Sunday, July 16, 2017

Cashmerette Concord Tee: Maternity Pattern Hacks


Good afternoon, kittens! Life is in full on baby mode at Chez Fancy. Our guest room is mid-transformation into a nursery, we spent an absurd amount on the world's safest car seat, and boxes of hand-me-down girl clothes regularly appear on our doorstep.* 

My sewing is also pretty maternity focused, these days. It seems like overnight I went from wearing regular jeans to needing gigantic stretchy panels in every garment. Apparently, that's a thing that happens when you're seven-and-a-half months pregnant. While many of my current projects can eventually double as normal clothes, they're ideal for my current (and growing!) body. Even better, I haven't bought any additional maternity patterns since that first shopping flurry. Instead, I'm modifying straight size patterns that already fit well. 

Unsurprisingly, Cashmerette patterns top my list of easiest to modify. Both the Turner Dress and the Concord T-Shirt have been hacked to death for my maternity whims. So much so that I wrote up two tutorials for BERNINA's We All Sew blog to share my favorite Concord hacks, a swing top and a classic maternity tee

*We have the loveliest group of local friends, many of whom have girls slightly older than ours. We couldn't be luckier! It's like having a committee of baby stuff fairy godmothers. 

Cashmerette Concord Swing Top

Of all the non-maternity clothes that I've worn during pregnancy, swing tees have gotten the most mileage. I love them with jeans, when I'm not pregnant, and with pretty much every skirt or pair of trousers when I am. They hide a baby bump well, are super breezy in the Texas heat, and take an hour to whip up. Who could ask for more?

When the Closet Case Ebony Tee came out, I insta-bought that pattern. The high-low hem and volume of swing kept me from actually making it up, however. It was perfect for my non-pregnant swing tee requirements, but not quite right for my maternity needs. Did I really want to print out and stick together an entire pattern that would need more fiddling? Absolutely not. I am already gestating a human. There's no energy to spare for needless hours of PDF assembly.  

Instead, I pulled the Concord T-shirt out and started slashing and spreading. I wanted the swing to start at the bust, to give some illusion of shape, and dropped the hemline lower to make up for that growing middle. It's a fairly quick adjustment and one that's proved invaluable to my maternity wardrobe. Thank heavens drapey, flowy styles are in fashion right now!

All of my swing tops have been made up in rayon jersey, like this abstract pink one from Mood. There is no better fabric for hot, humid summers, y'all. Cool, breathable, and drapey, it makes that suffocating cushion of heat more bearable. I'm pretty sure that being extra super pregnant through the summer is the universe's way of giving my mom revenge for my own September-in-Florida birthday. Swingy rayon tops are a good way to survive now...and the next two months. 

Obviously, these shirts also double as non-maternity wear. Throw them on with skinny jeans and a nursing cami, this fall, and I'm both comfortable and pulled together. Pardon me, while I make a million other versions...

Concord Maternity Tee

In the vein of true maternity wear, I've also whipped up a couple of classic maternity tees. You know the ones: long hemlines, ruched sides, enough room for the sentient watermelon attached to your torso. They sell for $25 a pop in stores, even though they're the simplest garments in the world. I just cannot bring myself to pay money for such shirts! They're practical and necessary, but sewing my own seemed much more reasonable. And cost effective. And less likely to make me resent polyester content in fabric. 

This adjustment may be even easier than the Swing Top hack. All that's needed to turn your favorite t-shirt pattern into a maternity top is added length to the front piece, which is then ruched up into the side seams. Voila! A watermelon pocket! I haven't put on any weight or changed base sizes (I've actually lost a bit, thanks to intense food aversions. Oh, pregnancy brain, why have you forsaken bacon?), so no added width at the hips is needed either. For the tunic length shirt in these photos, I added five inches of extra ruched fabric, plus another two to the center from hemline. It seems to work pretty well for my current size, with room to grow, but some bigger ones might be in the works later on. 

