No darts, no pleats, no shaping; just a t-shirt with an attached gathered skirt. Not only is it easy as sin to put together, the lack of structure means there is no interruption to the print. Huzzah!
I sewed some seam binding into the shoulders and the side seams to help it hold its shape. It’s a lot of fabric and quite heavy so otherwise it stretches out.
The black area between the floral repeats was not large enough to position the entire bodice, so I knew both skirt and bodice would have to have flowers on them. To create a bit of interest and have a solid black waist, I reversed the flowers on the top half.
The skirt was just gathered; I added clear elastic to the waist after the dress was assembled to help hold the weight. It didn’t work quite as well as I might have hoped but it’s definitely better than without.
The one goof was accidentally cutting one of the pocket pieces in reverse. I went ahead and used it anyway since I figured it’s on the inside and no one would see it … except that it insists on flipping out a bit and making a nice light grey stripe on one hip. I’ll bar-tack it down and see if that helps, and otherwise just be always twitching at that pocket to make sure it isn’t peeking. If that doesn’t work I’ll just cut a narrow strip of black and hand-stitch it close to the opening.
This is the story of a skirt I made for work that I can’t wear to work.
“What a lovely and interesting pencil skirt!” I thought in April when the Burda issue came. “Just right for the office. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a cool stripe fabric that might work.”
I had a work meeting in Toronto, after which I went to Queen West and found a very cool watercolour-style linen-spandex stripe in orange, green and yellow. Perfect!
Made a test version in a heavier stretch-cotton just to see how it worked. Good thing, as I initially made the front band (under the slit) about half as wide as it was supposed to be, and holy cow was that version indecent.
Phew! Crisis averted. (cue foreboding music)
Cut out and sewed up the stripey version. Tried it on. Fantastic! The stripes are going in the right directions; it mostly fits, though next time I would make it higher in the waist as it’s too low and low-waisted skirts always want to ride up on me to my actual waist. Also a bit loose for such a light-weight and stretchy fabric. If you make this up (and you should! but not for the office) a non-stretchy fabric will work just fine. What with that slit you will not need stretch.
Got dressed one morning for work. Walked to the kitchen for breakfast.
That slit opens up all the way to the top, eh? At every step.
Put some emergency stitches in to hold it a bit more closed. Went to work.
Stitches popped out.
Faced awkward conundrum of either acting like I meant to flash the office all day and just owning it, or holding it closed with one hand if I needed to walk anywhere. Very professional.
It’s a great pattern, a fun skirt, definitely different from the usual and if you can find a good stripe to make it up in, well worth the effort. Runs a bit loose so recommend doing flat-pattern measurements to make sure it’ll be snug enough to stay put.
Don’t wear it to the office.
Date night? Dinner? Dancing? Sure. Absolutely.
But unless you’re aiming for a very special kind of promotion, if you get my drift, not for work.
I wanted to sew it on the cross grain so that the stripes would run horizontally along the pleated skirt.
I was 20cm short of enough fabric to lay out the skirt pieces in that direction.
I hmmmed. I hawwed. Do I lay it out on the grain? Or no? Cross grain is better. Right? I could go back to the store and get more–I could order more online–but then if there’s a postal strike god knows when it will show up–going downtown for 0.5m of fabric seems silly but it’s the only place I’ll find it–I’ll go downtown.
I went downtown.
I got my 0.5m of linen.
And 6 cuts that I had no intention of buying but couldn’t resist: three bamboo jersey prints for dresses, three tissue-weight rayon jerseys for t-shirts. Did I need them? Define “need.” OK, no, I didn’t need them. But I knew I wasn’t going to see a print like this again:
…plus I need to bulk up my dancing wardrobe. Right? Obviously.
I rifled through the pattern stash looking for something that would accommodate a print this large in one unbroken piece. B6206 did the trick, though even after purchasing four repeats I only had enough to get an unbroken flower on the front, thanks to the width of the hem and the narrowness between the flowers. So the back is not as nice, but that’s ok since I don’t see the back.
The selvedge was so cool I used it as the hem and altered the shape of the hemline and the waist to keep the length relatively even. It’s a bit handkerchiefy even so, but not much, and very worth it for that lovely pink border at the bottom.
