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If you like podcasts, and this blog, and, uh, word stuff? Then you will most likely enjoy hearing me and Matt Haughey talk about sewing, Project Runway, and dictionaries on his excellent podcast, Hobby Horse. Check out the episode here.

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Remember my erstwhile obsession with making shirtdresses out of shirts?

It’s back.

I started this time with (again) the Seamwork Veronica, because it’s easy to make and to wear, and the panel version (for subscribers) is a perfect target for weirdnesses such as this:

This particular dress is made out of (I think) four men’s shirts of varying gingham and stripe patterns (I tried really hard to find all different ginghams but ended up with the stripes, which I think worked out okay).

I thought about trying to cut the waistband so that it too would unbutton, but the placket width was slightly off (and I was more than slightly lazy).

But I remembered to take construction pictures this time! So here’s how I cut out that center front skirt panel from the front of a shirt—I extended the front panel to include the curved hem.

Here’s a closeup:

Basically, I created a new pattern piece for the full center front panel (since it’s too hard to put buttons on the fold) and drew a line to mark the CF, which I could then line up over the center of the buttons in the shirt. (I did the same for the CF bodice and CB bodice & skirt pieces [not pictured]).

For the CB, I was able to keep the locker loop and yoke, which I always like (but not enough to go out of my way to sew myself, oh no):

The pocket backing is cut on the bias from the sleeve (men’s shirt sleeves have a lot of fabric in them):

Here it is, constructed:

A little in-progress view of the bodice:

This is right after I resewed the front pocket to overlap the side bodice piece — I usually use washaway tape to hold the pocket in place while I sew, because otherwise things go badly.

Here’s the full back view:

You can almost see that there’s a shirttail hem on the back, to mimic the one on the front—here’s a closer photo of that:

And the piecing of that, since I couldn’t get the curved hems on the shirts to match up well with the pieces I was cutting. (I actually like how this turned out better …)

I just took the curved hem bits I had left over and eyeballed how they should match the front skirt, like so:

Then it was just a matter of making sure I had seam allowance on the other side, too:

Finished result:

Unless you already have a lot of old men’s shirts lying around, making a shirtdress out of shirts is not that much less expensive than buying yardage (at least not in SF, where a decent shirt at a thrift store will cost you $5-9, depending on condition and whether or not it’s on 50% off sale that day). It takes 4-5 L or XL shirts for one dress, and I try to limit myself to shirts that are unwearable as shirts when I can—ones with stained cuffs, frayed collars, or minor holes that I can work around. I hear tell there’s a Goodwill warehouse in Burlingame that has a ‘pay-by-the-pound’ sale, but I haven’t gone yet—if you’ve gone, feel free to leave your report in the comments!

I want to make a version that is all different flannel plaids for fall, but finding coordinating flannel plaids on intermittent thrift-store trips is a loooooooong project. (It’d would also be fun to make one in Hawaiian-shirt prints, or one in novelty prints … )

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[This is not a post about dresses, so if you only want to read about dresses, please either scroll down or wait until I post something else, thanks!]

A few weeks ago I was in SF’s Japantown and found that the grocery there (Nijiya Market) sells my favorite coffee-flavored candy, coffeebeat. (I love this stuff and hadn’t been able to find it for ages, so this made me very happy!)

Also, it has the BEST packaging:

Coffee candy is odd, in that it melds something that is considered ‘for grownups’ (coffee) with something that’s for kids (candy). This narrow audience of immature adults and/or precocious children means that there isn’t a ton of coffee-flavored candy out there. (I’m deliberately leaving out high-end fancy chocolate that includes coffee.)

“Erin,” you might be saying (and are saying for the purposes of me setting up this blog post) “If coffeebeat is your favorite coffee candy, how do all the other available coffee candies rank against it?” I’m so glad you asked, imaginary blog interlocutor! Here, I will rank all the best coffee-flavored candies for you!

NB: I don’t actually like to DRINK coffee (other than cold brew) so none of these candies are ranked by how well they replicate the experience of drinking a hot cup of coffee.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. coffeebeat

I know we covered this above, but coffeebeat’s particular blend of coffee, chocolate, and a crunchy candy shell, plus the adorable packaging, puts coffeebeat at the top of the coffee-candy list.

2. Coffee Crisp

Does what it says on the package: is coffee-flavored, is crisp. (In the small print you will also find that this is Canadian.) These are addictive and my son knows that if he brings me back one of these when he returns home from college I will do all his laundry without complaint, which makes this a pretty powerful candy bar.

3. Coffee Nips

These are delicious, but terrifyingly sticky and the sworn enemy of dental work. You can lose a filling just opening the box. (I imagine unscrupulous dentists keeping bowls of these in their waiting rooms.) Nips come in other flavors, including Butter Rum, which is what you buy when you think Werther’s are for whippersnappers.

