Sunday, December 13, 2015

Summer Sewing 2015

Summer is long gone.

I really like sharing my sewing projects.

I really hate playing catch-up.

In other words, this will be brief.

I used to love this dress, but I mended it quite a few times over the years and it started to feel old and tired, and I didn't really feel good in it anymore. I think I actually had it in my closet for several years without wearing it.
It's made of two layers of sheer nylon mesh. The prints are not matched and so they interrupt each other in such a way that the dress isn't supposed to be see-through. It kinda works.

I actually have two dresses made by this company. I bought them on the same day, spent too much money on them, and loved them well. I'll eventually refashion the other one, but the material was so difficult to sew that I need a nice long break. I used satin ribbon to stabilize my seams, which worked, but the end result looks pretty tortured.

The fabric falls off my shoulders easily and exposes my bra straps, so I wear a strapless bra and color coordinated bandeau underneath. This top is quite imperfect but overall I like it and I'm glad I turned my old dress into something I actually want to wear. The skirt is one of two Colette Mabel skirts that I made this summer. It really is as easy as everyone says. I raised the hemline two inches for this version.

Thanks to my friend Jess for the photos and helping me be silly. I'm still really uncomfortable posing for photos.

I can't find a photo of my other Colette Mabel skirt, so it'll probably show up here during Me Made May. 

I also made my third Lady Skater dress. That's right, I have made three Lady Skater dresses, love them all, and haven't photographed a single one. I'm sure I'll be making more, so I'll try to report those then.

Per usual, I did some rather boring mending and started some projects that I never finished. I plan on finishing them eventually, but they will sit until spring. What fun is it to make something I can't wear for another four months? 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I need to sew something.

This has been an emotional roller coaster of a week. 

I took on more responsibilities in my professional society. 

I ran a successful workshop.

I canceled a presentation at the last minute because I was too emotionally exhausted to get the work done. 

I got a couple of reasonable nights’ sleep instead of finding the will to work on my presentation. 

I missed out on opportunities to spend fun times with my friends and colleagues. 

After pulling myself together post-presentation-cancellation, my wheels started turning and I had some inspiring ideas about my research, something that hasn’t happened recently. 

An end-of-the-conference party and a canceled flight led to several days of sleep deprivation. 

A canceled flight led to an evening of hilarious jokes and strange experiences with a new friend. 

A friend rented a car and took me to beautiful Lake Tahoe for a couple of hours before we had to go to the airport.   

I found out that my ex is moving to a new state, a new job; moving on to a new life without me. Nine months after the breakup, this kind of information still wrecks me. I am so angry that he stopped loving me and at how he handled certain things, and I am so so sad that I can’t have him in my life anymore. I let a significant loss in my life completely shatter my self-confidence and screw up my brain chemistry. I need to love and be loved and that means looking for someone else, and that means letting go, and that is terrifying. I can’t sleep or stop crying through my last flight of this trip, I have a three hour drive ahead of me, 

and I am so ready to be home.

And I really need to sew something. Something pretty, that will make me feel good and talented and special.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Me-Made-May '15 Recap

My first Me-Made-May ended yesterday. How did I fare?

Well, I didn't stay up to date here on the blog or on Instagram, but I never pledged to do that anyway.

I pledged to wear at least one Me-Made garment per week, and I did:
  • I wore my Sew Much Ado Seafarer top at least three times. It's so comfortable. Need to  make more.
  • I wore my Gray Day Patterns Sandpoint Top once, to a family reunion. Photographs exist, but I haven't gotten hold of them yet.
  • I wore my Cake Hummingbird top and skirt once each.
  • I also wore a By Hand London Polly top once. It's not blogged yet, and has proven to be a little bit of a fit saga. I'll save that story for a later iteration. I haven't given up on it yet, but I'm taking a little break from it. 

I pledged to mend one item from my mending and alteration pile per week, but I didn't quite make it happen:
  • I did mend one item and posted about it here.
  • One of the sewing projects I've been working on for the whole month is a refashion of an old dress. That has to count for something!
  • I also altered a pair of pants for a friend. They fit her everywhere but the waistband, so I took the waistband in and took the corresponding amount out of the center back seam. They look pretty good and she is happy, but I think I could do a better job on the center back seam. She bought three of the same pair of pants, so I have two more chances for perfection.

What did I learn?
  • I like wearing what I make, and I want to finish more projects so I can have more garments in my rotation. 
  •  Mending one item from the mending/alteration pile is not a reasonable goal. Maybe I should strive to mend one garment in between each of my bigger sewing projects.

Did I just hear someone say this is a boring post with no pictures?

Here's a nice little great hammerhead that we caught while doing our research last week. It was a lovely day.

Sorry these bullets are so ugly. Someday I  should take some time to make my blog more aesthetically-pleasing.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Me-Made-May '15 Week 1

At the end of week 1 (which I'm counting as Saturday night), I am on track with my Me-Made-May pledge. (Yes, it was kind of a light pledge, but whatever.)

