Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Miss Vivienne Finds the Spot: 3/4 Circle Skirt

Good evening, friends! As with every other Wednesday this semester, Sam is teaching a late night capstone class (The Allegory of the Cave: Rhetoric and Film*) and won't be home until after nine. While I miss the bearded one, this means my Wednesday nights are filled with sewing, blogging, and catching up on The Paradise. There are worse ways to spend an evening!

Tonight, and many nights recently, I've been musing over personal style. My thirtieth birthday is later this year and I keep catching myself saying things like "This dress feels too young for me" and "That's a lot of pink, yo." While I think the ageist way we approach style is ridiculous, I do find myself naturally gravitating away from certain pieces of my youth. (Not florals. Florals for life!) I'm craving saturated colors, a little more sex appeal, and heightened glamour. Hell, I've even been building a Pinterest board and stalking my style icons (specifically: Heather and Ulrika) for inspiration on the matter. 

What's more, in March, I'm spending three days on camera and was specifically told to wear business casual outfits in solid colors. So, of course, I just sewed a polka dotted circle skirt. Nothing says adult glamour and business casual like GIANT POLKA DOTS OF DOOM. 

Nope, there's nothing super twee here. 

*Doesn't this class sound fascinating? I helped brainstorm the film screenings and readings for it, which was a blast. Tonight, they're discussing An Education and a piece by bell hooks, as related to feminism and educational inequality. Undergrad Mary would've been ecstatic over that pairing. 

Who am I kidding? Polka dots will always be welcome in my wardrobe, increased attention to glamour or not. Some loves you can't and shouldn't outgrow. Polka dots are timeless! This particular fabric was bought, at least, seven years ago at Hancock Fabrics and is a non-stretch cotton pique. My original intention was to make a pair of retro shorts with it, but I never ever wear shorts, so it sat in the fabric closet instead. When I decided to make a quick 3/4 circle skirt last week, it seemed the perfect choice. 

Unfortunately, it was printed just a hair off grain. With any other fabric, this wouldn't be such an issue, but the eye notices dots that have gone askew. That would have driven me insane! To mitigate the matter, I cut the skirt itself mostly in line with the dots, while the waistband is completely on grain. Trust me, there is nothing more uncomfortable than an off-grain waistband! No pattern placement is worth that sort of twisting. I did a two-piece outer waistband, so that the dots wouldn't march off quite so horribly and it turned out pretty well. An untrained observer, so used to RTW shenanigans, wouldn't even notice! Or so I'm assuring myself, anyhow. 

I didn't have quite enough fabric to perfectly match those side seam Vs. Circle skirts are such fabric hogs. 

After figuring out how to finagle those dots, this was a cinch to sew up. There is nothing easier than a circle skirt with a straight waistband. I've become so accustomed to the complicated rigors of shirtdresses that this almost felt like cheating!  There's an invisible zipper at the left side seam and the insides are all serged in dark gray, as a finish. I even took the quick route on the waistband, securing the inner facing by top-stitching the outside. So easy! 

The hem is also machine-stitched, instead of my usual handsewn finish. If a fabric betrays me by being printed off-grain, I'm not spending two hours catch-stitching an endless hem on it. Plus, this pique is pretty damn hefty and took the machine stitches beautifully. Woohoo!

There is some sick part of me insisting that navy-and-white polka dots are so classic that they're basically a neutral. I don't need the rationalizations, however. I really love this little skirt and its grandiose polka dots. It goes fabulously with my collection of bright sweaters and the coral Keds I'm currently obsessing over. Besides, my kid sister turns 18 this weekend (Happy Birthday, Lainey Love!), so clinging to my youth is an expected reaction. I'll ride it out a little longer. 

My chicer aspirations can attack the box of pretty, bright pontes that just arrived on my doorstep. I'm contemplating a few versions of this 11/2014 Burda dress, but we shall see...

