Thursday, November 13, 2014

Updated Dates: The Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses

Hello, lovelies! I hope you're staying warm wherever you are. We've gotten a blast of icy weather here in the States, making me long for tea and flannel. Good thing I've started a flannel shirtdress, eh? 

To that end, I have an update on The Autumn of One Thousand Shirtdresses. Quite a few people, myself included, were feeling pressured by the December deadline. With holidays coming up and sewing time becoming precious, it seems silly to add extra stress to anyone! Besides, it's my challenge. I can just change the blasted dates for us all. 

So, The Autumn of One Thousand Shirtdresses has been bumped an extra month and will now end on January 10th. I hope that gives you enough time, post-holidays, to enter the challenge! Next week, I'm going to cover plaid matching, for anyone else who's craving something seasonally festive and stripe-bedecked. 

Remember to add all of your creations to our Flickr board and tag them #1000Shirtdresses on Instagram and Twitter! That way, we can all properly applaud your sewing brilliance. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Bodice Adjustment Bonanza: Tutorial Round-Up

Good afternoon, dear ones! Today, we're going to discuss bodices. Or, rather, we're going to discuss a dizzying number of ways you can change a bodice to suit both your shape and your style.

As I said at the beginning of The Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses, I am not going to throw a million of my own tutorials at you. There are few personal reasons for this, including time constraints, but mostly I decided to do it this way, because so much great information is already out there. While I have years of consistent sewing under my belt, I'm by no means an expert. However, I can Google with the best of them. This is how I learned to sew--reading good tutorials, hoarding books by actual experts, and not being afraid to screw things up. That's what muslin and tracing paper are made for!

To that end, I've rounded up some fantastic tutorials today for a myriad of bodice adjustments. While many of these tutorials were made in conjunction with specific patterns, most adjustment tutorials are applicable to a wide range of bodices. Find one that has similar qualities to your pattern (princess seams, two darts, one darts, etc.) and you're set! This list was not made from just blind Googling, but instead carefully curated by looking at forums on each of these topics and seeing which ones worked best for other seamstresses. I'm hoping these tutorial round-ups will help you cut time, when searching for adjustment advice.

Small Bust Adjustments

The Small Bust Adjustment (SBA) is essential for those who find that, while a pattern's shoulders and waist might fit, there's a bit too much room along the bustline. While McCall's 6696, which I'm using throughout this challenge, has separate pieces for A/B and C/D cups, it may still be necessary for you to tweak the pattern to your exact fit needs! These four SBA tutorials below will cover the vast majority of dresses, buttoned or otherwise.

Small Bust Adjustment by Haley for City Stitching -- As part of the Emery Dress sew-a-long, Haley posted this textbook tutorial for an SBA on a two-dart bodice. This tutorial is perfect for patterns like McCall's 6696 and has a ton of clear, helpful pictures.

How To Do a Small Bust Adjustment by Megan Nielsen -- This is a tutorial for dresses with only a bust dart, like the Darling Ranges dress. It's well-written, clear, and uses computerized lines for teaching purposes, which I find really helpful.

My Cup Does Not Runneth Over by Hungry Zombie Couture -- Another look at the small bust adjustment, this tutorial has been recommended all over the place as one that delves deeper into the hows & whys of the SBA. In it, you're shown not only how to make a dart smaller, but how to eliminate one altogether, should you wish.

Princess Seams and the Small Bust by Ann Steeves of Threads -- This is a really simple version of an SBA tutorial, but also gets great reviews in the sewing community. Unlike an FBA, SBAs are fairly straight-forward on a princess seamed bodice and just require a bit of pinching in the right places. How lovely is that?

Full Bust Adjustments: Y-Method

While I've always been a fan of the traditional FBA, as I showed in last week's tutorial, there are many who prefer this updated take on the technique. Pioneered by Palmer/Pletsch, in their Full Busted DVD, this method is best used for FBAs larger than one inch, when the resulting darts can be unwieldy. It's fairly difficult to find good demonstrations of this technique in the wild, but these two are ones I've referred to myself.

