vintage starting point

For $2 this dream in an envelope was mine.

butterick4727-envelope2

I wanted it all: the unforced coolness, the espadrilles, the white shirt. I even pondered the minimalist turban action on the lady on the right.

What I definitely didn’t have was “waist size 24.”

But it really didn’t matter in the case of this wonderfully easy pattern. I was able to improvise based on what my fabric allowed and got a perfectly wearable skirt out of it.

Unfortunately, there was no copyright date on the envelope, so I’m left guesstimating the publication as 1970-something? It’s a single-size pattern that uses the waist circumference (in inches, obvs) as the pattern size. The stitching lines are marked on the pattern, which is kind of nice… but given that it’s easier to mark within 5/8″ all around your pattern than to figure out other sizes from a single size, I’d still say my preference would be for multi-size patterns.

I approached the single-size pattern scientifically, that is, with a ruler and tape measure. The waist and hips were roomy enough, and I was able to finagle an additional inch on each pattern piece so as not to deflate the gathering (plus, plenty more inches on the waistband…).

You might be able to see in the drawings that the skirt panels have a somewhat unusual shape. They have a pronounced extension for the pockets and the pocket pieces are very small. While serging those panels was a bit challenging, I have to say that this design really hides your pockets well. It’s a good design idea that I might use in other patterns.

I gave you a preview in the post about the Burda top, but here’s the skirt again.

I resisted the call of the turban and made Skirt B in a poly-crepe remnant from my stash.

I decided to leave off the ties and, trying the skirt on with the waistband in progress, I also decided to shave some height off there.

Details:
Pattern:
undated Butterick 4727.
Fabric: poly crepe remnant left over from this dress.
Notions: thread, 7″ zipper, button for the waistband.
Construction details: topstitching on the waistband, serged seams, lapped zipper, hand-stitched invisible hem.
Fun fact: the pocket design is really clever!

butterick4727-backdetail
Back waistband in close-up

Pattern verdict: Worth hunting down if you’re into pretty pattern envelopes and easy sewing.

Do you have any tips for sewing with vintage patterns? Or any vintage patterns you’re looking to hunt down?

 

 

 

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Me-Made May 2017: Days 15-21 and new makes

Another week, another roundup. Again, there were repeats. But there were also two new garments, which I sewed frantically, stabbing my fingers and going slightly insane with all the tubes of fabric that needed to be turned out (belt loops are not my friends).

 

May 15 was one of those days that forced a costume change. I spent the first half of the day working from home. So first I tried the nightwear-as-daywear trend, donning an Almada robe over a Scout tee sewed in the same fabric (a really lovely rayon from Joann fabrics, which I bought a lot of last year).

Later on I changed into my beloved wannabe ’70s pants and I added a cardigan I knitted a couple of years ago (wool/silk, so pretty warm weather friendly).

May 16-18: a repeat vortex. I wore that Laurel dress on May 16 and again on the 18th, which was a Thursday, so I decided I’d say I did it as a throwback to Tuesday — ha! I have no excuses for the 17th when I wore the Scout tee yet again, but this time with the Beignet skirt.

… And that skirt reminded me of the Beignet skirt I vowed to make right after I finished the first one. I ended up cutting the second one out bit by bit over several months — first the lining, then, eventually, the shell. I had project resistance, which I couldn’t quite explain until I dove into actually making the skirt. It’s not the easiest skirt.

This time I chose to add a lining (thrifted poly print). The belt and shell fabric is a black cotton twill, the pockets are from some sort of a wool/poly remnant.

Excuse the water stain visible in the photo below… and the black on black. Not all photo shoots are inspired, what can I say. I was trying to clean a persistent chalk pencil mark that just didn’t want to go away. I thought it had dried by the time I took the photos but, clearly, it had not.

I still like this pattern a lot. I find it flattering, I love that it has pockets. What I dislike are the belt loops which still this second time around feel like they’re drafted slightly too short and too narrow, like it’s a matter of 2-3 milimeters, but these feel pretty critical.

Another gripe is the belt because, in contrast, it seems too wide. After turning it out I turned it back inside out (ouch, my hands!) to shave off about 1/4″. That’s it for the gripes, it still deserves a thumbs up.