Note: If you, too, would like a 3/4 circle skirt, check out Devon's new tutorial over at Miss Make. It's an exquisitely detailed guide to drafting something similar. (I use a side zip, instead of a center back.)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Miss Clara Predicts an Early Spring: McCall's 6696

Hello, lovelies! Perhaps you thought that, with the end of 1000 Shirtdresses, I would be finished with McCall's 6696. However, spring looms in Texas. That means the lighter, brighter fabrics in my stash are demanding buttons and collars of their own. While I do have many other things on the docket, I made two shirtdresses in late January, especially for those warmer months: one floral and one plaid. Even better, I finally photographed one of them! 

This pastel cotton lawn has been in my stash for five or six years. With Liberty-like softness and all those pretty purple flowers, it's ideal for a sweet, springy shirtdress. (God, that's a lot of alliteration. Forgive me, friends.) Unfortunately, it was also really, really narrow. With four-and-half yards, I was just able to squeak a sleeveless 6696 out of it. 

After five previous iterations of this pattern, there shouldn't be more to say about it. However, I went for a different finishing route with this one. After all that sitting around in a closet, this particular fabric deserved extra flourish. With such a dainty print, why not throw in a few pretty techniques, as well? 

Instead of my usual shirtdress methodology of Topsitching All The Things, I instead hand-sewed all the details. The button bands, waistband, yoke, and hem were secured in place, using simple slip stitch. Meanwhile, the armholes were finished with self-bias tape and a catch-stitch. It all made for a beautiful, clean finish. Woohoo for unnecessary attention to details! 

One certain detail really makes me swoon over this dress, however. Instead of picking clear buttons, or contrasting ones, I covered eleven half-inch buttons with the same floral lawn. Sure, they blend in in these photos, but they add a lovely, feminine touch, in person. My fingertips hurt for two days afterwards, but it was worth it! Oh, sewing...

There's not much more to say about this dress, dear ones. The only fit change I made was to raise the armholes another half-inch. So interesting, no? In the end, this is a fabulous dress for spring. The colors come off a little washed out, in the winter light of these photos, but they're quite pretty in real life. It's going to be cute with a coordinated cardigan and espadrilles. 

Best of all? Next week, our temperatures hover around 70 degrees. It's always nice to actually wear the dress you've recently spent five hours hand sewing! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Miss Mavis Goes to the Opera: Vintage Simplicity 5238

Good evening, friends! Tonight, we're going to talk about three things: vintage patterns, sewing with velveteen, and loving the monsters. Let's deal with the monsters first, shall we? You know the ones I'm talking about--those flawed garments that we love anyway. The dresses with wonky darts or holes from seam ripper "incidents" that see heavy rotation in our closet, nonetheless 

This dress is one such monster, I'm afraid. I love it, but it's definitely not perfect. You've been warned.

It all started with a pattern. I'm not one for New Year's resolutions, but I would like to use more vintage patterns this year. I've collected them for eons, but was excessively lazy about sewing them up, during grad school. Tracing, grading, and making multiple muslins wasn't my idea of blissful sewing. Imagine that! Now that I have more free time, however, the prospect of a long process isn't nearly so grim. 

First out of my stash: Simplicity 5238. This cocktail dress from 1963, a favorite of Erin's, seemed like a painless way to reenter the world of vintage. It's a one dart bodice, with a box-pleated skirt and two sleeve options, long or short kimono sleeves. Even better, my copy was a size 40, which aligned pretty well with my high bust (40 inches) and waist (35 inches). One FBA and I should've been good to go!

So, I was. Three bodice muslins later. Oh, vintage ladies, your undergarments provided such amusingly improbable dart locations! During the course of my alterations, I:
  • Added a side bust dart, through a two-inch full bust adjustment (Muslin 1)
  • Moved the front waist dart one inch toward the center seam, lowered the side dart (Muslin 2)
  • Curved both darts, to make up for some underbust pooling (Muslin 3)
  • Adjusted for a sway back (Muslin 3)
  • Changed the shoulder slope angle (Muslin 3)
I also decided to eliminate the skirt's center seam, since it's just a pleated dirndl. With this particular dress, I actually changed the pleat orientation entirely, to better preserve the fabric's pattern. 

