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 | Peplum Eyelet Refashion + Wide Leg Dawn Jeans

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There are a couple fabrics that instantly draw me in when I’m shopping for fabric at the thrift store - eyelet and chambray. You saw my chambray refashion earlier this week, so here’s one example of how I’ve harvested eyelet fabric and remade it into a different silhouette.

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I was instantly drawn to this navy eyelet dress, but it was a couple sizes too big for me. Sure, I could have tried to alter it down to fit, but I’ve been in more of a chop chop mood lately plus I had a pattern (Simplicity 1425) that I wanted to try out. After a wash, I went to town cutting along the seam lines to see what kind of yardage I would be left with. I’ve had some questions about how I disassemble garments and it varies from piece to piece. Something like eyelet can be a beast with all of the thread used to create the actual eyelet, so in this case I just cut along the seam edges.

From there I laid out my pattern and realized I’d need to make some changes to have enough fabric. I omitted the pleats in the peplum by folding them up on the paper pattern and cutting that smaller shape out. I also decided not to do a collar stand and have a flat Peter Pan style collar instead.

I lined both the lower portion of the bodice front and the whole back so I could wear a bra underneath. The fabric I used was left over from Bea’s 18th century dress.

On bottom I’m wearing my wide leg Dawn jeans again. I’ve only worn them a couple of times (I usually save true white for later spring and summer or vacation) and I absolutely love this style. I’m even thinking I need to go check my stash to see what fabrics I have to make a second pair! If you want to see the first way I wore them, check out this post.

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Jessica Sews | Overalls Hack with Dawn Jeans

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On to the next piece of my capsule wardrobe - my high waisted overalls! I had originally wanted to make the bib overall version of this pattern, but… I lost it! In a fervor to make something, I ordered the Megan Nielsen Dawn Jean as a pdf I could print at home. In the course of a couple days I stitched up my first pair and damn, they’re amazing. So amazing I’ve made the original pair in dark indigo, a wide leg pair in white, a sample/mockup of overalls and finally, this pair! The fit is incredible and they sew up really quickly. There’s also an amazing series of blog posts that take you step by step through the process, and I used those instead of the printed pattern instructions.

So overalls! Let’s walk through how I made ‘em!

Construction wise, the main change from standard five pocket jeans to overalls are the side closures. Your basic jeans will zip or button at center front, but the bib of the overall prohibits that. I opted to do two exposed button fly closures at each side seam to get in and out of my overalls. Luckily, the first pair of Dawn jeans I made were an exposed button fly, so the principals of the construction are exactly the same! Your button holes go onto your front leg piece (which is cut all the way to the side seam, ie - no pocket scoop) and the fly extension is sewn to the back leg and yolk. On my sample version I used the same fly/fly extensions as a front closure, but on my second pair, I made them a little shorter (-1”) and wider (+1/2”)

Also different - the waistband. Instead of opening at center front and cut in one long curved piece, it’s done in two separate pieces for front and back (four total pieces for inside/outside). I folded my waistband and brought in the edges to create this pattern piece, added a little extra seam allowance and stitched it up to match the front and back portions respectively.

Next the business of a new front pocket design. I looked around online (and made this board on Pinterest) and decided a long patch pocket with a slash opening fit my vision of perfect overalls, so I got to drafting it out. It ended up being around 9” long (I wanted it to extend below the crotch) and 6 1/2” wide (to give me enough room to keep a top stitched fly. I did a little corner edge and applied it with a double needle top stitch.

With the pockets done and the pant portion of the overalls all done, I drafted my bib. On my initial sample, I think it was a little short (you can see this if you watch my instagram highlights) so I made the second version much longer. Too long in fact! I kind of jumped the gun on that and ended up taking a tuck at the waistband to drop it down by 1 1/2”. But all is well that ends well and it was a simple enough solution. I’ll mark this on my paper pattern for the next time I make these in a different fabric. I sewed it up the center front using two pieces and finished it with a double top stitch. The sides of the bib are turned in twice at 3/8”, again with a double top stitch. The top was turned under 3/8” and again at around 1” with a single top stitch. The front pocket was cut asymmetrically like the versions I saw and loved online and finished with a double topstitch all around.

Lastly was the simple business of the straps, which are 1 1/2” wide to fit the buckles. There’s made to one length to fit my height.

The finishing touches on these overalls are the 10 metal shanks and buckles. I EFFING HATE SHANKS. I wasted so many by hammering them on at an angle (vs down straight) and had to wire cut them off and try again. I initially used Dritz brand and they suck. The ones that did best are the Hobby Lobby store brand because the back tack is a little longer and easier to hammer. I’d still like to source a different option, because I only shop there as a last resort (but in all honesty, its about 20 minutes closer to my house than JoAnns, right next to my grocery and they have some really cute fabric right now, so sue me, I’ll sacrifice my principals occasionally).

After I had all of my shanks attached, it’s back to the wash to pull out a little color and start the process of aging the denim. I used a 220 grit sandpaper gently over the surface of the pockets and other edges and it did a lovely job of lightening in those areas. I love the way denim fades, but it really just takes time!

