I’ve donned the term *spiritual hacking* (see also spiritual grading) to signify any hacking or sewing adjusting I do that is not based on math or tested techniques. It’s a method of using your eyes, your accumulated knowledge, and your gut instincts to turn a standard sewing pattern into something more new and more you! Of course I respect and appreciate all the folks out there with tried and true methodology and academic and experiential training under their belts (I love learning from them!) but for those of us without a background in tailoring, design or pattern making, I think it’s important to remember that we too can find success in adjusting patterns to our liking through a little know-how and a lot of luck.
I’ve been noticing a lot lately that I don’t find as much inspiration from sewing patterns as I used to. Maybe it’s because the longer I have been sewing, the more I realize that the same stuff is being recycled over and over again. I don’t say this as a criticism, it’s just the nature of art and design in general. But these days I am more often influenced by outfits I see others wearing, dynamic fabric prints, fabric and color clashing, and the work of indie RTW designers. I spend more time than ever reverse engineering garments in my head and scheming up ways to make patterns from my stash serve as foundational blocks to land me some place new and closer to my inspo.
Take my jumpsuit…PLEASE! (I hope someone gets this reference lol). This inspo came from a couple of jumpsuits that I saw online and fell in love with. I already had a cut of gorgeous terrycloth fabric in my stash that I purchased online from Promenade Fabrics and I knew I wanted some kind of summery jumpsuit out of it but wasn’t exactly sure how I wanted the jumpsuit to look. I was planning on making a Closet Core Sallie, a pattern I made many times when it first came out years ago, but on a whim I decided to google “terrycloth jumpsuit” and see what the current RTW trends were. Lo and behold, some lovely pieces pop up and I am immediately *obsessed*.
I love the blue version with it’s waist defining drawstring, patch pockets and set- in sleeves. I also love the bold color (even though its not in my palette). As for the mint green suit below, I love it’s easy, relaxed fit, the breast pockets, and the gentle shirring at the waist. I’ve never used shirring on a garment before in this way (just for the bodices of tube dresses) and I am dying to try it out, although I didn’t incorporate it into this particular garment.
Honorable mention goes to this hot little number below, which is so freaking cute and such a throwback, but I had to be honest with myself- I would not wear this out and about. Maybe at the beach or poolside, but like, just running errands at the post office? Aaagh I would just feel so exposed, which is uncomfortable for me, because patriarchy! the male gaze! unobtainable beauty ideals! However I do love the bias binding on the edges of the neckline, armholes and hem, and there is that fun waistband shirring again.
To bring pieces of all these looks together with patterns from my stash, I decided to meld a rugby pattern from one of my favorite vintage brands, Stretch N Sew, and one of the views from the Jazz pattern by a french indie pattern company called Ready To Sew.
Now, a quick word about the latter pattern- I would not recommend it. At the time I bought it a few years ago, it seemed like a great deal- you got like 80-something views for the price of one pattern by combining a bunch of different bodices and bottoms to get the look you want. In theory it’s a terrific pattern to have because there are so many options and you can really tailor them to suit your needs, however it is the most atrociously organized pattern I might have ever purchased. A pattern with over 80 views requires an exceptional amount of classification and order so that you can easily understand what pieces go with which look, but this pattern bundle is so needlessly confusing. There are 8 separate booklets and several different pattern sheets organized by type of pattern piece but without enough information on the pieces or in the booklet to understand which pieces go with which others. I could talk all day about what a pain in the ass these patterns are to use, so just trust me- unless you have a jones for making sense out of chaos, I would steer clear of this one.
That said, I have a made a couple of the patterns from the Jazz booklet and although they aren’t particularly unique or drafted exceptionally well (most of the patterns are kind of loosely fitted), I have gotten good wear out of them, and view #53 had the general silhouette I wanted for my garment. Jazz is drafted for wovens and my terrycloth is a knit, but I figured it wouldn’t make too much of an impact with the final fit, and I was correct.
I went back and forth about whether or not to create a drawstring and casing to cinch in the waist or to try my hand at the shirred waistline, but ultimately the drawstring and casing won. I was nervous that the shirred waistline wouldn’t cinch in enough and I knew I liked the silhouette on the blue jumpsuit more than the relaxed one of the mint green one. I also had to decide whether or not to cut the front and back sides in one piece (as in bodice and short together) or separate with a waistline. Since the pocket on the Jazz jumpsuit is an inseam pocket that is anchored at the waistband, that’s the route I chose.
The main work I had to do to meld these patterns together was to lengthen the front button tab of the rugby so that it extended into the front seam of the shorts, which would enable me to get in and out of it easily, and I also had to magically unify the shapes of the Jazz bodice pattern pieces into the shape of the rugby front and back pieces so that it would still fit the way the jumpsuit does, but would accommodate the sleeves and collar of the rugby. This part took the most time and is where much of the spirituality came in- I was guided only by the sewing gods and mine own eyeballs. But it worked!
Everything came together pretty successfully, which admittedly is not too tough to do considering the garment isn’t super fitted. I used grommets for my drawstring casing openings and a piece of white cording in my stash from past upholstery projects for the drawstring. I decided to give my shorts a nice curved hem to add a little visual interest (and also I just love curved hems on dresses and shorts). But of course sewing a deep curved hem with a regular machine is much easier said than done and I was dreading the headache it was about to give me, when I realized I could take inspo from that third jumpsuit above and just chop off the hem and attach a binding instead.
I have a run of the mill coverstitch machine which in all honesty only works for some projects, probably because its not top of the line, but when it does work, it works beautifully, and thankfully this was one of those times! Using my binding attachments is so much quicker and cleaner than folding the binding around the edge and sewing with a regular machine, but it can absolutely be done, so if you like the way it looks, you absolutely don’t need a special machine to achieve it.
Lastly, since I’m in my covered button era right these days, I decided they would really elevate the look of the whole jumpsuit, and I was not wrong! Making covered buttons can also be hit or miss depending on the fabric you’re using, and these definitely gave me some trouble, but I got them all on and made a couple extra to sew into to the inside of my garment in case any pop off while I am out and about.
Ultimately I am *thrilled* with how this hack came out! It has the essense of my inspiration photos but feels like I was able to put my own spin on it with the details I chose, and it reminds me of something J Crew might have sold in their heyday :a bold, fun print in a wearable garment that looks both comfortable and effortlessly chic. I haven’t shopped RTW in years but J Crew always had a point of view that resonated with me when I was growing up, and while my tastes are a bit more daring these days, I love seeing the influences of brands I have loved in the past continue to show up in the way I dress as I get older.
I’m headed to my family’s vacation at a lake house in the mountains next week and I’m excited to get some good use out of this garment, although let’s be honest, I will probably spend most of my time in a bathing suit and towel. But at least I’ll be prepared to look sharp should the need arise!