Tag Archives: project drop-waist

Needing no introduction…

You know what this is.

It should come as a surprise to no one that I’ve made a Sewaholic Cambie. I fell hard for this dress from the moment it landed in my inbox (and it made me very jealous of the pattern testers who got to see it first…) In fact, the only reason it took so long to make up was figuring out whether I wanted to do the full-skirted or A-line version first, and whether I wanted to make it a part of Project Drop Waist or not.

Unsurprisingly, the answer was full and yes.

So, some deets:

The fabric is a navy seersucker from the thrift store, whose purchase I agonized over way back when. (You guys are such enablers, I headed back and got it). I actually had to give in and go buy some poly-cotton broadcloth for the lining, however, which wound up costing rather more than the fashion fabric. /sigh.

Click to enlarge

I used the bodice pieces from Simplicity 3965 to extend the Cambie bodice to hip length, which worked fairly well and even seemed to correct the rear-trending side-seam issue. I also wound up removing a fair bit of length through the bodice above the waist, plus my usual square-shoulder adjustment. I did a muslin but didn’t bother photographing it—sorry. I started with the size 6 (the same size I made for my Lonsdale last summer), though technically my measurements are a bit closer to the size 8; the finished measurements Tasia so thoughtfully includes on the envelope cover seemed to suggest that it would work, however. Initially the muslin seemed perfect through the bust but a bit snug through the waist and hips, so I added a wee bit—however, when I tried on the finished bodice, I wound up taking off what I had added to the hips. I think when you add the weight of the gathered skirt at the hips, the downward pull on the bodice smoothes out a lot of the wrinkles from close-fitting, and also spreads out the shape so it looks kind of boxy if it’s not snug. Or at least, that’s how I have felt about both this dress and the Star Wars dress. Either that or my fashion fabrics have more give than my muslin fabrics, except that in this case both involved broadcloth, and I don’t think bedsheet has a lot more give, either…

Underlining & fusetape

The pattern pieces for this pattern are really curvy—curvy sweetheart neckline, curvy shoulder on the back piece, curvy armscye. All the curves prompted me to do a lot of reinforcing with narrow strips of interfacing. Maybe it was overkill, but it feels nice and sturdy. Once again I underlined the bodice (with some remnants of black cotton voile I had kicking around). Unlike the Star Wars Dress, I did a separate skirt lining.

I used the original length from Tasia’s skirt pattern, but then the waist is dropped, but then the bodice was also shortened—so I think I’m in the realm of maybe an inch longer nape-to-hem than the original pattern, but maybe not. I think I’m a bit taller than Tasia, too. I like the knee length it turned out, anyway. Because I’m too lazy to trace rectangular pattern pieces, I just ripped strips across my fabric the right length. An interesting feature of this pattern is that there’s roughly twice as much skirt in the back as the front. I decided to just use the full width of my fabric (45″ or 115 cm, roughly) for the skirt panels, so there’s one panel gathered across the front and one for each side of the back.

My only issue, at the end of the day, is that with all the bodice shortening, the dropped waist wound up being not quite dropped enough—at least at the centre front. I haven’t attempted to add shaping to the dropped waist in this area (though that is a gorgeous look), kind of as a “keep it simple, stupid” measure—but I think the next time I do this I will, because I really wish I could drop the front waist seam just a little more. It doesn’t quite sag to the sides, but it comes very close. And no, there’s not enough seam allowance left to let it out.

Also my bust darts are still kinda pointy. I stitched them as drafted, basically. I really should spend some more time figuring out how to make a perfect, non-pointy dart.  D’you think if I keep saying that often enough, I’ll actually do something about it?

I did not forget the pockets (hooray!) but I did forget to take a picture using them. Anyway, pockets are, of course, awesome. Also, do follow Tasia’s directions for attaching the front strap/sleeves. I tried to go my own way and it was a disaster. Hooray for seam-rippers.


