Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Miss Marguerite Blows Out the Candles: Sew Over It Marguerite Dress

Good afternoon, kittens! 

This past weekend, I turned 33, a delightfully palindromic age that required quite a bit of celebration. There was Black Forest Cake, a bird-festooned pink birthday crown, lots of family togetherness, and--of course--a brand new dress. This year, I decided to try the Sew Over It Marguerite Dress, one of the newest patterns from the prolific British pattern company. 

I own two other Sew Over It patterns, but fizzled out after making muslins. Their pattern block is drafted for someone with radically different proportions than my own, so it's easier to draft a garment myself or find a similar pattern. While I love their designs, they're not ideal for tall, busty women. I need darts and extra length and wearing ease! 

The Marguerite Dress, however, was too pretty to pass up. It features a fitted waistband with a gathered bodice, full gathered skirt, and dolman sleeves. While it's designed for woven fabrics, I own a ready-to-wear dress that is almost identical and made of a stable ponte knit. I've meant to knock off that dress for years, so it seemed like a great birthday project. 

How does one take a woven pattern and make it suitable for knits? Knits don't need much, if any, wearing ease, which necessitates a few simple changes. A good rule of thumb is to size down at least one size, remove any closures, and use construction techniques you already love from other knit patterns. To alter the Marguerite Dress, I traced off the pattern and made some fairly simple alterations: 

  1. Sized down. For a woven, by my measurements, I should have used the UK 20/US 16 size. Instead, I traced off a blend of UK16 (at the shoulders and waist) and UK18 (at the hips). 
  2. Eliminated the back zipper. I took the seam allowance out of the back pieces, then cut them on the fold, to get rid of the closure all together. (For this version of the dress, I almost ran out of fabric, so actually had to seam the back bodice anyway.)
  3. Rotated out the dart. This is one of the few SOI patterns where there actually is a dart in the bodice side seam. The one time I don't want one! To get rid of it, I rotated the dart into the bodice gathers and made the gathering a wider section. 
  4. Full Bust Adjustment. I lengthened the center front of the bodice an inch and did a cheater's FBA for a knit bodice. 
  5. Bound the edges. Instead of using the included facings and cuffs, I bound the armscyes and necklines. My usual method for making bindings is to measure the opening, then cut a strip 15% smaller. This worked well for the neckline, but I wanted to leave the sleeve shape, so I cut those using the same measurement as the original armscye length. 
  6. Added clear elastic. There is clear elastic in the shoulder seams and both waistband seams of this dress, so that it doesn't bag out over time. The waistband elastic is covered on the inside by a facing, so that it doesn't irritate my skin. Strictly speaking, you could also face the waistband in a very stable knit, to prevent bagging out, if you hate elastic.
  7. Lengthened skirt. Even with a knit, I'm still too tall for this pattern! To that end, I lengthened the skirt by two inches. 
Aside from the structural pattern changes, switching the pattern to a knit made construction much, much easier. I sewed everything with either my serger (for major seams) or a lightning bolt stitch (for fiddly bits), then finished the skirt hem with a twin needle. Poof! A chic knit dress in less than three hours.

The fabric for this dress is the real star, despite all the focus I've put on the pattern. This is a gorgeous floral cotton jersey that was given to me by the generous and lovely Susan of Moon Thirty, a few years ago. We met up at Chuy's, ate our weight in Tex Mex, and talked endlessly about sewing and blogging and general creativity. Since then, I've hoarded this fabric, waiting for the right pattern to come along. Of all the pieces I own, this fabric is one of the most "me" prints in my entire stash. It's the pretty--but not dowdy-- dark background, richly colored modern floral print of my dreams. It's all the more special knowing that it came from one of my favorite sewing friends. 

In the end, I was inordinately pleased with how well the fabric matched with my knit-friendly Marguerite pattern. The jersey has a really nice stretch, so the dress looks fancy and ultra-femme, but feels like yoga pants. Since having a baby, I value stretch in my garments 100 times more. It's not only the ability to move freely, but the actual comfort of it. I haven't been able to abide tight waistbands, since having Louisa. Anything constricting drives me mad, thus rendering many of my old projects unwearable. This dress, though, blends both my aesthetic love of floofy femininity and my newfound need for comfort. Joy! 