It is a super simple pattern, works up very quickly and goes together beautifully. I did my standard pattern adjustments and the whole thing was bang-on. Notches matched up. Neck band was just the right size for the opening. Armholes a smidge gapey in front but nothing anyone can see. Back neckline lies perfectly flat. I did have to sew up the back waist seam about 3/4″ in the middle thanks to that short-waisted thing, but once I did it was just right. I didn’t do the recommended elastic casing–I just sewed clear elastic to the serged seam on the inside and then tacked it up at the waist. It worked though.
The one caveat I have is the length of the skirt. I knocked an inch or so off the pattern piece to account for using the selvedge, and as noted I brought the back up 3/4″–and I’m nearly 5’8″. Even so, the skirt hits the top of my feet when I’m in flats.
The pattern is just four pieces plus the neck band–there’s no darts and nothing fussy so it goes together very quickly. I haven’t seen any reviews of this one yet, which seems unfair, so here you go: if you’re looking for a basic jersey dress pattern that works well without needing major alterations or fixes, highly recommend.
Thanks to the Golden Age of Introversion Online, I can trust that you will all know what I mean when I say that I am an introvert.
I score well into the 90s on any test measuring that trait. Go ahead, throw one at me: it’ll spit back a result roughly stating “you never leave your house, do you?”
Q: When you go to a party, do you …
A: [interrupts] A party? Are you out of your mind?
Q: When approaching a group of strangers …
A: [interrupts] Strangers. Oh god. Is hyperventilating an option?
You get the idea. An instinctual horror overtakes me at the idea of being in crowds, particularly crowds of people I don’t know, and especially particularly crowds of people I don’t know with whom I am expected to interact.
This made it extra fun when I got to organize public meetings for angry crowds of people I didn’t know with whom I was expected to interact, but that’s a story for another time.
I am also a bit of a goody two-shoes.
People are generally surprised when they hear me swear for the first time, having assumed that I would never do such a thing. I’ve never been drunk. The closest I’ve been to smoking is picking cigarette butts off the ground and putting them in the garbage. I’m a professional tree-hugger by trade and I tend to sign up for volunteering activities well beyond my time and mental resource capacities. I got straight As. And I’m one of those unfortunate people who tends not to consider that lying is an option when being asked a direct question until after I’ve answered it truthfully. My main hobbies are sewing and reading, for the love of god. Sewing and reading. Put a bonnet on my head and slap me back in 1850, why don’t you.
In fact, my reputation for goody-two-shoes-ness was so complete that druggy friends in highschool would use me as their mule. (“Can you hang on to this for me until third period? Thanks. Oh my god. Do my eyes look fucked? My eyes look fucked, don’t they? No one’s going to check your bag you look too innocent.”) (And they were right–no one ever checked my bag.)
But I did have one minor vice.
Using friends’ fake ID to sneak into nightclubs underage and go dancing.
(American friends, the legal age here is 19. So this was strictly a highschool endeavour as back then we all graduated at 19.)
Possibly alone amongst all of my nightclub-sneaking acquaintance, I’d go the bar and get a water and spend the night dancing. Because it was fun, and all-ages clubs were spectacularly lame–empty and boring, populated by the sad dregs of young people without fake IDs and older men with young-people fetishes. Ew. Sure the real thing was filled with letches with a blood alcohol level so high they didn’t even know they weren’t maintaining eye contact, not to mention the smoke that would take two showers to get out of your hair. The music was loud and the dance floor was packed.
Then I decided to do something super-smart and get married at a ridiculously young age to a guy who promised he loved dancing too and we would go out dancing all the time–and after the wedding ceremony reneged (on that and a pile of other things which shall remain nameless). And my friends stopped having so much fun at bars, and I had a kid, and the kid needed a fair bit of extra help, and then my friends had kids, and one thing let to another and almost 20 years passed without dancing, barring the odd wedding.
(Sometimes being a grown-up just sucks.)
Then my Dad got sick and family dysfunction exploded into new shrapnel-laden patterns and Frances’s hips got worse and we were told she would need reconstruction surgery and I decided that this would be the absolute perfect time to just go out dancing with strangers.
“Oh my god this is such fucking bullshit. This year is a bullshit monkey that can suck on an elephant’s balls I am so sick of this. No embroidery in the world is going to distract me from this overwhelming mountain of fucking bullshit and its bullshit spawn. Either I am going to punch this year in the fucking face or I am going out.”
