Monday, December 7, 2015

Miss Lenore Wraps up Her Year: Appleton Dress

Idle Fancy - Cashmerette Appleton Dress - Green Wool Jersey-1095

Good evening, kittens! Happy December!

Honestly, I can't believe that sentence is applicable. How is it December already? Autumn slipped right by me, a whirl of pie making, furious writing, and family invasions. I've been taking time to sew, but I haven't photographing anything. The sun starts to dip on the horizon and I start thinking about taking pictures...

Then, nothing. My mind is too busy to go through the whole process of primping and hair curling and thinking about smiling, but not pointing my toes, but also not doing a duck face. Egads. Just the thought makes me want a glass of wine and a nap. 

A streak of sunny weather (We've had heaps of rain in Texas, lately!) and a new camera lens* shifted my attitude, though. With changing leaves, soft sun, and a gorgeous new dress, the impulse finally came. 

*Photography Nerd Redux: The lens is the new 50mm f/1.8 STM from Canon, which the reviews claimed was leagues better than its predecessor. We don't have a ton of extra cash to spend on lenses, so I've been living with my old temperamental 50mm, but finally broke down and used a birthday gift card for this one. Y'all, it's amazing. There's absolutely no post-production on these photos and every single one (out of 150) were in focus! Trust me, that's a huge improvement. Plus, look at that light quality! I'm swooning over here. It's definitely worth the reasonable price. (Note: That's NOT an affiliate link. I just found the best price on Amazon.)
Idle Fancy - Cashmerette Appleton Dress - Green Wool Jersey-1113

This is the Appleton Dress, from Cashmerette Patterns, which I've reviewed once before. However, this version of the Appleton is from the actual pattern, instead of the tester version. This new version is an even better fit than the original, thanks to a few crucial changes to the finalized pattern, and I didn't have to change a thing. Cup-sized patterns, I adore you. 

What really makes this particular Appleton is the fabric used. We have a fairly short winter here in the South, but I love cold weather sewing. As soon as the temperature dropped, I ordered a whole heap of wools from Mood. Among them were five yards of this dishy "Hooker Green" wool jersey, enough for both a sweater and a sweater dress. This fabric is a true medium-weight jersey, with a ton of stretch and complete opacity. While it doesn't quite come across in these photos, the color is a clear, dark emerald. Perfect for the coming holidays! 

Idle Fancy - Cashmerette Appleton Dress - Green Wool Jersey-1049

Idle Fancy - Cashmerette Appleton Dress - Green Wool Jersey-1051

As mentioned, I didn't change anything about this pattern. This dress is a straight-from-the-envelope size 16 G/H, which lines up with my 46-36-46 measurements perfectly. Picking a size from a cup-sized pattern can be a bit tricky, but the Appleton sewalong does a great job of walking you through the decision. 

For me, this fit was spot-on, from my fairly narrow shoulders to my extravagant waist-to-hip curve. There's been some discussion about what sort of shape Cashmerette patterns are designed for. Personally, I think they cover a good deal of the spectrum, particularly if you're either hourglass and apple shaped. I'm a textbook hourglass and favor styles that emphasize my waist--wide skirts and fitted bodices, particularly. Though the Appleton doesn't have a waist seam, the way it nips in provides exactly that definition I gravitate toward. At the same time, the hip ease is not snug in a way that makes me self-conscious. It skims over the belly, rather than clinging to it. Even with all the holiday eating (pies!) I've been doing lately, this dress is amazingly comfortable! 

TL;DR: It fits well! I adore it. 

Idle Fancy - Cashmerette Appleton Dress - Green Wool Jersey-1080

When it comes to construction, the Appleton is a sensible, well-drafted pattern. Every piece goes together beautifully and there are enough notches to guide one along the way. Honestly, I skim most instructions at this point, but Jenny's process is the one I would default to anyway. Two thumbs up on the directions! 

You can sew this entire dress on a serger, but I would advise against it. On the neckbands/waist tie, specifically, you're going to want more control. I sewed everything on a sewing machine, with a lightning bolt stitch, then finished my seams on the serger. It takes a little more time, but it keeps mishaps to a minimum. To stabilize potentially wonky bits, I added clear elastic at the shoulders and used Wonder Tape in the skirt hem. All hems were done with a twin stretch needle, as per usual. 

Idle Fancy - Cashmerette Appleton Dress - Green Wool Jersey-1071

Y'all must be tired of my knit dress spiel by now, friends. Knits! They're comfortable! I sew them the same way every time! This one is particularly cozy, though, I promise. Wool jersey is such a fun fabric to sew with--it's resilient, mannerly, and creates such warm, breathable garments. With all the chilly weather we've been getting lately, this dress has already gotten plenty of wear. I've been layering it over tights and a slip (to prevent static build up), which keeps me perfectly comfy!

Never fear, though, kittens. My next three projects are, remarkably, not knits. Think velvet and denim and European pattern magazines! For now, I hope you're having a merry beginning to the holiday season. Stay warm and safe! 

