Saturday, December 31, 2016

Miss Bernadette Decks the Halls: Butterick 6244 and Cashmerette Turner Dress

Good evening, kittens! There's time for one more 2016 blog post, right?

We originally had grand plans for tonight, but after two straight weeks of travel, decided to plant ourselves on the couch and watch college football instead. Sam is making steaks, I may whip up some brownies, and we'll ring in the new year in my favorite way: clad in pajamas and drinking mimosas at home. I would make such a fabulous hermit, y'all. 

Despite my introverted inclinations, we did spend most of the holidays celebrating in style. Not only were there a million parties to attend in December, but our third anniversary fell right before Christmas. Usually, I make up one fabulous holiday dress, then wear it endlessly for a month. This year, I made a dress and a coat. It wasn't overachieving, so much as self-preservation. We had a series of cold fronts, before Christmas, and I would've been a beautiful popsicle, without a festive coat to throw over my festive dress. 

No shivering under the mistletoe for me, this year!

Butterick 6244, the coat in this ensemble, is a pattern I've longed to make. It's one of the new Lisette patterns for Butterick (she moved from Simplicity, last year) designed by Liesl Gibson, of Oliver + S fame. The pattern features two pieces: a simple princess-seamed dress and a drape front coat to pair with it. The dress is cute enough, but that coat! Be still my heart. Unlined, with that dramatic collar and flat-felled seams, it's the elegant, but easy-to-sew outerwear of my dreams. 

Gorgeous versions of this coat first popped up, last winter. Lori, of Girls in the Garden, made an elegant camel version; Margot, of Creating in the Gap, made this glorious red one; and 
The Frougie Fashionista made a buffalo plaid iteration that I have coveted ever since. We had a remarkably mild winter, last year, and I never got around to cutting it out. This year, however, coats seemed like the smartest thing to sew. We had a cold snap early and those Arctic waves of weather keep on coming. I'm relishing them, if only for the opportunity to wear my favorite layers. 

For the fabric of this coat, I chose a dishy boiled wool from Mood Fabrics in cayenne red. This color is, sadly, no longer stocked on their site, but a dozen or so other colors are still available. Boiled wool is exactly what it sounds like–wool fabric that has been agitated in hot water, so that the fibers shrink up into a tighter, more felted fabric. It has a gloriously soft, nubby texture and a bit of springy stretch in one direction, thanks to this process. In addition to coats, I’ve had a couple of winter skirts made from boiled wool and they are such cozy layering pieces. It is one of my favorite fabrics to wear during colder months.

It's also a bit strange to work with. Boiled wool is densely packed, but isn't opaque. It's super warm and a bit heavy, but also drapes beautifully. This is the first of two projects that I'm using boiled wool for, this season, and I'm treating it differently in each case. This fabric works brilliantly for unstructured, drapey pieces like this one, as it doesn't unravel and has beautiful movement on its own. However,  if you add the right lining and understructure, it's also a fantastic fabric for a more structured coat. It's almost more chameleon than cloth.

The construction of this coat was about as easy as outerwear gets. There are two darts at the neckline, no lining to fuss with, and only five pieces in total. The instructions are pretty clear, with a lengthy explanation of flat-felled seams for beginners, and there’s a sew-along on the Lisette website for the entire pattern. Boiled wool doesn’t actually unravel, as mentioned above, so if you wanted to leave the drape unhemmed and the seams unfinished, this pattern would be easier. You’ll see unhemmed boiled wool in ready-to-wear all the time and it gives a bohemian, casual look to the finished garment. Despite my penchant for perfectionism, I almost did that myself. This wool looks seriously beautiful left on its own. 

In the end, though, I hemmed everything and finished all seams as instructed. The armscyes are the only seams left unfelled in the directions, which I kept out of pure laziness. The fabric is a little bulky for flat-felled seams, but it takes both pinning and pressing well, so it’s not too big of a challenge. My seams aren't perfect on the insides, but look nice and neat on the outside. I'll take that!

My only note is that, if you’re going to use boiled wool for an unlined design, expect it to wrinkle. I wore the coat for an hour, before these photos, and signs of wear are evident even after a good pressing, earlier that morning.  Its organic, unstructured nature is part of the charm, in my book. For more tailored designs, definitely consider those lining options well, however.

Underneath this coat is another version of the Cashmerette Turner Dress, which is easily my favorite pattern of the last few months. It's a simple design, but also a timeless one. Depending on fabric and design variations, soooo many different looks are possible with this pattern. Plus, those multiple cup sizes are amazing. I will never be able to praise Jenny enough for making the FBA a thing of the past. It's freeing to skip such a major fitting step! 

