Jessica Sews | Matilda Dress

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Today I’m excited to share a project that took me a while to jump into, but when I did, I couldn’t stop myself from stopping! This is the Matilda Dress from Megan Nielsen Patterns. After starting with the Dawn jeans (I know you’re tired of me going on and on about them), I decided I’d try another of Meg’s designs. This dress caught my eye. It really has the feel of something I used to wear a lot back in my NYC days and feels very me. So with the pattern in mind, I started to think about what fabric I might use.

Loads of sewers have been posting their makes using this linen blend blue and white ikat from JoAnn Fabrics. I even used it for my Hayden tee in the reverse color scheme (which I also used for my inner yolk, collar stand and waistband!) ! I’m glad I scooped up so much yardage when I did because on my last visit in store I saw it was sold out. So I have this gorgeous fabric and this multi piece pattern and my challenge is at hand: matching that pattern.

Guys - I loved it. To make it work, I had to cut out each piece individually (versus cutting the left and right at the same time while the fabric is folded) to get everything to line up just so. I started with my skirt back next to the selvage edge and went from there. To get two seams to match up just right you have to take your cut piece, fold back the seam allowance and place it down on your flat fabric. From there lay down the piece you want to match 5/8” over that pressed back SA. Place the new pattern piece down, remove the original piece and cut. And over and over and over.

And I was so proud of all that matching when I discovered… I cut the wrong size. I had printed the PDF pattern, taped it up and cut two sizes too big when I put the pattern away a couple of months ago. I can’t believe my measurements would have changed so much in that time and I made the dumb mistake of not measuring twice before cutting. Luckily I was able to recut the bodice by trimming off the necessary extra and I added a couple of pleats to the skirt back (instead of taking in the CB, which would have messed up the matching) and in the end it all turned out ok.

I made a few other modifications as well. For the front pockets to get the perfect ikat repeat, I made an inverted box pleat rather than the standard pleat instructions in the pattern. I also cut the top collar as to pieces to they would mirror one another at the front collar points.

I really loved making this dress. The pattern is excellent. The fabric was really great to work with and because the ikat is woven into the fabric (instead of just printed on top) it made my matching up less time consuming than I anticipated. I really wanted to stretch this project out over a week but it ended up coming together in just 3 days. It pressed out so nicely and all of that topstitching is what I love about sewing. Perfect little straight lines give me so much satisfaction!

ALSO! I attached my buttons by machine!! I’ve never done this before. Meg mentioned it in one of her tutorials and I thought… I bet I could do that. I just set my zigzag to the same distance as my buttonholes and held it in place until I had gone back and forth 10 times. I don’t know if I can ever do buttons by hand ever again (I will…when my historical sewing gets moved to the top of my list!)

Has anyone else done a project with this fabric too? I’d love to see what you made! DM me on instagram or shoot me an email!

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Jessica Sews | Upcycled Swiss Dot + Refashioned Levis

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When it comes to my sewing projects, I usually finish them within a couple of days of starting. If it gets set aside for too long, it becomes lost in the abyss/I feel guilty and hide it with other fabric. These jeans were just about to meet the same fate until I found myself nearly caught up in my sewing agenda and thinking… maybe I can get these to work. But before I tell you about that, let me rewind to the beginning.

If you’ve seen my last handful of posts, you know I am really into harvesting fabric from thrift store pieces to remake into modern styles in my own size. I LOVE DOING THIS. There aren’t a ton of local options for fabric near me and we have a really two really great Goodwill stores in town. I’ve found typically expensive fabrics - wool, silk, linen, Swiss dots, seersuckers, eyelets - the list goes on and on.

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After making a good assortment of tops (like the one in this post!), it crossed my mind I might be able to find some men’s jeans that could be upcycled into a new pair that fit me. Raw denim is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but it takes a lot of wearing and washing to get it to fade into a soft vintage blue. And that’s what I had in mind for this pair of jeans, so imagine my crazy good luck when I found a pair of men’s Levi’s in a size 50 for under five bucks.