Note: My knit bodice post is still forthcoming. There was a tragic accident with its almost-finished draft and I haven't  had the mental fortitude to rewrite the blasted thing. Soon. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Miss Wren Attends the Ballet + Giveaway

Good evening, friends! As you know, I've been on a knit sewing kick lately. After years of using mostly wovens, my wardrobe is now bursting with handmade, stretchy garments. Fueling this obsession have been two patterns, the Myrtle and the Moneta dresses, from Colette. I've sewn a dizzying number of both dresses, steadily building up an army of secret pajamas.

You can imagine my delight, when Colette announced that they were adding to their range of knits. More stretchy dresses to love! The Wren Dress debuted last week, a charming mock-wrap dress with two skirt options, a gored slim design and a flowy gathered option. While it's something I would have auto-bought anyhow, Meg from Colette was kind enough to send me an advanced copy of the pattern, as part of the Wren Faire. Naturally, I was on that faster than Buffy on a vampire, Cordelia on a snappy put-down, or whatever Whedonesque metaphor you prefer.

My favorite part of the Wren dress is, hands down, the softly gathered neckband. It's a design element that ups the garment from the simple to the classic. As soon as I saw the line drawing, I knew a two-toned Wren was in my future, to make the most of that neckband. I love built-in potential for fabric mixing!

For this first version, I shopped my stash and came up with two beautiful wool knits, one full cut of a dusky rose jersey and remnants of a deep maroon, from last winter's Bonnie dress. The rose jersey has actually sat in my stash for ages, a victim of color doubts. While it's a shade I adore in theory, it's also a difficult one to pair with my complexion. To wear it alone, a ridiculous amount of blush is employed, or else I end up looking like the undead. (#normcorpse) With the deep, rich maroon as a buffer color on the neckband, however, it's sublime. The end result feels very winter-appropriate, the kind of dress one should wear on a snowy walk through the forest, with a coordinated berry pink cloak.

Not that we get snow in Waco. Or have very many forests, for that matter. Still...I quite like it. 

Before sewing this version up, I did make a quick muslin to check the bodice fit. The Wren calls for fabric with at least 25% stretch, which my rose jersey just met. Any issues that cropped up needed to be sorted out in basic jersey first, before trying something with a closer fit. 

As others have noted, the Wren does not resemble the block used to draft the Myrtle and the Moneta. The Wren pattern pieces are decidedly straighter, with a barely curving side seam. To accommodate my vast and wondrous bosom, I performed a Full Bust Adjustment on the XL, which added a curve to the side and lengthened the front bodice itself. Additionally, I raised and brought in the armscye, because I was getting a weird tenting thing from my arm to torso. These alterations were easy as pie, y'all. Knit FBAs are so easy to do that they feel like cheating! 

As you can see from the pictures, I still have some light pulling on the bodice, which wasn't present in my muslin. I did a bit of post-construction troubleshooting to find the cause of this and landed on a front bodice that still needs more length. Knits can be so different from fabric-to-fabric, that these latent fit issues do crop up. For me, perfectly fitting a bodice usually takes a few rounds of adjustments. I muslin to a point I'm pretty happy with, try it in fashion fabric, then keep improving. It's always going to fit better than RTW, after all. 


When it comes to construction, the Wren was really fun to piece together. I gave the instructions a cursory glance and they seemed sensible, especially for beginners, but I went my own way on a few things. To better preserve the neckline, I reinforced it with clear elastic, just as I did the shoulders and waistline. As always, I finished the hem with fusible stay tape, to prevent a wavy hem. All the seams were sewn on my sewing machine, with the trusty lightning bolt stitch, then finished with my serger. 

There was one step that I went full on renegade with. Like the Moneta, the Wren has you gather the skirt by stretching and sewing the elastic. Y'all, I haaaaaate this technique. I know it's easy and super efficient, but it never works for me. My machine revolts; the elastic snaps. Other sewists perform it beautifully, but I've utterly given up. Instead, I like gathering knits with the dental floss (or embroidery floss, in my case) method. It's easier to control than the classic basting stitches method and gives nice, even gathers every time. 

For me, the Wren dress is another winning knit pattern from Colette! The finished dress reminds me of my old dance costumes from high school, all wide, swishy skirt and nipped-in waist. It's such a feminine silhouette. I will definitely be making more versions of this dress, starting with this floral Lillestoff jersey, which I've been hoarding for months now. Hooray for more knit dresses! 

There's more good news, however. If you comment on this blog post, Colette will enter you in a giveaway for their fabulous book, The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits. This is actually the same book that started my knit sewing adventures. If you're new to knits, it's the perfect resource to ease you into the techniques! Additionally, you can check out Erin's super cute animal print Wren and enter again on her blog. Thanks again to Colette Patterns, for letting me take this gorgeous dress for a spin! 

Update: If you're interested in my fitting changes for the Wren, stay tuned! I'll post pictures and details of my adjustments, early next week. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Miss Lenore is Seeing Double: Appleton Dress

Idle Fancy - Appleton Dress - Cashmerette Patterns - Blue Jersey-0464

Good evening, friends! We've had a fairly sleepy weekend, here in Waco. On Friday, I was struck down with an autumnal plague, which has been working its way through Baylor. Other than an outing as the sniffling, water-chugging designated driver at Brew at the Zoo, I've spent all weekend on the couch, drinking tea and keeping Kleenex in business. Not one whit of sewing. 

