Sunday, April 17, 2016

Miss Irene is for the Birds: McCall's 7351

Idle Fancy - McCalls 7351 - Bird Print Shirtdress-1-2

Good evening, kittens! After too many weekends on the road, Sam and I are spending this one firmly ensconced at home. The NBA Finals are on TV, both dogs are napping by the back door, and an impressive line of thunderstorms is moving in. We couldn't ask for a lazier, more peaceful Saturday off. Dog snores and all.

At some point, I have a book to finish writing and this month's Knipmode project to trace out, but we're not going to dwell on that right now. Instead, let's dive into my comfort zone.

Oh look, I made another shirtdress!

Idle Fancy - McCalls 7351 - Bird Print Shirtdress-1-5 

After the rousing success of my first McCall's 7351 shirtdress, I began work on another variation. The slim style and shirt-tail hem of View A piqued my interest. It's a more casual, modern silhouette than the full skirts overflowing my closet. We could blame personal style for that oversight,'s a complicated issue. Slimmer skirts easily verge into sexy secretary territory on me, thanks to the ratios of my curves. The A-line of this skirt had potential, though, and I was willing to experiment.

Even better, I had the perfect fabric in my stash. This navy blue cotton twill from Mood has a good deal of stretch and is covered in realistic bird illustrations. Y'all, I'm trying really hard not to make obvious Portlandia jokes right now. It might be a losing battle. Anyhow, I'm a sucker for novelty prints and stretch cottons. The heft of this twill is a true medium weight, with a super crisp drape, making it ideal for the tailored details of a shirtdress. It washed and pressed like a dream.

Sewing with it was another matter. It turns out the stretch threads in this fabric are delicate, prone to snagging and running. They caught on my scissors, my rotary cutter, and even my sewing table. This cotton needed babying like you wouldn't believe. The birds are worth it, but I was glad to have the project finished without incident. Visions of massive, dress-ruining runs danced in my mind. 

The actual pattern came together without incident. Once again, I sewed almost everything by machine. Top-stitching, how I love you. The yoke and armscye bindings are finished with the same fabric, while every other seam was serged with white thread. Once the seams were finished, I didn't have any further trouble with the fabric. It was only the raw edges that made it so finicky. 

As you might notice, this dress is not pattern matched. The scale on this cotton was large and I didn't have enough fabric to pull it off. Instead, I paid close attention to the layout, while cutting things out. All the birds are situated right side up and there aren't any terrible twining repeats. Let's call that a win, shall we?

My alterations were the standard stuff, only slightly different from my last version. The one inch FBA remained, along with the lengthened darts, but I narrowed the shoulder further and raised the armscye by almost an inch. The bodice fit is exactly where I want it now. Everything is spot on, from the collar size (still awesome!) to the bodice ease. Hooray! That means I need to make six more of these dresses, to revel in the fit a bit more. 

As for the slim skirt, I'm actually torn. I blended from the size 20 bodice to a size 22 at the skirt, to accommodate my hips properly. This gave me enough ease and resulted in a dress identical to that on the pattern envelope. Objectively, I know it looks good. The fit is nice, it's a chic silhouette, and all is as imagined. Only...

I like a fuller skirt. Surprise!

This dress looks great, I'm simply not as comfortable in it.  Perhaps with more wear that will change? It doesn't have me reaching for Spanx, but I'm also more conscious of what I'm wearing than I normally would be. This, my dears, is why I never make wiggle dresses anymore. They sit in my closet, admired, but unloved. If this skirt were a true pencil shape, it would be doomed. 

Luckily, the A-line is easy enough to wear. I still like the silhouette quite a bit, as well. It would look sensational made up in a light blue chambray for summer. I will probably tinker with the skirt a little bit, adding more ease, while keeping the simplified shape. We shall see...

In the meantime, I'm digging both the birds and this pattern. You can tell it's a winner, because collars and buttons are all I want to sew right now. Every length of fabric in my stash seems ideal for a shirtdress. I should take advantage of this mojo, before summer comes and my obsession with light, breezy knits returns. Today, I fantasized about a red polka dot Myrtle dress, so that time may be all too soon!

Note: The fabric for this project was provided by Mood Fabrics, as part of my participation in the Mood Sewing Network. It was chosen by me, however, and all opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Miss Iris Digs for Victory: McCall's 7351

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics - Floral Cotton Sateen -4-2

It's remarkable how quickly things change in the sewing world. Of all the sub-cultures I'm involved with, this industry is by far the most responsive to changing consumer demands. In just the five years I've been blogging, we've seen a remarkable expansion of size ranges for many pattern companies, an increase in youthful, modern design aesthetics, and a greater availability of apparel fabrics from major suppliers and retailers. 

