The Ultimate Sundress

Fabric, Pattern

I’m getting so I have a lot of sundresses. This is mostly OK, since I wear them quite a lot when the weather cooperates (although a lot of them are white, which is less good). But one can never have too many of a Useful Wardrobe Item, especially something distinctive like a sundress.

I bought this fabric more than a year ago, because I fell totally in love with the stylized floral print. Totally, completely in love. It’s a fabric I have sat and patted many a time in the months since, a stretch cotton sateen, which has to be one of my favourite fabrics of all time, by the way. I knew I wanted it to be a flared-skirt sundress; I bought three metres, figuring that would be enough for most anything I could decide to make with it. Then a few weeks later, I found the last metre folded up in the remnant bin. A week or more after that, it was still there. It came home with me. Butterick XXXX was a real possibility, except after I made the Picnic Dress I didn’t really think my wardrobe needed two. Vogue 2429, in the simple flared skirt version, became the new plan. And then it sat. And sat.

Back on Canada Day (July 1st), I checked my schedule and realized that, between my two jobs, I had no days off before July 20th. Faced with the grim reality, I managed to wrangle a personal day (so, one day off!) and committed to self-care in the meantime. Which, for me, means mostly sewing. So I was determined to make something satisfying, simple, and self-indulgent. This sundress fit the bill.

A simple little dress

I usually make a size twelve, but knowing that my fabric was a stretch, and wanting the option to wear it sans-bra, I made the size ten at the bust, grading up to twelve at the waist. I shortened the bodice a wee bit (though the darts are a bit high so perhaps I could have shortened more), and did my usual sway-back adjustment. I keep resolving to skip this on a full-skirt pattern and see what I can get away with, but the skirt for this one, which looks flared on the envelope, is really not much more than a gentle A-line. .

Front view

Front view

It’s actually the only thing I wasn’t super-thrilled with about the dress—I didn’t want a full circle skirt, but a half-circle at least might have been nice. Anyway, I didn’t fuss around with pattern-matching or any of that, so I got this wee little dress out of 1.5m of fabric—meaning I have enough left to try again if I should feel the need. It actually looks really good from the side, but I feel like the skirt looks a bit narrow and flat from straight on.

Piping!

Piping!

The only fun detail I added was a touch of self-piping just along the top of the bodice; since it’s a straight seam I didn’t even bother cutting a strip on the bias, just on the stretchy cross-grain.

Innards

Innards

The bodice is lined with white stretch poplin (left over from the flower jeans), and I used some wide flat-fold bias-tape for a narrow faced hem since I may have cut the skirt a bit on the short side, and I like facing curved hems.

Faced hem

Faced hem

The skirt isn’t lined, but I often wear it with my half-slip as it seems to sit over the hips just a bit better with something slippery underneath.

Hem

Hem

I love how invisible the hem is.

The best shot. /sigh.

Good dress. I intend to wear the snot out of it, for the few more weeks that the weather allows…

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Happy stripey dancey fun.

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It’s been a dancey-sewing summer around here. Probably inspired by having some fun performances happening, although the vast majority of the sewing wasn’t related to that—it has still been fun to have some exciting new gear to wear to class. And, it’s all knits which are quick and satisfying, which is important for me right now always.

Anyway, one of my sewy friends made the mistake, a few weeks ago, of lamenting over a black & purple striped spandex fabric she’d picked up some ends of a few years ago, and never actually used (her sewing has been rudely interrupted by that whole having-children thing the last few years). And then yesterday, while ogling her stash during a visit, she said if there was anything I wanted to use desperately, just let her know—she’d rather see it used than languish in her basement.

Dancey pose!

Dancey pose!

Moments later I was cradling two or three metres of gorgeous fabric in my greedy little arms. I did leave her the other end piece (a metre and a half or so) for some future swimsuit.

It was time for some more Fauxlodias, and, of course, a matching crop-top,

Pants. Jalie 2033 hack.

Pants. Jalie 2033 hack.

For the pants, I pulled out Jalie 3022 again, plus my add-on swoosh.

Swoosh.

Swoosh.

