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!