Monday, May 18, 2015

Miss Eve and the Jade Shift: Given a Chance Dress

Good evening, my dears! Yesterday, it stopped raining just long enough to snap pictures of my latest project. We Texans don't like to complain about rain too much, for fear of it disappearing altogether, but I'm taking a stand. For fart's sake, someone bring back the sunshine! We've had rain in the forecast every day for three weeks. It's like Waco suddenly picked up roots and moved to the Pacific Northwest.

Anyhow, enough about my sopping, muddy little habitat. Onto the project!

This slightly overexposed little number is the Given a Chance Dress, from Decades of Style. DoS recently launched their Decades Everyday line, focusing on vintage inspired pieces. These styles are easier, quicker patterns than their usual vintage reproductions. This is only the second pattern in this line, after the adorable E.S.P. Dress, but I'm already a fan girl. These are my ideal patterns, y'all. They have a retro twist, but are easy to mix into a modern wardrobe, without complicated undergarments. 

No need for girdles! Woohoo!

Given a Chance is a bit outside my usual comfort zone, admittedly. It's a 1960's-inspired shift dress, with an origami yoke and pull-on styling. Ever since a sneak preview popped up on Instagram, however, I've been a lusty badger of impatience. It was on sale maybe five minutes, before I bought a copy. Something about that yoke, perhaps the way it easily mixes fabrics, sparked my interest.

This first version of Given a Chance is a wearable muslin. With looser style dresses, I'm always tempted to forgo an FBA and just grade between sizes. Unfortunately, it would be rather difficult to grade this particular bodice. There are double darts high on the side bodice, which can't be blended in easily. So, I sewed the size for my bust measurement and decided to wing it, with some stash fabrics. I ended up choosing this geometric quilting cotton (Which I've actually bought twice! Once for a giveaway, then again, because I missed it in my stash.) and a jade green cotton lawn. It's a color combination that I absolutely adore

Surprise! I needed that FBA. My finished product, with just the one size, was a tent. I took out six inches through my waist and four inches through my hips, after trying it on. After tweaking, it's a reasonably well-fitting garment. The armscyes are still way too low and roomy, but I like the fit through my waist and hips. That gentle flare is a surprisingly lovely silhouette. 

Next time around, I plan on tracing down three sizes, raising the armhole, and doing an FBA. Hopefully, that will get the shoulder/armscye situation more under control. 

Construction of this dress was the perfect mix of interesting and easy. The yoke is formed by a series of fabric folds in the top layer, with a plain lining piece underneath. You get a clean finish for the neckline, then use the two fabrics as one layer for the other seams. Clever! 

The main body of the dress is deadly simple. There are two bodice darts on each side and inseam pockets. That's it! I actually cut out my inseam pockets, after The Great Downsizing. Not only were they in the way, but they were a good four inches lower than I prefer. Next time, I'll raise them up and include them, since day dresses need candy storage. 

As a finish out, this dress calls for armscye facings. Ugh. I loathe those! In my experience, they do nothing but flop around like dead fabric fish, driving me crazy. So, I subbed in bias tape of the same jade green fabric and hand-stitched it in place. Then, I took a two inch hem, and finished it with the leftover bias strips. Hidden pops of color are always a good idea.

All in all, this dress took about three hours of work. For an easy summer staple, that's exactly the amount of time I want to spend sewing. It's a fun, quick project, when you need a burst of creativity. Even better, this yoke is ideal for using up scraps. I eked this one out of a 1/4 yard of fabric! That makes the fabric possibilities for this dress pretty endless, doesn't it? For my next one, I'm considering a blue chambray yoke and red-and-white pinstripe body. 

Admittedly, when unbelted, this dress does look like a 1960's house dress. You know what, though? I really like it. My comfort zone is a bit wider than previously thought!  When the Texas summer finally arrives, roomier styles will be heaven sent.

There's one last thing to share tonight, kittens. The conversation on this blog has, gloriously often, evolved into book recommendations and literary chatter. Many of you are just as avid readers as I am, which has made writing Idle Fancy all the more fun. To that end, I thought you might be interested in an event that recently kicked off.

