A Taste of the 60s // Striped Coco Dress

Tilly and the Buttons Coco Dress // Boots and Cats

I’ve got another really fun one to share with you today. For the second look capturing the fun and bright spirit of the 60s, how could I deny you the most perfect retro-made-modern dress that is the Tilly and the Buttons Coco?

I realized that I don’t really have much to say about this dress, yet it’s one of my favourite makes to date. It’s funny how that works out that way. When I initially got this striped fabric, I knew right away this was exactly what it was going to be. A striped Coco has been on my sew-do list since I first laid eyes on the pattern. I talked about my finding-a-good-striped-fabric woes in the post about my Coco Breton top last month, but if you got any good stripe sources, hook me up!

Both striped Coco projects were actually cut out at the same time. I cut out the dress, then noticed I had enough left to make the breton top too. Probably because it was still pants weather at that point, the top got made first.

On that note about pattern cutting, I have to ask, what’s your process with sewing projects? Do you work on a single garment, start to finish before starting something new, or do you have multiple things on the go? I used to be strictly one-at-a-time, but I found I ended up sewing less frequently because of it.

Cutting out pattern pieces is definitely my least favourite part of the process (it doesn’t help that I don’t have room for a table and I work off the floor) so it takes a lot of inertia to get started on a project, especially if I am short on time. I have started to cut out a few projects in bulk when I have lots of energy, so I have at least one or two projects ready to go when sewing time is scarcer. I do have to be careful not to prepare TOO many projects or else they stare me down and make me feel guilty they aren’t done yet, but so far this is working pretty well. I’d love to hear how you work around your projects and prep things to sew. I’m all about streamlining.

Anywho, back to Coco.

I was trying to think about why this dress just worked for me. It was hard to narrow it down to describe. It’s this perfect blend of simple yet bold, classic yet unique, different but everyday wearable. It’s everything all in one, and it just ‘clicks’.

This makes my third Coco overall. I said it before, but I think this pattern will be my ultimate TNT. I remember when I first started thinking about what I truly wanted from my clothes, I was often pinning styles that had the 60s funnel neck collar, without pinpointing that was a design element I loved. Once I discovered Tilly, it totally made sense to me, and it was one of the first indie patterns I bought. Unfortunately my first top was made of a poor quality fabric and hasn’t worn super well over time.

Construction notes are super basic: Straight cut in size 2 with usual waist length added. I wanted to play with the graphic nature of the stripe so I opted for the option with contrast cuffs. I thought of adding in the pockets too, but it was much too busy. It was all sewed with the overlocker except for the hem.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Tilly and the Buttons Coco Dress // Boots and Cats

The thick ponte makes this dress the perfect transitional piece for this strange winter-spring (winting?) hybrid season we are currently having. It’s soft and snuggly with a print that says bring on the sunshine. I also want to make more Coco tops in a selection of basic solid colours (though my stash is currently lacking in the solid color department…) to wear year-round so keep your eyes out for more retro goodness.

One more look coming from this photo session with Breanne Marie Photography comin’ atcha next week.

The BlogPodium Dress // A V8766 & B5982 Mashup

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

A few weekends ago I had the pleasure of travelling to Vancouver to attend the 5th annual BlogPodium conference. To be honest I hadn’t heard of the conference before, since it had been previously held over in Toronto. Then I received an email from Jennifer letting me know it was to be held on our side of the country this year. I got so excited and HAD to go. I even booked my tickets from Berlin to be sure I didn’t miss out.

Meeting up with like-minded peers, geeking out over blogging and travelling to the coast? Yes please. Blogpodium is targeted at design and lifestyle bloggers and provides them with a platform to connect & collaborate in a beautiful venue featuring brilliant speakers.

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

Beautiful lettering of Justine Ma Design

To say it was amazing would be an understatement and the energy from connecting with friends new and old was electrifying. I could go on but some of my fellow local bloggers have already recapped the event better than I could, so visit their blogs to read all about it!

What I’ll tell you about was the fact that I was attending a conference for bloggers. ie. the most stylishly dressed people of all time. If I was to attend this conference…what the heck would I wear?!

