Category Archives: Sewing

A long-awaited skirt

(Photo from November of 2012)

Somewhere around a decade ago, when blogs were shiny and new, a dear online sewing friend sent me a gift of some fabrics she didn’t think she would get to use. It’s perhaps a little embarrassing to admit that I, also, went on to not use them for, y’know, a decade, but anyway. That coating is earmarked for the Next Coat when my grey coat wears out, which is on its way but not quite yet.

And then there was the glorious, sequined, black linen border embroidery. One of those fabrics relegated instantly to the “too good to cut” pile. I’ve fantasized about making it up many times over the years, but kept waiting on the perfect plan, or the perfect moment. Needless to say, such a moment did not arrive. It didn’t help that in addition to being exquisite, there was a scant two yards there. I don’t often think too much on the difference between a yard and my native mètre, but when you’re trying to eke a garment out of only 2, that extra 8” of fabric can make or break.

Anyway. Last spring, when the Leslie Skirt by Wearing History came out, I was blown away. I have a bit of a thing for front buttoning designs, and her sample in linen just ticked all of my boxes. Despite the skirt featuring that most dreaded of features in my wardrobe—waist gathering. But I instantly purchased the pattern, and started going through fabrics I had on hand (and more importantly, in sufficient quantity) to give it a go. And I thought of this long-languishing border embroidery.

But no. On further inspection of the pattern, the gathering was limited to a tiny section at the side of the front. The skirt as a whole is A-line (which is great for me in general), with a very curved hem. Completely unsuitable for a border embroidery. Not to mention, the part where there was only two yards, and the pattern calls for a minimum of 3 1/4.

But, my brain couldn’t leave well enough alone. Especially once another piece of linen-type fabric turned up, a remnant from a shirt I made my husband once, of an almost identical colour, weight, and weave. Enough there to make the waistband/buttoned front piece, preserving all the precious embroidery for the skirt itself. Surely two yards is enough circumference for a skirt hem? Surely?

So I dove in.

The pattern calls for interfacing in the waistband segment, but nothing down the front where the buttonholes are. This seems suspect to me, so I wound up adding strips of knit interfacing down my button bands, while I used a beefy twill fused to armoweft for the waistband interfacing, and added little plastic boning stays in several places to support the raised waistband. It’s possible I went overboard, but I regret nothing. (Except that some of the bones are a tiny bit too long.)

Should have at least one more button, but somehow my brain told me 5 cards x 2 buttons/card=12 buttons. Bad brain.

The waistband and front button panel were all cut according to the pattern, but to make the border embroidery work went pretty far off road. Basically I took the front edge of the skirt pattern, with the curve where it gathers into the waistband, and put that along the cut edges of my fabric, while I used the length of the centre back pattern to get the right “height” at the back fold, and drew a line connecting the two. I think it might be slightly longer in the back, which accommodates booty? Anyway, I cut this and just extended the gaaa an athers all the way around, gathering my fabric to fit. And while I would love it if I had, oh, an extra yard of fullness for that skirt, it’s pretty darn fine just as it is.

I had meant to finish the edge of the border embroidery nicely and trim it around the scallops, but I wound up just folding it under and hemming instead. I think the more structural nature of the folded edge works better with the weight of the front button placket anyway. Or something.

The pattern calls for quite a deep hem, which is great, but it also has the same amount of hem at the bottom of the button placket, which just seems odd. I didn’t trim the excess away, but it does make the bottom of the placket/front panel a bit odd and bulky. We’ll call that vintage pattern oddities.

Anyway! It’s a skirt! It worked! It’s a garment which does challenge me on a few levels. I don’t usually care for anything gathered at my waist, ever. The length is a bit odd, too, although that weird midi length seems to be popular of late. Most notably, it doesn’t have pockets, which may be an issue if I ever try to wear this to work.

I don’t regret overengineering the waistband, and would (will) do it again, as I’d still really like to try a true-to-pattern version of this skirt. The design does put a lot of stress on that second buttonhole, and I’m tempted to add a hook and bar to support the waist there, with the buttons just keeping things closed. You do definitely want to be aware of where you want the pattern to sit and make sure your size works, as you don’t have a lot of room to futz with the button positioning without changing the look of the overlap at the top of the shaped waistband. That being said, I did find it true to size. Also, if you’re shortwaisted like me, it will look a lot different than on the drawing where there appears to be about 4” between the top of the waistband and the bust—for me, there is no such space, and depending on the look you want you might want to adjust for that.

Anyway, it’s made, and fun, and I am so happy to have finally used that fabric!

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Mushroom Munchkins

Sometime around the end of September, a costumer on Instagram I happen to follow, Ariel, posted pics of a red with white spots mushroom capelet she had made. Now, hers contains LEDs making the spots light up and various other fanciness, but I was struck by the sheer adorableness of it. The various algorithms which govern our lives may have thrown a few other mushroom hats into my feeds as well, but I really loved the capelet idea.

Anyway, this was right around the time where the twins started talking non-stop about Hallowe’en (that would be courtesy of the YouTube algorithm), and Tris declared vehemently that she wanted to be a princess. I carefully suggested the wonderful idea of… a mushroom princess!

And, as a great miracle, they both went with it.

Beyond the initial inspiration, this was a fairly basic costume. We picked up some discounted red softshell (fleece on one side, windproof on the other), and I used old bedsheet for the pleated white lining. I drafted up the capelets as a near-circle, and the hoods as excessively gigantic. I did end up cutting my first hood down a bit, if you can believe it. They’re still a little excessive.

