I didn’t get my gold buttonhole (not that anyone will ever see it. I don’t tuck shirts into shorts. I know better.)

Now that they’re done, I’m super excited to wear them! But, since my hands literally turned blue while making these, I think I should wash them a couple of times to get more of the dye off so I don’t leave blue smudges everywhere I sit.

The top I’m wearing was sort of an experiment with rubbing off patterns. But I’m going to talk about it more in another post. The fabric is Robert Kaufman cotton/lycra knit, and it’s a pretty perfect knit, if you ask me.

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And now I’m going to continue my binge-watching of Gilmore Girls.

A Fortuitous Foxglove

Is there anything more “me” right now (and by “right now” I mean “over the summer”) than the Foxglove?? Sleeveless, loose-fitting, high/low hem–of course I snapped the pattern up ASAP. It usually takes me ages to get on board a pattern train, so that’s saying something!

It’s hard to say how long it took for me to make this. Cutting is simple–there are only two pieces plus some 1″ strips for binding. The actual sewing took about half of Tangled plus 20-25 minutes of Veronica Mars.

The instructions suggest that if you’re using a woven to go up in size (and to make a muslin–a wise decision, I think). I used a cotton/lycra knit (from, you guessed it!, Girl Charlee) which was much more lightweight than other cotton/lycras I’ve used before. It was very springy. Like a spring, not the season. Because of this, I ended up removing four inches just below the arm holes and eventually joining back in with the 3/8″ seam line. I suggest you consider the stretch of your fabric before choosing your size; I probably could have safely sized down.

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If you’re using an “unstable” knit like I did, you may be worried about the openness of the armholes if you try it on mid-process. They do feel very flimsy before they get bound. But, I was very pleased that once I finished the binding, the armholes felt secure.

I think perhaps my one regret is that I didn’t center the pattern on the front. It doesn’t really bother me. Maybe just a little.

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Good thing, then, that I have enough fabric left over to make another one if I so desire! But, more likely I will make a little top to complete a pajama set I’ve been working on. And by “working on” I mean I made the shorts already and have been trying to figure out what to use for a top.

This little project lived up to my expectations in every way. I adore this top and will definitely be making more (even, perhaps, a Foxglove dress!). I am glad that GC made it impossible to do the Lady Skater mod I was planning; I don’t know that I would have snapped up the pattern if I hadn’t been looking for another option. See–everything works out!

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Racer backs make me feel awfully shouldery.

True story: at the Josten’s convention I was at a few weeks (days? Not sure when this post is going up) months ago, during one of the sessions we did this get-to-know-you exercise where we each turned in an anonymous card stating something about ourselves that no one else knew. The following day, we were each given a typed list of everyone’s “secrets” and told to figure out who was who. (The idea they were trying to get across was that everyone has a story, you just have to look for it. Journalism!) I, not being able to think of anything else, had written down that I sew all my own clothes, and showed up to class wearing my brand new Foxglove.

And, y’all? No one realized it was me. Mission accomplished.

This is what I want to hear: Smug Sewing Stories. Go!

A Fading Summer Shift

(And here we go with my backlog of summer sewing posts. . . )

Hmmmm. . .

I don’t know how I feel about this dress.

Beware the wrinkles. Some of us are lazy.

Beware the wrinkles. Some of us are lazy.

The process of making it was both simple and complicated.

Here’s why it was simple:

1. Linen is super easy to cut and sew, and it presses beautifully.

2. I was using a pattern I’d already used before. I knew it fit, for the most part.

3. The pattern had few pieces to cut and even fewer to sew (front, back, done.).

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Here’s why it was complicated:

1. Cotton/rayon batiste hates me. It hates everyone. It refuses to do what it is told. And it grows in all directions as you handle it.

2. While the pattern was already tested, it hadn’t exactly been tested in a sleeveless version, so problems cropped up that were unexpected.

3. Determining how to sew on a lining for a sleeveless dress entirely by machine isn’t nearly as complicated as figuring out how to understitch that lining by machine without ruining your life.

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As you know, I’ve used this pattern before. After all that muslining, I really wanted to use it again quickly before I lost momentum. I saw this linen/rayon in Jo-Ann’s back in the spring; it instantly grabbed my attention. I wasn’t sure what to do with it for a long time and I determined not to buy it until I had a plan. (I wasn’t worried that they would sell out because 95% of the people who shop there are quilters and crafters who are uninterested in apparel fabric.) Finally, I decided to use the linen for another shift, this time sans sleeves. My original idea was to make it in time for my seniors’ graduation, but that didn’t happen.

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Going sleeveless isn’t quite as simple as just not using the sleeve pattern. You really have to re-think the shape of your arm hole. This is a thing I did not do. I didn’t even consider it until I was sewing. My solution was to use a much deeper seam allowance around the bottom of the arm hole. It was not the best plan. It works, but it would have been better to draft a separate pattern altogether.

Losing the sleeves also causes a bit of gaping at the back neck. I think one of my biggest regrets with this dress is that I didn’t scoop the back neckline as I’d envisioned. There is a very small chance that I may go back and fix that someday.

