Before I get to the links list, today is the launch of our annual Limited Edition “Holiday Hewett” Field Bag! This year’s is a reprise of our December 2016 print (which was grey on grey), this time in toffee-colored ink on natural canvas, and it is a beauty! It will be available at 9am CT [UPDATE: It’s now live!], and I repeat: It is a Limited Edition! These sell out every year so if you want one, please don’t hesitate.
I’ve had one of those moments where two thoughts collide in my head into one bright idea. Thought One was how much I love my army shirtjacket that I refashioned a couple of years ago (seen on me here) and hate that I don’t have a cold-weather counterpart for it. Thought Two was how much I love my pal Jen Beeman’s chainstitched rendition of her new Thayer Jacket pattern. As much as I want a chainstitched one now, it got me thinking about how useful a little cropped, unlined Thayer would be for indoor-outdoor wear in cooler weather — a good cardigan stand-in. I happen to have some nubby black wool remnant fabric in my stash that could be great for this, although I’m not sure it adds up to enough fabric to pull it off. But I feel like I need to clean off my table and spread it all out to see if I can make it work.
While I ponder what my chainstitched version might be …
(As I uploaded this image, I realized the buttons in my drawing look like nipples! Forgive me for that.)
I’ve been referring to my summer sewing extravaganza as Linenpalooza 2019, but it could also be called Fen Fest for all the Fen mods I’ve sewn. This (last?) one is the most straightforward, and a great transitional piece for Faux Fall dressing given the dried-leaf color (the same as my toffee Robbie pants).
For this one, I cut a size 12 with the same hemline mods as my blue striped one a couple years back, but I also moved the neckline in 1″ at the sides for a less-wide neck opening. I gave it a center-front seam (looks great, saves fabric, win/win), did the prescribed Fen neckband, and added a chest pocket to give it a little more of a t-shirt vibe. It gives me a hint of that Fall feeling for now and will be great for layering if it ever starts to cool off.
Happy Friday, friends. I’ve got a nice varied stack of Elsewhere links for you below, but one tangential one first — from Grace Bonney as she closed Design Sponge after 15 years, a bit of advice I can simultaneously nod along with and continue to learn from, and I hope others will too: How to handle (and learn from) being called out. Please read and pass it along!
The weekend before last, I sewed myself what I thought was the best summer frock I’d ever owned: a blurple caftan made with Merchant & Mills Indian Ink linen and some simple mods to the Fen top (details below). In addition to the color being completely amazing — rich and shifty — the fabric has an incredible heft to it and is a joy to wear. So when it came time to cut my next piece of linen this past Saturday — M&M’s Bonita stripe this time, which I’d bought from Fancy Tiger with pants in mind — I couldn’t stop picturing it as another caftan just like ol’ blurple. Only I had no idea how much more magnificent it would be. I’m thrilled with them both, but the striped one is pure magic.
The challenge of this fabric is that it’s an asymmetrical repeat — two multi-stripes, then one wide blank stripe, repeat — and I had debates with myself and among friends about how best to position it on the dress. After they pleaded for symmetry, I decided to place the wide blank stripe dead center, so my inverted pleats (front and back) would simply pull the two black stripes closer and then it’d fan out below the pleat, with the multi-stripes on either side. What I could not possibly have planned for even if I had tried was that this left the hip pockets I had mapped out on the blurple version perfectly centered over the multi-stripes, with the next set of multi-stripes (at the edges of the front and back) meeting perfectly in the center so they create a double-wide multi-stripe at the side seam. Cutting it out — flat, on the living room floor, so I could make sure I had every single stripe straight and identically positioned — was a job. But from the minute I began sewing, it started revealing all the other magic it had cooked up without me, and I was completely under its spell.
It might be the single best experience of my sewing life, and I’m madly in love with it. Hence the million photos.
Here’s how I made them, and how you can too:
Start with Fancy Tiger’s Fen top and dress pattern — you just need the two pieces for the top: front and back. Pick a size that’s a lot or a little big on you. I’m wearing this with a ton of positive ease, but I think it would look even better on a fuller figure with a bit less ease. All of this also applies to my black tunic version that preceded the dresses, by the way.
1) For the front pattern piece, trace the round neck (I might have raised it a bit when I first traced off this pattern a few years ago) and shoulder, around the sleeve, and down the side to the widest part of the curve. Then draw a line straight down from there to your desired length plus hem allowance. Mine is cut at 52″ from the highest point of the shoulder, at the neck edge. I’m about 5’8″ for reference. Do the same for the back pattern piece. (I traced the size 18 shoulder line out to the size 20 sleeve edge, and the rest is size 20 down to the hip flare. That makes it 14″ wide from the hip down.)
2) Cut both pieces on the fold as marked and keep them folded, with right sides together. On the front piece, draw a line 1″ in from the fold (parallel with the fold, in other words) from the neck edge down 11″ and same thing on the back from the neck edge down 5″. Stitch along that line, then press the fold open on the wrong side to create the inverted pleat. Top-stitch in place.
