Tag Archives: dress

The Red Polkadot Dress

Lady in a Red Dress

Some people can wear cinched waistbands. Some people can wear big shoulder-puffs. Some people can wear dirndl skirts.

Generally speaking, these people are not me. This is really too bad, as I like many of these looks on other people. And I’ve tried them on myself time and again over the years, only to go “ah, yes, that’s why I don’t wear this.” (with the possible exception of pouffy shoulders, which I like enough that I tend to ignore the linebacker effect.)

I really like the idea of dirndl skirts. They’re both ridiculously simple (gathered rectangle—can’t get any more basic than that) and economical of fabric, unlike my preferred circle skirts. But they generally sit right at the waist (not a good spot for me) and add a lot of visual bulk in that area.

With the shrug. There’s a bit of pooching out of the ruching at the bottom of the front panel, where the outer fabric is looser than the lining. Presumably I goofed my seam allowances slightly or something.

However, as I’ve observed before, something magical happens when I slide the “waist” of my garment up or down a few inches. I can wear empire waists or dropped waists until the cows come home. Now, I believe another term for “empire-waist dirndl” is “maternity wear”, but what about a dropped waist dirndl?

Well, apparently that’s just fine.

I wrote a bit here about the bodice construction and my fitting challenges process. Having largely taken care of that, I came to the next stage in construction. The skirt.

Easy, right?

I had initially planned to do a gathered circle-skirt, like the original Katjusha pattern that was my inspiration. But on examining the amount of fabric I had left after I finished the bodice, it seemed like to get the gathering I wanted at the waist (er, hip) I was going to end up with an extremely SHORT skirt.  Whereas if I went with a dirndl style, there would be plenty of fabric for whatever length I opted for. Some quick and dirty measuring (aka holding the fabric up to my hips), and I was happily ripping away. Four panels of full-width (45″) fabric, a little below knee length plus a bit for hemming.

Red Dress

Confessions of a lazy seamstress: I didn’t even trim off the selvedges. I just tucked them inside the french seams I used to join the four widths. When they pucker up and throw the whole skirt off after the first washing, you can all laugh and point.So, I had settled on my width for the outer skirt, but my voile (or whatever this fabric is) definitely needed a lining. Back to my white cotton (yes, the stuff with the laceworked panel. Don’t worry, I’m moving from the opposite end of the length and there’s a ton of it.For my lining width, I used the width of the shirred back-panel, stretched out. It would’ve been smarter to determine this width before I did all the shirring, but I wasn’t sure it was going to shirr up the right amount at that point. Shirrly* you understand my quandary? Anyway, I decided to use this width for both the front and the back of the lining. I would gather the front to the bodice front, and sew the back flat to the stretched-out bodice back. But, you really want something underneath to give a dirndl (or any full skirt, really, IMO) a little oomph. I decided to make my lining skirt tiered. So I cut it approximately half the length I wanted, and then cut four more pieces of similar length for the bottom tier, and broke out the gathering foot.

Now, this is not my ruffler, with whom I have a passionate love-hate relationship. I wasn’t willing to deal with his idiosyncracies for four measly widths of lining. (If that sounds like a lot of gathering to you, please understand that I got the ruffler foot in the first place to make tiered skirts for tribal bellydance. The first such I made had 32 fabric widths in the bottom tier. And nine tiers, although I think only seven of them ended up being ruffled. So from my rather warped perspective, this is hardly any gathering at all

Red Dress

So I decided to play with my new, inexpensive, and untested gathering foot (Here’s a post contrasting the two). I popped it on, measured some 10″ lengths on scraps of the cotton, played with my stitch-length and tension settings, and after about three tries managed to get a gathering ratio approximating 2:1. Good enough. I began gathering.

I think I’m not going to become a huge fan of the gathering foot. It’s not awful. In fact, compared to some of the shit fits my ruffler has thrown, it was possitively easy to use. But the resulting gathering is not particularly even; it’s highly susceptible to the slightest difference in how I hold the fabric in front of the foot (crowding the needle vs. letting the fabric lie flat). The main thing I like about mechanical gathering with the ruffler over my preferred semi-manual technique (where you zig-zag over a supplementary thread… the zig-zag acts as a casing for the thread drawstring which you can pull up later) is that you don’t have to futz over the gathering being even, even if it may not be the exact ratio you wanted it to be. The gathering foot didn’t seem to have this evenness, and even worse it was pretty tricky to try to re-distribute the gathers after the fact. For the lining, I didn’t care, but I wasn’t enthused about using it for something that will actually be seen. It did turn out about the right length overall, so that’s good anyway, and it was quite fast.

I did give myself one further complication, which is that I had designed the bottom front of the bodice to dip down to a V. I love this feature a ridiculous amount, but it takes a bit of mental gymnastics to figure out how to reflect this on the gathered side of the skirt. At least, without sitting down and making an actual pattern and spreading it the required amount, which sounds suspiciously too much like work. Instead, I roughly measured the depth of the “V” (minus seam allowance) down from the top of skirt centre front, and free-handed an arch going from the skirt CF to side-seam. Good enough for government work, as my mother says.

For the outer skirt, I used my preferred semi-manual gathering method, mentioned above. I use this for “moderate” amounts of gathering, or larger amounts (like this) where I value precision of the resulting dimension over precision of every little gather. I gathered the over-skirt to match the width of the underskirt, and stitched them together. Really, fairly easy peasy.

Twirling

Then, I did something I haven’t done since Tyo was a baby. I hand gathered the entire skirt front (both layers, and hand-basted it to the bodice. WTF? you are asking. I agree. But we were watching Sucker Punch with the kids last night and I could do the gathering and basting by hand without totally ditching the rest of the family. Normally I’d prefer to be hemming in such a situation, but I wasn’t quite sure of the finished length so I didn’t want to get ahead of myself and hand-hem four widths of fabric to the wrong length. I wound up shortening it by several inches, so it’s just as well I didn’t try this.

