Class Samples: Betty Dress

I wanted to do a class for a classic fit’n flare, fifties style dress. Well, really, I wanted to do Butterick 5748, but the quilt shop doesn’t stock big 4 patterns. So I hunted around and eventually landed on the Sew Over It Betty Dress. It looked, at first glance, like basically the same pattern, minus a few options.

On trying it out, a few subtle differences showed up. For one, it’s finished with facings rather than a lining. This was neither here nor there for my purposes, though lined might’ve been better in a white fabric. The most interesting thing is that, while the skirt is indeed a full circle, it’s not evenly divided front and back. The front portion of the skirt is somewhat larger than a half circle, while the back portion is somewhat smaller. I’m not sure what the consequences of that are, but it seems to work out.

I altered the construction for my favourite sleeveless method, where you stitch the facing to both neck and armscye, then turn it right side out before sewing the side seams.

And added piping to give at least a tiny pop of colour to my white and grey fabric. It’s purple, though I’m not sure you can tell. Isn’t this fabric fun though? I had wanted something colourful and novelty for this sample (something about these fit ‘n flare dresses is perfect for a novelty print quilt cotton). I didn’t find colourful, but the novelty was too perfect! I’m very tempted to take some fabric paint to some of the outlines, but I’d hate to blow it at this late stage.

The back is a smooth V

The fit seems surprisingly good out of the envelope. I made a straight size 10.

I added pockets to the side-seams, which worked out well except that I appear to have mis-traced the notches I was using to align the pockets to. So I had to unpick both back pocket pieces (including understitching and serging) and move the pieces up. I’m pretty sure this is a tracing error—it was not the easiest pattern to trace, I will say that, as the lines are all the same solid line, without different dashes for different sizes.

I finally gave in and made a pocket pattern piece out of cardboard. Hopefully I can keep track of it to use again and again.

I tried it on after the skirt was attached, expecting to need to do a swayback adjustment, and to my surprise it didn’t seem to be needed. Looking at the photos, I think a very small adjustment might’ve been good (1/4″ or so?) but it’s still a remarkably good fit right out of the envelope.

That fabric is such a lot of fun!

I am a little disappointed it didn’t come with pockets, but they aren’t at all hard to add, and I’ll be happy they’re there every time I wear this.

I took a lot of these pictures with my Very Fluffy Petticoat, which is an old square-dancing petticoat and way too ridiculous for normal wear but makes great photos! The less insane photos have my black “everyday” petticoat.

So all in all, I’m really happy with the pattern. It’s basic but a great backdrop for fun fabric, and I can imagine lots of fun mods. I’m still not totally sure about the unequal circle portions in the skirt (it just seems untidy to me) but I didn’t notice any issues once it was together—presumably the side seams fall towards the back a bit, but you’d have to look really hard on a circle skirt to notice that. And I’ve got some novelty Hallowe’en fabric in stash that would be just perfect….

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Class Samples: Underwear!

I’ve wanted to do an underwear class for quite a while. It’s one of my favourite things to make, it’s fast, the materials are minimal, but there are lots of little helpful techniques that can be hard to pick up on your own.

Picking a pattern, though, was harder than I thought. My go-to is the Watson Bikini by Cloth Habit, but a) it’s only available as a PDF, and b) while I love the bikini style, I wanted a pattern with other options. And I didn’t want to do the bralet!) There are lots of free underwear patterns out there, as well, but again PDFs are awkward for teaching—they can’t be easily sold by the store, but more than that, half the class can end up being about “how to assemble a pdf pattern”—which might be a class in its own right but isn’t what I want to spend time on when we only have 3 hours. And most of them have limited sizing and styles.

Finally, I decided to go for an oldie I’ve been curious about for a while, Jalie 2568. This has five different styles and the usual Jalie wide range of sizes. I don’t know if anyone these days still wants matching mommy ‘n me underwear (like my grandma used to make for my mother and I for Christmas every year) but I think it’s an adorable idea, anyway.

And with the range of styles (basically high cut and hipster cut with both high and low rise options for each. We won’t go over the tanga pantie view if I can avoid it), I’m hopeful everyone will at least have something in their ballpark.

The camisole is cute, too, although I don’t love how it’s drafted specifically for the wide lace at the front neck. I do like how they use the same techniques for finishing the cami as for the underwear, at least from a teaching perspective.

My one disappointment from a construction perspective is that they’re single crotch seam underwear. While I do like this look, I prefer the sewing and finishing of an enclosed crotch. Not that it’s hard to convert one style into the other, of course.

