the call of the white shirt

This shirt, specifically. I have to share the pattern photo again, because it’s a rare treat:

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Photo from the book Burda Style Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials.

So much going on there… The pattern book, however, is pure gold and I plan to sew my way through it.

And just to clarify, I made the women’s shirt, not the robe the gentleman is wearing, nor any of the other incredibly distracting things in the photo. It’s not just me, right? There’s an overload of possible narrative in that photo. The collection to which it belongs is apparently called “Honeymooners” but it looks like a vaguely adultery-related scenario. So much tension. Will she escape through the French door?

Where was I?

The shirt. It looked deceptively easy but I wouldn’t have done it without Tea‘s help. I can’t thank her enough. Burda instructions did not alert me to the unusualness of that collar (no surprise there) and the line drawing doesn’t show the way the collar stand attaches to the collar. Need I add that there is no diagram included with the instructions?…

Tea made this beautiful version of the shirt as well as a black one with a scalloped collar, which is not on her blog, but it’s equally lovely and Tea’s photos of its tricky collar saved my sanity.

I’ll try to pay it forward — here’s my crummy photo of the collar and collar stand:

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Collar stand sandwiched inside the collar. Interesting concept but fiddly to sew.

This was a wearable muslin, again. I cut the pattern pieces out and basted the shirt together before committing to the final placement of the shoulder seams and bust darts.

In the end I left the shoulder seams as they were but moved the darts up by 1.5 cm (or 5/8″ if you prefer). My one complaint fit-wise is that the armholes fall a bit low, which limits mobility a bit. (Non-complaint but a fit-related fact: I did my obligatory broad back alteration on the back. For details of this fit alteration see this post.)

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Le look total Burda book: the shirt paired with the skirt from this post (from which I removed the offending pockets)

Confession time: I am trying to embrace white shirts but I have two major hurdles to overcome. Hurdle #1: the fear of spilling everything on myself while wearing white; hurdle #2: memory of high school and college exams to which I usually wore an outfit such as pictured above (long story — the TL; DR version is: school/academic culture demanding more formal attire).

I’ll need to work on figuring out some clever pairings to deal with that second issue. The answer is probably some pants I have yet to sew…

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More details:
Pattern:
 Voile Button-Down Blouse from Burda Style Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials
Fabric: white cotton voile from stash (long live shopping the stash!)
Notions: thread, 6 buttons, lightweight fusible interfacing, bias tape for the collar stand finish.
Seam finish and other details: first time trying flat-felled seams (not perfect but not terrible either, I think); shirt hem turned up to basting lines, then stitched; rolled hems on facings.
“Fun” fact: inserting the curved ends of the collar stand into the collar took multiple tries and corrections.

You may have noticed my button placement choice. I decided not to take the buttons all the way to the top — I didn’t like the way it looked on me. I went for this camp collar effect instead. What do you think?

Pattern verdict: So far, I really like it, even though I’m not sure what to wear it with and that strange collar stands out from my neck quite a bit.

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sneaking a peek

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Apparently I’ve forgotten how to blog. It all started with an allergy to photo-taking combined with heat-exacerbated decision fatigue. Translation: I wasn’t getting much sewing done. Then I sewed a few things, but only when I broke the cycle.

This is what happens to me:

I stare from the pile of fabrics to the pile of patterns I just selected. None of the patterns seems good enough for the fabrics at first. Then I inevitably pick the challenging ones, with a lot of shaping. They all need muslining. It turns out I’m out of muslin and willingness. And so the fabrics end up being too precious and I get stuck.

The remedy: easy sewing. The photo above is one of such easy projects that got me sewing again. Now to get it photographed and give it a proper post…

But first a couple of questions for you if you have a minute: Do you ever get stuck in this way? What slows you down or drains your sewing motivation?

pants #3, or, what I’ve learned so far and why I’m venturing on

Dear readers, my adventures in the scary land of pant/trouser making continue. I’m extremely grateful for all the encouragement I’ve gotten on my previous pants-making posts. Thank you all for your kind words! I’m happy to hear that I’ve also managed to get some of you encouraged by my dive into this intimidating area of garment sewing.

