Tag Archives: sundress

Bring on summer

This sundress was supposed to be done a LONG time ago—it was supposed to be the one project I kept out while everything else got packed up for the basement reno. That was back at the beginning of April when it was basically still winter. Unfortunately, packed up it did get, so things got delayed.

Anyway, the dress, (Butterick B6349) which felt very unseasonable when I started it, feels perfectly timely now!

However, I also thought it would be a quick, simple make. Surely that cute handkerchief hem indicated few and simple pattern pieces. It would be refreshingly quick to whip up in my soft, tie-dye-with-faint-woven-stripes cotton and delicious cotton-silk lining.

Well, geometrically they were simple. However, the main pattern pieces are all cut on the bias, and everything has to fit together with a quilt-like precision.

I didn’t help myself by deciding that my fine fabrics deserved the special treatment of French seams.

And I decided to change the hem border construction to double-layered to add heft and swish. Not a bad idea in my fabric of choice—but the way I went about constructing it was very far from the easiest it could’ve been, especially considering how soft and easily distorted the fabric was. I ended up topstitching with an embroidery stitch to make sure I caught all the backside of my double layer to hold it closed. A cute detail in the end but very far from the quick and simple I was going for.

Then there was the bit about the lining showing. See it in the photo above? Well, in the pattern instructions there was a mysterious band of outer fabric facing the outside of the lining hem. How odd, I thought. What a strange feature. I want things simple so I’ll skip that. Well, little did I realize that the lining actually SHOWS quite prominently at the sides. The handkerchief upper layer is knee-length in places but quite scandalously short at the sides. After some thinking I concluded that I actually love the depth and complexity the double-layer gives the design—but it definitely needs that hem band. So I had to back and add that in after the fact.

Considering how frustrating the actual make was, I’m pretty charmed by the dress. It’s another foray into tent-shapes, which I realize everyone else has figured out but I’m still a bit hesitant about. I did try taming it with a belt:

But I actually think it’s mainly at its best flowing free. In particular it’s relaxed enough that while I’m happy to wear it to the office, I think I’ll be equally happy to toss it on for a Sunday at home, which isn’t the case for much of my wardrobe.

So yeah. It’s fun. Cute. Easy to fit. (I made a straight size small). Just, not actually quick and simple. You’ve been warned



Filed under Sewing

Funnygrrl’s Dress (the Making Of)


Pattern & Fabric

Whew! That Promaballoona really took it out of me. I need a weekend after my weekend.

Ok, so, finally, here is the actual post about the making of  Simplicity 5549, view B, otherwise known as the Funnygrrl Dress.

This dress was perfect for several reasons—cute, shaped empire waist, relatively straight hem, and, most importantly for this project, it would fit on the 1.5 m of fabric I had at my disposal. WIN.

I made the size 12, with all my usual alterations—petite (both at the shoulder and 3 cm  removed above the waist in the skirt), square shoulder, and swayback. Lots and lots of swayback. I probably could’ve gotten away without the square shoulder—I’m beginning to think I shouldn’t bother with that one for strappy, narrow-shouldered patterns. Other than that, the alterations worked great!

I cut out the bodice in my “lining fabric” (aka white bedsheet from the thrift store) and basted it up quickly to check the fit, making a few minor tweaks. The most significant was to lower the neckline. I dropped it 2 cm, and widened a little bit as well—3 or 4 cm would’ve been fine. It was very, ah, demure. I should probably have paid a little more attention to the length of the “shorter” skirt on the model, as well. It reaches easily to the bottom of her knee, which is a good two or three inches longer than I like. I don’t usually pay attention to skirt lengths since I always figure I’ll just hem it at the end, but of course that’s not how it works with a border embroidery motif. D’oh.


Obviously, the dress needed black piping on the bodice to go with the black embroidery on the skirt. Pipe, pipe pipety pipe.  I am pleased to report that not only has the last of the black piping Claire sent me last winter been used up, but it was used up with only inches to spare (as you can see in the photo). I tried to be very careful not to stretch the piping while sewing, this time, lest I end up with puckery fabric. This worked well, but since I ended up with a fair bit of gapiness at the underarm, I’m thinking some pulling might’ve been in order, at least there.


I confess, I did not even look at the instructions for this dress. I promise when I have a little more time for sewing, I will start reading instructions again. In this case, I figured a construction order just like the Sewaholic Cambie would work just fine (only backwards)—and it did. Did I mention I really like the back of this dress? The straps widen and angle in towards the middle and it’s REALLY CUTE. Not to mention bra-strap covering, for those of you for whom that is a major issue. Also, unlike the Spiderman Dress, I think I nailed the swayback adjustment this time. WOOT! Having the extra darts for shaping certainly helps, too.

Look at that back fit!

Halfway through construction I realized I had no idea if I had any kind of suitable zipper or not. Some diving through the stash produced another vintage, metal-toothed invisible zipper in an off white colour. Not perfect, but close enough for an invisible zipper, especially if the alternative was delaying construction until I can visit a fabric store. I am trying really hard to avoid fabric stores right now. I’ve started packing up my stash for our pending move, and it’s, ah, traumatic.

