Monday, August 24, 2015

Miss Myrtle and the Tangerine Dream

Bonsoir, kittens! Tonight, we're chatting about my latest pattern love: the Colette Myrtle. Why yes, this pattern was released over a year ago. While I would like to blame a packed schedule or full wardrobe for this creative delay, that would be a lie. 

Here's the truth, y'all: I have a pathological fear of cowl necks. 

They're elegant on most women, but potentially disastrous for large busts. Whenever I try on ready-to-wear cowls, they twist and pull like the devil. Even if the garment itself is oversized, the bust inevitably drags. When the Myrtle debuted, I shrugged it off as a pretty pattern that didn't suit my body type. Cut to a year later and the lovely Lilli, of Frocks & Frou Frou. Lilli's latest version of the Myrtle, a gorgeous nebula-print dress, convinced me this pattern could work on curves. Hell, it could look downright fabulous on curves! Each of Lilli's Myrtles is exactly the chic, easy-to-wear type of dress I love. 

Quickly, this Myrtle lust became all-consuming. Within three days, I had printed the PDF, taped it all together, and sewn two new dresses. Considering how absent my sewing motivation has been, that is a rare thing, indeed. 

The first version of the dress, pictured below, was made in black cotton-viscose jersey from Mood Fabrics. My wardrobe is in desperate need of solids, at the moment. I've recently finished a massive closet purge and everything left is a floral, a stripe, or a novelty print. A replacement little black dress was just the thing! With Myrtle's beautiful drape and sophisticated silhouette, it's the sort of pattern that's easily dressed up with the right fabric and accessories. This medium-weight jersey made a Myrtle that's ideal for a cocktail party or night out. (More photos can be found at the Mood Sewing Network blog.)

Solids are also better for test runs of knit patterns. Prints can easily hide fitting mishaps, after all. This black Myrtle was a size XL, with a small full bust adjustment and additional hem length. As you can see in the pictures, the fit is almost right. It's a darling little dress, but there is some pulling along the bust line. It's the curse of the cowl neck! Despite being well within the measurements for the XL and doing an initial adjustment, I still needed more front bodice width. 

Otherwise, I loved this dress. It was quick to make--about two hours, after cutting--and really straight forward to put together. The front bodice is cleverly self-lined, with a doubled pattern piece folded along the cowl line. Everything but the back bodice finishes and skirt hem can be sewn on a serger, which streamlines the construction process. 

One technical note: I did change the method of elastic insertion. The pattern tells you to sew the top of the casing first, then stretch and pin the elastic around the waist, before finally stretching and sewing the casing bottom down. While this prevents the beginning seamstress from running elastic through a casing, it was untenable for me. My waist is smaller than the intended measurements, so my elastic was impossible to pin and stretch properly. After one failed attempt, I opted for a more traditional method. I sewed the casing down completely, leaving a three-inch opening at the side seam. Using a safety pin, I threaded the elastic through, then sewed the casing shut. 

Fun fact! It was super windy, while shooting these, The hem is, in fact, straight.
For my second Myrtle, I chose an orange and white poppy-print jersey, also from Mood. This fabric is a favorite of my fellow MSN bloggers, used recently in Lauren's gorgeous wrap dress and Lori's chic sheath. It's easy to understand the love, after sewing with it. This viscose knit is lightweight, but still completely opaque, and has amazing stretch and recovery. I adore how cool rayon knits are against the skin, while still draping beautifully. They're quickly becoming my go-to knits, for summer garments. 

Myrtle II also benefitted from further fitting adjustments. I added width to the bodice front, with a bigger FBA, which allows the cowl to drape lower and eliminated the bust pulling. Otherwise, this dress was constructed identically to my first. Every seam is serged, the finishings were twin-stitched, and the hem is interfaced with light fusible webbing. 

This is the cowl-neck dress of my dreams. The bodice falls beautifully over my curves and the skirt swishes, with each step. I usually don't love elastic waist dresses, but the wide casing of this one really works for my figure. I like it both with and without a belt! You can expect more of this pattern, in the near future, as it blends perfectly with my lifestyle right now. Knit pieces that dress up easily are exactly what I reach for, each morning. They're as comfortable as yoga pants, but more socially acceptable! 