I think it’s worth the risk even if you fail. For one, I’ve been learning just how little I understood about the fit of pants when my choices were limited to ready-to-wear. And even though I haven’t had a “it fit straight out of the pattern envelope” experience with any of the pants I’ve made (well, I basically never do with any pattern), with some patience and basting, I ended up with wearable pants every time. So as I go along I’m learning about fitting and — more importantly even — I am really enjoying clothing my bottom half.

The third pattern I tackled from my sketched list came from Burda 8/2016. The photos from that issue (scroll through these posts for exhibit #1 and exhibit #2) didn’t give me a clear an idea of what those might end up looking like — more like an alluring suggestion. I’m somewhat surprised by where I arrived, though in a good way, I should add.

Today I take you to my messy sewing nook to meet my less-than-clean mirror in these very candid and completely unstyled shots of the new pants:

Totally unstyled but completely me-made: Plantain tee ans stripey socks by yours truly

Gah! That mirror desperately needs cleaning. But the pantsL I’m extremely pleased with them after wearing them out a couple of times and I’m liking them more each time I wear them. But I’m not going to lie to you: it took quite a few rounds of basting and fiddling with the fit before we got there.

Here are some slightly clearer photos. And details.

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I’d say they ended up looking like I imagined the Thread Theory Lazo Trousers would. Or maybe how the Lazos do on the figure type for which they are drafted. I’d say that if you have a flat tummy and a derriere that is not quite as pancake-like as mine, you’re bound to get a lovely result with those. Morgan’s own samples look great, so do Meg’s Lazos (and she has a neat post about them). I’m kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum and the muslin turned out hilarious. I’d show you if I were less self-conscious. The crotch length for which they’re drafted was all wrong with my body proportions and I decided to end it on that one muslin and just shelve the project. Please don’t take my experience as a criticism of the pattern. Morgan’s posts about fitting these helped me diagnose what didn’t work for me, and I can definitely see myself returning to both the pattern and her posts to do some altering that would make these work for me.

Okay, but back to the Burda pattern. Running to Burda from an indie pattern that had a sewalong and fit advice is not a move I can explain logically. And I didn’t follow the instructions for the pattern because I didn’t get most of them. I’m definitely not fluent in the super laconic language of Burda instructions.

Here’s what I did instead, in case you want to follow my path but don’t speak Burda-ese:

  1. I cut out the size according to body measurements, to be on the safe side, and I basted the pants together, leaving the waistband off for that first try-on. (I slipped a length of elastic over the top to hold the pants up.) These pants have slash pockets, which I did not cut out yet; in fact, I superposed the pocket over the cutout and just chalked the spash pocket line in on the inside, so I could baste to fit without worrying about pockets at all.
  2. That first try on gave me some insight (the size I cut was too big, especially in the hips). I recommend basting in the waistband and pinning it closed to get a better idea of the fit. That’s what I did next.
  3. I’m not going to give you my fit adjustments in excrutiating detail since your needs might be very different from mine. I worked with Pati Palmer and Marta Alto’s book Pants for Real People to figure those out. Most importantly, I took the inseam in to accommodate as per the “pancake butt” adjustment (many thanks to Melanie for introducting this phrase to my fitting vocabulary). I also ended up shaving quite a bit off the outseams, especially on the hips. At this stage, I merely chalked in the new seam lines, didn’t cut anything out just yet.
  4. I determined the pocket placement using my new seamlines and cut out the pocket slash line. Then I made the pockets (the pattern instructions didn’t mention stabilizing the pocket openings but I did, with some lightweight fabric selvedges I had kept from an earlier project).
  5. I sewed the darts on the back (they needed some altering after the try on) and the pleats on the front, sewing them down partly, as was suggested in one of the comments to the pattern photos (but not in the pattern instructions, gah!).
  6. Next I tackled the fly front following Sandra Betzina’s tutorial. I’ve watched a few different tutorials for this step, and this one I find the clearest and easiest to follow, hands down. I second the advice on interfacing — I’m glad I stabilized the zipper area.
  7. This pattern didn’t have a fly shield but I added one. Make sure you cut out the waistband long enough to accommodate this if you also want to add one.
  8. Inseam, then crotch seam (where I did a double line of stitching once I was happy with the fit), basted outseam. There was some basting and ripping here before I felt comfortable with the fit, so I’d recommend not rushing this part.
  9. Sew the outseam, add waistband (I recommend interfacing if you’re working with a streth suiting like I was), hem pants.