Full length

I did zero matching of the embroidered motifs. I considered it for about half a second, but frankly, I was lucky to get the dress out of the amount of fabric I had period. There was only about 3″ of wiggle room along the width of the hem, not enough to match anything


I gotta say, it’s easy to quibble about little things like the gaping under the arm and the length of the skirt, but really—I am so stoked over how this turned out. The back is AWESOME. The fit over the hips is close but good. It’s cute, not too over the top, and easy to wear. I love the back, not something I usually get to say. So yeah! I’m going to call it a win. 🙂

Nothing procrastinates like procrastination…

Thanks, Funnygrrl! 


Filed under Sewing

That slinky summer dress

Fun dress

Claire suggested, most sagely, that I make something quick and knittish as a palate cleanser after my recent detail-heavy exertions.  Of course, she was hinting I make up Zoe’s new “vest” pattern, which is indeed quite cute and tempting, but I decided to jump on the maxidress bandwagon. Ok, it doesn’t exactly take much to get me on the maxidress bandwagon. (see here, here… oh, and here.)

Yes, jealousy over Tyo’s Boredom Dress got the better of me, and I busted out Simplicity 7434, all the way from 1976.

Simplicity 7434

This pattern is part of the Ratzlaff Collection, a number of patterns I nabbed from the Mennonite thrift in my hometown, all of which bear the name “Darlene Ratzlaff” (except one which belonged to “Mrs. Art Ratzlaff.”) Most of them are from the late sixties and earliest seventies, and are a size 10 or 12. So I’m not sure why, in 1976 (or 1977), Mrs. Ratzlaff thought she should buy a size 8 pattern. Did she dramatically lose weight? Is it possible to lose weight when your culinary cultural heritage includes rollkuchen**? Did she have a daughter finally reach the women’s sizes*? Obviously we shall never know (unless I start telephoning all the Ratzlaffs in my hometown until I find the right one. Which would be amusing.)


This is designed for a size 8 bias woven. I am obviously not a size 8, but I thought it just might work in a knit. A quick comparison with my altered Renfrew pattern suggested that, in fact, the sizing was almost identical. KA-CHING.

Front view

From the envelope drawing (and even the technical drawings on the back) I’d assumed it was a simple tank-style pattern underneath the funny cape thingy. Not quite—it has separate shoulder pieces, meant to be cut on grain. I opted to cut them double and add a knit interfacing, so the shoulders are quite sturdy. Knit being knit, I cut the dress pieces on grain as well. The only alteration I made was to fold out a small (1 cm) swayback wedge from the back. In the facings-loving world of 70s patterns, this pattern calls for a bound edge on the neck and armscyes! Perfect, since that was what I was going to do anyway.

Y’all may recall that my comparable pattern, Renfrew, is recommended for a stable knit.

Stable knit, this fabric is not.

Back view

When I first tried it on, it was, in a word, tentlike. The only thing that wasn’t sagging and bagging was the (heavily reinforced) shoulders, which were sitting rather too far to the sides. Fortunately, there’s a CF seam. I took in the front and side-seams about 1″ each above the waist, tapering to nothing below, and on the back I angled in in my swayback region to take out 2-3″ of width, tapering to nothing below the waist. There’s still a little bit of room back there that I could tweak further, I think due to the weight of the skirt, but the side-seams are already tending to ride backwards and I don’t really want to take any more out of the front, so I think I’ll leave it, at lest for the moment. Fabric weight produced the gain in length I had expected, but didn’t see, in Tyo’s dress, so that it currently sweeps the floor unless I wear heels. I may have to trim it for practicality, but I’m liking the extravagant length for now.


The neckline seemed a tad bare when I first tried it on, so I added the raw-edge bow (click through to the full size photo if you can’t see it… it’s there, I swear). I was sort of hoping the fabric would whirl itself into tight curls when stretched and stay that way, but alas, no dice. If I decide I really want a skinny stringy bow, I’ll make and turn some tubes, but I think I’m ok with the raw edge. The hem is raw, too. It has a fabulous flow and drape and, as observed with the bow, no significant tendency to curl.

Of course, all of this has been completed just in time for the end of our glorious week of summer weather (I might’ve had better pictures if I’d been willing to stand outside for more than thirty seconds…). Will summer and +30C tmeperatures return? No telling, this close to the mountains, but I fervently hope so. A few solid weeks of heat like that and I might actually be able to face the inexorable return of winter.


Bonus: Osiris likes it. Very, very much. >:D

*Tyo is feeling very fashionably frustrated right now. Nothing in the children’s racks appeals to her, but the women’s sizes are still mostly too big. The exception is the very smallest of the size 0/1 jeans, of which she now has several pairs, although unfortunately they don’t have the handy buttonhole elastics for cinching in the inevitable above-butt gapage that is her genetic heritage. Probably I should look into that alteration. *wince* I have a few junior teen patterns, but they’re mostly from the 70s and while I think they’re adorable, they’re not quite the current zeitgeist…

**my stylish sister in law is married to a Mennonite, and has been learning to make rollkuchen. Nomnomnom…


Filed under Sewing

Spider Dress, Spider Dress…

Spider Dress

Does whatever a spider… um.