Fair warning, I'm watching Harry Potter and have taken a lot of cold medicine today. This may be a rambling post. Grab a warm beverage and settle in!

I do have a dress to share, after all. This week, the lovely Jenny Rushmore launched Cashmerette Patterns, a company specializing in professionally drafted patterns for plus sizes. Her first pattern is the Appleton Dress, a classic wrap dress, which I pattern tested and have been dying to talk about. It was about a year ago, when Jenny first told me she was starting her own pattern company. My response was something along the lines of: 

"SQUEEEEE! Tell me you're designing a wrap dress!"

Not only did Jenny end up designing a wrap dress, she designed my platonic wrap dress. Much like my strong opinions on shirtdresses, I have very particular standards for wraps, as well. The perfect wrap dress is made from knit fabric, has a banded neckline to prevent gaping, an attached tie belt, and a straight skirt. The Appleton covers all of these points and comes in multiple cup sizes! What's not to love?

Idle Fancy - Appleton Dress - Cashmerette Patterns - Blue Jersey-0489

This particular Appleton dress is one of my tester versions, made up in a double cloth Italian jersey from Mood. One side is a sapphire blue viscose knit, with the texture of a technical fabric, while the other is a soft cotton jersey in charcoal grey. It has a good amount of stretch (the pattern requires 50%) and excellent recovery. Possibly too excellent, actually. Unlike a more traditional jersey, this one really wants to keep its original size, despite the stretch content. It stretches, but it also contracts and wrinkles, kittens. Thus, things are a bit more body hugging than my usual knit dress or other Appletons. A slip is decidedly necessary, but the dress is worth it. This has been quite the date night hit, around these parts. 

For this dress, I chose a size 16 G/H, which fits my current measurements of 46-36-46 perfectly. Thanks to Jenny's novel sizing (12-28 plus 3 cup size options), it's best to size the Appleton according to your full bust measurement. How freeing! It takes out all the guess work and the FBA. I found the sizing to be spot-on. While my fabric gave me fits, the pattern did not. 

Idle Fancy - Appleton Dress - Cashmerette Patterns - Blue Jersey- side back
Side and back and wind! I was fighting sundown gusts with these pictures--the back does not emphasize my lovely bottom nearly so much, without wind. 

With a stretchy jersey, as called for, this Appleton fits beautifully. Gone are the armpit wrinkles and gaping necklines of past wraps. I've never felt more secure in a wrap dress! Jenny hired a professional pattern-maker for all Cashmerette designs and it shows in every aspect of this dress. Even in the tester version, everything came together well. There isn't a waist seam, which concerned me a bit, because I prefer a highly defined waist. Since there's such a large difference between my waist and hips, it's really easy for my shape to get lost in fabric. The Appleton suits an hourglass shape perfectly, though, nipping in at precisely the right place and skimming over my lumpier bits. 

After Jenny received tester feedback, real and important alterations were made to the pattern. Her testing rounds weren't just to build blogger interest, but to actually beta test the dress. Which is all to say, this isn't an actual review. The pattern you receive, if you've ordered the Appleton, will have an even better fit than this one. When I get my hands on the print copy, I'll make up another version to better review for Idle Fancy. Expect more technical information, at that point. 

Idle Fancy - Appleton Dress - Cashmerette Patterns - Blue Jersey-0472

For now, let's talk about construction. On the Appleton, the neckbands and waist tie are joined together at an angle, finishing the dress and providing closures in one fell swoop. This is the only fiddly bit of the pattern, as it requires some spacial puzzling, and is what gives it the "Advanced Beginner" recommendation. If this is your first foray into knits, its quite doable, but I'd recommend getting your feet wet on a simpler pattern first.

Because of the control required in adding the neckbands on, I sewed this entire dress on my sewing machine. I'm partial for the lightning bolt stitch, when constructing knit seams, and a very small zig-zag for hems.  After sewing each seam, I finished it with my serger. There's no real practical point to this, as knits won't unravel, but it does look nicer. For the last little flourish, I also top-stitched the neckline all the way around, using my edge-stitching foot and heaps of patience. I tend to sew quickly and the care that top-stitching requires always leaves my eyes crossed and my hands reaching for gin. 

Finally, you may notice that this Appleton closes on the opposite side as the line drawing. This isn't a flaw in Jenny's directions, but personal preference. I had a fairly catastrophic shoulder injury, back in college, and there's one particular angle that still hurts like the devil, despite extensive physical therapy. Threading ties through side seams hits that angle, dead on. To avoid that, for this second Appleton, I flipped things around. 

I'm sure there are other details I'm forgetting, but my head is stuffed with cotton fluff at the moment. Harry Potter and the Deathly Pillows are calling my name. So, I'll leave you with a link to Gillian's Appleton excellent details post and Michelle's well-reasoned and thoughtful review

As for me, I'll end with this: Well done, Jenny. This is the pattern company I wish had existed, when I began sewing garments again. Everything is carefully thought out and well-designed for the plus size woman, from the expansive size range to the chic, wearable design. Plus sizes are a niche too long under-served and it's time that changed. I have enough thoughts on the subject to fill my hard drive, but it's easy enough to say I'm thrilled. From the peek I've had at Jenny's future designs, things will only get better from here. 