So that’s my blueprint for sewing these. Pardon me if I dumbed it down inadvertently. Feel free to correct me or add steps I might have forgotten about here.

As you can tell from the two photos above the list, these don’t necessarily look fantastic from all angles. I definitely fretted about the fit and my understanding of how pleats play into it… But the final test for me is not my dubious photography skills but the wearing. These feel comfortable. Not perfect maybe but definitely good enough to fill a woeful wardrobe gap for me.

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Hand sewing: waistband on the inside, hook and eye closures (well, obviously), and hems.

And that’s a milestone for me. So if you wear pants a lot, dive into making them. I’m glad I did. I wish I had more time so I could get on with the next pair, but that will have to wait.

More from me soon. As always, I’d love to hear from you. What are you working on or planning to make?

the Diane Keaton moment

Readers, I made pants.

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Riding on the wave of other sewists’ resolutions, I just dove into the project. And throwing caution to the winds, I cut out Burda 6856. My original plan was to prevaricate some more, then cut out a pair marked easy — starting with a muslin, possibly treating Pants for Real People as a WebMD for pants, diagnosing my pair with every fit ailment possible…

But it’s too cold for all that. I found myself down to one pair of pants I could wear to work in the Arctic chill. So I decided to risk it despite the scary threats of those fitting problems with names from a children’s book gone wrong, Camel Toe and Polterwang.

Fit and Sizing Adventures

I started at a size chosen by my body measurements. I tip my hat to reviewers who posted at Pattern Review who caution against it. I apologize for not taking photos because when I basted the pieces I looked like I was on my way to clown college.

I sized down in a somewhat crazy way: two sizes down on the hips, tapering the legs further, waistband one size down (and realistically, I could have gone two down with a good amount of room in there). That’s the result you’re seeing in these photos.

I hope the way I see it is the way you see it: more Diane Keaton than anywhere near clown college. But Diane Keaton jumping over snow banks because that’s the situation right now.

A word on what some call “stride” (nice euphemism) but what we all know is the crotch. I did not alter that curve in any way. I figured that by choosing roomier pants I was more likely to be pleased with it and I am. And I still have a lot to learn about fit in that… area.

Fabric and Notions

The fabric is a brushed cotton from Joann Fabrics. I lined the pockets with a lighter weight cotton and cut out the inside waistband from cotton sateen leftovers. The layers of brushed cotton get very bulky and stiff, as I discovered while making the belt carriers.

The zipper is the last one from a very fortunate thrifting haul — it’s metal and I was trembling while sewing it in. No needles got damaged in the process, even though I had to shorten the zipper by about an inch. The button is from Joann. It’s plastic pretending to be metal.

Details

I wish those pleats were a bit shallower, to be honest, but I can’t complain too much. They still look good. I really like the darts on the back.

Pattern Instructions and Order of Construction

No, I didn’t exactly follow the sparse Burda instructions. I read them, I appreciate the illustrations, but I don’t think they offer the best solutions.

I changed the order of construction a bit so as to be able to sew the zipper in flat, with access to it on both sides of the pants front. If the Burda instructions for that step are sufficient to you, you are brilliant in my book. My sanity was saved by Sandra Betzina’s tutorial on the Threads website. I also added a fly shield (pattern piece included in the pattern envelope).

I’m not convinced that dividing the back waistband into two pieces is the best idea. With the belt carrier placed on that center back seam, it gets really bulky. So I cut the inner waistband in one piece.

Finishing

I finished the waistband by hand, and I think it spared me a lot of irritation that would have likely come with wrangling it under the machine.

I tried blind-hemming the legs on the machine but this fabric really isn’t good for that. I had to redo it by hand any way. The pattern was smarter in this respect because it actually tells you to hem by hand.

burda6856-front

Verdict

I like them! I wish the sizing was a bit less crazy.