And, as you saw yesterday, I finished the hems with navy hem lace (it matches much better in the non-flash photos, by the way). Just because I could. No fancy horsehair braid or anything this time—the seersucker has plenty of body. And I don’t have enough horsehair braid left from the Star Wars dress.

deflated skirt

Most of the pictures were taken wearing my super fluffy square-dancing petticoat, which definitely notches things up to full fifties-crazy-skirtness. In the theme of honesty in blogging, the above picture is without a petticoat—just the skirt and lining to hold it up. For most everyday wear I’ll probably wear my fluffy petticoat, which, while not as spectacular as the crazy one, is a lot less obnoxious and doesn’t hit both walls at the same time when I go down the basement stairs.

I think my fluffy dress itch *may* have been scratched. It’s just possible—just barely possible—that I can move on to less ridiculous projects now.

Well, maybe. I make no promises.



Filed under Sewing

Episode IV

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

The dress formerly known as Simplicity 3965, alias the Star Wars Dress.

She is finished (well, mostly. Still need to slipstitch the bottom of the bodice lining) And I am triumphant, mostly. (I also had WAY too much fun with the Lomo-ish filer in Picasa while editing these photos. Sorry.)


I am definitely going to chalk this one up as a victory for Project Drop Waist. Bodice has been lengthened, and it fits, I think, pretty darn well. Minor dart issues aside. I will confess, after completion I took the bodice in a smidge at the side-seams. It was pleasantly skimming, but I fear I prefer “hugging.” Eve if it’s not objectively better. /sigh.


Boring Construction Bit:

The only problem with sewing with bedsheets is that your fabric is, well, bedsheet. Which doesn’t always have the greatest drape. So I wanted to underline. Digging through stash spat out a couple of pieces of cotton-poly broadcloth that seemed like they would work well while adding a bit more body to my fabric. I wanted to underline the whole thing, and then line the bodice. Once I cut the underlining, I used those pieces to cut out the shell (aka sheet) pieces. The cream broadcloth was just sheer enough to make positioning the motifs (aka Luke & Leia) a breeze, and I’m very glad I didn’t try to cut them out on the fold. I used this tutorial for the pattern-matching on the back; it’s not perfect, (and I may have thrown the back slightly off grain—but not the underlining!) but I’m satisfied. I didn’t attempt pattern matching anywhere else—I would’ve lost too much width on the skirt. And it wasn’t possible to match the side-seams and the back seam.

Pattern matching across the zipper (on a curved seam). Not perfect, but I’m not going to complain.

I used the trick of stitching down the fold of the dart first, to keep the shell and underlining from shifting when sewing the darts, and it worked like a charm. Sadly, I wasn’t able to completely avoid dart-tip poofiness. I’m not quite as panicked about darts as I used to be, but I am still a long way from mastering their subtleties (I’m just happy they usually turn out more-or-less symmetrical these days). I think the fact that the original pattern was designed for a pointier, early-60s bra didn’t help the situation. Anyway, not make-or-break. I did all my marking on the underlining, with my new chalk pencil (in bright fuschia. I am currently convinced that those marks will never come out…), which worked well except for when I tried sharpening it and broke of a big chunk of “lead”. I don’t think it’ll replace my love of my wash-away marker, but it is nice for larger areas, and comes in loads of colours. I also used a tracing-wheel and some of my vintage tracing paper, which I’ve never really gotten comfortable with in the past. But it was really handy for tracing the dart shaping more precisely than I tend to.

That’s a lot of skirt… (The pile of blue fabric above it is the entire remnants of the sheet)

Once I had cut the bodice pieces, I trimmed the rest of the sheet (it had been a fitted sheet, so there were some odd notches from the corners) into a rectangle (rrrrip!) losing a couple of inches to a small tear that I’m ever so glad I noticed, and determined (YAY!) that I would have enough fabric to make the skirt two sheet-widths wide. I got the sheet-widths stitched together, and the underlining as well, and then had a panic that the skirt was going to be insanely full. I mean, I was going for pouffy gathers, but there’s pouffy and then there’s pouffy, you know. I pulled out the original skirt pattern pieces, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that while my skirt was a bit shorter than the original pattern pieces (remembering that my “waist” is a couple of inches lower, too), the total width I had was actually only a few inches wider than the pattern suggested. Not enough to be bothered about in a skirt like this. Win!