The construction is nothing to write home about—lots of raw edges, even (especially) on the edges of the bedsheet. I could’ve planned it better if I’d been a bit more intentional, but a) it’s a Hallowe’en costume for three year olds, and b) I’ve been sick for the entire month, so I really didn’t have a lot of brain-cells to apply. I used the ruffler foot for my Featherweight to pleat up the lining to resemble mushroom gills. No way would I have been able to make this work with my available time and energy without that. Though I still did have to do some hand-pleating and hand-sewing to get the lining to fit the neckline.

All the lining portions were just rectangles, pleated at both edges. So the back of the hoods is bare, while the inner edge of the capelet lining required extra pleating to fit the neckline. I had some vague preliminary thoughts of adding tea stripes to the lining gills but didn’t follow up (see above about limited time and mental energy.)

I bound the edges of the capelets with straight strips. This didn’t work super well as the fabric had very little stretch and I really didn’t want tension on the edges anyway, so there’s a fair bit of puckering. A walking foot would have been a smart idea. I did use the binding to enclose a lightweight wire for more support for the capelet edge, but I’m not sure it really improved the look. Plastic boning of some kind might have worked better. In any case, I can remove it if I want.

The final stage (which wound up taking almost as much time as all the rest of the construction) was painting the spots on. This was a lot more labour-intensive than I expected, which I guess says something about how little I paint fabric, especially off-white on a red background which took three coats or so to get opaque.

I love the painterly look of Ariel’s capelet, but with my plasticky material (that didn’t really like the fabric paint, either) and making for preschoolers and lack of energy I found myself leaning towards a more cartoony treatment, so I didn’t try to do any shading or fancy edging of the mushrooms. I think they’re still pretty adorable.

I originally planned to have them wear the capelets over white or off-white clothes as the mushroom stem (even fantasized about mushroom-coloured princess dresses for underneath, which obviously did not happen), but the fact is we live in Canada, and not in one of the parts known for its nice weather. The weather on Hallowe’en was about as nice as it could ever be here, by which I mean about 8C when we started trick-or-treating and getting colder as the night went on, but jackets were still going to be a requirement. The twins already have these red jackets, which worked well enough underneath the capes and hopefully didn’t detract too much from the mushroom vibe.

I was, however, a little worried the twins would call me out on a lack of “princess” elements to the mushroom costume. A mushroom crown would’ve been the logical thing, but I wasn’t sure how that would work with the hoods. On the other hand, the boundary between princess and fairy is a little vague at the twins’ age, and I was pretty sure mushroom WANDS might seal the deal. So I recruited Tyo, who has dabbled in wand-making before, to spend a good chunk of her Hallowe’en weekend creating some papier-mâché wands.

I sculpted the mushrooms, using tinfoil for a base and then toilet-paper papier-mâché, while Tyo worked on the wand portions. I think she was a little dismayed at how big I wanted the mushrooms, but she was a good sport. I must admit there were points in the process where I thought I was in way over my head, having done most of my papier-mâché work back in elementary school, but it was fun once I got a feel for what I was doing.

I mean, they’re a little lumpy, but so are mushrooms, right?

Tyo did the lion’s share of the painting and other finishing details, though, and I really think she knocked them out of the park.

Honestly, they deserve their own photo-shoot.

Moss. She added real moss. And string.

And the twins were actually really good about carrying them while trick-or-treating, which takes some skill navigating steps with a treat bag in one hand and a wand in the other. Though they did take enough tumbles that both wands will need some touching up, alas.

Anyway, that was our Hallowe’en. I’m just glad the twins got to go out and try their hands at trick-or-treating.

And the wands were so stinking cute.

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The jeans I didn’t want to make

Unlike the subject of my last post, jeans are arguably something I need, um, pretty badly. I have technically three me-made pairs still in rotation, but two of those have been out for mending most of the last year, and the remaining workhorse pair is of a fairly thin super-stretchy denim that’s rapidly approaching widespread systems failure. And at both of the perpetually-mending pairs are getting snug.

Now, two of those pairs are Closet Core Ginger jeans (the high-waisted, skinny version). But I was pretty sure it was time to up-size my pattern (and pretty sure I had mislaid some if not all of the pieces of my old printout anyway). So I dutifully got it reprinted… but then thought, why not make up the other view?

Back when I bought the Ginger Jeans pattern (not long after it first came out, if I recall correctly), view A was exactly what I was looking for in a pair of jeans—low-rise waist, stovepipe leg. But by that point I had already modded the snot out of Jalie 2908 to get that fit that I wanted, so I just kept on using that pattern. When I did finally try out the Gingers, it was to test out the high-waisted view… which worked fairly well, but both versions were made in extra-super-stretchy fabric (which really minimizes fit issues, at least), and the high waist, while more fashionably appropriate these days, doesn’t give me that nipped-in, round-butt look that makes them so cute on other people. I just look like I go straight up from hip to waist, like a cylinder.

Now, the biggest factor in my cooling relationship with denim has been that as my body has changed over the last ten (and especially last three) years, I haven’t been able to find a style that makes me feel cute the way they used to. I have too much muffin-top these days for the low rise (which is terribly passé, too, don’t you know), high rise just makes me look like a box… oh, and mid-rise, on my body shape, just rides down to sit in the “low rise” position. Much easier to just find a cute dress or skirt.

Anyway, I decided, since I wasn’t really excited about ANY style of jeans, to go back to my old standby. Low-rise; at least it can be covered by shirts, and the stovepipe legs seem like they would go well with the modern looser jeans aesthetic. (Also, as low rises go, I’d call this one pretty moderate, which is what I suspected. The fly zip is at least 4” long!)

So I put on my big girl pants, re-measured myself, didn’t quite faint at the pattern size that number put me into, and then went to work.