If you have any good pants fitting advice, throw it my way!

PS: A more organized version of this review is up on Pattern Review here.

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?

 

Top 5 of 2016: the misses

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This is probably everyone’s favorite roundup. Let’s see if this one yields any helpful insights, shall we?

I did not include unfinished and abandoned projects here. I don’t usually bother taking pictures of those (not just because I’m too upset). Let me note that in addition to the misses I’ve also had quite a few failures: fabric wasted or destroyed, false starts, unwearable results. Most of those got recycled somehow or at least thrown at the bottom of the ever-expanding scrap bag.

The projects featured here weren’t necessarily complete misses but their flaws have sent them to a dark corner of the closet.

#1 Polka dot Maya top with lots of unnecessary and distracting tweaks

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Those polka dots hate me. It took me surprisingly long to see that, even though I’ve never been all that fond of polka dots… I definitely don’t dislike them on others but in my own case I really need to stop trying to make “fetch” happen.

The pattern itself — Maya by Marilla Walker — is fine. I made a top from it earlier that I like and wear pretty often; I’d definitely like to make another one. The fabric is fine, too: it’s rayon.

The jury’s still out on those pants (New Look 6459). Right now there’s just one top I like them with. (And it’s definitely not the one in the photo!)

Possible solution to my woes: dye it solid black.

#2 Plantain/Tonic tee in a fabric that’s too thick for a short-sleeve tee

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That’s the problem in a nutshell. I wore that top once and realized that the fabric is really better suited either for a long-sleeve winter tee or a pullover.

Sadly, I only bought enough fabric for a short-sleeve tee.

I’m wondering whether there are any solutions for this one. The one that comes to my mind is cut it up and see if I can sew up a tee for a friend’s kid.

This is the only photo I have of this top. It’s from Me-Made May (that’s why there’s a number in the corner). The skirt is the Veronika circle skirt from Megan Nielsen, sewn in 2015. I still like it but, unfortunately, I’ve um, filled out a bit too much to wear it.

#3 Mesa knit shift from Seamwork, or, the learning curve of adjustments

mesa4This one is a mix of good things and bad things. I do wear it — usually with black tights and a long cardigan — but the fit issues do bug me.

As a muslin of sorts I made a top version that was an utter failure (and did not get photographed). That one helped me discover that the neckline was too wide and droopy to be wearable. I redrafted it.

What it did not let me discover — probably because I didn’t yet know enough about fitting my back –were the issues on the upper back and overall back length. I also missed the fact that the armhole needed raising by at least 1.5 cm.

On the dress version I was able to take out some length on the back by adding a central back seam, which I curved at the small of the back. But there’s still some excess fabric pooling there. The back ended up too narrow for comfortable movement. This ponte is fairly stretchy but not I would really need to redraw the armscye to give myself more fabric on the back.

Lessons learned: It’s a wearable dress, just not as pleasant to wear as I’d wish. And, yes, while I’ve had several great makes from Colette and Seamwork patterns, this is a pattern I’m not likely to make again. The unusable (for me at least) neckline and too big armscye bug me too much. The result of issues like those is that I’m using the Plantain tee pattern as a block for knit tees and dresses rather than giving other patterns a try — more on that soon.

#4 McCall’s 6891: a milestone project with a questionable fabric choice

m6891-3This was a very important dress for me, not just because I cried a lot while making it, which is documented on this blog.

I’m glad I stuck with it and kept hacking away at the pattern until I altered the back to fit me. It’s not exactly fun to discover how much your shape differs from the one that the pattern was drafted for. It is, in fact, similar to the discomfort of not fitting into an RTW size that you think should work for you. The redrawn lines of the pattern take some getting used to.

Being able to move your arms in a dress definitely makes up for all that.

So what’s the real “miss” in this one?

For one, I left myself very little ease in the waist. So when I gained a little weight and effectively went up a clothing size, the dress no longer fit comfortably.

