Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From Plaids to Flowers: Shirtdress Inspiration

Good evening, friends! To properly kick off The Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses, I thought a pure inspiration post might be fun. Originally, I was just going to post a few particularly lovely shirtdresses. Then, I went down the rabbit hole of Pinterest, ending up with a whole shirtdress board and way too much inspiration. A girl needs twenty-two shirtdresses, right? That's the road I'm on.
Anyhow, I've broken up my favorite categories below, with links to original sources when possible and pins, when not. I'm not going to jibber jabber about the various boards, because images are what we're about today! Plus, I have a killer headache to fight and a new episode of The Mindy Project to watch. Priorities, chickens.
What I'd really like to know, anyhow, is what sort of shirtdress you're planning. After compiling the collages for this post, I've added a maxi version and a wax print version to my "must sew" list. If there's a certain variation you're after, but would like some help, let me know. I'd be happy to include extra tutorials for such specifics in our sewing challenge!
Plaids & Flannels

Maxi Dresses


Bold Prints

Bright Colors

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Miss Vivienne Joins the Circle + A Blog Hop

Good evening, kittens! As you read this, I'm dashing away to the far reaches of the world. 

Or, rather, Sam and I are en route to Georgia. He's attending an academic conference at his graduate alma mater and I'm going to eat chicken and waffles, fabric shop, and visit the zoo. Like you do. 

Before embarking on this great southern adventure, however, I thought I'd share two of my newest projects. Last week, the professor and I made a deal. We would watch one terribly scary, seasonally appropriate horror movie, then follow it up with some atmospheric period romance of my choosing. Our movie night choices? The pithy and terrifying, Slither, followed by Chocolat. While Slither did have the added bonus of Nathan Fillion, Chocolat is what inspired the garments in this post. Throughout the movie, Juliette Binoche's character wears the most glorious outfits. In scene after scene, she appears in tastefully plunging v-neck sweaters, swirling circle skirts, and bright, vibrant colors. Though I was tempted to knock off her iconic red cape, my eye instead fell on the circle skirts. 

Over the last year, I've felt in an odd place, style wise. Though I retain my affinity for florals and feminine silhouettes, I've longed for more glamour. At 29, my wardrobe needs are evolving, a fact which shows in my recent garments. There are now more solids, richer colors, and daring shapes filling my wardrobe. The combination of cleavage-enhancing sweaters with swirling, classic skirts fit that niche nicely. 

And, so, I made a few. These are just two of the four circle skirts I've cut out recently, with many more to follow. It seemed fitting to pair these together in a post, as they are both directly inspired by sewing friends. The first is made of a lightweight denim that the lovely Jenny brought me back from her biking adventures in Asia. It has a gorgeous pastel floral swirling across it, in a vintage pattern that is right up my alley! She is one fantastic sewing buddy, right?
The second skirt, in a darker blue, was actually my first completed version of this pattern. Made up in a bright floral pique, from Fabric Mart, this is a rip off of the gorgeous Tanya's Betsy skirt. Not five minutes after reading that post, I snatched some of this fabric for my own. Originally, I'd also planned to do a pencil skirt, but that seemed a bit too copycatty for my taste. The circle skirt impulse was a stroke of fortune!

The eagle-eyed among you will notice that these aren't full circle skirts. Though it goes against the acknowledged wisdom that circle skirts are universally flattering, I hate them on me. They're fine attached to a dress bodice, but set on their own with waistbands? Ugh. They don't emphasize my waist so much as make my hips looks gigantic.* 

Yet, a half-circle skirt doesn't have those glamorous, dramatic folds. The solution is, of course, the mystical three-quarter circle skirt. It's still twirly and full of body at the hem, but it doesn't drape so emphatically over my hips. 

To make the pattern for this, I relied on Patty's excellent tutorial and creative fabric placement. Once everything is cut out, these are absurdly simple. Sew up the sides, add a straight waistband, pop in an invisible zipper, and you're done! On the first one, I also did the laborious task of hand-stitching the hem, which is the worst. So much stitching! For the second skirt, I made a "design decision" and top-stitched the hem. So quick, so easy. The end!