Colette Macaron FBA by Alana of Lazy Stitching -- In my opinion, Alana is the queen of demystifying Full Bust Adjustments. She always explains them with such enviable clarity and fearlessness, making the reader completely confident that everything is going to be alright in the end, once you tape those weird bits together. Her FBA for the Macaron is no exception and is, bar none, one of the most exhaustive Y-method tutorials out there. Though the bodice shape is quite different, it's easily translatable to a standard bodice.

Full Bust Adjustment Tips by Alison at Another Little Crafty Creation -- Alison shows a splendid example of a Y-dart method, on the Sewaholic Cambie, as well as tips for splitting up unwieldy darts. While this isn't quite as exhaustive a tutorial as the one above, the images are beautifully clear and helpful.

Moving A Bust Apex

As some of you may have noticed in my FBA tutorial, I treat the moving of an apex as a separate issue, to be dealt with after the completion of an FBA. Not only was this the way I was taught, but I find that many apex issues are mitigated in the process of spreading the bodice pieces, as my own apex is usually in the same horizontal plane as the pattern's. Having a muslin that can actually fit over my bubbies, post-FBA, also helps fine tune the dart locations in a way that flat pattern alterations just can't. To that end, tutorials about simply moving darts are so helpful to have on file!

How to Alter Bust Dart Height by Megan Nielsen -- A fantastic, concise tutorial on moving darts. This is such an easy skill anyway, but Megan's clear images and helpful hints can keep you on the right track.

Fitting Myself: Lowering a Bust Point by Andrea Schewe -- This tutorial is a bit more in depth look at the whys of lowering a bust point, complete with muslin pictures and all the red lines you could wish for. I especially like her tip on sitting, in a tight garment, so you get a real sense of fit.

Splitting Darts

With any Full Bust Adjustment, there is the chance for darts to become unwieldy. Common wisdom states that any dart more than 3 or 4 inches wide is too wide, which may result in puckering or warping. I tend to treat this rule on a pattern-by-pattern basis, but having the ability to split a dart into smaller, more manageable pieces is absolutely invaluable. There is no reason to fight with a 5 inch dart, when you can sew two, perfectly lovely 2.5 inch ones instead.

FBA Bonus: Splitting Darts by Rachel for Coletterie -- This tutorial has gotten a bit of flack in some corners of the internet, but many people have found it extraordinarily helpful. In my opinion, your take on this tutorial is going to depend on whether you prefer multiple waist or bust darts. I don't mind either and find this to be a clear, helpful presentation of this skill, which works on either dart type.

Darling Ranges Dart Manipulation by Megan Nielsen -- I love this tutorial, y'all. LOVE it. In this, Megan quickly goes through almost every kind of thing you can do a dart, from splitting them to curving them. Even better, she does it all with her characteristic attention to detail and clear, helpful images.

Shoulder Adjustments

I am constantly needing to adjust the shoulders on my dress patterns, y'all. Especially as patterns go up in size, shoulders can skew to comical proportions. Reigning them back in is fairly straightforward, but essential. As part of the Emery Dress sewalong, Haley provided two fantastic, well-illustrated tutorials on both aspects of shoulder adjustments.

How to Do a Narrow Shoulder Adjustment by Haley for City Stitching

How to Do a Wide Shoulder Adjustment by Haley for City Stitching

Back Adjustments

Sometimes, the front of the bodice fits beautifully, while the bodice back is a pulling or gaping disaster. Like everything else, there are fixes for these problems, too! Don't you love the never-ending rabbit hole of fitting adjustments? 

Problem Areas: The Back  by Sandra Betzina, excerpted from Fast Fit -- Like everything the great Sandra Betzina explains, these quick adjustments for both narrow and wide backs are a revelation in fitting. Thorough explanations and clear pictures will definitely help you with these common back bodice issues. 