I’m not sure you can spot it in these photos (unlike the highly visible water stain) that my buttonhole luck left me on this one. The fabric wasn’t that bulky, but it was a bit tricky for my sewing machine, whose one-step buttonhole is usually a smooth job. There was some thread bunching on at least two of the buttonholes, which led me to wrangle the fabric from under the foot and push the fabric along. One buttonhole got placed wrong for reasons that escape me. It took some unpicking and creative work with satin stitch to rescue it. It helps that the fabric is black.

Back to the roundup:

On May 19 I wore the new Beignet skirt with finally a different Scout tee (in a lovely Cotton and Steel rayon). And on May 20 I finished McCall’s 6885 and put it on as soon as it was done and pressed. It was sewn concurrently with the skirt — something I do very rarely.

This dress is my second #sewtogetherforsummer project and an ode to shopping the stash. I had a big remnant of that cotton sateen print left since having to buy extra for the first dress I made from it. The gray fabric was a remnant left from this dress.

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It would have been a perfect combination if I hadn’t underestimated the stiffness of that tightly woven linen. The dirty secret of this dress is that I can’t button the collar stand: it’s too stiff and the buttonhole doesn’t have enough flexibility. I think I’ll live with that but I’d prefer to avoid it in the future…

This pattern has received some love online. And it’s pretty good but do I have some reservations. Some of them fall into the category “I don’t know if it’s me or the pattern.”

First in that category: the button placket. The overlap is way longer than the underlap and I don’t know what other purpose it served beyond annoying me. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the instructions but I guess you’re supposed to just attach that bottom floppy part to the front of the dress with a mere two horizontal seams and just let it flop about?… Hell no. I just stitched it down around the arrow part… which came out uneven! (Insert your favorite swear word here.) Maybe it’s me, I don’t know…

So I guess it’s just the placket that’s in that category, but that’s not the end of my dislikes.

At the top of my list is the damn tall and narrow sleeve cap.

m6885-slimsleevecap.jpg
I couldn’t help myself. I hate that slim sleeve cap so much.

Whenever I see this sleeve cap shape I want to run screaming. I don’t know who is able to wear these comfortably. I definitely can’t: they turn things into the opposite of secret pajamas. A secret straightjacket.

Rather than spend time altering the sleeve cap I just Frankenpatterned the modified sleeve cap from the dress that taught me so much. It went in woderfully, with minimal easing.

m6885-cuff
Here’s a detail I like: the buttoned tab that keeps the rolled sleeves in place.

Apart from that: No pockets, so I added some at the side seams. The collar was really big so I shaved off a centimeter. I moved the waist ties up about an inch — they fell too low according to the pattern, at least on me. I added my usual 3/4″ to the bottom of the armhole on the back piece and did my usual forward-shoulder adjustment and square shoulder adjustment. Not sure how I feel about the shirt-tail hem. I think I’d opt for a straight hem next time.

On the upside: I didn’t need an FBA. The fit in the bust is fine. The fit in the hips is okay, too, though if I make this again I might grade up to the next size.

Last day of my roundup: May 21 and some ’90s inspiration with an Adelaide dress over a black tee (RTW, this one).

MMMay21

So moving on to the last full week of Me-Made May. This one may be my last blog roundup because I’m traveling at the end of the month and will be offline in early June. I plan on wearing me-made clothes but I know I will be away from the blog and IG for a while, so most likely won’t document any of that. And apologies in advance for the silence.

How is Me-Made May going for you? Are you in the no-repeats camp or, like me, going with whatever calls to you?

fitting: McCall’s 7387

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Fitting woes: I have lots of those. I’ve also struggled for a long time to find the right starting size in patterns from the “Big Four” companies: McCall’s, Butterick, Vogue, and Simplicity.

For the longest time I felt like I was the only one out there completely confused what size to start with in these patterns. The size indicated by body measurements completely swamped my shoulders and bust, with the waist coming in. What was supposed to be one size bracket didn’t resemble that remotely in practice. I was seeing advice online to just try going down a size, or even two sizes, but it seemed to me from what I was observing that the answer might be actually a bit more complicated than that.

And it was. I’ll talk you through both my solution to finding a good “starting size” in these patterns, and through fit alterations that I typically do from there, using McCall’s 7387 as my example.