The pattern suggests a simple hemmed option for the hipster cut, so I did try that out, but I’m dubious about its merit. My kids have a few RTW undies with a similar finish (cover stitched) but I fear that a) a coverstitch stitch is stretchier than a twin needle, and b) even the RTW versions basically wedge up your butt instantly.

For myself, I will not be remaking the high-waisted version, but I might give the hipster cut another try. I will probably lower the CF about an inch (which I usually do the Jalie pants, too). I should do a no-seam-allowance version to try the FOE, too.

If I ever get done these class samples!

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Class samples: Trapeze Dress

I am teaching a class next month (at Periwinkle Quilting and Beyond… I guess I’m the beyond.) on the Merchant & Mills Trapeze dress. So, sample sewing time.

Spoiler: it turned out ok.

Actually, it depends on your metric. Technically, this is a work of freaking art. Style wise, it’s fun but plain—which goes with the Merchant & Mills aesthetic, if not so much mine. Fit wise, it’s ok but not spectacular. More on that in a sec.

It’s a pretty insanely simple pattern. Ok, I didn’t make the long sleeve version with the funky little inset. That’s a neat version but I didn’t think I’d actually like wearing it. This is what I struggle with with these class samples—balancing what I want in a wardrobe vs. what students need in a class. It is a nice pattern, though—there’s some subtle shaping at the side seam, and the amount of flare is just perfect for a crisp woven.

Anyway. The sizing is British, apparently. I’m in between a size 10 and a 12, but closer to the 10, so I went with that. However, the shoulders are a little binding so perhaps the 12 would’ve been better.

On looking at the pattern pieces, I made two of my usual adjustments: I squared the shoulder, and I raised under the arm. Possibly I should’ve just petited through the armscye, but the effect is pretty similar, except that I think raising the bust might’ve been a good idea too.

The square shoulder was definitely the right call. I think I could’ve raised the underarm a bit more, because my squaring of the shoulder involved raising the outer shoulder, which counteracted raising the under-arm somewhat. Usually I handle things a bit differently, by dropping the inner edge of the neckline when I’m tracing, or just grading to a smaller size in the neck—but I didn’t decide to do the changes until after the pattern pieces were traced. Anyway, it looks nice until I move.

Pockets!!! I added pockets!

My construction, on the other hand, is flipping flawless. Well, nearly. I went with a Hong Kong binding for almost all of the seams. Yum.

After some sampling I went with this dusty punk rayon binding left over from a version of McCall’s M6263 that I apparently never blogged. Oops. I think it looks really cute with my grey fabric. The other dress was pink and grey too, for that matter. Incidentally, the fabric is a Robert Kaufman Essex Linen “Homespun” blend and it’s yummy as hell. And it eased in the sleeve cap really nicely, which is great.

As you can see, I added pockets. There’s plenty of room in this style, and these days, with key cards and cellphones, I’m much happier if I have pockets. Oh, and when binding the hem, I stretched the hell out of the bias tape as I went, which caused it to gather the edge a bit, making it much easier to do a nice, deep hem on the curved edge. I did end up serging the armscye seams, as it was just better to reduce bulk and narrow the seam allowance there.

The whole Merchant and Mills philosophy is of the “slow down and make something carefully and well,” variety, which I respect even if I hate their arty envelope photos. And I really did enjoy this process, with exquisite materials and minimal fitting. It still took less than eight hours of sewing, so it’s not that long of a make. That includes hand stitching all the hems.

You can see how the smooth shoulder fit goes all to hell when I lift my arm even a little. Some of that is unique to my body but some is the draft, which has a fairly high, narrow sleeve cap—the kind that looks perfect while stationary. To make it again, I would remove .5 cm from my raised underarm, but then petite through the armscye 1cm. If I need to make it again, which I probably don’t. I think I’ve mentioned my overstuffed closet.

Here, have an artful flatlay:

I almost wanna make a little pink bow for the outside. Probably too twee, right? This pattern is all about class, right? But I really do love those seam bindings.

maybe I should just wear it inside out?

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Happy Cardiganday

Ok, that was really fun.

I decided for my birthday this year I wanted to have a sewing day, since I now have a (moderately) spacious house and a gigantic dining room table. I invited a few friends (ok, mainly former co-workers), laid out my giant cardboard cutting mat on the dining room table, and brought my main sewing machine and serger up to the kitchen table.

I even cleaned my iron, which was a whole other adventure as I nearly killed it in the process. But the sole plate hasn’t been this clean since a month after I got it, so that’s good. (The process involved vinegar, salt, toothpaste, a little bit of heat, and a LOT of scrubbing. The near-death happened when I was trying to rinse all that guck off. I think water got inside somewhere it shouldn’t’ve. But it seems to be working again now so fingers crossed. )

My friends brought various projects, mainly handwork (one seam ripping), and I displayed my lack of millennial skills by getting absolutely NO pictures of everyone. So have some dark after shots instead. (Dawn, if you’re reading this, you forgot your fabric!)