I wanted to try to keep some of the original elements - the red tab, big back pockets and front coin pocket all came along into my new pair. I was able to cut most of the rest of the jeans out but had to go cross grain in some places, or use different fabric all together - like the inside waistband and belt looks. But I LIKE the way all of the different elements come together. I finished the bottom edge with a raw hem and the fit on these is really relaxed. Perfect for milling about the house, working outside or whatever.

The issue that gave me trouble was using thick thread in conjunction with thick fabric. My home machine just couldn’t wing it. I finally thought maybe regular thread would work and I’m glad I did because it came through. With the extra bar tacks and top stitching I think this pair will be plenty sturdy and I don’t mind going back into mend if need be.

So both the top and denim in this post are upcycled plus the band on my self made hat! You’ve seen the blouse worn here (Simplicity 8391, out of print) and the jeans are my favorite denim pattern (Dawn Jean) from Megan Nielsen patterns (literally every pair of pants i make are this pattern. What am I up to? Eight versions?)

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Jessica Sews | Chambray Refashion Dress

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Guys, this is one of my favorite sewing projects of the year and I’m so excited to tell you all about it. A couple weekends ago I was revisiting my spring outfit ideas page on Pinterest and on a whim did a search to see if one particular vintage sewing pattern (Butterick 6079) may be floating around on ebay or etsy. In a stroke of amazing luck, I tracked down the exact pattern I wanted in my size! Plus it was uncut and never used, so for six bucks I placed my order and waited patiently for it to arrive.

In the meantime I did some sketching and brainstormed ideas for fabric to use on the project. I’ve been wanting to do some seventies stye prairie dresses a la Gunne Sax, so the idea of using little ditty print cottons was one that would have definitely vibed with the pattern cover illustrations. As I jotted down ideas I started to think that chambray could be pretty, maybe in various shades. Since I’ve been thrifting multiple times a week lately, I also knew there were a lot of plus sized skirts just waiting to be used for fabric.

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I visited both Goodwill stores in my town and bought four different skirts, all size 18 or larger. I didn’t even realize it at the time, but I picked up two of the same skirt (one slightly more faded than the other)- one at the east side location and the other across town.

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While I waiting for my mail carrier to deliver the pattern, I started picking apart the skirts. The elastic waistband on one had amazing depth from color loss after washing (that’s what I used for the top band and straps!) The pair of matching skirts had these tiny eighth inch pin tucks and a nice one inch hem that I picked out. Although I didn’t have any full yards of fabric, by sewing panels back together in an alternating triangle pattern (hem up, hem down, hem up) I was able to get plenty of usable fabric with the grain running straight. I even picked off the back pockets of the darkest chambray which you can see closely if you look! I love this detail!

Once I was able to open my pattern and start cutting I ended up finishing the dress in the same day. I mean, as I saw it coming together I just couldn’t put it down! This turned out even better than my greatest expectations. I love that I refashioned and upcycled second hand pieces, used thread and notions I already had and got use from a vintage pattern that would have otherwise sat in someone’s attic for years. I am so proud that my self made wardrobe is at least half made from repurposed fabric and truth be told, it’s the only way for me to get really unique and high quality fabric where I live.

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Jessica Sews | Hayden Tee, Dawn Shorts and DIY Shoes!

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Alright alright, I’m two months behind on these photos. I’ve chopped my hair and gotten glasses, but I am still LOVING this head to toe self made outfit. From the hat on my head to the soles of my shoes - everything is #memade! Let’s jump in and I’ll tell you more about each piece!

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My hat is re-worked straw from a style I made in the past (mine had been crushed from a season’s worth of heavy use). I re-blocked it using the same wooden crown and brim blocks I used the first time (see a progress shot here). For the band I used a thrifted and vintage silk necktie in a navy striped pattern.

