I love Maria Denmark's free Kirsten Kimono Tee, which was my second "grown up" make and first successful knit make (after my strange BHL Polly Top in hatchi knit). Aside from the slightly droopy neckline I was happy with it and gifted it to mom before taking any pics. Anyhow, at some point last summer I had the not-so-brilliant idea of lengthening the pattern into a maxi dress. I am not sure why I thought it would look good when I normally don't like straight dresses with kimono sleeves. Go figure. I decided to try my idea on this gorgeous jersey print instead of the many boring solids in my stash. Again, go figure. 

I also had the idea of ruching the midsection  like so (a technique I've never used) to make it more unique and flattering so I cut the dress extra long. Why would you ruch a nice print like this? And WHY oh why would I wear these awkward formal shoes in the picture? SO MANY "GO FIGURE"S!!! The whole thing was so half-baked it was no big surprise that I hated the pre-ruched version immediately and no amount of ruching would change that. It fit like a column whose sole purpose was to emphasize my lack of curves. And sway back. Ugh.


 
 

My first Sallie Jumpsuit was such an instant favorite that after two days of wearing it non-stop I had to start a second one (and do laundry). Now that size and fit were mostly figured out I was ready to risk a nicer fabric. I had my mind set on this ultra soft mystery knit I got for $2/yard from L.A.'s Fabric District (I know I know, us L.A. sewists are so lucky and spoiled, it's sickening). It appeared to be some sort of rayon poly mix with great recovery and a thick and very spongy/bouncy feel. It also screamed "I will pill like crazy if you just look at me the wrong way". But you can only ask so much for $2/yard. Most importantly though, it had a fun print! And by fun I mean the kind that inevitably drives you to homicidal rage fantasies against its unknown designer. But we'll get to that soon enough.

First I want to say that I love my Sallie #2 even more than my Sallie #1.  I have probably worn it 10 out of the last 14 days. Everyone is getting sick of seeing me in it. I don't wash it often enough (at least I am saving water! #CAdrought). I just don't care, I don't want to take it off because it is literally the most comfortable thing I own. There is only one downside to the Sallie Jumpsuit, or any jumpsuit for that matter: peeing naked. But it is so worth it!


 
 
What if I told you that I recently sewed myself a pair of pajamas that I wore on a plane, to work, and then to a bar? And that I was appropriately dressed in all cases? You'd say that’s some crazy talk, right? It is crazy. But it’s not just talk. It is A Thing and she is called Sallie. You might be thinking, looking at the picture above, "Umm, you can't sleep in this". Oh but you most certaintly can, ladies and gents. It is that soft and comfy. I didn’t believe it at first either. 

Having tested her Ginger Skinny Jeans, I was happy to try out Heather’s new baby, which she described as an easy make, easy wear knit jumpsuit, culottes, or maxi dress. Aka “secret pajamas”. I thought the pajamas comment was a stretch, but since I don’t own a single jumpsuit I decided to give that view a try. Use a cheapo fabric, give some useful feedback, wear it once or twice, and call it a day. 

Next thing I know, I am wearing it literally all the time. And I mean ALL the time. Getting compliments left and right. And ignoring my summer research job in favor of making a second one. Sallie is addictive and a bad influence. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 


 
 

A couple of weeks ago my awesome mom (who doubles as a sister and best friend) came up for a few days while the boyfriend was away at a conference. Usually when she visits I try to have a list of fun L.A. things for us to do. But this time we had work. I had Sewing Ideas. One of them was to make an infinity dress with black jersey straps for the top but, as a unique twist, a double layer chiffon circle skirt as the bottom. I was confident it would take under 4 hours because circle chiffon skirts are real easy, right? Ha. Ha. Ha. 

After cutting the infinity dress straps from the nicest black jersey, we did a mock wrap top and quickly realized that this style of dress is not for me. I have a wide ribcage and all the ways to style this dress involve wraping the straps around your chest. So we abandoned the dress idea and decided to just make the chiffon skirt. But as I had never worked with chiffon before I was in for a rude awakening. 

 
 

Meet Onyx — Paprika Patterns' new minimalist hi-low woven shirt. When Lisa asked me for a review, I was excited because I love her work. But also a bit skeptical because I have a big anti woven tops bias. I prefer close-fitting clothes, but hate any restriction in my underarms and shoulders, so 99% of my tops are knits. Still, there is something so sleek and grown up about the structure of woven shirts, that for a while I've been waiting for a pattern that challenges me to get over my silly bias. And with Onyx, get over it I did. Like a phoenix from the ashes, this top rose from the pits of my blunders and skepticism and stole my heart.