That, my dears, is a win. Well done, Myrtle. 

Note: The fabric for these dresses was given to me, as part of my participation in the Mood Sewing Network. However, I chose both lengths myself and all opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Miss Poppy Makes the Deadline: Cressida Skirt

Good afternoon, lovelies! It's been quiet around here, lately. There are cobwebs in my code and a virtual tumbleweed just bobbled by. The utter silence would, quite rightly, lead you to draw conclusions. Has Mary run off to join the circus? Is she finally pursuing her dream (read: utter nightmare) of traveling the world in a festively dangerous hot air balloon? Oh, I bet she and Sam have turned their backyard into an artisanal string cheese shop! 

Alas, no. We're all out of grand adventures here! Since the beginning of July, I've mostly been sitting in front of my computer in yoga pants, writing away on two books, and furtively glancing at the calendar. Occasionally, I will mumble, "Why did I say these books would be done by September? Whhhhhhy?" There was a break for RWA, a brief trip to Utah with my love, and the exciting news of my Avon Fanlit grand prize win. Mostly though, it's just the typing and muttering. 

Until, I got a lovely email from Mari of Seamster Patterns. She's spearheading Sewing Indie Month, this year, which kicked off with an independent pattern bundle sale. I jumped on board to join the blog tour! Not only did it get me out of yoga pants, but it got me back to my sewing machine. That's a win, kittens. 

There are ten patterns in this bundle, each cuter than the last. Initially, I was tempted to sew up the Bonnell Dress from Dixie DIY, which is named for a beloved Austin landmark and the very same place Sam proposed to me. In the end, however, my practical soul chose the Cressida Skirt from Jennifer Lauren Vintage. My wardrobe desperately needs more separates right now and, to rationalize taking time away from deadline hell, it made sense to fill that niche. 

Cressida, like all of Jennifer's patterns, is a modern twist on vintage fashion. This semi-circular skirt has a wide waistband, stylized button tabs, and options for either a single or double button front placket. It's also exactly the silhouette I like in a skirt: defined waist and swooshy hem. My fashion goal, as I enter my thirties, is to become Juliette Binoche in Chocolat. 

For this single-button version of Cressida, I chose a fabric that will easily take me into the cooler seasons. I bought this gorgeous cotton pique--a poppy print in coral, mustard, cream, and olive--in a tiny San Francisco fabric store sometime in 2009. (At the same time, I bought its sister colorway, which was used years ago on a rarely-worn Macaron dress.) The fabric works well with both brown and black accents, making it one hell of a versatile little skirt. 

Construction-wise, the Cressida skirt is a very beginner-friendly pattern. As long as you stay-stitch that waistline quickly, you'll be fine. It has a ton of details to keep more advanced seamstresses happy, however. The turned-and-topstitched placket was a blast to put together, as were the pointed belt tabs. To finish off the skirt, I serged all the seams with gray thread and catch-stitched the hem in place. 

The real show-stopper on this skirt, though, are the buttons. They're a set of lovely dark wood buttons, re-purposed from a man's 1960s coat. I picked them up at a local antique shop, which has a dangerously impressive selection of vintage sewing notions. I cannot walk past a drawer of old buttons without pawing through them for hours, y'all. My sewing room is bursting with random collections of antique and vintage fastenings. 

This skirt is exactly what I hoped for, when signing up for Sewing Indie Month. Not only was it a quick project, but it's one I've already worn multiple times. Thanks to the melange of colors in the fabric, it pairs easily with much of my wardrobe. In the run-up to RWA, I made a couple of easy rayon knit tops, like this black version of McCall's 6513. Each one looks outstanding with this skirt! I am already fantasizing about wearing it with boots and tights, once the fall actually rolls around. You know, in November

Are you ready for the cooler weather, friends? Or are you still relishing sundresses and shorts? This particular seasonal change always boosts my sewing creativity. It's about now that I start craving tweeds and jewel tones. 


This blog post is one of the last stops on the Sewing Indie Month Pattern Bundle blog tour. The sale actually ends tomorrow, August 12th, but there's still time to get on the action! There's a tiered scale of paying for the bundle, with different patterns unlocking at $32 and $38. What's more, 20% of all donations go toward the International Folk Art Alliance, which provides exhibition and education opportunities for folk artists around the world. A complete list of the patterns can be found at the Sewing Indie Month website, along with more details about upcoming SIM events.