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Other than that, I guess I’m actually quite pleased with the dress! It’s fun with the floral that isn’t overwhelming because of the simple shape. It’s very comfortable; the fabric makes it excellent for hot, humid days.

Although, to be honest, the only true fix for humid days is to be in the water or in the air conditioning. There is no other cure.

Oh, hey, do you want to see something tragic???

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Yeah. That happened as I was trying on the dress for the first time. Let it be known that I had already zipped and unzipped the dress a couple of times with no problems. But then, as I stepped in and tried to zip the dress up. . . bam. Luckily, I was still able to get myself out of the dress.

The only solution was to fuse on a bit of interfacing. Sigh. . .

What’s your worst sewing horror story? Mine ended semi-happily, but I’m sure there are others that. . . didn’t. (When you tell your story, make sure you hold the flashlight under your face for effect.)

Once Upon a Time. . .

. . . On a blog far, far away, every Sunday I would write a silly list of random thoughts (I called it Sunday Smorgasbord until I just started calling it random dessert names). I’ve been thinking about that old blog a lot recently, and I find that miss the silly random writing. So, while I’m easing myself back into blogging and waiting on a decent time to do a marathon photo sesh, I think I’m going to revive that old tradition–at least for a while.

1. While we’re talking about blogging. . . I often think of starting another blog to celebrate my crazy YA reading habits. There is nothing more fun than publicly relishing the absolute absurdity of most of today’s YA offerings. And to admit that I’ve been very inspired by one of those absurdist YA’s wherein the main character is a book blogger (think Twilight except with aliens instead of vampires–holy cow, the whole thing’s a train wreck!) would just lead me into a mire of Inception-y thoughts, so we’re just going to move on. . .

2. Part 2 of why I’ve been inspired to restart my book-blogging ways is that I’ve recently acquired an iPad. I got it so I could grade papers digitally (because who wants to keep tabs on 200 middle school rough drafts?? NO ONE EVER), but it has led me down a whole different digital path of unrighteousness. I have always been one of those old-fashioned gals who believed that paper books were the only way to go. I swore I would never own a Kindle because they were single-handedly destroying the libraries (and subsequently, the minds) of America! It all started innocently–I wanted to read a book my friend had recommended, and I didn’t want to wait for a delivery. “I have an iPad,” I thought. “I can just check iBooks.” And I did. And I was never the same. Do you want to know how many books I’ve downloaded in the short two months I’ve had the iPad/book-fetish-enabler?

24. And that’s not counting all the samples. Out of those 24, I’ve read all but 4. And you wonder why I haven’t been sewing. . .

3. My birthday is next week. It seems like the older I get, the more it sneaks up on me. I’m turning 33. What an awkward age.

4. I got a fabric shipment a couple days ago. Let me just warn you–you’ll probably be super bored by my fall sewing. It is uber-practical which means lots of solids and neutrals. And pants.

5. So my friend got me addicted to Borderlands–a bleak, darkly humorous, stylized shoot-em-up. I think I’m looking for some sort of treasure. I can’t be sure. I do know that I can’t be trusted with a sniper rifle.

6. I watched the trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey and laughed. There’s one worldwide phenomenon train I’m happy I never boarded. Though that new version of “Crazy in Love” is super lush, and I will absolutely be Spotifying it.

7. Maybe it’s because school life is hardwired into my brain, but autumn always seems to me to be the perfect time to Begin. It’s all about fresh starts and new people. Winter is a mixed bag of holidays and survival. Spring is a desperate fever dream with one theme: Summer’s coming. Summer’s coming. Summer’s coming. And then suddenly you’re looking out over two beautifully empty months and you just. . . breathe, probably for the first time since August.

This is one reason I love teaching: every year has a beginning and an end. And before you start again, you get to take time to refresh and recharge. There aren’t that many professions like that out there. So, even though it’s been a rough start, I feel that things are evening out. I know what I’m dealing with now, so I can plan better. And that means more quality time with my sewing machine (seriously–this girl needs some pants!).

Farewell, lovelies! I have Columbus Day off, so if anyone needs me I’ll be making eyes at my camera.

A T-shirt Dress of Seasonal Confusion

I’m alive!

I’m so tired. So, so tired.

. . .

Fall is official, y’all. And what better way to celebrate than to share a dress that would be perfect for spring.

Plantain dress

This is the Plantain from Deer and Doe. You know.

All I did was measure some things. . . and draw some things.

Did I mention I was tired?

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There’s a pretty major swayback issue. I have no idea how I go about fixing that when there’s no waist seam. Research needs to be done.

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The fabric is from Girl Charlee. With somewhere between 30-40% stretch, it works really well for a dress. Stable but not too stiff.

I am, in spite of my exhaustion, pretty excited about this dress. I most definitely want one in black to wear with my kimonos. And also in all the other colors.

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Anyways, it’s good to be back. I’m not sure how “back” I am though. So much tiredness. But, I do have a ridiculous number of projects to share. . .

