how Burda saved my summer sewing

Annemarie (of J’Adore le Cafe Sews) nailed it in her comment on my last post: there’s nothing like an easy but nonetheless exciting pattern to get you out of a sewing slump.

For me that pattern was this blouse (#118) from the 6/2017 issue of Burda. I like the version with the peplum in theory but not sure I’m down with peplums in practice. So I “unpeplumed” it and cut it out to the length of #119.

It is the simplest thing in the world. Because this is no time for muslins, I made up a “wearable muslin” (i.e. a version that might not have worked out at all) in a black cotton gauze I bought on impulse at the beginning of summer.

(More details on the skirt from the photo on the left comming soon!)

What I learned about this fabric:

  • it’s too thin for human use
  • it stretches out from being looked at
  • it sews pretty well
  • it’s awesome to wear on a hot day.

Seriously, this fabric would make more sense doubled. But I had a yard, which didn’t give me much room for experimentation.

Details:
Pattern:  
top #118 and hem from #119, Burda 6/2017
Fabric: black cotton gauze from Joann Fabrics (about 1 yd).
Notions: thread, bias tape cut from the remainder of the fabric.
Seam and hem finish: French seams everywhere, neckline and armholes bound with boas tape, regular machine-stitched hem of about 3/4″.
Mods: none yet, just discoveries. Namely: the armhole was cut a bit too low for my liking (and the gauze stretched out); the neckline was cut a bit too snug, especially on the front. Oh, and back cut in two pieces due to fabric shortages.
Fun fact: I traced the pattern without adding seam allowances and added those when cutting out (I kept telling myself to focus the entire time).

I love this top despite minor reservations. And it immediately set those little cogs in motion, leading me to come up with this plan:

burda118_6_2017_dress-sketch

It’s not the best sketch but it conveys the idea.

Here’s the dress:

burda118_6_2017_dress1

The eagle-eyed among you will recognize this fabric. I made several garments in the navy colorway (dress, robe, tee). I like both the print and, of course, the fact that it’s rayon.

The sketch has the most important details but let me talk you through what I did in order to go from the top to a dress.

I raised the armholes a little bit on this version and I did a forward shoulder adjustment, which moved the shoulder seam to the intended position on the front bodice (it’s lower than the shoulder point).

I added the ties to cinch it in a little when I feel like it (… and hang loose when I’m melting in the summer heat).

Because the longer version of the blouse had ample ease on the hips, I simply extended the front and back pattern pieces by about 12″, then straightened and trued the side seams. You could simply extend them from the hip down to get more of a trapeze shape, but I wanted more of a shift dress silhouette.

And that’s basically it. I’m dreaming of a linen version with a self-fabric belt at the waist, but that may not be in the cards this summer.

Pattern verdict: highly recommended.

Many thanks for the comments on the last post. It was great to bond through our shared sewing dilemmas, but you have also given great tips on overcoming them!

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slow everything

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Helmi tunic dress. Finally.

Hello! I’m back in the bloglands after some traveling and family time. And back with that great dilemma that every break like that brings up for me. It’s wonderful to see again what everyone’s been sewing, photographing, and writing about while I was away… But, in all honesty, it was really blissful not to keep up with it all. And not to keep others updated on what I was doing.

Thank you everyone who dropped me a line under the blog break post! Your wishes were a wonderful send-off. Here are some thoughts I’ve brought back from my trip.

When sightseeing, I would only take a few snapshots for the family, a la the limitations of yore, as if some “film” were at risk of running out in the camera. I limited texting and email to the absolutely necessary. I walked a lot. I had a notebook with me. I ended up reading a lot.

It did feel a little bit like time travel, unplugging that daily connection that we hardly perceive but use all the time. And then it stopped feeling like time travel, and I simply felt more rested, more focused, and more curious about the world. An undercurrent of mild anxiety stopped buzzing in the background.

I don’t want to be the next person preaching about the benefits of slowing down. I don’t even know how well I will be able to remember what I got out of that period of unplugging.