A dig through my stash turned up this piece of really nice stretch denim, already pre-washed. Sturdy (about 10oz at a guess), but very stretchy. I BELIEVE it’s the Cone Mills denim I got from Closet Core as a jeans kit ages ago. Perhaps it wasn’t wise to cut into it for a project I was, frankly, kind of dreading, but there it is. It also wasn’t doing me any good sitting in stash, and it promised to be pleasant to work with even if I wasn’t thrilled with the results.

I made three pre-emptive changes to the pattern: lengthened the leg by 1” (to go from a 32” inseam to a 33” inseam), raising the back rise height by about 1”, and taking some tucks in the shaped waistband to make it more strongly curved, particularly in the back portion, where I tend to be most curvy. It’s still not as curvy as the modified one I used before, but it seems to work. These are most of my “standard” fit alterations, but I didn’t make them on my previous Gingers (except for the leg length anyway) because of the high waist and the extremely stretchy denim I was using.

I also took the time to cut out all the leg pieces in a single layer. I’ve ignored this advice countless times, and almost always had one twisting leg on my jeans, and just endured it as the price of laziness. It’s early days yet, but I’d say they do, in fact, twist very little, at least.

I followed the pattern instructions to fully baste it together to try on, and I’m glad I did as it let me make some major changes to the crotch curve: mainly, I needed a MUCH curvier front crotch to avoid camel-toe (also an issue in my high-waisted versions, but less intense because of the super-stretchy fabrics), and I took in the CB seam about 1” at the waistband, tapering to nothing at the bottom of the curve. If I do another version, I would curve the yoke as well by adding some little darts like so:

Man I miss having the time to make helpful diagrams like this for my blog posts.

Which is exactly the same thing I did, extensively, to the yoke of my Jalie Jeans pattern, actually. So it’s nice when things are consistent. I might add a bit more height to the back rise, as well—but maybe through the yoke since I’ve already added 1” to the lower piece. I could’ve recut the yokes but I just decided to ease them in to the waistband, which also works.

Basting first let me make these tweaks, which was great. It’s not hard to tweak the side-seams at the end of jeans construction, but at that point you’ve got two rows of topstitching in the crotch and inseams and those are not going anywhere.

Construction wise, I did most of the sewing on my mom’s Featherweight machine (long story, but the short of it is that her machine is at my house and mine is not. This was not on purpose). I got it into my head to try doing the topstitching on my coverstitch, which was a mixed bag. It was nice to do long straight sections with the twin needles, but it’s hard to go slow and I didn’t like the lack of reverse. So I did the pockets, fly, and waistband topstitching on the Featherweight as well. I did a not-terrible job of matching my stitch length, but there are definitely some subtle differences. It also made for a LOT of rethreading, especially since I only had two spools of topstitching thread (this was just Guterman extra-strong, I didn’t want to complicate things by using actual topstitching thread) so one of them had to keep going back and forth between the coverstitch and the Featherweight. I only broke out my modern Janome (which needs a spa day BADLY) for the bar tacks and buttonhole at the very end. For that part I used a coordinating regular thread, though it’s not quite a perfect match so maybe I should’ve gone for a contrast.

I actually liked the pockets better pre-bar tack.

I sewed the side-seams with a fairly generous seam allowance, and wound up taking them in 1/4” more after that—and I’m fighting the urge to take them in more, telling myself we’re going for a slouchy boyfriend aesthetic as opposed to the sprayed-on-skinny look I’ve been pursuing since I got my first pair of stretch denim jeans in 2000.

I did interface the waistband, but I used a knit interfacing. So a belt is definitely a necessity for wearing with them.

And… I don’t know if I feel cute in them, but the process was pretty satisfying especially considering what a tragic mess the last pair I did was, and I did wear them for basically a week straight after finishing. I didn’t feel rushed because I wasn’t super excited for the end product, so I guess that was a win? I was also stupidly sick while making these, so they got worked on in five to fifteen minute bursts between lying down while the twins watched obscene amounts of questionable kids YouTube programming.

I do think I could’ve taken in the hip and thigh another 1/4” or so on each side, but I don’t know if I will now that they’re completed. I do, however, think that I’ll wear the snot out of them—my casual wardrobe hasn’t been strong in the last ten years, but it’s particularly terrible right now.

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The Black Corset

Of all my wardrobe “needs,” one could, very reasonably, argue that another corset should not be at the top of the list. My one pair of jeans has a rip in the knee and recently blew the topstitching around the fly (something I’ve never experienced before, by the way). My underwear drawer is just, well, sad. I have almost no leggings left.

But no, we’re resuming (after a three year hiatus!) the Victorian Sewing Circle, and my old corset is Too Small. I mean, so is the rest of my 1885 outfit, and I will have to restart the bodice I’d been working on for the “new” outfit to make a bigger size (and not accidentally use ticking for the lining. Ticking is great for many things, because it is very stable. It is not great for lining clothing that you need to move in.) But one must begin with the corset.

Black grommets, because apparently I ordered a 10-pack of antique brass busks but no matching grommets?!?

I have quite a few corset patterns roughly suited to the period, although most of my previous versions were based on Butterick 4254, which maybe isn’t the best starting point but that’s where I started and once I had it fitting well you might as well go on with it. Until it isn’t well fitting, of course.

All the “Victorian” corsets I’ve made have been paneled, but I enjoyed the gussets in the two regency style corsets I’ve made and was curious to try a later gusseted pattern. Especially as they’re a handy way to adjust the sizing very specifically.

Which brought me to Simplicity 2890.