For this Turner, I used black and white geometric rayon jersey, also from Mood Fabrics. This fabric is extra stretchy, drapes like a dream, and has abstract hearts and circles marching diagonally across the print. It's absolutely beautiful and just a little strange, which I dig. In order to take advantage of this fabric, properly, I made a few small changes to the pattern: 
  • Rounded the neckline and subbed in a neckband, in place of the lining. 
  • Elongated the shoulder seam slightly to give it the illusion of a cap sleeve, which I thought would be fun with those diagonal stripes. 
  • Kept the 1" added to both the bodice and skirt, last time. 
Like my other knit makes, I constructed this one in the usual way. It's sewn on my machine, with a lightning bolt stitch for the seams and small zig-zag for the hems. Lightweight fusible webbing is used on both the skirt and sleeve hems to stabilize them and make sewing much, much easier. 

I really adore this pairing, y’all. A black-and-white print worn with bright red statement pieces is one of my favorite combinations, especially at the holidays. It’s festive, but also works at other times of the year. You can deck the halls or just bundle up for an elegant evening out. Even better, this coat is eerily similar to wearing a gigantic blanket. Between it and the secret pajamas factor of a knit dress, it feels like I’m cheating at dressing up! When I’ve eaten record amounts of holiday food, that’s a definite win.

Happy New Year, kittens! I hope you had a joyful holiday season, filled with friends, family, cake, and maybe even a little selfish sewing time! I'm really looking forward to seeing what 2017 has in store for us all. 

Note: The fabric for this post was provided by Mood Fabrics, free of charge, as part of my participation in the Mood Sewing Network. All opinions and thoughts are my own, however, and I choose all my MSN fabrics. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Miss Georgia Knows These Woods Well: Cashmerette Turner Dress

Good evening, kittens! It's hibernation season, down here in Texas. We've had a surprisingly chilly beginning to winter*, the kind of weather that demands tights and coats and copious amounts of tea. It's also the kind of weather that makes me want to do nothing but lounge around, reading books and eating spice cake. Some selfless sewing has happened--a few shirtdresses for my mother, perfecting a pants pattern for Sam's lovely aunt, and the unstoppable tide of Christmas gifts--but most of my inspiration has curled up into a ball, trying to keep warm. 

Luckily, the indomitable Jenny has rescued me, once again. Last year, my winter sewing obsession was the Appleton Dress, with its slinky fit and elegant wrap front. This year, my new love is another Cashmerette Pattern, the Turner Dress. This fit-and-flare knit dress has a v-neck bodice, three sleeve variations, and a swishy, semi-circle skirt. No doubt, you've already seen a parade of Turner Dresses marching through your Instagram feed and blog reader. It's been a smash hit with the curvy sewing community, since its release last month. After sewing it up, I am absolutely on board with the lovefest. This is a fun, easy project with elegant results. Who could ask for more?

*Yes, Virginia, we do have winter here. Well, kind of

Of all seasons, winter gets the least amount of love in my sewing cave. December through February are legitimately cold months in Central Texas, but I rarely sew for them. It's all ready-to-wear coats and sweaters, nothing at all like summer wardrobe, which is entirely sewn. This season, I plan on addressing that discrepancy. I prefer wearing cold weather clothes, so why shouldn't I start sewing some?

The Turner Dress is ideal for such purposes. It's a fairly basic pattern, which means fabric choice and small design variations can produce a whole wardrobe of looks. Shorten the sleeves, it becomes a casual sundress. Add an overlay, it's a super chic cocktail dress. Plus, knits are so quick to sew up. If you want to build a mini-wardrobe in a hurry, knits make life easier. 

Luckily, I have a few great knits languishing in my stash. Lillestoff  sent me this jersey, last year, along with the blue tropical jersey used in my 30th birthday Myrtle Dress. It's a retro floral, with yellow and pink poppies on a plum background, which makes the perfect winter print. Like other Lillestoff cotton jerseys, it's a true medium weight, with good stretch and very springy recovery. That makes it easy to sew with (No bagging out! Yay!), but clingier than other cotton jerseys. 

Alterations wise, this was a cake walk. Like other Cashmerette Patterns, Jenny drafted the Turner Dress for multiple cup sizes, eliminating the need for a Full Bust Adjusment. Based on my 46.5" bust measurement, this means that I'm either a big 16 G/H or a small 18 E/F, depending on waist and hip measurements. I opted for the 18 variant, to counteract the fabric's clingy tendencies, and did my only adjustment: adding length to the bodice and skirt. An inch on each, to make up for my height, and voila! Adjustments finished. 

The v-neck of the Turner Dress is achieved by fully lining the bodice, instead of finishing it with a neckband. I didn't have quite enough of my main fabric to pull this off, so I lined the bodice with a bright orange bamboo jersey. (Just visible in the photo above!) I ordered that jersey from Mood, last year, but it was sooooo much brighter in person. Cheetoh bright, y'all. Instead of gritting my teeth and using it for a traffic cone costume, I'm calling it a lining and hiding it inside other garments. 