I’ll try. I don’t think the problem lies in not knowing that you can slow down. I think it lies in the routines that carry us through every day. We get more of a temporary pleasure kick out of scrolling through online content than sitting down quietly with a book, though the latter has a more lasting calming benefit for our mind. We cherish (and remember more clearly) photos when we take them sparingly, we forget the ones we took in quick succession. But it’s all so easy to forget. It doesn’t have a snappy acronym like FOMO or the range of other fears that, likewise, have snappy acronyms that I keep googling, and as I do so I feel old and increasingly not with that next “it” that is the “it” of the quickly fleeting moment.

I’m not about to proclaim this a new trend here. I think I’ll see how well I can keep pumping the breaks on some of my routines and if that will let me accomplish some new goals. It’s probably fair to call this modest plan my attempt at kaizenI’m not starting a business, just trying to get some of my ducks out of the woods and in a row.

In the meantime, I will have some slow-paced (ha!) catch up posts for you on things I made before the trip.

But here’s one I made when I got back, still pretty jet-lagged.

helmi-dress-stripes

I had this fabric sitting in my stash for over a year. I bought it at a store with second-hand fabric, yarn, and notions. It was probably donated to the store, so it was unlabeled and on the bargain fabric pile. It feels like cotton, somewhat crisp. I don’t wear stripes too often and it took me a very long time to figure out what I could use this fabric for.

I can’t remember the exact inspiration, but I think I saw a garment somewhere (on the street? on Pinterest?) that used horizontal stripes that balanced vertical stripes in this way, and that’s when I knew it would be a Helmi dress.

I went for my kimono sleeve hack first tried here. Once again I opted also for the simplified button placket. It seems to me that the buttons make a good visual interruption to all the stripes.

Since I’m quite a few inches shorter than what Named Clothing drafts for, I shortened  the bodice and skirt by 1.5 cm. And, in a bout of masochism, I finished the hem and the sleeve cuffs by hand. And that would be it. I’m wondering whether to insert elastic into the waist seam. I’m not in love with the boxy silhouette of the unbelted dress. I think it looks pretty cool on the model here but on me I feel like it completes the look of a clueless person desperately googling “FOMO.” Thoughts?

This project is my third one in the #sewtogetherforsummer challenge on Instagram. Many thanks to Monika, Sarah, and Suzy for making this such a wonderful, inspiring, and welcoming sewing challenge.

I wish you all happy summer sewing and till next time.

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.

m6885-1

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?

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:

IMG_20170401_114548_106

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:

IMG_20170402_123956_050

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.

Flaurel (and maybe a farewell)

Hello, are you also snowed in? It’s getting pretty boring and nothing like Narnia. Well, maybe with the exception of the serious questions about, ekhm, power and those who wield it. We could use some kids with a lion.

Just snow here, tall snowbanks and provisional hills of it made by snowplows right now as a snowstorm just wound down (I hope!). But I dug up some flowers. From my stash.

The flowers: three yards of a dark navy polyester floral print that I bought on impulse during a Craftsy sale. Was it a year ago? I don’t remember. I do remember that the total cost was under $10 dollars and, while I liked the print, I didn’t like the slippery feel of the fabric.

With the aid of spray starch I finally cut into it. The spray starch did not work as well as I’d hoped but I’m not giving up on the stuff. And I did manage to cut out a Laurel dress, even if the hem played tricks on me.

Voilà:

flaurel2
I call it the Flaurel

I took my time on this one. I liked the print as a print. Draping myself in it (yes, that happened) and then sewing it, I was torn between love and wondering whether it makes me look like a sofa. Bridget Jones level worries here, as you can see.

I resolved my dilemma by adding a keyhole, exactly like I did on the Laurel lbd. The keyhole has supreme dilemma-resolving power, I think. And just like that one the Flaurel is zipper-free, with a button and buttonloop at the neckline. I added small cuffs to the sleeves, which kind of disappear in the print but please me nonetheless.

The fabric has no stretch. I was lazy, the fabric was fraying viciously, and so I didn’t bother with basting for fit. In the end the dress fits but I have to wait a while to shed the lingering perfectionist hangup.

And… don’t hold me to this… but it might be the last Laurel for a longer while. Tinkering with Big Four and Burda has made me take many, many closer looks at my back in terms of fitting. Don’t get me wrong, the Laurel is pleasingly roomy on the back for me but I feel like the redrafted armholes I’ve tested out here and here fit even better. So I’d like to give other shift dresses* a try, with that crazy armhole (which I’ll try to show you in the near future).