Dude, Homer got further than me. Urg.

Questionable theme-song rip-offs aside, I proudly present my (almost timely) Spiderman Dress, made of two metres of thrift store Spiderman fabric. Those of you who know what’s what may recall that Cindy of Cation Designs and I had a totally impromptu sewalong/throwdown for our spiderman dresses. She claims it’s a match of n00b against l33t. I’ll let you decide which is which… I’m pretty sure I just got pwned. (incidentally, my children use “pwned” in conversation. I didn’t even know you could pronounce that word. It’s pronounced “poned,” apparently.) You are warned now, she took totally cool perched-on-top-of-building-photos. I did not.

New Look 6459

The pattern, as I mentioned before, is New Look 6459. This is actually a fairly recent pattern (2005) and I even remembered to check the reviews on Pattern Review before cutting! Yay me! (I used to do this all the time, but as my obsession with the thrift store pattern set has grown, I got out of the habit. They just don’t have thorough coverage of 1970s patterns on that site for some reason ;).) Anyway, this was my first try at a New Look pattern. The reviews all agreed that the dress ran large. I was a bit puzzled by this, since it does have the allegedly helpful “finished garment size” measurements printed on the pattern itself, and they suggested a very reasonable 1″ of ease at the bust. However, I was suspicious enough to take my measuring-tape to it (it’s a pretty simple pattern, anyway), and sure enough, the amount of ease at the bust in the pattern was much more like 2-3″.

Not totally pointy darts. Please ignore the wrinkled state. It’s way too hot to iron right now. Which is a Very Good Thing.

So I traced the pattern with a size 10 at the top (I am a size 12 by bust measurement), but past experience has made me wary of A-line skirts in the bottom half department, so I graduated out to the 12 below the waist. Which waist I shortened by about 3 cm. This is all in the skirt, by the way. The bodice piece I traced exactly as a size 10; the only change I made was a bit of careful dart-reshaping in the hopes of avoiding the niplicious look. I also did my usual swayback alteration. In short, I did all my standard alterations except the square shoulder, which obviously doesn’t apply. The waist-height ended up pretty much perfect, so win. The height of the bodice itself is none too generous, however—if you have any kind of a larger bust you would need to add some serious length there to get decent coverage. I wouldn’t have minded an extra half-inch at the top myself, although it’s perfectly wearable as is.

Line Drawings

I had intended to make View C, but forgot to mark the stitch-line for the notch on the pattern piece and ended up making something resembling view B but with halter ties. Oopsie.

I decided the dark print needed something bright to make it pop, and, very uncharacteristically for me, it had to be yellow (to draw on the tiny flecks of yellow windows in the buildings on the print). I tried to talk myself into red, which is much more my style, but nope. It had to be yellow. Fortunately my excessive stash of thrift-store bias binding turned up some bright yellow, so I used that to make a flat piping for the upper edge (much easier since I clean forgot about that notch) and a ribbon-type look on the top of the skirt.

Back view. I don’t think I would want it any narrower in the skirt.

I find there’s a real tension in sewing between finishing something nicely and being able to fit as you sew. I certainly ran into that a *lot* with this dress. Because of the piping and ribbon, it was impossible to alter the side-seams and take it in there. I wound up taking the excess (yes, even going down a size, I still took out about an inch) at the back zipper (tapering to nothing below the waist), which I think contributes to some of the odd folding around the back, not to mention the way the side-seams run towards the back. Oh, well.

Front view

I had opted to add inseam pockets, but they were a bit bulky for the fairly slim skirt, and just didn’t look right, so off they came. I suppose I can put them in something else if I really feel the need…

Hem facing.

I liked the length un-hemmed (remembering I lost an inch when I shortened the waist), so I decided to use up some more stash—this time a red bias hem facing I bought way back when I was finishing my Lady Grey jacket and waffling over the best way to finish that hem. I do like hem facings, although probably this particular fabric didn’t need any more body at the hem. I really like the flash of red there, though.

Fun with Filters

All in all I’m pretty tickled. I could wish it was a little more figure hugging or didn’t have this or that odd hang-up, but for what it is, it’s pretty sweet, especially since summer has arrived in southern Alberta (possibly for the first time in the five years I’ve lived here) and we’ve had several days of +25C (that’s over 80F) temperatures, with more to come. It passed 30C today, and I couldn’t be happier. Ok, if someone called up and offered me a million-dollar contract to be their personal stylist and technical illustrator, I might be happier…

And it’s superhero-y.


Well, unless I have to go up against Cationess.


Filed under Sewing

Children, magazines

My husband’s aunt (who is only a few years older than him) just invited us down for her daughter’s birthday (her daughter, my husband’s cousin, is Syo’s age.) Since they live quite a bit closer than the rest of the family, and we are always saying we’ll come down and then failing to, I was excited. I know she sews a little bit (sock monkeys have been mentioned), so I asked if a home-made gift would be welcome.