On a more personal note, shirtdresses are also everywhere nowadays. Once upon a time, I couldn't find a single pattern that I liked. Options in my size were severely limited and those available took too many cheats--collars without stands, no separate button bands, and other things that made me want to turn green and start throwing cars. Cut to this year. Last month, I wrote a post for the Curvy Sewing Collective outlining plus size options for shirtdresses. There were so many great patterns that I had to actively cull my list to a top eleven. The mind, it boggles. 

With so many new patterns available, it's time to (temporarily) retire my go-to shirtdress, McCall's 6696. While I still love its classic styling, there are too many new designs calling my name. Why tread over familiar ground, when there's a whole world of shirtdresses waiting to be explored?

First up on my list, we have View D of McCall's 7351. Admittedly, I didn't stray far from the familiar here. Baby steps, kittens. This is every inch a classic, fit-and-flare shirtdress. There are separate button bands, a stand collar, and darted bodice. Unlike M6696, however, this dress has a semi-circle skirt and omits the separate waistband with belt loops. Those are actually major improvements over my TNT pattern in one way: construction time. From cutting to hemming, this dress took me three nights of sewing, or about five hours total. Maybe I'm a slow sewer, but M6696 usually takes me at least eight hours from start to finish. 

Based on ease of sewing alone, this new pattern is a winner!

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics - Floral Cotton Sateen -18-2

Of course, some adjustments were made. If you look at the line drawing above, you'll notice that M7351 is a single-dart bodice. Though the pattern comes with different cup sizes (up to a D-cup) that original design was a no-go for me. Based on my high bust, I chose size 20, which would still need a complete Full Bust Adjustment. That FBA meant either creating one gigantic dart or adding a second dart along the waistline. Y'all, I am not a masochist. Preservation of design integrity is all well and good, but I went with the second option. 

Behold, my new bodice!

Why, yes, it is a grotesque and terrifying monster. I'm actually working with a clean version of this bodice now, but I thought you'd like to see all the changes in action. Here's the full line-up of alterations:
  1. Full Bust Adjustment -- I added one inch to the bodice pattern, which is two inches of ease total. This added a second dart along the waist seam, pointing directly at my bust apex. 
  2. Lengthened Darts -- After an initial muslin, I knew the darts needed quite a bit of added length, because they were pointy and ended on the side of my bust. Egads! This is pretty standard for me in cup-sized patterns, actually. Perhaps my bosoms are just weirdly spaced for their size, but I'm forever lengthening darts. An added two inches of length worked nicely.
  3. Narrow Shoulder Adjustment -- I narrowed the shoulder by 1/2 inch and will probably narrow it further on my next version. 
  4. Reshaped Armscye -- This was actually done after the version of M7351 that you're seeing today. Initially I thought it was low, but perfectly fine since it didn't expose my bra at all. After wearing it once in public, I've rethought that decision and raised the armscyes by 3/4 inch. 
On the back bodice, my only alterations were to narrow the shoulder and raise the armscye, in conjunction with my front pattern piece. Otherwise, the back bodice fit was on point. 

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics - Floral Cotton Sateen -24-2

When it comes to the final fit, I really like this pattern. It's demonstrably looser than my TNT pattern, but that gives it a more relaxed, casual vibe that I dig. I didn't take any pictures sans belt, so you'll have to trust me on this one, but there's a pretty large amount of ease at the waist specifically. This prevents the button band from gaping and seems intentional, judging from the modeled photos. 

Without the belt, this dress almost has a Grainline Alder silhouette, though it's not nearly as loose. With the belt, there's a classic, blousy Romancing the Stone sort of look happening. This does cause some shifting of the loose fabric, but I like the extra ease a lot. When summer rolls around in Texas, a relaxed shirtdress is a godsend. 

Additionally, the collar on this pattern is fabulous. If you had trouble with M6696 being way oversized at the neck, you're going to love M7351. If I put a button at the collar band, it would actually close and fit my neck properly! Admittedly, I didn't put one there, but...nonetheless. 

I swear to God, the top-stitching is even. Weird camera angles FTW?

If you're drooling over this fabric, I have good news for you. This floral cotton sateen is from Mood, comes in three colorways, and is still available. I chose the medium beige color, because I couldn't stop imagining an updated take on the iconic khaki shirtdress. It's archaeology* chic with flowers. Who could resist? 