Keeping the underlining and lining of the skirt together, smooth, and not wonky over that whole 3m+ length was distinctly nerve-wracking. To continue my couture efforts, I decided to use the 2″ horsehaid braid I found at Fabricland a few weeks back, for the low, low price of $4/m (fortunately 50% off). I considered slipping the horsehair between the underlining and the fashion fabric, but in the end went with stitching it to the fabric and then wrapping  the hem around it. I was going to just link to Gertie’s horsehair hem posts, but checking them over, none is exactly what I did. Though they’re all lovely methods. Obviously I should’ve taken some photos—oopsie. I then did some quick and dirty retro-fitting to stitch part of the rear seam (but not all of it because I didn’t want it stitched for my zipper insertion) so that I could overlap the horsehair braid at the seam. And then I realized I needed to figure out a way to finish the back edge, again only partially. I opted for binding. More retro-fitting. Not my most well-thought-through process (there was quite a bit of that in this project). But it’s all together, now. I hand-stitched the hem in place, catching it to the underlining (mostly), while watching Chronicle with Osiris last night. That was pretty fun.

Zig-zag casing gathering method.

I used the zig-zag-over-supplementary-thread method to gather the top of the skirt. (I originally learned this method with dental floss, but it occurred to me that the dental floss I buy is the super-fancy-expensive slippery stuff, so probably another sturdy thread is more economical; I used some button thread I have). This is my favourite gathering method, far and away, for medium to large amounts of gathering where I need a precise ratio of gathering. I used this clear foot, which I think is meant for inserting invisible zippers, because the grooves were pretty good for holding the thread underneath, and the clearness made it easy to keep track of where the thread was. It’s still not quite as good for this purpose as a cording foot, but I don’t seem to have one of those at this point. Really any zig-zag foot will work, but the cording foot holds the supplementary thread in a little tunnel, not just a groove, so it physically can’t slip out from under the zig-zag.

Another dig through of my vintage zippers turned up a blue invisible zip in the suggested (14″) length (plastic teeth this time). I was a bit surprised how short of a zipper was called for, but then I remembered that the back of this dress is way low. And 14″ is plenty, although the invisible zip doesn’t really like going past the gathered part at the waist. As per usual, I used this method for insertion.

Back view

The one thing I was concerned about, dropping the waist, was how it would affect the proportions of the skirt. Rather than having a short bodice and a long skirt, I now have a long bodice and a shorter skirt. The skirt comes a bit below my usual knee-length, but I was worried that making it any shorter would just look weirdly odd—like a tutu, perhaps. I considered doing some funky golden ratio calculations but in the end got lazy and decided to run with my current length and see. I can’t really lengthen it, after all, and I can always take it up if I need to. Now that I look at the photos, I think it’s all right—I don’t think I would want it any shorter, though. (And yes, I’m wearing the crazy square-dancing crinoline. It’s not really possible to wear this one without the lace showing, since the inner layer hangs lower than the outer layer. So it’s a design feature. 😉

I was considering adding a waist-stay, but then got confused. where do you put a waist-stay in, in a dropped-waist bodice? At the waist seam (down on my hips) or the actual waist? There’s a couple of inches of ease at the hips, so I’m worried a stay there that was snug enough to take the weight of the ruffles would cause a gathered look at the bottom of the bodice. On the other hand, it might make a weird fold at the waist. Hmm.

In hind-sight, piping the edges of the bodice and even the waist with something dark would’ve been a nice touch. I thought about trim going in and didn’t want to because the print was so busy, but I think a solid navy or black piping would’ve anchored the edges. I also didn’t understitch anything, though I should probably do some hand-understitching to keep the white lining from rolling out.

A little more utter photo ridiculousness.

Still, pretty happy. Now where am I going to wear it?