I chose the cropped version because I thought the darts would make it more fitted. But that also meant the possibility of flashing my tummy and I am self-conscious about my tummy... I decided, hey may be Onyx is the universe telling me that it's time I got over that disempowering bias too. My third bias was, amusingly enough, against using bias tape because I always imagined that it would be crunchy, hard to install, gape-y, and motion-restricting. Lastly, after a year of knowingly (or unknowingly) going after projects that are a bit (or a lot) past my skill level, while also learning to deal (or fail to deal) with my weird shape, I was sick of pattern alterations. Just sick of them! So in my rebellious mode I decided to make it as is, come hell or high water. You just sit and watch (my tummy), World, you just sit and watch! 


 
 
I first encountered Paprika Patterns via their adorable folded mini skirt tutorial, which has since been released as an official pay-what-you-want pattern. Late last year, I was just thinking that I should give it a try, when I received an invitation to test their next pattern: a sweatshirt / sweaterdress with a unique collar/hood. Up until then I'd been very good at telling myself that I am NOT purposefully avoiding my first set-in sleeves. Nooo sir. I just so happen to only like patterns that have cap kimono or no sleeves. Really. *gulp*. But as I learned with the Ginger Jeans, the best way to face your sewing fears is to promise someone else that you will. With a deadline. 

Just to be clear, my comments are based on testing the unfinished product and the final version of the pattern is a bit different from what we were given. For example, rather than separate side panels the pattern now has princess seams. So take this post with a grain of salt (by the way how did this expression come to be as a sign one should be cautious? To me everything tastes better, not worse, with a grain of salt! :)).

 
 
As a scientist I try to apply a scientific mindset to most aspects of my life (well, except when it comes to matters of the heart, but that's a story for another day...). Which is why anything labeled "alternative" or "holistic" raises red flags for me until I see some good research* that turns the flags from red to yellow, and, in rare cases, green. 

My partner is also a scientist, a particle physicist who approaches everything with a scientific mindset (including matters of the heart, but that's a story for yet another day haha:)). So imagine my surprise when, about a year into dating, when an especially insidious flu was decimating Southern California, he said we should try this "natural remedy" that a hippie friend of his mom had taught him. But the real shocker came when it worked. And kept working. I call it Magic Hippie Potion.

 
 
After a few years of occasional refashions of Goodwill clothes into costumes for dress-up parties, I moved to Los Angeles and settled dangerously close to its glorious Fabric Distric. Not knowing the next thing about sewing, I'd venture down there, buy anything that looked pretty and cost under $5/yard, then stash it away and promise myself to learn how to sew. Soon. Really soon. Any day now. For reals this time. This went on for about 3 years. 
Eventually I ran out of storage so in April I decided that either I'm going to get serious about all this or I'll have to be a grownup and donate my fabric to a more loving home. So I found an Intermediate Sewing class of three 5-hour sessions at the community college (there was also a Beginners class on how to use a sewing machine and make a pillowcase, but since I had played enough with my Brother I wanted something a bit more challenging).

So bright-eyed and bushy-tailed I walked into my classroom on a Saturday morning to have my little sewing soul crushed. 

 
 
I consider By Hand London's Polly Top to be my first "grown up" make. It's got serious flaws (curly fries, ahem, bindings anyone?) and I made a comedy of rookie errors ("It says it's for wovens, but I'm sure this paper-thin jersey will work too, right?"). But I still like it because it's bright, soft, and my true Firstborn.

To be honest, I didn't treat it as my true firstborn at the time. I thought "Well I've made some refashions, that patternless skirt, and a few other silly things (a knit pillowcase. don't ask). So surely I already Know Stuff. How hard can learning the rest be?" (Ha ha ha!). I did realize that the fact I'd never laid eyes on an actual sewing pattern was a problem. So I downloaded a tiered skirt Burda pattern, taped it, and screamed! What in the world was that??? It didn't make ANY sense! So I did what I always do when things don't make sense. I went to school. I signed up for a 3-session sewing class. It was not a good experience, but I did learn one thing: how to read and, most importantly, appreciate, the pure genius that are sewing patterns. And for that I am forever grateful! 

 
 
A couple of months ago, Heather of Closet Case Files issued an open call for pattern testers for her upcoming (then) mystery pattern. I was so excited, and impressed, because it was the first time I'd seen such a call. Unlike most big indie pattern designers who seem to primarily rely on other big indie pattern designers for testing (causing a big controversy and even accusations of cliquey-ness and of pattern testing being a front for free publicity), Heather has stated her commitment to using testers of all shapes, sizes, and skill levels. I.e. regular people who have nothing to lose by being brutally honest. Brave move! And now she was making good on that promise! There was a short web form to apply through and a few weeks later I was ecstatic to get a testing invitation. If I had to guess, I'd say she probably picked me because I'd only made a few things ever and she was curious how a complete beginner would fare with her new pattern. So was I!