But the more serious problem is the poly/cotton I made it in. The cheap fabric choice was intentional — this was my first stab at the pattern and I did anticipate fit issues. The interfaced buttonholes on the skirt never pressed well, unfortunately, and I think this design really calls for a softer drape, though with some body. I think it would work really well in a crepe.

Solutions? I could let out the side seams a bit, but I think I’ll leave it as is.

Resolutions? Make again, in a crepe, and size up.

#5 Abstract Anna dress, or, the trials of a bias-cut neckline

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Again, that’s the issue right there. I did wear this dress a lot in the summer, probably exacerbating the neckline problem.

But I like that I let myself make it roomier — this dress has helped me rethink ease and room for movement in garments even further. And it’s a fun dress in this unusual print. The fabric, by the way, is one of the good ones from Joann Fabrics.

Solutions? Well, I stabilized that neckline with some fusible tape in a desperate attempt to stop the drooping. Too little, too late, not a real solution but will have to do in a pinch.

Lessons learned: Stabilize bias-cut necklines at the cutting stage. Stay-stitching is not enough. I should write that down in all caps and put up on the wall above my sewing machine.

All these misses and hits have led to some deep thoughts about what and how I want to sew in 2017, which I hope to write up next week. As you can see, resolutions are not exactly a priority. And don’t let them drive you crazy either.

I wish you all a great 2017 with a fantastic beginning. Cheers!

the unphotographable dress and some thoughts on wardrobe planning

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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.

why I like a uniform

I made a skirt. This skirt. I broke out of the tracing procrastination loop and boldly cut a lining and waistband. And by “boldly” I mean “finally” because, dear readers, I’m patting myself on the back here for getting something finally done.

In these photos I’m wearing the skirt with a RTW shirt because “Operation: Shirt” is stuck at the muslin stage. While I like the one pictured here (because it’s rayon, the fiber of the minor gods), it’s not ideal. It’s two sizes too big and swamps my shoulders but gives my broad, broad back enough room to move. Trade-offs.

But back to the skirt. The stiff fabric hasn’t magically relaxed, which you can see very clearly in that second photo where the side-seam pocket is standing up awkwardly on my hip. Maybe there’s a reason why the original pattern didn’t include side-seam pockets?… Well, with winter coming I need a place to jam some emergency tissues, even if it’s not as discreet as I’d hoped…

I have a bad tendency to decide on pocket placement without referring to patterns that include side-seam pockets. Once again the result is pockets that are placed about an inch too low. Don’t do as I do. I also shouldn’t because I clearly don’t have good instincts in this respect.

But there are things I’m genuinely proud of. I followed Sheryll’s advice (can’t find the post right now but I encourage you to browse her ingenious blog) and liberated myself from the order of construction. I put in the zipper before sewing up the side seams and that gave me my neatest lapped zipper yet. (I did give myself a slightly larger seam allowance there. And, oh, the original pattern had a side-seam zipper and just one pattern piece for the back, so I changed that.)

I added a waistband. The pattern just tells you to line the skirt and it doesn’t even include facings, which, in my opinion, is a bad idea. If you don’t stabilize the waist somehow, it’s bound to stretch out. I prefer a waistband to a faced waist finish, so I drafted one. A wider one would need to be shaped so as not to gap at the top, so I decided to make mine fairly narrow.

I also disagreed with the pattern when it came to the lining. The instructions tell you to simply eliminate the pleat on the front when cutting out the lining but I added about 5/8″/1.5 cm of “pleat remnant wiggle room” there.  Carolyn has a great post about how to add a lining to a skirt in which she spells out what sewing patterns typically don’t tell you when they say to use the same pattern pieces: convert darts to tucks and sew the seams with a smaller seam allowance to give yourself room for movement. So that’s what I did here. I also cut the lining about 1.5″ shorter than the skirt. The lining fabric is a colorful polyester I bought second-hand.

This skirt is part of my effort to come up with a work uniform. More precisely: I’d like to arrive at a small wardrobe of clothes for work that will act as elements of a work uniform. Anything to combat decision fatigue. So, not going as far as this brilliant lady but close to Barack Obama’s tightly curated closet. (Note: no presidential ambitions here.)