*Big, big hips! Yes...I did just make a Pixies joke. It's been a long day.

Almost the end, anyhow. Though, I don't have many project details to share, I do have something else to chat about! Last week, I was tagged by two of my favorite bloggers, one near and one far, in the creative blog hop that's been going around. While I'm not normally a hop type of person, I've adored the posts in this series. Learning about the writing styles and processes of others is fascinating.
To begin, let's talk about the lovely women who tagged me. The first was Nicole, of the blog Pudge and Nico, whom I finally met in person just last week! She lives in Austin, as do so many amazing bloggers, and we've been chatting on Instagram about meeting up for eons. It turns out, she's even more wonderful in person. Nicole has fantastic taste in food, is great fun to chat with, and has such a way with novelty prints! You will never look at deviled eggs the same way, after reading her blog. 

The other lovely lady who tagged me is one whose blog I've long stalked, Amanda of Bimble and Pimble. Not only does Amanda make gorgeous clothes, but she's absolutely hilarious. You cannot read the garment battles that happen at Bimble and Pimble without smiling, I promise you. Plus, she does roller derby, which is the most badass thing ever, we can agree.
Thanks again for tagging me, y'all!

Now, onto the blog hopping! I’m going to state the obvious with this one. These questions, while they’ve been sweeping the Sewing Blog-o-sphere for a few weeks, were obviously not intended for our kind. These are questions about writing and process, not fabrics and fripperies. That being said, I am a writer, so I’m going with it.
Why do you write?  
I write, because I can’t help myself. As a creative millennial, not only have I grown up with the internet, I’ve grown up spewing my innermost thoughts onto said internet. My blogging adventures actually began over a decade ago, when my high school self chattered about crushes and my intense thoughts regarding Spring Awakening on a Xanga account. Originally, I wrote solely as an emotional outlet, but somewhere in my early twenties I decided writing meant more to me. It meant a potential career. It meant writing whole books about girl detectives and feisty aviatrixes.
As you may have noticed, I have no aspirations toward becoming a professional blogger. This is a conscious decision. My true writing, the work I'm actively building a career on, is fiction. I don’t want to muddy the waters with professionalizing a blog. However, deciding to write novels bled over into the rest of my life. All those feminist conversations over tea with my friends? Share them with the internet! All those dresses I decided to sew? Review them on a blog!
I started Idle Fancy a mere six months after beginning to sew seriously, a product of my own sewing blog obsession. I was making things and desperately wanted to chat about them with other sewers. My real life friends kept getting antsy, when I'd wax rhapsodic about top-stitching.  At the end of the day, if I feel passionately about something—whether it’s the latest shirtdress pattern or gender wage gaps—it’s natural to put those feelings into words. Not only is every blog post a chance to hone my craft and keep my voice fresh, but an opportunity to connect with likeminded souls from across the globe. The internet age is a wonder.
How do you write?
Before writing any Idle Fancy post, I take garment photos. I can’t write a blog post, then take pictures, and drop them in wherever. For me, the whole thing is a cohesive story waiting to be told.  That’s actually pretty hilarious, if you consider how unprofessional my photos are. I’ve gotten to the point where they’re respectable, but they’re never going to be the thoughtful, styled shoots of fashion bloggers. Let’s be honest, we’re lucky that I’ve moved on from having my younger sister stand on a couch and take “flattering” shots from above with a point-and-shoot. Now, I have a real camera, a tripod, and favor the golden hour before sunset. That’s as many hoots as I’m capable of giving about blog photography, y’all. You have all my hoots.
The actual writing part is the most fun, of course. Writing about sewing is such a blast! There are no characters to voice or plots to think about, just describing a hobby I adore, garments I gleefully wear, and making witty asides. I do take care with my posts, aiming to balance both entertainment and information. At the end of the day, people read sewing blogs for inspiration and helpful hints. I’m not an expert seamstress yet, but I try to include everything that might make sewing easier for my readers. That means my posts are pretty long, taking about an hour-and-a-half to write, on average, and covering everything from pattern technicalities to techniques that helped me along the way. They’re also usually chock full of pop culture references, blatant honesty, and snark, because that’s how I roll.
How does your blog differ from others of its genre?
I’m inclined to say that it doesn’t differ, but that’s ridiculous. If there’s anything that writing has taught me, it’s that every person brings a unique perspective and voice to their work. If all sewing bloggers made the same pattern one week, you’d get wildly different looks, because people are wildly different. Personally, I think Idle Fancy brings a couple of fun things to the table. It’s a combination of entertaining writing, pretty fabrics, and frank talk about body image. While that’s admittedly an odd mix, it works for me. I hope people come for the floral dresses, but stay for the honesty and laughs.
What’s are you working on next?
Shirtdresses. So many shirtdresses. I’m in the throes of planning The Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses, which means making a few more versions of my own beloved McCall’s 6696. There will be plaids and sleeve plackets and velvets, oh my. There are also quite a few selfless sewing projects that have become backlogged. When we get back from Atlanta, those are first in the queue. Guilty pangs, I am having you!
 As for my non-sewing writing, I’m actually putting the finishing touches on a few projects that will release next year. If you’d like to read more from me than shirtdress tutorials, get excited! More news on that front, when the time comes. For now, cue the mysterious music…  
The lovely Lauren, of Rosie Wednesday, Jenny, and I in shirtdresses, of course!
Now, to tag the next stop on this blog hop! It will come has no surprise to you that I’m tagging my sewing lady crush and the giver of beautiful fabrics, Jenny of Cashmerette. Not only is Jenny ace at picking out fabrics, but she’s one of the most delightful women I know. There’s nothing she can’t do, from making gorgeous coats to kicking ass in graduate school. Check out her post next week on all things blogging!
In the meantime, happy sewing!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Miss Clara and the Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses: A Sewing Challenge