There is one shot of me and Cee at the machines, taken by a friend, where I have a derpy face.

But what did I make, you ask?

I decided, at long last, to tackle the Blackwood Cardigan by Helen’s Closet.

This is one of those patterns that I was originally going to take a pass on. I’m not a fan of sweaters that don’t close, and it seemed easier to hack a similar style from my knit sloper. But, as cute versions kept popping up in my feed, I was more and more intrigued by the band construction. I wanted to take a look at the instructions. And I felt guilty shamelessly copying the style. I mean, it’s simple, but I didn’t think of it on my own. So when Helen had a sale sometime last spring, I bit, mainly for the instructions.

Of course, once you own the pattern, you might as well try it out, right? Save yourself redrafting all those rectangles and figuring out how much shorter to make the neck-band so it doesn’t gape.

So anyway, I printed the pattern the morning of my birthday, stuck it together after people arrived (a great activity for visiting)

Once I had it taped, I compared it with my knit sloper, and was very pleasantly surprised with the similarities—identical shoulder width, similar sleeve-cap and high armscye, just enough extra width in the sleeve for it to be a sweater, not a shirt. So aside from squaring the shoulders slightly and lengthening the sleeves about 4 cm, I cut out a straight size medium.

My fabric is technically a mystery jersey from a random group at Fabricland last spring. I got it because I was pretty convinced it was wool or a wool blend, and now having ironed it I’m pretty sure I’m correct. (I love the sheepy smell of wool when you steam it.) I thought it would be a good choice for a cardigan since it won’t need to be laundered as much. I steam-shrunk in my dryer, which is my preferred method of pre-treating wool although I confess I can’t completely recall how much subsequent laundering any of those things have had.

Anyway, I’m pretty thrilled with my result. I love the slim fit. I love the longer length. (I may have to make a floor-length version) I love the pockets, although I’m not totally in love with my application of them—but that’s a separate issue.

I do still wish it closed. I might add some kind of a loop and button, like the sweater I made my aunt last Christmas.

I could possibly make the shoulder a little more square—there’s a tiny back-neck bubble still—and the sleeves might be a little long now. But that’s how I like them, and if there is any further shrinking from laundering, I’ve got a bit of insurance, anyway. (And looking at the line drawings they’re supposed to be extra-long and slouchy, so there!)

But especially, I really, really, really like sewing with friends.

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Sew Style Hero—The Selfish Seamstress

This post is inspired (just a little past due) by the Sewcialists blog theme for August: your Sew Style Hero.

I started this blog in early 2010. It was early days of sewing blogs, it was exciting, and I was learning so much about sewing. But I didn’t know much about blogging, or about how to build a following (Still don’t, I guess) and while I blogged basically every single day at that point, nobody else knew I existed.

The day that changed was August 27, 2010. The day the Selfish Seamstress wrote about me.

Many of my favourite blogs from those days are still around, but many have also gone silent. Life happens, and no one was a pro at that point. But one of my favourites to slip into the shadows was The Selfish Seamstress. In addition to fabulous knock-offs, her writing and online persona were hilarious, with her kindness and joy showing through the allegedly grumpy and misanthropic Selfish persona.

She was notoriously vague about her location, even to continent, so I wouldn’t have ever expected to meet her. Except one day earlier that spring, she had posted about an unseasonal snowstorm, and I had commented that we were having the same crappy weather where I was. A private message followed and by some miracle it turned out that we were in the exact same city!

We met up for coffee a few weeks later, my first real-life sewing meetup! It was as giddy and delightful as I could’ve hoped for—except for the crushing news that Selfish was in the throes of moving back to Europe. Our real-life friendship would encompass exactly two coffee dates. I think I still have some of the terrible fabric she gave me when she moved. Though most of it was good and put to good use.

While my brush with sewing blog greatness was brief, the exposure she gave me cracked my shell and really helped me start interacting with the online sewing world, as well as showing me how awesome it could be when online turned into real life.

Back in those days, before people figured out you could charge for it, it was pretty common for sewing bloggers to slap together a free pdf pattern to share with the world (mine are still linked under the pattern tab here). The one Selfish was most famous for was her iconic Coffee Date Dress, which is a lovely little basic, with a signature ruffle to keep it from being boring.