I wore my Cake Hummingbird top to dinner for a friend's birthday last week. Every time I look in the mirror I simultaneously feel awesome and roll my eyes at that crazy wonky peplum. I really need to make a new top with that pattern (more carefully this time), but somehow I still think I'm going to keep reaching for this one for a while.

A photo posted by Johanna Leigh (@johannaimhoff) on

Last night I finally mended something from my mending and alteration pile, too. At least two years ago, the drawstring from my Be Present yoga pants got twisted around some other laundry in the washing machine and ripped in half. All I needed to do was press it flat again, sew it back together, and thread it through the waist again. Why did that take me so long?

FYI, my Be Present pants were a really worthwhile purchase. High quality, made in the USA, and who doesn't want to wear a lotus on their butt?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Me-Made-May '15

I'm planning to participate in Me-Made-May for the first time ever this year!

Here is my pledge:

 'I, (Johanna Imhoff of, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '15. I endeavour to wear one me-made/refashioned garment per week for the duration of May 2015, and also to mend one item from my mending pile per week.'

I don't have a very extensive me-made wardrobe at this point, especially for one season. However, I am certain that I can manage to wear at least one me-made garment per week. I also have a silly pile of garments that need mending or altering. Most of the changes need are so simple that it's just stupid that I haven't done it yet. Making new clothes is just more fun! But if I replace a couple of drawstrings, mend a torn seam or two, and take in some shoulder seams, it will be almost like having a bunch of new clothes.

Here is the link to the signup. I tried to add the gadget, but blogger keeps telling me it has illegal characters (I don't know what I'm doing).

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Two New Tops for Summer

When spring springs here in Florida it can get warm really fast. I started feeling like I didn’t have any tops to wear other than regular t-shirts, and I wear those all the time so I like to try to dress a little more nicely for school or going out with my friends. 

Over the past couple of weeks I have sewn two tops, Sew Much Ado’s Seafarer Top and Gray Day Patterns’ Sandpoint Top. I have had the Seafarer in my collection for a couple of years but hadn’t gotten around to making it. I was drawn to the simple lines and the wide hem bands and arm bands, and I bought the pattern without a specific fabric or a clear vision in mind. I finally decided to sew myself a Seafarer in a knit that I randomly purchased from Girl Charlee Fabrics about two years ago. 

I cut a size medium with a cheater FBA by grading out to a large at the bust on both the front and back pattern pieces and a 1” swayback adjustment. I began construction by attempting to stitch clear elastic into the shoulder seams and fold-over neckline. It was a disaster. I think both my knit and the elastic are too thick and there was just way too much bulk. I unpicked the neckline elastic, and ripped a hole in the fabric. Next I cut a neckband and tried to cover the hole. It didn’t work, and I didn’t really like the bound neckline. I decided to just stitch the neckline down hole and all and treat this as an unwearable muslin for fitting purposes only. No photos of this disaster…I couldn’t find my camera and my mirror-cell phone selfies came out terribly. Maybe this was a sign that dolman sleeves aren’t right for me, but I didn’t like the excess fabric at my underarms/the sides of my bust. However, when I lifted the top by the shoulder seams, I liked it much better. On my pattern piece, I simply folded the shoulder line down an inch and cut out the pattern again in the same fabric. I also scooped out the neckline a little lower in both the front and back, but I didn’t make these changes on the pattern. 

The front and back curved hemlines didn’t really match up, so I folded the hem up at the bottom of a stripe and then stitched within that stripe and trimmed off the excess fabric.

 Ta daaaa!
I wanted to keep this as simple as possible because of the stripes, but I absolutely see myself making other versions with the sleeve and hem band options. 

I'm really happy with the fit, although maybe I need even more of a swayback adjustment?

And I'm really happy with the stripe matching.

When I first saw the Sandpoint Top, I thought it was cute but that the shape wouldn’t be flattering on me. However, I kept seeing versions of it pop up on the internet in fabrics with varying drape and decided a really lightweight fabric with a lot of drape might work for me. I’ll write about the fabric I have in mind later when I actually cut it out and stitch it up. In the meantime, I knew I needed a test-fitting garment, and grabbed another Girl Charlee knit from my stash. It’s not at all similar to the fabric I want to use next, but I just can’t keep buying fabrics for muslins right now.

I cut a straight size small, which is a thing I THOUGHT I WOULD NEVER DO. I considered trying to do a cheater FBA, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it with the sleeve shape of the pattern. The finished garment measurement chart made it look like a straight small without a FBA would actually work for me, but I didn’t believe it could be true so I stitched on ahead with the expectation of at least partial failure.

But I didn't fail! It worked! On the first try! 

I wore it again Friday night with better-fitting jeans and felt even better in it than the photos would indicate.

Honestly, I never thought the "wearable muslin" would be a reality for me, but this is my new favorite shirt.