1. “The secret handshake”: find your size

The game changer for me was finding Susan Khalje’s video on choosing the right pattern size (find it on her homepage). I find Liza’s comparison of this bit of knowledge to a secret handshake really apt (can’t find our conversation where that popped up so here’s a link to Liza’s awesome blog). Why isn’t this tip anywhere on the pattern envelopes???

Basically, you measure above your bust from arm crease to arm crease, and take that number as a starting point. Here is the rule, as laid out by Susan Khalje (and not the pattern companies — again: WHY?!): if you measure 14″ -> size 14, 13.5″ -> size 12, 13″ -> size 10, and so on, in half-inch increments.

Bam! I could end the post here because that’s the starting point that gets you the size you want to cut out. At least for me it was — this is how I finally found the size that fit my shoulders, which are really hard to fit if you’re not sure where to start. So many variables…

And that’s the next thing I want to talk about.

2. Shoulder slope and forward shoulder

Soon after I started sewing it hit me that that unassuming seam at the top of the shoulder is critical for me. I’m one of those modern-day hunchbacks shaped by computer work, and the shoulder seam in most patterns sits too far back for me, pulling the garment in uncomfortable ways. In knits, that’s survivable, in wovens it can make a garment unwearable.

Making a muslin really helps to determine the right seam placement. If you really want to skip muslining, I recommend cutting out the shoulder area with extra fabric (especially on the back pattern piece) and pin- or baste-fitting the garment before committing to a definitive shoulder seam placement. You might be surprised. I noticed that some patterns from the Big Four are drafted to accommodate the modern-day hunchback, while others were not… M7387 was, but then my shoulder shape is also different than the one they draft for, which brings me to the next issue.

m7387-frontpiece-top
The top part of the front pattern piece with all my fit alterations. Note the changed shoulder slope.

Most of the McCall’s patterns I’ve looked at (and that goes for other Big Four patterns, too, I think) are drafted for shoulders with a pronounced slope. Mine are more “square” with almost no slope to them. In order for the garment to sit right, I need to “square off” the shoulder. Here, I added a wedge from the shoulder side. (Sometimes it might also be worth raising the armhole accordingly. With the kimono sleeve on M7387 it didn’t matter.)

And, not to throw a wrench in all this, but bear in mind that the shape of the shoulder seam might differ between the back and the front piece (e.g. a sloped front piece paired with a very square back piece). If you see such a pair, test it out to see how that shoulder seam sits on your body before attempting to alter it.

3. Back width and range of motion

If you have a good range of motion in Big four patterns with sleeves, then disregard this section. I have a broad back and in order to be able to move my arms comfortably I need to make a pretty significant broad back adjustment while keeping the shoulders as narrow as my “starting size.” So going up a pattern size or two on the back wouldn’t work for me. I also found that blending between sizes isn’t the answer. It’s this alteration:

99aa3f2e391f8232d22b3e385eaf9794

Now, M7387 has either a kimono sleeve (the view I made) or a drop-shoulder sleeve. The kimono sleeve gives you a bit more room by default, but I wanted to be sure I’d have enough room, so I altered the back as I would have for a back with a set-in sleeve.

Here’s the redrafted back piece (not pictured: the back yoke, on which I redrafted the sleeve seam so as to fit this piece).

m7387-backpiece-underyoke
… and that tissue-pattern addition at the bottom is what I arrived at after trueing the side seams (the front side seam was longer).

EDIT: I need to a link to another resource. I just discovered the blog Pattern and Branch, and the author, Lisa, has fantastic fitting tips. Here’s a post about altering a pattern with princess seams for a broad back, and her newest (when I’m writing this), with links to posts about several of the beautiful shirts she’s made. Highly recommended reading 🙂

4. Back length and other alterations

I didn’t like the deep pleat in the original pattern so I redrafted the back. In the process, I discovered that the original pattern gave me a pool of fabric resting unflatteringly (and heavily: so much fabric in that pleat!) on my derriere. In short, the center back was too long for me. Burda resolves issues like that very nicely in their patterns with a center back seam: they make that seam shaped, curving it in at the small of the back. Very clever.

After redrafting the back with a smaller pleat (or gathers) I noticed the issue remained. In the photo above you see my solution: I straightened out the seam at the top. Here’s what the original looked like:

m7387-backpiece-pleat1

With the smaller pleat, I needed to swing out the side seams to give myself enough room on the hips (I repeated this adjustment on the front piece).