Possibly I should also have hand-basted the back to the shirring, as that was a beast to do accurately and took a couple of goes. But, water under the bridge. Man, I’m just full of platitudes today. If I can throw “a stitch in time saves nine,” in before the end of the post, I’ll be flying. Well, except that that’s one I rarely follow. It’s still good advice, though.

Red Dress

I am a little concerned that the combination of the front ruching with the full skirt have pushed this past “sundress” territory into the hinterlands of “something to wear to a summer wedding.” Since I don’t expect to be attending any weddings this summer, this would be unfortunate. I may just have to suck it up and be ridiculously overdressed (after all, it wouldn’t be the first time).I wasn’t actively going for a “vintage” look when I made this dress. Although maybe that’s an inevitable reference for any full-skirted, tight-bodiced dress these days. Anyway, pairing it with the shrug just turns the “vintage” look up to eleven. It goes, though, doesn’t it? This shrug is ridiculously versatile. Seriously, I wear it with EVERYTHING. I need about five more.All that gathering in the skirt interacts a bit oddly with the back bodice, despite my best efforts to reinforce the bottom of the shirring with some sturdier elastic, but it’s probably not something most people would notice (dazzled as they will be by the swishy, full skirt, right?)Incidentally, the length is only sightly below my knee. Tyo was standing on the picnic table to take the photos, so they’re from more of a downward angle than usual. I’m wearing the fluffy petticoat as well as the tiered lining.And obviously I need some red heels.

Final project and inspiration. I think I need a fluffier petticoat.

*I normally try very hard to resist the obvious sewing puns. I have never intentionally substitued “sew” for “so”. This one slipped through. I humbly apologize.

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The Grecian Goddess Dress

Grecian Goddess Dress

I will admit I considered various alternative titles for this dress. The KISS (keep it simple, stupid) Dress. The Shirring Saves (Almost) Everything Dress. I commented in my inspiration post that I could just use a rectangle. I probably should’ve. Instead, I painstakingly drafted a short kimono sleeve, then added fullness for gathering both top and bottom. Even that would’ve been all right, though, if I’d just had this top flow straight into the skirt. But no, I had to fool with an underbust seam. Which of course (because I didn’t muslin anything) was about two inches too low in the front, and not particularly even all around.

In desperation a flash of brilliance, I decided to shir. I stitched up the front and back openings a couple of inches, pulled out my elastic-thread-wound bobbin, and started shirring a long spiral around the dress, beginning at my approximate underbust and continuing down across the bloody “waist” seam.

Front view

This created a vast improvement—instead of a mumu I now had something much closer to the elegant, drapey concoction I had envisioned. By a miracle, the neckline didn’t gape OR fall off my shoulders, and the bra straps are completely covered both at shoulders and at the back.

Back view

But all the shirring in the world couldn’t save that lumpy, uneven waist seam from being lumpy and uneven. No worries, though, I had always envisioned this dress with a sash across the offending area. I had planned to do a self-sash, but found myself desperately short of fabric. My Japonais Mum to the rescue! I cut off a pair of narrow widths ( it was too narrow to do just one), joined them in the centre, and made a simple tube sash.

Because having a seam at one edge and not the other annoys me, I hit on the idea of rolling the seam to the centre of the back-side of the sash. Quite satisfied with how that turned out. Yay me.

Sash closeup

Obviously I need to shorten the dress a fair bit… it’s dragging even in the heels I’m wearing for these photos (and the odds of me actually wearing heels like that out and about in the summer are pretty minimal).

I might try the general idea again, without an underbust seam and with a bit less gathering at the shoulder.

In Me-Made June news,

MMJ 4

This is an older ensemble, meaning everything in it was made last summer and fall. It’s not terribly glamorous and I have a few issues with the fit of the blouse that I didn’t notice when I first made it (too bad since I made like four different versions). Still, it’s warm and comfy on a rainy, chilly day. These remain my single favourite pair of me-made jeans, despite a number of material failures (the pockets have disintegrated and much of the topstitching is failing).

JJ blouse
Knit top formerly known as Lydia
Jalie 2908 Jeans

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The Perfect Sundress

The perfect sundress

This is all Oona’s fault (yes, it’s an old post, but she linked it to me recently). Or maybe Patty’s. I haven’t decided. The Sew Weekly challenge this week is “The Perfect Sundress,” too, which isn’t helping. I haven’t done any of their challenges thus far, but it seems like a nice little community (though the site layout is still a bit puzzling to me), and since this week’s challenge coincided with something I’ve been wanting to sew anyway, I figure I’ll give it a bash.

So here it is. This fabric was part of my Easter thrift store haul. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it—that strong, woven stripe is a bit limiting—but when maxi-dresses started being dangled provocatively in my face (see above links), I knew.

Maxi dress option 1

Maxi dress option 1

Now, it’s not as if I have a shortage of maxi-dress pattern options.

Maxi-dress option 2

But, I may be stuck on this sketch I doodled out the other night. The neckline is like Oona’s, the sleeves more like Patty’s. It could be as simple as a rectangle cinched by an under-bust sash, but I’m thinking a bit more shaping would probably be flattering.

Maxi-dress option 3

I guess if I’m going to make this up this week, I’d better decide, though.

Maxi-dress option 4

So many maxi dresses, so little time…

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That 70s Dress (The Next Generation)

Simplicity 6023

I hate to admit it, but I sorta love the Saturdays my hubby works (don’t tell him!). There’s nothing to do but a bit of house-cleaning, some light yelling at the children (usually over their bedrooms, but this week, for variety, it was the back yard, which somehow became encrusted in stray bits of wood and empty pop bottles over the winter*), and, of course, sewing.