Good evening, dear ones! Tonight, I have two fun things to share: a new shirtdress and a long promised announcement. I know, you can hardly contain your excitement, right? My announcement is just so mysterious. 

Yeah, I'm rolling my eyes, too. Let's start with the shirtdress, then move on to the (still very fun!) non-surprise, shall we? 

This dress is yet another version of McCall's 6696, The Shirtdress Pattern of Wonder and Bliss. Last month, I bought a length of Robert Kaufman's Dotted Chambray in a lovely dusty green, meant to become a button down for Sam. My intentions were so pure and loving! Then, the fabric arrived. 

Y'all, this stuff is gorgeous. It's a perfect medium-to-light weight, drapes really well, and presses beautifully. It even has "pin dots," which we all know are just grown up, man-friendly polka dots. My baser instincts demanded that I steal it, claim total ignorance about its intended use, and turn it into a shirtdress.

Ahem. My conscience quickly recovered, of course. Instead of stealing his Baylor green chambray, I ordered some in my own dear Texas A&M maroon. That's not what Robert Kaufman & co. have named these colors, of course. They are calling them "olive" and "burgundy," but I know school spirit when I see it. This is Aggie Maroon and my favorite shirtdress yet! 

You have heard about this pattern ad nauseam from me, but let's quickly go over the details anyhow. 

This dress is made up with three yards of the aforementioned chambray, ten white classic shirt buttons, and top-stitching everywhere I could get away with it. The insides are finished with my new favorite technique ever, serging with gray thread. It's shockingly unobtrusive on colored fabrics! Why don't people shout this technique from the rooftops? As someone who's extra lazy about changing out serger thread, it's a godsend. 

As for alterations, I used my pattern pieces from the last few 6696s. This means the whole dress is a Size 20, with a one-inch full bust adjustment, narrow shoulder adjustment, and wide bicep adjustment. I do need to go back and resteam the collar, since one side is bunching a bit, but otherwise it fits like a dream. Perfected patterns are so lovely.

So, another 6696. Are you tired of them yet? I'm certainly hope not. This version may be more subdued than the others, but I absolutely adore it.  Believe all the good things you've heard about Robert Kaufman's chambrays, kittens. I'm far too tempted to order this in a few more colorways, for a parade of dotted shirtdresses! 