This Marguerite was such a success that I've already made another one and cut out two further. We're going to languish in summertime for a few months longer, so sensible, comfy dresses will get plenty of wear before sweater season starts. Even then, I think these would layer up well with booties and a cropped cardigan! 

What are you sewing during these transitional months, friends? Do you have any patterns that work even better in a knit than a woven?

Currently Reading: My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
Currently Listening: Dressed Podcast (Specifically, the recent interview with Dr. Colleen Darnell, Egyptologist and vintage fashion enthusiast.)

Note: Any Amazon links on this post and other posts are affiliate links. If you click through and buy something, I get a small percentage of the sale. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Miss Babette and the Rose Imposters: Burda 07/2016 #124

Good afternoon, kittens! Somehow, it's been a year since I last blogged. 

Well, I say somehow. We all know the actual how of it, don't we? A wee bouncing bundle of joy who just turned 10 months old. If you follow me on Instagram, you've met her already, but to quickly catch everyone up to speed: 
  • We had a baby. 
  • Her name is Louisa and she is the most adorable creature who's ever existed. 
  • She is also shockingly high maintenance, because it turns out humans are born without any survival skills whatsoever. Who knew how many times a day I'd have to prevent such a charming, brilliant child from eating dog hair? I certainly didn't.
Thus, no blogging. Like many before me, keeping a child alive took precedence over blogging. We've also been renovating our house, traveling, and working like crazy. It has been a year, y'all. A happy, tiring, glorious mess of a year. 

More recently, this summer, I also signed on to be part of a Burdastyle program that connects bloggers with the magazine. (They're calling us influencers, which I can't say about myself with a straight face, though I know it's the accepted parlance nowadays.) Despite subscribing to Burda for a few years now, the issues sat mostly untouched on my bookshelves, serving as gorgeous inspiration but rarely anything else. There are so many of their patterns I've been meaning to make for eons, that signing on to make one a month seemed like a good way to work through that list. Ostensibly, I'm getting a free pattern a month, but...I do already own the last two years (plus a few) of back issues. I'm aiming to check some projects off my list and provide a bit more lived experience for anyone interested in Burda's plus size lines. 

That's all to say: Look! I made a thing! 

This is Blouse #124 from the July 2016 issue of BurdaStyle. This entire collection, the Closet Swap, counts as something that I've wanted to make. 2016 was the year that, in my opinion, Burda began to really up its game with plus size patterns. Suddenly, they were some of the cutest patterns in the whole magazine. This woven wrap blouse, with its close-fitting silhouette and cute cap sleeves, is a great example of that new direction. 

I love wrapped silhouettes, especially in woven fabrics, but they're hard to find drafted specifically for plus sizes. The number of wonky, poorly sized bodices I've wrestled with, trying to nail this silhouette, boggles my mind. More boggling still, is how few modifications I made to this pattern. A narrow shoulder adjustment, a small FBA. 

That. Is. It. 

Before I go into raptures over the finished result, let's talk about the process. I already owned the July 2016 issue of BurdaStyle and had previously traced this pattern off, though in a size bigger than my current measurements. For this blouse, I retraced the pattern in a size 48, using a double tracing wheel and bee paper

Why the double tracing wheel? All digital and magazine Burda patterns, as with most other sewing magazines, do not include seam allowances. Many sewists prefer this, as it makes the patterns easier to adjust and lets you add your own preferred seam allowance width. For Americans especially, used to envelope patterns and Indie PDFs, this can be a little difficult to navigate at first. (It was for me!) Honestly, it's no big deal and doesn't add any time, as long as you know about it going in and pick a good option to deal with it. A double tracing wheel is super effective, but my other quick-and-dirty method for tracing is to use two classic sharpies taped together. Voila! Instant 1/2" seam allowance. 

Tracing from the magazine really isn't that much of a headache either, as the lines are easy to see and reasonably spaced apart. I highlight the size I need, throw the bee paper over it, then trace away! If that sounds dreadful though, Burda does offer all of its patterns in PDF form. I find tracing from a magazine quicker than taping together a PDF, but everyone's preferences are different. 

Constructing this pattern was just challenging enough to keep things interesting. The wrap bodice is finished with a neckline facing, which is top stitched in place to look like a separate band, while a self-facing on the skirt portion finishes the outside edge. Burda's directions are sparser than the usual Big 4 pattern, but this pattern magic was still easy enough to navigate.