The top is sewn using the Hayden pattern from Seamwork. I cut my normal size but ended up taking in the side seams considerably as well as doing some extra cropping to the hem (check out my Instagram stories if you want to see the longer version). I’ll cut a smaller version in the future and likely do an even more aggressive crop! I also cut the back bodice in two with a seam to conserve the fabric. (I do that a lot, especially when I’m trying to eek out my pattern pieces from thrifted or limited yardage. The fabric is a linen cotton blend from Joann Fabrics, which I also bought in the contrasting colorway, which I’m hoping will be a romper or jumpsuit in the very near future!

The shorts were sewn using leftover denim from my jeans and in Megan Nielsen’s Dawn pattern. I LOVED THESE SHORTS and can’t wait until the weather here is nice enough for everyday wear. I’m planning on doing another pair in ecru denim and mayyyyve a pair in black. That would put me at 9 versions of Dawn, so suffice it to say, I love this pattern.

On my feet I’m wearing some espadrills I made from upholstery webbing. Here’s a DIY post for that!

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Jessica Sews | Raglan Top + Wide Leg Dawn Jeans

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Look how tall my son is!! He’s only 4.5 and already taller than the average 5 year old. Schroeder genes*, baby!  *Everyone in my family is super tall - my dad is 6’6’’, my brother 6’7’’ and my sister 6’. I’m the shortie coming in at 5’9’’

Look how tall my son is!! He’s only 4.5 and already taller than the average 5 year old. Schroeder genes*, baby!

*Everyone in my family is super tall - my dad is 6’6’’, my brother 6’7’’ and my sister 6’. I’m the shortie coming in at 5’9’’

One of the first spring pieces I made this season is this blouse. It was a fun project because I was able to sew it up quickly, I used fabric I already had (via a thrifted skirt I upcycled) along with a stashed pattern also found at the thrift shop! I even did the bias binding on the neck and sleeves using the skirt lining! I had to piece one sleeve to get enough yardage, but I’m so glad I did because this top is a new favorite of mine! I got the idea to “harvest” fabric from one of my historical costume friends (PennyRiver on etsy) and have picked up cool prints/wool/silk to use with both costumes and modern pieces

I made it again in eyelet (also from a thrifted skirt), which I also love but didn’t get any photos of wearing in Florida (which is a shame because I wore it multiple days!) I’ve already cut it out of a third fabric, which I’m embroidering before I put it together!

Unfortunately the pattern is out of print, but if you see it under a new number, please let me know (it’s Simplicity 8391). There are four on Amazon right now (here) and a bunch on ebay (here)

The pants are another version of those Megan Nielsen Dawn jeans I love! This is the wide leg cut and they feel roomier than the tapered option. If you’re thinking you need some jeans in this silhouette, I cannot recommend this pattern enough. I mean, I want to say “I’ll make them for you!!!” but I honestly have three stashed fabrics in my queue for myself I want to do first! (if you’re wondering - a lighter denim for a 70s style wide leg and patch pockets, pink twill - I’m not sure whether to do a straight or wide leg there? and black denim for short overalls!). After I made the first pair, I was able to whip these up very quickly. I really want to commit to never buying another pair of store bought jeans again. Never say never I guess, but I feel really great about being able to tackle this item in my wardrobe myself.

The sunnies are from Target, the bag is an old Coach bag I lost the strap for so I used a belt in it’s place and the sandals are Clark’s from when I partnered with them many moons ago.

My kids were being super cute, so this is gonna be next year’s Christmas card. Sure they’ll be inches taller and look older, but taking photos of children is SO HARD. Capture the magic when you can. I don’t know why they wanted to be in this photo shoot, but hey! Why not? Bea’s dress is something I designed and sewed up using $2 cut of fabric. It was super quick and easy and not super fitted so she can hopefully wear all summer. Remember those little rompers (one, two, three, four) I made her last year? She hit a growth spurt and only wore each one a couple times!

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