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

I knew it couldn’t be just any old outfit and I wanted to be sure it was handmade (after all, that’s what a huge portion of this blog is about. I need to live my brand! ha). It would also need to be pretty powerful. In crowded rooms I tend to shrink away, especially if I feel intimidated by the ambition, style and brilliance of those around me. I wanted wear something that made me approachable, yet seem cool and successful. I placed it upon the dress I made to make me feel bold, confident and be a true representation of myself. That’s kinda a lot of ask of a dress now that I think about it.

I dug out this dreamy structured linen  stripe that has been maturing in my stash for about 3 years. It came home in my Sig Plach closing sale haul (among many unnecessary pretty things I needed to have before the store closed forever) and I knew it was something special. It had the potential to be something show-stopping, but I never previously had the project to make it shine.

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

I decided this is what my dress would be. The bold stripe deserved a cupcake-y Kate Spade-y shape and just the thought of it got me giddy. I  grabbed the pattern B5982 because I loved the ruched and pleated skirt and felt it was perfect shape for what I was going for. However, I worried about breaking up the stripes on the bodice with the princess seams. Also I kinda wanted to have sleeves, since it’s just easier than carrying a sweater with you everywhere (I’m ALWAYS too cold, okay?). Enter V8766.

I had never franken-patterned before, but have seen it done many times to brilliant effect. I took the Vogue bodice and matched it to the Butterick skirt and I could not be more pleased with the result. A big plus about mashing up two ‘Big 4’ patterns, as I discovered, was that all the notches matched up! That means I didn’t have to adjust the darts or skirt pleats, they fell into perfect alignment. Hurrah!

I wanted to say that the sewing itself was a breeze, which it was technically, but it definitely didn’t feel that way at the time. This make kinda got emotional.

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

I first made a muslin and added my usual 6 cm length to the bodice and it seemed great. When I cut into my fabric, I made sure to end the bodice on a full stripe so the pattern could continue seamlessly into the skirt. But then for some reason when I tried on the dress…the waistline was WAY too long, like almost at my hips! I brought the skirt back up another 3cm and all was well…except my perfect stripe matching! Blast.

I also went with a full lining since the fabric was a little sheer (and itchy if I am completely honest) and when I put it in and tried on the dress, I felt like it was so lumpy and bumpy and awful. All of a sudden this amazing fabric and design felt heavy, and icky and it made me feel so insecure of myself and skills. It was clear I had tied too much of my perceived success at the conference into the success of this dress that it sabotaged the process. I wanted to quit so bad and just forget the whole thing.

But, I sat and thought about it for a bit. I had already put out a peek of the project on social media, so I basically blackmailed myself. “It would be quite embarrassing show up not wearing what you told everyone you would, no?”. I grumbled and pushed on.

I made a few fit adjustments and completed my hand-finishing (which I ended up quite proud of) and without trying it on again, hung it up for about a week.

I don't usually post shots of the guts but c'mon look at how beautiful that lining is at the zipper!

I don’t usually post shots of the guts but c’mon look at how beautiful that lining is at the zipper!

Luckily, it does seem that time heals all sewing wounds, because when I made my peace with it and put it on a few days before I left (to see if I needed to pack a contingency outfit) it fit like a dream. It was exactly what it was supposed to be.  The shape, the pattern, the FUN. The joy and enthusiasm I had for the project had returned. And I couldn’t wait to pack it.

Just some other alterations and sewing notes; I cut a size 12 from both patterns, added in-seam pockets, raised the neckline about 2cm and drafted a neckline facing to attach the lining. I found it easier to make the dress and lining completely separate and attaching them to the facing at the very end, just before hemming.

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

When you get heavily emotionally invested in any project you are making, I think it is so important to give yourself time to take a break. Once you distance yourself from the object of frustration, you gain a little perspective. Ask yourself why it’s so important to you to create this and what is the worst that would happen if it didn’t work out. You’ll probably find that you have deeper reasons for your emotional reaction than the project itself and once you separate the two, you allow yourself the simple joy of creating something, no pressure attached.

