Afternoon Sparrow Wrap Dress – Maternity Hack Tutorial

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As I’m nearing the end of my pregnancy (35 weeks + 3days!), my selection of clothes is getting scarce. I’m too far along to justify buying anything new and at this point, I’m on the hunt for nursing-friendly options. Button plackets, loose stretchy shirts, I’m sure many of you mamas know the drill. Until then, I’m wearing everything in my closet that still fits on heavy rotation!!

I had the utmost pleasure of pattern testing for Afternoon Patterns this summer. I was SO excited that the dress even fulfilled BOTH of my needs – maternity and nursing! Say hello to the Afternoon Patterns Sparrow Wrap Dress! With a few simple adjustments, I was able to make this adorable dress fit my growing bump AND potentially be nursing-friendly.

I made this dress when I was 22 weeks, took the pictures at 24 weeks and it still fits at 35 weeks. Talk about a major win! Plus, it’s so versatile, you can wear it to the beach, around town or while doing yard work lol!

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SIZE

I started with size E.

BUST: I used my bust measurement at the time of sewing, 41 inches.

WAIST: I used my pre-pregnancy waist of 30 inches and compared it to my measurement above the bump (aka below my boobs) of 32 inches.

As of mid-June, around 22 weeks at the time of sewing, my baby bump had pushed my “waist” to 37.5 inches. That would have taken my waist measurement literally off the charts lol, so I just went with my regular size. With the maternity adjustments, my body changes were taken into consideration.

Fast forward to 35 weeks and my “waist” has grown to 42 inches and the dress still fits very comfortably!

HIPS: I used my pre-pregnancy hips of 38 inches.

This would technically fall under size B. However, because the dress was flowy, not hip hugging, I didn’t worry about that measurement too much. I included a grading adjustment to my hips in my maternity hack.

NOTE: I definitely suggest tracing your starting size on separate paper, so you can easily refer back to the original pattern later. Especially if you’re making a lot of adjustments to the pattern, like in this maternity hack. As much as it’s an extra step, I find it really helpful!

FABRIC

SELF: Telio brand 100% rayon poplin. Width 56 inches, bought 4 yards (to be on the safe side). It was really soft and flowy, so the skirt ruching adjustment didn’t add any noticeable bulk.

LINING: Rayon challis. Width 56 inches, bought 1 yard.

MATERNITY HACK

Here are my 3 adjustments. They are so simple. I got you, sewing mama!

1) BACK BODICE: Raise back bodice by 3 inches along centre back fold line, to cover maternity bra. Then taper to the side using a french curve.

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You can see above what the original bodice looked like. The new curve looks much more flat in comparison to the original back bodice, because there is less of a height differential between the centre back and the side. If you don’t have a french curve, you can achieve something similar by free-styling or using a ruler.

I marked the strap placement directly up from where it was on the original back bodice piece.

This is what the back looks like after it was sewn!

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2) HIP GRADING: Adjust hip shaping on back and front skirt pieces, if needed.

In my case, I shaved 1.5 inches off, starting at the base of the skirt, continuing up and tapering to the size E waist line. I chose 1.5 inches because my hip measurement fell into size B and that was about 1.5 inches different at the base than size E. I did this for both the front and back skirt pieces.

I don’t have much in the way of hips, but the baby bump can sort of distort things. The ruching of the skirt (in next step) added some flexibility, so this worked for me. Here’s a picture of how it turned out.

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3) SKIRT RUCHING: Add 10 inches to front wrap skirt piece (opposite of hip). Then ruche/gather starting at about 4 inches in from either side until it matches original pattern piece length.

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I took a ruler and drew straight across from where the waist was near the grainline marking (where it was the most flat), then re-adjusted the slight curve that was there on the right edge in the original. In hindsight, the exact same could have been achieved by cutting along the grainline marking and inserting 10 inches. I just love to make things extra complicated for myself lol.

Below is a close up of the waist markings. I started the gathers for both front skirt pieces about 4 inches in, so I didn’t run into any problems attaching the skirt at the sides or hemming the wrap sides afterwards. I gathered mine until it matched the total length of the Size E waist line. This way, everything would line up nicely when attaching to the front bodice.

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Here’s a close up of the ruching/gathers afterwards. Since the fabric is lightweight, there wasn’t any bulk!

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Possible Changes Next Time:

  1. I would try shortening the bodice a little bit. The pattern is drafted to sit a little lower (which would be SUPER flattering pre or post-bump!), but right now everything ends up just sitting directly below my boobs lol.
  2. Make the waist tie a tad longer. I like a big bow, so I’m a little biased here. But see how long the tie is on you above the bump and maybe lengthen it if you desire!

