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

Friday, October 7, 2016

Miss Hildy Gets a Promotion: Knipmode 03/2016 + McCall's 7351

Kittens, this was a week

You know the kind. Everything with a plug breaks, deer jump into the road right as you drive by, and you discover that the night shift Emergency Room doctor knows you by name. I. Am. Drained. Give me a fainting couch and a cocktail, because that's all I have the energy to face.  

Well, that and finally blogging about this outfit. Both of these garments are in heavy wardrobe rotation, so it's high time they made an appearance here. They weren't actually meant to go together, per se, but I ironed them at the same time and gave into whimsy. Polka dots in opposite colorways cancel each other out, right? We're going with it. 

Let's talk about this skirt first, as you've seen the shirt pattern (many times) before. This skirt is pattern #9 from the March 2016 issue of Knipmode,* which was filled with on-trend basics for spring. So, naturally, I waited until autumn to make this up. It's almost like there's a nursery rhyme about Marys and their contrarian ways. 

Anyway, this pattern. It's a full, pleated skirt with asymmetrical pleating, a curved waistband, and an invisible zipper side closure. On both the front and the back, there are two knife pleats and an inverted box pleat. Simple enough, right? I didn't even bother translating instructions from Dutch, so confident was I in my skirt skills. I raided my stash, came up with this dishy polka dot stretch twill from Mood, and started sewing this pattern in a straight Size 48.

Foolhardy decision. Look closer, my dears.  

*Note: This pattern is also available as a PDF. If you'd like to know more about how I use Knipmode, from translating to tracing, I recently posted about it on the Curvy Sewing Collective.

See those pleats? They don't look quite the same as the original, do they? There's something amiss. You can almost put your finger on it...


Yes, I sewed the pleats in the wrong directions. Somehow, when marking up the pattern, I ended up with a knife pleat on either side of a center box pleat. It's like my persnickety devotion to symmetry couldn't stand the intended design and hijacked the whole project.  Well played, subconscious. 

By the time I noticed the error, I'd pleated both sides. It was either unpick the whole thing or live with a more (though not fully) symmetrical design. Obviously, I didn't care that much. All I really wanted was a polka dot skirt in a full silhouette. I tried it on, decided it looked fine, and called it a design decision. 

Other than unforseen pleating adventures, this was a quick project. There's a black invisible zipper at the side, a fairly deep hem, and a faced waistband. It really doesn't get simpler than that, does it? I've actually made two further versions of this skirt, with full linings and correct pleat orientations, for more swishy basics. Mood has a great collection of cotton sateens right now, which lend themselves well to such garments. 

Onto the shirt! Have you guessed what pattern this is, yet?

This is another version of McCall's 7351, everyone's new favorite shirtdress. A couple months ago, I made a few alterations and also turned this pattern into my go-to button-down. It's a simple darted top with a classic collar, separate button bands, and a back yoke. 

What's fun about this garment is actually the fabric. This black and white polka dotted shirting is a gorgeous, lightweight lawn picked up from Gail K Fabrics in Atlanta. Back in May, Sam and I took a grand road trip through the Southeast, visiting beloved relatives, attending an academic conference, and frolicking our way through six states. 

The Georgia part of this trip was filled with sewing shenanigans. First up, I was lucky enough to attend the annual Young Designers Sewing Program fashion show, thanks to Sam's amazing Aunt Gail. The Young Designers program is a nonprofit in Athens, which teaches girls how to design and sew their own clothes, along with interviewing skills, college planning, and basic small business practices. Each year, they have a fashion show, where the girls show off all the clothes they've been making, from refashions of wedding dresses to vintage-inspired outfits that look straight from New York. I have never been so awed. Many of these girls were still in elementary school and already working with sergers, knits, and invisible zippers! If you're in the Athens/Atlanta area, this is a great organization to check out. They're always looking for fabric donations, financial backing, and sewists willing to donate their time! 

After Athens, we headed to Atlanta for the conference and some exploring of Sam's old graduate school haunts. There, I had the good luck to run into the gorgeous Sumiko, who is both a brilliant communication scholar and a fellow curvy sewist. We met up for coffee and sewing gossip, then afterwards I headed to the famed Gail K Fabrics. Y'all, this store deserves its reputation. Outside of Britex and Mood, I've never been so overwhelmed by a fabric store. They had walls upon walls of fabric, many stacked all the way to the ceiling. It was a labyrinth of beautiful prints and luxe fibers. In the end, I walked away with this shirting and two Marc Jacobs voiles (sapphire and emerald). It's definitely worth a trip, if you find yourself in Georgia! 

Though polka dot shirtings are fairly thick on the ground, this one is special. It washed up into a gloriously soft, draping cotton that skims over curves and is somehow impervious to wrinkles. Even better, it's printed on grain. On grain! I can't remember the last time I used a polka dot that lined up perfectly with the grain. That alone made it worth the purchase. 

The construction of this shirt was identical to my previous version, apart from the addition of two extra buttons. If you're curious about some more complicated aspects of button-downs, however, I have good news! I recently wrote a post for BERNINA's blog, We All Sew, about how I construct and sew collars. If you've wrestled with turning points and getting collars to curve, the tips I share in "The Secrets of Sewing Perfect Collars" should help out. 

There you have it, not one, but two polka dotted garments. Like I said, both of these pieces have gotten heaps of wear, in recent weeks. The button-down looks killer with skinny jeans and a drapey, bright cardigan, while the skirt dresses up beautifully with Bardot tops and heels. Honestly, though, I do prefer them worn together. There's something about the inversion of the same palette that lends a certain elegance to the humble dot. It's unconventional, but still classic. 

