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. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Miss Gloria and the Swinging Vines: Papercut Sway Dress

Good afternoon, kittens! This weekend was filled with Hitchcock movies, turning plums into plum cakes, and a fair bit of sewing. After a summer of illness and calamity, we're reveling in the change of seasons. Well, metaphorically anyhow. It's still decidedly summer around here. To quote Stella from Rear Window, "You'd think the rain would've cooled things down. All it did was make the heat wet."

My fall sewing list is as long as my arm, but each piece is more impractical than the last. Stevie Nicks dresses and pink wool coats are exciting, sure, but I can't wear them until November! So, I'm instituting a rule: for every impractical garment I sew, the next piece needs to be wearable immediately. After giving Butterick 5878 a spin (a swishy, long-sleeved Stevie dress yet to be blogged), it was time for something practical. Namely, that green linen tent dress I mused over a few weeks ago. 

This is the Papercut Sway Dress again, made up in a medium-weight emerald green linen from Mood Fabrics. When this fabric first arrived, it was stiff with sizing and scratchy against the skin. Rather dreadful prospects for a garment. However, I took the brilliant Carolyn's advice about sewing with linen and washed it not once, but three times. This fully relaxed the linen fibers, washed away the sizing, and produced a soft, draping dream of a fabric. 

This method also protects somewhat against the worst of linen's wrinkles. There are still enough for character, of course, but I can definitely tell a difference between using this method and just single pre-washing. I can wear this dress all day and not look a complete mess, two hours in. 

I ordered two yards of this linen, which isn't quite enough for the pattern. Some creative cutting and adding a front yoke as a "design detail" sorted things out. I also changed a few things from my first version. The Full Bust Adjustment, with its angled dart at the side seam, remains, as does the fantastic all-in-one facing to finish the neckline and armscye. However, I sloped the hemline for a subtle high-low effect, giving the dress a little more swish. The waist tie is also twice as wide, which helps cinch in the heavier fabric. If you'd like more pattern construction details, check out my first Sway Dress review, which goes in depth about that process. 

Let's talk about actually sewing with linen though, shall we? Linen is one of my favorite substrates to wear. Perhaps I've watched Romancing the Stone or The African Queen one too many times, but wearing linen makes me feel both glamorous and ready to swing from a vine, should the situation call for it. However, it can be a bear to sew with. The loose weave grows as you handle the fabric, causing curves to stretch and seams to warp. It will also relax around your body, with wear, so fitted garments require planning ahead for bagging out and drooping. 

There's a fantastic article from Threads on sewing with linen, including guidance about seam finishes, linings, and pre-washing. Cobbling together advice from that article and a few others, I changed my process for better accommodate linen's idiosyncrasies. The facing for this dress is made with a coordinating green bamboo voile, which has a hand and structure like silk organza. That gives more support where the linen needs it: around the curves of the neckline and armscyes, plus along the shoulder seam, which carries most of the dress's weight. There's fusible interfacing around the neckline to stabilize it and twill tape in the shoulder seam itself, for further support. I also stay-stitched every possible curve, immediately after cutting my pattern pieces out, to prevent warp. 

In the Sway Dress instructions, we're told to let the dress hang for twenty-four hours, before hemming. This lets the bias parts of the skirt drop with gravity, so the hem won't be a dodgy, up-and-down affair after a day of wearing. With linen, this step is even more important. I let it hang for two whole days, to ensure everything dropped fully. This fabric has such a loose weave that the bias portions dropped over six inches at each side seam. Yikes! This is how that slight high-low hem came into being. I figured that I was going to spend an eon evening the hem anyhow, so why not make it more interesting? Thank heavens for dress forms, y'all. 

Voila! A totally practical emerald green tent dress. This really is perfect for end-of-summer Texas wardrobe blues. Sure, I'd rather be hauling out sweaters and tights, but this billowy, bright dress makes me smile every time I wear it. The extra wide waist tie mimics a fit-and-flare silhouette well, but the linen skims every curve and dances around the body. It's ideal for running errands on muggy days and dressing up for casual summer dates. Also, if I could source it in every substrate, I would probably wear this color every day. Emerald cashmere coat, I will have you, eventually!