I did sub out the armscye facings for simple bias tape, because armscye facings are evil and should be vanquished. They are temperamental, require much more finesse, and provide the same finish as bias tape. Why would anyone suffer through them? If you're not doing a couture or vintage finish on a garment, make some bias tape from your leftover fabric and life will be easier. 

The fabric used for this blouse looks like Liberty of London Carline,'s actually the knock-off Carline print that Gertie did for JoAnn Fabrics. It's a lightweight clipped dot cotton lawn and, while not nearly as luxe as the original, it's still beautiful and easy to work with. When I bought this fabric, Carline was fully discontinued, but Liberty has since brought it back in all colorways. That means I can stop hoarding the real stuff in my stash, right? While I've outgrown a lot of my style loves from the past 10 years, this fabric remains one of my favorite prints of all time. It's such a chic, timeless take on florals. 

Y'all, I feel a little swoony over this pattern. What took me so long to make this blouse? It is exactly what I've been looking for in a woven wrap. It fits well, doesn't have oodles of weird bust wrinkles, and makes my usual jeans and ballet flats infinitely chicer. I may need 100 more of these in my closet. I especially love the little cap sleeves, which keep the top breezy, but elevate the style another notch.

Though I'm usually a commitment phobic sewist, this blouse makes me excited about signing on to the Burda program. If their plus size block can produce a reliably well-fitting wrap, something so many other patterns failed to do, what else can it achieve? Next up, I'm trying a pair of jersey pants, so I'll keep you posted on how the experiment continues. 

Note: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon, which is something I'm trying out, since I link to them so often. If you purchase through those links, I will get a small referral percentage from the sale. The Burda links do not make any money and the pattern was one I already owned, though it was offered for free. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Cashmerette Concord Tee: Maternity Pattern Hacks


Good afternoon, kittens! Life is in full on baby mode at Chez Fancy. Our guest room is mid-transformation into a nursery, we spent an absurd amount on the world's safest car seat, and boxes of hand-me-down girl clothes regularly appear on our doorstep.* 

My sewing is also pretty maternity focused, these days. It seems like overnight I went from wearing regular jeans to needing gigantic stretchy panels in every garment. Apparently, that's a thing that happens when you're seven-and-a-half months pregnant. While many of my current projects can eventually double as normal clothes, they're ideal for my current (and growing!) body. Even better, I haven't bought any additional maternity patterns since that first shopping flurry. Instead, I'm modifying straight size patterns that already fit well. 

Unsurprisingly, Cashmerette patterns top my list of easiest to modify. Both the Turner Dress and the Concord T-Shirt have been hacked to death for my maternity whims. So much so that I wrote up two tutorials for BERNINA's We All Sew blog to share my favorite Concord hacks, a swing top and a classic maternity tee

*We have the loveliest group of local friends, many of whom have girls slightly older than ours. We couldn't be luckier! It's like having a committee of baby stuff fairy godmothers. 

Cashmerette Concord Swing Top

Of all the non-maternity clothes that I've worn during pregnancy, swing tees have gotten the most mileage. I love them with jeans, when I'm not pregnant, and with pretty much every skirt or pair of trousers when I am. They hide a baby bump well, are super breezy in the Texas heat, and take an hour to whip up. Who could ask for more?

When the Closet Case Ebony Tee came out, I insta-bought that pattern. The high-low hem and volume of swing kept me from actually making it up, however. It was perfect for my non-pregnant swing tee requirements, but not quite right for my maternity needs. Did I really want to print out and stick together an entire pattern that would need more fiddling? Absolutely not. I am already gestating a human. There's no energy to spare for needless hours of PDF assembly.  

Instead, I pulled the Concord T-shirt out and started slashing and spreading. I wanted the swing to start at the bust, to give some illusion of shape, and dropped the hemline lower to make up for that growing middle. It's a fairly quick adjustment and one that's proved invaluable to my maternity wardrobe. Thank heavens drapey, flowy styles are in fashion right now!

All of my swing tops have been made up in rayon jersey, like this abstract pink one from Mood. There is no better fabric for hot, humid summers, y'all. Cool, breathable, and drapey, it makes that suffocating cushion of heat more bearable. I'm pretty sure that being extra super pregnant through the summer is the universe's way of giving my mom revenge for my own September-in-Florida birthday. Swingy rayon tops are a good way to survive now...and the next two months. 