If you're hankering for a shirtdress of your own, I have very good news. That announcement I've been teasing for a week or two is finally ready to be shared. The Autumn of One Thousand Shirtdresses is now an official sewing challenge!

Multiple people asked if I would host a sew-along for McCall's 6696, as part of my own quest to make all the shirtdresses. Honestly, an official sew-along is something I've never wanted to host for a couple of reasons. Not only is it a ton of work, as the lovely Jenny can attest, but most of the information necessary is already out there. People far wiser than I have already done tutorial after tutorial, on everything from collar stands to sleeve plackets. What exactly would my own be adding?

Instead, The Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses will be a sewing challenge. Over the next two months, I'll work through McCall's 6696 in a logical way, though it won't be a classic step-by-step guide. Instead, I'll post a ton of shirtdress specific information, including helpful tutorial round-ups, thoughts on fabric choices, guides to various patterns, and some of my own adjustments, hacks, and tricks. As we go along, I'll keep sharing my own shirtdresses and all the ones that you make, as well! 

Even better, there are prizes. Of course. Once the challenge wraps up on December 10th, I'll draw a name out of the Flickr pool and give away a bundle of lovely fabrics for future shirtdresses, as well as a vintage shirtdress pattern in the winner's size. Woohoo!

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a badge below, pick out some lovely buttons, and get sewing! You can use the #1000Shirtdresses hashtag throughout the challenge, on both Instagram and Twitter, and share all of your makes in our Flickr Group. You're also not limited to using 6696--feel free to pick any shirtdress pattern you own, whether it buttons all the way or even just half way. The more shirtdresses, the merrier!

A Note for those Down Under: Southern Hemisphere folks, don't fret. You'll notice there's a special The Spring of 1000 Shirtdresses button for you, as well. Bring on the pretty eyelets!

Idle Fancy

Idle Fancy

Monday, October 6, 2014

BurdaStyle Plus Size Essentials Blog Tour: Faux Wrap Dress

Good afternoon, crickets! Last month, BurdaStyle approached the Curvy Sewing Collective with a blog tour proposal. They had recently released two plus size pattern bundles, the Plus Size Essentials Collection and the Best of BurdaStyle: Plus Size Collection, and were curious if we'd like to review some of the patterns in a blog tour. As the girl who recently eviscerated a Burda plus size collection, I was excited to sample some of their more popular patterns. If I'm going to snark on a company, it only seems fair that I give their patterns I do like a try. 

And, boy, do I like the patterns in these two bundles. My personal favorite is the Essentials collection, which has some patterns I've been coveting for months, including the Short Sleeve Bow Blouse, Contrast V Neck Dress, and the Faux Wrap Dress. All three of these patterns have a mature, sexy vibe to them, like pieces right out of a Sophia Loren movie. 

When it came time to decide, I chose the riskiest pattern of the three, the Faux Wrap Dress. While relatively simple in silhouette, it's actually a fairly complicated design, with side pleats in lieu of front darts, criss-crossing bodice pieces, and no waist seam. One of the strengths of Burda is their interesting, fashion-forward design aesthetic. They either hit big or miss big, but they rarely release anything I could easily recreate with a sloper. 

They also--Oh, my sweet crepes!--don't come with seam allowances. 

Thus, in a nutshell, why I have never made a Burda pattern. As a perfectionist, adding my own seam allowances is a nerve-wracking exercise in geometry and chalk dust. There's so much tracing and measuring and cursing. How I longed for those 5/8th inches! I would never take them for granted again! Honestly, I don't understand Burda's lack of seam allowances. I'm sure this is how it's done professionally or how it's always been done or some such nonsense, but give the home seamstress a break. Most of us would pay extra money for included seam allowances, I promise you. 

This wasn't even a complicated pattern--five pieces total--but by the end of the tracing process, I had about lost my mind. When it came time to mark the resulting pieces, it was completely gone. Transferring markings from pattern pieces that are smaller than your fashion fabric is infuriating. There is so much room for error! Afterwards, champagne and a full Brandi Carlile album were the only things that could calm my frazzled nerves. 