The construction of the Turner is that of a classic knit pattern. If you've sewn up the Colette Moneta or the Sewaholic Renfrew, there will be no surprises here. In fact, thanks to the circular skirt, this pattern is even easier to sew than the Moneta. There is none of that fussy elastic gathering to worry about! I can't tell you how many sewing machine needles I've broken on that particular task. Jenny does have you understitch the neckline, which gives a neater turn to the fabric, but there are no particularly tricky steps. Mark everything well, make sure your tension is right, and use a ballpoint needle. You can't go wrong. 

Due to its simplicity, the Turner dress can be sewn almost entirely on a serger, but I used my sewing machine instead. I like that extra control it gives, especially when working with the smaller seam allowances of a knit pattern. For main seams, I used the lightning bolt stitch on my BERNINA 350 PE and for hems I used a narrow zig-zag. There is elastic at both the shoulders and the waist, for added support, and fusible webbing in the hems for stability. 

Huzzah! That's it. How sick are you of reading my This Is How I Sew Knits spiel? I feel like the technical details must be included, for those who are coming to only this review, but it's the same on almost every knit pattern. Stabilize, be careful, and use a sewing machine. Maybe next time I will use a serger, just to keep things exciting. I'm channeling Fixer Upper, it seems. Inventing drama through perfectly planned disasters! If I accidentally slice off important fabric pieces and ruin something, I'm blaming Chip and Joanna. It's only fair. 

This dress is such a hit! It's already in constant rotation in my wardrobe, worn a half dozen times before I even snapped these pictures. Not only is the fabric super cozy, but the fit is great. There is some light pulling above the bust, but everything else is perfect: the shoulders are slim enough, the neckline isn't too deep, and the waist sits at my narrowest point. I will switch to a different cup size on the pattern, next time, which should get rid of that pulling. My only other slight quibble is that the point of my v-neck has rounded itself off, after a few cycles through the washing machine. I obviously need to reinforce that neckline a bit more in future versions! 

And, yes, there will be future versions. I've already made a rayon jersey one for my forthcoming Mood Sewing Network outfit and two sweater knits are in line for another round. I'm playing with the neckline and design elements, as you might expect. Bell sleeves, jewel necklines. Those are just my initial evil plans! Be warned, kittens. You're going to be sick of Turner Dresses on Idle Fancy, before this season is out. 

In the meantime, I hope you're having a lovely holiday season! We're about to embark on The Grand Danielson-Perry Christmas Extravaganza, where we bounce between Austin, Waco, and Houston for a few weeks, visiting family and catching up with friends. Thank heavens for knit dresses and e-readers! I wouldn't survive all that driving without secret pajamas and new Gail Carriger novellas

Fabric: c/o Lillestoff 
Pattern: c/o Cashmerette -- Jenny originally sent this pattern to testers, last spring, but I was traveling during that testing period and couldn't fit it into my sewing schedule. This is the final version of the pattern, which she kindly sent along anyway, right before the launch

Friday, October 7, 2016

Miss Hildy Gets a Promotion: Knipmode 03/2016 + McCall's 7351

Kittens, this was a week

You know the kind. Everything with a plug breaks, deer jump into the road right as you drive by, and you discover that the night shift Emergency Room doctor knows you by name. I. Am. Drained. Give me a fainting couch and a cocktail, because that's all I have the energy to face.  

Well, that and finally blogging about this outfit. Both of these garments are in heavy wardrobe rotation, so it's high time they made an appearance here. They weren't actually meant to go together, per se, but I ironed them at the same time and gave into whimsy. Polka dots in opposite colorways cancel each other out, right? We're going with it. 

Let's talk about this skirt first, as you've seen the shirt pattern (many times) before. This skirt is pattern #9 from the March 2016 issue of Knipmode,* which was filled with on-trend basics for spring. So, naturally, I waited until autumn to make this up. It's almost like there's a nursery rhyme about Marys and their contrarian ways. 

Anyway, this pattern. It's a full, pleated skirt with asymmetrical pleating, a curved waistband, and an invisible zipper side closure. On both the front and the back, there are two knife pleats and an inverted box pleat. Simple enough, right? I didn't even bother translating instructions from Dutch, so confident was I in my skirt skills. I raided my stash, came up with this dishy polka dot stretch twill from Mood, and started sewing this pattern in a straight Size 48.

Foolhardy decision. Look closer, my dears.  

*Note: This pattern is also available as a PDF. If you'd like to know more about how I use Knipmode, from translating to tracing, I recently posted about it on the Curvy Sewing Collective.