On being assured that it was, and getting a rough (very rough) estimate of the daughter’s size, I pulled out my two summer Young Image magazines and began leafing through.

After a fair bit of angsting, I decided on this pattern, from the original (2011) summer issue. Which is not only really cute, but has ties (adjustable) and a drawstring through the top (adjustable) and a raised “waist” so her actual body dimensions won’t matter so much.

Young Image Sundress

Fabric selection was actually easy-peasy. I found this seersucker in the clearance at Fabricland ages and ages ago, and picked up 3m (I think it was $1.50/m) with the express intention of making dresses for little girls. Unfortunately it didn’t seem quite right for *my* little girls, and I hadn’t gotten around to making something for my little nieces with it. But it seemed perfect for this gift project. (Yes, for those of you paying attention, this is the same fabric as I suggested for my Fantasy Pyjamas. Don’t worry, there’s plenty left…)

Sparkle seersucker

Anyway, the other night I managed to trace of the pattern, and yesterday, as I muzzily clawed my way back towards “normal” functioning, I finished cutting out the fabric and started assembling. I didn’t get ridiculously far, but I did manage to construct front and back skirt panels, some shoulder-ties, and some ruffle trim for the front overlay.

Skirt front

That’s an overlay on the front skirt, by the way; the pattern pieces for the skirt itself are identical front and back. I didn’t realize that until I actually started tracing out the pattern. It makes the construction much simpler.

Next confession: after figuring out how many times the skirt-pattern-piece had to be cut out (five pairs, for 10 panels, as it turned out) I haven’t even glanced at the instructions.

The Dread Ruffler

I did, however, do battle once again with my rolled-hem foot to finish the edge of the overlay and the edges of the ruffling strip. It was almost disappointingly well-behaved after the bias silky polyester. Not having much in the way of seams to go over certainly helped…

Feeling cocky at my triumph, I decided to tackle using the ruffler foot to gather my finished strip. And not just any ruffler foot, no, the ruffler for the Domestic Special*, far and away the most terrifying of my sewing machines. Actually, the machine works perfectly well, I just keep trying to use the more exotic attachments it came with, with decidedly mixed results. Which really isn’t the machine’s fault. The main thing with the ruffler is to remember to lower the presser foot before you start stitching. You can’t actually tell the difference, visually, because the foot is so bulky and the fabric feeds through it rather than under it, so it’s easy to forget, and disaster will ensue.

I normally reserve ruffler feet for things where I need vast quantities of ruffling of indeterminate gather ratio. This length was decidedly intermediate, although the consistent, fixed gather-ratio is nice for a trim. I wouldn’t say that in this case it was any great time-saver, since I had to make several samples to figure out what my gather-ratio was and which setting was increasing vs. decreasing it. But, it was fun anyway, and the needle did not shimmy out of position, nor did it strike the edge of the throat plate and shatter, which is what typically happens when I use the ruffler on my Janome. Of course, sewing the ruffled strip down was a whole ‘nother continent of annoying, but that’s certainly not the ruffler’s fault (after all, it’s perfectly possible to ruffle and stitch-down in one pass, if I had the guts to attempt it.)

Bias-cut bodice and chalk pencil

For the bodice, I tried cutting out on the diagonal to make chevroned stripes (the lining and underlining are on the straight grain). We’ll see how that turns out. The stripe-matching on the skirt sections is pretty much a dog’s breakfast, but I was much more meticulous about the bodice. I hope.

Also, Fabricland’s current 50% off sale on notions persuaded me to pick up this nifty, if rather expensive, Dritz chalk-pencil gadget. I’m always looking for something that will make marks efficiently and accurately. So far it seems pretty decent—not as accurate as the wash-away marker, but a little easier to lay down in large segments (like when tracing a pattern piece). A lot will depend on my ability to keep from losing it, or shattering the chalk refills.

All right. Now, much as I’d like to go down and sort out the rest of this little dress, my house needs to be rescued from three days of illness-related neglect. Ouch!

*Mostly because the Domestic and Janome are the two machines set up right now and and I hate using the ruffler on my Janome—something about the lighter weight of the modern machine just lends itself to vibrating the needle loose or jamming and breaking a needle.


Filed under Sewing

Not an impressive day

Expectation, I suppose, is the problem.

I started today with great expectations. The hubs was working (poor him) so all I had to do was get the house recovered from its weekday-chaos state and then I could sew. The kids had friends over all day, which contributes somewhat to the chaos but a lot more to the “me being left alone”, so everything was great. I had cut and started sewing up the muslin for hubs’ frock/Matrix coat yesterday, so I finished that up pretty quickly.

And then, I was at a loss.

I tend to sew with a bit of a one-track mind—start project, finish project, next project. I don’t multitask well at the best of times. And usually this works fairly well. But my brain was oozing COAT, and I couldn’t do any more on the coat until hubs came home and deigned to try it on—which could take days.

