Monthly Archives: April 2014

Special plans


Me and my girl.

Tyo is going to be 14 this summer. This means, and doesn’t mean, all kinds of things, but in particular, she’s finishing grade eight, which around here is the end of elementary school. Next year is high school, in all its iconic glory*. (I’m not sure who’s more scared, she or I. Okay, it’s her. I love watching my kids hit new milestones—it’s my favourite thing about parenting.)

Anyway. Tyo’s friends have been bugging her to wear a dress to grad. Tyo would just as soon go in jeans (preferably ripped), but she concocted a compromise. She would wear a dress, if I would make her one. Isn’t it great when our teenagers come up with a reasonable compromise? I know!

Oh, one more thing. It must be made out of Avengers fabric.

Challenge accepted. Confession: having never made a grad dress for myself**, I’m kinda excited to make one for my daughter anyway. Avengers fabric just puts it into the awesome category, though. The only downside is that I can’t, quite, steal her clothes yet.

Sadly, my local fabric stores are not hotbeds of superhero activity. Ok, the odd Batman fabric does show up. eBay, however, turned out to be a treasure trove. Tyo picked a very old-school, garish print. Perfect. The original price of 6.99/yard seemed quite reasonable, although shipping and that pesky conversion from American dollars nearly doubled it. Still not bad, though. What arrived is not the finest of quilting cottons, but perfectly respectable.


MMMM. Wolverine and Thor…

Next up: Pattern.


Tyo sent me this pic way back last summer as an example of a dress she wouldn’t mind wearing. So with that as our inspiration, we thumbed through my pattern database. Sadly, she was not going for McCall’s 4778.


No? Not even version B?

But she did eventually bite on McCall’s 6331:


McCall’s 6331


View B, without the bustier cups. Tyo may someday embrace things like bustier cups but, fortunately for my reflexively-prudish-parental-nerves, she hasn’t yet.

We finally made up the practice version last weekend. I say finally because I have literally heard nothing but “When are we making my dress?” for like a month straight.

You will note some changes have been made.

In terms of fit, I traced off the Misses’ size 8, to match her bust, in the A/B cup size, and shortened the bodice by a good 3 cm, since her back length is nowhere near the 16″ the patterns are drafted for. Then I added that length back on at CF, in a kind of a reverse swayback adjustment, lengthening the front rather than shortening the back. This is my daughter, after all, even if the booty is all from her dad’s side of the family. I won’t exactly say the waist is level with the floor, but at least it’s closer.


The practice dress.

Originally we were going to keep the cute little collar-like flaps on the front of the McCall’s pattern; not quite the inspiration dress, but it seemed like a neat detail to me. But when it came time to test the straps, it was clear that they were too far set for her narrow shoulders (those she does NOT get from me. OK, really the list of things she doesn’t get from me is much longer than the things she does.) And because of the nature of the fold-over, moving that point inward shrank down and threw off the shape of the little triangle and it just wasn’t working. Grum. So, back to the drawing-board. Or the cutting table… a few snips and the folds were eliminated, the points reduced to a gentle curve. Bonus: without the fold-over, it became much easier to cut the front on the fold, eliminating a seam. I must admit, the little sundress-collar-thingies are just about my favourite detail for a sundress. I probably over-use them, like an indifferent novelist who has the same character recurring under different names in every book.

Oh, and the original skirt pattern has these cute scallops to each panel. Yeah, that ain’t happening.


Did I mention Tyo sewed the skirt seams herself? So helpful! Anyway, since I was using my Featherweight for the first time in months (it spent the winter at my Stylish sister-in-law’s house, in anticipation of coat-making that we never… quite… got to. 😦 ), and I had the nifty attachments like the adjustable hemmer, I thought I’d give it ago. With a little bit of adjustment and practice, I made a remarkably neat hem, just a touch over 1/4″ wide. Honestly, I’m pretty darn preening. I used all the tips people suggested in comments on my rolled-hemmer post, and they were very helpful—especially the trimming the seam-allowance when crossing seams one.

I actually kinda love how this practice dress turned out, even in the two different fabrics. I’m inclined to finish it (I need to practice my lapped zipper skills, anyway). Tyo assures me she will even wear it… next time someone has a garden party.

Although I suspect that is teenager-speak for “Never in a million billion years, mom.”

Next up will be the real dress. Plus red crinoline. I’m jealous already—I think I just might need a red crinoline. >_<


Adjustable hemmer foot. Scary Sewing Machine Attachments rating: 7/10.