3) Cut pockets as desired. My hip pockets are 8″x10″ (the size of a piece of chipboard I had handy!) pressed to 7″x7.5″ — half inch on the sides and bottom, and an inch twice at the top. And my chest pocket is 5.5″x7″ pressed to 4.5″x5″ — half inch all the way around plus another inch on top. Hip pockets are placed 2.5″ from the Center Front and 15.5″ from the neck edge. Chest pocket is placed 1.75″ from CF and 5″ from the neck edge. Top-stitch in place.
4) Sew the shoulder seams together as indicated/desired. Sew the underarm/side seams together as indicated/desired, leaving a split hem if desired. Both of these have split hems on both sides, measured 17″ (blurple) and 15.5″ (stripe) from the bottom edge. Finish seam allowances however you prefer. I French seamed the blurple one down to the split, clipped the seam allowance at that spot, then pressed the split hem open and under before stitching down. Same for the striped one except it’s serged instead of frenched.
5) Finish the sleeves, hem and neck edges as indicated/desired. I did a visible bias facing on blurple and the Fen neckband on the stripe.
For this length, using 60″ wide linen and the size 20 pattern pieces, I was able to get all of the dress and pocket pieces out of three yards, or that plus a pair of pants out of 4 yards. Yes, I now have pants cut from both of these fabrics! And can probably still squeeze a little tank out of the blurple scraps. Which means Linenpalooza ain’t over yet!
I’ve had a number of people ask for the details on how I made the kangaroo pocket on my recent Fen mods: tunic and dress variations. Following is how I do it — and since I’m not a sewing professional, there may be people with even better advice in the comments on this. You can of course adjust the numbers to your liking, but my measurements result in a generously sized pocket 14″ wide and 8″ tall. You’ll want to make and attach the pocket to your garment front piece before sewing the rest of the garment together.
MAKE THE PATTERN PIECE
Using tracing paper or butcher paper or whatever you’ve got, draw a rectangle 15″ wide by 9″ tall.
On the right edge, measure 3.5″ up from the bottom right corner and make a mark. On the top edge, measure in 3.25″ from the upper right corner and make a mark. Draw a line between those two marks for your slant pocket edge. Repeat on the left side. Cut that out and you have your pattern piece, with .5″ seam allowance included.
CUT AND PREPARE THE POCKET
Matching the grainline for your garment front piece, cut your pocket piece(s) out of your fabric. If you’re using lightweight fabric, like my linen, you may want to cut two identical pocket pieces and make it a double thickness. For sweatshirt knits or heavier woven fabrics, a single layer will suffice. Either way, you can zigzag or pink the edges if you like.
For a single layer pocket, press all of the edges under at .5″, then for the slant pocket edges (which will remain unattached), press the raw edge under another .25″; top-stitch along the slant edges, starting and stopping just shy of the corners.
For a double layer pocket, with right sides together and using a .5″ seam allowance, stitch the two pieces together along all but the long bottom edge. Clip the corners, turn the pocket right side out, and form and press carefully into shape. Fold the bottom edges inward and press; pin together if needed. Top-stich along the slant edges, starting and stopping just shy of the corners.
ATTACH THE POCKET
Mark the center of both your garment front piece and your pocket — I just fold them each in half and press at the appropriate spot, then line up the creases to center the pocket on the garment. Pin the pocket in place, being careful to keep the bottom and top edges parallel to your hem (i.e., perpendicular to the grainline).
First, stitch across the top of the pocket, starting and stopping at the rows of stitching you’ve done across the slant edges. Then starting at the lower slant corner on one side, sew down the side, along the bottom, and back up the other side.
Give it a good press, and carry on assembling the rest of your garment!
This outfit feels like a tiny personal triumph, so there are two quick things I want to tell you about it:
1) I’ve wandered onto the warm side of the color wheel for the first time in years, and it feels surprisingly great. This is the plum-colored tee I scored at Elizabeth Suzann’s sample sale in December (from their erstwhile Alabama Chanin collab), paired with this weekend’s rendition of my go-to modified Robbie Pants, this time in “Pomelo” linen from Merchant & Mills. I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten a pomelo so can’t say for sure how accurate it is, but I would have named this color after an heirloom tomato — it’s exactly that sort of barely pinkish red. Together, these garments are the accomplishment of a goal: a summer-appropriate outfit that feels like me. In fact, I don’t remember the last time an outfit made me feel this satisfied. (And yet I couldn’t be bothered to do better than a mirror selfie!)
2) I’ve gone up one size in the pants. All of the canvas and denim versions I’ve made were size Small (with some very slight tweaks), based on my wish for there to be as little gathering as possible at the elastic waist. So I chose the size that would just barely slip on over my hips with the elastic fully stretched. After I made them in linen for the first time, by contrast, I was vaguely wishing the fabric had more of an opportunity to swish and drape. This red pair is a Medium and I am in absolute love with the fit. There’s not a huge difference in the sizing, but just enough to transform the way they feel and move.
I might be getting this summer dressing thing figured out. Only took me six summers …
p.s. One of the things I’m loving about making these pants out of assorted 60″-wide linens is they take less than a yard and a half of fabric!