4. Coffee Rio

 

Coffee Rio is a kinder, gentler Coffee Nip (at least, texture-wise) which comes in more coffee flavors (although I’ve never seen anyone eat the Raspberry Mochas, and I would be slightly weirded out if you told me those were your favorite, but de gustibus, whatever). These are easier to find, being carried by most Trader Joe’s, and come in sugar-free versions, too.

5. Hopjes

Hopjes taste a little more on the bitter side to me, but they have the best typography (after coffeebeat, of course) so that’s a definite plus. They’re also usually available at bulk or penny-candy shops (for grandma? I don’t know, several of the Amazon reviews for Hopjes mention grandmas) which makes them more accessible.

6. Sperlari-Lavazza

These are a hard candy that have a soft center, but not a liquid one (this is an important distinction). Sperlari candies are also classy, because they’re Italian, but the best Sperlari candies are the anise ones.

7. Bali’s Best Coffee

The espresso and latte flavors have fillings that can be a little grainy (and disconcerting if you weren’t expecting them) but the plain coffee flavor is delightful and not too strong.

8. Kopiko

Kopiko is a fine (and caffeinated) coffee candy that comes individually wrapped. Kopiko is great for when you have a sore throat but still want to maintain the pretense that you are a working person doing work things like a worker (but should really just be zonked out on the couch with those lozenges that make you think of yodeling).

9. CoffeeGo

CoffeeGo’s schtick is that they replace coffee. They do not. They also do not replace candy. I’m not sure what they replace.

10. Pocket Coffee

You might think it’s called “Pocket Coffee” because it’s convenient to keep in your pocket, but I suspect (from the taste) that the coffee in Pocket Coffee is actually brewed from pocket lint. If you are old enough to remember liquid-center chewing gum, and are thinking “huh, I’d like to experience that again, only with cold espresso,” then maybe this is for you.

I haven’t tried the coffee Werther’s, this Brazilian coffee candy, these suspiciously-unreviewed Coffee Drops, or these Woogie Fine Drops (the sellers describe eating them as “sinking into an abyss of rich and succulent coffee flavor”, so be warned).

I may have tried these French hard candies in junior high school (they look familiar and are supposedly available at Epcot (!) which makes them exactly the kind of thing I would have purchased at 13) and these Simpkins coffee “travel sweets”, but I have no firm recollection of either, just that at one point I had a nice round tin with coffee candy in it, which I later used to hold my D&D dice.

If you have a favorite coffee candy, feel free to rave about it in the comments!

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Been busier than any number of busy things you could mention (the devil in a high wind; an English oven at Christmas; a bag of fleas) and so sewing has taken a backish seat, but I have managed to make a few more Seamwork Veronicas (the panel version for subscribers).

Today I managed to take pictures of one of them that’s been in process for a couple weeks (this is actually a very quick pattern to sew, it takes a couple weeks if you only get ten minutes a day to sew in …).

Forgive the foreshortened perspective … here’s the bodice:

The pockets:

The waistband:

More topstitching:

The back shirring:

And the whole back:

You may be saying, “huh, Erin, I don’t remember the Veronica dress looking quite like that” so here is a (not-exhaustive) list of the things I have altered:

  • added 2 inches to the center front and back skirt so that I could get more fullness
  • changed the pockets from the kangaroo kind to actual scoop pockets in the skirt side panels
  • omitted the center back seam in the bodice, skirt, and waistband and just cut everything on the fold
  • did a FBA (full butt adjustment) on the center back to keep the skirt from being shorter in the back than the front
  • shortened the bodice a bit to lessen the blousiness
  • finished the hem with a 3″ bias band
  • finished the neck and sleeves with bias binding
  • changed the back channel elastic to elastic shirring (with this very nice Seamwork tutorial)
  • scooped the neck about 1.5 inches

As you may have already figured out, my topstitching is not what you would call precise, but I am calling it wabi-sabi and retiring from the ring. (It was fun to do and I think it livens up the joint.)

The fabric is a cotton/silk? blend (maybe?) very very very lightweight not-gray-not-blue-somehow-both chambray that I’m sure I bought from FabricMartFabrics a while back. I would dig through my email receipts to confirm but 1) I’m lazy and 2) everything on FMF sells out in less than a week so there’s no utility in doing so; I can’t link to it. The fabric is a bit sheerer than I expected but I only own all of the slips in the northern hemisphere so we’re good on that front. (And back.)

Considerable alterations aside, this is a very comfortable dress for summer, and I’m all set to make at least, oh, three or four more until I get tired of it. It’s just so darn easy, both to make and to wear! (I’ve already made two others, both in seersucker, that I haven’t photographed yet.)

Next step for this dress is to do a version that has panels in the back as well as the front … and maybe even a version with a flat collar?

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