Now, I'm going to plot my next impractical project and possibly bake a loaf of challah. I've been re-watching old seasons of The Great British Bake Off lately and they're giving me delusions of kitchen grandeur. We've had way too many clafoutis-related emergency grocery store trips, lately. Sam even had to talk me out of making ├«le flottante at midnight, earlier this week. Maybe a bit of frivolous sewing will curb such whimsy elsewhere? One can hope. 

Disclaimer: The fabric for this project was provided to me free of charge, as part of my membership in the Mood Sewing Network. However, I picked it out and all opinions are my own. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Miss Gloria Feels the Heat: Papercut Sway Dress

Hello, my loves! After six years of blogging, quiet summers have become something of a tradition on Idle Fancy, haven't they? The temperature skyrockets and all I want to do is wear yoga pants, drink iced tea, and wallow around in the air conditioning. Sewing begins to sound dreadful. 

Fit-and-flare dress? Ugh. Too tight. 
Cozy cardigan? Beyond depressing. I wouldn't be able to wear it until October. 
Jeans? Your optimism is hilarious. 

There is one silhouette that has been on my mind, however: the tent dress. They've been everywhere in stores again, this year, and have won me over. Sure, they're shapeless and--well--tent-like, but they're also flowing and lightweight and ideally suited for triple digit heat. I fell hard for a striped knit swing dress at Old Navy, then an embroidered white version at Anthropologie. They're not my usual silhouette, but they're the only garments I crave right now! 

Since I'm hopelessly late to this bandwagon, there are heaps of tent/trapeze/swing dress patterns already out there. There's the voluminous, bow-tied Cynthia Rowley design, Simplicity 1105, the notch-necked and subtle trapeze of New Look 6340, and even a chic silk Mart Visser collaboration from Knipmode's last issue

As usual, I gravitated toward the woven options. My stash is robust, but I don't buy knits on a whim, like I do lightweight cottons and rayons. When I want to sew a knit pattern, the fabric has to be sourced, ordered, then waited on. That doesn't work for impulse sewing! So, to try out this silhouette, I settled on the woven Papercut Sway Dress

This pattern has been made up dozens of times in blogland, to great effect. It's a classic tent dress with a v-neck, side seam pockets, two hem lengths, and an optional tie waist. The longer, cinched version appealed to the feminine core of my style. It has all the ease of a tent dress, but in a length and general shape I'm already comfortable with. Even better, the PDF version of this pattern only has 32 pages! It was printed and cut out in less than two episodes of Stranger Things (#JusticeForBarb)

I paired it with a cotton batiste from Mood Fabrics, in an orange tropical floral print. Batiste is an easy to work with fabric and the perfect weight for a light, floaty dress. I didn't bother matching the floral, since it has a large repeat, and love how the busy print worked with the simple lines of the Sway Dress. 

Of course, I don’t quite fit into Papercut’s size chart. Their final size goes to 44″-36″-46″, an inch or two off my bust and hip measurements. However, with my high bust of 42″ and this pattern’s generous ease through the body, the XL fit me well. To better accommodate my bustline, I did a 1.5 inch Full Bust Adjustment, adding a dart to the side seam of the front bodice.

While that’s a straightforward adjustment, this pattern only has two main pieces: a front dress and a back dress. As drafted, the dress is fully reversible, so the wearer can choose whether she wants a v-neck or a rounded neckline on any given day. This makes a ton of sense in a voluminous design, but my FBA rendered this impossible. I had to choose which neckline I wanted as the true front and opted for the v-neck. Huzzah for open necklines!

The other adjustment I made was to lower the pockets by three inches on each side. Maybe my height caused this problem, but they sat right at my waistline initially. Egads! That might be fine for the true tent version of this dress, but I made the longer view, with a tie that cinches in the waist. Having tie and pockets at the same level seemed absurd.