Avon, the romance arm* of Harper Collins, has revived its much beloved writing competition, Avon Fanlit. This is the same competition that launched the careers of Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, Tiffany Clare, and many other writers I've recommended in the past. Over the next two months, writers will compete in a round robin style tournament, writing a short novella along the way. Editors will provide a short chapter prompt each week, building the story over time, and will provide feedback along the way. The grand prize will be a publishing contract with Avon itself!

Entry is open to all unpublished (or self-published) authors and voting is open to absolutely any fan of romance. I've thrown my hat in the ring, just for fun, but there are a ton of great writers participating. If you're interested in where the genre is going, chances are some of the people in this contest will have hand in shaping its future. That certainly proved to be the case, last time! Rules are here, voting is open, and the first chapters are live! If you love romance, whether writing or reading, I urge you to check it out. It's going to be a very fun summer, indeed.

*Yes, romance. If you are backing away slowly and threatening to take away my feminism card, I gently guide you toward the brilliant Kelly Faircloth and her series of Jezebel articles on the romance community. Or to the Smart Bitches. Or to Maya Rodale.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Miss Juliet Forgets You Not: Simplicity 1873

Good evening, Jedi sewing warriors! Tonight, Sam and I are celebrating this most momentous of days (May the 4th) by drinking wine, making horrible Star Wars jokes, and watching Return of the Jedi. Naturally, I thought it would also be the perfect night to blog about this sweet little floral dress. Nothing says "Let's kill some storm troopers!" like quilting cotton covered in forget-me-nots and baby's breath.

This dress was my contribution to the Dress Up Party, hosted by Sara of Sew Sweetness. Throughout the month of May, she'll be featuring guest bloggers in their favorite garment patterns and tons of giveaways. For my post, I decided to sew up another version of my own go-to dress pattern, Simplicity 1873. It's been over nine months since my last version and my sewing machine threatened to revolt, if it didn't revisit this bodice soon.

To be honest, this dress was also influenced by a terribly boring factor: the weather. Our forecast is nothing but mid-eighties and thunderstorms, as far as the eye can see. Summer advances oh-so-quickly, kittens. 

As you may know, my Texas summer wardrobe has a few rules. There must be natural fibers, minimal layers, and ease of movement. If any garment fails on one of these counts, it won't get worn. Fully lined dresses and pencil skirts molder at the back of my closet, unloved, until October. Or, let's be honest, November.

This dress follows my rules in a gloriously practical fashion. I used midweight quilting cotton that didn't need a lining, lowered the front and back necklines for less coverage, and finished the whole thing with light blue bias tape. It's swishy, breathable, and so ready for summer! Even if my ghostly pale skin isn't.

I've blogged about this pattern so many times that it seems redundant to chatter on, but let's take a quick look at its construction anyway. This dress has a two-dart bodice, scooped neckline, and a wide, pleated circle skirt. Honestly, the most painful part of sewing this dress is cutting out all those darn skirt panels! I've been so spoiled by simpler patterns, in recent months, that the refolding and cutting out of this one felt like pulling teeth. I can't believe I tackled this thing, without a rotary cutter, for my first iteration. How torturous!

Luckily, all that tedium is made up for by the construction process, itself. Call me a sewing nerd, but there's nothing I love more than large swaths of pleating. The marking, the folding, the pressing. It's all so cathartic! Putting a heavily pleated floral skirt together is my sewing catnip. 

Beyond the skirt, however, this dress is pretty basic. Eons ago, I performed a two-inch FBA (on the size 20) and a half-inch narrow shoulder adjustment, so it also fits like a dream. It's finished with an invisible zip at the center back, light blue serging along the seam allowances, and the aforementioned bias tape. I even cheated on this one and sewed a standard machine hem. The horror! The quick and satisfying horror!

In the end, I have one heck of a sundress. It's ridiculously feminine, yes, but still easy to throw on with a cardigan and sandals. Wearing it out, especially with my slightly shorter new hair, makes me feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland. It's just so, so sweet. For this time of year, that's one of my favorite qualities in a garment. Even better, wearing it seems to provoke kiss ambushes, from Sam. There are certainly worse consequences from a dress!

Why are you moving into my frame? You know I'm taking pictures, right?
Nevermind. Carry on, Professor!