I had always meant to make it but never quite got around to it—but as I started thinking about Sew Style Hero month for August, I kept coming back to The Selfish Seamstress and the dress.

It didn’t take long to re-download the pattern, and it only takes 24 pages to print. (I think the Fiona dress I made earlier this summer was 40 pages) It’s been a while since I used a hand-drafted PDF. It’s cute.

And by a miracle I remembered to add all the seam allowances when I cut it out, whilst paying a ridiculous amount of attention to matching the plaids.

This fabric is a mystery suiting that has been in the stash almost since the last time I saw Selfish. It’s a grey plaid/houndstooth with little threads of pink that I can’t seem to get to photograph. It’s almost certainly polyester. In any case, it makes a good wearable muslin if nothing else. Because it’s a bit on the heavier side (and plaid) I cut the ruffle as a single layer on the bias. Time will tell if that was a good idea, I guess.

I did my “usual” grading between sizes: 36 shoulders and bust, 38 waist, 40 hips. I should have remembered that this is essentially an indie pattern. I should’ve cut the whole bodice a size 38. For that matter I could’ve cut the skirt size 38, too, but it’s easier to take in than let out. What really sucks is that I kept thinking (since this fabric has a lot of give) that it would work out, so I kept going, and by the time I had the zipper in for a full try-on I’d already aggressively clipped my seams at the underarm facing, only to discover I couldn’t even zip the damn thing up.

I threw it on the dressform, took some pretty pictures, and thought about it for the weekend.

Then I sacrificed my careful, impeccable plaid matching at the back seam, ripped out the zipper, and re-sewed it in with minimal seam allowances. This gave me the extra inch or so I needed at the bust, but I had to take quite a bit out at the waist. That’s ok though. Taking out is ok.

All in all, the dress is cute but I don’t feel fabulous in it. The bodice is a bit short (a known feature of this pattern, but I tend to have a short torso so I wasn’t too worried) even on me. Mainly I think I don’t love the fabric–it’s pretty but doesn’t feel nice, and gets really staticky. I guess there was a reason it had been in stash seven years. In any case, almost more than the dress itself I enjoyed posting about it on Instagram, revisiting and sharing memories of the Selfish Seamstress with people I’ve known since the “old days” of blogging, and many more who I didn’t know back then. Check out the posts under #selfishseamstressfanclub on instagram if you’re interested. Or share some memories here, especially if you made this dress back in the day!

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Odds and ends and bad photographs

While I didn’t accomplish a lot on my summer vacation this year (other than the Jutlands), I did end up tackling a bunch of quick projects, several of which had been sitting for months or years.

The oldest is this Sewaholic Patterns Dunbar sports bra. I had cut it out pre Christmas… at least two and possibly three Christmases ago. It was meant to be a present for Syo, but I somehow got completely befuddled with all the pieces and it just seemed way too complicated.

This is too bad because when I finally did sew it up it only took about an hour. And it’s using some really nice fabrics—a wicking activewear, some proper power mesh for lining, with a lighter mesh for the sheer part.

The construction was complicated compared to the other sports bras I’ve made, which is not actually complicated in the grand scheme of things. The lining seams and the outer seams don’t line up because the outer layer has the side panels. This is actually nice because you don’t have as much bulk at the seam lines, but it confused the heck out of me (especially picking up the pieces years after cutting out.) I skipped the optional pockets for foam inserts, which made my befuddled brain happy but made me a little disappointed in myself since I had cut the pieces and everything.

The only other tricky bit was figuring out whether the top and bottom edges had seam allowance (they do), which I trimmed off from the top because I wanted to use fold-over elastic.

The soft mesh I used for the sheer part is a bit flimsy, maybe, but the look is perfect. So I’m pretty happy overall. And it’s one less thing sitting in a box! Bonus: in the same shoebox I found our handwritten family recipe book that has been missing for two years. WTF?

Last fall I had cut out a pair of Eléonore pants from a black denim-print ponte. I had issues with the topstitching and wound up stuffing them in a bag in frustration. Well, I finally put on my big girl pants and took another stab at it. I had to abandon the actual topstitching thread and use a triple straight stitch with regular thread instead. The only problem is that none of my machines will do a long stitch on this setting, which annoys me. But at least it’s done, and you have to look pretty close to notice the difference.

I have been doing all my topstitching lately on an old (80s) Elna a friend gave me. It doesn’t blink at topstitching thread (except with this stretchy fabric) but more importantly it’s got this weird air-bubble foot pedal that gives amazing control—the best I’ve had in a non-computerized machine—and an adjustable speed that goes from painfully slow (perfect for topstitching) to so fast you have to adjust the tension because the thread is getting pulled so quickly (perfect for topstitching with a triple stitch, which seems painfully slow otherwise)

They don’t stay up terribly well; I should probably put belt-loops on.