See those pleats? They don't look quite the same as the original, do they? There's something amiss. You can almost put your finger on it...


Yes, I sewed the pleats in the wrong directions. Somehow, when marking up the pattern, I ended up with a knife pleat on either side of a center box pleat. It's like my persnickety devotion to symmetry couldn't stand the intended design and hijacked the whole project.  Well played, subconscious. 

By the time I noticed the error, I'd pleated both sides. It was either unpick the whole thing or live with a more (though not fully) symmetrical design. Obviously, I didn't care that much. All I really wanted was a polka dot skirt in a full silhouette. I tried it on, decided it looked fine, and called it a design decision. 

Other than unforseen pleating adventures, this was a quick project. There's a black invisible zipper at the side, a fairly deep hem, and a faced waistband. It really doesn't get simpler than that, does it? I've actually made two further versions of this skirt, with full linings and correct pleat orientations, for more swishy basics. Mood has a great collection of cotton sateens right now, which lend themselves well to such garments. 

Onto the shirt! Have you guessed what pattern this is, yet?

This is another version of McCall's 7351, everyone's new favorite shirtdress. A couple months ago, I made a few alterations and also turned this pattern into my go-to button-down. It's a simple darted top with a classic collar, separate button bands, and a back yoke. 

What's fun about this garment is actually the fabric. This black and white polka dotted shirting is a gorgeous, lightweight lawn picked up from Gail K Fabrics in Atlanta. Back in May, Sam and I took a grand road trip through the Southeast, visiting beloved relatives, attending an academic conference, and frolicking our way through six states. 

The Georgia part of this trip was filled with sewing shenanigans. First up, I was lucky enough to attend the annual Young Designers Sewing Program fashion show, thanks to Sam's amazing Aunt Gail. The Young Designers program is a nonprofit in Athens, which teaches girls how to design and sew their own clothes, along with interviewing skills, college planning, and basic small business practices. Each year, they have a fashion show, where the girls show off all the clothes they've been making, from refashions of wedding dresses to vintage-inspired outfits that look straight from New York. I have never been so awed. Many of these girls were still in elementary school and already working with sergers, knits, and invisible zippers! If you're in the Athens/Atlanta area, this is a great organization to check out. They're always looking for fabric donations, financial backing, and sewists willing to donate their time! 

After Athens, we headed to Atlanta for the conference and some exploring of Sam's old graduate school haunts. There, I had the good luck to run into the gorgeous Sumiko, who is both a brilliant communication scholar and a fellow curvy sewist. We met up for coffee and sewing gossip, then afterwards I headed to the famed Gail K Fabrics. Y'all, this store deserves its reputation. Outside of Britex and Mood, I've never been so overwhelmed by a fabric store. They had walls upon walls of fabric, many stacked all the way to the ceiling. It was a labyrinth of beautiful prints and luxe fibers. In the end, I walked away with this shirting and two Marc Jacobs voiles (sapphire and emerald). It's definitely worth a trip, if you find yourself in Georgia! 

Though polka dot shirtings are fairly thick on the ground, this one is special. It washed up into a gloriously soft, draping cotton that skims over curves and is somehow impervious to wrinkles. Even better, it's printed on grain. On grain! I can't remember the last time I used a polka dot that lined up perfectly with the grain. That alone made it worth the purchase. 

The construction of this shirt was identical to my previous version, apart from the addition of two extra buttons. If you're curious about some more complicated aspects of button-downs, however, I have good news! I recently wrote a post for BERNINA's blog, We All Sew, about how I construct and sew collars. If you've wrestled with turning points and getting collars to curve, the tips I share in "The Secrets of Sewing Perfect Collars" should help out. 

There you have it, not one, but two polka dotted garments. Like I said, both of these pieces have gotten heaps of wear, in recent weeks. The button-down looks killer with skinny jeans and a drapey, bright cardigan, while the skirt dresses up beautifully with Bardot tops and heels. Honestly, though, I do prefer them worn together. There's something about the inversion of the same palette that lends a certain elegance to the humble dot. It's unconventional, but still classic. 

In short, I dig it. Now, where is my fainting couch?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Miss Margot Could Be Your Silver Springs: Butterick 5878

Good afternoon, my dear wombats! Over the last year, I've alluded to my evolving sense of style. It's something everyone goes through, of course. Your body changes, you get older, you move. All of these shifts reverberate through our wardrobes, as well.

When you make your own clothes, however, this transition can be more of a headache. My many cotton versions of Simplicity 1873 go unworn nowadays, crowding my closet with their bright, novelty prints, but there aren't nearly enough silk blouses to pair with skinny jeans. Add in measurements that are bouncing around like a rubber ball and my closet fills me with dread, a morass of slightly too-tight skirts and colors that don't suit my current mood.  