This weekend’s project was, natch, Simplicity 6023, that same pattern I won in Peter’s giveaway a few weeks back. Much easier to focus now that I have the Springy Coat out of the way. Which is good, because this was definitely one of those two steps forward, one step back projects. Not because the pattern was tricky, or the instructions were bad, or the fabric was ill-behaved. No, this was all about the stripes.

You may have noticed how little print and pattern matching I do? How I will move mountains (ok, cut bits on the bias) to avoid having to line things up? Precision sewing has never been my strong suit. I’ve improved, mind you, but I still regularly fall short of my heroes. Or just plain adequacy.

Stripe matching? At least the hem's nice.

I did not rip out every single seam in this thing but… well, there were a lot. A lot of perfectly good seams, too, except that the stripes were off. Well, more off than all the rest. Probably if I’d gone all couture and hand-basted everything, I could’ve gotten them mostly even. None of them are even remotely like perfect, but at least they generally line up (except across the bodice side-seams, there was no way to make that work with the amount of fabric I had.

Invisizip

On the up side, I conquered my first invisible zipper! And, I hate to say it, but I might actually be a convert. I used Sherry’s tutorial (though I read through Sunni’s, which is similar, and used some elements from it as well), and a regular zipper foot, and it went in like a dream. Aside from the fact that my impecise waistline stitching meant that, although I matched up the waist seam perfectly using Sherry’s tips, the stripes above the waist didn’t match up at all. So I had to rip half of it, fudge the waist a tiny bit (since it’s less visible than the stripes) and go with that. Pooh.

The slight irregularity at the top is due to my not reading Sherry’s other tute, on facing an invisible zipper, until after I’d half attached one of the facings. Silly me, thinking I’d just follow the pattern instructions… The side on the left in the photo, which I did following Sherry’s method, turned out much better. I should probably have stayed the back of neck before all the messing around, though—it’s a bit stretched out and threatens to gape.

My new best friend

Speaking of zippers, let me introduce you to my new best friend! A few weeks back I had lamented the inadequacy of my zipper foot, and some of you wise people had told me that there were much better fish in the sea. So last week I finally made it to the sewing-machine store, discovered that my machine is an “oscillating hook” Janome, and came home with this little gem on the right.

Isn’t that the cutest little foot ever?

By twiddling the green knob at the back, you can adjust the foot’s position to the left or right of the needle, or right in the middle for straight stitching. Perfect for edge-stitching! And, because it’s so finely adjustable, perfect for pushing up the edge of the invisible-zip coils to stitch right alongside them. Yay! I interfaced the entire zipper length plus a bit with knit fusible and had no problem with the zipper bubbling, buckling, or anything.

The back---wrinkled from being tied 😛

FIT: Despite the photo (wrinkled from being tied), the back fits really well with my little swayback adjustment (though it wreaks havoc with the stripes). Although the tie pretty much disguises most issues in this area, anyway. I made my ties extra-long, because it seemed like a good idea at the time, which turned out fun—I like pulling them around to tie in the front. A nice option to have, since often back ties drive me nuts.

With my bodice-shortening, the waist-seam falls about a thumb’s width above my natural waist, which is roughly where it’s supposed to according to the pattern, so yay! That being said, my bodice-shortening alteration raised the neckline, and I would probably have been just as happy with the lower neckline. This is a bid demure.

I did take each side-seam in about 1cm (so a total of 4cm reduction all around). This is similar to what I did on the first 70s dress; I’m not sure if it’s because I’m more of a 10 (bust measurement would suggest this but everything else says 12 or larger), ease in the dress, or, most likely, the fact that I keep using stretch wovens.

I took the same 1 1/4″ hem the pattern allowed for, but because of my fiddling pieces up and down to get the stripes to match (yes, my cutting was even less precise than my sewing!) I probably lost about an inch in length there. It’s fine, though, falling at a good spot above my knees.

Buttons---Yoke (left) and Cuff (right)

I did the cuffs with the wrong side lapped out. D’oh. Figuring out which way they should lap, BEFORE the sleeve is set, was a head trip in itself—I’m actually impressed that I got them both the same way, so I’m not going to sweat it.

I had three of these vintage plastic flower buttons in one of the random button baggies I’ve picked up over the last six months. I spent a lot of time hemming and hawing over buttons (and Syo spent a lot of time making art with them while I did it, and then being irate when I broke up her faces to lay different combinations on the dress).  I covered a key-chain ring with fabric to put behind the one on the yoke, which hopefully looks more centred in real-life than it

Simplicity 6023

does in this photo. The third button I sewed on turned out to have a broken shank (I’m not sure how this worked since all three were held together at the shanks by thread in the button jar…); fortunately, none of the buttons are functional, so I just stitched through the holes in the flower. You can see it if you click on the photo to get the full-size.

As you can see from the outdoor photos, we are finally not only snow-free, but practically warm here today! (Temperatures were in the low teens C!!!1! That’s like, gosh, almost 60F.) And tomorrow is supposed to be even warmer… maybe I can actually wear a skirt. Or a dress…

So, another contribution to my 70s wardrobe. Although it’s not getting me any closer to fulfilling Joy’s  Bellbottom Challenge. Maybe I’ll move on to the Simplicity 6602 suit next… though I think I would probably try to merge the pants legs with my Ellen pattern. I have no particular desire to mess around with high-waisted pants.

Toodles!

*I feel it necessary to explain that I DON’T randomly chuck my recycling around the yard… but the kids apparently think that empty bottles are the cat’s meow in playthings, especially when you can fill them with water and leave it outside to freeze and then it snows and they get buried and you have to get more and… well, it was a mess.

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Confection

Lacy dress!

I do truly, truly love how quick knits can be to sew up (especially when I’m floundering for a blog post 😉 ). I made up the pattern for this after supper last night and had the entire thing cut out and stitched up before bedtime. Yay!