The envelope pic isn’t terribly promising, but it did have gussets. Some internet searching (aka reading the reviews on Patternreview.com) revealed that it is in fact based on an original historical corset pattern from 1872 (despite the more 1860s vibe of the chemise.) This blog has a nice discussion of it. The internet also agreed that the pattern was lightly boned, short-waisted, and ran small.

Tech drawing, poor resolution.
Back view of technical drawing. Possibly even worse resolution.

Short waisted was fine by me. Lightly boned, I wasn’t too concerned about, as I’m looking for a comfortable rather than tight-lacing corset.i added 1/2” to each side-seam to hopefully make up for the “runs small” part (not adequate, by the way), and dove in.

My mock-up seemed promising, but some extra room in the hip would be helpful. However, I didn’t fully appreciate the issues of my mock-up fabric (which really wasn’t stable enough) and the fact that it wasn’t fully boned. When I tried it on, it seemed like opening up the front hip gusset gave me the extra hip spring I needed. But this was actually my too-flexible fabric “borrowing” the width from the front—-where I needed the width was right at the side seam. Since I didn’t realize this until my “final fabric,” version, I wound up doing most of my fit-futzing on the final version, removing a lot of the width I had added to the front hip gusset, and ripping out the side-seam to insert a gusset in the hip there.

Hip gusset in side seam. It looks thrown to the back here because the dress form is very small—on me it is indeed at the side.

This greatly improved the hip shaping, so I proceeded with construction.

I will say, I definitely prefer to topstitch my gussets in place as opposed to constructing them “normally” as the pattern instructed. There’s a fair bit of fraying around my gussets already from futzing with the seams to get them smooth with the “regular” method, which I will have to zig-zag over at some point.

So let’s talk about this pattern. What a weird, weird pattern.

First, it’s only two main pieces; almost all the shaping comes from gussets. This made the only other preemptive fit change I would’ve made, a swayback adjustment, impossible as without a side-back seam to absorb the angle change it would leave the CB line not straight.

Can you see how the bone casing stitching crosses the weird front seam line?

The single weirdest thing is that curved seam in the front. It isn’t a seam—it’s a tuck. A long, curved, narrow tuck. Why is it there? Does it add shaping? No. It does make it slightly easier to sew the gusset that emerges from it, but the other bust gusset doesn’t have one.

It does create a very attractive curving line across the corset front, which may be the only point of its existence, but then the bone casing runs straight up the front, crossing it, and at least partly diminishing its effect. Weird.

The other oddities may be effects of grading—I didn’t love how close the back hip gore is to the back boning, for example.

This was my first time, believe it or not, doing applied boning casings—Butterick 4254 uses the seam allowances for all its boning casings. I just cut 2.5 cm strips of my fabric (a bull denim, not a proper coutil as the sewing room gnomes have absconded with my coutil) and then ran the strips through my bias-tape maker and pressed. They are meant to be applied on the inside but I accidentally stitched the first one on the outside and I really liked the look. However, you can’t really apply ALL of them on the outside, as the end of the angled casing on the back is covered by the facing folding to the back, and the front boning casing crosses over that decorative front tuck so if you stitched it on the outside it would obscure that feature even more.

The pattern doesn’t call for a waist stay, but I added one, and I’m very glad I did as I think the waist shaping would be a lot mushier without it, especially in my not-coutil fabric.

Lacing gap is still wider than ideal.

While it gives a stronger shape than indicated by the cover model, it’s not a particularly extreme corset. The hip-spring before I added the gussets there was very gentle. I could probably have enlarged the bust gores a wee bit, too—I did sew them with narrower seam allowances to add a bit more room. The light boning gives it a less cylindrical, more organic shape than my other corsets. At least when it’s on me—not so much on the dress form.

I didn’t have to put much thought into the lace and ribbon selection as I only had two pieces of non-stretch black lace, but I love it. The lace is just a guipure from Fabricland. The “ribbon” is a rather battered chunk of vintage rayon seam binding that came from inherited deep stash—I should probably tidy up the ends, but it was the perfect addition, I think, to relieve the sheer black.

On the whole it was a fun experiment, anyway. It may not hold up very well, not being coutil, but I don’t exactly wear my corsets heavily either. And if it does fall apart, well, with any luck by then the sewing room gnomes will have returned my coutil and we’ll just call this version the mock-up.

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Happy Homemaker Cosplay

Since the twins were born, a large chunk of my previous wardrobe has been inaccessible—either not fitting any more or not compatible with breastfeeding. (At least one of those will resolve itself… eventually) And I’ve missed it. In particular, the fluffy vintage fifties style dresses and skirts have been almost completely cut out.

Disclaimer: skirt is worn with a moderate crinoline in these photos. A circle skirt is always improved by the addition of a crinoline.

I made two versions of Vogue V8882 as Fabricland projects back in the day, and they remain some of my favourites, or would if I could still wear them (ok, I can usually still get into the plaid version, at least in the morning). There’s something about the circle skirt silhouette, with those additional little tucks fancying it up just the tiniest bit… anyway.

And when I splurged back in August and ordered myself a bunch of linen from Pure Linen Envy, the icy-blue heavier piece obviously wanted to be a skirt or bottom of some kind.

So really, it was a match just waiting to be.

As with my plaid version, I added some length beyond the original pattern, to get that sweeping midi length. I had ordered 3m, which allowed me to add 4.5” to the length, and to preserve as much of that length as possible I did a tiny 1/2” hem, and hand-stitched it, at least in part because my brother had been visiting from Australia the last couple of weeks and it’s much easier to visit while doing handwork. I would’ve done a bias-faced hem if I’d had enough scraps left over, but there was no way, and I was too in love with this scrumptious fabric to introduce a different fabric to the project (although in hindsight I definitely have some lighter weight cottons in an almost identical colour and texture that would’ve worked…)

I made the size 14, and the waistband is comfortably snug—but be sure to check because my waist is SIGNIFICANTLY larger these days than the 28” the size 14 officially lists.