SHARE YOUR MAKES!

I’m excited to wear the dress post-pregnancy. The wrap v-neck detail looks great for nursing. Please tag me in your maternity hacked Sparrow Wrap Dress too @saricaalice . As well as, of course, @afternoonpatterns and #sparrowwrap . I love bump pics, especially when it’s rocking this cutie!

Happy Sewing!!

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Pattern: Sparrow Wrap by Afternoon Patterns

Fabric: Rayon from Stonemountain and Daughter in Berkeley, California

My One Year Journey of Not Buying New Clothes

Today, April 24, 2018, marks ONE YEAR of my pledge to not buy any new clothes. I’m so proud that I accomplished my goal! I’ve sewn clothes, discovered second-hand clothing store gems and learned to appreciate the things I have. And above all, today is a reminder of why I made this commitment in the first place. It’s bittersweet, but today also marks the 5th anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse. Here are 5 things I learned this year.

 

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– 1 –

FREEDOM FROM TRENDS

This is a huge one. This process has really opened my eyes to how much I already have and has taught me to value my clothes. Honestly, not feeling like I have to wear the newest “IT” trend is so liberating. I no longer feel compelled to try on what I see when I walk past a store. It has helped me hone my personal style and work towards THAT. It’s an ongoing process, but the essence of what I’m actually drawn to has not been overshadowed by what the mannequin at the mall is wearing. Yes, I may realize I love a ruffle. I may also realize a shirt I bought 7 years ago doesn’t really reflect how I’d like to present myself now, but I look at my closet with new eyes – how can I possibly style it differently or can I refashion it? Instead of worrying about whether I’m aligned with what everyone else is wearing, I’m focused on what compliments my body and what makes me feel confident.

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– 2 –

USED CLOTHING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE GROSS

A year ago, I cringed at the thought of wearing someone’s old clothes. But to be fair, my second hand shopping experience only consisted of Goodwill or Salvation Army thrift shops that I only frequented during Halloween season in hopes to find a cheap costume.

This past year has been a game changer. I’m so grateful to live in a city that has a few AH-MAAAZING second hand stores. Totally worth a separate blog post. Not only can you find quality pieces, but you can find some really unique items that are inexpensive. The 3 used articles I bought look brand new, yet had a very desirable price tag. The jean jacket – retails over $200; paid $25. The hat – retails over $150; paid $20. The sequined blouse – retails over $150; paid $15. So yes, don’t give up on second hand clothes. You can find a lot of quality garments, give them a second life and be easy on the wallet – how awesome is that?! Once you find a store that has the caliber of clothing that suits you, check it out once in awhile. Hey, I’ve even seen a Kate Spade dress and a Channel suit (sadly still well out of my price range)!

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– 3 –

PEOPLE ARE CURIOUS

We live in a time when transparency and conscious living is on the rise, so I feel people naturally tend to be more interested in what I’m doing. Regardless, whoever I’ve shared my journey with has been so supportive and often asks to learn more. Sometimes my passion and attention to detail can lead me to go on forever, sorry if you’ve been a victim, but I’m so impressed with how curious people are. Knowledge is power and even if I inspire someone to look at a garment tag the next time they shop or if they ask themselves if they really need it, then it’s been worth it. Inspiring people to shop more consciously wasn’t my original goal, but it’s a byproduct of my journey and I’m happy to share it with anyone!

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– 4 –

SIZE DOES NOT DEFINE ME

Not being subjected to ongoing frustration in a fitting room or forcing myself into a size because “I’ve never been a size 30 jeans, I’ve always been a 26” is awesome for your self esteem. Real story – I remember a time when I was shopping for jean shorts and I was so embarrassed to even reach for a size 30 shorts, thinking that some store clerk would be judging me. How ridiculous!

I could care less what the size says anymore. Sewing clothes has helped me abolish the idea that I must remain a particular size. Every pattern company has a different grading system and more often than not, even the pattern sizes don’t necessarily match my measurements (chest is one size, waist another, hips yet another), nor should they, so adjustments are needed. Everyone’s body has different proportions and fitting flawlessly in a standardized size is unrealistic. Please please please trust me on this, the size on the tag MEANS NOTHING and should not define how you feel about your body.

I’ve come to accept, and even love, that my 30 year old body is not the same as at 21. My hips are bigger, my chest is bigger, it’s all a part of going through life and I’m no less valuable by having extra curves. It’s not always roses, sometimes I wish my chest was smaller so I could fit into the cute bralettes I’m seeing, but then I remind myself, that’s not the point. Learning to love my body for where it’s at in my life is a healthy practice that encourages me to continue living a healthy lifestyle.