Last week when I asked about ideas for my lace, there were lots and lots of very good thoughts, including another one of my 70s maxi-dresses (which would’ve been divine) or a top-and-skirt combo (and some links to some really neat skirts, too…) but the t-shirt dress, a la Carolyn, seemed to win out overall, and, most importantly, to me.

So I made one.

Pattern adjustments

Patty made an interesting point on her awesome skirt post that self-made patterns can be frustrating to read about since you can’t go out, pick up the pattern, and make it yourself. I get what she’s saying—but not enough to give up making up my own patterns, which is SO MUCH FUN (regardless whether I know what I’m doing or not.) So as a compromise, I figure I’ll mention a bit more about what exact changes to my basic pattern I made. (This is also good because then I’ll remember them for next time when I lose the pattern pieces)

As with the great cowl adventure, this all began with my trusty “knit top sloper”, the pattern formerly known as Lydia. The changes this time were minimal—I made a square neckline (just by squaring off the corner of my usual scoop-neck) and lengthened the bottom; I just followed the angle of the hip of the sloper on down and out, which created a slightly A-line skirt. For length, I picked 20″ below the waist (I have a waist line marked on the sloper for just such purposes, although I was too lazy to include it in the diagram, sorry) as a nice, above-the-knee-but-not-dangerously-short length. (I feel like I should add that I have nothing against micro-minis per se, it’s just that sad experience has taught me that if a skirt is short enough that I spend a considerable amount of time worrying about who I’m flashing while I’m wearing it, I will end up just not wearing it. Sad but true. My micro-mini skorts, on the other hand, get worn to death)

Lacy Dress---Side

For the sleeve, I eyeballed a “nice, just above-elbow” length, which turned out to be about 18cm below the armpit. I added quarter-inch seam allowances, and proceeded to (ulp!) cut my fabric.

I think it’s worth mentioning a couple of things about the fabric. You all met the lace, a gorgeous bargain-bin find, last week, of course. What I didn’t mention is that one of the reasons I hadn’t done anything with it yet (other than the weather) was that I didn’t have the right underlay. So last week, aside from juggling children, schoolwork, and ER visits (no lasting harm done), one of my goals was to acquire said fabric. It had to be smooth, stretchy, not to heavy, and set of my lace. Syo and I wandered high and low through Fabricland draping my lace over every solid-coloured knit. We started in the bargain centre, but of course what I settled on in the end was a much pricier cotton-lycra blend, setting me back roughly $10/m. Not humongously expensive (especially compared to the bamboo knits or some of the other nice athletic solids), but considering this is going underneath a $2.50/m fabric… yeah. Well. Anyway, I bit the bullet, and I have to say I love the fabric—its feel, stretch, recovery—more than enough to pay that much again. After much hemming and hawing, I picked a bright white, too, rather than an ivory or cream colour—I like how it brightens the overlying lace.

Lacy Dress---Front

So, I had both my fabrics. I cut the bodice front and back out of both, but the sleeves only out of the lace.

Now, stretch is always the wildcard when it comes to knits. Depending on the fabric, my knit sloper can produce garments that are either tent-like or alarmingly form-fitting. I wanted the lace dress to be form-skimming rather than sausage-skin-like, so I had checked its stretch, in a very rough and ready way, by marking a length of the fabric equivalent to the bodice front across the bust and then stretching this on me to see how snug it was. If it was too tight I was planning to add a bit of extra ease to the bodice, but it seemed all right—yay!

I did not perform said test with the underlay, choosing to hope that it would be, at least, no more droopy, and hopefully just a bit more snug.

For once, the sewing gods were not vengeful, and that seems to have been the case. In another interesting observation of knit/stretch, I meant to trim the underlay shorter (since you wouldn’t want it hanging out from beneath the scalloped edge) but totally forgot. Once assembled, however, the lace naturally stretched to an inch or more below the underlay bottom edge—perfect!

Lacy Dress---Back

Construction wise, I pondered a bit. I knew I wanted it attached at neckline, shoulders, and arms, but I figured I wanted the side-seams of the dress to move separately. This took a bit of mental gymnastics, and some fudging, as I basically followed my usual construction order (one shoulder, bind neckline, other shoulder, set sleeves flat, sew underarm and side-seams in one pass, except it was two passes this time.), but mostly has worked out.

Now, in fairness, all is not perfect. There are any number of oddly-pulled areas, around the hem, side-seams, and shoulders; my neckline didn’t come out perfectly symmetrical (boo!), the lace tends to droop in one spot, which I can relate directly to the ends of the fabric piece being more stretched out than the middle when I was cutting. For the most part I’m not going to sweat them until I wash the whole thing at least once. I was at a loss as to how to properly bind a square neckline in a knit (google mostly pulled up stuff featuring woven bias binding, not at all what I was looking for), and the V-neck methods I was hitting on all seemed to have a much wider band than I wanted. I did toy with trying to use the scalloped edge on the neckline, but the scallop seemed a little big and floppy. So in the end I just bound it with a strip of the lace and a bit of clear elastic. As I’ve been doing with my more floppy knits lately, it seemed easier to just turn the entire band to the inside and topstitch… In the end this worked all right, although the corners aren’t crisply square any more. Meh. I was hoping to skip out on hemming the lining fabric, but it’s one of those knits that rolls like crazy so I will probably have to :P.

On the whole, I’m not bothered, though, because I have a great lace T-shirt dress!

And, even better, I still have over a metre of my lace fabric left… what to do, people, what to do?

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The Ceylon Blouse

The Ceylon Blouse

So, before committing to the entire Ceylon dress, I figured I would try and squeeze just the bodice out of various scraps I have lying around. The nice thing about this bodice is it’s in so many little pieces, almost any little scraps will do. I wound up using (some of) the rest of the swirly-print herringbone wool and a bit of black linen I picked up at the thrift store ages ago that was really too small for almost anything. Well, obviously not since I managed to line the entire blouse with it.