The actual sewing process, however, was charmed. Thanks to its lack of separate bodice and skirt patterns, this was a really quick dress to sew up. There are three pleats on the main front, a darted wrap piece, then double pointed darts on each back panel. A zipper, some side seams, and you're done!

Going a little rogue, I also subbed in a lapped zipper for the prescribed invisible zipper, and finished the dress with bias tape instead of a lining. The gorgeous model's dress is lined stretch cotton crepe, but I couldn't get my hands on a suitably stretchy thin cotton. Considering this dress has almost zero ease built in,  a stretch cotton is absolutely necessary. I ended up choosing this autumnal floral cotton from JoAnn's that's been in my stash for a few months. It had a slight horizontal stretch that felt perfect for a body-conscious dress like this one. It was also horribly, horribly off grain which necessitated some creative lopping off, but that's another story entirely. (One that, incidentally, involves me trying to explain fabric grain to a mystified teenager at the Returns Desk who just wanted to go on his lunch break and get away from crazy, wide-eyed seamstresses. Needless to say, already washed fabric is not returnable, even if it's a foot off grain. Grumble.)

The fit was a bit more challenging than the sewing process. This pattern only goes up to a Burda 52, measurements of 48-41-50.5 inches, which is actually pretty darn small in the realm of plus sizes. That's about a 24 in terms of the American Big 4's usual sizing. I started with a 50 at the bust, then graded down to a 46 at the waist, then back up to a 50 at the hips. The result is a mixed bag. I actually love the bodice fit, with its interesting pleats and faux wrap style. It ended fitting me really well, apart from a bit of extra blousing at the non-pleated side seam.

The skirt, on the other hand, is odd. What look like drag lines around the hips in some of these pictures are actually extra horizontal folds of fabric, caused by the dress' middle being too long. Between the bottom of my rib cage and top of my thighs, there's an extra two inches of fabric desperately trying to find a home. It lands like ruching throughout the waist and hips of the dress. What's even weirder about this is that I'm pretty tall for a woman--5'8'' without hairspray--so the proportions have to be based on someone much, much taller than average.

Lesson of the Day: fitting is complicated, because patterns are not drafted for individuals. Hardly anything is going to fit you out of the envelope and that's okay. There are work-arounds for almost any problem! Were this post for any other reason, I would have hacked the dress in two, formed a waistband seam and front darts, then sewn it back together again. Since this is supposed to be an honest review of this pattern, however, I figured it was best to show you my end result without massive overhauling. Having extra room through the torso is probably going to be a common fitting issue with this one, unless you're incredibly long waisted.

Lapped zipper! Practically perfect pattern matching!

Even with the unintended ruching, I like this dress alright. Yes, the fabric is a giant, crazy sofa print, but I dig it. One of the perks of having Viking Warrior Princess bones is that I can pull off largescale florals like this one. Mine is not a figure that's easily overwhelmed. Thanks, hearty ancestors! Even better, the colors of this fabric are beautiful.  The oranges and golds of these flowers fairly glow against the dark background. So autumnal! If the leaves refuse to change color, maybe this dress can encourage them along. 

Also, let's be honest, this pattern is sexy as hell. With the right silhouette, apparently even a sofa floral can be sexy. It hugs my curves beautifully, giving a tasteful bit of cleavage and a retro wiggle vibe. The pictures for this blog post were ridiculous to go through, because I kept doing unintentionally hilarious sexy faces. Scarlett Johansson, I am not

Were I to make this again, I'd probably go for a stable knit. It could be such a wearable piece, with a true stretch knit, instead of just a stretch cotton. There's such a variation in stretch wovens that they're not all going to take to this pattern the same way. The stretch crepe of the modeled dress is light and airy, whereas mine is a clingier, slightly heavier fit. A nice ponte, however, would drape wonderfully into those pleats, not require a zipper, and make fitting this one much easier! That's my recommendation, if you give this one a go.

