Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Miss Marguerite Blows Out the Candles: Sew Over It Marguerite Dress

Good afternoon, kittens! 

This past weekend, I turned 33, a delightfully palindromic age that required quite a bit of celebration. There was Black Forest Cake, a bird-festooned pink birthday crown, lots of family togetherness, and--of course--a brand new dress. This year, I decided to try the Sew Over It Marguerite Dress, one of the newest patterns from the prolific British pattern company. 

I own two other Sew Over It patterns, but fizzled out after making muslins. Their pattern block is drafted for someone with radically different proportions than my own, so it's easier to draft a garment myself or find a similar pattern. While I love their designs, they're not ideal for tall, busty women. I need darts and extra length and wearing ease! 

The Marguerite Dress, however, was too pretty to pass up. It features a fitted waistband with a gathered bodice, full gathered skirt, and dolman sleeves. While it's designed for woven fabrics, I own a ready-to-wear dress that is almost identical and made of a stable ponte knit. I've meant to knock off that dress for years, so it seemed like a great birthday project. 

How does one take a woven pattern and make it suitable for knits? Knits don't need much, if any, wearing ease, which necessitates a few simple changes. A good rule of thumb is to size down at least one size, remove any closures, and use construction techniques you already love from other knit patterns. To alter the Marguerite Dress, I traced off the pattern and made some fairly simple alterations: 

  1. Sized down. For a woven, by my measurements, I should have used the UK 20/US 16 size. Instead, I traced off a blend of UK16 (at the shoulders and waist) and UK18 (at the hips). 
  2. Eliminated the back zipper. I took the seam allowance out of the back pieces, then cut them on the fold, to get rid of the closure all together. (For this version of the dress, I almost ran out of fabric, so actually had to seam the back bodice anyway.)
  3. Rotated out the dart. This is one of the few SOI patterns where there actually is a dart in the bodice side seam. The one time I don't want one! To get rid of it, I rotated the dart into the bodice gathers and made the gathering a wider section. 
  4. Full Bust Adjustment. I lengthened the center front of the bodice an inch and did a cheater's FBA for a knit bodice. 
  5. Bound the edges. Instead of using the included facings and cuffs, I bound the armscyes and necklines. My usual method for making bindings is to measure the opening, then cut a strip 15% smaller. This worked well for the neckline, but I wanted to leave the sleeve shape, so I cut those using the same measurement as the original armscye length. 
  6. Added clear elastic. There is clear elastic in the shoulder seams and both waistband seams of this dress, so that it doesn't bag out over time. The waistband elastic is covered on the inside by a facing, so that it doesn't irritate my skin. Strictly speaking, you could also face the waistband in a very stable knit, to prevent bagging out, if you hate elastic.
  7. Lengthened skirt. Even with a knit, I'm still too tall for this pattern! To that end, I lengthened the skirt by two inches. 
Aside from the structural pattern changes, switching the pattern to a knit made construction much, much easier. I sewed everything with either my serger (for major seams) or a lightning bolt stitch (for fiddly bits), then finished the skirt hem with a twin needle. Poof! A chic knit dress in less than three hours.

The fabric for this dress is the real star, despite all the focus I've put on the pattern. This is a gorgeous floral cotton jersey that was given to me by the generous and lovely Susan of Moon Thirty, a few years ago. We met up at Chuy's, ate our weight in Tex Mex, and talked endlessly about sewing and blogging and general creativity. Since then, I've hoarded this fabric, waiting for the right pattern to come along. Of all the pieces I own, this fabric is one of the most "me" prints in my entire stash. It's the pretty--but not dowdy-- dark background, richly colored modern floral print of my dreams. It's all the more special knowing that it came from one of my favorite sewing friends. 

In the end, I was inordinately pleased with how well the fabric matched with my knit-friendly Marguerite pattern. The jersey has a really nice stretch, so the dress looks fancy and ultra-femme, but feels like yoga pants. Since having a baby, I value stretch in my garments 100 times more. It's not only the ability to move freely, but the actual comfort of it. I haven't been able to abide tight waistbands, since having Louisa. Anything constricting drives me mad, thus rendering many of my old projects unwearable. This dress, though, blends both my aesthetic love of floofy femininity and my newfound need for comfort. Joy! 

This Marguerite was such a success that I've already made another one and cut out two further. We're going to languish in summertime for a few months longer, so sensible, comfy dresses will get plenty of wear before sweater season starts. Even then, I think these would layer up well with booties and a cropped cardigan! 

What are you sewing during these transitional months, friends? Do you have any patterns that work even better in a knit than a woven?

Currently Reading: My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
Currently Listening: Dressed Podcast (Specifically, the recent interview with Dr. Colleen Darnell, Egyptologist and vintage fashion enthusiast.)

Note: Any Amazon links on this post and other posts are affiliate links. If you click through and buy something, I get a small percentage of the sale. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Miss Babette and the Rose Imposters: Burda 07/2016 #124

Good afternoon, kittens! Somehow, it's been a year since I last blogged. 