The waistband of the pattern is a simple rectangle, and quite wide. This works ok for me, with my cylindrical torso, but if you have a rib cage that actually tapers to your waist a shaped band would be better. I wanted to make sure this waistband didn’t end up a crumpled mess like the waistband of my Adventure Skirt has, so I added two layers of (admittedly lightweight) armoweft interfacing, and stitched little casings to the inner part of the sides for small plastic bones. I would’ve used hair canvas and steel bones, but I wanted the skirt to be more or less washable. So here’s hoping that my efforts are enough; it’s doing fairly well through the initial couple of wears anyway.

The small hooks and eyes I had lying around definitely aren’t perfect, though, letting the back gape, but if I manage to pick up some proper bar hooks I can add those on later. I’m prone to one of two mistakes with closures like these—either putting the hook too far in so that the edge curls out or, as in this case, putting the hooks right at the edge (so it can’t curl out) but then the eyes/bars underneath show. Oops.

The lapped zipper in the back was the first I’ve done in ages, and would probably have benefited from reviewing the method—it wound up pretty wide, and I had to add a facing piece on the fly. It looks ok, but is definitely more in jeans-fly territory than “delicate vintage style closure.”

Also like my plaid version, I added pockets to the side seams, although these ones are much roomier so I don’t have to fight to get my phone in.

I’ve been guilty of skipping the hanging stage when making circle skirts in the past, but I’m definitely glad I didn’t try with this fabric, as it grew a good couple of inches in some places. I’m not convinced my results are particularly even, but I’m calling it good enough.

In the end, I’m super excited to have another skirt for my fall wardrobe. Though if I’m going to use this for actual homemaker cosplay (aka cooking), I had better make myself an actual apron, too…

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White and whimsical

I’m not sure I can capture the train of thought that led to these little dresses. The pattern is the free Peasant Dress pattern from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom, which I acquired and printed out a while back after the twins got some hand-me-down dresses made from it by a friend who also sews. It’s been sitting waiting for a while while I fussed around with other things.

I wanted to make white shifts to go under their little regency dresses from last year… but then I wound up pulling out this wonderful textured white cotton (left over from a shirt I made my huband eons ago) and just went with it, except it was far too thick to fit under those little regency dresses, not to mention the neckline would have been wrong. But somehow I decided to go ahead and make up little white dresses anyway.

I cut the size three dress, which is different from the size two only in having an inch or so more length. They’re a bit long but our sundress season is coming rapidly to a close and I wanted to be sure they’d still fit next year.

The twins had a lot of fun wandering the house with their lanterns looking like little lost ghost girls.

There’s really nothing to these dresses, except for the time it takes to thread the elastic through the casings at neck and sleeve. I added some vintage ribbon to make little bows at the neck, but they were still quite plain and nightshirt-y.

Not creepy at all. Nope.

So to spruce them up, I pulled out some lino blocks and acrylic fabric paint and fabric medium (that you mix with the paint to turn regular acrylic paint into fabric paint) and played around until I got a result I liked.

And yes, the uneven, “home printed” look was intentional. And yes, I did geek out a bit and put my Rebel Alliance block front and centre.

So now my just-turned three year olds have, not only more white dresses, but white Star Wars dresses.

So yeah, now I want to block print everything. We’ll see. (And as usual I wish I had better pictures of the dresses being worn, but getting two three-year-olds to pose for anything but the goofiest pictures is pretty near impossible so, it is what it is.)

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Wee dresses (2022 edition)

I’ve slowed down on sewing for the twins, if only because they really never need clothes and my sewing has been intermittent this year at best. But when I finished the 80s dress, I still had a bunch of the fabric left over. And I have been missing a pair of dresses I made for them their first summer, a no-pattern, pillowcase style with pleats and a wee bit of lace in the front and bias tape finishing the armscye and turning into shoulder ties.

Original dresses, long outgrown

The original pair was pretty much my favourite thing I made the twins ever, but unlike some of the dresses I made them that summer, weren’t wide enough to transition into tops as they grew taller.

Shot of the twins in the original dresses, from their first birthday.

I actually have lots more of the original fabric in stash, so it would’ve been perfectly possible to recreate them in the original blue fabric, but using this style with the border embroidery fabric was just too tempting.

Determined not to run into the same issue, I made sure the armscye width and depth on these new dresses was ample. Maybe you’ve noticed they look a bit wide? No? Well, yeah, I overshot massively. Actually, the first one I cut might’ve been fine, but when I cut the second I had a brain fart and cut the armscye about 3 cm deeper, and then dumbly re-cut the first one to match… anyway, as soon as the twins tried them on I realized I had to take a massive tuck in each side to make the armscye work even a little bit. Which isn’t a bad look in a pleated dress, but definitely annoys me.

There isn’t a whole lot more to say. I made these dresses each 50” at the hem, and wider might’ve been nicer. I made them long so that they will still fit next summer. They took longer to sew than they should have due to “help” from the twins, but that still isn’t exactly long in the grand scheme of things.

I just love the combo of the pleats with this cotton pom-pom trim. My trim was white and the embroidery is distinctly ivory, so I did the fastest possible tea dye on the lace to get the colour at least a bit closer, and I think it worked.

I’m kind of in love with these dresses, I gotta say, more than I am with my own version of this fabric. And there’s just a little bit left and I have plans!