How to Fit My Body by Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch -- I'm going to let you in on a secret, kittens. My number one sewing crush is Sunni, from A Fashionable Stitch, and this tutorial is an excellent example of why. In clear, helpful language, she walks us through her own problems fitting her shoulder blades and how she fixes it. Everything is beautifully explained, easy to replicate on one's own, and it works. I've used this exact method so many times, since first reading her post, and am constantly amazed by its success. I love esoteric fitting tips like this one and Sunni is a fount of them!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Full Bust Adjustment on a Darted Bodice

Good afternoon, lovelies! As you may have noticed, it's been a bit quiet around here lately. Between traveling, writing on a deadline, and unexpected (though beloved) visitors, my free time has been greatly reduced. I'm hoping to catch back up on the Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses over the next week, but I also am considering bumping the challenge due date back. Considering we're going to into the holiday season, I can't be the only one warring with a busy schedule! 

However, today and tomorrow, I'm focusing on bust adjustments. This is one of those areas where I'm pretty well versed in some techniques, but have zero experience with others. Since I usually just sew for myself, I have done innumerable full bust adjustments, but never even sniffed around a small bust adjustment. To that end, tomorrow, I'm going to round up links to well-vetted and helpful bust adjustments, including techniques I don't have personal familiarity with. Today, however, I thought I'd share my own FBA for McCall's 6696. 

This adjustment is the most basic of FBAs, for a two-dart bodice. If you are using any pattern with a bust and waist dart, this exact alteration will also work for you! There are more complicated FBA techniques, as almost no problem in sewing has just one answer, but this is the tried-and-true method I usually begin with. 

First off, who needs an FBA? It's going to depend on the pattern you're using, but most Big 4 patterns are drafted using a B-cup bodice and it's rare that Indies are drafted larger than C-cups. If your bra size falls outside this range, then an FBA is for you! Even if your measurements are exactly identical to those on the pattern envelope, chances are weird fitting issues will crop up with a large cup size. It's astounding the number of these issues a good FBA can fix, from floppy shoulders to gaping button bands. Today, we're going to walk through the most basic of FBAs, for a two-dart bodice, but virtually every pattern design can be adapted for large cup sizes.

Before we start the adjustments, however, let's pick a pattern size. McCall's 6696 is a classic two-dart shirtdress pattern with multiple cup sizes. All of the Big 4 pattern companies have introduced pattern lines with multiple cup sizes, which is great because it does a lot of the FBA work for us! This particular pattern goes up to a D cup, which means I still need some room to accommodate my ample 36E bosom.

This pattern goes up to a size 24, or bust measurement of 46 inches (47 for the D-cup piece). It's tempting to look at a pattern size chart and pick based on your usual bust measurement, but that way danger lies. If I made a size 24, it would be a gaping mess everywhere but my girls! Instead, the best method is to choose a bodice based on your high bust measurement.

High Bust vs Full Bust

Mary - High Bust Full Bust

In a well-fitting bra, measure yourself all the way around the very top of your bust line, under your arms and over the beginning of your d├ęcolletage. That's your high bust! Now, measure around the fullest part of your bust line. Tada! That's--surprise, surprise--your full bust.

If you're a large cupped woman, these two numbers will be pretty different. My own measurements are a high bust of 41 inches and a full bust of 46 inches, which lines up with my 36E bra size. (Conventional wisdom states that every cup size is an extra half-inch measurement, though you may find this doesn't hold true for you, depending on fit preference.) Above, I've marked my own high bust and full bust, in a side profile picture. See how different those two parts of my bust are? If I pick a size with my high bust measurement, I'm between the size 18 and size 20 bodice, rather than our original size 24. Since my shoulders are wider than average and my waist is a solid size 20, that's the size I usually choose to perform an FBA on.

Note: You may have to grade between sizes at the waist and hip, depending on your proportions and measurements. It's not rare at all to need a size 20 bodice with an FBA, then a size 24 elsewhere. Women, no matter what fashion tells us, are not a standardized shape. That's why we sew, right? The important thing here is getting the right size upper bodice base for your shoulders and upper chest. You can easily grade out to other sizes, for your waist and hips.