That’s reason one. Reason two is that I’ve grown pretty discouraged about Colette over the past several months. I really don’t like how they responded to the criticism of the drafting of the Rue dress. I appreciate that they did admit drafting errors but what they revealed about their process did not inspire confidence. Laurel is a pattern drafted from their previous block and it fits me pretty well with minor adjustments. More current patterns, like Winona and Wren (both of which I wanted to make), are drafted from a new block, which is very different. I gave up on trying to fit them. I would like to make these dresses but I really don’t want to deal with what would need to be careful muslining and maybe partly redrafting. And in a knit. I don’t have the time for that now, so I’m moving on.

Okay, one more thing about the Flaurel. The inspiration came from the inimitable Carolyn and her fantastic photos from her Year of Handmade (#lifegoals). Now, I can’t seem to find the photo I have in mind. Did I imagine it? If so, please forgive me, Carolyn. If that’s just something from a dream collage based me absorbing these outfits, I take full responsibility.

Anyhow, here’s my take on that memory or dream. A dress with a skirt, because who will know. Apart from all of you, obviously.

Me and my broad, broad back. The skirt is the deep pleat skirt from Burda.

What do you think?

That’s it for flowers, back to the snow. I’ve been putting off writing about this but thinking about it all the time. And, as a result, posting here sporadically even though I really like talking about sewing with you and sharing my makes and woes. The current situation in the world has been getting to me, to put it mildly. Yes, there are always things to worry and care about in the world, but I’d argue that one can remain more skillful about that when one is not checking the news every morning to see if the world as we know it still exists.

I don’t believe one can really be apolitical but I also believe that we shouldn’t blindly cling to labels. We should stop every once in a while and define those labels to check what they actually mean to us. That’s a serious problem. I’m seeing people throwing around labels and those labels are washed out of all meaning. What are the principles behind the labels? It’s heartbreaking to see people follow someone who seems to be waving a flag they like without asking any questions.

So many people, on both sides of the various divides, are talking about anger these days. And, I’m not going to lie, I don’t think that in all those cases “the truth is in the middle” and both sides have equal standing, or that their anger is equally justified. Some of that anger is more justified. When it’s anger about being hurt in real ways and not by imagined threats it’s justified. Anger, as such, I think isn’t bad unless you act out in anger. Anger can certainly be the spark that starts something good but it only become that if you transform it into thoughtful action. Use it as energy but act out of wisdom and kindness.

At this time it’s important to cultivate kindness. Don’t replace it with hate. And no, I’m not saying be a doormat. Give tough love. But let there be kindness in your heart and let it guide you. If you extend it to yourself, you won’t let yourself become a doormat. Are you following me?

Kindness will allow us to stay sane in difficult times. Hate is scary and provokes hate as a reaction. But nothing can grow on hate, and no happiness can be built on the suffering of others. It’s important to remember that, then the hate will be less scary, it won’t provoke us to hate in return. Instead, we’ll be able to respond to it more wisely. And we really need that right now.

Sorry if that was rambling. I’ve been thinking about all this for a long time and wanted to finally write something and reach out to others.

Thanks to everyone who’s written thoughtfully on difficult topics, be it more personal or more political. Thanks to Naomi (and her most recent post) for the spark that finally allowed me to write this part of the post.

EDITED TO ADD MISSING FOOTNOTE:
* This dress. I blame Siobhan.

the velvet bandwagon & all the Plantain dresses

Hello in 2017! 😉 I hope the year’s started off well for you. I’m starting by playing catch-up with what I made during my holiday frenzy.

I hopped on the velvet bandwagon. I’ve been seeing so many beautiful velvet dresses in very different silhouettes. This one, sewn up by Elisalex from By Hand London, has been a long-time favorite. It’s lovely but I did know I wouldn’t be going the copycat route because I could not survive a moment in a sleeveless dress in winter.

What I had in mind was something slightly Goth-y, definitely long-sleeved, and simple enough that I could wear it out to a restaurant rather than to a ball (no balls in my calendar). Fabric aside, the true inspiration for this dress was Jeska’s Winona dress.

And here’s the end result. You will have to use your imagination looking at the photos because Santa didn’t bring us much sunlight:

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New spot for photos: the only one that had some light that day.