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– 5 –

THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO LEARN

I’m by no means perfect. Although I try to make educated decisions based on my inner ethical and sustainable scale, there’s room to improve and learn.

The definitions of “ethical” and “sustainable” are so vastly different among people/companies. I like to think of the two words more like a spectrum. It is confusing as a consumer when shopping and seeing companies using these terms. It’s often up to the consumer to dig and determine what they mean. However, there are so many fantastic options now. Once you find a company that fits with your jam, you can add it to your inventory of trusted sources! Over time, it gets easier.

In order to learn how to be a more conscious consumer, we can’t forget about the past. This time of the year is when I ponder the most, yet whenever I share my journey with friends or family, speaking about the tragedy that made me question the workings of the fashion industry reminds me why it’s so important not to forget.

5 years ago today, on April 24, 2013, over 1,100 garment workers died and over 2,500 were seriously injured from the Rana Plaza building collapse in the Savar area of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The frustrating part is that all these lives and disabilities could have been spared. Prior to the collapse, local police and others who accessed the building deemed it unsafe. Large cracks the day before clearly showed the structural integrity of the building was severely compromised. In addition, there were heavy generators on illegally built upper floors that would turn on during a power outage and shake the building. Despite these serious concerns, Mr. Rana and factory bosses ordered employees to come to work. Lo and behold, the building collapsed the next morning, bringing to light the dark secrets of the fast-fashion industry. You can read more about it in an article by The Guardian here.

A $10 t-shirt cannot be on a store shelf without some major sacrifices. For one, low garment worker wages further perpetuate a cycle of poverty in areas of the world that are already struggling. Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of clothing, following China. In fact, Bangladesh’s garment worker minimum wage is $68 a month (a rise from $38 to $68 in 2013, but still remains one of the lowest minimum wages in the world). And let’s not forget the people who grow cotton or produce fabric. Many times the harsh chemicals and pesticides cause serious health implications to communities who produce fibres or fabric. With fast-fashion chains bringing in such high volumes of cheap clothing, it’s inevitable that there are repercussions.

The more respect you place on your clothes, the smarter you’ll shop and the more care you’ll take looking after your clothes. Every item in your closet was sewn with human hands. Isn’t that incredible?! In the short time that I’ve sewn clothes, I have come to really respect the time and energy that goes into cutting and piecing a garment together.

There are so many fantastic resources out there, here are some I love:

Fashion Revolution

  • a not-for-profit organization promoting transparency in the fashion supply chain

“The True Cost” Documentary

  • an eye-opening film about the issues of fast-fashion

“Sweatshop – Deadly Fashion” Documentary

  • 3 Norwegian fashion bloggers are sent to Cambodia for a month to experience life as a garment worker

“Why your $8 shirt is a huge problem” clip from Grist

  • a short clip of fast-fashion issues

“The Curated Closet” Book

  • steps on how to curate a wardrobe that reflects your personal style

Love to Sew Podcast – Episode 35 “Sustainability and Sewing”

  • a discussion on sustainability in the home-sewing world

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GOING FORWARD

This year I proved to myself that not buying new clothes is totally achievable. Not only did it help me distinguish between a “need” and a “want”, I feel more confident in discovering my style. Going forward, I will continue my journey of sewing clothes and buying second-hand. I understand that some items are past my current sewing capabilities or just don’t feel comfortable buying second hand (like undergarments and shoes). In those cases, I will try my best to buy quality items from a company that is transparent about their sustainable and ethical practices. Better for people and the earth! By slowing down and thinking before buying, you can stop to smell the roses (like these gorgeous ones in my backyard!).

Deer Skirt – Simplicity 8176

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I wear this skirt all the time and it always gives me the feels!

Wanderings

When I moved to California, I was going through a pretty rough patch. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have a job and was going through a lot health-wise. Little did I know, that desperation of finding something to do would soon enough turn into elevating my self worth.

For about 2 months after moving to the Bay Area, I spent many afternoons walking the streets of my new city. We didn’t have a car yet, so those hours outside doubled as my exercise and in some way, meditation. I didn’t know what the heck I was going to do. I was anxious and had headaches all the time, some days I didn’t even have enough courage to go outside. Depression is an unpredictable beast. But, one topic that kept coming up for me as I was walking past all these stores, was the ethical issues of fashion. After the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, I had become increasingly infatuated with the garment industry. It got to be pretty extreme. Any time before entering a store, I would stand outside the door and google the ethics of the company. And 95% of the time what I read didn’t satisfy me and I would subsequently 1) not enter the store or 2) go in and look at the tags on the clothes to see what country the item was made and imagine the hands that made them. Then it suddenly dawned on me – what if I made my own garments? I had sewn curtains, scarves, bow ties, napkins and other random items, but for some reason never ventured in clothing.