5. Bonus adjustment: dartless FBA

McCall’s Patterns are usually drafted for a B cup, which is not my size, so I knew a full-bust adjustment would give me more breathing room. I could have chanced it in this pattern but I was curious what an FBA would look like in a piece without any darts. I learned all about it from this great Threads tutorial by Louise Cutting.

Here are my notes on it:

dartlessFBA

And that’s it… In the end I shortened the front piece a bit and reduced the curve of the hem, but that was a style choice, not a fit alteration. Here’s the post about the finished shirt.

Since I’m definitely not an expert, I recommend using my notes just as a springboard to researching the fitting alterations that you think will work for you.

Apart from the resources I’ve linked to here I also recommend Kathleen Cheetham’s course on shoulder, neck and back fitting on Craftsy, and — of course — Fit for Real People, whether you want to tissue-fit or not.

What are your best fitting tips? And, by the way, if you disagree with anything I’ve written above, feel free to let me know in the comments, too. I’m always happy to learn and adjust (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) my ideas.


PS: One more alteration I mentioned in the previous post about this shirt but didn’t discuss here (because it’s not fit-related): I simplified the button placket construction by incorporating the placket into the front piece.

shirt story. chapter two: I finally made one!

It certainly took me long enough to get there! Lots of fretting, fitting, and pattern alterations. Here it is:

m7387-4
Here at the House of Shiny Door Knobs we have nowhere to pose where the clothes could be the proper focus.

Fresh off the happy wave of the #sewtogetherforsummer shirt dress, this is McCall’s 7387 — a pattern I bought on impulse, started fitting, realized it had some features I wasn’t crazy about, and then discarded.

I’m writing this post after realizing that you can’t keep the momentum going forever. It turns out that trying to quickly prepare another shirt pattern after a long day at work is not the best evening plan. Luckily, I stopped myself before fabric scissors came into play. Oh, wonderful wave of shirt-sewing mojo, let me do your beauty justice by giving this shirt a proper write-up.

I could call this a blouse, I guess, but I prefer “shirt” because I really like the variations on menswear in women’s patterns. You can mix and match elements and not be afraid of David Page Coffin criticizing you in your dreams. Or so I’m hoping.

Construction details aside, my primary concern is always fit. I often see photos of tissue-paper pattern pieces pinned neatly to freshly cut fabric on Instagram and I wonder — sometimes with a bit of envy — how many of you out there have the luxury of getting a good fit “straight out of the envelope.” Not me. I’ve been working pretty hard over the years on not blaming it all on my body and how it fits or doesn’t fit into some sort of “standards.” So, to be honest, what really bugs me is how much time fitting and alterations can take. Not that much time left for sewing in the end!

This one took a while from first muslin to completion. For a long time we weren’t talking because I wasn’t sure I could figure out the alterations and hack it to get the design details I wanted.

I got it at a pattern sale, where the siren song of $1 or $1.99 always lures me. I didn’t notice just how deep that back pleat was or that there wasn’t a collar stand.

m7387-collar
No collar stand. Even after digging through the pattern envelope for a long time. It turns out reading the pattern contents might save you some time!

I really hated the back pleat when I made up the first muslin. It felt like a heavy tail sitting atop my derriere, and the curve of the pattern piece gave it unnecessary length that made it pile up on said derriere. Not a cool look. It was the first thing I knew I needed to do away with when I eventually picked up this pattern again.

It’s the kimono sleeves that made me reach for it. And fabric leftovers that didn’t add up to much on their own but really got me fired up about this project once I realized how I could put them together.


It did take some creative cutting, some plans changed along the way. The main fabric was leftover chambray from the circle skirt I made as one of my first sewing projects (you can see a photo of it here). The button placket got integrated into the fronts. I could have turned it the other way around and it would look like intended. (But I didn’t because I thought, “why not go in the opposite direction and just let it look like the continuous piece that it is?”)

I cut out the inner yoke from the last precious bits of the Cotton and Steel print from my first dress. For the outer collar and cuffs I used linen/rayon left remnants from these pants. And because the yoke and back piece were both cut out in the chambray, I decided to set them apart with some flat black piping.