Right now, I'm going to put on pajamas and drink some Yorkshire Gold. Enjoy your week, friends! I may trot out my other test versions of the Appleton, in a few days, while waiting for the paper pattern to arrive. Cheers!

Idle Fancy - Appleton Dress - Cashmerette Patterns - Blue Jersey-0446

Note: As part of testing the Appleton dress, the pattern was provided to me free of charge. All opinions herein are my own, but you all know that Jenny is one of my closest friends in the sewing community and I have been excited about this pattern for months. Gushing is inevitable.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Reminder: Everyday Casual Sewalong Contest

Hello friends!

I hope you've had a fantastic weekend. This post is just a quick reminder that the Sewing Indie Month contests close at midnight tonight. If you want enter any of the categories, including Everyday Casual, you have eight hours to get your submission in.

To enter, hop on over to Sew Independent and add your link to the Everyday Casual post. There are already 19 really fabulous entries! Check them out and join in!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Miss Myrtle Indulges Her Whims

Black and White Polka Dots - Colette Myrtle - Idle Fancy-53

Good morning, friends!

Strictly speaking, it's almost afternoon here, but I'm still insistently wearing pajamas and drinking coffee. This weekend was one for that sort of dogged relaxing. Sam scored free tickets to the Baylor game, which I graciously insisted he attend with friends. The pomp and circumstance of college football is a blast and Baylor has a swanky new stadium, but it's still too damn hot. Give me air-conditioning and ESPN, until November!

Left with an unexpected open day, I opted for total decadence. After a quick trip to the store for necessities (clotted cream), I spent the day baking scones, finishing Miss Fisher's final season (That last scene! Swoon.), and re-reading Evernight by Kristen Callihan. It was gloriously lazy, y'all. I feel completely energized and ready to tackle Sunday! Unfortunately, that means tackling the novella copyedits my editor sent over, last week. The horror.

Thus, the coffee. And the procrastination blogging.

Black and White Polka Dots - Colette Myrtle - Idle Fancy-45

Before putting nose to proverbial grindstone, let's go with one more bout of self-indulgence. This post is all about yet another Myrtle dress. This is my favorite one yet! 

Are you picking up on a trend? Yes, each new Myrtle is my favorite one yet. What this really means is that I can't get enough of this pattern. It's funny, really. None of Colette's woven patterns have worked nearly so well for me--I've made a few, with average success, but don't wear them often. Most of them were culled in my recent wardrobe pruning. Each of Colette's knit patterns, though, are on permanent rotation in my wardrobe. I just finished the Aberdeen from Seamwork, which looks to become another tried-and-true. Alyson Clair's knit drafting (in play on the Moneta, Myrtle, and Mabel, for sure) works splendidly for my figure, with minimal adjustments. 

Which is all to say: Another Myrtle! I love it! 

This Myrtle was specifically made, as part of my Sewing Indie Month mini-wardrobe. While Colette isn't an official designer/sponsor, this dress is meant to go underneath my still in-progress Luffa blazer from Waffle patterns. The fabric, a white-on-black polka dotted rayon jersey, is from Style Maker fabrics and was partially purchased with a gift certificate, received as thanks for participating in SIM. Honestly, I'd never heard of Style Maker, until this purchase. I was completely blown away by their stock of fabrics, though, especially knits. This rayon jersey is a really interesting fabric, with the weight and hand of a high quality cotton jersey. It has pretty good stretch, great recovery, and washed up beautifully. After sewing with this cut, I'm planning to snag its rose-print twin, as well. 

Black and White Polka Dots - Colette Myrtle - Idle Fancy- side and back
Back view! I didn't quite get the center back seam spacing right, as you can see, but the black doesn't bother my eye.
I won't bore you with construction details, since they're identical to my last few iterations of this pattern. It was mostly sewn on a serger, with details sewn on my sewing machine. The hem was fused with lightweight stabilizer, then twin-stitched in place, to minimize waving. It's a knit dress, kittens. You know how I roll on these.

This Myrtle is a particularly easy piece to throw on. The draped neckline and nipped-in waist keep it from becoming twee, despite the polka dots. While I was once all for the cutesy, as you know, my wardrobe has evolved over the last year. Now, every piece I sew feels both more grown up and more intentional, in relation to my personal style. That's a win, if I want to keep the wardrobe culls to a minimum. 

Black and White Polka Dots - Colette Myrtle - Idle Fancy-6

Now, I do have one final question. While I'd like to pretend it's all simple Myrtles and Monetas around here, there are grand sewing plans on the horizon. I just ordered some of the above red rayon velvet, from Mood, which is going to become some sort of 20's-inspired topper. I am envisioning something loose, to take advantage of the fabric's drape, but still structured enough to compliment my curves. All the better, if the garment can show off a little embroidery. I've been searching through patterns, but am stumped on what to choose. What would you make with this fabric, friends? Input is very much welcome! 