Then again, there are new additions that get plenty of rotation. Shirtdresses continue on, beloved and easy to wear, jewel tones speak to how much I'm over summer, and the 1970's has crept onto my radar. Think a light smattering of voluminous sleeves and bohemian silhouettes. My love of Stevie Nicks is finally influencing something other than my Spotify algorithm, it seems.

Any moment, I'm going to start wearing shawls and twirling. Tambourines, ahoy. 
In all honesty, I am in love with peasant style dresses for the fall. McCall's 7431 (View C, with those dramatic sleeves!) is high on my sewing wishlist, as is this maxi dress from Burda. However, Butterick 5878 seemed like the best way to ease into this look, if only because I'd already cut out the pattern. 

This is a woven surplice dress with a tiered skirt, three sleeve options, and elasticized waist. I'm not going to lie, kittens, that elastic waist drew me in originally. With those aforementioned bouncing measurements, sewing pieces that will fit from one month to the next is crucial right now. It's a miracle I'm not just sewing knits until my hormones even out again. 

Anywho. I opted for View B of this pattern, which has three tiers on the skirt and elasticized 3/4 sleeves. There was a point, halfway through, when I tried on the dress and almost left off the sleeves entirely. While this version of the pattern absolutely screams peasant dress, the sleeveless view looks decidedly modern when done all in one fabric, the perfect transitional piece from summer to fall.

I'll obviously need one of those, as well. 

Despite threats to leave off pieces or sub in a simple circle skirt, I embraced the design of this dress fully. Everything on the pattern is as-is, except for a Full Bust Adjustment taken before cutting. I probably could've skipped it, but the impulse for staying true to design integrity overrode me. I err toward fitting things as intended, rather than using ease to skate by with my measurements. It's always easier to take things in than to wish for more room, after all. 

The fabric of this dress is a rayon challis from Fabric Mart, which has languished in my stash for years. It's a minimalist tulip design in white, teal, and sapphire on a black background, with all the swish and body you'd expect from a challis. I had scads of it and no particular emotional attachment, so it was the ideal fabric for trying out a new pattern. Plus, it wouldn't push this dress into "prairie chic" territory, which was a legit concern. The tulips point in both directions, but more one way or another, depending on which side is up. I opted for more tulips pointing down, like little Tiffany lamps. 

The construction details on this pattern are what you would expect from a Big 4 dress pattern. The instructions are detailed and thorough, but I changed it up to suit my preferences. Butterick suggests that you encase the elastic in the loose seam allowance of the waist seam, which was waaaaay too messy for me. Instead, I serged that seam to finish it, then used it as a channel on the inside bodice, top-stitching the seam upwards, flat against the bodice. Leaving a few inches free, I then threaded the elastic through that channel and closed it up. Easy and much, much cleaner!

Everything else was a cinch. The tiers require a ton of gathering, but I rather like such mindless, longform sewing. Put on a podcast, zen out for thirty minutes, and you're done! On the sleeveless version of this dress, I will probably sub in a 3/4 circle skirt, though. There are only so many aggressively tiered dresses a woman needs. 

The final dress looks so close to how I imagined it. Loose, but feminine and begging to be layered with tights and boots. Arguably, it was meant to be belted, but my favorite skinny belt went M.I.A. for these pictures and I like the shape just as much without. The elastic waist still gives the dress plenty of definition and it's shockingly breezy and cool for the warm September days we're having. Hooray for rayon!

The one thing I don't like is the sleeve length. It turns out that elasticized sleeves kind of drive me crazy on my forearms. They're not tight enough to stay still, but they're not loose enough to keep from bothering me. I keep leaving them at my elbows, as in these pictures, which gives them a bell shape. It's cute, but definitely not as intended. 

When I change up the skirt on this pattern, I'll increase the depth of that crossover wrap on the bodice, as well. Like others before me, I added a tack at the center front, to prevent the bodice from blousing open. With a slightly deeper crossover, I could nix the tack and the camisole underneath. Using the current skirt, though, the shorter waistline from a deep wrap would have messed with the top tier's size. The pieces measure one for one, along the waistline. I didn't feel like pre-gathering before the elastic insertion or narrowing that tier, so I left the bodice intact. 

Can you tell I'm ready for fall? Things are getting desperate around here, when I'm willfully adding sleeves to dresses and wearing black by choice. After looking at these pictures, I'm dreaming of another version of this dress in true autumnal colors. Maybe a berry polka dot or mustard floral? Those would look gorgeous layered under cardigans and over tights. 