To check out other outfits made with these patterns, you can hit up the blogs of my fellow tour participants:

Note: In exchange for participating in the Sewing Indie Month blog tour, I received all patterns in the bundle for free. To offset my lack of purchase, I've also donated to the IFAA, which you can learn more about at this link

Friday, July 3, 2015

Miss Noelle Walks in Technicolor

Good evening, kittens! Things have been a bit hectic around here, lately. While summers are supposed to be languorous and sunshine-filled, mine has been filled other things entirely. Namely, frantic bouts of writing on a deadline and lots of driving. We've been to Albuquerque, Houston, Austin, and Marfa, all in the span of a few weeks. I am le tired, y'all.

Before all that hubbub, however, I did get some sewing done. This lovely dress, which fairly screams Mary, was my Mood Sewing Network project for the month of June. I've had this lightweight floral cotton on my radar for months now. It's exactly the sort of fabric that gets my sewing engine going: bright, floral, and breathable. So, I finally gave in and ordered a few yards. Somehow, this cotton is actually prettier in person. Oranges, reds, yellows, and greens tumble across that hot pink background in the loveliest watercolor floral pattern. It's gorgeous! 

Naturally, I turned it into a sundress. Because, of course I did.

The pattern I used is, technically, Simplicity 1873. However, I had a different vision than 1873's simple two-dart bodice. Something a bit more interesting was called for, in this fabric. I changed the scoop neck to a deep, rounded vee. Then I extended the shoulder line out and up, to make a cut-on cap sleeve, which was finished with a bias band of fabric. To match the front bodice, I then drafted a rounded v-neck onto the back. It's a design similar to a RTW dress that's been in my closet for ages and is one of my favorites.

For the skirt portion, I nabbed the pattern pieces from Vogue 9100. It's a gathered skirt, with hip shaping, and gloriously deep pockets. It's the perfect pairing for the bodice and fabric. The gentle gathering doesn't add bulk, but it's super swishy in the summer heat. Lovely, right?

Technique wise, I pulled out some stops with this dress. It's fully lined in a polka dot, lemon-colored cotton batiste that's been in my stash for eons. The center back zipper is lapped, sewn in by hand, then whip-stitched to the lining. Our main dress fabric was also hemmed by hand, then the lining was triple top-stitched on my machine with a pretty wide hem to increase the swoosh factor. 

Yeah, that's a lot of snooty "by hand" talk in the paragraph above. Plenty of that could've been done by machine just as well, but I needed something to do with my hands, while watching Orphan Black! (Can we talk about the great Donny & Helena moments, this season? They were my absolute favorite scenes, of the whole series. Except, perhaps, for Allison's glue gun psychotic break in Season 1.) Either way, I really like the result. The dress feels special, when I'm wearing it. 

Even better, it dresses up or down beautifully. For summer weddings or date nights, a bright belt and nude heels elevate the look. During my usual day-to-day roamings, though, it looks great with strappy tan sandals and sunglasses.  It's a deceptive workhorse of a garment.

Oh, there is one last fun detail of this dress!  Did you check out my clothing label, earlier in the post? Sam surprised me, last month, with a whole heap of sew-in labels for my garments. They have a cute vintage machine on them and say, "A lovely garment by Idle Fancy." He's really the most wonderful of men.

It seems fitting that this dress, the most Mary dress I've made in quite some time, should be the first to get a real label. Since making this dress, I've worn it about once a week. The lining is so light that it's still comfortable and breezy, in the Texas heat. I need a bit more practice putting the labels in, but y'all gave me some fabulous tips on Instagram. Thanks again!

Unfortunately, this is the last sundress I'll be working on, for a little while. I have a writing conference coming up in New York, at the end of July. More business-appropriate clothes are on the docket, for the next few weeks! Happy sewing! 