Now that I’m posting again, maybe I can even start catching up with my blog reading!

. . .

I’m so afraid to log in to my reader.

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So, what’s new with you? Did I miss anything?

Back to School!

Greetings, Lovely People. I have not died. Although–ask me again on Friday, I may have a different answer.

Regular readers (you guys are the bestest) know that I’m turning teacher this year. I’ve been madly dashing around Doing Things for the past couple of weeks (this includes a hop-skip-jump over to Arizona to learn how to do my job), and we have finally reached the point of culmination–the First Week of School.

Technically, classes don’t start until Thursday, but there are all sorts of goings-on in the days before. And, because I don’t know how to leave well-enough alone, I am slowly trying to revamp my classroom in colors more suitable to my personality (my color palette, for those who are interested, is aqua, coral, navy, and bits of gray. Delish!). I’ve ordered fabric for a new drapery panel for my window and a skirt for an end table to hide some storage. I am also planning to reupholster an office chair that’s been lurking in my parent’s basement. I have fun yet sophisticated fabric for my bulletin boards. I’m even planning to do a fabric panel under the shelves on my desk.

And, of course, I’m also doing lesson plans, developing curriculum (this is what happens when you create a class from scratch!), making copies, learning new software, and attending meetings upon meetings. If you didn’t want to be a teacher before, I bet you do now, right??? :)

All that to say. . .

It’s probably going to be quiet around these parts for the next few weeks. I have over a dozen post drafts just waiting for pictures, but I simply can’t focus on that right now. Priorities!

For now, it’s back to work. I spent all day yesterday spray painting a file cabinet. My hands and feet might be permanently turquoise–I can’t get it all off! I haven’t sewn a stitch all week–too distracted–but I will be sewing today. I need a khaki skirt for Tuesday night. And there are a couple other projects I’d really like to get done this week.

The sewing bug is biting! I’ll catch you guys later!

Can’t Get Ahead of the Curve Kimono!

I’m not a sew-alonger. Apparently, it’s not in my nature to want to follow the crowd. I don’t always play well with others.

My mom tells a story of when I was about 4 or 5 years old. We were living in Pennsylvania, and there were a few neighborhood kids that I would play with every now and then. One day, I came home whimpering and crying. When my mom asked me what was wrong, I’m sure she expected to hear that I’d hurt myself or that someone had been mean to me. Nope. My answer? “I haven’t gotten to play by myself all day!”

It seems that I never grew out of that :)

So, while I hadn’t really intended to take part in the amazing Oonapalooza, and I can’t honestly say that I consciously made the following garment with that in mind, maybe, just maybe, a little bit of Oona wriggled her way into my subconscious and whispered “remember the mantis shrimp,” and I was suddenly filled with technicolor urges. Maybe that’s what happened. . .

Because, if you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve been sewing lots of solids and simple geometric prints. There’s not a whole lot in the way of dazzling color in my budding, basic wardrobe. So, how else could you explain this?

Striped Kimono 3

Okay, maybe you could look at my Pinterest and see that I’ve been craving me some kimono. Or you could look at my closet door full of Post-its and see that I’ve even listed “floral kimono” as part of the outfit I wish I were wearing–more than once, in fact!

Striped Kimono 2

And maybe it’s my secret inner hipster that really wants everyone to know that I’ve been planning to sew a kimono for months. In fact, when I saw the tutorial on Elle Apparel, I wondered why no one else was sewing kimonos. But, as it happens, now that I’ve finally purchased fabric and sewed it up and taken pictures, I’ve already seen kimonos everywhere. Does it really matter? No. Not in the slightest.

Striped Kimono 1

I made a couple of changes to the tutorial. I added a neck band (two rectangles in front and a bias strip along the curve at the back of the neck because–I don’t know–it felt like the right thing to do) and fringe trim on the hem. The fringe serves the main purpose of covering up my original hem which was terrible.

But who cares about all that, just look at it. It doesn’t really rest on the body–it floats around it.

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When I slip on this kimono jacket, I am instantly Glenn Close from Sunset Boulevard, maybe slightly less wacko. I don’t just walk, I glide–I swan. I also feel like I need to carry around a peacock feather to brandish in people’s faces when they’ve been talking too long and I would like them to kindly shut up and go away.

The fabric is rayon voile. The only discernible difference between rayon voile and rayon challis (to this ignorant eye) is that challis has a bit more “tooth” to it. Voile–you whisper, and it runs away. Literally attempts to escape you as you lay it out for cutting. I should have bathed it in gelatin, but I was too impatient.

Here you see how one side is spot on, the other side is spot OFF.

Here you see how one side is spot on, the other side is spot OFF.

I think I finally understand why people sew “impractical” maxi dresses and Cascade skirts. There’s something to be said for leaving a cloud of fabric behind you for a mili-second after you walk away, like a faint echo or a wisp of perfume.

Striped Kimono 5

To put it simply, this is the garment manifestation of my summer self. And if proudly displaying a little bit of your soul on your sleeve isn’t what Oonapalooza-ing is about, then I’m not sure what is.