Now, I have a bit of a propensity for colour-blocking, and when you combine that with

Ceylon with suitcase. Why? Cuz.

the almost bolero-looking cut of of the Ceylon yoke, well, it was bound to happen. I opted to do the sleeves, yokes, and midriff pieces out of the wool, with the “blousy” pieces in between just out of the black linen. Since I didn’t particularly want the wool against my skin, I decided to line those segments with more of the linen. And, since something about Ceylon almost demands it, I opted to pipe, as well. It adds a nice touch of colour to an otherwise grey-and-black garment.

On the upside, this gave me lots of new techniques to try. Making my own piping (I used dark-red bias binding and some dense wool yarn, both from stash*), and using piping period  (I followed this lovely tutorial). I got to try the “burrito technique” of attaching a double-layered back yoke so the shoulder and bottom yoke seams are all nicely enclosed. Worked like a charm :). I also tried a technique for clean-finishing facings I just read about from Beth of Sunny Gal Studios. which was nifty and makes a super-nice finish; then this morning I get up and discover a recent post by Pam Erny for a very similar finish, but with less bulk at the seam (although hers leaves some of the interfacing showing on the visible side of the facing—which could be undesirable depending on how attractive your interfacing is.) Oh, yes, and a massive, massive amount of seam-grading.

My construction order was a bit haphazard and very different from that given in the pattern, but between the piping and the lining (everything but the mid-back and bust pieces) it’s possibly the most nicely-finished garment I’ve made yet. The piping was actually fun, and a wee bit more forgiving of minor variations in my stitching than I had feared it might be. I did end up hand-stitching the lining of the sleeves to the bodice and the upper seam of the midriff-pieces lining, making for absolutely  ever seam in the piece being enclosed.

I took a crapload of construction pics, but really I think the posts I linked to above cover most of the techniques, so I will just give you a gallery of them to browse through at your leisure. Feel free to ask questions, tell me I’m on crack, etc.

Ceylon Blouse

Buttons are funny things. As construction proceeded to the point where I could start to try on the shirt, I became convinced that it was way too small, that I had completely misled myself into selecting the size 0, abetted by the give of my flannel muslin fabric. The linen, by contrast, had no give at all, and I was sure the resulting blouse was going to be, if not outright ridiculous, at least far too constricting for comfort.

It wasn’t until I had the buttons attached and could try it on normally that I felt at all relieved. It is very snug, and more restrictive than I’d like for everyday, but for an “occasion” dress it’s fine. The sleeves are about as narrow as my arms could comfortably take, but don’t make my hands go numb or anything, and the shoulder width looks good. I’m very glad I tweaked the shape of the front yoke right beside the neck, and lowered the neckline 1/2″.

Ceylon blouse, back

I did manage to remove the wrinkling at the back midriff by flaring out the upper portion of the midriff a bit more (at both CB and side seams). Curving the bottom of the main back piece so it is shorter in the middle worked perfectly to reduce the excess blouseiness (doubtless I took off a bit too much, again, for my different fabric). As to those diagonal wrinkles, well, we’ll see. I think I begin to understand the fix Sherry was suggesting for them, but I’ll have to give it a go on another project.

The bust doesn’t sit particularly nicely, partly because there isn’t enough ease and partly because of the fairly crisp fabric. I would venture to say it fits about as well as in most of the other versions I’ve seen of it, though, which I suppose is good enough. There’s still some gaping on the left side top, which I suspect is the result of my left breast being smaller. It’s not such a big difference that I usually notice, but this style seems to emphasize it. Fortunately I was mostly able to compensate for it by clever positioning of my buttons—the topmost is considerably to the left of the rest of the row but you can’t see that when it’s closed.

And one more time...

So all in all, it was a great learning experience—lots of new techniques and construction to think through. Next version I make I will have to do some serious considering about sizing and my fabric and where I want to wear it—if it’s a crisp, firm fabric and I want to wear the dress every day, I should go up to the size 2 (possibly with SBA, probably with shortening in the upper torso). If it’s a soft fabric with some give, or a stretch woven, I could probably make the 0 again.

I do feel like I should apologize to Sarai, Colette’s designer, though. Everyone raves about her instructions, and they are lovely—I just haven’t ever followed them yet.

More photos in the Flickr Gallery

Whew! That was a lot of sewing for one weekend! And I still have to finish tracing off my pattern for the men’s shirt sewalong…

* Yes, despite the fact that my knitting education was highly truncated and I have never so much as learned to cast on, I have a yarn stash. I have even, as I think I once confessed to Sigrid though I can’t find the comment now, been known to buy souvenir yarn while travelling. In my defense, it’s not a large yarn stash, and some of it has proven useful in dance costuming over the years… but, er, yeah.

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To SBA or not to SBA

All y’all* are a bunch of enablers, you know.

So against my better judgment (and to my hubby’s dismay) I spent the latter part of yesterday evening whipping up a very quick muslin of the Colette Ceylon pattern rather than snuggling on the couch with him watching the last of Mrs. Doubtfire.

Altered bodice pattern pieces

The nice thing about the Ceylon  bodice is that the pieces are all itty-bitty, so you can squeeze them out of pretty small scraps. I really didn’t think I’d get anything else out of the last few bits of that blue flannel duvet, but I got it all, quite handily. Well, not the sleeves, yet.

Oh, dear. I’m going to have to show you fitting pictures again. Darn it.

Yes, I know this one really provides no fitting information at all. Be patient.

Now, I started slow, with just the midriff-band pieces. I initially traced them in a size 2, grading up to a size 4 at the waist. (According to the Colette size charts, my waist is a size 6 while the rest of my measurements suggest a size 0. However, even with the astounding amount of waist-innish-ness on these pieces, going from a 0 to a 6 would’ve given me a convex, rather than concave waistline. 2 to 4 seemed like a reasonable compromise). I also added a CB seam and did a pre-emptive swayback alteration. The resulting piece turned out just right in the lower back, a little loose above the waist, and a bit big across the front. So I gleefully graded the front down by 1/4″, and the back similarly above the waist. I guess that means my front waist piece grades from size 0 at the top and bottom to size 2 at the waist, while the back goes 0-4-2 top-waist-bottom. Plus whatever distortion the swayback throws in there.