This dress was ridiculously simple to put together, kittens. There are only four body seams in the whole garment–joining the sides, front center, and back center–then the neckline and armscyes are finished with all-in-one facings. I haven’t used facings like this in years, but I love the clean finish they give. They’re more fiddly to install than traditional facings, but they don’t flip out while wearing and add a level of sophistication to the garment’s interior.

The two more labor intensive parts of this dress were the tie and the hem. While turning a tie right side out is always a trial, this one is super long, skinny, and made of fairly flimsy fabric. My usual method of turning it around a knitting needle didn’t work, so I switched over to the safety pin method, which sped things along. As for the hem, I used a narrow baby hem, after leaving the dress to hang for a day. Papercut mentions this step in their instructions and I highly recommend following it, instead of rushing through construction. My side seams dropped a good four inches, after hanging.

Overall, this is a well-written and thorough construction process. A beginner might find the method of attaching facings a bit confusing, but if you’ve put in a lining by machine before, you’ll be just fine. If you add an FBA to the pattern, remember to alter your front facing as well, to match the new curve of your armscye.

So, here's the big question. Can the cinched waist devotee fall for a tent dress?

Reach for the smelling salts, my dears. I actually love it! It’s lightweight, breezy, and swishes with every step. When suffering through another triple-digit heat index, those are priceless qualities in a garment.

Admittedly, this isn’t a silhouette I’ll wear without the waist tie or a belt. The longer length of the pattern hits me right above the knee, which is too long to make the unadorned tent work. At the shorter length, it would be flirty and kicky, even without the tie. As it is…well, the longer one really does give those muumuu vibes, doesn’t it? My waist and hips are completely lost in the dress's lines. For my purposes, though, it’s ideal. I don’t mind belting this dress, when it still has tons of ease through the bodice and hips. Either way, the Sway Dress is infinitely more comfortable than anything else in my closet!

Craving more Sway Dress inspiration? Check out the dresses that made me fall hard for this pattern: Nicole's flirty LBD, Rachel's chic linen midi dress, and Heather's fun crepe giraffe print. The lovely Gillian is also on a recent tent dress kick, sewing up pretty knit versions, like a graphic floral Jorna and bold scrollwork Groove dress

It might not be my usual look, but I am digging this dress, y'all. To truly kick the sewing malaise aside, I’m already sewing another version in lush, green linen with a wider waist tie. Take that, Texas summer!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Miss Irene and the Yankee Doodle Dandy: McCalls 7351

In sewing, mistakes are inevitable. Perhaps you accidentally clip a seam allowance and the seam, or you decide to skip interfacing this one time. Some overzealous scissor wielding or a too hot iron and a whole project can be ruined in seconds. Kittens, I've been there. 

Personally, my most regrettable mistakes all involve fabric. Whether choosing a knit with too little stretch or blindly ignoring something's polyester content, I've done it all. The worst, however, are the projects which paired beautiful lengths of fabric with mediocre, ill-fitting patterns. Most of those were before this blog started, but there have been some doozies even in the last six years! The one I look back on with genuine sadness is actually my very first shirtdress, the Sally Shirtdress from 2014

Despite that post's optimistic ending, it did not get a ton of wear. I wore the dress twice more, before consigning it to the back my closet forever. Both times, I couldn't wait to get back home and take the damn thing off. The buttons pulled constantly and the fabric bunched in odd places. Despite the luxe chambray and beautiful vintage buttons, it was a total disaster to wear. The pattern didn't work for me, simple enough.

And yet, I still loved the style. Dark blue chambray and red buttons are such a classic American combination. There's no garment more appropriate for a summer BBQ or 4th of July parade, unless you actually swath yourself in star spangled banners a la Pollyanna. 

Pollyanna: Taking cheerfulness and a theme too far, since 1913.