Note: The fabric for the main body of this dress was provided to me, free of charge, by Mood Fabrics as part of the Mood Sewing Network. However, all opinions in this post are my own. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Miss Gidget Demands a Tiki Drink: Simplicity 1873

Good evening, my dear finicky foxes! This weekend was an exciting one at Chez Danielson Perry. Not only did my younger sister graduate from high school, but Sam and I took her to her very first concert! Laine tossed her cap on Friday morning, then we all saw Brandi Carlile at Stubb's, Saturday night. In between, there were two cakes, lots of visiting family, and (finally!) plenty of sunshine basking. It was an idyllic weekend, to say the least. 

It was, also, a great weekend to wear my new sundress. Now that the sun has arrived in central Texas, all I want to wear are breezy cotton dresses. Unfortunately, my measurements have changed a bit in the last six months, so my go-to sundress bodice needed refitting. It was pulling slightly at the bust, but overly large in the waist and upper chest. I traced off a fresh version of Simplicity 1873, then set about refitting the pattern. I went one size smaller on the bodice overall, then performed a larger FBA, and lowered the neckline by an inch. Voila! The sundress returns.

As a test run of my altered pattern, I gave in to novelty fabric whims. Right now, JoAnn Fabrics has the most adorable line of tropical print cotton shirtings. This red-and-white hula girl print came home with me last month, demanding to become a sundress. Unfortunately, the colors bled, during its pre-sewing wash. The white flowers are no longer true white, but a very, very light pink. Not wanting to abandon the fabric entirely, I used it for this project, in case the bodice turned out horribly. 

Spoiler alert: It didn't. While there are some things I'm going to change, the first approximation of this bodice is quite a good fit. It's much more secure around my waist, while still having enough room for my, shall we say, ample bosom. Huzzah!

Instead of Simplicity 1873's original skirt, I subbed in the gathered A-line from Vogue 9100, which I converted to box pleats. Since this fabric is a true shirting, it felt entirely too stiff for the floaty, circular pleats of the original skirt. Plus, let's be honest. If a fabric bleeds in the wash, no way am I using it to make a labor-intensive skirt! All the pleating and circular hemming of 1873 is worth it on a deserving fabric, but this dress probably won't last past this summer. Four box pleats and I'm out, y'all.

Apart from deciding on pleat placement, the construction of this one was deadly simple. All the seams are serged in white thread, then the neckline and armscyes were finished with white bias tape. I put in a lapper zipper down the center back, hand-stitched the hem up, then called it a day! Dress construction doesn't get much easier, kittens.

As for further tweaks, there are just a few. The neckline needs another half-inch rotated out to the bust darts and the armscyes could use a little tweaking, of their own. I think I might also bring the shoulder in by a half-inch and further plunge the back neckline. For this version, I played at turning the back neckline into a vee, which I like, but it's pretty subtle. Next time, we're showing more skin!

All in all, though, this dress makes me happy. Tropical prints, especially in primary colors, make me long for umbrella drinks and sunshine. This summer, I'm planning on enjoying quite a lot of both! Soon enough, I'm sure the heat in Texas will start getting on my nerves, but it feels wonderful, after all that rain we've had. Even better, I have a fun, new dress to enjoy it in!

Finally, I wanted to extend a huge thank you to everyone who cheered me on in the last post, regarding the Avon writing contest. The support and book love y'all sent my way was deeply appreciated. It also must have rubbed off on the editors, because my alter ego actually won the second round! Yes, I am still flabbergasted and squeeing. Thank you all so much. It's been a bit of an exciting week, top to bottom. There are three more rounds left, so if you're interested in participating, you can still join in on the fun! If not, well, no worries. I'll be back with more sundress ravings, soon!

Note: This post's title is derived, of course, from the Gidget movies. They were my favorites growing up and I watched Gidget Goes Hawaiian, while sewing this dress' hem. Halfway through, I paused the movie and called my mother. Apparently, my looming thirtieth birthday is showing. Instead of nodding along with Gidget's romantic predicaments, I sympathized with her angelically patient parents and wished for her to meet a young Gloria Steinem. What kind of girl complains about a trip to Hawaii, just because her boyfriend won't be there? Drink an illicit piña colada and chill out, Gidg! Also, Jeff is going to be a womanizing ass in Rome, next year, so enjoy your break while you can. Ahem. Needless to say, that movie hasn't quite held up in my heart, like the original Gidget has. At least, in the original, Gidget has some gumption and interests outside of Moondoggy. 