I also like a bit of a uniform outside of work but without any “productivity plan.” Recently I’m all about pinafore dresses. I sewed the denim version of the Colette Rooibos dress with the intention of layering it over long-sleeve tees. It took me a while to realize I could also do that with my first Rooibos. So this is what I’ve been wearing most of the time after work:

It makes me pretty happy that these are all fully me-made outfits (well, minus the shoes, dear shoemakers).

Do you have a uniform? Do you love the idea or loathe it? Please share.

Thanks for reading.

veni, vidi… vici

My rusty Latin has failed me (and so has Google Translate). I spent a while trying to figure out how to insert “I cried” before “I won.” I’m not Julius Caesar, so a lot happened between the seeing and the victory.

Let me skip to the victory for a moment and then walk back:

m6891-3

This is McCall’s 6891, my nemesis for the past several weeks. (I almost said “years.”) I think it might be better to sometimes just throw things in the corner or even the trash angrily and move on. But that’s not really in my nature. I tend to just doggedly pursue the problem until I exhaust all options. And sometimes myself.

(Looking at these photos I realize the dress would have benefitted from ironing before I put it on. It was a very hot day when I took these, so I hope you can forgive me for choosing not to iron.)

But I’m definitely not planning on exhausting you, so I’ll try to make the weepy parts telegraphic rather than descriptive.

Let’s break it down:

Veni

I wrote about how I got the pattern and realized how different the dress could look from the one on the pattern envelope. I blame Kirsten Dunst for what followed.

Vidi

Seeing what I needed to attend to in order to fit this pattern wasn’t easy. So, Ceasar, this is where we part ways for a while.

I’ve vented about the sizing in these patterns a lot already (maybe too much?). Trying to crack the logic behind it is like a new hobby at this point. Fit for Real People, as great a book as it is, tries to convince you that Big Four sizing is the best and most sensible. I understand that the sizing is supposed to somehow magically end up working for all figure types, hence the 4″ of unnecessary ease slapped on the shoulders and bust area. Figuring out which size to actually cut out for the shoulders is a quest for secret clues (my own favorite clue comes from Susan Khalje). But I’m still not convinced that grading wildly between three sizes (which is what I apparently have to do) is such a great way to arrive at your size.

Bullet points from here on:

  • the straightforward alterations: forward shoulder adjustment, square shoulder tweak, and a pretty significant sway back alteration (the back is drafted looooong)
  • some of you might remember that after attaching the sleeves I couldn’t move my arms in this dress. I did a broad upper back alteration, following Sunni Standing’s excellent advice. That involved cutting out a new back bodice from leftover fabric.
  • After attaching the sleeves to the new bodice I still couldn’t move my arms. So I took a closer look at the sleeves. Thanks to Kenneth D. King’s  video and article in Threads
    I was able to redraft the sleeves to give myself room for movement. I don’t think I arrived at a perfect sleeves, but I can move, so VICTORY!

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The skirt was a straightforward circle skirt, so no challenges there. That concludes fitting. But sewing held some surprises as well.

Edit: Oh, hot tip for hemming the circle skirt — while I was struggling with the bodice, I hung up the skirt on a hanger. It ended up hanging for about two weeks, after which I marked a new hem, evening it out where the bias dropped. Measuring was a bit easier on the unattached skirt.

Before vici, the collar

The pattern envelope claims it’s an easy pattern to sew, but I don’t think that sewing within a millimeter of a pattern mark from two opposite directions falls into that category, McCall’s. And that’s what you have to do to get the collar right. If you end up too far from the mark, you get a hole. If you accidentally sew through the mark, you can’t turn the collar pieces.

The instructions for the collar are sparse. But I haven’t found anything that helpful online. Jane has good tips on navigating another tricky point in this collar style. What was most difficult for me, though, was figuring out how the collar and facings move when you flip things to hide the wrong sides. The pattern doesn’t tell you that, so for my first try I set out to follow the instructions with a handsewing needle. That was helpful. Once I understood that the collar and the facings move independently (don’t sew through those pesky dot marks!), I was on the right track. Trimming the seam allowances exactly to the pattern’s specifications helps very much as well.