Note: The polka dot jersey was partially purchased with a gift certificate to Style Maker fabrics, as part of my participation in Sewing Indie Month. All opinions herein are my own, though. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Miss Mona Plumbs the Depths: Colette Moneta

Plum Bamboo Jersey - Colette Moneta - Idle Fancy-36

Let's begin today's post with an apology, kittens. This is, hands down, the most ridiculous pun-laden title I've ever used on Idle Fancy. The temptation was just too grape great. There should probably be a secondary pardon for showing you yet another knit dress, but you'll find no further prostrations here. My knit love continues, unabated and unabashed. 

This dress is, quite obviously, a Colette Moneta. It's been in my wardrobe for over a week now, but I was reticent to chat about it. There have been a thousand Moneta reviews, around the sewing world. After going back through the annals of this blog, however, it turns out I haven't talked about this pattern since its release. That initial post wasn't even a true Moneta--I pleated the skirt, instead of gathering, because my old machine was giving me fits. Considering my usual repetition of patterns, one Moneta every year seems like an acceptable rate of posting. After all, last year, I dedicated an entire season to McCall's 6696!

Plum Bamboo Jersey - Colette Moneta - Idle Fancy-43

So, the Moneta.* 

It's a simple knit bodice with a gathered skirt, sleeve options, and collar options. You know this, because you've seen a hundred blasted versions already. The thing is, the Moneta is popular for a reason. While I'm an equal opportunity pattern lover, the sizing of Big 4 knit patterns leaves something to be desired. Invariably, the best size ends up being two--or even three!--sizes below what I usually sew up. That's easy enough to work around, but involves guesswork. Colette sized this dress, and their other knit offerings, in a modern, sensible manner. There is the right amount of negative ease in the bodice for stretch jersey fabrics and the skirt is roomy enough to skim over one's curves. 

Honestly, I have yet to see a horribly ill-fitting Moneta. With an expansive size range, which tops out at a 54-inch bust, the Moneta fits many, many body types. Negative ease is forgiving and knits are easier to fit, which benefits the seamstress. This is a simple design, but it's also a necessary one. While I long for more advanced sewing patterns, there's a place for this beginner-friendly design. A plain, functional knit dress is an essential wardrobe piece. We need dresses that feel like pajamas! Wearing such garments is one of the most delightful up-yours actions women can give to society. 

Okay, maybe that's overstating it a bit. When I wear a knit dress, though, that's how I feel. Sure, you think I look pulled together and molded into your classic standard of femininity, but this dress is essentially whole-body yoga pants. I could kick serious ninja butt, with nary a twinge of discomfort. Come at me, froyo cashier. 

*Fun fact: Today, I learned this is pronounced Mo-nita. For years, possibly thanks to a lifetime of speaking Spanish, I've been saying it Mo-netta. While listening to the first Seamwork podcast, featuring my dear pal Jenny, my mind was blown by Sarai's pronunciation of the pattern. It was an embarrassing flashback to my teenage days, when I cracked my mother up by pronouncing Ms. Granger's first name as Her-Me-Own. 

Plum Bamboo Jersey - Colette Moneta - Idle Fancy- side and back

That's all to say that sewing this up was an enjoyable, easy process. For this Moneta, I used a plum-colored bamboo rayon jersey from This dreamy, soft knit was recommended by the ever-fabulous Liza Jane, who used it recently for a series of knit t-shirts. After reading Liza Jane's post, I ordered three lengths of bamboo jersey and impatiently waited for them to arrive. These fabrics are gorgeous and were so worth the purchase. They have amazing stretch, impressive recovery, and feel blessedly cool against the skin. Witness: I'm wearing three-quarter sleeves without a fuss, when it's still 95 degrees outside. That's road-tested comfort.

Compared with cotton jerseys, rayons hug curves more. For this reason, I chose my standard XL for the Moneta's bodice, with a small FBA, but cut a 2XL for its skirt. My measurements fall in line with the smaller skirt, but I wanted some extra swish, just in case. In these photos, I'm wearing the dress without a slip underneath, so you can see the fabric in its truest form, but I do prefer an extra layer underneath. 

As you probably know, the Moneta's construction is deadly simple. The sleeves are set-in flat, rather than in the round, which makes the bodice a gloriously quick task. To create the gathers on the skirt, it's shirred with clear elastic, giving even falls of fabric all the way around. There is one thing I changed, however. Instead of using the turn-and-stitch method of finishing the neckline, I grabbed the neckband from my BGD Bonnie dress, shortened it a tad, and used that to finish my Moneta off. I don't trust an unfaced or unbound knit curve! They get so wonky, over time. Next time, I'll shorten the band even more, for better tension along the front bodice. 

This entire dress was sewn with a mix of my serger and my sewing machine, as per usual. Sew to construct, serge to finish. In addition to the waistline, the shoulders are also stabilized with clear elastic and my hem was turned with lightweight fusible interfacing. 

Plum Bamboo Jersey - Colette Moneta - Idle Fancy-60

Et, voila! A comfortable dress that fits beautifully into my everyday wardrobe. Between the Moneta's great fit and this fabric's sumptuous feel, this dress is a joy to wear. Plum is one of my favorite colors anyway, as it brings out the golden undertones of my skin, and this one has washed up really well. Fingers crossed that it remains a deep, vibrant color!