It’s well-known that Colette drafts for a generous C cup, while I am more in the “small

Ceylon muslin 1, front view

end of B but loudly refusing to consider myself an A” territory. Obviously an SBA was going to be in order. Previous experience suggests that some shortening in the upper bodice would be appropriate, as well.

So I started with a horizontal tuck around the bust and mid-back pieces of the bodice, taking out about 2cm of height. This may have been a bit much in the front, but anyway. I played around with a second, angled vertical tuck in the front bust piece, pinned the pieces on my duct-tape double and decided to give it a whirl.

Ceylon, muslin 1, side view

On aesthetic rather than fitting grounds, I also messed with the curve of the front yoke (which seems to stick out a little high on the smaller sizes at least). I cut the upper pieces a size 0 before alteration, by the way.

As you can see, the SBA was a bit, ah, enthusiastic. It still fits, but there’s a certain blousiness to the back that seems to be missing from the front, and I’m pretty sure when buttoned it would end up gapey. Assuming ambition does not desert me, I’ll try a version tonight with the vertical tuck removed, and see where that leaves me.

I like the new shape of the front yoke pieces. I still think the neckline (those gaping, angled pieces of the bodice) needs to come down 1/2″ or so. Some of the gapeyness doubtless comes from carelessly stretching on the bias, but I will have to watch for that in the final construction. Having adequate bust space should help with it, too, I would think.

I’m torn on the horizontal tuck. The front length seems good to perhaps a wee bit

Ceylon muslin 1, back view, slack.

short, the back length still looks a little long. And there are still a few wrinkles in the back midriff piece that I’m not sure what to do about. I’m reluctant to increase the swayback alteration, as it’s already at Sherry’s recommended maximum before you should start looking for other fitting causes (like, oh, a short upper body). Would shortening the upper back pull the midriff pieces higher and let them fit my waist a bit better?

There is a lot of blousiness at the back, some of which is necessary, but it seems a bit excessive. Again, I’m wondering if there isn’t too much length in this section; the width seems good, as it goes comfortably taut when I move my arms forward.

So that’s where I am. I think tonight I’ll re-cut my front bust pieces and mess with the length of the back piece. But now, I must get back to work on the wondrous intricacies of phylogenetic analysis…

*Lest I besmirch the reputation of my fellow Canucks, I would like to point out that I learnt that lovely bit of English in Texas a couple of years ago. We don’t really talk like that up here, eh.

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Dresses I shouldn’t be sewing

A dress I shouldn't've been sewing

Ok, this post has been in the “drafts” folder long enough that the original title was “Dresses I’m Not Sewing”. But since I seem to have fallen off (or on?) that wagon, and I can feel the itch for another one or two coming on, I’ll retitle it.

I’ve been trying to focus my sewing this time around very tightly on things I will wear in my everyday life, as I spent the first, er, twenty years or so of my sewing career making things that were mildly to wildly impractical, at least from an everyday standpoint. And I was doing really well, too, right up until about Christmas, give or take a Lady Grey coat.

Since Christmas, I’ve made the 70s dress, a fluffy petticoat, and now a skirt to wear with the petticoat. I’m feeling a little less guilty about the petticoat since I made the skirt, and a little less guilty about the skirt since I did wear it all last weekend. And I have worn the 70s dress out of the house once, to a friend’s birthday. It’s possible that when the weather is warm (I can’t say “warms up” as we were the warmest place in Canada yesterday for a bit and it’s been lovely for almost a week, but winter is bound to return before it goes for good) I can work on incorporating some fun skirts and dresses into my wardrobe a bit more. I’ve certainly had my bouts of creative over-dressing before, but I’ve been rather lazy the last several years.

Anyway, this post is not a to-do list. It might even be a to-don’t list. But it is a quick examination of some of the dresses, in my stash or on the internet, that are tickling my fancy right now, and tempting me from the Straight and Narrow Road of Practicality.

Maybe I’m just impatient for Spring.

Ceylon

Collette’s Ceylon

Yum, yum, yum. Colette’s pattern draft is probably about as far from “suited to my figure” as you can get, but I’m willing to dare it for the Ceylon. I love the waist panel; I love the little pseudo-bolero yoke (wouldn’t it look smashing colour-blocked?). I even love the buttons all down the front, though I don’t imagine I’ll love actually sewing them, or their buttonholes. The only thing I think I might want to change would be the skirt—wouldn’t it just be yummy with a circle skirt on there?

I especially love this version. Though it may be one of those cases where the way it looks on her figure and the way it would look on mine won’t add up.

When I start thinking about making this dress, I become paralyzed. Start with size 0 or 2? How should I do the swayback alteration? What about the SBA?

Now that I have a duct-tape quasi-double, I’m feeling a little more bold about tackling this, but… we’ll see. My guess is that I will need to do an SBA, shorten the bodice and/or the waist piece, grade out at the waist, and do a swayback alteration, possibly involving the addition of a back seam.

Style 3416

Maternity ?!?!

Ah, those 70s dress. Style 3416 crept into my stash last summer, mainly for the sleeveless dress version in pink on the cover. Imagine my surprise when I got it home, opened the baggie (it came in a baggie of three patterns for $1 at the thrift store) and discovered it was technically a maternity pattern. I’m betting it would be easy to de-maternify, though, or failing that just get pregnant again.

That was a joke. Don’t even go there. I may be at an age where most of my cohort are finally giving in to the biological clock, but while there are advantages to having your kids later, and advantages to having your kids earlier, I’m fairly convinced that there are no advantages to having both.