While the patriotic body bag was a tempting look, instead I decided to have another go at that chambray dress. This time, I armed myself with a better pattern and two more years of pattern fitting experience. Even the fabric got a little nicer, with this dishy Rag & Bone indigo cotton chambray from Mood. Thanks to a plain weave and strategic thread patterns, the fabric looks like a true denim, but has the lightweight feel of a drapey shirting. There's also a soft iridescence to its face, which changes the blue in different angles. 

For the pattern, I opted for my new go-to shirtdress pattern, which you've all heard about to death. This is McCall's 7351 (surprise!) with my altered narrow silhouette, which added waist darts and hip ease to View A. This is actually one of those dresses from my furious batch sewing binge, back in May. The other two didn't photograph as well, after a month of wearing and washing, so will have to make their debuts on Instagram at some point. 

Why, yes, I am dying to snip those errant little threads on the collar. 
While I wanted to use the vintage embossed buttons from my original Sally Shirtdress, fate had other plans. In my manic closet cleaning, this spring, that dress accidentally ended up in a charity pile instead of the refashion box. Somewhere, I hope someone is greatly enjoying those gorgeous buttons! This dress had to settle with plain red plastic buttons from JoAnn Fabrics. Their color pops off the dark chambray beautifully and matched some stashed thread, so it all worked out rather well. 

The construction details of this dress are exactly the same as my previous versions, down to top-stitching all the things and self-fabric finishes. However, if you squint at the picture above you can see a special little change. All the top-stitching thread is red! It's more apparent in real life than in pictures, but I adore it. Coordinated stitching is something that I love in ready-to-wear designs, yet rarely do myself. There's too much room for error, when every stitch is that obvious. This dress seemed worth it, though, and the extra time for perfectionism paid off. The collar and button bands look gorgeous. 

And that, my dears, is victory. The dreadful mistake is finally undone! I love this dress. It feels wonderful to own a version of this style that I will actually wear. There's no unsightly bunching or pulling, here. It's all perfectly fitting, perfectly comfortable chambray goodness.

Even better, that's my outfit sorted for our annual 4th of July party, next month. Now, I'll spend the next week deliberating varieties of pie to make, instead of what to wear. Apple and cherry are a must, but blueberry mascarpone or chocolate cream for the third? Decisions, decisions... 

Let's be honest, much like shirtdresses, I'll probably just make them all. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Miss Delphine Meets Her Match: McCall's 7351 Variation

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics Italian Batiste-4883

Kittens, meet my white whale. 

For the entirety of my adult sewing career, I have longed for the perfect button-front shirt. This is, obviously, a running theme with me. I believe in the platonic version of every garment. It's the entire reason I picked up sewing again, as an adult. I wouldn't just go shopping for a cute sundress, I would go shopping for the perfect sundress. Inevitably, I'd mentally design a garment in such specific detail that it became impossible to find in stores. The color wouldn't be quite right or the cut would be wrong. Given my proportions, even if I did find my perfect piece, it rarely fit. 

Buttoned shirts were the worst. If they fit my bust, the sleeves, shoulders, and waist were comically large. I ended up looking like a toddler wearing her dad's work shirt. Unfortunately, this hasn't improved much with sewing. 

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics Italian Batiste-4913

Grainline's Archer shirt, which worked beautifully on some of my favorite bloggers*, was all wrong for me. Even after adding a dart, the style was too boxy, losing my shape in swaths of fabric. I muslined Sewaholic's Granville, but at the end of the day, it took too many alterations to make a pear-specific pattern work for me. Most Big 4 options lacked my favorite details, Deer & Doe's patterns didn't come in my size, and Burda's plus size shirts gave billowy a new name.

Admittedly, I could've just drafted one from my sloper or made 800 alterations to any of the above patterns. Alas, I'm lazy and wear dresses most of the time anyway. Every so often I would try out a new button-front pattern, be nonplussed by the results, and dive back into the safety of floofy dresses. 