This entire dress was sewn on a machine, because top-stitching is both a detail and a shortcut. Huzzah for shortcuts! I chose a khaki thread slightly lighter than the khaki of my fabric, so that it would pop against the print. Then, I set my stitch length a little longer than usual (2.8), popped on my edge stitching foot, and sewed everything slowly and carefully. The buttons, a neutral tortoiseshell, are from JoAnn Fabrics. 

*I have been informed by dear archaeologist friends that dig clothes are actually loose, covered in dirt, and imminently practical. Personally, I will continue to imagine The Mummy--khaki, linen, and really awesome boots. 

McCalls 7351 -- Idle Fancy -- Mood Fabrics - Floral Cotton Sateen -22-2

Y'all, I adore this dress. The full skirt, that perfect collar. It's such a dishy variation on my favorite style. Despite my pledge to sew all the shirtdress patterns, my next project is actually another version of M7351. This one will have the dipped hem and narrower skirt of View A, which looks lovely in the line drawing. After that, I have my eye on Style Arc's Italia dress

What are you sewing right now, friends? Is anyone else giving one of these new shirtdress patterns a try, this spring?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Miss Charlotte Rides at Night: Knipmode 11/2015

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-1

When I picked up sewing again, back in graduate school, it was for one reason only. I adore clothes. That's practically heresy, these days. We live in the age of capsule wardrobes and Mark Zuckerberg's gray t-shirt. In every other fashion trend piece, closets are decluttered or wardrobes are simplified. 

While monitoring consumption and organizing one's life are signs of responsible adulthood, I can't bring myself to emotionally detach from clothing. A lifelong love of garments has shaped me, in so many ways. I'm better versed in Hitchcock films than 90's Nickelodeon shows, because Grace Kelly's costumes made my pre-teen heart flutter. My hair is forever a semi-natural blonde, because the one time I dyed it red, all of my clothes suddenly looked wrong. Hell, part of the reason I fell in love with Sam--apart from his boundless kindness, deep appreciation of Star Wars, and wickedly sharp sense of humor--is because the man jumped at the chance to wear a plaid, velvet smoking jacket at our wedding.

Clothes have always been, and continue to be, the way I express myself to the world. Recently, I've sought to perfect that expression. For eons, I've had a list of dream garments, pieces I've always wanted to own, but haven't had the patience to sew. This list includes ball gowns, another vintage-inspired suit, and a tailored riding jacket.

Tonight, there's a line checked off that list. 

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-16

This is, quite obviously, my riding jacket! Yep, the one I've been teasing forever. As you might have noticed by my process shots on Instagram, this garment was quite the endeavor. Construction took six weeks from muslin to finished project, with a break to rest my shoulder, and was every bit a labor of love. 

To get started on this sartorial odyssey, let's talk about the pattern. As a base for this jacket, I used the leather riding jacket from Knipmode's November 2015 issue, which is also available as a PDF download. This pattern is absolutely gorgeous, as is. It features a cascading, circular hemline, a close-fitting princess-seamed bodice, funnel neckline, and shoulder epaulettes. Both the jacket and the sleeves are accented with functional metal zippers. 

All in all, it's a fabulous pattern...if you want a leather riding jacket. I did not. Instead, I imagined something a bit more Victorian. Keep the princess seams and that swirling hemline, but nix the more modern details. Instead of shoulder epaulettes and zippers, I'd sub in softly puffed sleeves and woven frogging down the bodice. The collar would shrink into a smaller stand collar and cuffs would finish the sleeves. 

I sketched out my ideas, plotting changes to the construction order and researching techniques to use throughout the project. Knipmode's instructions are not only in Dutch, but pretty bare bones, so I didn't bother translating them. Instead, I used resource books to guide the way. I'm still a bit of a novice, when it comes to sewing jackets and coats. With all the warm, sunny weather we get in Texas, they're usually pretty low on my sewing itinerary. By the time I feel like sewing one, winter is halfway over! Jackets for Real People and Claire B. Shaeffer's Couture Sewing: Tailoring Techniques were both godsends. While I didn't go full out on the tailoring, this was a good project to ease into high end coating techniques with. 