I didn’t want any extra seams in the back to have to match stripes across, though, so I attached the swoosh to the outseam and fudged the two back pieces into one. The back seam is pretty much straight except for a tiny dart incorporated into it at the top—i just shaved an amount equivalent to half the dart off the outseam and centre back seams. Not terribly scientific, but these are knits we’re talking about. Yay, knits. Oh, and after checking that the stretch lengthwise was similar to the stretch widthwise, I decided to run my stripes up the legs of the pants vertically. Less stripe matching to do that way. Also looking cool.

Ruched foldover waistband

Ruched foldover waistband

I wanted to add a ruched, fold-over waistband/overskirt thingy, for a bit more interest and because my hips need all the oomph they can get. I got the inspiration for the construction from the mini-skirt on Jalie 2920, but I didn’t actually use that pattern because it’s over at my sister-in-law’s house since the last time I made leggings for little girls.

Back View

Back View

It’s a short skirt with side-seams, mirrored at the hem, so the hem ends up being on the fold. When sewing up the side-seams, I added clear elastiic, stretched as much as I could, so that they would gather themselves up. Then I sandwiched 1.5″ wide elastic between the two layers at the top, and serged the whole thing to the top of the pants. I decided to put the serged seam on the outside, so that it’s covered by the fold-over of the ruched-up “skirt” when you’re wearing it.

Pensive.

Pensive.

The crop-top is the top of the franken-pattern I put together for my red velvet dress, which is largely Kwik Sew 1288, with a few modifications for fit based on my Nettie, cut on the bias with CB and CF seams to make that fun chevron.

Crop top. Looks better on.

Crop top. Looks better on.

Because I’ve been aching for a good striped knit to try that chevron design. (OK, I could perhaps have tried it with my black and white striped spandex, but I didn’t think of it in time.)

Chevron!

Chevron!

This stripe isn’t quite as nice quality-wise as that black-and-white one, by the way, although it’s close. The fabric is a little thinner, and the stripes were a bit irregular in some places, which is really weird and makes it really hard to stripe-match. Fortunately it’s a knit, so the fit is fairly forgiving. For a finish, I just serged the edges, folded under, and topstitched with a triple-step zig-zag. I feel like this is a legitimate finish for dancewear, at least, if not for regular clothes. ;)

Back view (full)

Back view (full)

Of course, the best part is how excited I am to go to dance practice this week, so I can wear my new outfit… ;)

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Cover Up

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Cover Up, AKA Caftan

I made a cover-up. Better known as a caftan. We have some major (major by my standards, anyway) dance performances coming up and my instructor was giving me a rough time about my habit of throwing a tablecloth over my shoulder and calling that a cover-up. Sheesh. But it’s not as if I don’t have plenty of fabric in stash already earmarked for just such a project.

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With gold dress, for effect. Without head because I am too lazy to do makeup today.

I got the fabric from a friend who quilts; someone brought it back to her as a souvenir from India, but of course although cotton, it’s not at all a quilting fabric. Her loss. ;) It’s a very crisp, but thin and sheer fabric—I’ve never seen a cotton organza in the threads, so to speak, but this might be something like that, though maybe a bit heavier than organza ought to be. It’s a shot cotton, with warp threads of gold and weft threads of purple (or is it the other way around? Too lazy to look up my weaving terms right now, sorry), with a darker purple print overlaid on top, and I absolutely adore everything about the iridescent, multi-hued look that gives it, right down to the golden selvedges. I actually have a gloriously-70s caftan pattern, but it involves somewhat shaped side-seams, and I couldn’t bear to cut those gorgeous golden selvedges. So this one is made of whole cloth.

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Edging with bias tape.

Not all forms of dance have the concept of a cover-up—an easy-to-remove, all-engulfing piece of clothing that hides (or at least obscures) the costume before and after performance. Maybe because not all forms of dance have you, um, baring quite so much skin as bellydance can. Being a high school drama alumnus, I like to think of it as our version of “not breaking curtain,” since only rarely do we have a show with an actual backstage where we can hide before performance. Ideally, a cover-up is great to look at, without being so eye-catching it detracts from another performer.