In short, I dig it. Now, where is my fainting couch?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Miss Margot Could Be Your Silver Springs: Butterick 5878

Good afternoon, my dear wombats! Over the last year, I've alluded to my evolving sense of style. It's something everyone goes through, of course. Your body changes, you get older, you move. All of these shifts reverberate through our wardrobes, as well.

When you make your own clothes, however, this transition can be more of a headache. My many cotton versions of Simplicity 1873 go unworn nowadays, crowding my closet with their bright, novelty prints, but there aren't nearly enough silk blouses to pair with skinny jeans. Add in measurements that are bouncing around like a rubber ball and my closet fills me with dread, a morass of slightly too-tight skirts and colors that don't suit my current mood.  

Then again, there are new additions that get plenty of rotation. Shirtdresses continue on, beloved and easy to wear, jewel tones speak to how much I'm over summer, and the 1970's has crept onto my radar. Think a light smattering of voluminous sleeves and bohemian silhouettes. My love of Stevie Nicks is finally influencing something other than my Spotify algorithm, it seems.

Any moment, I'm going to start wearing shawls and twirling. Tambourines, ahoy. 
In all honesty, I am in love with peasant style dresses for the fall. McCall's 7431 (View C, with those dramatic sleeves!) is high on my sewing wishlist, as is this maxi dress from Burda. However, Butterick 5878 seemed like the best way to ease into this look, if only because I'd already cut out the pattern. 

This is a woven surplice dress with a tiered skirt, three sleeve options, and elasticized waist. I'm not going to lie, kittens, that elastic waist drew me in originally. With those aforementioned bouncing measurements, sewing pieces that will fit from one month to the next is crucial right now. It's a miracle I'm not just sewing knits until my hormones even out again. 

Anywho. I opted for View B of this pattern, which has three tiers on the skirt and elasticized 3/4 sleeves. There was a point, halfway through, when I tried on the dress and almost left off the sleeves entirely. While this version of the pattern absolutely screams peasant dress, the sleeveless view looks decidedly modern when done all in one fabric, the perfect transitional piece from summer to fall.

I'll obviously need one of those, as well. 

Despite threats to leave off pieces or sub in a simple circle skirt, I embraced the design of this dress fully. Everything on the pattern is as-is, except for a Full Bust Adjustment taken before cutting. I probably could've skipped it, but the impulse for staying true to design integrity overrode me. I err toward fitting things as intended, rather than using ease to skate by with my measurements. It's always easier to take things in than to wish for more room, after all. 

The fabric of this dress is a rayon challis from Fabric Mart, which has languished in my stash for years. It's a minimalist tulip design in white, teal, and sapphire on a black background, with all the swish and body you'd expect from a challis. I had scads of it and no particular emotional attachment, so it was the ideal fabric for trying out a new pattern. Plus, it wouldn't push this dress into "prairie chic" territory, which was a legit concern. The tulips point in both directions, but more one way or another, depending on which side is up. I opted for more tulips pointing down, like little Tiffany lamps. 

The construction details on this pattern are what you would expect from a Big 4 dress pattern. The instructions are detailed and thorough, but I changed it up to suit my preferences. Butterick suggests that you encase the elastic in the loose seam allowance of the waist seam, which was waaaaay too messy for me. Instead, I serged that seam to finish it, then used it as a channel on the inside bodice, top-stitching the seam upwards, flat against the bodice. Leaving a few inches free, I then threaded the elastic through that channel and closed it up. Easy and much, much cleaner!

Everything else was a cinch. The tiers require a ton of gathering, but I rather like such mindless, longform sewing. Put on a podcast, zen out for thirty minutes, and you're done! On the sleeveless version of this dress, I will probably sub in a 3/4 circle skirt, though. There are only so many aggressively tiered dresses a woman needs. 

The final dress looks so close to how I imagined it. Loose, but feminine and begging to be layered with tights and boots. Arguably, it was meant to be belted, but my favorite skinny belt went M.I.A. for these pictures and I like the shape just as much without. The elastic waist still gives the dress plenty of definition and it's shockingly breezy and cool for the warm September days we're having. Hooray for rayon!

The one thing I don't like is the sleeve length. It turns out that elasticized sleeves kind of drive me crazy on my forearms. They're not tight enough to stay still, but they're not loose enough to keep from bothering me. I keep leaving them at my elbows, as in these pictures, which gives them a bell shape. It's cute, but definitely not as intended. 

When I change up the skirt on this pattern, I'll increase the depth of that crossover wrap on the bodice, as well. Like others before me, I added a tack at the center front, to prevent the bodice from blousing open. With a slightly deeper crossover, I could nix the tack and the camisole underneath. Using the current skirt, though, the shorter waistline from a deep wrap would have messed with the top tier's size. The pieces measure one for one, along the waistline. I didn't feel like pre-gathering before the elastic insertion or narrowing that tier, so I left the bodice intact. 

Can you tell I'm ready for fall? Things are getting desperate around here, when I'm willfully adding sleeves to dresses and wearing black by choice. After looking at these pictures, I'm dreaming of another version of this dress in true autumnal colors. Maybe a berry polka dot or mustard floral? Those would look gorgeous layered under cardigans and over tights. 

There's nothing wrong with a spot of aspirational sewing, right? Sew for the climate you want to have and all that. I haven't even started on my winter coats yet, so I'm still being somewhat practical. We'll ignore the piles of wool on my cutting table and pumpkin cake recipes crowding my browser tabs.