Currently, I'm in the middle of sewing up two different fall blazers (Simplicity 1066 and Waffle Patterns Luffa), which should pair splendidly with this Moneta and my recent Myrtles. That's my plan for autumnal dressing: cute knit dresses, tights, blazers, and fabulous boots. 

For now, I'm going to dive back in to Jenny Lawson's newest book, Furiously Happy! That odd hooting noise you hear will be my hysterical, uncontrolled laughter. In case you'd like a snort of your own, I'm leaving you with a ridiculous photo outtake. What am I doing in this picture? Posing for a Rejected Princesses of Disney calendar? Willing animated birds to appear from the ether? Summoning the change in seasons, with manic, silly twirling? It's anyone's guess. 

Plum Bamboo Jersey - Colette Moneta - Idle Fancy-69


Official Note: Some people have recently asked when my two Burdastyle classes would be running again. Good news! Another round of Pattern Grading for Plus Sizes kicks off today and Burda just sent me a coupon code for 20% off, until September 30th. If you use the code Mary20 at checkout, the discount will be applied. Additionally, the more rarely held Pattern Grading for All Sizes class will be hosted again, starting on October 20th. That class covers three methods of resizing patterns to fit your shape, both making them larger and smaller, as well as post-grading fit guidance. Registration is now open, if you've been waiting for that one! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Miss Audra Hangs on to Summer: Southport Dress

Hello, kittens! No need to check the calendar. Your eyes are not deceiving you. Despite our quickly approaching autumn, I made the most summery dress ever. Chalk it up to our crazy Texas weather. While a chill may be in the air elsewhere around the States, we're still solidly in the nineties. Our current forecast is nothing but sun, blue skies, and unrelenting heat. 

As such, I altered my Sewing Indie Month plans a little bit. While I've already kicked off sewing my fall mini-wardrobe, my closet demanded one last summer dress. Going with my designated theme of "Everyday Casual," I wanted something truly easy-to-wear. A garment that could take me from lazy afternoons at the park to a chic, comfortable turn at the Austin City Limits Festival, in a few weeks. 

Cue the Southport Dress, from True Bias. 

The Southport has been a really popular dress pattern, over the last few months. There have been so many amazing iterations, but two of my favorites are Jenny's dreamy silk maxi version and Meg's tester version in the cutest fruit-print cotton crepe. The pattern itself is a simple tank style bodice, with a half-button placket, drawstring waist, and lightly flowing skirt. There are two hem lengths, a casual above-the-knee and more dramatic full maxi length, with a thigh-high slit. 

Originally, I'd planned a maxi version, but talked myself out of it at the last minute. While I'm rather tall for a woman (5'8'' or 173 cm), all that fabric still worried me. Sure it looked fabulous on other people, but would it make me look squat? Would my curves disappear? Worries ran like caffeinated gazelles around my mind. So, I chickened out and cut the shorter skirt. 

That's okay, because the shorter Southport, has beautifully scant fabric needs. Less than two yards! Finally, I was able to use this gorgeous paintbrush print from my stash. This fabric is a silk/cotton voile, bought from Gorgeous Fabrics sometime in 2010, and has almost become so many things. With only two yards on hand, it was difficult to match a project to it. With the gigantic print, it needed to become a complete piece, but nothing seemed right. Until, of course, the Southport. This fabric is ideal for a breezy, warm weather dress. Bold, but lightweight. Bright, but elegant. 

Note: Please excuse my cock-eyed drawstring placement. It's an unfortunate side effect of taking pictures with two dogs as my creative directors. They're not terribly detailed oriented, those two. 

Before cutting into my fabric, I did a quick bodice muslin. While some people have foregone the FBA, thanks to the Southport's designed ease, that track made me nervous. Outside of knit garments, I haven't skipped an FBA in eons. Unless the pattern comes with alternate cup sizes, alterations are a must for my 36E bust

Good thing, too. This muslin was much needed. I ended up adding two inches to the bodice, in an FBA, and raising the armholes up and in by over an inch. If you're large busted, I recommend a similar set of alterations. There's no way these buttons would've laid flat, without them! When I make the maxi version, I'll also add more room in the hip area. The skirt as-drafted works really well as a short dress, but I would like more hip swish in the longer version. 

Sewing this dress up was a painless process. I gave a cursory glance to the instructions and really liked the methods Kelli suggested for construction. Her directions guarantee a pretty, clean finish, both inside and out. The neckline and armscyes are finished with bias tape, while the drawstring casing is a straightforward on-skirt addition. I matched my self-made bias tape to the drawstring, using a lightweight plum batiste from my stash. It's a perfect match for the darker brushstrokes in the main fabric! 

As my last dress of summer, this Southport is a winner. It won't necessarily take me into fall, but it is a comfortable, colorful way to round out the season. With such dogged sunshine, getting dressed turns into a chore, this time every year. Having a new dress to reach for, especially such a cheerful one, makes it much, much more fun! 

Now, there's only one question left. Should I make a maxi version, for autumn? A darker palette and dramatic print could make this pattern a trans-seasonal hit. We shall see...

In the meantime, we have Sewing Indie Month to celebrate! There's a really dishy blazer on the docket for me, as well as some strategic use of polka dots. If you're joining in on my Everyday Casual category, what are you planning to make? Remember, you have until October 4th to enter the contest!