So when our belongings arrived from Canada, I decided I would spend my time sewing. Creating something, anything, was at least a way to show for my time. So I set out to Joanns to look for a pattern. And the rest is history!

When I made the skirt, I wrote down my lessons about the experience, but never posted them. I love reading them now and seeing how far I’ve come in 1 year, even if it’s baby steps. Hope you enjoy some of these learnings as much as I do!

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December 2017 – 1 year since my first garment!

Lessons Learned

Last winter, I came across this adorable navy print at Joanns and decided it would make a cute skirt. This was a whole new venture and quickly learned that I made it way more complicated than necessary for my first go.

  • First, I had NEVER bought or followed a garment pattern before in my life.
  • Second, the pattern I chose had pockets (I have a thing for pockets) and an invisible zipper (neither of which I have sewn before).
  • Third, the fabric I loved was a little see-through, so I chose to line it (which was the most complicated option in the pattern). FUN TIMES.

Lesson #1: Always take your measurements because not all patterns include all sizes.

I went by my general intuition from shopping at stores that I was probably a size 6 or 8, so I went with that general rule of thumb and bought the Simplicity pattern 8176 in the option that had U.S. sizes 4,6,8,10,12. When I cut out my size in the waistband, I realized that it was TINY and something was wrong.

Ohhhhh, so THAT’S what all those body measurements are for on the back of the pattern (facepalm emoji here). What a newb. How embarrassing. After measuring, I realized that I was probably a size 16… say WHAATTT?!?! I decided to be generous because I didn’t want to cut out the fabric too small. Size 16 was definitely not included in the pattern version I bought. So I did what any DIY make-shift thing you could do and tape paper and essentially increase the size of the pattern to what I would assume to be a size 16. Math skillz y’all.

In the end, I actually found the skirt to fit too big, but thankfully, the hook closure made it forgiving and I just moved it over to sit properly on my waist. Next time, I will make it a size 12 or 14.

Lesson #2: Just buy the silly invisible zipper foot.

I have a Pfaff Ambition 1.0 sewing machine (which I absolutely ADORE by the way and will probably one day write a post about it). Since it’s a German sewing machine and is not quite as common in North America, I have to pay closer attention to presser feet. They aren’t a one size fits all type of thing. Anyways, the Pfaff invisible zipper presser foot was $25, which I thought was insane for a little piece of plastic. I went on Amazon to buy a generic no-name set that was supposed to be compatible with my sewing machine. Long story short, most of the feet didn’t fit right and the quality wasn’t great, so I returned it. Shortly after, my Mom bought me the Pfaff presser foot and it worked like a charm. Thanks Mom!

Lesson #3: Next time, choose more opaque fabric.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the way my skirt feels and I’m pretty impressed with my first go at a lined skirt, or for any skirt for that matter, but going forward, I’m going to try looking for fabric that’s not as see-through. This way, I can speed up the process and focus on perfecting the fit a little easier. Once I master the sizing and have a bit more practice with the pockets and zipper, I’ll try tackling the lined skirt version again.

Lesson #4: “Right sides together” and “Right sides together” can mean completely different things, apparently.

This is my only major complaint about the instructions that came with the pattern. Sometimes they meant the CORRECT sides of the fabric facing together. And sometimes they meant the RIGHT side (as opposed to the left). I found it so confusing and it left me staring at the instructions forever to decipher what I was supposed to do. Maybe it’s also because I’m a beginner, but I felt that there could have been a better way to differentiate those two. Sometimes all I would do in an evening is read the instructions. I made a lot of notes throughout and swapped “right” with “correct” a lot of times.

Overall: I love the pattern, but it can become complicated pretty fast. It’s simple in style, which means I can have a lot of fun with different fabrics and prints. I love that it has pockets and that it’s easy to hem. I definitely spent a really long time making this skirt though – from deciphering the instructions to buying a new presser foot. I bought the fabric from Joann’s, so it’s not the most ethical choice. I still have a lot of fabric from big box stores that I’ll be trying to use up, but going forward I’m going to be more mindful of how I buy fabric.

Pattern: Simplicity 8176, Size 16 (fit was way too large, so I’d go with a 12 or 14 next time)

Material: Silky polyester, probably? I’m still learning about fabric.