There's nothing wrong with a spot of aspirational sewing, right? Sew for the climate you want to have and all that. I haven't even started on my winter coats yet, so I'm still being somewhat practical. We'll ignore the piles of wool on my cutting table and pumpkin cake recipes crowding my browser tabs. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Miss Gloria and the Swinging Vines: Papercut Sway Dress

Good afternoon, kittens! This weekend was filled with Hitchcock movies, turning plums into plum cakes, and a fair bit of sewing. After a summer of illness and calamity, we're reveling in the change of seasons. Well, metaphorically anyhow. It's still decidedly summer around here. To quote Stella from Rear Window, "You'd think the rain would've cooled things down. All it did was make the heat wet."

My fall sewing list is as long as my arm, but each piece is more impractical than the last. Stevie Nicks dresses and pink wool coats are exciting, sure, but I can't wear them until November! So, I'm instituting a rule: for every impractical garment I sew, the next piece needs to be wearable immediately. After giving Butterick 5878 a spin (a swishy, long-sleeved Stevie dress yet to be blogged), it was time for something practical. Namely, that green linen tent dress I mused over a few weeks ago. 

This is the Papercut Sway Dress again, made up in a medium-weight emerald green linen from Mood Fabrics. When this fabric first arrived, it was stiff with sizing and scratchy against the skin. Rather dreadful prospects for a garment. However, I took the brilliant Carolyn's advice about sewing with linen and washed it not once, but three times. This fully relaxed the linen fibers, washed away the sizing, and produced a soft, draping dream of a fabric. 

This method also protects somewhat against the worst of linen's wrinkles. There are still enough for character, of course, but I can definitely tell a difference between using this method and just single pre-washing. I can wear this dress all day and not look a complete mess, two hours in. 

I ordered two yards of this linen, which isn't quite enough for the pattern. Some creative cutting and adding a front yoke as a "design detail" sorted things out. I also changed a few things from my first version. The Full Bust Adjustment, with its angled dart at the side seam, remains, as does the fantastic all-in-one facing to finish the neckline and armscye. However, I sloped the hemline for a subtle high-low effect, giving the dress a little more swish. The waist tie is also twice as wide, which helps cinch in the heavier fabric. If you'd like more pattern construction details, check out my first Sway Dress review, which goes in depth about that process. 

Let's talk about actually sewing with linen though, shall we? Linen is one of my favorite substrates to wear. Perhaps I've watched Romancing the Stone or The African Queen one too many times, but wearing linen makes me feel both glamorous and ready to swing from a vine, should the situation call for it. However, it can be a bear to sew with. The loose weave grows as you handle the fabric, causing curves to stretch and seams to warp. It will also relax around your body, with wear, so fitted garments require planning ahead for bagging out and drooping. 

There's a fantastic article from Threads on sewing with linen, including guidance about seam finishes, linings, and pre-washing. Cobbling together advice from that article and a few others, I changed my process for better accommodate linen's idiosyncrasies. The facing for this dress is made with a coordinating green bamboo voile, which has a hand and structure like silk organza. That gives more support where the linen needs it: around the curves of the neckline and armscyes, plus along the shoulder seam, which carries most of the dress's weight. There's fusible interfacing around the neckline to stabilize it and twill tape in the shoulder seam itself, for further support. I also stay-stitched every possible curve, immediately after cutting my pattern pieces out, to prevent warp. 

In the Sway Dress instructions, we're told to let the dress hang for twenty-four hours, before hemming. This lets the bias parts of the skirt drop with gravity, so the hem won't be a dodgy, up-and-down affair after a day of wearing. With linen, this step is even more important. I let it hang for two whole days, to ensure everything dropped fully. This fabric has such a loose weave that the bias portions dropped over six inches at each side seam. Yikes! This is how that slight high-low hem came into being. I figured that I was going to spend an eon evening the hem anyhow, so why not make it more interesting? Thank heavens for dress forms, y'all. 

Voila! A totally practical emerald green tent dress. This really is perfect for end-of-summer Texas wardrobe blues. Sure, I'd rather be hauling out sweaters and tights, but this billowy, bright dress makes me smile every time I wear it. The extra wide waist tie mimics a fit-and-flare silhouette well, but the linen skims every curve and dances around the body. It's ideal for running errands on muggy days and dressing up for casual summer dates. Also, if I could source it in every substrate, I would probably wear this color every day. Emerald cashmere coat, I will have you, eventually!

Now, I'm going to plot my next impractical project and possibly bake a loaf of challah. I've been re-watching old seasons of The Great British Bake Off lately and they're giving me delusions of kitchen grandeur. We've had way too many clafoutis-related emergency grocery store trips, lately. Sam even had to talk me out of making ├«le flottante at midnight, earlier this week. Maybe a bit of frivolous sewing will curb such whimsy elsewhere? One can hope. 