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The 80s Dress

The 80s wasn’t my favourite fashion decade even when I was growing up in it. But every once in a while, an 80s pattern sneaks its way into my head, and that was definitely true of Butterick 3864.

The dropped waist of the pattern, Butterick 3864, has always appealed to me, and for once (at least in the illustration) the 80s seemed to have hit the perfect balance of body-skimming ease without looking like a sack. I was particularly fond of the cut-on sleeves of view A, and it’s been kicking around my “maybe make this soon” piles for literally years now.

Well, I haven’t had much time to sew (or do any of the things that feed my soul) lately, which does result in a crabby and emotionally unstable Tanit, but last week I came home from work to the following sign on the door:

The house was empty and clean. The pattern was easily found, and this light-weight blue/grey border embroidered fabric was out and waiting. It was time to seize the day.

The pattern inside had been cut to the size 14, which seemed pretty much perfect, especially once I looked at the finished bust measurements given. The skirt pieces were rectangles, which absolutely cemented my choice of the border embroidery, although rather than use the actual pieces I just took the measurements and cut/tore a rectangle of appropriate size from the embroidered portion of the fabric. The only pattern piece missing was the pockets. By adding a back seam (which I wanted to anyway to facilitate a swayback adjustment) I was able to fit the bodice pieces onto the strip left from tearing the skirt, and then I cut rectangles for the pockets and bias strips for the neckline finish from the bit remaining. Not quite a zero-waste pattern, but pretty darn close.

The instructions are printed on a single not-very-large sheet, and while this isn’t a complicated dress, I’d say they are an example of everything that made people frustrated with sewing patterns. No mention of interfacing for the button band, or stay-stitching the neckline. Not a whisper about seam finishing. Purchased bias tape was called for for the neckline. (Obviously I made my own. This fabric is the perfect lightweight, crisp weight and hand for bias tape.)

Also, given the half-inch bias tape called for, I’m not sure how you are supposed to get a neckline topstitched at the same distance from the edge as the sleeve hems, as the pattern images show… I guess technically someone might turn 1/8” of an inch under to topstitch a 1/2” hem from a 5/8” seam allowance, but I can’t. I don’t mind the different widths, but the drawings definitely suggest more similarity.

I looked at the skirt pattern pieces for pocket placement marks in the hopes of finding out the size of the intended pockets, but was unable to make sense of the few cryptic markings. (I could probably have tried harder, admittedly.) Looking at the picture now, I think my size and placement is reasonable but probably slightly further forward than intended. The pockets in the picture seem to overlap the side seam by an inch or two; I aligned mine so the back edge is right where the side seam would’ve been. The tops are a bit floppy, as happens with rectangular pockets on gathered skirts, but they function just fine.

Fortunately for my rusty sewing brain, the placket and neckline finishing method used was the exact same as for the Robin dress I just finished, so I really didn’t need much from the instructions. I did opt to stay stitch the neckline.

Upon try-on, it became clear that while the bust ease may have been ample, the ease at the high hip, which was not indicated on the pattern, was not. (I did not help myself when, cutting the back pattern piece not on the fold, I forgot to add the seam allowance. I sewed with the smallest seam allowance I could, but still. I could’ve had an extra half inch of ease.)

(Dress without crinoline)

I let out the side seams below the waist as much as I could, and re-sewed the back darts to take out nothing at the seam line, (as indicated on the pattern they would each eat up about 1/2” at this point.) On trying on the final dress, I then went back in and took in from waist to underbust.

I would’ve liked a touch of narrow lace or something at the neckline to echo the fancy-ness of the embroidered hem. But, all the cotton lace I have is bright white, not the distinct ivory of the embroidery.

On wearing, the bust darts are set quite far out, which is odd. I almost wondered if it were a grading error, but the darts in the pattern pic are very far out, too, so I suppose it’s a design choice. They’re also a little tall on me, but, well, the ladies aren’t as perky as they were before the twins came along so we won’t blame the pattern for that. I did do my usual square-shoulder adjustment, just by taking off about 1 cm along the neckline tapering to nothing at the outer edge.

I’m a little more “meh” about the finished dress than I hoped I would be, honestly. I kind of wish the skirt were a little more full. It feels fairly rectangular, whereas I was hoping for more dramatic swoosh given the length of the skirt. Maybe I’d like it better with a slightly shorter skirt? Maybe the dropped waist is a little too dropped for my taste? In most of these pictures I’m wearing it over one of my smaller petticoats, to give the skirt a bit of oomph, and I do like that. I also like how it looks with a belt, although I don’t own any that would be properly 80s-narrow.

I find the silhouette rather fascinating, though. The pattern pieces remind me very much of a 50s house-dress. The final silhouette almost feels early 1920s (well, without the belt). And, at the least, it’s a wearable addition to my work wardrobe, which has been feeling pretty stale.

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A Robin in tulips

Perhaps you’ve noticed that my favourite dress style, probably of all time ever, is a long princess seam dress with a button front. This love easily goes back to my teen years in the 90s, but those early memories are marred by the fact that the store-bought versions of this dress never… quite… fit. Sewing has long been my chance to fix that, but somehow I hadn’t quite gotten around to the classic 90s version—a long, Princess seamed dress with simple short sleeves and a classic scoop neck, that buttons up the front, sewn in a soft, fluttering rayon.

Well, as soon as I saw the Scroop Patterns Robin dress come out, a couple of years ago, it was obviously the perfect example of this style. So I bought it. And then, well, life happened. I got it printed up ages ago. I had fabric picked out last summer. This spring, I picked out a different fabric, a Cotton + Steel rayon print called “Magic Tulips” that was a gift from a sewing friend.