Fit wise, I started with a blend of sizes 46/48, which roughly translated to my measurements. Before the first muslin, I did an FBA on the princess-seams, to make room for my very full bust, and narrowed the shoulders by quite a bit. On the second muslin, I added more room to the upper sleeve piece and smoothed out the bust curve to better match my own. After two muslins, the fit was exactly where I wanted it: close enough to fit like a true riding jacket, but with enough ease to wear over blouses. One of my favorite things about Knipmode patterns is that they're definitely drafted for taller women. American patterns are universally too short for my 5'8" frame, but I haven't added length to a Knipmode pattern yet! This one fell exactly as pictured on the fit model, with the peplum starting right at my waist and the front skirt falling to the fullest part of my hip. Huzzah!

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-7

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-8

When I started fantasizing about this jacket, I imagined it done up in a stretch black velvet. In the end, though, I found something even better. This fabric is a dark emerald combed cotton suiting, from Mood Fabrics, which sold out almost instantly. I actually had to order two shorter pieces, just to eke out this pattern! Absolutely worth it, y'all. This fabric is gorgeous, in person. It has a shorter pile than velvet, but is still soft to the touch and has a subtle luster to the fibers. The color reads less like emerald than the description suggested, but more like a very dark British racing green

Love. It. 

There was a bit of deliberation about embellishments, thanks to this color. Originally, I'd planned to do black-on-black, but the green opened up such possibilities! A lighter mint would've lent a luxe, Georgian quality to the final product. Gold could've been fit for a royal. In the end, I obviously opted for classic black. I want to wear this jacket as much as humanly possible, so neutral was the way to go! I ordered black rayon seam binding and black woven frogs (3"), then sat around twiddling my thumbs. 

When I finally got around to cutting out the jacket itself, I treated the combed cotton as I would a velvet. All the pieces were cut in the same direction, so that the nap wasn't going up on some and down on others, and on a single layer to avoid crushing the pile. To further prevent crushing that precious pile while pressing, I covered my ironing board in a towel and used a discarded scrap of velvet as a press cloth. A light hand, loads of steam, and all went well! 

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-21

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-20

As mentioned, I cobbled together the construction for this beauty. The bodice is fully lined in rayon crepe, which is covered in bees, because...bees, y'all. I snagged this fabric eons ago, from Harts Fabrics, but you can get the exact same stuff in a sage green colorway from Amazon. It's super lightweight and breathable, making a perfect lining for such a close-fitting jacket. I skipped the lining on the skirt, since it would show through on that back drape. Instead, I bound all the exposed seams in black rayon binding, pressed them open, and called it a day. 

There's a full neckline/frogging band facing on the inside, as well. Collars can be turned without a facing, of course, but I liked having that bit of extra stability around the neck. The edges of this facing were also bound in black rayon, then hand-stitched to the lining. I even embroidered a gold M, at the center back of my neck facing, for some added whimsy. 

My last big construction note is about the sleeves. That's the one area where I wish I'd thrown out all the stops on tailoring. They're lightly puffed, as I wanted, but flimsy in motion. I added a small, flannel sleeve head underneath, but a beefier one and some extra structure at the seam would go a long way there. Alas, no one but another sewer would notice that. As ever, sewing is all about constantly learning and getting better. In my next jacket or coat? Those shoulders will be sturdy as can be.

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-22

Honestly, kittens, I could write on forever about this jacket. For now, though, I'll wrap things up. I'm planning another post on how I use Knipmode patterns, from subscribing to translating. Other people have expressed interest in this and other patterns, so I thought that might make things easier for those who want more information!

As for this jacket, I'm over the moon. This piece is completely inappropriate for all the spring weather we’re having now, but it doesn’t matter. I love it! There are a few things I would improve, here or there, but for a first tailored jacket project, I’m beyond happy. With its swirling skirt and gorgeous detailing, it’s exactly the dramatic military-style jacket of my dreams.

It looks great open over a blouse, closed over a fitted dress, and–perhaps my favorite–partially closed over skinny jeans and a tank top, as below. There’s something about that fitted bodice and swooping hem that screams steampunk superheroine, don’t you think?

Well, a girl can dream anyway.

Note: The fabric used for this project was provided for review by Mood Fabrics, as part of my participation in the Mood Sewing Network. However, I chose the fabric for this project myself and all opinions are my own. There are no affiliate links in this post. 

Knipmode Riding Jacket (11-2015) - Mood Fabrics Combed Cotton - Idle Fancy-10

Listening: Angela by The Lumineers
Reading: The Dutch Girl by Donna Thorland

Friday, March 25, 2016

Miss Iris Checks It Out: McCall's 7351 + Spring Canvas Blog Tour

McCalls 7351 - Idle Fancy - Style Maker Gingham Shirting-3478

Good afternoon, lovelies! If the daffodils brightening my kitchen are any sign, spring had officially arrived in Texas. As y'all know by now, my wardrobe obsessions are decidedly seasonal. This time of year, I want nothing but classic prints and bright, cheerful colors. Give me florals, plaids, and colors that belong on Easter eggs. 