That could not stand. These days, I'm wearing jeans almost as often as dresses. Waco is much more casual than my hometown, Austin, and it's had a simplifying effect on my wardrobe. Unfortunately, my sewing hasn't really gotten that memo yet. While I wear and love all of my dresses, I also need more summer tops in the mix. Pieces that can tuck into skirts or float loosely with jeans are in heavy rotation right now. Me being me, the definition of "simple" still involves fancy fabrics and loads of tailoring details. You can take the girl out of the city...

*See: Heather, Amanda, and Sallie

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics Italian Batiste-4950

Unlike my more desultory attempts at button-front shirts, this time I had both gumption and a plan. Instead of using an existing shirt pattern and tweaking it to high heaven, I took McCall's 7351 and turned it into my go-to button-front blouse. The bodice already worked brilliantly as a shirtdress, with a nicely fitting collar and gape-free button band, so it was a cinch to translate those features to a shirt. 

Armed with bee paper and a legion of tracing implements, I set to work. Five changes turned beloved shirtdress into favorite blouse: 
  1. Lengthened the back and front bodice pieces to my fullest hip point + 5/8 inch for a hem. This erased my added waist dart and added eight inches to the bodice pattern. On the back, this also straightened the sharp curve inward at the waist.
  2. Lengthened the button bands to match the bodice. 
  3. Flared out the hip curves, to put a little swing in the blouse. 
  4. Added a split at the side seam, for ease of movement. 
  5. Curved the final hems into a shirt-tail shape. 

Voila! My platonic shirt pattern materialized. 

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics Italian Batiste-5003

The fabric for this first blouse is an Italian cotton batiste from Mood, bought as part of my monthly Mood Sewing Network allowance, in a riotous floral print. I love all those hot colors on the bright blue background, though this fabric also comes in a dishy fig/light pink/light blue colorway and an autumnal orange/yellow/black colorway. I figured that the tailored lines of my blouse would be a good match for such a large scale print, since the top-stitching and details break up the gigantic flowers. It doesn't overwhelm my figure, as it might made into a dress, but instead is a nice, bright summery piece. 

The construction details are a hodgepodge of my favorite shirtdress and flowy blouse techniques. Collar, collar bands, and button bands are all interfaced with fusible interfacing and sewn by machine, while the armscyes and yoke are finished with self-fabric. There's matching blue top-stitching all over the place, including the side seams, which are turned under and stitched. Black buttons finish it off, further grounding the loud print. The back is a bit blousy, so I may add some very small double-ended darts there in its next iteration. 

Y'all, I love this blouse. 

Love, love, love it. I want to wear it everyday and dance around and tell complete strangers that I made it myself. So, I'd call this experiment a win. It hugs my body in just the right places, moves really well, and isn't drowning my figure in fabric. To prevent it falling apart at the seams from overuse, I am going to make a few more in fabrics picked up on our eastbound adventures. I have a white and black polka dot shirting that would be so sweet in this pattern, with little black buttons marching up the band. 

Also, thank you so much for all your kind words, last week. June is definitely a better month than May, around here. Sam is hale and hearty, our house has yet to explode again, and I'm spending an inordinate amount of time in my sewing room. Summer is shaping up rather nicely, after all. 

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics Italian Batiste-4893

Note: The fabric for this project was given to me by Mood Fabrics free of charge, as part of my participation in the Mood Sewing Network. I picked it out, however, and all opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Miss Irene Lights up the Night: McCall's 7351

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Japanese Lantern Cotton-1-2

There are times when sewing is more than a craft. 

In graduate school, this hobby was something I could conquer and control within a set time frame. That last part was particularly important. My dissertation was a year-long process of frantic writing and re-writing, but a few hours was all it took to make a well-fitting dress. Such quick project resolutions were a godsend, especially in comparison to the graduate work that wouldn't end. 

Nowadays, sewing tends to be a more practical part of life. I sew, because I don't really buy ready-to-wear anymore. Other than jeans, sweaters, and lingerie, everything in my closet is homemade. If I want a new dress, or a cute off-the-shoulder blouse, I raid the fabric closet and make it myself. It's fun, but it's rarely a case of true mental self-care. 

Until last month, of course.