Filed under Sewing

Project Drop Waist

Oh, no—more toile photos!

So, it’s no secret that I have Issues with waistbands that sit at my waist. Above the waist is great, below the waist is fine, but waistbands that sit right at my waist—these are problematic.  Especially if there’s going to be any kind of waist emphasis (like a belt), blousing above the waist, or gathering below. I always end up feeling cut in half, emphasizing both the width of my waist (2-3 sizes larger than the rest of me) and the shortness of my upper body.

Unfortunately for me, this describes roughly 90% of the dress patterns out there, and (even worse) a large percentage of the ones I’m dyingtomakerightnowdammit!

Now, I successfully made a dirndl-skirt sundress last summer by adding a dropped waist to a formerly straight-waisted pattern. And, despite being a fairly extreme example of stunt dressing, it was one of my favourite things to wear last summer. But a) this was a princess-seam pattern, and b) I used a shirred back, which allowed me to really fudge the fitting.

So, it appears, the sensible thing to do would be figure out a bodice template—a block, if you will—that I can morph onto these waist-length patterns to drop the waist slightly. Most of the ones I’m concerned with have a simple gathered or pleated skirt, which won’t be much affected by the addition of a few extra inches (and I’d probably be adding inches to the waist anyway).

When I was musing about this the other day (nothing like beating a topic to death 😉 ) I was thinking I would just try adding on to a pattern I already had—Simplicity 3965, say. Lauriana (one of the more fabulous pattern-drafters out there) sagely commented that perhaps it would be less trouble start with a longer bodice, perhaps a hip-length sloper drafted to my own measurements.

Now, obviously she was right, but my (vast and growing) pattern collection is a bit short on such a basic, at least with the length, fit, and dart positioning I wanted. I was, however, reminded of the fact that I had drafted a “fitted dress block” from the book Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear, by Winnifred Aldritch, a few months ago, which had languished un-tested on my hard-drive (I like to mess around with pattern drafting in Inkscape, usually when I am supposed to be doing something else). Partly because Aldritch was a bit vague, or at least confusing, on the issue of waist-shaping.

Anyway, with Simplicity 3965 giving me an idea of how much waist-shaping was required (at least above the waist), I set out on an odyssey. There was printing; tracing; tissue-fitting (on me and my dubious duct-tape double). Sway-back adjustments were made. I have confronted the horror of the shaped dart.

Self-drafted bodice

All for… this. /sigh.

Well, perfection has not been achieved, but I think I might be getting into the right ball-park. The shape (and breadth) of the rear darts is truly terrifying, but they are at least approaching doing the job (although it looks from the photos that the back is still a smidge tight—overall the bodice is quite comfortable. I’m not quite sure what to make of the side-wrinkles in the front, exccept that perhaps a bit more bust-shaping is in order. Additionally, the bust-dart is still about 1 cm high, and the side-seam falls a bit towards the back. I might moosh a teeny dart out of the front armscye to bring that in (or play with the shoulder slope some more).

Anyway, despite the imperfections (which are considerably more evident in the photos than in the mirror… not sure if that means it’s actually better in real life or worse than I had thought) I figured I had reached a point where I was ready to try using it on another pattern. I.E. Simplicity 3965.

Premature? Possibly, especially since I was thoroughly befuddled how to relate the narrow back dart of Simplicity 3965 to my wide, angled, and oddly-shaped one on the self-drafted bodice. But I had limited time to sew this past weekend and I have fantasies of wearing this dress for May Long (which is next weekend—yeah, probably not going to happen).

Simplicity 3965 (modified)

So I matched up the waistline, and attempted to add the shaping of the self-drafted bodice on to the Simplicity bodice. This worked fairly well for the front, not so well for the back. My self-drafted back piece is very wide, but then a lot of the width is taken in by the dart. The Simplicity bodice back is much narrower, with a correspondingly narrower dart. I can’t help but think that a narrower pattern overall would be preferable, but obviously the swayback alterations didn’t transfer with their full force. Alternatively, letting out the hips a bit more might be helpful. Part of what’s hanging me up is that “high back hip” which I still haven’t really learned to fit.