Obviously, these shirts also double as non-maternity wear. Throw them on with skinny jeans and a nursing cami, this fall, and I'm both comfortable and pulled together. Pardon me, while I make a million other versions...

Concord Maternity Tee

In the vein of true maternity wear, I've also whipped up a couple of classic maternity tees. You know the ones: long hemlines, ruched sides, enough room for the sentient watermelon attached to your torso. They sell for $25 a pop in stores, even though they're the simplest garments in the world. I just cannot bring myself to pay money for such shirts! They're practical and necessary, but sewing my own seemed much more reasonable. And cost effective. And less likely to make me resent polyester content in fabric. 

This adjustment may be even easier than the Swing Top hack. All that's needed to turn your favorite t-shirt pattern into a maternity top is added length to the front piece, which is then ruched up into the side seams. Voila! A watermelon pocket! I haven't put on any weight or changed base sizes (I've actually lost a bit, thanks to intense food aversions. Oh, pregnancy brain, why have you forsaken bacon?), so no added width at the hips is needed either. For the tunic length shirt in these photos, I added five inches of extra ruched fabric, plus another two to the center from hemline. It seems to work pretty well for my current size, with room to grow, but some bigger ones might be in the works later on. 

Once again, rayon jersey wins all the awards. This is a striped navy rayon from Mood, which I've also used for a tank dress that is getting tons of wear. My solution to maternity wear is basically swathing myself in stretchy fabrics and calling it a day. Those vintage woven maternity patterns I bought early on may get zero use, this go around. 

In addition to these basic tees, I've also sewn quite a few dress variations, as mentioned. The Turner has become everything from a cold shoulder maxi dress to a slinky, but roomy tent dress for these steamy summer days. If anyone else is interested, I was actually thinking of turning those hacks (and a few others) into a series of YouTube tutorials. 

Given how few maternity patterns there actually are, especially as you go up in size ranges, using patterns I already love has been liberating. Ready-to-wear maternity garments are notoriously poor quality and the sizing can be so off on Big 4 maternity patterns (ahem, this Butterick dress) that pattern hacking is actually a far, far easier route. That's been my experience, anyhow. 

Now, back to the world of nursery set up. We're going to pick out paint, this afternoon, which is one of my least favorite renovation duties. The variances in the color yellow boggle my mind, kittens. How many times can one person mutter, "Hmm. A bit less buttery, a bit more lemony!" without losing her mind? We shall see. Wish me luck! Thank you again for all the well wishes, on my last post!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Miss Vesper Makes Her Debut: Butterick 6226

Good afternoon, kittens! 

As my five month lapse in blogging may tell you, sewing dropped low on my priority list in 2017. This has been an eventful year, in both extraordinary and harrowing ways. We've planned and unplanned international moves (on hold for a few years), grappled with the possibility of major career changes (avoided, thank heavens), and are now getting ready for a new family member this fall. 

That last one is, obviously, the biggest and best news. We'll be welcoming a wee baby girl in September! Sam and I couldn't be more excited about this incipient little one. We've decided on  her name, picked out a nursery theme, and looked at reviews of more strollers than I knew existed. What I haven't done much of, however, is maternity sewing. After confirming that everything was on track in early February, I canvassed the internet for maternity patterns, ordering scads of both contemporary and vintage designs. Then...promptly sewed none of them.

Did you know that pregnancy has side effects? Shocking, right? I was lucky enough to avoid the morning sickness, but not some skeletal issues that make sewing for long periods of time difficult. I'm managing them well, but only by being exceedingly careful about how long I spend sitting. 

Or standing. 

Or walking. 

Or doing pretty much any one thing for long periods of time. 

Not that it's all doom and alignment gloom around here. Pregnancy has been a joyful experience, aside from navigating side effects, even if it has put a cramp in sewing binges. Thankfully, I haven't actually needed real maternity clothes until recently. Other than switching out to stretchier pants, most of my established wardrobe worked for the first twenty-or-so weeks. Colette Monetas, Myrtles, and Cashmerette Turner Dresses were in heavy rotation, but even my looser shirtdresses are only now becoming uncomfortable. 

It's getting to be that time, though. Strangers aren't asking about due dates yet, but the bump becomes more noticeable each day. Billowy maxi dresses and heavily gathered skirts suddenly sound glorious. I want to swath myself in pretty fabric, without having to worry about constricting waistbands. 