Now, let's adjust!

Step One

To get started we're going to need a few materials.
  • Your pattern! Instead of using the original tissue pattern, I highly recommend tracing your pattern onto a more durable type of paper. We're going to be slashing and spreading this baby, after all. Tissue paper is just too flimsy to handle that workmanship! Besides, if you end up wanting to change the fit, it's nice to not have irrevocably messed up the original bodice. Personally, I use Swedish Tracing Paper, which is not only easy to trace on, but sewable for quick fitting checks.
  • A clear ruler!
  • Pattern weights! I use large metal washers, which are both weighty and have slim profiles that make cutting around them a breeze.
  • A sharpie or pen!
  • Scissors!
  • Tape!
When you trace off your pattern, be sure to transfer all pattern markings, especially your horizontal lengthen/shorten line and the pattern's bust apex. We'll be using both of those markings to make our cuts in the pattern.

Step One: 

The goal of an FBA is to add fullness to your pattern piece, without sacrificing the fit at your shoulders and waist. To do that, we're going to draw a few lines on our pattern, then cut them to specific points, so that the piece only gets larger where we want! Are you ready? Grab that sharpie, my dear. (Note: Because my own markings were faint, for teaching purposes, I will be showing you this process with bright computerized lines, to make it easier for us all!)

Step Two

First off, draw a straight line through the middle of your waist dart (that one on the bottom) up to the pattern's shoulder, through the bust apex point. Above, you'll see my black bust apex and this first line in bold, bright red.

Step Two:

Step Three

Now, draw Line #2 from your bust point out to your armscye, about 1/3 of the way down from the shoulder. (Shown above in bright blue.) The reason we only go 1/3 of the way down the armscye is to prevent over-distortion of our armhole, which would give us too much blousing on the side.

Step Three: 

Step Four

Next up, we're going to draw a line through our side bust dart to the bust apex. There are two main types of side bust darts you'll encounter: those positioned horizontally to an apex and those which angle up. For both types of dart, we draw Line #3 from the middle dart edge, through the dart tip, over to the bust point. If you're working with a horizontal dart, this will be a perfectly straight line. How easy! If you have an angled dart, as I do, there will be a hinge in your line like my purple one above.

Step Four:

Step Five

The final line we're going to draw is an easy one. From your center front, draw a straight horizontal line to Line #1, just above where your waist dart ends. I've done this in black above!

Woohoo! All your FBA lines are drawn! Not so hard, right? Now, onto the fun cutting parts...

Step Five: 

Step Six

For our first cut, we're going to go up through Line #1 to the bust point, then pivot right there and continue along Line # 2 to your armscye. At the end of Line #2, stop cutting just before the line ends, leaving a small bit of line left intact (about 1/8 inch). We don't want to cut our pattern piece in two, just make it mobile enough that we can spread it out a bit. Leaving this little bit left gives us a "hinge," to move the bodice around.

Step Six:

Step Seven

For our next cut, we're going to cut along Line #3, starting at the dart side and stopping again just before the bust apex, leaving another hinge. See how you can now spread your bodice pieces out quite a bit? The step below shows our new pattern piece, complete with hinges and cuts!

Brief Interlude of Math

Now that your pattern piece is all hinged, we can add in the fullness needed to compensate for our full bust measurement. How  much extra room do you need, however? There are a few ways to determine how much extra fullness you need, but I go with the simplest version. How much difference is between your Full Bust and the stated Bust measurement on the pattern size? Since I'm using a Size 20, D-cup pattern piece, there is a two inch difference between my measurements and those of the pattern size. (Pattern's body measurement: 44 inches; My full bust: 46 inches) That means I need to add an extra two inches to the bodice pattern! Easy, right?

Since a bodice pattern piece is only half of a full bodice, however, this means I'm making a 1-inch FBA.