After getting those out of the way, I stumbled upon a remnant of black lingerie knit (nylon tricot) I picked up shortly before the store closed down. I’ve been meaning to make a black slip for a while—basically since I made this one, um, four years ago.

I’ve had this vintage Basic Knits pattern in my drawer of “patterns I’d like to make” for, well, quite a while. And, of course, I went with the version that’s almost identical to the Kwik Sew 717 I made before. Actually because I was lazy and didn’t want to have to trace and cut out two separate cup pieces for the princess seam version.

I cut the 36 bust grading to the 38 in the hips, and I took the bust in a tiny bit at the side seams. I could’ve gone another size larger in the hips. I’m not sure how I turned into a pear shape but apparently I have. I think I like the bust shape in the Kwik Sew pattern a little better, but this one will be perfectly functional, and I’ve needed a basic black slip for a long time. Oh, and I shortened the skirt by about 6″, because as drafted it would’ve been well below my knee.

That may have been a bit excessive, as it’s pretty short, but it’s easier to wear a short slip under a long dress than the reverse. Anyway, I’m pretty sure it’ll be a good addition to the wardrobe come slip season… which is getting distressingly close here.

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Little sweaters

Cloned sweater. Conflict was much reduced when the sisters didn’t have to fight over the original.

One of the styles (my) contemporary teenagers like is a fairly shrunken, close-fitting version of the sweatshirt. I had cloned an existing one (which belongs to Tyo) for Syo, last winter sometime, which was successful but, like the original, very dependent on fabric stretch to fit. I wanted a version with a little more ease, that would work in less stretchy, classic sweatshirt fabrics. There are almost certainly patterns out there for this look—but I don’t own any of them, and I do own enough patterns that I should not be buying more for something as simple as a raglan sleeve sweatshirt.

Anyway, last night my husband sent me downstairs to sew while he played video games, and I cut out another Jalie Julia, but the fabric was dark and there’s white thread in the serger right now and I didn’t feel like changing it, so I looked around for a different project.

(The regular machine, on the other hand, had black thread in the needle and white thread in the bobbin, because Syo was apparently down there trying to alter a bra but she’s too lazy to change the bobbin thread. Or so I surmise, since the bra was still sitting on the floor. Because that’s life with teenagers. )

Anyway, so looking around for something else, I spied this fabric, which I bought my girls for Christmas presents last year. (This is what happens, teenagers, when you make the mistake of showing interest in your mom’s hobbies.)

I thought it was adorable and hilarious. It looks like sweatshirt fabric on the outside, but the inside is almost like a minky. And then when I was getting it cut we discovered it was flawed—some bad lines of staining on the soft white interior. It became steeply discounted and I became the owner of a ridiculous amount of it.

The kids thought it made great blankets (as most fleece fabrics do), and Tyo mused at length about making a giant pj sweater out of it, and a tiny cropped sweater for Syo, but nothing happened beyond that so eventually I packed it away into the stash.

But it would be perfect for white serger thread.

After a bit of digging I decided Kwik Sew 2893 seemed like a good place to start. While it’s styled like a baseball tee, it’s roomier than Jalie 3245, and the difference between a baseball tee and a sweatshirt pattern is largely about ease.

It’s a kids pattern but the XL is a size 12-14, which is about the same chest measurement as Tyo, and I figured if it didn’t fit Syo it would fit Tyo, and if Tyo didn’t like it it would work for Fyon, who is a very skinny eleven now. This is the convenient part of having multiple girls in the family, even if they don’t stairstep quite as neatly as they used to.

I wanted a slightly cropped length, partly just to use less fabric in this tester version, so I made it the length of the Extra Small size. This is still significantly longer than the sweater at the top of the post, and as it turned out, while it makes a short sweater, it’s not what I would call cropped.

At the last moment I decided to include the pocket, also in a size XS, because it’s nice for teenagers to have somewhere to stuff their phones. This was pretty simple, although more stabilization might’ve been nice. I did knit interfacing strips along the opening parts.

None of the grey ribbings I have in stash were a perfect match, but this one was the best. I could also try black at some point, that might be fun.

Anyway. While I was sewing it up I was convinced I was making a sweater for Fyon, but Syo tried it on and it fits her. It also fits Tyo but the length is awkward—longer than cropped but not as long as she’d like a normal length sweater. On the other hand she didn’t take it off and went on to sleep in it, so I guess it’s not that bad.

And it’s one tiny piece less taking up space in my stash.

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