Fingers twitching, I moved to another project occupying the sewing table, a shirred-bodice dress for Syo using up the last of the fabric from my niece’s Mini-Minnie dress. A little more mindless than I was looking for, but not as exhausting as pulling out, say, a blazer pattern and starting a muslin for me.

Enjoy this picture. This is as good as it gets.

Unfortunately, it was finished in fairly short order.

Flailing, I pulled out fabrics and put them down. Dug through the scrap bin. Hunted for elastics, considering making undies. Eventually pulled out my knit-tee sloper and started to mess around. I’d like to make a cowl-dress like Oona’s. I even have some gorgous red jersey. Oona used Ichigogirl’s cowl-dress pattern, which I’ve made before as a shirt and found a bit too deep-necked for me. I wanted something with a wider, shallower drape. So I traced out my sloper and played around with slashing and spreading.

Cowl neck

I am thinking that slashing and spreading is a REALLY BAD method of getting a cowl that drapes the way you want. I would be better off draping the cowl part on the dummy and somehow merging that with my sloper. Or something. Because I keep coming up with some pretty “meh” cowls… and when I do knock it out of the ballpark, it’s pretty darn accidental.

It’s not awful, but it’s not quite what I was going for, either.

Raglan sleeve (with bust gather)

Determined to salvage something from this particular fabric, I pulled out the raglan-sleeve top. Boring, but dependable, and despite the insanely good weather (high of 29C today!!!!) I will be wanting long sleeves very much, very soon. In this fabric, there was plenty of stretch to experiment with bust-gathering.

Back view

I think it will be OK after I take a couple of inches off each side. This is the same pattern a the Where’s Waldo shirt, of course, but that fabric had very little stretch, while this stuff grows while you look at it.

And then the hubs got home and it was time to make pizza (why did I decide to use the oven on an actual hot day?)

Shoes make everything better?

At least I found some cute shoes at the thrift store yesterday (a small consolation considering the entire pattern section has been purged. There wasn’t any good fabric, either.)

I guess three pretty-much-finished objects is pretty good for one day (even if they’re all ridiculously simple pieces). I guess I was expecting to have something I was excited about, though.

Those darned expectations…


Filed under Sewing

Happy Birthday to me…

Grecian Sundress---Knee-Length Version

I live in a tree
I look like a…

Hmm, never mind that.

Grecian Sundress Front

So, ehm, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is I have a new dress! The bad news is I underestimated the time it would take me to get the pattern graded—or rather, I significantly underestimated the amount of time I would spend this past weekend traipsing along the creekbed taking photographs of the enormous (insert sarcasm font) fish my family are catching. Given how rare weather like this up here, especially this late in the season, I’m not even going to apologize for it. But anyway.

So, at this exact moment the pattern is still only available in Tanit-size, which is roughly a Burda size 36 or a Big 4 size 10/12. The good news is that this style is REALLY forgiving. There’s plenty of ease, you can adjust the length of the shoulders by adjusting your gathers, and adjust for various bust sizes by altering where you start your shirring.

Either way, you can now find the pattern:

Grecian Sundress Instructions

Grecian Sundress Pattern—US Letter version

Grecian Sundress Pattern—A4 version

And I WILL get it graded, really, really soon.

Grecian Sundress Back

So, what’s there to say about this version of the dress?

The fabric is a print I’ve been eyeing at Fabricland for ages now, but it finally made itself through the marked-down section to the final clearance, which like most things was 50% off this past weekend, so for $2/m I finally bit. It’s a really nice weight for this pattern. I’m not 100% sure the crinkled look was intentional, but I liked it and it also works well with this pattern, so I didn’t go too crazy with the iron. I did do some ironing-down of the pleats, and when I wash it I may even try giving it the  full-out broomstick-skirt treatment, which I think would look fun.

I had been planning on another maxi (gee, surprise?) but it turned out that 3m of 150 cm-wide fabric (all that was left on the bolt) is not enough for the maxi length of this dress. Be warned. I could have made it about tea-length, but decided to go with my just-above-knee cutting line for demonstration purposes. And, y’know, it’s a length I like. I’ve also included a tunic-length cutting line as I feel like this would make an interesting tunic. I’ll get around to that one of these days…

Shirring: cute, not so straight

Incidentally, in the instructions I suggest that you use an elastic tied under the bust to mark the location of your top line of shirring. This way you get it in the exact right place, and it’ll look straight when it’s on you. I did NOT do it this way, just marked the line from the pattern and shirred away, and as a result my shirring does not run in a straight line around my body. Lean from my mistakes! 😉

I feel cute.

This version doesn’t have quite the stepped-out-of-a-marble-sculpture elegance of my first version, but I like it, and it feels light and summery and casual, perfect for throwing on to a barbecue (which is what I did today) or even pulling over a bathing suit at the beach. Which means I’ll get exactly three wears out of it before the weather turns, but hey.