2 extra inches needed ÷ 2 bodice halves = 1 inch FBA (Extra Room Needed ÷ 2 Bodice Halves = FBA width)

Note: For some multi-cup-size patterns, the stated body measurement for larger cup sizes may not be available. To combat that, subtract your desired ease from the pattern piece's final measurement, which is always found on the printed pattern. For me, on McCall's 6696, I wanted about two inches of ease in the front bodice.

Now, let's start spreading!

Step Seven:

Step Nine - a

The extra fullness we're adding in gets directly added to Line #1, the bright red one that went up from our waist dart. To do this, secure the center front of your pattern piece, then spread your hinged lower bodice down and to the left. Being careful to keep the slash along Line #1 straight, spread your pattern piece out until there is one inch* separating the split Line #1.

See how your dart and armscye have also moved to accommodate your new Line #1? That's exactly what we want. Now, make sure every part is laying flat and your split Line #1 is still straight, with an inch separating it all the way down, then put pattern weights all over the place!

*Use the measurement you got from our Math Interlude. If you're doing a 2-inch FBA, spread it 2 inches, and so forth. 

Step Eight:

Step Nine

Now that your pattern piece is slashed and spread, it's time to make our final cut. You know Line #4? Cut clean through it, from the Center Front all the way to the red line, as demonstrated in black above.

Step Eight: 

Step Ten 

Move that little bodice piece down, until your horizontal lengthen/shorten line is once again even. Secure with a pattern weight!

Step Nine: 

Step Eleven

Very carefully put scrap paper underneath all the holes on your pattern, without shifting it around. (Hooray pattern weights!) Tape this scrap paper down. At each dart, leave extra paper past the pattern's end. We're going to redraw these darts next and will need the extra room!

Step Ten: 

Are you excited about redrawing darts? We're so close to the end. First off, however, we need to mark your bust apex on the new pattern piece. To do this, hold the piece up to yourself and mark the fullest point of your bust on the pattern piece. I've marked my own in blue in the image below.

Step Twelve

Now, there are some standard rules with darts that nobody tells you. You definitely don't want these puppies going all the way to your bust apex. That's how dreadful, pointy hideousness happens! The standard rule of thumb is to position the dart tips one inch away from your bust apex. For larger cup sizes, however, this rule doesn't always hold true. If you have a large bosom, your actual bust apex takes up more room, after all. Over time, you will find what works best for you, but for large busts, I like the dart tips to be two inches from the apex instead.

To mark these, measure two inches to the left of your bust apex, then mark that dot for your side bust dart. Then, measure two inches below your bust apex, and mark that dart for your waist dart. I've marked these dots in purple in the above image.

You have new dart ends! Woohoo!

Note: Some people prefer to mark their apex, before doing an FBA spread, but this depends on personal preference. Whatever order you find the most helpful will come to the same end! I find that my apex is rarely in line with the pattern's apex, but instead on a horizontal plane, just to the outside. (I'm told that this is a common Very Large Bosom issue.) For this reason, I mark it after slashing and spreading, so that I can better see how the dart placement is. If your apex does not line up with the original pattern's or your new slashed bodice, it's really easy to move your darts. I like to do this, after finishing the FBA and find this method particularly helpful. 

Step Eleven:

Step Thirteen

It's now time to redraw your side bust dart! To do this, use your ruler and draw two straight lines from the original dart ends, to your new dart tip. I've done this in purple above. Completely ignore the original dart legs. You're blazing your own path and don't need to follow those! Just go straight to your personal dart tip. 

Step Twelve: 

Step Fourteen

Repeat the same process for your waist dart. Beginning at your original dart ends, draw two straight lines up to your new dart tip. Once again, completely ignore that you're not following the original dart legs. Those don't matter for your needs.

Step Thirteen: 

We're so close to the end! We just need to get rid of all that extra paper.

Step Fifteen B

To do this, fold your new dart legs together, as I have done above on the side bust dart. Once you've folded them together, cut across the end of your pattern piece, noted in black in the above image. Voila! A complete dart is formed! Repeat this process for your second dart.

Step Fourteen:

Step Sixteen

Finally, trim that extra paper along your armscye!