Maternity sewing will have to be slow, but hopefully I can produce a few pretty pieces for these last four months. To begin that quest, I chose Butterick 6226, a pattern that actually has positive reviews as a maternity and non-maternity dress. I love the idea of making clothes with more longevity than this summer. This pattern features a pullover, vaguely caftan-esque dress with cap or draped sleeves, three hem lengths (tunic, below-the-knee, and maxi), and even a jumpsuit variation. 
Naturally, I opted for the dramatic maxi of View E. Hooray for yards and yards of soft, drapey fabric! 

For this first version, I chose an Italian Blue and Green Floral Printed Jersey from Mood Fabrics, who have upped their knit selection lately. They have heaps of gorgeous rayon jerseys right now, though I fell head over heels for this digital, striated blue rose print. (Plus its red colorway sibling, which is also sitting in my stash.) The fabric is ideal for a billowy summer dress--cool to the touch, breathable, and not too heavy for such a gigantic skirt. It also ironed surprisingly well and didn't curl up at the ends, which is a nice change from cheaper rayon knit fabrics. 

It was even more welcome, considering how infuriating its pattern partner was. I love the final result, but the construction process made me fume. So much so that I've made a list of grievances, because yeah, I'm that annoyed. 

Gripe #1: Sizing

I've been bitten by Big 4 knit sizing, in the past. If I'm thankful to Indie pattern companies for one thing, it's introducing reasonable ready-to-wear ease standards into knit sewing patterns. This may be a maternity dress, but there is no reason that a pattern designed for moderate stretch knits should have over five inches of ease at the bustline. Good heavens, I want bump coverage, not my own rose-printed pop up tent!

Thankfully, other reviewers noted this issue. I heeded their advice and chose my size based on the finished bust measurement, which put me at a Size 16, well under my Butterick-advised 20/22 combination. This pattern would've been consigned to back-of-the-closet hell, if I'd chosen any larger.

If you make this pattern, do not under any circumstances, choose your printed size. Consider this your dire warning.

The requisite "Look! There's a human inside that blogger!" photo. 

Gripe #2: Nonsensical Construction Methods

Y'all, knit patterns should not be this fiddly. While the skirt is easy enough, the bodice is one absurd process decision after another. The side panels are not actually over-the-bust princess seams, but under-the-arm panels that do nothing but make your life harder. They do not form a smooth armscye curve, but instead a bizarre, half-sewn, half-open seam that makes getting a clean finish impossible. I ended up sewing them all the way up, instead of stopping inches short as instructed, and using loads of steam-a-seam, just to get a workable finish that didn't burn my eyes.

Worse yet, the sleeves. I knew they weren't traditional sleeves, from other reviews, but I didn't fully realize how ineffective they were. You see, they're not sleeves at all. They're just floppy fabric rectangles that partially cover your upper arms.

I just...


By all that is holy...

Look, I know pregnant women run hot, but that doesn't mean we need an open ventilation chamber under our arms. If I'm adding elbow-length sleeves to something, it's because I want actual sleeves, not dainty little fabric blankets to cover my biceps. The mess of a half-finished armscye and faux sleeves was too much to handle. I didn't add them after all and started contemplating a pattern-for-kindling bonfire.

Hair frizz + armscye of doom!

Gripe #3: Final Fit

A reminder: I went two sizes down in this pattern. Take that into consideration and look at the above photos. That obscenely low armscye! That halfway-down-my-sternum neckline! Can you imagine what the correct size would've looked like? I expected to wear a camisole under this pattern, which is good, because it would be unwearable otherwise. 

The armscye needs to be raised three inches, while the neckline needs an additional two. I also need to rotate the shoulder back a hair, but that's a spectacular non-issue, when compared with the other two. Admittedly, the long skirt is weighing the bodice down some, but it was designed for this skirt. This was all somehow intentional. Oof. 

The next time I make this, I'm redrafting the bodice entirely, eliminating the side panels and raising the arsmcye/neckline to reasonable levels. 

Oh look, an unironed hem! Sorry, kittens. I was apparently so blinded with anger, that I didn't press the hem upon finishing.
Aside from the barely contained process rage, I like this dress. A lot. 

Somehow, all the messy parts came together for a flattering, glamorous garment that receives a ton of compliments out in the world. It's bit Greek goddess, a bit ritzy resort collection caftan. That's a combination that is definitely my speed, these days. 