/vintage movie rant

Monday, May 18, 2015

Miss Eve and the Jade Shift: Given a Chance Dress

Good evening, my dears! Yesterday, it stopped raining just long enough to snap pictures of my latest project. We Texans don't like to complain about rain too much, for fear of it disappearing altogether, but I'm taking a stand. For fart's sake, someone bring back the sunshine! We've had rain in the forecast every day for three weeks. It's like Waco suddenly picked up roots and moved to the Pacific Northwest.

Anyhow, enough about my sopping, muddy little habitat. Onto the project!

This slightly overexposed little number is the Given a Chance Dress, from Decades of Style. DoS recently launched their Decades Everyday line, focusing on vintage inspired pieces. These styles are easier, quicker patterns than their usual vintage reproductions. This is only the second pattern in this line, after the adorable E.S.P. Dress, but I'm already a fan girl. These are my ideal patterns, y'all. They have a retro twist, but are easy to mix into a modern wardrobe, without complicated undergarments. 

No need for girdles! Woohoo!

Given a Chance is a bit outside my usual comfort zone, admittedly. It's a 1960's-inspired shift dress, with an origami yoke and pull-on styling. Ever since a sneak preview popped up on Instagram, however, I've been a lusty badger of impatience. It was on sale maybe five minutes, before I bought a copy. Something about that yoke, perhaps the way it easily mixes fabrics, sparked my interest.

This first version of Given a Chance is a wearable muslin. With looser style dresses, I'm always tempted to forgo an FBA and just grade between sizes. Unfortunately, it would be rather difficult to grade this particular bodice. There are double darts high on the side bodice, which can't be blended in easily. So, I sewed the size for my bust measurement and decided to wing it, with some stash fabrics. I ended up choosing this geometric quilting cotton (Which I've actually bought twice! Once for a giveaway, then again, because I missed it in my stash.) and a jade green cotton lawn. It's a color combination that I absolutely adore

Surprise! I needed that FBA. My finished product, with just the one size, was a tent. I took out six inches through my waist and four inches through my hips, after trying it on. After tweaking, it's a reasonably well-fitting garment. The armscyes are still way too low and roomy, but I like the fit through my waist and hips. That gentle flare is a surprisingly lovely silhouette. 

Next time around, I plan on tracing down three sizes, raising the armhole, and doing an FBA. Hopefully, that will get the shoulder/armscye situation more under control. 

Construction of this dress was the perfect mix of interesting and easy. The yoke is formed by a series of fabric folds in the top layer, with a plain lining piece underneath. You get a clean finish for the neckline, then use the two fabrics as one layer for the other seams. Clever! 

The main body of the dress is deadly simple. There are two bodice darts on each side and inseam pockets. That's it! I actually cut out my inseam pockets, after The Great Downsizing. Not only were they in the way, but they were a good four inches lower than I prefer. Next time, I'll raise them up and include them, since day dresses need candy storage. 

As a finish out, this dress calls for armscye facings. Ugh. I loathe those! In my experience, they do nothing but flop around like dead fabric fish, driving me crazy. So, I subbed in bias tape of the same jade green fabric and hand-stitched it in place. Then, I took a two inch hem, and finished it with the leftover bias strips. Hidden pops of color are always a good idea.

All in all, this dress took about three hours of work. For an easy summer staple, that's exactly the amount of time I want to spend sewing. It's a fun, quick project, when you need a burst of creativity. Even better, this yoke is ideal for using up scraps. I eked this one out of a 1/4 yard of fabric! That makes the fabric possibilities for this dress pretty endless, doesn't it? For my next one, I'm considering a blue chambray yoke and red-and-white pinstripe body. 

Admittedly, when unbelted, this dress does look like a 1960's house dress. You know what, though? I really like it. My comfort zone is a bit wider than previously thought!  When the Texas summer finally arrives, roomier styles will be heaven sent.

There's one last thing to share tonight, kittens. The conversation on this blog has, gloriously often, evolved into book recommendations and literary chatter. Many of you are just as avid readers as I am, which has made writing Idle Fancy all the more fun. To that end, I thought you might be interested in an event that recently kicked off.