It probably SHOULD have a slip or at least a lining in the lower section (maybe attached at the start of the shirring). Partly because the fabric’s a wee bit sheer (and I don’t think this design would work well with a heavy fabric anyway—too much bulk in the gathered shoulders) and partly because it catches on my butt like nobody’s business. You have no idea how many rear shots it took to get one that isn’t hung up on my backside. Mind you, my swayback doesn’t help.

I had meant to hunt down links to some tutorials on shirring and maybe a narrow hem, but it’s late and I want to get this post up tonight, so I’ll do that in the future (or post your own favourite link in the comments 😉 )


Filed under Sewing

The Mini Minnie Dress

Fyon's Mini Minnie Dress

I firmly maintain that Minnie Mouse has no monopoly on red with white polkadots, any more than Miss Piggie has a monopoly on pink. Nonetheless, this is the thing I have heard second-most-often about this dress, in either of its iterations. Sheesh. Fortunately, the most-often-heard thing has been random, awesome compliments. And despite being first on the list to make the Minnie Mouse crack, my ever-sweet husband has also requested specifically that I wear my version several times, so it must be a winner. Sigh.

This is the version created for my four-year-old niece, who requested it last month, with much batting of eyelashes and many applications of  “Auntie, I love you!” Let’s just say that as long as the cute holds out, she should do well in life. You may have to click through to the full size version to see the polkadots on this one. They are small, but I promise you they are there.

Young Image Summer 2011 patterns

The pattern I used as a base is Y1109 from the Young Image Magazine Summer 2011 issue (third down on the left in the image above). You can browse through the whole magazine here, but it won’t let me link to a specific page; there’s a good view of the dress on p. 19. It had the right general lines, in particular the centre-front bodice panel.

I made the size 104, the smallest for this pattern; my niece is 106 cm tall, although her bust and hips were a little narrower than the 104 called for. Still, I’m glad I used the 104 rather than a smaller size (had one been available)—the amount of ease is fine but definitely not excessive.

Naturally I couldn’t just make it up as is. So this is not really a fair review of the pattern or the magazine, although I did use all of the pattern pieces provided. The instructions are, well, distinctly translated, and in so many languages it can be a bit tricky to figure out where the information you want is; it’s mostly segregated by language, but not entirely. Also, the pattern pages are only marked in two languages, neither of them English (my guess is Dutch and German, but I confess I didn’t actually pay attention), so be prepared to do some translating. That being said, they’re not nearly so over-crowded as Burda pages and each pattern has its own colour, so that part was not bad at all.

Dress back

The pattern calls for a rear zipper in the bodice (not extending into the skirt as far as I can tell), but I opted for buttons, instead. You do have to add seam allowances. They may tell you that somewhere, but if so I didn’t find it. I just figured that all the European pattern magazines (maybe European patterns in general?) don’t have seam allowances, and an examination of the size/shape of the pieces will confirm that.  If I’d been less pressed for time I would’ve read up a bit more on how much to add for a centre button placket, but I was in a hurry, so I winged it. It’s not exactly ideal. I should probably have drafted facings or used a self-lining (which I think is what the pattern calls for), but I didn’t. And I’m balls at understitching, so my white cotton lining peeks out a fair bit. Ah, well. I also put the straps on the wrong side, I’m pretty sure they are supposed to angle with the shoulders, not puff up the way they do, but they look cute anyway.

Underskirt for dress for niece.

The skirt in the pattern has a slightly-gathered, shaped upper portion and a ruffled lower portion. In the photo (page nineteen of the magazine, again, but I can’t do a direct link and I don’t have the physical magazine with me to photograph), the dress has quite a deep ruffle on the lower part of the skirt; it looks much shorter on the technical illustration, which I found rather confusing. There’s no pattern piece for this, which is fine as it’s just a rectangle, but I couldn’t find the information on how deep it should be, either, just how wide it should be at the different sizes. My original dress had a simple dirndl skirt, so I did that for my niece’s version, too, but I used the pattern-piece provided, plus a lower ruffle tier, for the underskirt. I was winging it for the length at that point—I did a quick comparison with some dresses from Tyo’s closet that I thought were in the right ballpark length—overshot, and wound up hacking about four inches off the top of the underskirt. Ah, well. It all gathers to the waist, anyway ;). For extra flouff, I gathered some tulle onto the underskirt. I should’ve used more. I also couldn’t use my favourite gathering technique, the zig-zag over a supplementary thread, as my zig-zagger was frozen at this point (she’s in the shop as we speak), so that was a wee bit annoying. Yes, I used the gathering foot, but getting the precise length was not happening so I wound up hand-basting and gathering it that way anyway. *headdesk*.


Instead of little ruffles on the centre front panel, I made an altered, double-length version of the CF piece to create the ruching. Gather it to the side-front pieces, construct bodice as usual.