Luckily, Michelle of Style Maker Fabrics contacted me last month about joining in on the Spring Canvas Blog Tour. With over 150 new fabrics in stock, this tour is a chance to showcase some gorgeous fabrics and springtime fashions. Since I loved my last Style Maker garment so much--that dress gets worn every other week, I swear--I jumped at the chance to check out Michelle's newest line-up. 

Though there were tons of great options, I was instantly smitten with this bright pink gingham shirting. With a good deal of stretch, thanks to a small lycra content, this crisp cotton was perfect for my ideal spring garment: a shirtdress. 

That's right, a shirtdress. My longtime sartorial stand-by is officially in this season. Designers, from Jason Wu to Zac Posen, are putting collars on everything and magazines are declaring buttoned dresses a "must-have." Convenient, really, when fashion falls in line with personal preference. I was planning on making another thousand shirtdresses anyway, but it's nice to do so with impunity. Even better, companies have released a slew of new shirtdress patterns to try out. There's Melissa Watson's new half-shirtdress (M7380), McCall's new shirt-tail version (M7351), and Butterick's princess seamed beauty (B6333). 

McCalls 7351 - Idle Fancy - Style Maker Gingham Shirting-2878

For this particular project, I chose McCall's 7351

Well, sort of. Once the fabric arrived, my brain started spinning. All those little pink checks would look fabulous as a traditional shirtdress, but they would look stupendous as a half-shirtdress. Visions of separate waistbands and swirling circle skirts danced in my head. So, I set about turning my new shirtdress pattern into my perfect half-shirtdress pattern. 

I've done this once before, with the old standby M6696, though that one was paired with a gathered skirt. I really wanted to check out the bodice of McCall's new offering, so I set about making the adjustments to that pattern instead. The bodice was shortened by two-and-half inches, a waistband was drafted to make up the length, and a full 3/4 circle skirt was subbed in for the shirt-tail hemline of View A.  

Additionally, I took a few fit adjustments. This pattern comes with cup sizes (Hallelujah!), but I still needed a bit more room in the bodice and a bit less room at the waist. To that end, I took a 2-inch FBA on the size 20 bodice. This added a waist dart, allowing me to also take out some extra room through my midriff. Half-shirtdress are much more fitted than full shirtdresses through the waist, so most women will need to take out room there, even if a pattern fits her well before the drafting changes. 

McCalls 7351 - Idle Fancy - Style Maker Gingham Shirting-2561

McCalls 7351 - Idle Fancy - Style Maker Gingham Shirting-2566

By far, the most stressful part of making this dress was actually cutting out the pattern itself. I tend to be hyper focused on pattern matching anyway, but with gingham it's especially important. I chose to cut out a few pieces on the bias--yoke, midriff, belt loops, and collar stand--to make cutting out simpler and give the garment some added visual interest. The checks on this fabric are exactly a quarter-inch, which also made pattern matching easier than most other plaids. I cut out what I could in a single layer, laid pieces out according to gingham lines, and was good to go!

When it came to construction, everything was gloriously straightforward. This cotton takes to sewing and pressing like a dream, as you would expect from a high quality shirting. It also looks completely dishy, when top-stitched with white thread. Good news for those who like to do everything by machine! I'm a devotee of hand-sewing (Any excuse to binge watch iZombie, let's be honest), but opted for the faster route on this dress. The bodice bands are top-stitched on both sides, the hem was narrowly turned and stitched, and the collar was assembled with Andrea's famed technique. Five clear, plastic buttons finish off the bodice and the armscyes are faced with pink gingham bias tape. 

McCalls 7351 - Idle Fancy - Style Maker Gingham Shirting-3163

Y'all, I absolutely adore this dress. Between the bright, springy gingham and classic styling, it makes me even more joyous about warmer days. This fabric pairs brilliantly with black accessories and other colors, alike. Though I'm sporting black in all these pictures, I'm wearing it with a bright green belt today and feel like the very personification of spring. 

This dress also has me reevaluating my tried-and-true shirtdress. Though I still love my original McCall's 6696 dresses, I may actually prefer 7351, in the end. The collar on this one fits beautifully, without any adjustment, the shoulders only need the slightest bit of narrowing, and the armscye hugs the body without gaping. I'm really looking forward to trying out the full-length version, next. That shirt-tail hem is gorgeous!