Even better, there is a ton of room for growing a human in this dress. Right now, it makes me look more pregnant than I look in other clothes, just from all that extra fabric in the front. Later this summer, that gathering is going to be a lifesaver! After I finish altering the bodice, I'm going to make a few more short and long versions of this dress. Though, perhaps not the jumpsuit. I can only imagine the alterations that variation might need! 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Miss Bernadette Decks the Halls: Butterick 6244 and Cashmerette Turner Dress

Good evening, kittens! There's time for one more 2016 blog post, right?

We originally had grand plans for tonight, but after two straight weeks of travel, decided to plant ourselves on the couch and watch college football instead. Sam is making steaks, I may whip up some brownies, and we'll ring in the new year in my favorite way: clad in pajamas and drinking mimosas at home. I would make such a fabulous hermit, y'all. 

Despite my introverted inclinations, we did spend most of the holidays celebrating in style. Not only were there a million parties to attend in December, but our third anniversary fell right before Christmas. Usually, I make up one fabulous holiday dress, then wear it endlessly for a month. This year, I made a dress and a coat. It wasn't overachieving, so much as self-preservation. We had a series of cold fronts, before Christmas, and I would've been a beautiful popsicle, without a festive coat to throw over my festive dress. 

No shivering under the mistletoe for me, this year!

Butterick 6244, the coat in this ensemble, is a pattern I've longed to make. It's one of the new Lisette patterns for Butterick (she moved from Simplicity, last year) designed by Liesl Gibson, of Oliver + S fame. The pattern features two pieces: a simple princess-seamed dress and a drape front coat to pair with it. The dress is cute enough, but that coat! Be still my heart. Unlined, with that dramatic collar and flat-felled seams, it's the elegant, but easy-to-sew outerwear of my dreams. 

Gorgeous versions of this coat first popped up, last winter. Lori, of Girls in the Garden, made an elegant camel version; Margot, of Creating in the Gap, made this glorious red one; and 
The Frougie Fashionista made a buffalo plaid iteration that I have coveted ever since. We had a remarkably mild winter, last year, and I never got around to cutting it out. This year, however, coats seemed like the smartest thing to sew. We had a cold snap early and those Arctic waves of weather keep on coming. I'm relishing them, if only for the opportunity to wear my favorite layers. 

For the fabric of this coat, I chose a dishy boiled wool from Mood Fabrics in cayenne red. This color is, sadly, no longer stocked on their site, but a dozen or so other colors are still available. Boiled wool is exactly what it sounds like–wool fabric that has been agitated in hot water, so that the fibers shrink up into a tighter, more felted fabric. It has a gloriously soft, nubby texture and a bit of springy stretch in one direction, thanks to this process. In addition to coats, I’ve had a couple of winter skirts made from boiled wool and they are such cozy layering pieces. It is one of my favorite fabrics to wear during colder months.

It's also a bit strange to work with. Boiled wool is densely packed, but isn't opaque. It's super warm and a bit heavy, but also drapes beautifully. This is the first of two projects that I'm using boiled wool for, this season, and I'm treating it differently in each case. This fabric works brilliantly for unstructured, drapey pieces like this one, as it doesn't unravel and has beautiful movement on its own. However,  if you add the right lining and understructure, it's also a fantastic fabric for a more structured coat. It's almost more chameleon than cloth.

The construction of this coat was about as easy as outerwear gets. There are two darts at the neckline, no lining to fuss with, and only five pieces in total. The instructions are pretty clear, with a lengthy explanation of flat-felled seams for beginners, and there’s a sew-along on the Lisette website for the entire pattern. Boiled wool doesn’t actually unravel, as mentioned above, so if you wanted to leave the drape unhemmed and the seams unfinished, this pattern would be easier. You’ll see unhemmed boiled wool in ready-to-wear all the time and it gives a bohemian, casual look to the finished garment. Despite my penchant for perfectionism, I almost did that myself. This wool looks seriously beautiful left on its own. 

In the end, though, I hemmed everything and finished all seams as instructed. The armscyes are the only seams left unfelled in the directions, which I kept out of pure laziness. The fabric is a little bulky for flat-felled seams, but it takes both pinning and pressing well, so it’s not too big of a challenge. My seams aren't perfect on the insides, but look nice and neat on the outside. I'll take that!