I was incredibly cautious sewing this stretch velvet, anticipating all sorts of disasters. To my great relief, the fabric didn’t shift around too much when sewing two layers of it together with a walking foot. But attaching a lining was difficult, even with careful basting. Go slow — but that’s what I always say, regardless of the fabric, don’t I?

I read everything I could find online about working with velvet and stretch velvet. The best pieces of advice:

  • keep track of the pile and cut your pieces all with the pile running in the same direction
  • use weights and a rotary cutter when cutting out the pattern pieces, lay the fabric right side down on the cutting mat, trace off whole pattern pieces (i.e. no cutting on the fold) — that last bit of advice is what I always do with knits anyway
  • press sparingly and gently, on a fluffy towel or piece of the velvet fabric so as not to crush the pile
  • baste where necessary
  • test out neckline finishes: binding in self-fabric was coming out too bulky, a turned and stitched down neckline would have been a disaster, lining the bodice worked best for me (I tested these out on scraps before committing to a neckline finish)

One untested piece of advice that I’m still mulling over: apparently fusible interfacings are not suitable for velvet. I only have fusibles and not even a scrap of  silk organza, so I did not stabilize my neckline. Now I’m just hoping it doesn’t stretch out too badly.

I lined the bodice in a lightweight rayon knit. I sewed the lining in by hand at the waist and armholes, and, yes, that did take a while.

The pattern: a mashup, which is becoming very much a regular feature of my sewing. The bodice is a slightly modified Plantain tee and the skirt is the top half of the Winona skirt from Seamwork.

Why a combination of these two and not, say, the Winona in its entirety? I’ll save that story for another time. For now I’ll just state the obvious: sewing with a tried pattern that you know works well in the type of fabric you’re working with saves a lot of time and worry about fit. And it gives you more time for sewing itself, and so I made another version of the dress in a black interlock knit (the photo is comparably blurry, you’re welcome):

winona2-4
My thoughts on the Winona pattern, in a nutshell: thumbs up for the skirt (and I wish there was a way to print out just the top half of it without printing the whole mammoth 52-page PDF of just one of the two versions of the pattern), thumbs down for the bodice — at least for this broad-backed sewist.

I don’t know what body type Colette Patterns/Seamwork is drafting for these days, but it’s not the broader backed lady of yore (i.e. the earlier days Colette Patterns). From what I can tell, it’s someone with a tiny waist (maybe tinier than the measurements from the chart, but I can’t tell for sure) and a narrower back. And someone who likes the armholes to fall low? More to say on that but just not today.

The skirt is a keeper for me. I like that the seams don’t intersect with the side seams of the bodice — less bulk! I have a thing for gored skirts, it seems. I can definitely see myself re-using this one yet again.

The true hero of this story is, of course, the Plantain tee pattern from Deer and Doe.

It’s the one pattern from that company that I’ve tried so far simply because it’s the only one they offer as a PDF. At one point I was on the verge of buying the Melilot shirt but it was temporarily sold out. And I really wasn’t too keen on having a paper pattern shipped all the way from France. They released an end-of-year survey about PDF patterns and I hope it means they will offer at least some of their catalog in that form.

I love the Plantain pattern. I’ve made it straight-up, mashed it up with the Tonic tee from SBCC Patterns (I got it when it was a free pattern) with a good outcome, and I’ve made four dresses from it so far. Not all of these have made it on to the blog. The first two dresses predate the blog and were my first attempts at knit dresses and elastic insertion.

Both were made some time in the fall of 2015. The one on the left was the first one. I followed Anna’s tutorial but lengthened the bodice piece for a less babydoll silhouette. The second one, in navy and gray knit fabric remnants, got an empire waist and a skirt from Simplicity 1325.

This pattern has served as the perfect canvas for learning and experiments. I’ve played with the fit but it’s that ultra-rare pattern that actually fit me okay sewn up as is.

My own experiments with the pattern have been modest so far in comparison with this really great adaptation of the pattern.

I’m not one to commit to resolutions, but in 2017 I’d like to try doing more with patterns I have already tried and fitted, and sew completely new to me patterns sparingly. I guess if I were to pick a theme or motto it would be pragmatism with a bit of experimentation. What are your sewing plans for 2017?

 

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.

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:

baste-fitted-dress1
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.