what’s your process?

Between the election and not having much time to sew, I found myself with very little that I wanted to write about. In fact, I’d been wondering all this time whether it might better not to say anything about the election… But in the end I’m very grateful to those of you who decided to say something — and by “something,” I mean offering insightful commentary and expressing concern about our shared future. I’ve been bouncing between fits of maniacal laughter while watching and reading the news, a sad stupor when realizing the news isn’t fake, and a profound sense of dread that history might be repeating itself and we are entering the 1930s redux in the remaining time.

So a black dress was in order. It was what I wanted to make the most, my actual wardrobe needs notwithstanding. And, you know, that’s what I’m going to write about. The sudden snowapocalypse let me finish it but not photograph it so all I have for you today is this crummy photo:

a baste-fitted dress in progress

I can’t lie: I tend to feel a pang of envy when watching the amazing output of fastsewists. But I think I’m slowly growing to accept my cautious attitude and the resulting glacial pace of projects. I really enjoy having new posts to read about new projects but I also enjoy taking the time to fit and construct clothes for myself.

I had Susan Khalje’s Couture Dress class on in the background during much of the sewing, which helped me along. In case you were wondering whether the class is worth it: Susan Khalje is brilliant and absolutely hypnotic to watch, and I definitely want to follow this class along properly, i.e. with a sewing project.

This dress is not a couture project, let me dispel any doubts (ekhm, polyester; ekhm, no underlining; ekhm, no silk organza in sight). But I muslined, basted to fit, bound seam allowances — so, some jazz, just not all that jazz. It took me three muslins to arrive at a bodice that fits, and each one brought to my attention additional adjustments. I won’t lie, at low points it made me wonder if I’m some kind of a lady Quasimodo with my broad back, narrow and forward shoulders, sway back, etc.

I started out modestly, with one pattern, a Burda pattern I’d been eyeing for a while. I loved the pleated skirt and the neck- and sleeveband detail (the instructions for those were not very helpful though).

Burda 08/2015 #123 (Images from Burda Style)

I had ridiculously high hopes for the fit after reading several bloggers’ comments that the Burda bodice fit them so well they never felt the need to makea fitting shell for themselves. As you can imagine, that was not the case for me. Bat Back out of hell strikes again. It fit me like a straightjacket; I couldn’t move at all. Also, I desperately needed an FBA to be able to breathe in it.

One thing that really impressed me about Burda drafting was the treatment of the central back seam: it curves in at the waist to minimize/eliminate pooling on the low back. Cool fix.

In the interest of keeping it real let me tell you I gave up mid-way through redrafting the bodice, after spending hours studying the muslin, measuring flat pattern pieces, cutting into them, figuring out what to pinch out, what to add, and where.

I figured that the work I’d put into my traumatizing McCall’s shirtdress (The Shirtdress of the Broad Back Revelation) was potentially likely to pay off if I used a McCall’s bodice pattern as my base. McCall’s owns Butterick, so close enough. And on this one, the FBA had already been done for me.

Enter Butterick 6086:

Butterick 6086 (Images from Butterick Patterns)

It’s the ’90s vibe of the floral dress that caught my attention at that fateful pattern sale when I got this pattern. I don’t think I even registered that note about cup sizes back then. Honestly, it should be screaming at you in huge letters because it’s what fitting dreams are made of.

Two muslins later I got where I needed to be in order to finally cut into my fabric. I kept the Burda skirt and drafted the bands for the neckline and sleeves for the Butterick bodice.

I’m glad I remained skeptical about my fitting in muslin because the baste-fitted bodice revealed I needed to shave off a further 1/4″from both the front and back shoulder. That still remains a mystery.

More on the fabric and sewing another time. This dress marks the beginning of my love affair with spray starch, so I need to wash it out now that the dress is finished.

Once again, speedy sewists, I don’t know how you do it. What I’ve written about here took several days, and we haven’t even gotten to the sewing part yet.

Have any speed-sewing secrets to share? Or the opposite, fine finishing tips? Drop me a line.


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I write about sewing, knitting, and may sometimes be tempted to talk about books.

2 thoughts on “what’s your process?”

  1. no speedy sewing here, quite the oposite and although I complain all the time about that I think that I actually prefer my pace of sewing, faster would mean a closet full of dresses skirts and all sorts of garments which at some point I’ll have to give away in order to make room for more in my tiny closet. I don’t think that slower is better quality as i”m sure those speedy seamstreses out there do not neglect quality, probably their speed comes from quicker decision making and available free time to dedicate to sewing.
    Looking foward to see your black dress 🙂


    1. Thank you, Aida. I’m with you: I complain a lot about my slow sewing pace but I also know that my best sewing comes from slowing down.

      And I do notice that the faster sewists I follow produce really good work, so that’s why I’d like to learn what their tricks are 🙂

      Dress is in the wash right now — I need to get the starch out, so photos coming when it dries. Well, provided we get some sun. It’s been really dark here since the snowstorm started. Luckily, it’s not snowing any more but it’s still incredibly cloudy.


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