My only note is that, if you’re going to use boiled wool for an unlined design, expect it to wrinkle. I wore the coat for an hour, before these photos, and signs of wear are evident even after a good pressing, earlier that morning.  Its organic, unstructured nature is part of the charm, in my book. For more tailored designs, definitely consider those lining options well, however.

Underneath this coat is another version of the Cashmerette Turner Dress, which is easily my favorite pattern of the last few months. It's a simple design, but also a timeless one. Depending on fabric and design variations, soooo many different looks are possible with this pattern. Plus, those multiple cup sizes are amazing. I will never be able to praise Jenny enough for making the FBA a thing of the past. It's freeing to skip such a major fitting step! 

For this Turner, I used black and white geometric rayon jersey, also from Mood Fabrics. This fabric is extra stretchy, drapes like a dream, and has abstract hearts and circles marching diagonally across the print. It's absolutely beautiful and just a little strange, which I dig. In order to take advantage of this fabric, properly, I made a few small changes to the pattern: 
  • Rounded the neckline and subbed in a neckband, in place of the lining. 
  • Elongated the shoulder seam slightly to give it the illusion of a cap sleeve, which I thought would be fun with those diagonal stripes. 
  • Kept the 1" added to both the bodice and skirt, last time. 
Like my other knit makes, I constructed this one in the usual way. It's sewn on my machine, with a lightning bolt stitch for the seams and small zig-zag for the hems. Lightweight fusible webbing is used on both the skirt and sleeve hems to stabilize them and make sewing much, much easier. 

I really adore this pairing, y’all. A black-and-white print worn with bright red statement pieces is one of my favorite combinations, especially at the holidays. It’s festive, but also works at other times of the year. You can deck the halls or just bundle up for an elegant evening out. Even better, this coat is eerily similar to wearing a gigantic blanket. Between it and the secret pajamas factor of a knit dress, it feels like I’m cheating at dressing up! When I’ve eaten record amounts of holiday food, that’s a definite win.

Happy New Year, kittens! I hope you had a joyful holiday season, filled with friends, family, cake, and maybe even a little selfish sewing time! I'm really looking forward to seeing what 2017 has in store for us all. 

Note: The fabric for this post was provided by Mood Fabrics, free of charge, as part of my participation in the Mood Sewing Network. All opinions and thoughts are my own, however, and I choose all my MSN fabrics. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Miss Georgia Knows These Woods Well: Cashmerette Turner Dress

Good evening, kittens! It's hibernation season, down here in Texas. We've had a surprisingly chilly beginning to winter*, the kind of weather that demands tights and coats and copious amounts of tea. It's also the kind of weather that makes me want to do nothing but lounge around, reading books and eating spice cake. Some selfless sewing has happened--a few shirtdresses for my mother, perfecting a pants pattern for Sam's lovely aunt, and the unstoppable tide of Christmas gifts--but most of my inspiration has curled up into a ball, trying to keep warm. 

Luckily, the indomitable Jenny has rescued me, once again. Last year, my winter sewing obsession was the Appleton Dress, with its slinky fit and elegant wrap front. This year, my new love is another Cashmerette Pattern, the Turner Dress. This fit-and-flare knit dress has a v-neck bodice, three sleeve variations, and a swishy, semi-circle skirt. No doubt, you've already seen a parade of Turner Dresses marching through your Instagram feed and blog reader. It's been a smash hit with the curvy sewing community, since its release last month. After sewing it up, I am absolutely on board with the lovefest. This is a fun, easy project with elegant results. Who could ask for more?

*Yes, Virginia, we do have winter here. Well, kind of

Of all seasons, winter gets the least amount of love in my sewing cave. December through February are legitimately cold months in Central Texas, but I rarely sew for them. It's all ready-to-wear coats and sweaters, nothing at all like summer wardrobe, which is entirely sewn. This season, I plan on addressing that discrepancy. I prefer wearing cold weather clothes, so why shouldn't I start sewing some?

The Turner Dress is ideal for such purposes. It's a fairly basic pattern, which means fabric choice and small design variations can produce a whole wardrobe of looks. Shorten the sleeves, it becomes a casual sundress. Add an overlay, it's a super chic cocktail dress. Plus, knits are so quick to sew up. If you want to build a mini-wardrobe in a hurry, knits make life easier. 

