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. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Miss Poppy Makes the Deadline: Cressida Skirt

Good afternoon, lovelies! It's been quiet around here, lately. There are cobwebs in my code and a virtual tumbleweed just bobbled by. The utter silence would, quite rightly, lead you to draw conclusions. Has Mary run off to join the circus? Is she finally pursuing her dream (read: utter nightmare) of traveling the world in a festively dangerous hot air balloon? Oh, I bet she and Sam have turned their backyard into an artisanal string cheese shop! 

Alas, no. We're all out of grand adventures here! Since the beginning of July, I've mostly been sitting in front of my computer in yoga pants, writing away on two books, and furtively glancing at the calendar. Occasionally, I will mumble, "Why did I say these books would be done by September? Whhhhhhy?" There was a break for RWA, a brief trip to Utah with my love, and the exciting news of my Avon Fanlit grand prize win. Mostly though, it's just the typing and muttering. 

Until, I got a lovely email from Mari of Seamster Patterns. She's spearheading Sewing Indie Month, this year, which kicked off with an independent pattern bundle sale. I jumped on board to join the blog tour! Not only did it get me out of yoga pants, but it got me back to my sewing machine. That's a win, kittens. 

There are ten patterns in this bundle, each cuter than the last. Initially, I was tempted to sew up the Bonnell Dress from Dixie DIY, which is named for a beloved Austin landmark and the very same place Sam proposed to me. In the end, however, my practical soul chose the Cressida Skirt from Jennifer Lauren Vintage. My wardrobe desperately needs more separates right now and, to rationalize taking time away from deadline hell, it made sense to fill that niche. 

Cressida, like all of Jennifer's patterns, is a modern twist on vintage fashion. This semi-circular skirt has a wide waistband, stylized button tabs, and options for either a single or double button front placket. It's also exactly the silhouette I like in a skirt: defined waist and swooshy hem. My fashion goal, as I enter my thirties, is to become Juliette Binoche in Chocolat. 

For this single-button version of Cressida, I chose a fabric that will easily take me into the cooler seasons. I bought this gorgeous cotton pique--a poppy print in coral, mustard, cream, and olive--in a tiny San Francisco fabric store sometime in 2009. (At the same time, I bought its sister colorway, which was used years ago on a rarely-worn Macaron dress.) The fabric works well with both brown and black accents, making it one hell of a versatile little skirt. 

Construction-wise, the Cressida skirt is a very beginner-friendly pattern. As long as you stay-stitch that waistline quickly, you'll be fine. It has a ton of details to keep more advanced seamstresses happy, however. The turned-and-topstitched placket was a blast to put together, as were the pointed belt tabs. To finish off the skirt, I serged all the seams with gray thread and catch-stitched the hem in place. 

The real show-stopper on this skirt, though, are the buttons. They're a set of lovely dark wood buttons, re-purposed from a man's 1960s coat. I picked them up at a local antique shop, which has a dangerously impressive selection of vintage sewing notions. I cannot walk past a drawer of old buttons without pawing through them for hours, y'all. My sewing room is bursting with random collections of antique and vintage fastenings. 

This skirt is exactly what I hoped for, when signing up for Sewing Indie Month. Not only was it a quick project, but it's one I've already worn multiple times. Thanks to the melange of colors in the fabric, it pairs easily with much of my wardrobe. In the run-up to RWA, I made a couple of easy rayon knit tops, like this black version of McCall's 6513. Each one looks outstanding with this skirt! I am already fantasizing about wearing it with boots and tights, once the fall actually rolls around. You know, in November

Are you ready for the cooler weather, friends? Or are you still relishing sundresses and shorts? This particular seasonal change always boosts my sewing creativity. It's about now that I start craving tweeds and jewel tones. 


This blog post is one of the last stops on the Sewing Indie Month Pattern Bundle blog tour. The sale actually ends tomorrow, August 12th, but there's still time to get on the action! There's a tiered scale of paying for the bundle, with different patterns unlocking at $32 and $38. What's more, 20% of all donations go toward the International Folk Art Alliance, which provides exhibition and education opportunities for folk artists around the world. A complete list of the patterns can be found at the Sewing Indie Month website, along with more details about upcoming SIM events.

To check out other outfits made with these patterns, you can hit up the blogs of my fellow tour participants:

Note: In exchange for participating in the Sewing Indie Month blog tour, I received all patterns in the bundle for free. To offset my lack of purchase, I've also donated to the IFAA, which you can learn more about at this link