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Closeup, with selvedge and trim

It’s the simplest form of clothing construction after the toga—fold in half, slit one half up the middle for a front opening, widening into a space for the head. I finished the neck and front opening with bias-tape, since I had some that was the perfect gold to match the selvedges. It’s a bit heavier than I might have chosen, but when else am I ever going to use harvest gold bias tape? I attached it with the “applique” stitch, and then got cocky and figured I’d add another row of applique stitch with the meandering vine in between (I have a very limited array of decorative stitches that aren’t strictly zig-zag based). The White did not like doing the applique stitch along the outer edge of the bias tape, and whenever I got too close to it the stitch dissolved in a mess of edge-wrapping and skipped stitches, and I’d probably be picking them all out except that I’m pretty sure trying to match up those stitches would look just as bad (and it’s a costume so theoretically no one is looking closely anyway. Right? Right? K, I’m glad I’m not being graded on this. My gorgeous Indian cotton deserves much better, I know. *hangs head in shame.*

 

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Bias-tape neckline, actually not completely standing up.

My biggest fear, when it came to the bias-tape finish, was that it would be too heavy and end up puckered or stretched out and just ugly-looking. While it’s far from perfect, I think I managed pretty well (helped in no small measure by the lovely, crisp cotton), and while I didn’t have the foresight to try to pre-iron my neck-surrounding portions into shape, a bit of stretching and squishing while sewing, plus a little more than a bit of steamy pressing after sewing, and it’s all lying a lot better than I thought it might, really.

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Although not really inclined to, the front is capable of overlap. I could pin it if I really needed to stay shut, but mostly it needs to be something that can come off and on quickly.

For the side-seams, I marked a point under the arm (12″ down from the shoulder-fold and 10″ out from the centre, for those who might find such minutiae useful), and then angled out to the bottom corner. This gives me more width in the “skirt” at the botton, and something vaguely resembling trailing half-sleeves at the top. So it works.

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Back view, showing sleeve.

I tried to get a closeup of my hem (I used my rolled-hem foot on the regular sewing machine, with a long, wide zig-zag for a soft effect), but none of the photos seem to have made it onto this computer, so you’ll have to live without. No one in the real world will be looking at it, either.

I still love this fabric (which is good, because I don’t love caftans in general), though, and now I will get to use (wear) it, while also not getting accused of wearing a table-cloth. Win!

 

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Teeny little fix

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Over a year ago, I spent a slightly obscene, K-Line-worthy amount of money on this bra. It’s gorgeous, and when I tried it on, the fit was perfect—on the tightest hook, because it was a 32″ band and really, according to the bra-shop ladies, I should be wearing a 30″ band. Fortunately, they also offered free alteration with the purchase, and it would be quite easy to have it altered (and I hate altering things myself)—so, when I picked it up the next week, the bra was as gorgeous as ever, but the band was, invisibly, mysteriously, just a little shorter. Yay!

Except, when I got it home and put it on, something that I hadn’t noticed at all when trying it on happened—the wires dug in like CRAZY between the breasts. To the point where I couldn’t wear it after a few minutes, never mind all day. What the heck? How had I missed this at trying on? I was dismayed. Not to mention upset at the wasted money—no returns on altered bras, my friends.

But what could have gone wrong? It was really uncomfortable. Sometimes you don’t notice a little fit issue until you’ve worn something awhile, but this didn’t feel like that. This was too big a problem to have missed. So, perhaps it was a problem that hadn’t existed when I tried the bra on the first time. What had changed? Only the band length. How would that affect the wires digging in?

I examined the bra more closely. Sure enough, the bridge between the cups was distinctly stretchy. With the added tension on the band, I surmised that the bridge was stretching, too, throwing off the angle of the cups.

Did I mention I hate alterations? So it then sat in my underwear drawer for a year or so. Finally, in a fit of wardrobe purging this staycation, it had to either get fixed or go. I grabbed the first thing to come to hand, a scrap of silk charmeuse with some selvedge, and stitched a stay across the inside of the bridge. I think the silk will be perfect, strong and soft but not bulky.

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And tried it on and—no pokies!!!!

Not a glamorous or time-consuming bit of sewing, I know, but I wanted to document it just because it seemed like such a strange thing to throw off the fit of a bra. And such an easy fix. Why do we avoid these little chores so long? (Or am I the only one?)

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Sew All The Red Things

That way you don’t lose time changing thread.