When I look at these photos, I see some potential fit issues that I don't see or feel when I see myself in the mirror. Maybe the garments are sitting differently, or I'm standing strangely when I'm posing for the photos, or maybe I do have real fit issues. I'm pretty uncomfortable taking photos of myself and I think how I feel when I'm wearing the clothes and how I feel when I look in the mirror are more important than my awkward blog photos. However, I'm still a rookie and I'm open to fit advice from others. Have any?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fitting McCall's M6612

I’ve been working sporadically on McCall’s M6612 for over a year now, and it’s still not right, but I think I’m making progress. I have two muslins of two different views of the dress, and I actually wore one of them. I’ll never wear the other. Here we go…

I first started working on View A, and made a couple of initial muslins. Many thanks to Andrea of Satin Bird Designs for her advice on alterations, which got me to my third and most productive muslin. I'm just going to focus on that one.

I cut a size 14 and did a cheater FBA by moving the armscye up 2” and adding ½” of ease at the side seam. I made the corresponding changes to the cowl, which folds and down and lines up perfectly with the armscye and the top couple of inches on the side seam. I think this adjustment ruined the cowl. Also, I don’t really know how to adjust the sleeve cap to fit an armscye adjustment, so I just gathered the top of the sleeve so it would fit. I have to learn how to actually make that alteration. The gathering made the sleeve too tight on the top of my shoulder, which I guess doesn’t matter since I’m never going to wear this dress.

Add caption

 There are two major major fit issues with this dress. First, the cowl is way too big now and doesn’t feel secure. I also hate the way it drapes. I think this might be a combination of the alteration and my fabric choice. I think I need to choose a fabric that has a little bit heavier drape and is maybe just a little bit slinky. The other major major horrible issue is that the self-facing of the cowl lands right at my bustline and is visible through the dress and feels awkward and uncomfortable. I think I need to lengthen it and maybe put some elastic in it to make it a shelf bra. That thing needs to stay put, for real. 

I guess a third major fit issue would be that overall, it's too big. Totally fixable. 

Ugh, why does this cowl suck so much?

On to my next version of M6612…

We (ecology and evolution grad students and faculty) have a fancy party every December before the holidays. We call it the wine party, and we wear our fanciest and bring the cheapest bottle of wine we can find (more or less). I wanted something new to wear. I still had this bridesmaid dress in my closet from a dear friend’s wedding a few years ago, and I had worn it to the wine party once, but I didn’t really want to wear it again. (I also couldn’t wear it again because it wouldn’t zip anymore.) 

Unfortunately I don't have a good picture of myself wearing this dress, though I know there are some good ones from my friend Katharine's wedding.

Refashion time!

I cut View C in size 14, and did a cheater FBA by adding ease to the side seams by the bust. I used the sleeve pattern from View A and shortened the sleeves to elbow length due to fabric limitations. I also raised the hem as much as I felt comfortable, scooped out the front neckline a little bit lower, and scooped out the back neckline a lot lower (it was for a fancy party after all). I wanted to use the gorgeous satin as accents, so I trimmed the sleeves with it and made ties to go across my shoulder blades to give me some security that the dress wouldn’t slip over and expose my bra straps.

My issues with this dress mostly have to do with sewing quality. First, this material doesn’t hold a press at all. Not even for a moment. Second, the fabric slipped all over the place. Constantly. Third, satin frays like it was born to fray, and being pretty and shiny is just icing on a weird frayed cake. Combine all these things and the dress looks like a mess, but I wore it anyway. There are some minor fit issues that I won’t be able to change at this point, but the fabric has really great recovery so I can redo the sewing with my new walking foot, and I think I will want to wear it again and feel pretty good about it. I also don’t like the width of the satin trim on the sleeves. Those are coming off and I don’t know what I’ll do in their place. Don't worry, I'll figure it out.

Did you notice my sparky shoes? I glittered some BCBG nude pumps that I bought at Goodwill. I got the idea from this tutorial over at Merrick’s Art. I wanted to go for a rose gold effect, so I mixed some pink glitter into some gold glitter until it was the color that I wanted. I should have gone for the finer glitter but the pink wasn’t quite right. They were fun.

Now for fit issues in common between View A and View C.

I think I need some more fabric on the top of the shoulder. I thought that this was a problem because of my alterations to the cowl in View A, but I have the same problem with View C. It might be hard to see in the photos, but in both of these dresses I feel like my bra straps will be exposed at any second.

I need to start experimenting with swayback adjustments, which I learned recently with some other unblogged garments, and from reaching out to the Florida Fashion Sewists Facebook group. You can't really see the excess fabric at the small of my back in the purple dress, and the green dress is too big overall, so you might just have to take my word for it

Do you notice anything else?

Although you could argue that I should have made some more muslins before cutting into my sage knit and my bridesmaid dress, I think it worked out kind of well to make two versions of the same dress, because it allowed me to see what fit issues were caused by my alterations and what fit issues are just due to the way the pattern fits my body. Perhaps I’m on my way to learning what my “usual” alterations will be.

I’d really like to work out the fit issues with View A, because I think it would actually make a great top and I could use some more of those. For a top, I might actually make the self facing go the whole way to the bottom hem. Thoughts?