*Yes, the Breakfast Club has been watched.>
**I blogged about my gr. 12 grad dress, here. Spoiler: my mom made it. In 1970. My gr.8 grad, on the other hand, did not involve home-stitched anything. I wore a souvenir blouse my father brought back from a trip to Montreal (a foreign and exotic land,) and one of those lightweight cotton broomstick skirts that were all the rage in the early nineties. It was a beautiful skirt, and I held on to it for years after, until, early in blog-hood, it became a part of this dress.



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A dress almost in time for Easter.

Almost an Easter dress

Almost an Easter dress

I made another dress. If we need an excuse, let’s call it an Easter dress, though it wasn’t done in time for Easter, nor was it dress weather.

Butterick 5317

The pattern is Butterick 5317, which is reminiscent in silhouette to the Danielle Dress of yore. Or at least reminiscent of my version of it, which had an extra pleat in the front. Or maybe they’re only reminiscent in my head…  The skirt on this one is more full (more pleats). I must admit, although this style ticks a lot of my boxes—scoop neck! Empire waist! Just-above-knee-length!—the pleats had me a bit worried. That sudden release right at the waist seamed like it would be T-R-O-U-B-L-E. Which wasn’t enough to keep me from tackling this dress ind fairly-stiff cotton sheeting and sateen. Sensible, I am not always.


Side zip (very short… long story) and piping. Did I mention I love piping?

There is no back seam, so I presume the pattern expects you to insert a side zip. You may presume, from my presumption, that I did not actually read the instructions. Probably this would’ve been a good idea, as it probably covered how to insert both the satisfyingly giant pockets and a side zip in the same seam. I know this can be done, but I’ve never done it, and didn’t feel up to the challenge of figuring it out myself. Or the challenge of reading, apparently. So I just made my zip really short, ending above the pocket bag, which is approximately level with the waist. This works because a) my waist is pretty big, and b) my fabrics, even the 100% cotton print, had quite a lot of give.


Hem band. I was kinda surprised this wasn’t doubled. If I hadn’t decided to line the entire skirt, I would definitely double it.

I do love the hem band.


Can you see the pleats here?

I made my usual suite of alterations—shortening both the straps and between underbust and waist. The strap thing may have been unnecessary, as it’s quite high under the arm, and while the waist does sit in a good spot, the “waist” on this dress is defined much more by where you release the pleats than by the slight shaping at the side-seam. Although I do think that slight shaping is quite helpful. After an initial try-on, I lengthened the stitching on all the pleats by about 4 cm, and I like it much better where it is now. I think it contains the poof nicely. I should add before I forget that the straps sit a bit wide, and I don’t have narrow shoulders. VBS chic is a real probability.


I tried to get a shot that showed the pleats, but it was very hard. I guess that’s the goal?

I decided early on I wanted to line the skirt, not just the bodice. Not long after that, I realized that I would have to stitch the pleats in lining and top skirt as one, or languish in bulk forever. (Bulk at the waist is what we are trying to avoid here, peeps.) The way to do it, obviously, was to construct the cylinder of each skirt, sew them together at the hem, fold the lining to the inside, and then add the pleats. I did accomplish this, although there was definitely some head-scratching about the pockets and the zip.



I wrangled with myself about doing a swayback alteration, since there is no back seam and no waist-seam; I did in the end shave some off top and bottom at the raised waist seam, and there is very little tendency to wrinkle in the back, so I’ll call it a win, and the under-bust seam is more “level” than it would’ve been without.


Back view, just like the front view.

Did I mention I went down a size? The pattern has a full 2″ of ease at the bust, which isn’t bad but is a touch more than I like for a fitted style. I think my down-sizing was successful in the fabrics I chose, stretch cotton sateen for the bodice and stretch poplin for the lining, but would’ve been uncomfortable in more stable fabrics. I did grade back up to a size 12 at the hips, although I suspect given the volume of the skirt in that area that it didn’t make a lick of difference.


The pockets are large and functional, although somewhat hampered by my decision to sandwich them between the two layers of the skirt.

But those really are some excellent pockets.

I am content.

I am content.

I must admit, I’m kinda curious what the pattern would look like in a softer, flowing fabric; the example on the envelope  is very similar to mine, crisp and rather blocky. Which isn’t necessarily bad, especially with those pleats, but I think it just might be really lovely in a soft satin or something else equally evil to sew with. For now, though, I’ll just be happy if we can get weather that actually allows me to wear it outside!

(Also, I feel like I should add, the dress is navy, not black.  I was attempting to kick my black-and-white-with-occasional-red kick. Probably this is futile, especially when I keep choosing colours that read as black half the time…)


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Once more with feeling!