Be sure to check out the other stops on the BurdaStyle Plus Size Essentials Blog Tour! That's a mouthful to say, but there have already been some gorgeous pieces made by my CSC compatriots. Have you made a Burda pattern, friends? Tell me the secrets of adding seam allowances without losing your mind.

September 29th — Jenny at Cashmerette — the Jersey Dress
October 1st — Tanya at Mrs. Hughes – the Printed Tunic
October 2nd — Laurence at Quirky Pretty Cute — the Loose Jacket
October 6th — Mary at Idle Fancy — the Faux Wrap Dress
October 7th — Mary at Young, Broke, and Fabulous – the Draped Dress
October 8th — Sophie Lee at Two Random Words — the Cape
October 9th — T at U & Mii — Contrast V Neck Dress

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Miss Maureen Loots and Plunders: Butterick 5997

Contain your shock, friends. For the second post in a row, I am wearing jeans. Don't blame me, blame the swingy blouses! A shirtdress (and a fun related announcement) will be up later this week, but in the meantime I'm still reveling in roomy, artsy tops.

This one, a silk cotton version of Butterick 5997, was my Mood Sewing Network project for September and actually predates my Zsalya blouse. I made it a couple weeks back, tried it on, and had a dreadful realization. It was so bad that, until late last week, the shirt lay unfinished on the bed in my sewing room, taunting me. I finally mustered up the wherewithal to fix it, if only to stop the pangs of guilt. Unfinished objects drive me crazy.

Let's begin the melodramatic tale of 5997, shall we? The blouse came about, because there really aren't enough blouses in my wardrobe. I have dresses aplenty, tons of skirts, piles of sweaters, but very few non-knit tops. In the wintertime, that's fine, because when I'm wearing jeans I'm also usually wearing a cashmere sweater. (Aside: Cashmere is my one great ready-to-wear indulgence. Last year, in the what I will forever call The Best Christmas Ever, all my parents gave me were cashmere sweaters and you have never seen a happier Mary. Soft things forever.) In the warmer months, though, I'm at a loss for what to wear with jeans. Sure, I mostly reach for dresses anyway, but sometimes I just want something easy! Knit tops are great with skirts, but I hate pairing clinging knits with tight denim. Damn it, I want to wear skinny jeans and I don't want to be self-conscious while doing so!

Enter the swingy blouse. Loose, interesting blouses in fancy fabrics are the key to this wardrobe conundrum. My love of these garments is directly caused by watching too many classic movies and TV shows, while growing up. There was a period in the late fifties to early sixties, when women would casually throw on smocks with their cigarette pants, for chic home attire. Admittedly, this was often in order to disguise a pregnancy, but whatever. This style has always stuck in my head as the epitome of casual chic. 

So, swingy blouses were going to be made. Initially, I bought McCall's 6991, the wrap blouse currently making the rounds through the Sewing Blog Community, with an eye on making View C. After Manju's gorgeous pink version, I had to have it! Just as I was about to cut into my Mood fabric, however, I spied Butterick 5997 on the internet and fell head-over-heels with View D. 6991 was thrown over, in favor of a shoulder pintucks and a stand collar. Plus, it had those dishy gathered sleeves. How could I resist a shirt with so many gorgeous details? 

Well, I couldn't! After making a couple of flat pattern adjustments--a very small FBA and narrowing the shoulder seam--I cut into this gorgeous silk cotton poplin from Mood. The color, a steely Wedgwood blue, is one of my all time favorites. So much so that, last summer, I insisted we paint half of our rooms the exact same hue. In my defense, Sam also likes the color and I was the one doing all the painting, because it's his least favorite home maintenance task ever. My lovely younger sister came up and we painted and painted and painted blue for days. That I still like this color after that is a testament to its beauty, don't you think? So, yeah, this fabric was awesome and the shirt was going to be even more awesome, because pintucks are the most awesome. The end.

Or so I thought. After finishing most of the shirt, including doing a hand-rolled hem, I set in the sleeves. Joyful at the prospect of my almost-finished shirt, I trotted out to our hall mirror. 