I went out. I found a meet-up group for dancing lessons and just showed up in a room of strangers and started learning the bachata. I did not even know what the bachata was. Now I do. It’s a 4-step latin dance. There has also been some swing dancing, involving a lot of spinning, which is fun, even when I trip over my feet and/or fall over. If no one gets a concussion or loses a limb, I count it a success. (The secret to happiness is often having a low bar.)
As a result, almost every free weekend night for the past month-plus has been taken up with dancing. With strangers and near-strangers. It has been a very effective distraction.
My one issue being:
An almost complete lack of going-out clothes.
I don’t buy clothes anymore and everything I’ve made myself for the past few years, that one dress excepted which yes has now actually seen the outside of the house, has been either for work or for casual wear. I’m not even sure what counts as dancing-wear for the 40-something set. (Going shopping for some brings to mind that scene from Sisters–you know the one.)
So when I haven’t been out dancing, I have been home sewing clothes for dancing. My poor neglected pile of library books remains noticeably un-shrunk.
Which brings me, at incredibly long last, to V1353:
(Andrea’s Prologues! Now 10% longer, with added swearing!)
Here is the first try:
The fabric is a mid-weight linen/rayon blend bought last year at Fabricland, lined with a poly/rayon that I’ve decided I really like as it is mostly rayon and not at all slippery, unlike bemberg. Easy to sew with, presses beautifully, dirt cheap.
This is a test version, so I made a few obvious adjustments to the pattern–grading between a 14 at the waist and an 18 at the hips and bust, then adding another inch at the bust to the side front piece, plus an extra 1/2″ to the shoulders–but otherwise left it alone to see how it would work up. The instructions were clear and worked well, all the notches matched, and it mostly fit.
I do recommend basting the shoulders together quickly before adding the lining to see how it fits. A few more changes at that point:
1. removed 1″ from each centre back seam, tapering to 1/4″ at the waist, to stop it from gaping. I could have taken out a smidge more and will for version #2.
2. Took in side seams at the waist about 1″ (1/4″ per piece). Will take in a bit more from the next version. The bodice is quite loose.
3. Need to take out some at the armscye between the front and side front pieces–a bit too gapey. Also need to lengthen the front piece on the next version as it’s just a bit too high to hit the waist properly in the front. Since technically it isn’t supposed to hit my waist at all this isn’t a pattern error–but thanks to being bizarrely short-waisted, it does hit my waist in the back and I’d rather lengthen the front to match than shorten the back.
Then hours upon hours of hand-sewing to finish internal seams plus the saddle-stitching, which is a nice touch but does take forever.
I love it, and have a fabric and lining all picked out for version #2–this brilliantly fabulous lightweight linen which just screams dancing dress. (For sure it does not scream business suit or casual summer shorts.)
I’ve yet to see any bad versions of this pattern on the interwebz, so it seems a pretty safe bet and like it suits a variety of body sizes and types. I’ve noticed that for those who posted their tweaks and fixes as part of their review, taking an inch out of the top of the back centre seam on each side seems like a consistent alteration, so be warned.
Who knew I would finally have a valid excuse to sew up a bunch of dresses?
*I don’t think they do, actually. But bonus points if you recognize the source of the quote.
Frances: We’ll spend a couple of periods doing water games and things.
Me: Oh! That sounds like fun.
Frances: Yeah, so I’ll need you to finish that swimsuit for me.
Me: And you couldn’t have shared this with me before?
Frances: Well, I could have, but I forgot.
I made a swimsuit.
Of a fashion.
The pattern came from the summer 2015 issue of Ottobre–the one piece, with modifications for fit. The fabric was a mystery blend on discount from Fabricland, bought to make a cheap experimental version before the “real” one.
The pattern was fantastic, which I’ve come to expect from Ottobre; the fabric was fine; the whole thing sewed up well and I was pretty gobsmacked at how well the modifications worked. Frances hasn’t had a swimsuit that fits well for many years–the ones in the stores do not work for her at all, which is why I was making one in the first place.
I made a few tweaks to the cut of the legs, and that’s where it stood until the Water Day Declaration. All I had left to do was the hemming.
Instructions: “Sew 1/4″ clear elastic to the openings, then turn to the inside and coverstitch.”
1/4″ clear elastic sewn to the openings: check. Took maybe 25 minutes.
… Houston, we have a problem.
