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