McCall’s Easy Stitch ‘n Save 8500

McCall's 8500

I know, I know, but look at the lines. Basic, scoop neck, princess seam. This is another one of those cases of “looking past the envelope.”

Or so I’m telling myself, anyway.

I had a dress like this in high-school made out of green crushed stretch velvet, with laces in the back (oh, the mid-90s…). I did love that dress. The only problem with it was the sleeves were too short.

I’m pretty sure with the right fabric, and maybe a detail or two, this dress could be the bomb. With buttons all down the front, I bet I’d love it almost as much as Ceylon…

When I get around to it.

Cheongsam

Cheongsam pattern

And then the Sew Convert has to go and post about cheongsams, re-igniting a love of this dress-style I’ve probably nursed since first seeing the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as a tot. Don’t laugh, I blame my 14-year-plus love affair with bellydance squarely on Princess Leia’s slave-girl outfit in Return of the Jedi. Well, and how awesome bellydance is, but that’s a whole nother story (and would require a whole nother blog, I suspect).

I had one of these I found at a vintage clothing store as a teenager. I loved it, but it always needed to be altered to fit properly, and since I kept fluctuating size what with growing up and then having babies, I eventually passed it on.  This pattern is on the “Modern Sewing” site, which is a few of the same patterns as the Lekala people, but free, not custom sized, and not conveniently tiled for printing. I’m not sure I love the cut-on sleeves of this particular one, but I don’t hate them either and I’ve had good luck with their drafting in the past, and there’s back darts and a CB seam for shaping, unlike, say, the Folkwear pattern.

Contrary to type, I think I want a blue one. It’s possible I’m being led astray by Adey’s gorgeous wedding cheongsam

Since I just paid an unpleasant volume of bills today, which has me gasping slightly and vowing to sew only stash fabrics for the foreseeable future (yes, you may start placing bets on how long that lasts…), I think this one is going to have to wait a bit. Also, have I mentioned I’m terrified of double-ended darts?

Upshot

Red fabric

Ok, if nothing else a post like this helps me prioritize, and fitting terror aside, I think Ceylon’s definitely ahead of the pack. I have a copious amount of a rather sturdy red fabric (right of picture, and rather more dark-red than the muted purplish colour in the photo, sigh. Actually, the muted purple it’s showing on my screen is rather close to the actual colour of the 70s dress, which photographs as black) that’s been aging in the stash since last summer, and would be a lovely Ceylon. I originally bought it for mediaeval-costuming purposes, but it’s the only piece I have in stash right now that’s large enough for a full dress, and a regular dress would be at least a tiny bit more wearable than a mediaeval costume…

Hmm…. I have to finish tracing out the pattern for the hubby’s shirt… maybe I could pull out some of the Ceylon pieces at the same time…

Bad, bad seamstress….

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That 70s Dress

Simplicity 5728

A(nother) 70s dress

Now there’s a way to begin a post, by referencing a TV show I never even watched…

Anyway, despite my complete disinclination to do anything yesterday other than read through one of the novels I picked up at VV a couple of days ago, I did manage to get the sleeves on and hem the Simplicity dress. Raising the armscye worked like a charm—it’s lovely, high, and mobile.

As you can see, I opted (after the debate between long and short) for 3/4 length sleeves. This was initially inspired by the fact that as I was cutting there was a perfect spot to cut the sleeve out—but one side was a couple of inches too short due to the uneven cut end of the fabric.  But I’m really glad I went for it—warmer than a short sleeve*, but (I think) dodging the school-marmish/little-house-on-the-prairie potential of a full length sleeve with a full-length skirt.

Simplicity 5728

Curse that indoor light...

Since this blog is the closest I get to taking notes on my pattern alterations, I’m going to point out a few things about the sleeve again. I lengthened the full-length sleeve 2″ total, one inch above the elbow, one inch below. After doing this, I’d like to add, the elbow dart is in exactly the right position. Hooray! When I converted it to the 3/4 length, I cut off at the upper edge of the forearm “add length here” section. I felt like the sleeve was quite roomy in the muslin, even for a non-stretch sleeve (which obviously can’t be as snug as the knits I’m used to wearing), and when I decided on my stretch fabric I decided to narrow it: 5mm off each side, mirroring the 1/4″** I took off the sides of the bodice, and then I took a tuck of about 1/2″ out of the middle of the sleeve, all the way down. I figured there was more than enough ease in the sleeve cap to do this without messing with the length of the sleeve-cap, and there certainly still seemed to be plenty of gathers to go around. So in total the finished sleeves are about 1″ narrower than the muslined ones. This is perfect for my fabric, but might be a little too narrow for a non-stretch sleeve.

Simplicity 5728

Lots of sleeve mobility!

I do feel like the sleeves sit a little far out on my shoulders (possibly exacerbated by my alteration to the back neckline), although if I tug them up higher on my shoulder it seems to push out the sleeve oddly, so I’m not sure which is preferable.

I made the front midriff piece double-layered, to give it a bit more stability and make for a nicer finish inside. It is a nice finish, but it makes for a lot of layers of this fairly thick fabric, especially right under the bust where it encases the gathers. Possibly I should’ve graded the seams in this area. I’m also debating the merits of a waist-stay.

I decided to try a machine blind-hem on the grounds that a) this fabric is quite thick, and b) it hides the thread so well that it would be unlikely to show even if I did a whack job, which I basically did, and c) it just seems odd to hand-hem a stretchy. And it worked out pretty well, so long as you don’t look too close. The nice thing about such a long skirt is that the hem is a long way from anyone’s eyes, too ;). Well, except for the under-2-years age set, but presumably they won’t tell on me. The hem is the 2 1/4″ specified in the pattern, which brings it up to a length which is just shy of floor-skimming when I’m in bare-feet, which seems about right looking at the pattern illustration. Again, this is after I lengthened the entire skirt 5″. Which tells you everything you need to know about how my height is distributed (I know, cry me a river, right?)