The looper stitches were a disaster. Nothing caught. The second line of stitching completely unraveled at the first touch on the two hems I first sewed, leaving little blue loops in the inside and an incredibly snug first line of stitching that had to be ripped out, one by one, taking forever.
Now, one of the things I love about having friends who sew, is when they share gems like this on social media (this one courtesy of Laura):
This gives you a pretty good idea of what it was like in my dining room that night. Only more colourful. There may have been hitting of the coverstitch machine (I hear that helps).
I undid the stitches; reset the threads; the lower looper unthreaded itself and I’d go a whole seam without stitches. Or none of the second line of stitching would catch at all and I’d have a really ugly line of chainstitches.
I spent more time ripping out the fucked-up coverstitches than I had spent to that point making the suit in its entirety.
Eventually, I picked up the machine and removed it to the laundry room before I gave in to the mounting impulse to toss it into the backyard. (Dew also helps, I’ve been told.)
Ripped out all the stitches again, thus stretching out the spandex along the edges something fierce, and hemmed it using the zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine.
Took 25 minutes. And it doesn’t look as nice as it would have if it had been coverstitched properly, but since proper cover-stitching was clearly impossible, it looks a hell of a lot better than the available alternatives.
Of course, with the hems all stretched out from the repeated sew-and-rip, I had to perform emergency tweaks to the seams to tug them back in a bit. No idea if it worked or not as Frances was asleep by that point (swearing at and pounding sewing machines helps children fall asleep–try it!) and she had to bring it to school the next morning. Since then it’s also accompanied her on a camping trip, but I still haven’t seen her wearing it; she says it’s “fine.” She is 12. These days, everything is “fine.”
Also, my coverstitch machine is likely going to be taking a trip back to the dealer, accompanied by some strong words, to see if they can figure out what in god’s name is wrong with the damned looper.
It didn’t work out. The flowers didn’t make it through the first wash, and when I removed them, I was confronted with the inescapable reality that the neckline had stretched out during sewing and could not be repaired.
Sad but true.
Happily: I had enough of that lovely silk-linen fabric left over to make a decent skirt. And here it is.
It’s the first ever garment I’ve made from a Burda magazine. Yes, I got a subscription. Alone out of all of my tech-loving sewmies, I hate pdf downloads. I hate buying them, I hate printing them, I hate worrying about the scale, I hate taping them together, I hate cutting them out once they’ve been taped, and I hate trying to store them afterwards. I would rather trace out a grayscale labyrinthian pattern sheet any day, if it saves me from the horror of the pdf download.
(I said horror, and I’ll say it again if I want to. Horror. See? I’ll keep it up, too, if I have to.)
It’s skirt 101A from the 3/2016 issue. It’s got a deep box pleat in the front, and is otherwise a simple a-line shape. And it’s got a cool extra-wide hem band at the bottom, which gives it a bit more weight and body.
Technically, it also has welt pockets, but I opted to omit those. I can hardly imagine how I would have botched the whole thing if I’d attempted to put them in, with my focus being what it is at the moment.
I drafted a lining for it as the silk-linen is loosely woven and a bit translucent on its own. You wouldn’t think so, since it’s not thin, but it is. The zipper is supposed to go on the side, but I put it on the back, and I used a wooden button at the waistband for the closure.
It was entirely unexceptional and unexciting. The pattern went together nicely and everything fit. The skirt is comfortable and just different enough to be worth making. The fabric is lovely and I enjoy petting it every time–silk linen! All the waxy stiffness of linen somehow combined with the softness and sheen of silk. It’s a technological miracle.
They are just the cutest. Aren’t they just the cutest? Look at the cute. Two itty bitty birds being all cuddly on a branch.
You can see why this was the companion piece for the LOVE cross-stitch. Dear Readers, if these two birds don’t love each other, I’ll eat my tea mug.
It’s a Trish Burr pattern from her book, Colour Confidence in Embroidery. Most of the book is an in-depth discussion of how to achieve shading effects in thread-painting, with examples of different kinds and colours of shading used in different ways. I expect it will be an enormously useful reference book basically forever. It also has a smaller section of thread-painting projects in the back, sorted by colour, to demonstrate the shading. This was one of those (it’s also a variation on the project she uses on the front page of her website, if you want to click through and see how a real expert does it).