And shrieked. 

This is what I saw:

Well, approximately. I swear I took a picture of the horrid sleeves in questions, but my phone seems to have (rightly) rejected the evidence. Trust me, I looked like a bloody pirate. I was one jaunty hat away from tearing through our neighborhood, looting and plundering the houses for rum and vintage fabric. Yoho

What looked like a perfectly reasonable, if billowy, sleeve on the pattern model, translated to a great, gathered monstrosity on my own blouse. I can only assume this is one of those things where they kept logically grading the sleeves up, along with the rest of the pattern, but PEOPLE REALLY SHOULDN'T WEAR TWO FOOT CIRCUMFERENCE SLEEVES, NO MATTER THEIR BODY SIZE

So, I stewed about it for a few weeks. Finally, I worked up the gumption to take both sleeves off, completely take apart their seams, and reduce their width by over six inches each. I then, just for good measure, chopped off three inches from the hemline and didn't gather there at all. The result is the blouse you see now, moderate bell sleeves and all. 

Reasonably sized sleeves!
Apologies for the wrinkles--we drove around for half an hour, trying to find a good photo location. We, as happens, ended up at the schoolyard down the block that I always go to anyway and I ended up with sleeve and back wrinkles. My mother was always adamant that seatbelts are a must, even if they ruin one's outfit!

I like it! The sleeves need some shape tweaking still, but the actual base of the blouse is pretty fantastic. I love the pintucks (so easy with an edge-stitching foot) paired with that mandarin collar. Even better, the blouse is saved from being a tent by clever side darting and that dishy deep V. Some people may not be a fan of cleavage baring shirts, but this is a totally tasteful hint of cleavage shadow. I like my bosoms and don't mind giving them some air, so it works. 

If you're thinking of trying this pattern yourself, I do have some suggestions. First off, check the sleeves before you cut them out. Maybe you like feeling a bit piratey on your day off, but if you don't, those suckers may be way too big. Also, staystitch and understitch every part of the neckline you possibly can. I make a policy of always doing these things anyway, but they're pretty glossed over in the instructions here. You don't want that V to distort! Staystitch as soon as you can! Additionally, if you're going to use a silk or rayon, I highly recommend using French seam where possible and hand-rolling the hem and sleeves, to prevent unraveling over time. It took some extra effort, but I'm so happy to have finished it properly.

Otherwise...this is a super easy, super straight-forward blouse pattern. I love its swingy hemline and all those fabulous details. I also, wonder of wonders, love wearing it with jeans. That's a win! Even better, this fabric is so, so soft and has a faint silvery sheen in sunlight. How wonderfully fancy. 

Now, I'm off to plunder some booty. Ahem, I mean I'm off to sew a shirtdress. Yoho!  

Incidentally, the title of this post was inspired by one of my dear writing friends, New York Times Bestselling Author* Maureen O. Betita, who writes a rollicking series of pirate romances. If ever there was a woman who could pull off a pirate hat and sleeves, it's the lovely Maureen.

*When one of your friends hits the NYT List, you're contractually obligated by The Rules of Writer Friendships to always mention it with her name. It's a very well deserved, very big deal.

Note: This fabric was provided to me, free of charge, as part of the Mood Sewing Network. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Selfish Sewing Week: Kate & Rose Zsalya Top


It's that time of year again, my dear goslings. Not autumn, which has yet to reach us here in Texas, but something just as exciting. Happy Selfish Sewing Week! Twice a year, the lovely Rachael hosts a week long celebration of that most joyful kind of sewing: that which we do for ourselves. 

If you've read my blog for long, you know that this is the only sort of sewing I do. For me, sewing is pure relaxation. It's an opportunity for me to revel in luxurious fabrics, interesting patterns, and indulge my love of pretty clothes. I'm proprietary about my sewing time, because it's exactly that. My time. So, it should come as no surprise that I'm a big, big fan of Selfish Sewing Week. We should all get to revel in that indulgence, from time to time...to time. 