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30th Birthday – Room Escape

The Love is Strong

What I love about this skirt is that it is so imperfect, yet I have worn it more than any other item I have made so far… even for my 30th birthday! I always feel proud wearing my skirt. It’s the best feeling!

Hello Blog World and Hello Fashion!

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I am sitting here, full on with the flu, thinking that it’s a good idea for me to bring back my long forgotten blog. What am I thinking? Maybe the Mucinex is the one talking. But whatever it is, I’ve been feeling an itch to bring this baby back to life and today’s no better than the next.

Creativity is something that motivates me. It’s something that teaches me more about myself. And over the last couple of years, my creativity has taken a turn towards a purpose.

The other day, someone asked me when I became interested in fashion. And to be completely honest, I hadn’t actually thought about it before. Do I consider myself to be super fashionable? Not really. Do I know about all the brands and am I current on all the latest trends? Definitely not.

So what in the world would spur me to get all excited about fashion? Like seriously. What do I think I’m doing? I’m just an ordinary girl living in an ordinary world… you catch my drift.

In general, I’m pretty empathetic towards others. I’m the girl who cries when watching touching proposals on Youtube or who sheds a tear during the news. And believe it or not, that’s the part of me that drew me to fashion.

When the Rana Plaza collapsed on April 24, 2013 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, it shook media. Everyone was talking about it. Over 1,000 garment workers died and over 2,000 were brutally injured. How could this happen? Who was at fault? Why aren’t brands doing more to keep workers safe? Tons of pictures of the collapsed building and people were released. There was one in particular I can never forget. Within the rubble, they found a man holding a woman so tightly as if trying to save her. Frozen in time. It was haunting, to say the least.

In the coming weeks, I read about how certain brands were taking accountability and what they were doing to change. Other brands tried to keep on the down low. But all in all, nothing really changed. Enough time passed and the news stopped talking about it and people went back to their lives as they did before.

But it irked me. The people who made my clothes worked in places like that? I started to watch some documentaries. I thought about a lofty goal that I’d like to empower women some day with sewing skills to create a future for them and their communities. Of course, my sewing skills were basic to say the least, so I had a lot of learning to do. And over the next couple of years, what started out as some light investigating really started to get my wheels turning. Humanity brought me to fashion.

Eventually, this became my typical visit to the mall: before going into a store, I would stand outside, google the ethics of the brand and decide whether or not to enter the store. And if I did enter the store, after looking at the tags of where the items were made, I would most likely get discouraged and leave anyways. More often than not, I just left the mall empty handed. It took a lot of inner persuading to go in there and find a pair of shorts for my vacation. I just felt so guilty. And seeing everyone in the mall with so many bags… was I going mad?

During this time I also started to change my health products (toothpaste, shampoo, makeup, etc) to more environmentally responsible products. At the same time, my clothes buying went on a bit of a standstill. Yes, I still bought clothes once in awhile, but very rarely. What’s a girl gotta do?

When I moved to California last September, I was opened to a whole new world of fashion that got me so excited. There were grassroots brands that were SUSTAINABLE and ETHICAL and all those lovely words. I learned about ORGANIC COTTON and DEADSTOCK. In October, I joined Instagram (okay, I know I’m SO behind the times, laugh all you want) and lo and behold… there were SO many others like me, all looking for an alternative to the deadly “fast fashion”. My eyes were opened and I was shouting YES on the mountain tops!!!

That’s when I became even more invested in my clothes. I started looking at my closet and thought, I could make that. I started looking at the cloth and marveling how these shapes were sewn together to create this garment. It was a romantic view of the process that allured me. And at the same time, running my hand over the material and the tags inside, I imagined the people who made them. And if the tag said “Made in Bangladesh” or “Made in China” or something along those lines, I would quietly send those workers my gratitude and wear my clothes, giving them a purpose.

It’s then that I decided to set my creativity in motion. I created my very first skirt in December 2016 and I got SO excited about it. I couldn’t WAIT to wear it to a party. I loved that feeling of wearing something that I made. The ball started rolling from there. Fast forward to April 24, 2017. I made a pact with myself to make this a year long goal: a self-made wardrobe.

So there you have it… my fashion evolution, so to speak. Let’s see where my creativity takes me! (but maybe after my flu goes away…)

 

Lace Headbands

IMG_5806 IMG_5826 IMG_5834 Life has been so hectic lately, so I apologize for the lack of posts this past month. I am back and ready to DIY!

On another note, I made these cute headbands the other day. The lace and stretchy elastic at the back are from Mokuba. Although they were really easy to sew, I was so happy to sew something after what feels like an eternity. These little accents are great to incorporate into a spring wardrobe!