Step Fifteen:

You're done! Do a happy dance!
Then, make a muslin of your new bodice and see how you like the fit.

The End

McCalls 6696 - Idle Fancy -9232

There are, of course, more advanced FBA techniques to cover, but this is a good basic process. You will be amazed by what a simple FBA can do to fix fitting woes! After completing this exact FBA, I ended up with the perfectly fitted bodice of my green shirtdress above. It's so worth the effort, don't you think?

Tomorrow, I'll round up a list of my favorite tutorials for other bust adjustments. This will include a small bust adjustment, dividing unwieldy darts, and moving bust points. There are, also, the aforementioned more complex versions of an FBA that I'll include, for those who are curious about other methods. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Miss Cressida and the Slipping Scissors: A Halloween Tale

In honor of Halloween, today I'm sharing a terrifying story of my own: The Tale of the Slipping Scissors. Grab your teddy bears and grasp your mugs of spiked cocoa close, darlings, because this one gets truly frightful. If you're prone to fainting spells, do proceed with caution. There are (sewing) horrors ahead. 

It all began, of course, with a pattern. When Jennifer Lauren sent out a testing call for her latest offering, the Cressida skirt, I jumped at the opportunity. Between the flirty semi-circle shape and that tidy row of buttons, I was smitten. Dreams of buttoned up autumn skirts filled my mind. I no longer saw flannel bolts or tweed yardage, but potential Cressidas instead. In fact, I ordered this cozy wool tweed from Mood Fabrics, with just such a garment in mind. 

Despite living in the south, where we get mere suggestions of autumn and winter, wool is one of my favorite fabrics to sew with. Seams practically disappear into it and hand sewn hems become truly invisible. This tweed was no different, sewing up beautifully and easily. On closer inspection, this fabric itself is quite interesting, its small herringbone lines of maroon, green, and navy forming the classic, tweedy plaid. It's a solid medium weight, but very drapey, almost like a heavy challis. Absolutely gorgeous and perfect for a Cressida!

Due to the small amount of fabric I had, the waistband and button bands were cut on the crossgrain. Unfortunately, while this tweed is gorgeous, the plaid forms rectangles not squares, as it appears to the eye. The sides of each "square" are a smidge longer than the tops, so any pattern matching is futile. Both bands started out perfectly matched, but slowly and surely marched off into chaos. I'm calling the resulting pattern shift a design element. It's such a small plaid that the casual observer couldn't tell anyhow. 

I'm inclined to gloss over the construction of this pattern, because it is such a straightforward piece, but I know some people love in depth reviews of new patterns, before they buy them. If you're sticking around for the horrors, feel free to skim past these details! 

As with other Jennifer Lauren Patterns I own (Namely: all of them. Though, I've only sewn this one, the Bronte, Dalloway, and Afternoon Blouse have all been printed and assembled.), the Cressida Skirt was a cinch to piece together. Jennifer Lauren's .pdf patterns enable you to only print out the pieces you want, which is great for saving effort and paper. What's better, every pattern line and every match point align perfectly. That shouldn't be such a big deal, but you would be shocked by how many digital patterns I've put together that have completely mismatched lines and markers. I've gotten to the point where I mostly ignore those little triangles, in favor of lining up pattern lines correctly. So often going by the intended match points just skews everything! 


Right. You came for fun details, not my irrational ramblings about digital pattern quality. Based on changes Jennifer made to sizing during testing, I went down a size with this skirt, cutting out a straight Size 18. (Waist of 36", hips of 47" -- my own measurements are 46-35-46.) Cressida is a semi-circle skirt, with a straight waistband, button plackets, belt loops, and deep inseam pockets. This makes it extraordinarily easy to put together! There are no darts or pleats to worry about, though I do recommend stay-stitching your skirt's waist immediately after cutting. It's especially bad, when working with wools like my own, but circle skirt waistlines stretch like crazy. Even just dangling it off your ironing board can cause the waist to grow by an inch or two. Ask me how I know this. Staystitch, staystitch, staystitch!