Then, we come to the velveteen. That's right, the velveteen. Heaven forbid a fabric this pretty be reserved for rabbits contaminated with scarlet fever. When I saw this black cotton velveteen, with its swirling copper floral pattern, I snatched it up for a Mood Sewing Network project. It was originally going to be a blazer, then a Kim dress, then a coat. When I looked at the suggested fabrics for Simplicity 5238, however, velveteen was first on the list. Sartorial kismet!

Of course, this pattern does have a center front bodice seam and a bias-cut back bodice. I cut the pattern out in one layer, to match those seams in an appropriate manner. Unfortunately, the skirt pieces were really wide, when compared with the 46'' fabric, so I had to center the skirt on a different line of the floral. It doesn't bother my eyes, looking instead as if the pattern builds, as we go toward the hem. That's pure, dumb luck, y'all. 

Center front pattern matching, like a boss!
Center back seam!
The back bodice matching isn't quite as on point, because trying to find a visually
agreeable bias origin point is a pain in the ass. 

When it comes to construction, velveteen is finicky. Pressing it incorrectly can cause the pile to crush and seams can't be unpicked, then altered, because sewing will make permanent lines on the fabric. To make everything easier, I used a towel draped across my ironing board, to prevent a crushed pile. Similarly, I used a very light hand with the iron itself, paired with heavy steam. (More tips on sewing velvet and velveteen can be found in Elisalex's recent blog post.) 

My other major velveteen tip? Don't wear nice things, while sewing it up. Velveteen frays like the devil, while you're sewing, and the pile turns into fluffy balls of doom. Fluff gets on everything. I serged those seams, as soon as they were sewn, and faced the hem, sleeves, and neckline with silk organza, to combat it. I was still covered in the stuff. 

Silk organza not only lends more structure to those areas, but prevents fabric deterioration. Woohoo! I sewed the velvet and organza right sides together, flipped the facings to the inside, then catch-stitched them down. Similarly, the zipper is a traditional zip, hand-picked in place. This particular piece involved quite a few hours of watching Phryne Fisher solve murders, while hand stitching all those bits in place.

Silk organza hem facing! I like visible catch-stitching, instead of blind stitches. Don't tell my grandmother.

Everything seems alright up to now, doesn't it? I didn't crush the pile or accidentally misalign my center seams. How does this dress deserve monster status? Well, check that bodice fit, kittens. The weight of the velvet, paired with a little bit of stretch, means that my perfectly fitted muslin didn't translate over. The whole thing is a touch big and those darts refuse to lie flat. With any other fabric, I could probably steam them into submission, but that's not an option here. There is some bubbling on the front, which definitely wasn't there in my final muslin. Alas, I've discovered the problem with sewing a velvet garment toile out of easy-to-please cotton...

Here's the thing, though. I really love this dress.

Rationally, I know that the bodice is imperfect and that the whole thing looks like an ill-fated attempt to upholster a blonde, but whatever. It's soft and warm and the fabric is gorgeous. There's something so delicious about wearing yards of lush, dramatically printed velveteen. My judgment may be twisted from reading about that rabbit as a child, but I adore this fabric and this dress. Perhaps I'm not completely batty, however, because Sam agrees with me. He's plotting to buy tickets to some fancy theater event soon, so that he "can dress up in a three-piece suit and take me out to show off that dress." You've got to love a man who loves your monsters, don't you?

Note: Fabric for this dress was provided by Mood Fabrics, as part of my participation in the Mood Sewing Network.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

1000 Shirtdresses: Round-up + Winner

Good afternoon, friends! I hope you're having a lovely weekend. My own has been spent perusing the gorgeous entries into the Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses! Y'all, we ended up having forty-seven shirtdressess made over the last few months. That's a whole lot of buttons! I've gathered up the official entries below, so that we can all properly gawk at these beautiful garments. Shall we?