Disclaimer: The fabric for this project was provided to me free of charge, as part of my membership in the Mood Sewing Network. However, I picked it out and all opinions are my own. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Miss Gloria Feels the Heat: Papercut Sway Dress

Hello, my loves! After six years of blogging, quiet summers have become something of a tradition on Idle Fancy, haven't they? The temperature skyrockets and all I want to do is wear yoga pants, drink iced tea, and wallow around in the air conditioning. Sewing begins to sound dreadful. 

Fit-and-flare dress? Ugh. Too tight. 
Cozy cardigan? Beyond depressing. I wouldn't be able to wear it until October. 
Jeans? Your optimism is hilarious. 

There is one silhouette that has been on my mind, however: the tent dress. They've been everywhere in stores again, this year, and have won me over. Sure, they're shapeless and--well--tent-like, but they're also flowing and lightweight and ideally suited for triple digit heat. I fell hard for a striped knit swing dress at Old Navy, then an embroidered white version at Anthropologie. They're not my usual silhouette, but they're the only garments I crave right now! 

Since I'm hopelessly late to this bandwagon, there are heaps of tent/trapeze/swing dress patterns already out there. There's the voluminous, bow-tied Cynthia Rowley design, Simplicity 1105, the notch-necked and subtle trapeze of New Look 6340, and even a chic silk Mart Visser collaboration from Knipmode's last issue

As usual, I gravitated toward the woven options. My stash is robust, but I don't buy knits on a whim, like I do lightweight cottons and rayons. When I want to sew a knit pattern, the fabric has to be sourced, ordered, then waited on. That doesn't work for impulse sewing! So, to try out this silhouette, I settled on the woven Papercut Sway Dress

This pattern has been made up dozens of times in blogland, to great effect. It's a classic tent dress with a v-neck, side seam pockets, two hem lengths, and an optional tie waist. The longer, cinched version appealed to the feminine core of my style. It has all the ease of a tent dress, but in a length and general shape I'm already comfortable with. Even better, the PDF version of this pattern only has 32 pages! It was printed and cut out in less than two episodes of Stranger Things (#JusticeForBarb)

I paired it with a cotton batiste from Mood Fabrics, in an orange tropical floral print. Batiste is an easy to work with fabric and the perfect weight for a light, floaty dress. I didn't bother matching the floral, since it has a large repeat, and love how the busy print worked with the simple lines of the Sway Dress. 

Of course, I don’t quite fit into Papercut’s size chart. Their final size goes to 44″-36″-46″, an inch or two off my bust and hip measurements. However, with my high bust of 42″ and this pattern’s generous ease through the body, the XL fit me well. To better accommodate my bustline, I did a 1.5 inch Full Bust Adjustment, adding a dart to the side seam of the front bodice.

While that’s a straightforward adjustment, this pattern only has two main pieces: a front dress and a back dress. As drafted, the dress is fully reversible, so the wearer can choose whether she wants a v-neck or a rounded neckline on any given day. This makes a ton of sense in a voluminous design, but my FBA rendered this impossible. I had to choose which neckline I wanted as the true front and opted for the v-neck. Huzzah for open necklines!

The other adjustment I made was to lower the pockets by three inches on each side. Maybe my height caused this problem, but they sat right at my waistline initially. Egads! That might be fine for the true tent version of this dress, but I made the longer view, with a tie that cinches in the waist. Having tie and pockets at the same level seemed absurd.

This dress was ridiculously simple to put together, kittens. There are only four body seams in the whole garment–joining the sides, front center, and back center–then the neckline and armscyes are finished with all-in-one facings. I haven’t used facings like this in years, but I love the clean finish they give. They’re more fiddly to install than traditional facings, but they don’t flip out while wearing and add a level of sophistication to the garment’s interior.

The two more labor intensive parts of this dress were the tie and the hem. While turning a tie right side out is always a trial, this one is super long, skinny, and made of fairly flimsy fabric. My usual method of turning it around a knitting needle didn’t work, so I switched over to the safety pin method, which sped things along. As for the hem, I used a narrow baby hem, after leaving the dress to hang for a day. Papercut mentions this step in their instructions and I highly recommend following it, instead of rushing through construction. My side seams dropped a good four inches, after hanging.

Overall, this is a well-written and thorough construction process. A beginner might find the method of attaching facings a bit confusing, but if you’ve put in a lining by machine before, you’ll be just fine. If you add an FBA to the pattern, remember to alter your front facing as well, to match the new curve of your armscye.

So, here's the big question. Can the cinched waist devotee fall for a tent dress?

Reach for the smelling salts, my dears. I actually love it! It’s lightweight, breezy, and swishes with every step. When suffering through another triple-digit heat index, those are priceless qualities in a garment.