Vici

I like this dress. I like it a lot. I think I might make it again, now that I’ve fitted it and drawn up new pattern pieces that work. Getting through all the fitting and redrafting really did give me a sense of accomplishment. It was learning the hard way, without the certainty that I’d get a wearable garment out of it at the end. But I did! And I’m also feeling a bit more confident about fitting Big Four patterns.

That said, would I recommend it to others? Yes and no.

NO:

  • if you’re not obsessed with this style but rather looking for a fairly easy shirt dress, I’d recommend looking for a different pattern
  • if you don’t want to make a muslin and you haven’t yet figured out what your typical adjustments are in Big Four patterns
  • if having to potentially redraft a sleeve is a deal breaker for you

YES:

  • if you’re in love with this style and really want to make it
  • if you don’t mind spending time fitting
  • if you don’t mind potentially having to redraft pattern pieces

Case not settled. The jury is split between “Recommend, with modifications” and “Try to look for a shirtdress pattern with clearer instructions, clearer sizing, and more movement-friendly sleeves before you try this one.”

Verdict: Case not settled. The jury is split between “Recommend, with modifications” and “Try to look for a shirtdress pattern with clearer instructions, clearer sizing, and more movement-friendly sleeves before you try this one.”

Over to you: I’d love to hear from you if you have any pattern deal breakers and how you decide how to rate a pattern.

 

 

 

the long journey to Anna

anna5a

Oh, Anna. You eluded me for a long time. First there was the hilarious failure from last summer, when I naively dove in with a completely wrong fabric and merely a vague conception of fitting. Then there was a long period when I played hard to get, jealously watching the International Anna Dress Party from a dark corner, telling myself you were not a pattern for me.

But you kept calling from the box of patterns, Anna. I stalled all winter and spring, but when the sunny days returned, I knew you were right. So I caved and muslined.

My alterations ranged from the standard (forward shoulder adjustment, sway back adjustment, scooping out the neckline a bit) to the unexpected. I found Neeno’s detailed fitting notes helpful in figuring out what to pay attention to.

The first bodice muslin came out pretty… saggy. Camille mentioned having a similar issue in her review of the dress, which got me thinking. I turned to the trusted unscientific method of pinching out the excess, ending up with about 3/8″ (1 cm) thus pinched out above the bust on the front and on the upper back.

The shortened bodice really fit much better. I also shortened the back darts about 1″, newly schooled by my troubles with upper back tightness on McCall’s 6891. It was a good idea. I know lots of people have written about issues with the upper back fitting too loosely — especially at the top of the zipper — so I recommend you think about what kind of fit you want and need there. I can move in my dress without any problems, and while in certain body positions you could say there is a little bit of excess fabric up there, my unscientific wiggle-and-jiggle test showed me that when I raise and stretch out my arms, I have enough but not too much fabric up there.

I didn’t need to tweak the skirt apart from sway back on the back waistline seam. I also — unusually for me — decided against adding pockets. So far, I’m not regretting it.

Here’s a few more sewing details if, like me, you happen to enjoy those:

  • French seams everywhere apart from the waist seam and the central back seam. I bound the central back seam with Hug Snug
  • I also Hug-Snugged the sleeve hems, making the sleeves longer, which I think looks good in this drapey fabric
  • I followed Anna’s tutorial for finishing the waist seam.  It was hot, I was lazy, and so I reached for Hug Snug again, but bias binding would have been the better choice. It would have been stretchier, not so… snug. Go figure. (The dress fits nonetheless, I just felt that seam after the big dinner to which I wore it right after I finished it.)
  • no invisible zipper here — I substituted a hand-picked lapped one. If there is a next time, I’ll do that again, just with a tiny bit more generous seam allowance
  • and no contemtuous facings either — bias facing instead. (Looking for a good tutorial? I really like this one.)
  • I tried out hemming with a walking foot. I don’t know how I feel about it — it took some effort to keep the fabric from dancing around underneath.

The fabric is a rayon print I picked up at Joann’s last winter… on two separate occasions, so it added up and this is the third garment in it, and I promise that’s finally it.

So, Anna, you win. You are a great dress. You are also my third make for May, so whew!