I can’t believe I made it all the way to the final round of this year’s Sewing Bee! Last year was my fist year to participate, and I was ecstatic to have made it through to the second round. It feels like such an accomplishment this year to be participating all the way through to the finals! I’m also really excited with all of the garments I’ve made. While some of them are certainly more wearable than others, I feel really happy with the way all of them turned out. In some sense the final round was perhaps my least successful – I had a lot of sewing and non-sewing trials and tribulations during this 10-day challenge. Without the time constraint I would have muslined the trousers of the jumpsuit a second time after making major sizing changes, I would likely have taken the time to get some double welt pockets on the back of the trouser, I would have ordered some different hardware for the buckle, and i might have refined my jacket embellishment a bit more. I also would have modified under garments to work a bit better with the jumpsuit design. However, given everything I had to deal with during this challenge and the time crunch it created, I am very pleased with what I was able to accomplish for this round.
School Reunion Inspiration: When the challenge came up school reunion I was actually pretty excited. I was shocked to receive a postcard earlier this year reminding me that my 10 year college reunion is coming up in 2018. So, even though I might not *actually* go to all the festivities, making this outfit felt pretty applicable. Of all my school experiences, my undergraduate years are probably the ones I have the most mixed feelings about. On the one hand, I have very fond memories of being at school, and my professors and my educational experience there. On the other hand, I have some rather negative associations with a certain individual who may have, how shall I say? Disabused my notions of the fairy tale ending alluded to in so many of the Disney films of my youth. I’m sure you can relate. It’s long past, and I’m a much happier person now, yet the idea of “revenge sewing” a knockout outfit appealed very much to my vindictive side. What can I say? I’m human.
So, what to make? It needed to be elegant, yet relaxed. Powerful, yet understated. Not too fussy, yet it needed to make a statement. Oh, and it had to be drop dead sexy. But in a self-aware and empowered sort of way. A look screaming “desperate for attention” was not what I was going for. Of course, the first thing that came to mind was a jumpsuit, and what better pattern to use for revenge sewing than Rebecca Vallance’s Vogue 1524? I figured if I used a little jacket as a cover-up, I’d be able to use it for any networking events during the day, and with a quick removal of the jacket it’d be the revenge sewing project of perfection for the evening.
I wanted to use my school colors in the look, so I searched LA for the perfect royal blue color (not as easy to find as you’d think!) and gold accents. I sort of came up empty on the gold hardware, but it turned out I had the perfect separating zipper in my stash, and I wasn’t above using Sharpie paint pens to help me transform a plastic buckle. I’d like to replace the buckle in the future, but the turnaround time of the Bee dictated that I be resourceful and use what I could find on hand.
As for the jacket, I originally wanted to do something simple, but an offhanded comment from my dad convinced me that this piece is where the fun “wow” factor could go. My college mascot is the anteater, so I thought it would be cool to add an abstract anteater to the back of my jacket.
Challenges: I feel like this week conspired against me. First, fabric shopping in LA was entirely stressful, as I normally don’t have such an issue finding fabrics that speak to me. Although I was able to find everything I wanted in the end, it took a *lot* of searching to find a serviceable royal blue for the trouser portion of the jumpsuit. Then, on Monday, the California wildfires forced me and my family to evacuate our home. Although we did have some time to pack our cars, and my family was great in helping me rescue materials for the Bee, I did essentially lose 2-3 sewing days due to ransacking my sewing room, then trying to restore it to some semblance of working order to get the projects done in time. Granted, having a home is to return to is more important than finishing items for the Bee, but I know there are many people who would have loved to be a finalist, and I felt like I couldn’t so easily give up when I still had time to try to make something. Of course, my level of ambition hadn’t factored in needing to evacuate, and I think I was a bit over-ambitious in my plans. It didn’t help that the poor air quality and stress sent my grandmother to the hospital (she is fine), or that I really hadn’t planned to make it this far and had scheduled work events for the weekend. I ditched as many things as I could, but I was still scrambling, which meant sloppy sewing, which meant mistakes. I was almost done making the back welt pockets on the trousers when I decided to scrap them – they just weren’t good enough, and they weren’t salvageable. Due to time constraints I recut the back trouser piece, and move forward sans welts. I would have loved to have that detail, but I just couldn’t risk another botchy job when I was so punchy from lack of sleep and liable to make another error.
Special Techniques: Aside from the time issue, I did choose a rather technical Vogue designer pattern, which had complex fitting, multiple closures, and a metal separating zip that needed to be shortened. I also added the anteater design in metallic fabrics to the back of my jacket. I drafted my own lining pieces for the trousers of the jumpsuit and for the jacket because my fabrics were a little itchy.
Vogue 1524 is a Rebecca Vallance Vogue Designer pattern with cup sizing. It is a jumpsuit with open back, exposed separating zipper, buckle, and collar on the top. It has wide-legged trousers with side pockets and back welt pockets on the bottom of the jumpsuit.
Simplicity 8178 is a wardrobe pattern with a jumpsuit, dress, and jacket. I made the jacket (view D) as an accent to the Vogue jumpsuit.