Avon, the romance arm* of Harper Collins, has revived its much beloved writing competition, Avon Fanlit. This is the same competition that launched the careers of Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, Tiffany Clare, and many other writers I've recommended in the past. Over the next two months, writers will compete in a round robin style tournament, writing a short novella along the way. Editors will provide a short chapter prompt each week, building the story over time, and will provide feedback along the way. The grand prize will be a publishing contract with Avon itself!

Entry is open to all unpublished (or self-published) authors and voting is open to absolutely any fan of romance. I've thrown my hat in the ring, just for fun, but there are a ton of great writers participating. If you're interested in where the genre is going, chances are some of the people in this contest will have hand in shaping its future. That certainly proved to be the case, last time! Rules are here, voting is open, and the first chapters are live! If you love romance, whether writing or reading, I urge you to check it out. It's going to be a very fun summer, indeed.

*Yes, romance. If you are backing away slowly and threatening to take away my feminism card, I gently guide you toward the brilliant Kelly Faircloth and her series of Jezebel articles on the romance community. Or to the Smart Bitches. Or to Maya Rodale.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Miss Juliet Forgets You Not: Simplicity 1873

Good evening, Jedi sewing warriors! Tonight, Sam and I are celebrating this most momentous of days (May the 4th) by drinking wine, making horrible Star Wars jokes, and watching Return of the Jedi. Naturally, I thought it would also be the perfect night to blog about this sweet little floral dress. Nothing says "Let's kill some storm troopers!" like quilting cotton covered in forget-me-nots and baby's breath.

This dress was my contribution to the Dress Up Party, hosted by Sara of Sew Sweetness. Throughout the month of May, she'll be featuring guest bloggers in their favorite garment patterns and tons of giveaways. For my post, I decided to sew up another version of my own go-to dress pattern, Simplicity 1873. It's been over nine months since my last version and my sewing machine threatened to revolt, if it didn't revisit this bodice soon.

To be honest, this dress was also influenced by a terribly boring factor: the weather. Our forecast is nothing but mid-eighties and thunderstorms, as far as the eye can see. Summer advances oh-so-quickly, kittens. 

As you may know, my Texas summer wardrobe has a few rules. There must be natural fibers, minimal layers, and ease of movement. If any garment fails on one of these counts, it won't get worn. Fully lined dresses and pencil skirts molder at the back of my closet, unloved, until October. Or, let's be honest, November.

This dress follows my rules in a gloriously practical fashion. I used midweight quilting cotton that didn't need a lining, lowered the front and back necklines for less coverage, and finished the whole thing with light blue bias tape. It's swishy, breathable, and so ready for summer! Even if my ghostly pale skin isn't.

I've blogged about this pattern so many times that it seems redundant to chatter on, but let's take a quick look at its construction anyway. This dress has a two-dart bodice, scooped neckline, and a wide, pleated circle skirt. Honestly, the most painful part of sewing this dress is cutting out all those darn skirt panels! I've been so spoiled by simpler patterns, in recent months, that the refolding and cutting out of this one felt like pulling teeth. I can't believe I tackled this thing, without a rotary cutter, for my first iteration. How torturous!

Luckily, all that tedium is made up for by the construction process, itself. Call me a sewing nerd, but there's nothing I love more than large swaths of pleating. The marking, the folding, the pressing. It's all so cathartic! Putting a heavily pleated floral skirt together is my sewing catnip. 

Beyond the skirt, however, this dress is pretty basic. Eons ago, I performed a two-inch FBA (on the size 20) and a half-inch narrow shoulder adjustment, so it also fits like a dream. It's finished with an invisible zip at the center back, light blue serging along the seam allowances, and the aforementioned bias tape. I even cheated on this one and sewed a standard machine hem. The horror! The quick and satisfying horror!

In the end, I have one heck of a sundress. It's ridiculously feminine, yes, but still easy to throw on with a cardigan and sandals. Wearing it out, especially with my slightly shorter new hair, makes me feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland. It's just so, so sweet. For this time of year, that's one of my favorite qualities in a garment. Even better, wearing it seems to provoke kiss ambushes, from Sam. There are certainly worse consequences from a dress!

Why are you moving into my frame? You know I'm taking pictures, right?
Nevermind. Carry on, Professor!