McCalls 7351 - Idle Fancy - Style Maker Gingham Shirting-2821

McCalls 7351 - Idle Fancy - Style Maker Gingham Shirting-2597

Thank you again to Michelle, of Style Maker Fabrics, for providing the fabric for this dress and including Idle Fancy in the Spring Canvas Blog Tour. Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour for more spring inspiration. Tomorrow, Rachel will be posting something truly gorgeous at House of Pinheiro!

3/21 – 3/22 – 3/23 – 3/24 – 3/25 – 3/26 – 3/27 – 3/28 – 3/29 – 3/30 – 3/31 – 4/1

Now, I have to go order more of this fabric. After Sam finished telling me how cute this dress looked, he requested a button-down in the same fabric. We'll see how long that takes me to finish! Does anyone have a favorite recommendation for a man's tailored shirt pattern? 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Miss Veronica Drafts on Potential: Brazos Tunic

Brazos Tunic - Liberty Carline - Idle Fancy -1

Hello there, kittens! After six weeks without blogging, thanks to various travels and a shoulder injury that made sewing hazardous, I have things to show you. Prepare for a barrage of Idle Fancy posts, in the coming weeks. My riding jacket is finished, McCall's 7357 has made a dent in my Liberty stash, and there is a gingham shirtdress half-sewn on my work table. However, first, we must talk about quests.

My family is big on quests. It's not enough to settle for the readily available thing. No, instead we tend to search and hunt and plot and strive for the platonic version of everything. As a child, this meant visiting every McDonald's until I found the Hawaiian Fun Barbie toy and scouring antique stores for blue spine Nancy Drew books with their original covers. As an adult, I've tempered this impulse a bit. It's not actually productive to require perfection in everything, after all. Who knew?

And, yet, I do find myself on the odd quest. Whether it's sewing the perfect shirtdress or finding the most hydrating lipstick, my orientation to the world leans toward persnickety and goal-oriented. This spring, that impulse turned its eye toward tunic topics. March hit and, suddenly, I required the perfect woven blouse to pair with jeans. Something loose, but with shaping. Something swingy, but not tent-like. Something, it turned out, that only existed in my mind. 

Brazos Tunic - Liberty Carline - Idle Fancy -5-2

In my brain, the ideal woven top had a list of non-negotiable attributes:
  1. Curved, split hemline. As anyone blessed with generous hips knows, woven blouses can be hell to move in. They might fit well while we're standing up, sure, but try to sit down or bend over or dance a jig! That way unsightly creases and pulling lie. A split hemline allows freedom of movement, without tent-like proportions. 
  2. Loose, but with shaping. Most tunic patterns out there are dartless rectangles, aiming to cover us in yards of flowing fabric. I love the ease of those patterns, and the look of tunics in general, but my body is easily lost in such garments. Waist shaping and bust darts allow me to recognize my shape, but keep the ease of design. 
  3. Opportunities for fabric mixing. Mixing prints and solids FTW! My ideal blouse allows for natural use of multiple fabrics, with separate yoke pieces and interesting design details. 
  4. Lower neckline. When wearing a loose top, especially, I can't stand a high neckline. Give me a peek of collarbone and cleavage to liven things up, please.
  5. Multiple cup-sizes. All the better, if this dream pattern makes allowances for larger busts. While I am quite comfortable with FBAs, I still prefer not having to fuss with a pattern for hours before actually using it. This also rules out any pattern that would require me to grade up substantially. 
Spoiler alert: this pattern doesn't actually exist. Vogue 9109, with its multiple cup sizes and swingy silhouette, is as close as it comes. I almost sprung for it, but started tallying the pattern changes in my head. The neckline needed to come down, back shaping had to be added, and opportunities for fabric matching were slim. Add in an additional FBA and why the hell was I paying Vogue prices for a simple tunic top? 

This, dear ones, is why slopers exist!

With my lackluster drawing skills, I drew up a plan. Using my oft-ignored bodice sloper, I would create my perfect woven top. Made to my specifications, it would fit beautifully and have just the right amount of swish. French curves were unearthed and inspirational questing music was turned up to 11. 

Two muslins and way too many feet of bee paper later, we have the Brazos Tunic.*

Let's take a closer look, shall we? The front of the blouse is fairly simple. I elongated my sloper to mid-hip length and swung out from the bust line to a floating, curved hem. Shaping is added through side bust darts and a subtly cinched side seam. To avoid it becoming super basic, I opted for a more interesting notched neckline.