Note: As one of the hosts for Sewing Indie Month, I received this pattern free of charge, courtesy of Kelli from True Bias. I was given the opportunity to request patterns from participating designers and chose the Southport of my own volition, because it fits well with my theme and is super cute!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Miss Myrtle Celebrates a New Decade

This, kittens, is what thirty looks like.

Or, at least, this is what I look like at thirty. I'm sure other people have looked much more glamorous. At the same age, Elizabeth Taylor was filming Cleopatra and wearing fabulous headpieces. Lack of tiaras aside, today was pretty fabulous. It was filled with all of my favorite things: flowers, cupcakes, chicken parmigiana, lots of time with my love, and a new dress! 

Another Myrtle, of course. Did you expect anything else?

Colette Myrtle - Blue and White Floral Lillestoff Jersey - Idle Fancy-18

This particular Myrtle is my favorite iteration yet. The lovely cotton jersey was sent to me by Lillestoff, along with another fabric to try and one to give away. While the other fabric will soon turn into an autumnal wrap dress, this gorgeous tropical lily print seemed like a perfect birthday dress. It just felt so very "Mary!"

Now, I have to admit that I've always lusted after Lillestoff fabrics. Until now, however, I have only used their children's prints in my own sewing. (Lillestoff onesies are instant baby shower hits!) This review was always going to be biased, no matter the gifted fabric. I am a sucker for bright colors and cute prints, which Lillestoff specializes in. Luckily, they do have an expansive line of women's prints. They're just as high quality as the more famous children's prints, but in more mature designs. I was really impressed with both jerseys I received. Not only do they have excellent stretch and recovery, but wash really well. This dress has been through the laundry twice already and the blue is still rich and bright.

Colette Myrtle - Blue and White Floral Lillestoff Jersey - Idle Fancy-back side

While I adore this dress, you'll notice it drapes differently than my two previous versions. One of the curiosities of sewing with knits is how dramatically disparate their properties can be. They're all drapey sure, but how do they drape? How heavy is the drape? Do they cling or do they glide? Medium-weight cotton jerseys, like this one, have a denser drape than a light rayon jersey will. Details are less slinky and more softly folded than they would be otherwise. 

All that is to say that this cotton Myrtle feels like an entirely new pattern. The cowl is more of a pretty folding of jersey and the elasticized waist is more dramatically gathered. I really love the effect that both of these slight changes have on the dress. It's much more of a day dress--easy to wear for an afternoon out and as cozy as a nightgown. An ideal summer dress, in other words. Considering we have two more months of legitimate warmth in Texas, this is fine by me. 

Colette Myrtle - Blue and White Floral Lillestoff Jersey - Idle Fancy-26

The construction of this Myrtle is identical to my orange version. Everything was sewn on my serger, except for my hems, which were stitched with a twin needle. I used lightweight fusible webbing to stabilize the skirt hem, so that it didn't wave horribly. Pockets were omitted, as well. Neither of my first versions have pockets either, though I usually love them in dresses. With knits, I feel like they always make the skirt hang strangely. No matter how much I press, the hips still seam to bubble!

In the end, this dress is so much fun to wear. It's bright, covered in flowers, and amazingly comfortable! Even better, I have high hopes that it will stand up to years of careful laundering. There's a remarkable difference in how well this fabric is wearing already, versus cotton knits I've used in the past. Lillestoff might have just hooked me on their adult fabrics. I'll keep y'all posted on how the wrap dress turns out, with my other option, and will give away a third cut soon! 

As for the last few hours of my thirtieth birthday, I have grand plans. Namely: watch Harry Potter with my Sam, drink boozy root beer, and eat parmesan rosemary popcorn. This next decade is off to a brilliant start, so far! 

Colette Myrtle - Blue and White Floral Lillestoff Jersey - Idle Fancy-39

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Happy Sewing Indie Month! Let's get casual.

Good afternoon, dear ones! Today, the very last day of my twenties, I have a fun announcement to make. September is not only National Sewing Month here in the States, but Sewing Indie Month around blogland. This year, I'm taking over the Everyday Casual sewalong from my dear friend and last year's host, Jenny of Cashmerette.

This means that all month long, I'll be sharing inspiration and garments that fit into a chic, casual wardrobe. As I've just purged half my closet, much of it ready-to-wear basics, this sewalong couldn't come at a better time for me. My goal for this month is to build a mini-wardrobe, incorporating special pieces that are perfect for everyday, but still make me feel stylish and pulled together.

On Friday, I'll share my planning post for the sewalong, but we have some other fun things to talk about today. Some of the most exciting parts of Sewing Indie Month are the sewalong contests. This year, there are three themes you can enter:

  • Dressed to the Nines, hosted by Laura of Lilacs and Lace. This sewalong will focus on those dressy, beautiful garments reserved for the special events in your life. Think party dresses and power suits!
  • Pattern Hacking, hosted by Rhonda of Rhonda's Creative Life. For this sewalong, the focus is all on innovation. Take a great pattern and make it completely your own! 
  • Everyday Casual, hosted right here! This sewalong is for those pieces that can take you from brunch with friends to a day at the park. Comfortable, chic, and easy to blend into your busy life. 
Even better, each sewalong has amazing prizes involved! To be considered for one of the great contest packages, make up a garment from any of the participating designers, then enter it into the sewalong(s) of your choice, by October 4th. If you participate in the Everyday Casual sewalong, you could go home with these fabulous prizes, donated by Sewing Indie sponsors:

Be sure to check out the Sewing Indie website, for more information on rules and the other sewalongs! There's also a second bundle of patterns up for sale, with proceeds going to Women for Women, a charity which helps women facing violence, marginalization, and poverty as a result of war and conflict. There are some great patterns in this bundle, whether you're sewing for a chilly Northern Hemisphere autumn, or gearing up for the sun in the Southern Hemisphere. 