I wanted slightly feminine buttons to balance out the crispness of the fabrics. And that’s that when it came to style choices. I really felt steered by the fabrics on this one and quite enjoyed the limitations of the yardage in each. I don’t know if I could have stumbled on this combination otherwise.

I’ll follow up with some notes on fit alterations.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. What are you working on?

Little My All Grown Up

I’ve never been as sassy as Tove Jansson’s fabulous character but she has remained my inspiration well into adulthood. Jungian psychoanalysts would agree (scroll down for proof).

I’m still amazed that I actually managed to finish this dress.

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Skillful photobombing by the Feline Overlord

As I mentioned before, it had been sitting half-sewn since last July. The pattern is McCall’s 7314, one that I picked up at a sale, both intrigued by the loose fit and the way the bodice was joined to the skirt and wary of it. Custom cup sizes was what really sold me on it. If you don’t feel like reading through the nitty gritty below, let me tell you now that I give it a thumbs up. It was pretty easy to fit!

Before we get into the details, let me give a shoutout to the awesome hostesses and participants of #sewtogetherforsummer on Instagram. Sarah (find her also here on IG), Monika, and Suzy have been amazingly engaged in the community that’s forming around the hashtag and encouraging. I was really energized to work on the dress thanks to all the wonderful conversations that happened around my progress shots on IG! Thanks to everyone who chimed in! You helped me make a dress I really love.

I guess it’s fair to say you helped me make a dress that channeled my inner Little My. Maybe I’m only imagining that my fabric choice was almost accidental?…

little-my-dress
Proof. For your consideration

Details, in semi-random order:

  • no forward-shoulder adjustment on this one, somewhat surprisingly (which is why you always need to check the pattern before you dive in!)
  • shoulders squared, though, by almost 1 cm
  • my now usual broad-back adjustment (here’s a graphic)
  • collar constructed following this ingenius tutorial I can’t recommend enough
  • the bust darts took A LOT of pressing because they insited on staying pointy and sharp even after careful trimming — so pick a soft fabric for this dress!
m7314-collage
The elasticated back and side-seam pockets (and cat paws and tail)
  • I barely had enough fabric for the version I chose, so I cut the pockets from a different remnant; I’m proud of my understitching — they’re not peeking out!
  • I only elasticated the back waistline seam (as the pattern instructs); if you want a tighter fit, you can elasticate the front as well
  • note to self for next time: raise the armholes by about 1 cm (due to the square shoulder alteration)

The fabric is a pin dot poly/cotton stretch poplin, bought from Fabric.com over a year ago. I recommend using 1/4″ elastic because that’s what will fit through the casing that in this pattern is formed from the seam allowance. Buttons were a lucky thrift-store find from a few years ago.

And that’s about it for now.

Will I make another shirt dress for #sewtogetherforsummer? I would certainly like to, but I have a trip coming up and will try to focus on making some essentials for that. But there will be shirt dresses after the sewalong is over, and I hope I get to contiue the conversations.

If you haven’t joined in #sewtogetherforsummer, do join in. You will enjoy it!

suddenly, a shirt dress in progress

Hello! Many of you may have been basking in the sun for a while now, whether it’s meant enjoying the spring or autumn, and I have been quietly envious while reading your updates. So brace yourselves for unsolicited weather news. Here, in the northeast of the US the weather has been doggedly engaging in The Game of Thrones cosplay, hitting us with last-minute snow storms and clinging to grayish darkness. But today, finally, the sun broke through the cloud cover and the temperature rose pleasantly. I can even hear birds. And suddenly I had no clue what to sew and was not really up to the task of cutting out fabric for a new pattern.

So I confronted a UFO so old it’s turned a corner of my sewing nook into its very own Area 51. I usually miss out on all the fun sewalongs, but this time I spontaneously jumped on the bandwagon with #sewtogetherforsummer even if summer seems like a distant fantasy still. Here’s photographic evidence:

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McCall’s 7314 is a shirt dress I spontaneously fitted and cut out last July (sic!) on the heels of that tricky McCall’s 6891 that taught me so many lessons… Well, that shirt dress had a convertible collar, this one has a collar stand and all that jazz. I fitted the bodice the lazy way, that is with pattern tissue and fit alterations Frankensteined from that earlier dress.