Once again, rayon jersey wins all the awards. This is a striped navy rayon from Mood, which I've also used for a tank dress that is getting tons of wear. My solution to maternity wear is basically swathing myself in stretchy fabrics and calling it a day. Those vintage woven maternity patterns I bought early on may get zero use, this go around. 

In addition to these basic tees, I've also sewn quite a few dress variations, as mentioned. The Turner has become everything from a cold shoulder maxi dress to a slinky, but roomy tent dress for these steamy summer days. If anyone else is interested, I was actually thinking of turning those hacks (and a few others) into a series of YouTube tutorials. 

Given how few maternity patterns there actually are, especially as you go up in size ranges, using patterns I already love has been liberating. Ready-to-wear maternity garments are notoriously poor quality and the sizing can be so off on Big 4 maternity patterns (ahem, this Butterick dress) that pattern hacking is actually a far, far easier route. That's been my experience, anyhow. 

Now, back to the world of nursery set up. We're going to pick out paint, this afternoon, which is one of my least favorite renovation duties. The variances in the color yellow boggle my mind, kittens. How many times can one person mutter, "Hmm. A bit less buttery, a bit more lemony!" without losing her mind? We shall see. Wish me luck! Thank you again for all the well wishes, on my last post!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Miss Vesper Makes Her Debut: Butterick 6226

Good afternoon, kittens! 

As my five month lapse in blogging may tell you, sewing dropped low on my priority list in 2017. This has been an eventful year, in both extraordinary and harrowing ways. We've planned and unplanned international moves (on hold for a few years), grappled with the possibility of major career changes (avoided, thank heavens), and are now getting ready for a new family member this fall. 

That last one is, obviously, the biggest and best news. We'll be welcoming a wee baby girl in September! Sam and I couldn't be more excited about this incipient little one. We've decided on  her name, picked out a nursery theme, and looked at reviews of more strollers than I knew existed. What I haven't done much of, however, is maternity sewing. After confirming that everything was on track in early February, I canvassed the internet for maternity patterns, ordering scads of both contemporary and vintage designs. Then...promptly sewed none of them.

Did you know that pregnancy has side effects? Shocking, right? I was lucky enough to avoid the morning sickness, but not some skeletal issues that make sewing for long periods of time difficult. I'm managing them well, but only by being exceedingly careful about how long I spend sitting. 

Or standing. 

Or walking. 

Or doing pretty much any one thing for long periods of time. 

Not that it's all doom and alignment gloom around here. Pregnancy has been a joyful experience, aside from navigating side effects, even if it has put a cramp in sewing binges. Thankfully, I haven't actually needed real maternity clothes until recently. Other than switching out to stretchier pants, most of my established wardrobe worked for the first twenty-or-so weeks. Colette Monetas, Myrtles, and Cashmerette Turner Dresses were in heavy rotation, but even my looser shirtdresses are only now becoming uncomfortable. 

It's getting to be that time, though. Strangers aren't asking about due dates yet, but the bump becomes more noticeable each day. Billowy maxi dresses and heavily gathered skirts suddenly sound glorious. I want to swath myself in pretty fabric, without having to worry about constricting waistbands. 

Maternity sewing will have to be slow, but hopefully I can produce a few pretty pieces for these last four months. To begin that quest, I chose Butterick 6226, a pattern that actually has positive reviews as a maternity and non-maternity dress. I love the idea of making clothes with more longevity than this summer. This pattern features a pullover, vaguely caftan-esque dress with cap or draped sleeves, three hem lengths (tunic, below-the-knee, and maxi), and even a jumpsuit variation. 
Naturally, I opted for the dramatic maxi of View E. Hooray for yards and yards of soft, drapey fabric! 