Buttons closeup

I was a little concerned about the button-placket not extending into the skirt. After all, even on rectangular little children, you want to be able to open it a little below the waist, right? So after some cogitation, I decided to add in an extra-wide continuous lap placket at the centre back to finish off the button placket. Of course, for these to work properly you really have to fold the outer edge of the placket to the inside, which I completely forgot to do. So it’s a bit wonky in that area. Fortunately it’s pretty much hidden in the gathers, anyway. And cute ladybug buttons make up for all manner of flaws.

I have been having some fun being the sewing fairy, I must admit. I have been refusing to sew for my adult relations (well, unless they come to visit me for fittings, which, considering we live 600 km away, is a bit of a deterrent), but this summer I dared to hand down a couple of pieces. My stylish sister-in-law had greatly admired this sundress last year when I wore it, and after thinking about it, I decided to give it to her. I still like it a lot, but it feels like a lounging-by-the-lake (or in the back yard) kind of dress, something she does a lot more of than I (which is not to say she is lazy, quite the opposite, but she is currently at home with small children in a house with no AC, rather than spending her days in an overly-cooled lab like I do). Rather more recently, I made a tunic cloning a RTW one that I absolutely love. I liked the clone, too, but it was a bit too short through the body. So with some trepidation, I handed it over to my going-on-fourteen-year-old-niece. I am absolutely terrified of trying to sew something for anyone in this age-set without their direct input, but figured it had a better chance of working for her than for me and was reasonably stylish reasonably recently, and she steals lots of clothes from my stylish sister-in-law (I should perhaps clarify that my stylish sister-in-law is the mother of the four-year-old who received the Minnie dress, but NOT of the fourteen-year-old), who I feel pretty comfortable about guessing styles for. Anyway, she claims she likes it and as she’s only 5′ 1″, the length issue is rather less on her. So we’ll see. I still need to make the longer version…

Oona, this one's for you

Before I left on vacation, I did bring home one more piece of thrift store fabric: this crazy border-print. There’s only about a metre, but it’s very wide. Whatever it gets made into will obviously be dedicated to Oona of the Carnival Stash.

Whew! I must now return to hanging out with my in-laws, soaking up the sun, and wrangling somewhat obscene numbers of small children. Gotta love vacation…


Filed under Sewing

Sometimes you just have to walk away.


McCall's 3415

I have a feeling this dress is going to spend a little while in the Magic Closet.* You know when you reach that point when you’ve unpicked a seam so many times the whole thing just starts to look mashed and no matter how well you re-stitch it it’s still going to be a bit wonky? Yeah. I’m there.

That being said, I think once I’ve had a little bit of space I’ll quite like this dress. We just need a bit of time.

Front view

So, after all y’all’s** sage advice last week, I put on my big girl panties and unpicked the skirt (yes, removing zipper in the process), and made Alterations.

Specifically, I lopped 15 cm (about 6″) off the top, re-cutting using the top of the pattern but blending out to a wider width quite quickly (maybe a little too quickly…). In my paranoia over having enough ease I actually made the skirt a bit wider even at the top, electing to ease that in.

Side view

This fabric doesn’t ease so well, did I mention? Well, I mean, it does—there’s no pleats in the seam—but it sure shows the puckers. Not even going to go into how many times it took me to get the zipper straight and smooth and matching up, either. On the up side, I did get it smooth and relatively straight (and relatively invisible!) eventually, so I shan’t whine too much. And I did a slightly better job stitching on the bodice lining on the inside this time, although with all the grading and clipping and fraying from being unpicked so many times it still doesn’t look peachy. But I think I have the theory down, anyway.

Back view

There are still some issues with how the back hangs—I think somewhere in my alterations the grain got a bit skewed—but at least it’s not straining over my hips and making my belly look like a stuffed sausage anymore. (It actually looks way better in this pic than when I’m just standing straight.  I miss the pockets, though. I wonder how much more work it would be to put them back in, now there’s enough ease for them… (walk away, Tanit, walk away…)

Hem facing

Having removed six inches in length, I didn’t really want to lose much more in the hem, so I put back the hem lace I’d been planning to use and dug out a package of teal hem-tape from one of my thrift-store scores that’s probably been in its package since about the time this pattern was new. I actually really like using a bias facing in curved hems like this. It works a bit better if you “circle” it first—iron it while stretching it into a curve.

Hem facing

Plus after thirty-odd years in the package it really needed to be ironed. Fortunately the skirt is quite narrow, as it was only a 1.85m package, and I had to discard about eight inches at one end where the tape that held the end in place all those years had turned yellow and marked up the fabric. I had just enough. The hem facing is a fair bit darker than the rest of the dress, but I think it’s a fun flash of colour. And it gives me the feel of a full, yummy 2.5″ hem without losing more than about 2 cm in length.

Having said all that, I have to admit something.

Halter styles are something I have a problem with. Meaning, I like them. I love the exposed back, I love how they look on other people and on pattern illustrations. But somehow when I see them on myself, I always feel line-backer-ish. Like they just emphasize the breadth of my shoulders. I keep making them because I really like the idea. And I keep thinking that next time, it’ll look “right.” There probably should be a name for this kind of stylistic insanity. On the other hand, I am actually liking the photos a lot better than I like the reflection in the mirror, so perhaps its one of those things where my brain exaggerates what I’m seeing beyond all reason.