This week, I chose to make a pattern I've long had my eye on. The Zsalya is a beautiful yoked blouse and dress duo, from Kate & Rose patterns. There are two sleeve variations, one short and one long, each with embellishments that echo the blouse's subtle crossover v-neck.  It reminds me of the classic artist's smock, a look that lends itself well to such modern updates.

Y'all, this pattern is precisely what I love in a blouse. Each detail, from the crossover yoke to the shaped sleeve band, is thoughtful. This isn't a blouse you could easily recreate with a Big 4 pattern, but a work of true design insight. It's loose, without being shapeless. It's interesting, while flattering one's figure. It works beautifully in all those flowing fabrics we love so much: silks, lawns, and challis.

For this first Zsalya, I chose the green polka dotted cotton voile that was leftover from my long ago Anna Dress. With a bit under 2 yards, I had just enough to make the short sleeved version of this blouse. No, the sleeves did not actually make the final product. We'll get to that...

To begin, let's talk about construction. This blouse was an absolute blast to make! Honestly, I can't remember the last time I had this much fun sewing up a pattern. The Zsalya construction is a bit like a Choose Your Own Sewing Adventure. In the instructions, there are two ways to do all the hardest steps, depending on your skill level and current motivation. Instead of the Quick and Dirty, which I appreciated from afar, I chose to do everything the Clean and Fancy route. 

Of course. My love of fancy is so well-documented, it's in this blog title. 

This particular fancy method involved a series of pattern flips that ensured a lovely inner finish. The crossover yoke's seams are faced and top-stitched, just as pretty inside as out. For a relatively quick project, the techniques involved in getting a perfectly finished yoke made for a mentally stimulating bout of sewing. Each step was well explained, well diagrammed, and easy to accomplish. The instructions hold your hand every step of the way, if you're worried about the geometry involved. This is more than your average pattern, for sure. 

The back: I love the curved yoke, but the fit here is a bit odd. Next time, I will be making some adjustments there, as well.

Naturally, I made a few adjustments to this pattern. Going in, I imagined this blouse paired with skinny jeans, for those nights when I just can't be bothered to put on a dress. That doesn't happen often, admittedly, but pretty casual blouses are a hole in my wardrobe. To make it more suited for that purpose, I lengthened the blouse by three inches and omitted the sleeves. 

Well, I eventually omitted the sleeves. After attaching one short sleeve, I tried the blouse on and was unhappy. In any other fabric, they would have been so, so cute. Combined with the longer length and mass of polka dots, however, they just didn't work. I was overrun by dots! With the trusty seam ripper, I took them off again and finished the sleeves with self-fabric bias tape. 

My other alterations were fairly minor. When you have a generous rear end, as I do, longer tops can end up blousing in unfortunate manners. With the added length, that was something to worry about, so I added a four-inch slit at each side seam. Not only do they give a greater range of movement, but the slits preserve the draped quality of the original pattern lines. Additionally, I made a small (1/2 inch) full bust adjustment, then rotated the dart back into the pattern's original gathers. So easy! 

In the end, I adore this blouse. In fact, I already a have long-sleeved Liberty version halfway sewn up! I took a rounded shoulder adjustment on that one and left the original length, in my new quest to perfect the Zsalya. This top is exactly the sort of garment I love for chillier months. It dresses up beautifully with skirts and boots, but can be smartly casual with jeans and a cardigan. Plus, you know, it's super fun to sew. The Zsalya has tried-and-true Mary pattern written all over it. 

If you're interested in winning a copy of Zsalya, or any of the other patterns featured in Selfish Sewing Week, hop on over to Imagine Gnats. Rachael has a fantastic giveaway ending tonight, which will have forty-one lucky winners. How fantastic is that? In the meantime, check out the other featured stitchers and indie designers participating in Selfish Sewing Week. Happy sewing!

Featured Stitchers

Featured Indie Pattern Designers

Note: The Zsalya top was provided to me, as part of participation in Selfish Sewing Week. The opinions herein are my own and completely unbiased. Though, let's be honest, I chose to sew this top because its style is right up my alley!