You may have noticed I’ve been making a lot of things in red. There’s at least one more in the works, too. It’s convenient, I guess.

Red.

Red.

I’ve been petting this dense, glowing, glorious stretch velvet at my local Fabricland since, oh, last fall sometime. But even marked down to half price, it was still $11.00/m, which while not expensive, is still a little richer than my impulse-buy limit.

But then I saw another lady carrying it around the store, matching it up with drapery trims and talking curtains. There was plenty left on the bolt, but CURTAINS? That can eat a lot of fabric.

She put the bolt down and said she would come back later. I pounced, and made off with about three metres.

At least I had a project in mind already.

Pattern hack.

In regular life, I really don’t have any use for red stretch-velvet (especially in July), but one of my dance teachers had made a request that we attempt to acquire under-bust velvet dresses, for dance performances where tummy-cover is appropriate but you still want to wear a snazzy belly dance bedlah (highly decorated bra & belt) set. Most people are doing this via the thrift store and a bit of hacking, which is almost certainly cheaper, but, well, I was in love with this velvet already. And I like sewing more than I like altering.

I realized going through my pattern-stash this morning that I didn’t have a good, basic knit maxi-dress pattern of the kind that’s basically a tank-top extended into a skirt with a nice sweep. Lots of fancier ones, but not this basic style.  And I have about three other pieces in-stash, beyond this red velvet, that are begging to become maxi-dresses this summer. I promptly ordered Jalie 3246, because impulse, but that wasn’t going to help me this morning.

Bring on, once again, my long-suffering Nettie pattern. Please note (or maybe don’t) that I still haven’t actually made a bodysuit version of this pattern. >_< But it sure is useful as the basis for about a billion other things…

I basically traced off the top of my Nettie, measured the length I wanted the dress to go down from my shoulder, and guesstimated a width that looked good. For this particular dress, I wanted a fairly narrow skirt to the knees, with a bit of a mermaid-flare below that. Rocket science, this was not. I also pulled out my copy of Kwik Sew 1288, which has a super-cute cap-sleeved leotard pattern, and morphed the cap-sleeve on, because while I didn’t want full sleeves on this one, I wanted something to pull the Nettie shoulder-straps out, because the Nettie shoulders are WAY narrower than my shoulders (this is why there is that fold toward the armpit in these makes, by the way. It’s probably something I should actually alter for, but the miracle of spandex makes it not a huge deal.

Over bust.

Over bust.

You may be thinking, now, that I had mentioned “underbust” dress before, and this dress is definitely over-bust. You would be right. I wanted to have a wee bit more versatility in the dress (because, y’know, there might be some possible universe where I would need a slinky red velvet dress for a non-dance-related purpose), so I traced front and back the exact same pattern (not that there is much difference between the upper body of the Nettie, front vs. back, except for the neckline); I made one side the standard Nettie scoop-neck, and lowered the mid-back-scoop-depth a further 4″ cm on the other side. (That is, 4 cm lower than the back in this version, but not as deep as the backless Nettie version.) So, if I want to wear the dress over (or under) a dance bra, I can wear the low scoop in the front, and if I want it for something a little more mundane, I can put the regular scoop in the front.

Closeup

Closeup

I’m quite happy with how the cap-sleeves turned out, really—it’s probably my favourite length.

Side view

Side view

I have precious little to say about the construction of this dress, because there is precious little to actually construct. Two pattern pieces; not even bands for neckline or sleeves. I am a little in love with that differential feed thingy on my serger—a bit of twiddling the settings on some scraps and I went from having a bit of a wavy seam to one that was totally, perfectly, professionally smooth. WIN! Why can’t regular machines have that?

Shoulder

Shoulder

I used clear elastic to stabilize the shoulder seams; however, I put a wee bit too much tension on it so there’s a bit of a gathered effect. I kinda liked it, though, so I wasn’t going to be bothered to pick out serging plus elastic. (Also, my camera hates red, these were the best closeup shots I could manage. Terrible. Not that there’s much to see. For the neckline finish I serged clear elastic onto the edge (carefully using less tension this time—with the feed dogs set, no added tension was needed), then folded it under and topstitched with a triple zig-zag on my regular machine. For the armhole, I did the same thing except without the clear elastic, as I didn’t think I’d need the added stability.