Anyway, I’m hoping that some time in the Magic Closet will help me forget about most of my issues with the dress. Although the halter one’s probably there to stay. Next up: jackets in summertime. Unless the Lonsdale pattern arrives, anyway ;).

*You know. Where self-made pieces go to wait out the period while you forget all the stupid mistakes and messes you made.

**I don’t actually talk like this, but it sure is fun to write sometimes. Also my town is infected with cowboys at the moment, so it would be surprising if I didn’t have at least a few symptoms.


Filed under Sewing

McCall’s 3415: Pride, fall, yadda, yadda

McCall's 3415

I am feeling summery-dressy.  What better way to move on to my next sundress triumph than to finally get around to the lovely McCall’s 3415? I love this pattern so much—the sleek line, empire waist, CF seam. The high, round-neck version is my favourite. And I just happened to have this fabric perfectly matching view C on the pattern envelope. I pulled out the pieces, did some quick tracing, pin-fitting, and even made up the bodice-lining as a kind of muslin to check the fit. Everything looked good.

What could go wrong?

Those of you with keen eyes may have noticed that this pattern is Misses’ size 10. Most of the 70s patterns I’ve made up to now have been a size 12.

Now technically both my bust and hip measurements are in between these two sizes, and I’ve read advice that when choosing a size from the big 4, if you’re between sizes, go with the smaller one. And with the few modern Big 4 patterns I’ve made for myself (hmm, that might actually only be one) I’ve ended up with the 10. But 12 seems to be a more common size in the single-size vintage patterns that have thrown themselves in my way, so I’ve often gone with that, and, at least for Simplicity, have my alterations pretty much worked out. The addition of a padded bra to bring my bust up to the official size-12 range, and I’m good to go.

I’m not nearly so clear for McCall’s patterns, having only made up one for myself, and that one being basically unfitted. And a size 12.


Still, when you’re using $2/metre thrift store fabric, you can’t really justify much in the way of muslining. So off I went. I liked where the under-bust seam was falling, so I didn’t petite the bodice. I did do a small swayback alteration in the back, but that was all. I blithely added side-seam pockets, even remembering to interface the front side seam allowance (a tip from the Marcy Tilton book) so they don’t bag out. The bodice is intended to lined, with lining and shell cut from the same pattern piece. This is of course just asking for the lining edges to roll out, especially as it would be pretty near impossible to understitch those narrow parts around the neck, and I wasn’t feeling up to painstakingly making a lining piece taking into account turn of cloth, so I went with my old standby: piping. Yay! Is it possible for a wardrobe to have too much piping? We shall see…

Piping and button-loops

The pattern instructs you to use hooks and eyes for the non-overlapping closure at the back of the neck. I’m not a fan of hooks and eyes generally, and this definitely seemed a little flimsy (not to mention Becky Home-Ecky), so I made little tiny spaghettie strap button loops. I cut them on the bias, used the bobby-pin method to turn them, steamed and stretched and ironed the crap out of them until they were as skinny as I could get them, and I think I’m in love. I’m also a little astonished I was able to find a bobby-pin in my house, but anyway. The cute little buttons are from the stash, and probably are of a similar vintage to the pattern, if not older.


And then I got it all stitched up, minorly flubbing the invisible zip because I was too lazy in the zone to re-read Sherry’s tutorial. It’s okay, not great, and I did have to rip to re-position the waist seams so they matched.

And then I made my worst mistake yet. I tried it on.


Oops. Ok, so it’s not totally, totally awful. The bodice is pretty much perfect, barring a small amount of gaping at the sides that probably has more to do with my poor fabric-handling technique than anything else. But that is, ah, a wee bit MAJORLY tight through the hips. And there’s the wrinkling in the back. And a bit of gaping over the pockets, probably to do with the tightness in the hips (the Marcy Tilton book also discusses the amount of ease you need to have side-seam pockets in a skirt, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have it here. Also the side-seam swings back, suggesting I need a bit more booty room. This is, shall we say, a bit unusual for me.Hmm.So, depending on how you squint your eyes, I did one of two (possibly three things wrong. Arguably I should have shortened the upper part of the skirt to accommodate my short waist, which would basically bring up the wider part lower down to where the width is needed. Alternatively, slashing and spreading to widen the skirt from waist down would’ve done much the same thing. For fun, I took a tuck with a bunch of pins.


I didn’t do as good a job pinning up the back (it’s tricky with the zipper) but I think that’s a definitely improvement in the front. The side-seams are still pulling back a bit, though, which I think means that more booty-ease is still needed in the back.

All of which is fascinating, but doesn’t help me save the dress’s current incarnation. At this point I’m considering removing the pockets and just making the side-seam as small as I can, but since I already serged the seam this won’t increase it by much. Maybe enough to at least lose the worst of that stuffed-sausage look, though… Alternatively I could try an add a godet at each side-seam, but that seems risky, too…


Filed under Sewing