For this first version, I chose an Italian Blue and Green Floral Printed Jersey from Mood Fabrics, who have upped their knit selection lately. They have heaps of gorgeous rayon jerseys right now, though I fell head over heels for this digital, striated blue rose print. (Plus its red colorway sibling, which is also sitting in my stash.) The fabric is ideal for a billowy summer dress--cool to the touch, breathable, and not too heavy for such a gigantic skirt. It also ironed surprisingly well and didn't curl up at the ends, which is a nice change from cheaper rayon knit fabrics. 

It was even more welcome, considering how infuriating its pattern partner was. I love the final result, but the construction process made me fume. So much so that I've made a list of grievances, because yeah, I'm that annoyed. 

Gripe #1: Sizing

I've been bitten by Big 4 knit sizing, in the past. If I'm thankful to Indie pattern companies for one thing, it's introducing reasonable ready-to-wear ease standards into knit sewing patterns. This may be a maternity dress, but there is no reason that a pattern designed for moderate stretch knits should have over five inches of ease at the bustline. Good heavens, I want bump coverage, not my own rose-printed pop up tent!

Thankfully, other reviewers noted this issue. I heeded their advice and chose my size based on the finished bust measurement, which put me at a Size 16, well under my Butterick-advised 20/22 combination. This pattern would've been consigned to back-of-the-closet hell, if I'd chosen any larger.

If you make this pattern, do not under any circumstances, choose your printed size. Consider this your dire warning.

The requisite "Look! There's a human inside that blogger!" photo. 

Gripe #2: Nonsensical Construction Methods

Y'all, knit patterns should not be this fiddly. While the skirt is easy enough, the bodice is one absurd process decision after another. The side panels are not actually over-the-bust princess seams, but under-the-arm panels that do nothing but make your life harder. They do not form a smooth armscye curve, but instead a bizarre, half-sewn, half-open seam that makes getting a clean finish impossible. I ended up sewing them all the way up, instead of stopping inches short as instructed, and using loads of steam-a-seam, just to get a workable finish that didn't burn my eyes.

Worse yet, the sleeves. I knew they weren't traditional sleeves, from other reviews, but I didn't fully realize how ineffective they were. You see, they're not sleeves at all. They're just floppy fabric rectangles that partially cover your upper arms.

I just...


By all that is holy...

Look, I know pregnant women run hot, but that doesn't mean we need an open ventilation chamber under our arms. If I'm adding elbow-length sleeves to something, it's because I want actual sleeves, not dainty little fabric blankets to cover my biceps. The mess of a half-finished armscye and faux sleeves was too much to handle. I didn't add them after all and started contemplating a pattern-for-kindling bonfire.

Hair frizz + armscye of doom!

Gripe #3: Final Fit

A reminder: I went two sizes down in this pattern. Take that into consideration and look at the above photos. That obscenely low armscye! That halfway-down-my-sternum neckline! Can you imagine what the correct size would've looked like? I expected to wear a camisole under this pattern, which is good, because it would be unwearable otherwise. 

The armscye needs to be raised three inches, while the neckline needs an additional two. I also need to rotate the shoulder back a hair, but that's a spectacular non-issue, when compared with the other two. Admittedly, the long skirt is weighing the bodice down some, but it was designed for this skirt. This was all somehow intentional. Oof. 

The next time I make this, I'm redrafting the bodice entirely, eliminating the side panels and raising the arsmcye/neckline to reasonable levels. 

Oh look, an unironed hem! Sorry, kittens. I was apparently so blinded with anger, that I didn't press the hem upon finishing.
Aside from the barely contained process rage, I like this dress. A lot. 

Somehow, all the messy parts came together for a flattering, glamorous garment that receives a ton of compliments out in the world. It's bit Greek goddess, a bit ritzy resort collection caftan. That's a combination that is definitely my speed, these days. 

Even better, there is a ton of room for growing a human in this dress. Right now, it makes me look more pregnant than I look in other clothes, just from all that extra fabric in the front. Later this summer, that gathering is going to be a lifesaver! After I finish altering the bodice, I'm going to make a few more short and long versions of this dress. Though, perhaps not the jumpsuit. I can only imagine the alterations that variation might need!