This skirt is very beginner friendly. If you're new to buttonholes or plackets, this would be a great pattern to start with. Jennifer walks you though each step clearly, with helpful diagrams, and offers a range of finishing options, based on skill level. The button band is formed by sewing a placket to the skirt, then folding it back over the skirt itself. This method is a bit rarer than the standard technique of folding the placket in two on its own, but it provides a really sturdy base for buttons and sets the placket off a bit, visually. 

Other than the placket, construction is intuitive. I did make a few small changes, based on personal preferences. I subbed out the larger, pointed belt loops for small traditional rectangles, and omitted the pockets in favor of French seams. Theoretically, I know you can keep pockets and French seams, but it's not something I've done before and pockets didn't seem overly necessary in this piece. Rather than hie off researching a new technique, I nixed the pockets and kept it simple. Additionally, I only had six buttons, rather than the prescribed seven, so my button placement is stretched a bit. Since taking these pictures, I've added a snap just below the waistband, since my wide placement was causing the tiniest bit of gaping there. 

Now, of course, we come to the horrors. Notice that nice shot of my bum above? Ignore the way my hip's angle is making the hem appear crooked (I'm standing on a slope in these pictures) and, instead, focus on the right side of my hip, halfway down. Do you see it? That small slightly dark triangle? Let's zoom in.


Picture the scene, kittens: There I was, satisfied in my sewing diligence and patting my back for side seams well-matched, when I decided to trim some loose threads. The skirt still needed to hang overnight, but I wanted to finish it as much as possible. So, I trimmed. Snip. Snip. Snip. SCREAM. My scissors slipped, as I was contorting to catch some stubborn dangling bits, and snipped right into the skirt back. 

I had snipped a two inch floppy triangle into my formerly perfect skirt. It had French seams, for fuck's sake, and I'd ruined it. Ruined it all! That's about the time I threw the skirt onto my studio's daybed, in a furious huff, cursed myself for a fool and gave up on sewing entirely. I would give away all of my fabric, sell my machines on Ebay, turn the studio into a romance novel library, and never again know such pain! My heart was not made of stone, it could be snipped and cut! 

Three days later, of course, the internal dramatics had calmed down a bit. I got out some interfacing, secured the triangle in place, covered it with a patch on the inside, and hand sewed the raw edges in place. It's not perfect, by any means, but it is barely noticeable. Sam tells me. I'm going to go with that optimistic view, because I love this skirt deeply. It's exactly the piece I want to pair with boots, tights, and sweaters. It makes me want to sip cocoa and trudge through fallen leaves. A small triangle will not keep me from enjoying it!

So, they all lived happily ever after. Though our heroine, it should be noted, promised to be less cavalier with her scissors in the future. There would be no more snip, snip, screams from this seamstress.  

Disclaimer: This pattern was received for free, in exchange for testing. The fabric, similarly, was courtesy of Mood Fabrics, as part of the Mood Sewing Network. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From Plaids to Flowers: Shirtdress Inspiration

Good evening, friends! To properly kick off The Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses, I thought a pure inspiration post might be fun. Originally, I was just going to post a few particularly lovely shirtdresses. Then, I went down the rabbit hole of Pinterest, ending up with a whole shirtdress board and way too much inspiration. A girl needs twenty-two shirtdresses, right? That's the road I'm on.

Anyhow, I've broken up my favorite categories below, with links to original sources when possible and pins, when not. I'm not going to jibber jabber about the various boards, because images are what we're about today! Plus, I have a killer headache to fight and a new episode of The Mindy Project to watch. Priorities, chickens.

What I'd really like to know, anyhow, is what sort of shirtdress you're planning. After compiling the collages for this post, I've added a maxi version and a wax print version to my "must sew" list. If there's a certain variation you're after, but would like some help, let me know. I'd be happy to include extra tutorials for such specifics in our sewing challenge!

Plaids & Flannels

Maxi Dresses


Bold Prints

Bright Colors

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Miss Vivienne Joins the Circle + A Blog Hop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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