Back view

Back view 

For dance purposes I wanted it slim through the hips, but for a real dress more ease around the derriere would definitely be a bonus, so I’ll be tweaking that for the next version.

Hmm

Hmm

I am also pleasantly surprised that the length turned out more-or-less bang on. I haven’t hemmed the bottom yet—torn between trying a rolled hem and just leaving it.

Most practical make of the season? Probably not. But it was fun, and fudging up the pattern took more time than the actual sewing did. And now I have the pattern I can use for some more, mmm, every-day versions.

 

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Dancy-pants Jr.

Kwik Sew 3498

Kwik Sew 3498

Syo also wants Fauxlodias. For whatever reason, I didn’t want to make her some just like mine, from Jalie 3022, so I looked around and eventually went out and bought (!) Kwik Sew 3498. Because, apparently there is a pattern-style out there that I don’t already own.

Kwik Sew 3498

Kwik Sew 3498

Not being as trusting of Kwik Sew patterns as Jalie (I just haven’t made quite as many, and some people report them being oversized, although the pattern reviews for this pattern were reassuring on that front), I wanted to make a trial version before I went all crazy ruffly. So I used up much of the last of my supplex making a plain-Jane version. Syo isn’t thrilled about this, but she will survive—although whether this pair ever gets worn again remains up in the air. Personally, I think they’re a great style, the sort of thing you can wear to dance practice or around the house or even to school without looking out of place, but I’m over thirty so my opinion doesn’t count. ;)

Attitude

She is not as in love with them as I am.

I made the size L (10), which is a smidgeon larger than Syo’s hip measurement. After measuring her inseam, I added 3 cm to the length, which I have to say was not an alteration I ever expected to make for a child who was never over the 5th percentile for height. Having compared the pattern with the Jalie 3247 shorts I made Syo for her birthday, I thought the rise in the KS pattern was a bit high (actually, I thought that just looking at the envelope models—it’s sitting in a good spot on them but it looks like they have pulled the crotch down to somewhere it wouldn’t normally sit). I removed 1.5 cm from the front, and took a wedge out from nothing at the CB seam to 1.5 cm at the side-seam (the exact opposite of what I usually do to Jalie patterns, by the way. ;) ) They are still plenty high enough.

Pose

Pose

The length is ample but not really excessive—for dance pants I don’t regret adding it (although it occurs to me that I will probably have to shave it off in the flare version since that will probably have rolled hems), and it gives her a bit of room to grow. Assuming she ever voluntarily wears these. But if she doesn’t, I can still hope that Fyon will. Or the Waif. The great part about having a string of girls in the family.

Waistband

Waistband

The coolest feature of these pants (aside from the “basic stretch pants with side-seam” that I was looking for), is the V-option front waistband. I made it up exactly as directed. I’m not sure if that little dip-down is me or the pattern or just a natural feature of this kind of finish when it’s slack; it’s much less evident when she’s wearing them, which you can kinda-sorta-see if you scroll down to the last picture in this post. I added (or tried to add) clear elastic into the seam where the band attaches, to give a bit more stay-up-oomph to the pants. This worked OK where I didn’t slice half the elastic off with the overlocker. There is apparently an elastic-applicator foot for my new serger. I want.

Back View

Back View

There is plenty of length, but they don’t drag on the ground (and that’s in bare feet.)

Hemz

Hemz

The pattern calls for one-inch hems, which I gave a try at. I hate hemming knits—none of my machines are particularly good at it. This is the triple-zig-zag stitch on the White, and at the presser-foot-pressure-setting (say that ten times fast, I dare you.) that doesn’t produce ripples, it also barely feeds the fabric through, so it’s really hard to keep the stitch-length even. However, they’re not overly visible so I’ll call it a win, for me if not for home-sewing-is-as-good-as-storebought. While I’m fantasizing, someday I will have a coverstitch machine. Someday.

Side view

Side view

There is plenty of coverage for her round derriere. Although Syo has my broad shoulders, she also appears to be getting at least a modified version of the Gigi butt.