Simplicity 5728

Finally, a smile!

I feel like it may be important to highlight a few lessons learnt from this pattern:

1) I really am short in the body. It’s not just in my head. Junior Petite, people, and the only bit of lengthening I did in the bodice I kinda wish I’d skipped out on.

2) especially in the armscye.

3) apparently I like 70s fashion, or at least the dresses. The only vintage patterns I’ve sewn for me this past year have been 70s dresses, and I have another one in stash, too. This is a little hard to wrap my mind around given that I grew up in the 80s and couldn’t even stomach the sight of bell-bottoms until well after their return to popularity in the late 90s.

4) I have neither the right hair nor the right shoes to go with this dress. Well, technically I have the right hair, but not the right hair-cut (nor am I likely to have it again. I love long, straight hair. Just not my long straight hair.). The shoes thing is unforgivable. How can I have no cute, delicate platform shoes? All I have for thick soles is my kick-ass boots, which would be fun but are not exactly period.

Simplicity 5728

Nice dress!

All in all? pretty happy camper! Though I’m still not convinced the dress will become part of my everyday wardrobe.

… now to fight down the urge to start working on a fluffy petticoat…

Oh, yes and a few more photos in the Flickr Gallery

*yay! The weather, which has been relatively clement since before Christmas, is reminding us that this is still Canada and winter still has a good two months to mess with us before spring will even begin to get a finger in the door. Today was  a virtual blizzard.

** very glad to hear that I’m not the only sewist who flits randomly between measuring systems. Canada officially went metric in the 70s, but somehow it’s never completely taken hold. For the longest time I did outdoor temperatures in Celsius, but indoor temperatures in Fahrenheit, for example.

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SFOs (Semi-Finished Objects)

Zena of Blood, Sweatshop, & Tears once commented that “wearable is climax. Done is denouement.”

She is so right.

Lekala twist-top, v. 2

In that spirit, I give you my second take on the Lekala 5675, a.k.a. the twist top. The hems are serged but not completely finished, and it’s been like this most of the week. I am disinclined to fuss with trying to stabilize them for topstitching. Bleh. This red knit is wiggly, super-stretchy, and much more like the kind of fabric I imagine the shirt was designed for than my last attempt. It’s also an amazing example of the difference fabric choice can make for the exact same pattern (only difference is I added perhaps an inch more extra length to the red version, just in case, bringing the total increase to about 3-4″ in the sleeves and 4-5″ at the hem. The first version was roomy and sweater-like, with a surprisingly perfect fit in the shoulders. This version is second-skin tight and the shoulders look really narrow. Although about the same as they look in the pattern illustration, actually.. The twist still doesn’t pull naturally into the kind of tight twist the illustration suggested. This might be a drafting problem (maybe they should just have widened the upper front piece a bit so that a full twist was required), or it might just be that my doubling of the front (makes the finishing easier and never a bad idea in a thin knit) gives it a bit too much body. I think in my head the slit below the twist should be wider, but again it’s actually quite comparable to the illustration. Some day I shall use Sherry’s post to attempt to reduce a swayback in a knit. Someday.

Simplicity 5728

Simplicity 5728

In a similar vein, my (wearable muslin?) version of Simplicity 5728 is at a try-on-able phase in construction. Yay!

This is such a peculiar fabric. I would’ve sworn it

Simplicity 5728, side view

was a diagonally-ribbed knit, but it frays like a woven. It’s stretchy, very slightly in length, significantly in cross-grain, but fairly stable. It does have that cling-to-every-lump-and-bump quality of a knit.

In the stretchy (whatever the heck it is), I should probably have used the original bust-length, as the extra length doesn’t seem to be necessary. I had narrowed the bodice sides 1/4″ on the pattern, since it seemed a bit roomy under the arm,

Back (lightened to show lack of swayback wrinkles!)

tapering to nothing at the waist, and I took it in another 1/4″ here after trying it on (adding up to a substantial 2″ reduction in the total bodice width). I did a swayback alteration as per Sherry’s instructions (sooo easy when you have both waist and CB seams), taking off about 1/2″ (12mm) both above and below the waist seam. I gave the CB seam of the skirt a bit of an S-curve to it as my swayback seems to be rather below my waist in this area. And then I cut, inserted zipper, and hoped. And—well, look!

Can we say, happy customer?

Also, like what I did with the back neck? I did a brutal job of finishing the top of

Simplicity 5728, full back

the zipper, but otherwise it’s snazzy! Er, and yeah, the zipper’s pink. I thought it coordinated/contrasted nicely with the muted purple of the fabric, but probably it’s just too light. But the only other zipper I had of suitable length was white, and an invisible one, which I don’t actually know how to install. It’s vintage and metal, though, so it’s cute enough to deserve to be looked at.

Simplicity 5728, front closeup

You will recall that I received excellent advice from Kay and others on my sleeved muslin to raise the bottom of the armscye to improve my sleeve mobility. So I raised it a full 2cm, on the principle that it’s easy enough to lower it after the fact if I need to.

(It occurs to me that I probably annoy nearly everyone with my flitting back and forth between metric and imperial measurements. Can I call it a Canadian thing? I prefer to do my seam-allowances in metric because the metric markings are at the front of my sewing-machine face-place, making them easier to see than the imperial markings, which are at the back. On the other hand the width of the regular foot is definitely 1/4″, so I tend to do things like small alterations in this increment. It also depends on which ruler or measuring tape comes to hand first…)

I should also mention that I added 5″ (and we’re back to the imperial) to the hem of the skirt to get it to this luxuriously long length. That’s supposed to include 2 1/4″ of hem, which would bring it to a perfectly respectable heel-length, I think, although I’m not convinced a 2″ hem will be desirable in this fabric. I’m wearing a 3″ heel in the photos. I love these crazy-long 70s skirts.

Coming soon: the great sleeve adventure!

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