Though if I run across the other fabric I wouldn’t rule out another.

The pattern has three separate bust size options, and I thought the instructions for helping you choose the right one were really good—this is something I can struggle with sometimes, especially the last few years when my measurements are all over the place. I wound up going with the “mid size” option, and no complaints although I might shave a tiny bit off the fullness. That’s an easy fix though. I also went with the inseam pockets, which maybe aren’t ideal for a soft and drapey fabric like rayon, but I want pockets more than I mind a little bit of pulling, generally.

I complicated my construction unnecessarily by placing lacing loops in both the front and back princess seams, in an attempt to replicate a design feature from this original 90s pattern in my stash:

Note side-lacing just barely visible on view A.

Unfortunately, the combination of my short waist and very abrupt hip jut left only about 2” where the look actually worked, so that experiment did not really work out. I did leave the lacing in the back, with some rather painful fussing over where exactly they should go (my initial placement was much too low, which didn’t become obvious until after I had served the seams, and then there was the moment where I got confused and sewed them back into the exact same spots I had just ripped out… anyway.) It added hours to what should’ve been a more or less straightforward project, and really if I had just taken in the back a bit more it would’ve been fine without. But it is a fun detail, and hopefully will help to proof the dress against any modest size fluctuations in my future.

The only change I actually made to the pattern was a small swayback adjustment. I meant to also raise the underarm, but forgot—which probably shows how out of practice I am. I do regret that omission and will do it before the next time.

When I first tried it on, I did find that it flapped rather large, and after some experimenting pinching in princess seams decided I just needed to take in the side seams—a good 1” on each side at the waist, tapering to about 1/2” just under the arms.

This solved the fit issue, but then when I went to put in the first sleeve, I was really struggling with too much ease in the sleeve cap. The notches also didn’t line up even remotely, but since I did cut the dress out in squiggly rayon with the intermittent assistance of two almost-three-year-olds and several cats, I was honestly mostly surprised at how well most of it lined up.

It took me a distressing amount of time to realize that I had removed about 1” from the width of each armscye with my side-seam alteration. Once I altered the sleeves in the same way, the notches (mostly) lined up and everything slid into place.

The button placket on the Robin dress is simply folded over, and the neckline is finished with bias tape. The pattern has you fold the placket back when stitching on the binding, so that the placket covers the end of the bias tape very neatly on the inside, and your topstitching of the neckline turns smoothly into the placket topstitching—a very tidy look and method, except that I had gone ahead and topstitched the placket down first. So I had to unpick several inches of that, and then it took a couple of tries to get the layering right, because, well, my sewing brain is out of practice. But I’m quite happy with the finish and the method in the end.

I went with the most plain and boring of black plastic buttons, again from stash. I think they are a good pairing with the print, letting it hold the spotlight. And, I am pretty sure they came from a giant mixed bag of buttons bought when I was first stocking up on sewing supplies in 2010 or so. So nice to use a bit of deep stash, even if they are not particularly interesting. I did kind of accidentally place my buttons holes horizontally (my default) rather than vertically as the pattern called for. To be honest I think I just prefer sewing them that way, and I’m more used to it so my rusty sewing brain defaulted to it. There are also a LOT of buttons, because I like them fairly closely spaced, for maximum support against gaping especially when I’m doing something silly like adding back lacing to a dress that’s already well fitting. I made sure there was a button placed at the full bust point, at the waist, and then filled in in between. I will say, for a tool I always thought was a luxury, I ALWAYS use my button-hole spacer and it makes this process so quick and simple.

I sewed the buttons on by machine, which made the process very quick, but my placement isn’t quite as good as if I had done it by hand, and there are a few ripples. However, I finished the hem after the buttons, so if I adjust the buttons I might have to redo part of the hem, so I’ll probably just live with it, honestly. Done is better than perfect.

For next time, I would definitely raise the underarm—it’s not bad but could be better; I’m not sure if my taste for a high underarm comes from personal preference or some quirk of my shoulder joint, but I like them high. I think the bodice as a whole could maybe be shortened slightly, even just 1/4”. I’ve been trying to do less of that in the last few years, as I tended to overdo it, but I also hate a too-long bodice. If I skipped the lacing in the back (which honestly was enough of a pain) I would perhaps take in a bit at the back princess seams, as there did seem to be a bit of extra fabric there.

It took what felt like forever to sew this, as if each little step was a battle. Not against the fabric, which was reasonably well-behaved for a rayon, but against everything else in my life right now. On the other hand, finishing felt like such a victory that I even used one of these precious gifted sewing labels on it. I’m so glad to get to finally wear it. I’d like to say I’d make another three, but at the rate of my current sewing that might take

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Blue (not for) Christmas

I had actually forgotten completely about this fabric. It was a bit of an impulse buy not long before my Fabricland shut down, a random bolt of stretch cotton sateen in what I fancy to be a slightly purplish navy. When it went on cheap, I bought a LOT. And apparently pre-washed it, folded it and tucked it into stash to be utterly forgotten. Along with a single sock, which re-emerged when I pulled the fabric out as a “fall sewing” possibility way back in October of last year.

Matching it up against a number of dress patterns on my “really want to sew” list, I ended up going with McCall’s M8177, which has the distinction of being the first Big 4 pattern I’ve gone out of my way to acquire since I stopped working at Fabricland. It hits all my (current) boxes—button front (breastfeeding friendly), princess seams (easy fitting), and big, puffy, fun sleeves (on trend, or at least whatever personal trend I’m on at the moment.) I had to actually ask my aunt to pick it up when/if she found it on sale, since I don’t currently have a membership at Fabricland to take advantage of the big sales.