Pattern Sizing: Both patterns come in sizes 6-14 and 14-22. I traced a size 12 at the bust, a 14 at the waist, and a 16/18 at the hip for each. For the Vogue pattern I used the D cup sizing.
Were the instructions easy to follow?
Vogue: Yes, I thought the instructions were quite good. There were times attaching the back straps when it told me to hand-sew, but I wasn’t sure why when a machine stitch was easily achieved. Similarly, I machine-sewed the straps with the back buckle, but I wish I’d hand-tacked that for a cleaner finish. I may go back and re-do that after the Bee has ended. Otherwise I followed the instructions and everything worked out great, except the welt pockets. That was more an error from rushing and exhaustion than from any problems with the instruction though.
Simplicity: These instructions were fine. I was a bit perplexed by calling one piece the “front and under collar” because it sounded like these should be two pieces you attach together, but really that is the title for just one pattern piece. I did not follow all the instructions for finishing the inside of the jacket since I added a lining, but it does look like you would get a neat finish on an unlined jacket using these instructions. There rest of the instructions were great, the pattern sews together very neatly.
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the envelope once you were done with it?
Vogue: Yes, very much! It is a super distinctive design, but I love the way it turned out.
Simplicity: Yes, I think so! It would perhaps lie better in a ponte knit or something with a bit less body, but I couldn’t resit the sparkles for my reunion look.
What did you particularly like or dislike about this pattern?
Vogue: Likes: The style is great, and it is super comfortable. Dislikes: It is a bit tricky to zip the upper portion without help, and I had to jerry-rig a bra that would work with the look. The undergarments still need a bit of tweaking, but they are almost there.
Simplicity: Likes: The jacket is super cute! It is the perfect accent to add to a jumpsuit or dress. Dislikes: The arms are quite fitted and the collar does stand a bit away from the body. I think in a different fabric this would not be an issue though.
Fabric used: Since this was a fancy outfit (and the final round of the Bee!) I decided to splurge a bit and went on a shopping trip in the LA garment district. All of the fabrics in this look were bought at Michael Levine’s, except the trouser portion and the trim fabrics, which were bought from the smaller stores on 9th street in Downtown LA.
Vogue: The top is a wonderfully soft ponte-like double knit. The trousers portion is (shockingly) a wonderful wool twill. I though I was overpaying for polyester, but, nope, it’s wool. And it is gorgeous and presses like a dream. The lining was Bemberg rayon.
Simplicity: The main fabric is a really cool metallic jacquard knit from Michael Levine. The lining is a stretch poly satin, which sews like a dream. The trim is weird cheap metallic fabric that people apparently use as tablecloths at weddings that I somehow got into my head would be something cool to work with. Why I think things like this I may never know.
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
Vogue: In my muslin, I used a size 18 at the hip and the crotch seemed really low. So when I switched to a size 16, I also raised the top length line by 1/2” and lowered the lower length line by 1/2”. Honestly, I should have just left it alone, as moving to a size 16 was enough to fix the crotch curve issue, but I should have still added that extra 1/2” to the lower leg length. I also added 1” to the underarm/front diagonal because I was having major side boob in the sample. I also added full lining to the trousers because my wool was mildly scratchy.
Simplicity: I made a 1” full bicep adjustment, shortened the sleeve length, and added a lining.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Vogue: I’m having mild PTSD towards this pattern right now; it’s given me a complex against welt pockets. I’d love to make a version in black though, so I expect I might return to it at some point. With a re-adjusted/un-adjusted crotch curve.
Simplicity: The jacket is cute, so I’d totally sew another version. I’d also love to try the jumpsuit from this pattern and create the full look on the envelope. I’d use a slightly thinner fabric with less body next time.
Conclusion: I’m so excited to have finished my looks for the Bee! I think this would be super fun to wear to a reunion, but I’m totally wearing the jumpsuit for some holiday parties coming up later this year. The jacket is a bit of a special piece, but I love my little anteater so I’m sure I’ll find an occasion to wear it out soon. Although the sewing for this final round was more stressful and less successful than I would have liked, I am so happy to have made it this far in the Bee, and so grateful that I’ve had this opportunity to be a finalist!
And now it’s back to real life. The Bee really does give one a sewing high. Today (the day after the Bee closed) I feel like I’ve got a really bad hangover. I feel stiff, and sore, with a mild headache and no desire to do anything. It’s like I’m finally letting last week hit me, and it is hitting hard. I’ve got a ton of stuff to do – I never really unpacked after the fire evacuation, other than the sewing stuff, I haven’t folded laundry in weeks, I’m terribly behind on emails and regular mail, there is no food to speak of in the house… Plus I’ve got the November Burda and new Vogue patterns to review, and a post of a “wearable muslin” that I made in conjunction with my winning second round look. So, while I *should* start to clear the clutter that has accumulated around the edges of my life, the sewing hangover might dictate that I sit on my lazy rump and write up a few more posts for you guys. Stay tuned – there will be a lot to discuss in the next few days!