Admittedly, this isn’t a silhouette I’ll wear without the waist tie or a belt. The longer length of the pattern hits me right above the knee, which is too long to make the unadorned tent work. At the shorter length, it would be flirty and kicky, even without the tie. As it is…well, the longer one really does give those muumuu vibes, doesn’t it? My waist and hips are completely lost in the dress's lines. For my purposes, though, it’s ideal. I don’t mind belting this dress, when it still has tons of ease through the bodice and hips. Either way, the Sway Dress is infinitely more comfortable than anything else in my closet!

Craving more Sway Dress inspiration? Check out the dresses that made me fall hard for this pattern: Nicole's flirty LBD, Rachel's chic linen midi dress, and Heather's fun crepe giraffe print. The lovely Gillian is also on a recent tent dress kick, sewing up pretty knit versions, like a graphic floral Jorna and bold scrollwork Groove dress

It might not be my usual look, but I am digging this dress, y'all. To truly kick the sewing malaise aside, I’m already sewing another version in lush, green linen with a wider waist tie. Take that, Texas summer!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Miss Irene and the Yankee Doodle Dandy: McCalls 7351

In sewing, mistakes are inevitable. Perhaps you accidentally clip a seam allowance and the seam, or you decide to skip interfacing this one time. Some overzealous scissor wielding or a too hot iron and a whole project can be ruined in seconds. Kittens, I've been there. 

Personally, my most regrettable mistakes all involve fabric. Whether choosing a knit with too little stretch or blindly ignoring something's polyester content, I've done it all. The worst, however, are the projects which paired beautiful lengths of fabric with mediocre, ill-fitting patterns. Most of those were before this blog started, but there have been some doozies even in the last six years! The one I look back on with genuine sadness is actually my very first shirtdress, the Sally Shirtdress from 2014

Despite that post's optimistic ending, it did not get a ton of wear. I wore the dress twice more, before consigning it to the back my closet forever. Both times, I couldn't wait to get back home and take the damn thing off. The buttons pulled constantly and the fabric bunched in odd places. Despite the luxe chambray and beautiful vintage buttons, it was a total disaster to wear. The pattern didn't work for me, simple enough.

And yet, I still loved the style. Dark blue chambray and red buttons are such a classic American combination. There's no garment more appropriate for a summer BBQ or 4th of July parade, unless you actually swath yourself in star spangled banners a la Pollyanna. 

Pollyanna: Taking cheerfulness and a theme too far, since 1913.

While the patriotic body bag was a tempting look, instead I decided to have another go at that chambray dress. This time, I armed myself with a better pattern and two more years of pattern fitting experience. Even the fabric got a little nicer, with this dishy Rag & Bone indigo cotton chambray from Mood. Thanks to a plain weave and strategic thread patterns, the fabric looks like a true denim, but has the lightweight feel of a drapey shirting. There's also a soft iridescence to its face, which changes the blue in different angles. 

For the pattern, I opted for my new go-to shirtdress pattern, which you've all heard about to death. This is McCall's 7351 (surprise!) with my altered narrow silhouette, which added waist darts and hip ease to View A. This is actually one of those dresses from my furious batch sewing binge, back in May. The other two didn't photograph as well, after a month of wearing and washing, so will have to make their debuts on Instagram at some point. 

Why, yes, I am dying to snip those errant little threads on the collar. 
While I wanted to use the vintage embossed buttons from my original Sally Shirtdress, fate had other plans. In my manic closet cleaning, this spring, that dress accidentally ended up in a charity pile instead of the refashion box. Somewhere, I hope someone is greatly enjoying those gorgeous buttons! This dress had to settle with plain red plastic buttons from JoAnn Fabrics. Their color pops off the dark chambray beautifully and matched some stashed thread, so it all worked out rather well. 

The construction details of this dress are exactly the same as my previous versions, down to top-stitching all the things and self-fabric finishes. However, if you squint at the picture above you can see a special little change. All the top-stitching thread is red! It's more apparent in real life than in pictures, but I adore it. Coordinated stitching is something that I love in ready-to-wear designs, yet rarely do myself. There's too much room for error, when every stitch is that obvious. This dress seemed worth it, though, and the extra time for perfectionism paid off. The collar and button bands look gorgeous. 

And that, my dears, is victory. The dreadful mistake is finally undone! I love this dress. It feels wonderful to own a version of this style that I will actually wear. There's no unsightly bunching or pulling, here. It's all perfectly fitting, perfectly comfortable chambray goodness.

Even better, that's my outfit sorted for our annual 4th of July party, next month. Now, I'll spend the next week deliberating varieties of pie to make, instead of what to wear. Apple and cherry are a must, but blueberry mascarpone or chocolate cream for the third? Decisions, decisions... 

Let's be honest, much like shirtdresses, I'll probably just make them all.