Sophie-Lee looks ethereal in her light blue polka dot chambray dress, Lauren drafted (!) her own classic, navy blue dotty shirtdress, and Nicole opted for a chic collarless shirtdress, in this super fun polka dotted rayon. 

Andie is a woman after my own heart in this seasonally-inappropriate nautical shirtdress, with white bands and striped shoulder button tabs, while Beat Girl not only made a shirtdress, but her first ever dress! Even cooler, those dots are actually tiny daisies, when up close.

Marije was our very first entrant, with this gorgeous black-and-white version of McCall's 6696, Caroline is a vision in this vintage-inspired red floral, with a beautifully piped collar, and Chrystal has me swooning over her floral striped shirtdress, with a coordinated yellow collar.

 Sophie-Lee went with vintage re-issue Simplicity 1459 for her second fabulous shirtdress, made up in a largescale floral cotton sateen, Bianca is right at home in a garden, wearing her lovely raspberry ditsy floral, Rhiannon's dramatic red botanical print has me on the look out for copycat fabric, and Alicia is so on-trend for 2015 in this glorious wax print floral Hawthorn.

Bec is channeling the divine wardrobe of Betty Draper in her sweet floral lawn 6696, Emily put a twist on the Colette Pastille dress to create her lovely orange half-shirtdress, Rowena made a beautiful Hawthorn, using bamboo-and-bird print cotton and coordinated cream collar/cuffs, and if Izzy didn't live in Saudi Arabia, she'd be in danger of me stealing this shades-of-pink floral shirtdress from her closet!


 Ruth made a perfectly matched version of the Cami dress, complete with bias-cut sleeve cuffs for a fun bit of visual interest, Marije returned with a beautifully autumnal plaid for her second version of 6696, and Fiona made a cozy, layering version of the Alder dress in blue-and-black buffalo plaid flannel.
Cheryl is super cool in her plaid, sleeveless Alder and fabulous brown boots, Qui made the epitome of a classic shirtdress, in a sweet peach and turquoise plaid, while Debbie made her first ever shirtdress, a fantastic neutral plaid version of McCall's 6600.


Gina is tailored and chic in her gorgeous candy-striped version of M6696, which I'm already plotting to knock off, Tanya was inspired by the period costumes of Call the Midwife, when she made her lovely navy-and-white striped vintage Simplcity, and Nancy is sweetly classic in her blue-and-white striped M6696, proof that the simplest fabrics can also be the prettiest.


 Honey looks so modern and lovely in her bold, graphically printed shirtdress , Melizza's silk ribbon version of the Alder dress is the perfect winter layering piece, CFA13 is absolutely gorgeous in her retro print shirtdress with coordinated buttons, while Amanda is a picture of summery cuteness in a rayon version of much-loved M6696.

Angelica used a textured cotton floral, gifted from her grandmother, to make a light and beautiful Hawthorn dress, Marilla paired a southwestern print Kaufman chambray with her own Maya dress pattern, for the ultimate day dress, and Bianca is a work of art herself in a blue-and-white printed version of M6696.
 Chrystal captured that casual end-of-summer vibe in her gorgeous nautical print shirtdress , Andie stole all of our hearts with her color-blocked, cat-themed newspaper dress, while Linda put a bird on it, with this modern maroon shirtdress in the cutest flock-print fabric.

Lyric is absolutely stunning in her cream-and-khaki botanical print half-shirtdress and chic belt, Kirsten used a Japanese cotton lawn to create a fresh and summery version of Grainline's Alder dress, and Trisha use French seams and heaps of hand-sewing on her elegant and bold crepe de chine shirtdress.