Well, I say somehow. We all know the actual how of it, don't we? A wee bouncing bundle of joy who just turned 10 months old. If you follow me on Instagram, you've met her already, but to quickly catch everyone up to speed: 
  • We had a baby. 
  • Her name is Louisa and she is the most adorable creature who's ever existed. 
  • She is also shockingly high maintenance, because it turns out humans are born without any survival skills whatsoever. Who knew how many times a day I'd have to prevent such a charming, brilliant child from eating dog hair? I certainly didn't.
Thus, no blogging. Like many before me, keeping a child alive took precedence over blogging. We've also been renovating our house, traveling, and working like crazy. It has been a year, y'all. A happy, tiring, glorious mess of a year. 

More recently, this summer, I also signed on to be part of a Burdastyle program that connects bloggers with the magazine. (They're calling us influencers, which I can't say about myself with a straight face, though I know it's the accepted parlance nowadays.) Despite subscribing to Burda for a few years now, the issues sat mostly untouched on my bookshelves, serving as gorgeous inspiration but rarely anything else. There are so many of their patterns I've been meaning to make for eons, that signing on to make one a month seemed like a good way to work through that list. Ostensibly, I'm getting a free pattern a month, but...I do already own the last two years (plus a few) of back issues. I'm aiming to check some projects off my list and provide a bit more lived experience for anyone interested in Burda's plus size lines. 

That's all to say: Look! I made a thing! 

This is Blouse #124 from the July 2016 issue of BurdaStyle. This entire collection, the Closet Swap, counts as something that I've wanted to make. 2016 was the year that, in my opinion, Burda began to really up its game with plus size patterns. Suddenly, they were some of the cutest patterns in the whole magazine. This woven wrap blouse, with its close-fitting silhouette and cute cap sleeves, is a great example of that new direction. 

I love wrapped silhouettes, especially in woven fabrics, but they're hard to find drafted specifically for plus sizes. The number of wonky, poorly sized bodices I've wrestled with, trying to nail this silhouette, boggles my mind. More boggling still, is how few modifications I made to this pattern. A narrow shoulder adjustment, a small FBA. 

That. Is. It. 

Before I go into raptures over the finished result, let's talk about the process. I already owned the July 2016 issue of BurdaStyle and had previously traced this pattern off, though in a size bigger than my current measurements. For this blouse, I retraced the pattern in a size 48, using a double tracing wheel and bee paper

Why the double tracing wheel? All digital and magazine Burda patterns, as with most other sewing magazines, do not include seam allowances. Many sewists prefer this, as it makes the patterns easier to adjust and lets you add your own preferred seam allowance width. For Americans especially, used to envelope patterns and Indie PDFs, this can be a little difficult to navigate at first. (It was for me!) Honestly, it's no big deal and doesn't add any time, as long as you know about it going in and pick a good option to deal with it. A double tracing wheel is super effective, but my other quick-and-dirty method for tracing is to use two classic sharpies taped together. Voila! Instant 1/2" seam allowance. 

Tracing from the magazine really isn't that much of a headache either, as the lines are easy to see and reasonably spaced apart. I highlight the size I need, throw the bee paper over it, then trace away! If that sounds dreadful though, Burda does offer all of its patterns in PDF form. I find tracing from a magazine quicker than taping together a PDF, but everyone's preferences are different. 

Constructing this pattern was just challenging enough to keep things interesting. The wrap bodice is finished with a neckline facing, which is top stitched in place to look like a separate band, while a self-facing on the skirt portion finishes the outside edge. Burda's directions are sparser than the usual Big 4 pattern, but this pattern magic was still easy enough to navigate.

I did sub out the armscye facings for simple bias tape, because armscye facings are evil and should be vanquished. They are temperamental, require much more finesse, and provide the same finish as bias tape. Why would anyone suffer through them? If you're not doing a couture or vintage finish on a garment, make some bias tape from your leftover fabric and life will be easier. 

The fabric used for this blouse looks like Liberty of London Carline,'s actually the knock-off Carline print that Gertie did for JoAnn Fabrics. It's a lightweight clipped dot cotton lawn and, while not nearly as luxe as the original, it's still beautiful and easy to work with. When I bought this fabric, Carline was fully discontinued, but Liberty has since brought it back in all colorways. That means I can stop hoarding the real stuff in my stash, right? While I've outgrown a lot of my style loves from the past 10 years, this fabric remains one of my favorite prints of all time. It's such a chic, timeless take on florals. 

Y'all, I feel a little swoony over this pattern. What took me so long to make this blouse? It is exactly what I've been looking for in a woven wrap. It fits well, doesn't have oodles of weird bust wrinkles, and makes my usual jeans and ballet flats infinitely chicer. I may need 100 more of these in my closet. I especially love the little cap sleeves, which keep the top breezy, but elevate the style another notch.

Though I'm usually a commitment phobic sewist, this blouse makes me excited about signing on to the Burda program. If their plus size block can produce a reliably well-fitting wrap, something so many other patterns failed to do, what else can it achieve? Next up, I'm trying a pair of jersey pants, so I'll keep you posted on how the experiment continues. 

Note: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon, which is something I'm trying out, since I link to them so often. If you purchase through those links, I will get a small referral percentage from the sale. The Burda links do not make any money and the pattern was one I already owned, though it was offered for free.