I don’t really remember why I got so distracted from that project. At first it was too hot, and then it was too cold… you know how it goes. This week I finally started putting it together and this is where things stand right now:

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If like me you have very limited experience with shirt dresses but want to learn as you make one, I really recommend the Four Square Walls tutorial on sewing the collar and collar stand a different way than the McCall’s instructions tell you to. It definitely seems easier and more user friendly, in my opinion. I still have a lot of thinking, plus trial and error before I can make collars with more confidence (not to mention understand the language of David Page Coffin) but first steps have been made.

I arrogantly forewent the topstitching, so avert your gaze if you are a purist.

More on this dress coming up. Unless I get inexplicably distracted again, that is.

Have you made this dress? Are you sewing a shirt dress right now? Tell me your secrets.

And enjoy the sun. I’m soaking it up greedily, every ray I get.

culotte coward

Post updated: Some photos replaced to distract you with additional cat cameos and a snazzy door knob.

Culotte coward, that’s me. Twice I started working with a culotte pattern, and twice I chickened out and lengthened the pants. Exhibit A (from this pattern).

And fresh off the machine, exhibit B:

pattern v. reality

Why the culotte avoidance yet again? Well, the right footwear from culottes seems to be either heels or ankle-length boots (and, no, I’m not just saying that because that’s what the ladies on the pattern envelope have). Neither of those are among my top footwear choices, to be honest. When I’m not barefoot and throwing myself off chairs for blog purposes I mostly wear ballet flats.* Not particularly culotte friendly.

Maybe my relationship with culottes is destined to be about sighing from afar and then lengthening the legs? Time will tell.

Bonus photos: welcome to the home of cat toys and shiny door knobs.

I fished this pattern out of my stash after reading Katie’s post about her first pair of these. Katie has no culotte cowardice and has found yet another type of shoe that looks good with the length. I, on the other hand, cut my pants as long as the available fabric allowed.

m7445-2

“Get off my chair, human. What even are ‘pants’?”

So, dear readers, my pants-making odyssey continues. I can’t say I’ve even come close to cracking pant fitting, but I do see it as an achievement that I haven’t totally succumbed to the fear of failure. I’m trying things out and moving along.

These didn’t go without challenges. As you can probably tell even from these photos that leave a lot to be desired, these are pretty loose-fitting. And that’s after I went down two sizes from the his down. Partly it’s the fabric, which is “corduroy” according to the label. I think a slightly more accurate description would be “rubbery corduroy imitation.” This thing is very stretchy and somewhat cool to the touch. I think it has some rayon in it but it  definitely has a lot of polyester. Bought at Joann because I got a gift card from loving family members.

Any advice about how to best photograph new pants while keeping your identity secret greatly appreciated.

Let me tell you a little bit about the waistband. I’m proud of myself for being cautious enough to cut it according to my waist measurement and not smaller. Fitted at those two sizes down that I fitted the hips it was absolutely suffocating.

It’s a bigger topic than this post but Big Four sizing continues to mess with my mind. In a body-shaming kind of way when it comes to the waist. The distribution of ease in these patterns makes my brainbox overheat. I just don’t get it. According to the body measurement chart on the pattern envelope I’m all in one size bracket, in reality that never ever works. Liza made me feel a bit saner when I confessed my waist-fitting woes in the comment thread to the post on her new stunning ’70s pants. Thanks again!

I seem to be neither hip-ful (yeah, not a word) enough nor wasp-waisted enough for these patterns. Sadly, though I try to be body-positive not just in theory but also in practice, I still get pretty self-conscious. Especially about my waist. So I got stuck on the waistband for a while. And, in the end, I fitted it with too much ease. It gaps on the back and pants ride down slightly.

Sigh, work in progress…

Inside details: pocket lining in a precious remnant, bias-tape hem facing from another precious remnant

Imperfect as these are, they will still get a lot of wear. I’ve never had much luck with RTW pants. I seem to only ever see ones I like on other people and never in stores. So this is sewing for the wardrobe gap and for that seasonal list that is bound to work for a chunk of spring. Dress season seems very far off still…

What have you been up to?

*I vaguely recall a romantic comedy with a character played by Rose Byrne snarking on a woman in ballet flats as being “so 2008.” I’d give that character a serious injury from all the eyerolling.