 Becky started off a parade of gorgeous blue shirtdresses, with her classic denim fit-and-flare and super cute gold toe shoes, Jo is as pretty as a picture in her dark indigo Frankenpattern shirtdress, and Cheryl altered the Alder pattern, to make this casually cute chambray popover dress.
 Ida Aida turned her soft denim M6696 into a stand-out dress, with an embroidered collar and waistband, Sylvie is timelessly elegant in her royal blue version of Simplicity 1459, in a tone-on-tone print cotton sateen, CFA13 makes the ideal summer dress, in blue linen with variegated cream buttons.
Caroline reminds us that corduroy can be elegant, in a burgundy M6696, with pops of polka dot contrast fabric, Marianne's beautiful black brocade shirtdress is perfect for a night on the town and sipping festive drinks, and Tanya is all summer elegance in her classic blue shirtdress, with white buttons and top-stitiching. 

Holy smokes, ladies! I'm blown away by these dresses. Thanks so much for joining me in this sewing challenge and braving all those buttonholes. Your dresses are, to a one, beautifully made and absolutely lovely. I know I'll be perusing that Flickr group for more inspiration, in the future! Thank you, again, for sharing your creative talents with me and the other participants.

Now, onto the last question of The Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses.
Who won the prize package? Well, I assigned numbers chronologically, plugged them into a random number generator and...

Our winner is also our very first entrant, Marije of  Make Think Go! Congratulations, Marije! Send me an e-mail with your mailing address to anidlefancy (at) and I'll send out your goodies! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reminder: 1000 Shirtdresses Deadline!

Hello, friends! I'm sitting here in my office, recovering from a stomach virus and trying to narrow down the prize package for the Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses winner. Which reminded me to remind you...

If you want to enter a shirtdress, any shirtdress, into the challenge, you still have time! The deadline is tomorrow night, January 22nd, at Midnight (PST). Simply add your photos to the Flickr group and you're entered. There's no need to have a blog post or even a blog. If you've made a shirtdress in the past few months, you're good to go! Our winner will be randomly drawn and announced this weekend. 


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Miss Bonnie and the Tale of Two Cotton Jerseys

Good evening, dear ones! Tonight, Sam is making his world-famous spaghetti and has decreed that I must sit on the couch, drink wine, and do something fun. I'm supposed to complete a book proposal by Monday and the first chapter of this particular one is trying, very slowly, to murder me. I've rewritten it four different ways and it just won't gel. So, I'm taking the night off. While I do have a new Tessa Dare book to read and Project Runway: All Stars to watch, I thought I'd prattle about my latest dresses instead. So, sparkling shiraz in hand, let's do this!

Surprise! I'm still sewing knits. The combination of a looming deadline and chilly weather has really kicked this stretch-obsession into overdrive. When writing a page feels like cutting open a vein, a quick, cute sewing project can be the difference between singing Enya and boiling bunnies. Both of these dresses were gloriously quick: 2.5 hours each, from cutting to hem. Our neighborhood rabbits are breathing tiny, adorable sighs of relief. 

Note: The pictures of this dress were taken, when it was 27 degrees outside. They aren't great, admittedly, but they were taken quickly to avoid frostbite. High five for still having all my digits to high five with!

Beyond the fact that these are my most recent projects, there's another reason I paired these dresses together. They're cotton jerseys, from two different suppliers. I thought it might be interesting to compare and contrast the two fabrics, as knits can be more difficult to buy online than wovens. Cotton jerseys really run the gamut, when it comes to stretch, recovery, and weight. As such, these are two very different dresses, even using the same fabric type and pattern.

The rose dress was made with organic stretch jersey, in dusty rose, sent to me from Organic Cotton Plus. (Color out of stock, but they have this gorgeous plum!) Fairly heavy, this jersey is 13.25 oz and has 10% spandex content. The blue dress, meanwhile, is made from Girl Charlee's in-house jersey. It's billed as medium weight, at 10 oz and 5% spandex, and was sold as "Paris Green." That color is also sold out (Another lovely plum in this fabric!), which is good because it prevents me from sending a rant-filled, unbearably pretentious e-mail about how Paris Green and turquoise are two completely different colors. Paris Green was the violently poisonous, completely gorgeous deep yellow-green of the Impressionists, while this... this is just perfectly fine turquoise.


Manet does Paris Green!

Mary does turquoise!