A final note - these are out of stretch denim, which is just what I had in my stash. The Dawn jeans were designed to be made out of rigid fabric, so to compensate, I cut 3/8” off from my side seams, but made no other adjustments for fit. The end result is probably the best fitting pair of paints I’ve ever owned, and I just might make more this way. My rigid pair is TIGHT (which I love) but they need to be broken in more before they get to this level of comfort. That’s just stretch jeans for ya. The rigid fabric will last longer and the garments I’m making now are the kind of pieces I hope Bea wants to wear some day. I mean, how rad would it be to inherit a perfectly faded pair of your mom’s jeans? I would just flip if my mom had saved her jeans from the 70s.

So that’s my Dawn Jeans overall hack! I want to give Megan 50 rounds of applause for her amazing pattern that I used as a starting point. She and I are old friends and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get my hands on her patterns. Then again, I have taken a bit of a break with sewing while having such small kiddos in the house! If you’ve contemplated sewing your own jeans, I HIGHLY recommend this pattern!

Finally - outfit notes! I design and made my own hat using old school millinery techniques. The band is made from a vintage tie I had in my stash (a great and cheap way to get very small amounts of silk - I love using them for hand bands!). My tank is from Target. Someday I’d like to advance to sewing knits, but I’m ok buying them for now. I can also talk more about fast fashion and why Target is probably one of the better options (I used to work in the industry and have visited factories overseas) but I’m gonna save that for another day. On my feet - some self made espadrilles. Here’s my DIY post from when I originally made them!

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Making an American Flag

Home Made American Flag by Jessica Quirk

Between going elbows deep into my own family tree and becoming fully intrenched into the Hamilton soundtrack and Revolutionary War history, somewhere along the way I decided I wanted to sew my own American Flag. 

And it's kind of strange because I haven't felt all that patriotic in the past year and a half. As a little girl I helped my grandma make paper poppies for the American Legion Auxiliary (of which I was a member!), I went to Girl's State in high school. I was (almost) voted Most Likely to be a Politician for senior superlatives (but a boy won... i was the only girl in the category). I've watched almost every presidential debate since I was voting age. I love history, learning about past presidents, period dramas - you name it. 

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Jessica Quirk holding her handmade American Flag

But since late 2016, it's all really turned me off. I've always been really vocal about voting and there are issues I feel strongly about, but I also felt like keeping the peace between my friends and family who voted differently. Sometimes I can run off at the mouth in the fury before the second Tuesday in November. I'll admit to that. But this past election felt more personal and created more fractures than ever before. Maybe I wasn't old enough to really feel it, but when the other party would win the presidency in years past, I'd be a little bummed out but not breaking down into tears. And maybe it's all because social media just makes everyone louder and less civil? Or maybe because (some of) those in charge don't set a very good model for respectful discourse? Or maybe being seven months pregnant and feeling hyper protective of my children made me scared to see our culture start crumbling? 

That's when I turned off the TV (never plugged it in actually) and logged out of facebook. I turned my attention away from the ticker tape on the bottom of the screen and towards being a good mom to my son and new baby. It was the only way for me to keep it together. Now I find myself needing to find something, anything, to find pride in our country. 

So I opened my genealogy charts. When I started tracing my family lines back in time I found at least four direct connections to the Revolutionary War (like my sixth great grandfather Philip Roush - who was at the Battle of Yorktown, no less!!) There's my second great grandfather Carl Schroeder who fought for the Union in the Civil War (and he was an immigrant!). Of course there's Herman Amos Roush who I wrote about a week or so ago and his participation in WWI. Both of my grandfathers served in during World War II - one in the navy, the other as a Merchant Marine carpenter.  And then there's the mothers, sisters, wives and daughters who all had leading and supporting roles at home during those times of conflict. 

These links to the past gave me a renewed sense of pride for (some parts of) American history. My people played a roll in becoming a new nation, the fight against slavery, and ultimately against the hatred of the Nazis. These are things I can be proud of and these things inspired me to make my flag. 

And because I want to be a representative of the America that believes in Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I interpret these ideals to mean the right to live your life with whomever you love, to believe in whatever higher power you feel called to (or none at all), to have autonomy over your body, the freedom to vote in a way that best matches your ideals, to speak freely (both in favor of and against the policies of your government), to be treated equally under the law regardless of your gender or skin color and to pursue happiness in a way that benefits you without causing harm to others. These are the parts of being American that I value and this is part of why I've sewn my own flag. 

Last but not least, this year I've set myself a goal of either buying things secondhand or making them myself. I've been slowly updating my front porch (photos soon!) and I felt like an American flag would be a nice final touch. Sure - I could have bought one - maybe even found one at a thrift shop or garage sale - but then I wouldn't have had the pleasure of embroidering the stars or sewing the stripes. Could a great grandmother of mine made such a flag years ago? Would she have stitched her name into the corner? I'm thinking about adding at least my initials in matching thread as the final touch. What an heirloom this might be!

So why did I make a flag? To get patriotic again, remember my ancestors, and to use my hands. And I'm so happy to have it ready in time for the Fourth of July! As for the actual construction, I had initially planned on this being a DIY post, but as I went further and further into the project, I realized I'm unable to write instructions for something this advanced. If you've had a lot of quilting experience I believe it's something you could achieve, but it's not a beginners project. That said, I do have some progress shots below and I've included a little commentary on each one!

I am so proud of my American flag and what it represents to me.  

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Girl Holding American Flag Jessica Quirks Homemade American Flag
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