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Japanese Lantern Cotton-28

Sam and I had a week from hell, y'all. Right after school ended, we were supposed to embark on an epic road trip of the Southeast. Instead, the night before our trip began, the plumbing in our mid-century house went haywire. Our master bath flooded, all plumbing in the house became unusable, and it took plumbers four days to show up and fix the problem.

Meanwhile, poor Sam came down with a vicious stomach bug. The universe has a damn fine sense of humor, kittens. 

So, our trip was put on hold and we were landlocked. First, in a hotel room, then finally back at our own house, as the beloved recuperated. Sewing became a matter of sanity preservation, once again. In that one week, I cut out and sewed four more variations of McCall's 7351. While there are other patterns in my queue, I wanted solace from my sewing. I needed to make pieces that would definitely work out and would instantly fit into my wardrobe. Shirtdresses were a guaranteed win on all fronts. 

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Japanese Lantern Cotton-42

I'm going to combine the other dresses into one big post, but this first one deserved special attention. Not only is the fabric a beloved piece, but this dress was a template for the other three. After my last version of M7351, I changed the pattern to better suit my preferences. 

While I loved the casual elegance of that straight skirt, it wasn't terribly comfortable to wear. It felt more restrictive than I'm used to and made me long for a pair of Spanx. In order to make the straight skirt silhouette work for me, I made a few crucial changes: 
  1. Widened the skirt by four inches. 
  2. Changed the shape to a slight A-line. 
  3. Added four darts at the front and four darts at the back, for a better fit at the waist. 
The end result is a dress that has the same casual feel of the original design, but skims my lower body more. It's still a much different silhouette than M6696 or the full-skirted M7351. With the shirt-tail hem and A-line shape, it's almost like an elongated man's shirt. You know, with that all important waist definition. 

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Japanese Lantern Cotton -- back and front

It's funny, I'm still calling this McCall's 7351, but I've certainly veered away from the original pattern. The silhouette may be similar, but between bodice and skirt changes over multiple versions, the pattern pieces themselves look radically different. I've somehow turned a simple, two dart shirtdress into a project with twelve darts! Mary Danielson Perry: complicating the issue since 1985. 

I love where the fit has ended up. The waist lays closer than the original and the bodice fits so nicely that I've already turned it into a button-down shirt pattern, as well. The experiments won't end there either. I'm currently testing how this pattern looks with the pleated skirt of M6696. I'm guessing it's going to be winner, as well. This pattern is such a great canvas for design alterations. 

This fabric, as mentioned, is a favorite of mine. It was a gift from my mother, for my thirtieth birthday, last year. That comes as no surprise, if you've met her. My love of bright novelty prints on black backgrounds comes honestly, friends! This is a Japanese cotton print from B&J Fabrics, but no longer available on their site. It's a lightweight broadcloth with a crisp hand and, as you can see, is covered in lovely, colorful paper lanterns. The color palette is a retro mix of earth tones and muted pastels, which balances the sweetness of the print in such a great way. Mom has awesome taste, right?

I only had three yards of fabric, so barely eked out this dress. To cut corners, I used a pale dotted yellow cotton batiste as the yoke lining and bias bindings. Apart from the under-stitching on the yellow, the whole dress was sewn and top-stitched with black thread. It breaks up the print enough to make the details pop. Huzzah!

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Japanese Lantern Cotton-14

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Japanese Lantern Cotton-39

Now, I know the whole world is posting shirtdresses right now. Between the McCall's sew-along and all the new patterns coming out, it's a great time to practice your shirt-making skills. You might be tired of all those collars and buttons marching into your feeds, but...I am probably going to keep posting them. I did once promise to make 1000 of the things, after all. 

This one, at least, did its job well. Not only is it on constant rotation in my wardrobe, but it was the perfect comfort project for that hellish week. Luckily, since then, things have looked up! We went on an attenuated version of that trip, safely made it through the Southeast to visit Sam's family, and returned home to delighted dogs and a perfectly working plumbing system. 

Small victory, but I'll take it!