On the back of the tunic, the waistline is nipped in by twin fish-eye darts and a yoke gives opportunities for mixing fabrics, in the future. The back hemline dips slightly lower than the front and there's a split at the side seam, where the two meet. 

*If I'm going to the trouble of drafting something, you better believe it's getting a name!

The fun thing about drafting my own pattern is that construction is also on my own terms. As someone with Opinions on everything, this suits me well. The finish out of this blouse ended up having a lot of my favorite techniques, which made the sewing process all the more fun. 

Both armscyes are enclosed with exposed bias tape, while the neckline was turned with a facing to allow more precision with that front v-neck. On the back, I top-stitched the facing in place to secure it firmly and add a bit more interest. All the major seams are also top-stitched, which is such an underutilized method of seam finishing, but one I love. Once the seam is sewn, I fold each side under, then stitch along the fold from the outside to secure them. The resulting finish is both sturdy and super clean. Thanks for the suggestion, vintage sewing books!

For this particular tunic, I used leftover Liberty of London cotton poplin in my favorite print, Carline. If I'm breaking out the roses, you know it's true pattern love. Next time, I am going to add a bit more stability to the neckline, which will allow that V to lie symmetrically on the body. It didn't register to me in real life, but I definitely notice its tendency to cave inward in pictures. 

All in all, though, I totally dig this tunic. It's simple, yes, but it's also exactly what I wanted. I'm wearing jeans fairly often, these days, and feel most comfortable when they're paired with swingy cotton blouses. The skinnies + tunic silhouette may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is absolutely mine. All the better that this particular tunic suits both my curves and my need to sew all the prints!

Quest status: victorious. 

Brazos Tunic - Liberty Carline - Idle Fancy -10

Monday, February 1, 2016

Miss Elise is All Askew: Knipmode 10/2015 Skirt

Idle Fancy - Asymmetrical Floral Skirt with Mood Fabrics - KnipMode 10-2015-2052

As a rule, I don't make New Year's Resolutions. They tend not to work for my personality. I am easily distracted by new discoveries and ideas--Oh, look! There's a squirrel!--which means smaller goals, quickly taken up before the impulse blows away, are more realistic. Until, this year. 

This year, kittens, I have resolutions. The broad, sweeping sort that require attention throughout the seasons. More remarkable yet, I kept these resolutions for a whole month! It helps that both resolutions deal with my wardrobe. Apparently, if a goal is legitimately fun and involves new clothes, I can keep it. Shocking, I know. 

So, what are these mysterious yearly ambitions? First off, I need to stop sewing so many secret pajamas. 2015 was a year of slipping style. Time and time again, I found myself sewing something because it seemed comfortable, not because I truly loved it. That feels both wasteful and grim. What's the point of sewing, if I'm not at least trying to make clothes I adore? Basics are necessary, but there's no need to lose my point of view entirely.* Comfort and beauty must coexist. This year, I resolve to sew more garments that speak to my personality. 

My second resolution is heavily related to the first. After coveting their patterns for months, I finally have a subscription to Knipmode, that glamorous Dutch pattern magazine! My mother, the Queen of Cool, sprung for it as a much-beloved Christmas gift. I am obsessed, y'all. Here are the patterns I wish Indies were making--skirts with interesting design details, dramatic jackets, and modern, feminine dresses. The aesthetic is exactly what I want to be sewing, right now. Of course, the only way I can rationalize having an esoteric sewing magazine flown to my doorstep--in a language I don't speak, no less--is to actually sew these patterns. So, I am resolving to make at least one Knipmode pattern per month, this year. 

*Why, yes, I did finally watch the Iris Apfel documentary. That woman is a national treasure. 

All that is to say...

Look, I made a skirt! This particular pattern is from the October 2015 issue of Knipmode and is also available online, as a PDF. The asymmetrical style is decidedly dramatic, with knife pleats marching along the skirt and a hem sweep that dips almost eight inches from right to left. This pattern is at once a classic full skirt and something more modern entirely. 

Even without instructions, an intermediate seamstress could whip this garment out easily. Make a few knife pleats, finish the seams, then add the waistband and an invisible zipper. Voila! Instant skirt. I treated this pattern as a Knipmode trial run, however, and fully translated the directions. Google Translate actually handles Dutch to English translation really well, picking up even technical sewing terms, like “seam allowance” and “overlock.” I have it installed as a Chrome plugin, for foreign-language websites, and am consistently impressed with its accuracy. For the few words that wouldn’t translate readily, the wonderfully helpful Marianne pointed me toward this fantastic Dutch/English sewing glossary.