I made another version of Kwik Sew 717, this one with absolutely no lace. Plain jane, pure function. I think I’m almost done with the slips. Almost. Although there’s still a couple of patterns I’d like to try and Funnygrrl sent me some great skin-tone fabric it’d be awesome to use. Cuz she’s awesome that way. Especially her latest post on body image and negative self talk.


There isn’t much to say about it. I made a slight small-bust adjustment, removing about half a cm from the width of each cup, and shaving about the same amount off the bottom. I should’ve left out the two funny little darts and kept the gathers, but I didn’t think about this until after the darts were cut and sewn. So the cups aren’t as pretty as they might be otherwise. They do seem to fit better than the first ones, at least sans bra.


I used the shell hem, top and bottom. I might be getting good at it.


The first slip I had lengthened about four inches; this one I made the original length, just for variety. I didn’t need to take in the side seams on this one. Maybe because the fabric is less stretchy than the lace, maybe because the cups fit better so I didn’t feel the need to pull it as tight to get “fit”. You can still see some puckering on the side seam—I didn’t stretch quite enough, I guess, while sewing them. The Rocketeer is a workhorse, but she may have a few tension issues. Probably a machine spa day would be in order…


And you get arty modeled photos because that’s the only filter that didn’t show anything under the slip. Not great but better than dressform pics. I hope.

Happy eggs ‘n bunnies day! We’re off to the farm to enjoy “spring,” which in the last few days has included about four inches of snow and freezing rain, which I think is actually worse than a full-blown blizzard. But hopefully we’ve turned a corner now. Because I have springy dresses to wear with my slip, dammit!


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A slip before breakfast


I am definitely on a roll. Or perhaps just avoiding other, less fun, projects. Regardless of the reasons, I got up last Sunday, and cut out two more slips from my nylon tricot, finishing one before breakfast.

In my defense, it was a half-slip, and a rather late breakfast.

A half slip is sorta like diet food, I think. All the right elements seem to be there, yet somehow the good stuff is missing. This slip doesn’t exactly make me wriggle with delight, nor does it ooze demure sexiness.


This is another early Kwik Sew pattern, if you can call a trapezoid with a slight curve over the hip a pattern. I had a bit of a scare when I opened the envelope (I’m very lax about checking through my vintage patterns—I’ve only had one or two severe disappointments, so I don’t feel very motivated to improve my care)—what came out first was a Sew-Knit-n-Stretch girls’ slip pattern and instructions (actually a pattern I also have… I will have to check and see if it has its contents.) Fortunately, KS204 was tucked inside, too. There’s lots of room—it takes up about as much space as a couple of sheets of looselesaf.


It had been cut to size small, which was fine for me, at least about the hips. Around the waist, well, the pattern sizing is for a 25 1/5″ waist. I haven’t had one of those since I was 15. I added a bit, although it turned out it probably wasn’t necessary. Though the amount of ease seems about right throughout, so maybe it was a good idea.


The lace is (yet another) stretch-lace from my stash. It’s one I’ve been coddling for years, because I absolutely adore it—and after looking at lace pretty much non-stop for the last few weeks (ok, whenever I was sewing, which once you subtract work and a modicum of family time, is not much), I have to say I really, really, really like this motif even more than I thought I did. Anyway, I’d been thinking I was saving it for the hem of a cami or tee, but when I was digging around for lace for this project, I realized that the elastic is getting that feel. The one where you’re afraid to stretch it because it may not go back again. So I opted to use it for something where the elasticity isn’t key. (And, if it becomes completely misshapen and gross when the elastic dies, I’ve only wasted a few square feet of material. And at least this way I can enjoy it for a short while.)


While there was not much to the pattern (one piece cut on the fold, identical for front and back), the instructions were nice to have, if only so I didn’t have to actually think about anything. I determined I had enough of the lace to surround the bottom and do a nice “slit” piece up the side; I spent probably more time arranging the lace to get the motifs to match up, as best they could (not being symmetrical) across the top of the slip. The pattern suggested cutting the lace; of course, I wanted to try and trim around my motifs. Which only sorta works since they aren’t symmetrical, but I think I managed to get close enough. Although the sharp, symmetrical top might’ve been more striking.


I have to admit, my first thought on trying it on was “…. eh.” Not exactly sexy. Give me a full slip any day. And it sits at my natural waist, which is never a good look for me. But I think it will have a place in my wardrobe, and once the clothes are on top the little hints of lace are as much fun as any regular slip.


Filed under Sewing