Numba 1

Numba 1

She is very disappointed that this version didn’t have a knee-high slit. Also I was making her pose in full-length pants (wicking material or no) on a hot day right before going to her friends’ house for a sleepover. So maybe she’ll feel more enthusiastic about these later. Maybe?

Hey, a mom can hope. I guess at worst, I could cut them off into short shorts. She wears the snot out of those.

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Faux-lodias

Melo-Phoenix, batik

Melo-Phoenix, batik

Have you heard of Melodia Designs? No? Where HAVE you been? She only makes some the best dance/yoga activewear on the internet, duh. In particular, she pioneered (revolutionized?) the tribal bellydance wardrobe with her richly flared, side-slit dance pants, which in certain circles are the standard for awesome, high-quality dancewear, for practice or performance.

Icarus Melo-Phoenix Dance Pants

Icarus Melo-Phoenix Dance Pants

I have a single pair, a style which arose from a collaboration between Melodia Designs and Phoenix Rising (an equally cool dance/yoga/activewear line), Icarus-patterned Melo-Phoenixes. DIVINE. Here’s the current lineup, although it looks like Icarus is still available in their standard yoga-pants style. This pair of pants is probably one of my most-prized (and most expensive) possessions. And they are very well-made, with the kinds of materials and workmanship (hello, coverstitch) I can’t nearly match at home. If this kind of gear suits your lifestyle or tickles your fancy, I totally recommend it. In fact, looking at the websites just now I’m feeling all twitchy and consumeristic in a way that I rarely get over cut & sewn fabric these days.

I only have one problem—I don’t fall really well within the size vs. length ranges of these pants. For my Melos, I had to size up to a medium to get a 32″ inseam, which is tolerable but doesn’t give the kind of floor-swooshing grace that really knocks ones’ metaphorical socks off (since really, this kind of pants look ridiculous with socks.) And, while not loose, they’re not as form-hugging as they might be.

And, well, why would I buy when I can make?

Enter Jalie 3022. I was probably thinking of this pattern hack as soon as I saw the fun back-seam that makes this otherwise basic yoga-pants pattern unique—don’t ask me why it took three or more years to actually get around to it.

 

Melodia vs. Fauxlodia

Melodia vs. Fauxlodia

I traced my flare off the side of my originals (I don’t have time to reinvent the wheel, or the flare, in this case. Yes, I do feel a little guilty about that.), and super-imposed it on the rear seam of my Jalie 3022 pattern. The best part was that, since the flare is a bit short for my legs, it sits lower on my really-long pattern, so the flare starts below the knee, not above, a sleek look I really like (although there’s less skirt-like movement this way than with pants that flared from above the knee.)

 

Jalie 3022, with back-seam

Jalie 3022, with back-seam

My fabric of choice here is red supplex, a wicking fabric that Fabricland used to carry, long and long ago. I found a single languishing bolt at my local store, and managed to follow it along through the mark-downs until it was finally at a price I could afford, and nabbed the last three metres. These took about two and a half, which tells you everything you need to know about how much fabric those flares eat up. Nom nom nom.

Flares from the back seam

Flares from the back seam

I did all the construction on my spanky new serger, and finished the back slits and the bottoms with a rolled hem, with my differential feed cranked up to lend a bit of a lettuce-y effect; the stretchy, dense fabric doesn’t ruffle overly well, but I think it gives a bit of a hint. The only topstitching I did on this pair was on the inseam, where I used a triple zig-zag, for added strength. I will probably need to reinforce the seam at the top of the slit, too.

Nettie crop-top to go with

Nettie crop-top to go with

And, of course, what to go with my cute and fun pants, but another Nettie crop top. I haven’t managed to make a fully-fledged bodysuit yet (partly because it’s summer now and not really body-suit weather, so I haven’t felt terribly inclined to try), but I am loving the crop tops for dance practice.

The outfit

The outfit

I confess, I am all squeally over how they look—better than I had hoped. I was secretly sure that the swoop would be disproportionate, or fall strangely, or something. It was a little long (my altered-for-me pattern is ridiculously long, but I like it that way.)

A different crappy mirror shot

A different crappy mirror shot

I don’t think any of my photos really do them justice, but if I wait for great photos it’ll probably be next year sometime, so here we go. I just can’t wait for dance class next week. :)

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