To pull off such a bold silhouette, fabric choice was key. While this would look sensational in a solid fabric, I wanted a print similar to the modeled skirt, something heavily influenced by art. This watercolor floral cotton sateen from Mood matched that vision perfectly. When it arrived, I was so smitten that I promptly ordered another three yards of its other colorway, which is a riot of yellows and reds. Both fabrics are a heavier cotton sateen, ideal for an unlined skirt like this one, and have just enough stretch to lend a little comfort. Better yet, they drape gloriously, creating hemlines that swirl and dance with every step.

Idle Fancy - Asymmetrical Floral Skirt with Mood Fabrics - KnipMode 10-2015-2045

Idle Fancy - Asymmetrical Floral Skirt with Mood Fabrics - KnipMode 10-2015-2054

The most time-consuming part of this garment's construction was tracing out the pattern and translating the directions. When you receive the magazine, there are pattern sheets folded up in the center, corresponding to the various garments included. Two or three patterns usually take up a sheet, overlapping each other in different colors of ink, with sizes EU 34-54 included. The process is actually deadly simple, though--I outlined my size in bright sharpie, put a roll of bee paper down, then traced over my pattern pieces. The lines are really well marked and it's easy to determine which pieces are yours. 

Of course, there is one last step. Knipmode patterns, like Burda, don't come with seam allowances. To American sewers, this can be a stumbling block that keeps us from trying out these magazines, but it's a non-issue. There are a variety of foolproof ways to add in seam allowances. You can trace your pieces right onto fabric, then sew by seam lines and use a rough allowance, which is the couture way of sewing. Clover also makes double tracing wheels, clever little tools that add seam allowances as you trace off the pattern itself. could channel my swashbuckling ways and tape two sharpies side-by-side, then trace out your patterns with that. The resulting seam allowance, added at the same time you're tracing the original seam lines, is exactly 1/2 inch. 

All in all, the tracing process took me about an hour, including cutting out the final pieces. I'd much rather do that than tape together a gigantic PDF pattern! Though, incidentally, if you do order a Knipmode PDF pattern, you don't have to go through the tracing bonanza. There's only one pattern per PDF and it's laid out just like a normal pattern. Add seam allowances and you're good to go. 

As expected, the actual construction of this skirt was a cinch. This sateen sewed up beautifully, taking pressing really well and allowing lines of stitching to almost disappear into the print. Though the pattern's line drawing shows the asymmetry falling from left to right, I chose to copy the modeled version instead. The back and front skirt pieces are identical, so I inserted the zipper on the longer side and reversed the hem sweep. On my version, the left side now possesses the longer hem. 

Construction-wise, I made things a little more elaborate to suit my preferences. The waistband is lined with coordinating royal purple cotton, which was understitched to turn the facing, then sewn to the bottom waist seam by hand. The seam allowances were finished with my serger, but I did sew the hem itself up by hand and eased it into the skirt. Originally, this pattern was meant to have a hem facing, but I prefer a fairly deep hem on such a full skirt. It gives the hem more body than a faced or narrow hem would. To that end, I lengthened the hem by three inches and turned it up twice, catch-stitching it to the inside fabric. 

Finally, the invisible zipper was also put in by hand, but that’s simply because I can’t find my invisible zipper foot! It has been lost to the clutter of my sewing room. Until it appears again, everything at Chez Danielson-Perry is getting a hand picked zip. Laura Mae has a splendid article about inserting invisible zippers by hand, if you're curious. 

Idle Fancy - Asymmetrical Floral Skirt with Mood Fabrics - KnipMode 10-2015-2044

Wonders never cease! I've kept a resolution for one whole month! As I anxiously await the March issue of Knipmode, I'm turning my eye to another pattern, a riding jacket from the November issue. The pattern has been muslined already and needs a few small fitting tweaks, before I cut out some dishy black velvet for its grand debut. 

For now, I'm enjoying this swishy modern skirt. Both fabric and pattern feel deeply appropriate for my current wardrobe longings. This garment seems like the logical progression of my style, from when I started this blog six years ago.  It's feminine, yes, but not overly sweet. It's utterly wearable, but not something you'd find at any ready-to-wear shop. Mostly, it just feels very, very me

Mission accomplished. 

Note: The fabric for this project was given to me courtesy of Mood Fabrics, as part of my participation in the Mood Sewing Network. It was chosen by me, however, and all opinions are my own.