Navy isn’t one of my “core” colours, but I don’t hate it, especially when it’s leaning towards the purplish side of the hue. Which, admittedly, might be a trick of the light or some wishful thinking. I like it, though. And the fabric is on the lighter weight end of the stretch cotton sateens I’ve met, but is still really crisp and, in hindsight, a bit too heavy for this pattern—not so much the main part, but the sleeves with all the gathering.

Cutting out a project this big is a bit of an accomplishment in my life at the moment, and was possible only thanks to my stylish sister-in-law taking the twins one Sunday afternoon. Sewing proceeded in much smaller increments, at a veritable snail’s pace, and then stalled shortly before Christmas when the matching buttons I had found in stash disappeared just after I sewed the buttonholes. All it needed was the buttons and a hem.

One of the things that drew me to this pattern was the sleeves, which superficially resemble the sleeves of my beloved Adrienne Blouse. However, the draft is surprisingly different, presumably because this is a woven pattern, or perhaps because it is based on a set-in sleeve block instead of a raglan sleeve. Anyway, instead of being flat along the gathered shoulder edge, this sleeve has a big, curved sleeve head (to which bias tape is applied to make the elastic casing—not exactly hard but definitely not as near-effortless as the Adrienne version. In addition, there is a tiny pivot point on the McCall’s pattern, where the sleeve goes from underarm seam to across the bodice slightly before turning up to form the edge of the neckline. You have to mark that point, stay-stitch, and slash the seam allowance so the fabric can make that turn. I forgot to mark, and then attempted to figure out where to slash after I had applied the bias tape and elastic to the shoulder. It was neither easy nor tidy to figure out at that point, and I did not do a good (nor symmetrical) job. It’s not exactly a flaw in the pattern, just a different approach, and me being slapdash and not paying sufficient attention to the instructions, but it’s definitely not as simple as the Adrienne blouse approach. That point also pulls like crazy across the back when I move my arms, which I don’t know entirely if that is a fitting issue, error on my part, or innate quirk in the pattern.

I also struggled with attaching the facing, which runs under the bottom of the sleeves and follows that slightly complex shape. Not because things didn’t line up, but I kept getting bits of the sleeve folded into my seam, and I didn’t notice all of them before I had understitched, which was a bit of a nightmare to unpick. Again, it’s not a problem with the pattern so much as my failure to take the time and attention this pattern requires. Probably because I’ve made almost nothing of significant complexity in the last two (three) years.

The pattern includes a deceptively large pocket piece. I say deceptively because, while it is very large, as directed the positioning places a good 2.5” of the pocket bag above the opening, so the actual “effective” pocket is no more than average size. I was initially quite annoyed with this drafting, but I currently have a theory that it was designed to reduce the way an inseam pocket like this can pull on the side-seam, or at least move that “pull point” at the top of the pocket bag up to the waist of the pattern where it’s less noticeable. I still would’ve liked a deeper pocket bag, although they do work just fine and are nicely big enough for my phone.

This is also the first time I’ve had to really reckon with my size changes in a standard pattern size. Throughout most of my active sewing journey of the past 11 years, I’ve measured a size 12 (give or take), often making a 10 at least on top as that gave me better shoulder fit (especially in McCall’s patterns). While I had been giving myself “a bit of wiggle room” in the hips for a while (this is an area where I like extra ease, unlike the bust and waist), this pattern was the first time I made a straight size 14, which is where my measurements put me these days and also looked reasonable compared to the final garment measurements. I was still nervous, mainly about the shoulder width.

I still made my standard alterations: small swayback adjustment and raising the underarm slightly (not sure how much impact this had). I also took in the shoulder elastic significantly, although in a design like this that has a lot to do with the strength of your elastic vs. the weight of your fabric. I did make sure to finish the edges of all my Princess seams separately, for optimal fit adjustment later. (I’ve found McCall’s to have dodgy fit around the Princess seams in the past, and also my bust sits a good inch lower since the twins were born).

The good news is my fit alterations were pretty acceptable. The swayback adjustment could’ve been slightly larger as there are still a few folds there (perhaps because the pattern size is slightly longer in the body than I’m used to) but otherwise the fit is generally good, and I haven’t felt obliged to go in and mess with the princess seam shape anywhere. The only real issue is that pulling across the back when I raise my arms.

I also shortened the long sleeves by about 3”, for more of a 3/4 length, as I prefer that to full-length full sleeves. I should probably have made the shortening smaller, say 1.5” or even 1”, as they’re a bit shorter than I intended, and I don’t think the pulling in the back would bug me nearly as much if it didn’t pull the “wrist” elastic up past my elbows.

Hunting through stash for buttons was a bit more of a problem. I would’ve liked silver buttons, but didn’t have 10+ of any of them. I originally found a group of ten plastic buttons of the perfect shade of slightly purplish navy, although they’re a tiny bit smaller than ideal, but no sooner had I sewed the buttonholes than they disappeared. I held off further progress, expecting them to surface, but they never did, so when I finally had some sewing time in March I made myself sort through the button stash and finally settled on these very boring chunky grey plastic ones. The main feature was that I had enough of them.

I’m a bit torn on this project. I like the resulting dress, despite its issues, and I have been wearing it as much as I can get away with. I don’t know if I would make the sleeved version again since I’m not a fan of the construction there, but the sleeveless version is definitely on the List. Not that I get to a lot of things on the List these days. Especially since at Easter back in April we had a plumbing leak in the basement that basically filled the sewing room with junk from other places until, um, June. Facepalm. Anyway, here’s to hoping for more sewing in the future.

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