Luckily, I have a few great knits languishing in my stash. Lillestoff  sent me this jersey, last year, along with the blue tropical jersey used in my 30th birthday Myrtle Dress. It's a retro floral, with yellow and pink poppies on a plum background, which makes the perfect winter print. Like other Lillestoff cotton jerseys, it's a true medium weight, with good stretch and very springy recovery. That makes it easy to sew with (No bagging out! Yay!), but clingier than other cotton jerseys. 

Alterations wise, this was a cake walk. Like other Cashmerette Patterns, Jenny drafted the Turner Dress for multiple cup sizes, eliminating the need for a Full Bust Adjusment. Based on my 46.5" bust measurement, this means that I'm either a big 16 G/H or a small 18 E/F, depending on waist and hip measurements. I opted for the 18 variant, to counteract the fabric's clingy tendencies, and did my only adjustment: adding length to the bodice and skirt. An inch on each, to make up for my height, and voila! Adjustments finished. 

The v-neck of the Turner Dress is achieved by fully lining the bodice, instead of finishing it with a neckband. I didn't have quite enough of my main fabric to pull this off, so I lined the bodice with a bright orange bamboo jersey. (Just visible in the photo above!) I ordered that jersey from Mood, last year, but it was sooooo much brighter in person. Cheetoh bright, y'all. Instead of gritting my teeth and using it for a traffic cone costume, I'm calling it a lining and hiding it inside other garments. 

The construction of the Turner is that of a classic knit pattern. If you've sewn up the Colette Moneta or the Sewaholic Renfrew, there will be no surprises here. In fact, thanks to the circular skirt, this pattern is even easier to sew than the Moneta. There is none of that fussy elastic gathering to worry about! I can't tell you how many sewing machine needles I've broken on that particular task. Jenny does have you understitch the neckline, which gives a neater turn to the fabric, but there are no particularly tricky steps. Mark everything well, make sure your tension is right, and use a ballpoint needle. You can't go wrong. 

Due to its simplicity, the Turner dress can be sewn almost entirely on a serger, but I used my sewing machine instead. I like that extra control it gives, especially when working with the smaller seam allowances of a knit pattern. For main seams, I used the lightning bolt stitch on my BERNINA 350 PE and for hems I used a narrow zig-zag. There is elastic at both the shoulders and the waist, for added support, and fusible webbing in the hems for stability. 

Huzzah! That's it. How sick are you of reading my This Is How I Sew Knits spiel? I feel like the technical details must be included, for those who are coming to only this review, but it's the same on almost every knit pattern. Stabilize, be careful, and use a sewing machine. Maybe next time I will use a serger, just to keep things exciting. I'm channeling Fixer Upper, it seems. Inventing drama through perfectly planned disasters! If I accidentally slice off important fabric pieces and ruin something, I'm blaming Chip and Joanna. It's only fair. 

This dress is such a hit! It's already in constant rotation in my wardrobe, worn a half dozen times before I even snapped these pictures. Not only is the fabric super cozy, but the fit is great. There is some light pulling above the bust, but everything else is perfect: the shoulders are slim enough, the neckline isn't too deep, and the waist sits at my narrowest point. I will switch to a different cup size on the pattern, next time, which should get rid of that pulling. My only other slight quibble is that the point of my v-neck has rounded itself off, after a few cycles through the washing machine. I obviously need to reinforce that neckline a bit more in future versions! 

And, yes, there will be future versions. I've already made a rayon jersey one for my forthcoming Mood Sewing Network outfit and two sweater knits are in line for another round. I'm playing with the neckline and design elements, as you might expect. Bell sleeves, jewel necklines. Those are just my initial evil plans! Be warned, kittens. You're going to be sick of Turner Dresses on Idle Fancy, before this season is out. 

In the meantime, I hope you're having a lovely holiday season! We're about to embark on The Grand Danielson-Perry Christmas Extravaganza, where we bounce between Austin, Waco, and Houston for a few weeks, visiting family and catching up with friends. Thank heavens for knit dresses and e-readers! I wouldn't survive all that driving without secret pajamas and new Gail Carriger novellas

Fabric: c/o Lillestoff 
Pattern: c/o Cashmerette -- Jenny originally sent this pattern to testers, last spring, but I was traveling during that testing period and couldn't fit it into my sewing schedule. This is the final version of the pattern, which she kindly sent along anyway, right before the launch