The top fabric is a scrap of the cotton satin I used for my math skirt last summer; it has a lovely, subtle sheen. The backing fabric, underlined in the standard method, is a stiff white cotton muslin. They were then stretched taut in the kind of plastic hoop frame that has an inner groove to prevent things from slipping. I used a standard pencil to trace the pattern; next time I’ll use a mechanical to get a finer line. Don’t try to erase a mistake. The eraser left a larger mark on my fabric than the misplaced pencil did.
Having finally tried a project from this book, a review:
The picture to trace to the fabric worked, but could have been better labelled. What’s labelled as the “neck” on the diagram, when you actually get into the instructions, is actually the upper part of the chest. A couple of things are a slightly different size or angle from the pattern diagram to her finished example. I’m assuming that’s simply because she took one of her own finished works, made for herself, and reverse-engineered it for publication. You’d expect a few differences to creep in. None of the errors are significant, but do be prepared for an inconsistency here and there.
More concerning, the colours are represented in the book’s photography don’t always match the colours in the embroidery flosses she tells the reader to use. They’re close; it’s not like the picture shows purple and you buy the thread# she says and it turns out to be green. But going by the project photography, I was expecting something with a warmer tint throughout than what I got by following the instructions. Whether or how this will affect the usefulness of the prior section on colour shading (all of which also has photographs and thread#s) I can’t yet say.
I also learned some things that I shouldn’t have needed to learn because I knew them already and chose to disregard them:
Will your clean hands leave oil marks and stains on the white fabric? Yes.
Will you be able to wash those stains out afterwards? No.
Will they respond to bleach? Also no.
When you wash it, will the top fabric and the backing fabric shrink differently, even though they have been pre-washed? Quite possibly.
Will you curse yourself for having ignored the recommendations for avoiding these, after having spent so many hours making it? Absolutely.
Next time, will you promise to cover the project with white tissue paper when you’re not working on it, and when you handle the frame, will you do so with a piece of clean, plain white cotton between your hand and the project? Yes. A million times yes. And then yes some more.
It’s still a nice project, but I’m kicking myself for not having taken these minor extra steps to prevent this from happening. And I’ve learned my lesson. Next time (and there will be a next time; I’m definitely a thread-painting addict now)–fabric protection! Very key!
At any rate, it has been framed and added to the wall and our sofa is cuter than ever.
She loves to read, and if the gifts she’s accumulated in her house over many decades are any guide, she loves little embroidered things.
Either that, or people have been giving them to her for years and she’s been too nice to say she hates them. In which case, I have added to her stockpile of unwanted embroidered things, and I apologize.
Being me, I couldn’t leave the directions alone, and had to “improve” upon them. I did this in two ways: 1) The use of hand-dyed linen instead of the white irish linen recommended, and 2) using a bit of buckram in the middle to stiffen it, instead of cardstock or stiff paper.
The linen was maybe not the best choice. This was a piece from the bug juice test dyeing of a few years back, and it is a lovely shade of pink (Aunt Sue, please don’t think about it being stained with the blood of dead lady cactus beetles). The colour contrasts quite well with the butterfly colours. But the linen is quite fine which, while perfect for less heavy embroidery, turned out to be a challenge for thread painting. There is so much thread and it is so thickly layered, and it’s hard to be precise with needle placement when the fabric warp and weft are placed rather spaciously. I think it turned out ok, but it could have been better, for sure.
The buckram would have been a fantastic idea, if I’d remembered about turn of cloth and not cut out a piece exactly as big as the finished bookmark. Once I’d sewn it together, flipped it around, and then topstitched it flat, it buckled in the middle something fierce. Very disappointing.
I got that far just before Christmas but couldn’t bring myself to mail a wobbly bookmark to my Aunt.
And there it sat for three months.
Just before her birthday I finally straightened my head out, took out the seams, removed the buckram, cut off a quarter inch from the top and one side, put the buckram back in, and sewed it all up again, after pressing as many of the creases out as I could. So much better. Now it’s smooth and much less wonky looking.
I know some people are big fans of wonky but it’s not a look that works well with thread painting.
Aunt Sue is a lovely, warm-hearted, generous, and unbelievably positive woman with a kind word for everyone and a possibly limitless capacity for forgiveness. It was a lot of fun to make her a little something. Here’s hoping the next time I do, I’ll remember to mail it before at least one of its intended celebrations.