Also, in this one you can see the lovely sunburn I acquired on Mother’s Day.  This is what happens when I sit back and let other people organize the day’s expedition… my mother’s day brunch turned into a two-hour wander on a new segment of riverbank, with nary a squirt of sunscreen to be seen, on the first really summery day we’ve had so far.

I’m hoping that one more muslin will be sufficient—sewing these up is quick, but annoying, and I’m running out of crappy zippers. 🙂


Filed under Sewing

Simplicity 3965—The Toile

Peace out, dude.

I tend to use “muslin”, because that’s what the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing uses and that was my first sewing text, but I really do prefer “toile”. It’s shorter, for one thing, and doesn’t sound like I’m macerating someone’s religion in the pursuit of better fitting clothes.

Anyway, I made up a quick toile for the bodice of Simplicity 3965. I have decided I need to get my butt moving on this project so I can have it done before the Cambie dress pattern comes out later this month, because when that happens it is totally going to be All Cambie All The Time. Well, probably not, but I will wish it was. And, since I had the excellent example of Tasia’s muslin, I was actually good and thread-traced all my seam allowances and darts and EVERYTHING!

Ok, so, I got a bit ahead of myself, there.

To start with, the pattern ElleC sent me is an old-school size 12, that is for a 32″ bust and 25″ waist. The first is slightly smaller than mine (OK, let’s face it, since this past Christmas it’s a full 2″ smaller, 3″ if I want to wear a bra, which I generally do with wovens.) Having compared the pattern pieces to my body, it actually seemed like the length was going to be all right, and a little bit of pattern measuring suggested that there might almost be enough ease for the bust. The waist, of course, was laughable. Hilarious, really. “Vintage” figure, I do not have. Snerk.

So for the muslin, I added 1 cm to the side-seams of each piece, for a total increase around the body of 4 cm (just under 2″).  And then I cut out and stitched up with, as mentioned above, traced seam-lines and everything.

I took proper fitting photos but the combination of a weird camera angle, bad light, and the total lack of makeup and hair makes me unwilling to post the rest of them, sorry. Only the goofy one was entertaining enough to make up for the weird angle, and even then you’re not getting the face. So you’ll have to take me on my word that the fit seemed pretty good overall. The bust was just about perfect, darts pointed where they should, the shoulders etc. look good, but the waist obviously needs a bit more (more) room. At least if I want to, y’know, eat or breathe or anything like that.A small swayback adjustment (raising the rear waist seam in the middle by about 1 cm) will be in order, and a couple more cm ease at the waist, and I think I’ll call it good. Which means I’ve made almost none of my usual adjustments to this pattern. Interesting. (I’ll note that Tasia had to lengthen the waist on hers by a good inch.)

Of course, now I have to face the next stage—the waistline. As I’ve said before, I have a short waist and rectangular figure, and something about this combination tends to make gathered, dirndl-type skirts that begin right at the waist, well, a bad idea. Dropping the waist-seam a few inches gives me the look of a longer body and puts the added bulk of the gathers at my hips—which can always use a boost—rather than at my waist, which doesn’t need any added bulk ever, thanks.

However, for a fitted bodice like this, that also requires a lot more work. For the polkadot sundress, I kind of freehanded the front and fudged the back with a shirred panel. I would have to be a lot more precise for this project. Figuring out the hip curve. Fitting the bottom half of my swayback (without a waist seam). How to continue the shaping of the front darts.

Waistline Placement

Part of me is saying “go for it!”—if I figure this out, I’ll have a basic fitted (albeit sleeveless) bodice I can use to adapt the zillions of waist-seamed dresses that are flooding my fantasy sewing these days. Part of me is saying “Give the gathered-waist look another try. You never know, it might be ok this time. Maybe the problem’s mostly in your head. Everyone else likes those gathered skirts!”  On the other hand, looking at my little croquis there (which I traced right off the image at the beginning of the post) I know which one I prefer…



Filed under Sewing