 

seasonal wardrobe disorder

winter-wardrobe

Today’s post is brought to you by my oddly late realization that virtually everything in my wardrobe is completely and totally seasonal. Or seasonally-affected, ha! That truth (which should have been obvious, you might argue) was beginning to sink in when I was putting my Top 5 of 2016 post together and noticing that at the time of writing it I wasn’t able to wear almost any of the clothes on that list if I was leaving the house. 

Then I realized that trying to wear rayon tops at this time of the year was a strange act of defiance only made possible by handknit cardigans. Then I made the Keaton pants, and, finally, the loving embrace of brushed cotton snapped me out of my state of denial.

And that’s when I made the sketch above. That there is the truth about what I need in my winter wardrobe. No dresses and no skirts, it’s no country for them. Only pants, handknits, and knit tops allowed in the presence of snow shovels.

I see the light now and I’m finally replacing my well-worn RTW clothes with me-mades. Here’s what I’ve made so far:

First up, the Keaton pants + a trio of Plantain tees (I already have four long-sleeved ones, I should add).

I feel like I don’t praise the Plantain tee pattern enough. My photography skills are not up to hyping it up more as a basic, but it’s a brilliant pattern that’s helping me replace a lot of not-so-great RTW tops with ones that I really enjoy wearing that are also neutral enough to go with almost everything.

I’m thinking at this point that even if Deer and Doe decide not to go the PDF route I kind of owe it to them to do a transatlantic paper pattern purchase just to express my gratitude for this wonderful free pattern.

Up next, the first fruits of my Burda tracing frenzy (thanks to everyone who offered their tracing tips in response to my Instagram post): two pullovers from pattern 106 from Burda 8/2016.

On the gray one I messed up everything it was possible to mess up because I was sewing when I was tired. I figured (wrongly) that I could do some sewing in lieu of a nap. On the upside I learned to unpick serged seams and I got a wearable pullover in the end.

(Photos clearly inspired by the Leaning Tower of Pisa.)

Size-wise, it was pretty big and I shaved off quite a bit on the side seams. I also didn’t add enough of a seam allowance on the neckline. It was enormous and droopy. What saved it in the end was inventiveness forced by being down to pitifully small and narrow fabric scraps. I used a non-stretchy scrap cut lengthwise with the selvedge included.

The fabric was leftovers from an unblogged Oslo cardigan. I’ve seen some lovely makes from it pop up on Instagram. What I personally don’t love about it is its poor recovery.

On to the second one, also from leftovers. This thick interlock knit had already become a Finlayson pullover (another unblogged Christmas gift) and the black dress from this post.

This pattern is good for squeezing out of leftovers, thanks to the central back seam. By the way, that seam is brilliantly shaped — it comes in on the lower back, thus working as a sway-back alteration. I’m seeing that on many Burda patterns and it impresses me every time.

Not that you can necessarily tell but in those two bottom photos I’m attempting to show off the pleated detail on the sleeves. That detail is my favorite feature of this pattern.

The second time around I only added a seam allowance on the neckline and the central back seam. Still, I “smallified” it once again by shaving off a bit off the side seam.

Oh, and the cuffs are from a textured knit remnant I picked up at Joann a while back. Not that you can actually see that it’s a different fabric in these photos.

I give the pattern a solid thumbs up, “smallifying” efforts notwithstanding, since they’re just my preference, not a pattern issue.

I can’t wait to tackle the two Burda pant patterns I have on that list. The pleated pair is traced already, the other one not yet. The fabrics are pre-washed. I just need to either muslin or dive in with a bit of fake courage.

But after Katie’s post I fished out McCall’s 7445 out of my pattern stash and now I want to make those, too.

Decisions, decisions. I thank you in advance for wishes of an early spring. But I believe Punxsatawney Phil has already said no to that and the snow banks outside my window seem to be feeling very at home.

What’s your seasonal strategy for sewing? 

the unphotographable dress and some thoughts on wardrobe planning

burda-black-12

I promised better photos of this dress but this is all I got. Would you believe that one was taken on a sunnier day? The clearest thing I can give you is that title and an overexposed flat shot of the bodice:

burdabutterick_dressThose cuff and neckline bands: I naively hoped the instructions would guide me through the construction but all they offered was one sentence simply telling me to sew them on the outside and topstitch.