Ahem. Sorry, y'all. I just got really, really excited about finding supposedly Paris Green fabric, ordered it, and opened a box of blue jersey. Maybe it's that I was raised by an artist, but that somewhat sickly, deep green has always been one of my favorite hues. We're only now able to recreate it properly with synthetic dyes and my sewing room is painted with one such modern iteration! I'd kill for some fabric in the same color.

Why, yes, that is the nerdiest rant I've indulged in on this blog. Never underestimate my ability to get all riled up over silly things!

Both of these fabrics have sat in my stash for a few months. While I adore wool jerseys, I have mixed emotions about their cotton cousins. They are so, so comfortable, but they can also cling to every lump and bump. I love all my various lumps, but I don't necessarily want them zeroed in on either. However, after my success with sweater knits, I itched to try some more Frankenbonnies! I ordered two more wool jerseys from Mood, but while trying not to badger the postman, these jerseys caught my eye again. How would cotton look in my new favorite pattern? 

Turns out, I like the results quite a bit!  Like my sweater dresses, these are both made with a combination of Blue Ginger Doll patterns. It's the Violet skirt (size 18) paired with Bonnie's bodice (18), which I narrowed at the waist to match Violet's original proportions. Are they clingier pieces? Unquestionably. However, they're sublimely comfortable. The rose dress, specifically, feels like the world's softest pajamas. They also turned out to be two fairly different dresses.

Despite cutting the same size, the rose dress is slightly tighter. The jersey from Organic Cotton Plus has phenomenal recovery, thanks to that high spandex content. It's the springiest jersey I've ever felt, which bodes well for its longevity, but also makes it mold to my body. The bodice that worked so well with sweater knits ended up rippling around the bust. On one hand, it's a knit dress and this happens with knits, on the other hand...curse those wrinkles! Everything else about this dress is beautiful. The weight of the jersey gives the skirt a lovely, swishy drape, and the color is just divine. Dusty rose is one of those colors that I'm ambivalent about on the rack, but love to wear. It makes everything so, well, rosy!

Meanwhile, the turquoise dress fits well, but probably won't retain its shape over time. The knit has a good deal of stretch, but doesn't recover easily. After a day of wearing this, the collar band flops and the elbows bag. Even in these pictures, you can see how any bit of movement makes the band do weird things. That being said, I prefer the bodice fit here. The looser knit means everything skims, rather than clings. Unlike with the rose dress, the lines of my slip are completely invisible and the bodice doesn't pull. Woohoo! I also prefer the slightly lighter weight of this jersey, since it doesn't bunch quite as easily. 

Both dresses were sewn mostly on my serger, with hems sewn and sleeves gathered at my traditional machine. The hems were turned up with Stitch Witchery, then twin-needled in place, to prevent warping. I also added in clear elastic at the waistbands and shoulders, to stave off loosening there. The rose jersey was much easier to construct, because it didn't curl up as drastically as the turquoise. When pinned together it stayed in place, whereas the turquoise required extra vigilance, to make sure all the bits where aligned and not curled under. The seam allowances on BGD's knit patterns are 1/4'', which is super small, so this was more of an issue. 

Neither one of these will replace the sweater dresses in my heart, but they are already getting worn a lot. It's hard to say no to secret pajamas, even if they cling a little bit to the lumps! So, which jersey wins the competition here? I'm honestly not sure. Despite its cling issues, I keep coming back to the rose Organic Cotton Plus fabric. Knowing how it clings now, I would size up the next time around, but it feels so dishy on and was easy to sew. I have my eye on some that plum for myself, for a short sleeved version of the Frankenbonnie. While I really like Girl Charlee's fabric options, despite color confusion, we'll have to see how this dress wears over time. If it exceeds my expectations, I may order from them again, because some of those prints are too cute to resist! 

Either way, my box of Mood sweater knits arrived last night. Bring on the wooly knits! 

Note: The OCP jersey was given to me, in exchange for an honest review, while the Girl Charlee was bought out-of-pocket. I couldn't resist that "Paris Green!"