I relieved the dress of my expectations to have it make me connect with people at the conference, because really, it never had the power to do that for me anyway. I am so grateful I powered through and finished it. I felt so at ease with myself as I wore it and felt no need to compare with others in the room. Some people asked if I deliberately dressed to match the decor (nope, coincidence), and many were interested to hear about my process. The dress was a wonderful conversation starter (especially after Jenna called me out for it in her talk!) but it was me who got to do the talking.

I’ve learned that I find my joy in making without expectations. Tying yourself (and ego) into the results can be a frustrating and heartbreaking experience I’m hopefully aware enough of to avoid repeating. I am thankful that this dress rings true to who I am in the end, but the process felt way too heavy – creating is supposed to be fun! Just gotta let it go, and trust that it’ll work out.

My friend Jenna rocks at photobooths. Also, check out that pattern matching at the side seams! Photo credit: Vancouver Photobooth

Jenna totally rocks at photobooths. Also, check out that pattern matching at the side seams! Boo yah! Photo credit: Vancouver Photobooth

Heart on your Sleeve // The Plantain Tee

Heart on your sleeve Plantain tee // Boots & Cats

There’s a time in every seamstress’ journey where she realizes that party dresses and twirly skirts do not a wardrobe make. She then does a complete 180 and focuses down on basic patterns, neutral fabrics and wardrobe staples. That time has finally fallen upon me.

I first got the itch to reinforce my closet with some staples last summer after making a Belcarra blouse with some printed cotton. It went with EVERYTHING and it was so invigorating to wear a make more than once every few months. I then broke the ice with knits when I tested the Senna dress. Add it all up and you got yourself a recipe for some good casual wear. I’ve since made a turquoise Coco, a Julia cardigan, not one but TWO Linden sweatshirts (granted, one of them is crossing the ocean right now to it’s new home for the #LindenSwap) and a Plantain tee. I’ll share all in time, but today i’ll start with the Plantain, since it is so suited for the season.

Heart on your sleeve Plantain tee // Boots & Cats

During the holidays I needed some good knit fabric. Our city has lost most of our great fabric stores in the last few years, so locally I am basically reduced to shopping at Fabricland. It’s fine for notions and some wovens but seriously lacking on knits. I took to the web and landed in the land of Girl Charlee. While I found exactly what I needed for gifts, a few extras may have landed in my cart (bundling up saves shipping, right?). I got this gorgeous grey stripe ponte and it’s been staring at me since then.

Last weekend I decided to put it to use in a Plantain tee. I loved the concept of a simple, long sleeved tee (I always get cold) with elbow patches but I wanted to keep it from looking just ordinary. I started looking at printed fabrics for the elbow patches, thinking maybe a floral would be quirky, or maybe lace? Then the inspiration hit me – hearts! The idea probably nestled into my subconscious as all the valentines bits and bobs started appearing, but I loved the idea and grabbed the scraps from my Linden and made the patches. I used a solid black knit as the design was already wielding a hefty cuteness factor and I didn’t want to launch it over the edge.

Heart on your sleeve Plantain tee // Boots & Cats

To make sure the patches were at a suitable size and scale for the pattern, I traced the original pattern piece on some paper and drew the heart within it, approximately the same size. Other changes I made to the pattern was to lengthen the whole thing 4cm (as I do with practically everything), heighten the neckline 2cm and reducing some of the flare at the hips. I cut a size 36 and it fit perfectly. I did hem my sleeves too closely to the edge of the fabric though, which stretched them out and gave them a bell-shaped edge. Will make sure too avoid that next time.

Heart on your sleeve Plantain tee // Boots & Cats

The fabric was a DREAM to work with. Stretchy, yet firm.  I love the subtlety to the stripes. I’m glad I bought 2m and have some leftover. It would be so dreamy as a Coco for the spring!

Hopefully I won’t bore you with all the basics coming up. I think there’s a special challenge in working with something simple, you have to make it well and find subtle ways to amp it up. I’ve been finding endless inspiration online for unique additions or techniques for these types of patterns. (Exhibit A: Lace touches on Laney’s and Mokosha’s Linden Sweaters, or this colour blocked Coco!)

Heart on your sleeve Plantain tee // Boots & Cats

Sending out wishes of love to everyone this Valentine’s season- especially YOU, you blogging, sewing, creative community, you!