Let’s do this in a telegraphic style and with more blurry photographs.

Fitting woes

I’ve written about them in the first post about this dress. In short, the Burda bodice doesn’t fit me. Can’t breathe freely, can’t move my arms. So I swapped it out for the bodice from Butterick 6086, which I had to modify further. I slashed the sleeve to get more width on the biceps and I lowered the sleeve cap; I also made a 3/4″ broad back adjustment (while keeping the shoulders narrow, so lots of fun); plus the usual Big Four navigation between sensible ease at the bust and a realistic width at the waist.

It took ages and three muslins but even these photos tell me it was worth the work. I can flap my arms like a crazy bird and the dress still retains a decent shape.

burda-black-collage

what passes for arm flapping among existentialists

Fabrics

Lightweight black polyester crepe from Fabric.com and leftovers of a more stable polyester crepe from this dress for the neckline and cuff finish.

This project marks the beginning of my love affair with spray starch. I could not have done it without the stuff. It helped me cut the black crepe without losing my mind and kept it decently stable for sewing.

Construction notes

Bust darts and seam finish: Those were some big darts, since all the intake went into the lone horizontal bust darts. I trimmed them, pressed them upwards as both the Burda pattern and my sewing guru Sheryll advise, and bound them with Hug Snug. I Hug-Snugged all the seams, possibly because I wanted to risk the sanity I had saved thanks to the spray starch. It was not quick, to put it mildly, but turned out okay.

a dramatization of okay, with modest means

Zipper: invisible, sewn under the neckline finish, with a hook and eye on top. I sewed the zipper before sewing the side seams, thus completely putting the order of construction on its head.

That neckline and cuff finish you might be wondering about: I drafted these pieces from the sleeve and bodice pieces (it’s also what I always do with facings because I never sew anything without alterations). I stitched a line between the piece and seam allowance, trimmed the seam allowance to about 3-4 mm, and pressed the seam allowance under the pattern piece carefully. I’d say that’s a better strategy than notching the curves — it makes the curves smoother. And then I edge-stitched very, very slowly.

Pleats on the skirt: I stitched down the first inch of the pleats and on the back I converted the darts into pleats and aligned them with the vertical back darts.

what kind of dance is this even?

Hem: double-turned and hand-stitched.

And that would be all about this dress if not for a special issue of Burda I got as a gift when I started sewing this.

It was an issue devoted to simple sewing projects that make good wardrobe builders. It left me thinking intensively about my own sewing planning, which often gets overambitious in terms of both difficulty of the projects and their potential for getting worn on a daily basis.

Francesca at Atelier Vicolo N. 6 can give you a better insight into that issue with her two gorgeous dresses from it — they do not defy the camera while devouring light.

To cut a long story short, since first leafing through that issue my plan has been, well, not to make all of those Burda patterns but to simplify my sewing plans.

My first steps toward that coming to the blog soon. Flap, flap.

black dress in a snow storm

Friends, I got almost nothing. I’d been waiting for a long time first to finish sewing projects that were stubbornly in progress, then to take photos. I was hoping for at least one ray of sunlight today, but to no avail. No sun. In fact, right now you probably couldn’t see your outstretched arm if you were unlucky enough to be outside. It’s snowing in that scary Great Lakes endless winter kind of way that makes the lands beyond the wall in The Game of Thrones look like the next town over.

So on this gothically gloomy day I snuck in these snapshots right before the world got swept away. This is the Burda/Butterick mashup dress that I spent what felt like ages fitting.

I can’t help being very critical of garments straight off the machine, so I wanted the photos to reflect the things I’ve spent a while agonizing about. In real life, this dress strikes me as a bit, shall we say, convent-esque. I was aiming for simple elegance but I worry I got distilled conservatism instead. But that’s not what I’m getting from these blurry photos.

What I’m getting from the blurry photos is “I like theater and reading philosophy in bed,” which I’m fine with (though I haven’t been to the theater longer than I care to admit and at bedtime I read almost exclusively novels). I also get “The winter weight hides well, no?” and I honestly like that because that’s not what most of my pairs of pants have been communicating.

Maybe I should only wear this on gloomy days and during snow storms for maximum Gothic effect? The truth about the dress will have to wait until next time. And fingers crossed for power lines holding strong.