In the meantime, Idle Fancy will be about all things everyday and casual, this month. Well, after I share my birthday dress tomorrow, of course! Spoiler alert: it's another Myrtle. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Miss Myrtle and the Tangerine Dream

Bonsoir, kittens! Tonight, we're chatting about my latest pattern love: the Colette Myrtle. Why yes, this pattern was released over a year ago. While I would like to blame a packed schedule or full wardrobe for this creative delay, that would be a lie. 

Here's the truth, y'all: I have a pathological fear of cowl necks. 

They're elegant on most women, but potentially disastrous for large busts. Whenever I try on ready-to-wear cowls, they twist and pull like the devil. Even if the garment itself is oversized, the bust inevitably drags. When the Myrtle debuted, I shrugged it off as a pretty pattern that didn't suit my body type. Cut to a year later and the lovely Lilli, of Frocks & Frou Frou. Lilli's latest version of the Myrtle, a gorgeous nebula-print dress, convinced me this pattern could work on curves. Hell, it could look downright fabulous on curves! Each of Lilli's Myrtles is exactly the chic, easy-to-wear type of dress I love. 

Quickly, this Myrtle lust became all-consuming. Within three days, I had printed the PDF, taped it all together, and sewn two new dresses. Considering how absent my sewing motivation has been, that is a rare thing, indeed. 

The first version of the dress, pictured below, was made in black cotton-viscose jersey from Mood Fabrics. My wardrobe is in desperate need of solids, at the moment. I've recently finished a massive closet purge and everything left is a floral, a stripe, or a novelty print. A replacement little black dress was just the thing! With Myrtle's beautiful drape and sophisticated silhouette, it's the sort of pattern that's easily dressed up with the right fabric and accessories. This medium-weight jersey made a Myrtle that's ideal for a cocktail party or night out. (More photos can be found at the Mood Sewing Network blog.)

Solids are also better for test runs of knit patterns. Prints can easily hide fitting mishaps, after all. This black Myrtle was a size XL, with a small full bust adjustment and additional hem length. As you can see in the pictures, the fit is almost right. It's a darling little dress, but there is some pulling along the bust line. It's the curse of the cowl neck! Despite being well within the measurements for the XL and doing an initial adjustment, I still needed more front bodice width. 

Otherwise, I loved this dress. It was quick to make--about two hours, after cutting--and really straight forward to put together. The front bodice is cleverly self-lined, with a doubled pattern piece folded along the cowl line. Everything but the back bodice finishes and skirt hem can be sewn on a serger, which streamlines the construction process. 

One technical note: I did change the method of elastic insertion. The pattern tells you to sew the top of the casing first, then stretch and pin the elastic around the waist, before finally stretching and sewing the casing bottom down. While this prevents the beginning seamstress from running elastic through a casing, it was untenable for me. My waist is smaller than the intended measurements, so my elastic was impossible to pin and stretch properly. After one failed attempt, I opted for a more traditional method. I sewed the casing down completely, leaving a three-inch opening at the side seam. Using a safety pin, I threaded the elastic through, then sewed the casing shut. 

Fun fact! It was super windy, while shooting these, The hem is, in fact, straight.
For my second Myrtle, I chose an orange and white poppy-print jersey, also from Mood. This fabric is a favorite of my fellow MSN bloggers, used recently in Lauren's gorgeous wrap dress and Lori's chic sheath. It's easy to understand the love, after sewing with it. This viscose knit is lightweight, but still completely opaque, and has amazing stretch and recovery. I adore how cool rayon knits are against the skin, while still draping beautifully. They're quickly becoming my go-to knits, for summer garments. 

Myrtle II also benefitted from further fitting adjustments. I added width to the bodice front, with a bigger FBA, which allows the cowl to drape lower and eliminated the bust pulling. Otherwise, this dress was constructed identically to my first. Every seam is serged, the finishings were twin-stitched, and the hem is interfaced with light fusible webbing. 

This is the cowl-neck dress of my dreams. The bodice falls beautifully over my curves and the skirt swishes, with each step. I usually don't love elastic waist dresses, but the wide casing of this one really works for my figure. I like it both with and without a belt! You can expect more of this pattern, in the near future, as it blends perfectly with my lifestyle right now. Knit pieces that dress up easily are exactly what I reach for, each morning. They're as comfortable as yoga pants, but more socially acceptable! 

That, my dears, is a win. Well done, Myrtle. 

Note: The fabric for these dresses was given to me, as part of my participation in the Mood Sewing Network. However, I chose both lengths myself and all opinions are my own.