Frances graduated from grade 8 this year (!!!) and for reasons previously discussed, if she were going to have a grad dress, I would to have to make it for her. (!!!) Alterations for off-the-rack are a huge pain and many of them (like making the neckline smaller) are just not possible. Frances wasn’t worried, though. In fact, she was so not worried that she sent me a picture of the dress style she wants, in the total confidence that I would be able to knock it off–said picture not representing any pattern I have or could find on the internet.
Tilted waistline, gathered skirt, sweetheart neckline, ruched bodice, chiffon overlay–oh ok sure. No problem sweetheart. Let me whip that up for you.
First step: muslin and mock-up.
I found two prom dress patterns from McCall (M7321 and M7281) that had parts of what we were looking for: sweetheart neckline, chiffon overlays, gathered or circle skirts. No tilted waist, but Frances decided she could do without; and no ruching, which despite Frances’s confidence is truly beyond me right now, at least in a pattern-hacking capacity. I also found some gorgeous satin faille at the closing sale I mentioned a while back in an absolutely beautiful silvery lilac-blue and picked up 4 yards for less than $20, so that I knew I could make mistakes and have lots left to start over with. While no solid chiffon I found anywhere was a colour match, this floral chiffon from Fabricland works. Frances wanted this only on the yoke; the rest of it will be just the solid faille, so we now have a ton of floral poly chiffon we won’t be needing. (Any takers?)
Despite having lots of extra, I did make and alter a muslin of the bodice first, altered once, then a bodice sewn/basted up, further altered.
Incidentally, the McCalls pattern we are using for the bodice (M7321) sucks. Seamlines don’t match; there are notches on one side of the princess seam and no corresponding notches on the other side. I bet lots of highschool girls making their own prom dress decide as a result of using this pattern that they can’t sew, which is a damned shame.
Frances wanted just a gathered skirt, so I used the overskirt pieces from M7321 pattern and gathered it right to the thread’s capacity. Any more and I’m sure the thread would have snapped. We made it floor length and then shortened it accordingly. The lining is the flared skirt from M7281, cut in a size to match the waist measurement, to reduce bulk in the waist seam (no gathers). All sizing was chosen based on the finished measurements on the pattern tissue.
The sleeves were modified from the pattern to be cap sleeves, like the one in the photo, except puffier.
The neckline hem is a bias binding strip. I wanted extra thickness and bulk there to take the weight of the dress and this seemed the best way to do that. All of the seams in the chiffon are french seams. It looks pretty tidy if I do say so myself.
Most importantly, Frances loves it. When it was finally done (and this was another this-took-forever project) she hugged it and said “it’s so pretty!” Mind: Frances is a girl to whom “pretty” is usually close to a dirty word. It’s not that she doesn’t like it or approve of it for other people, but she generally wants no taint of it on herself. “Is this comfortable?” and “how late can I sleep without missing the school busy if I wear this?” are her usual concerns. But when pretty counts, she should have pretty, I believe.
It was done on the Sunday before the Thursday evening ceremony. And she does look beautiful in it. She doesn’t want a photo of her in the dress from the front on the internet, which I am going to respect, so I’ll leave it to your imagination.
And I’m so glad it’ll be at least a few years before I need to tackle another grad dress.
Edna St Vincent Millay is one of my favourite poets. Besides packing stadiums for poetry readings during the Depression–besides writing whip-cracking cynical gems alongside her better known odes to springtime and nature–she also broke every convention for women in her day, and thrived for it, including a lifelong open marriage. One can’t say her work reflects in general a commitment to a responsible adulthood:
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
My guess is that her version of burning the candle at both ends was not the 21st century supermom version, where you’re working 40 hours or more officially, and then going home and working another 40 unofficially, basically burning that candle out in service to everyone but yourself. We all have to pay the bills and, if there are small people in our lives who depend on us for care, we need to follow through; in all lives a little obligation must fall. But not only obligation. Right?
Millay was, from all accounts, an expert at identifying at separating out what she actually had to do (or not do) from what other people told her that she had to do (or not do), and then utterly ignoring the latter whenever it suited her. I’ve read that she and Sarah Teasdale (another poet from the same time period, but a bit older) had a falling out when Teasdale realized that Millay had no intention of becoming Teasdale’s version of a proper young lady. Teasdale committed suicide; Millay died of old age; at the risk of oversimplifying well past the bounds of good taste, enough said.
I guess this means there may be more Millay in this blog’s future, at least for title inspiration. And now allow me to segue awkwardly from this poem/blog title to the sewing project:
It does look kind of like a dress you could burn the candle at both ends in, doesn’t it? Fine for work. Good for weekend socializing. Also good for late nights and dancing. I’ve now proved this for all three.
So I love this dress. I even wore it back to the fabric store where I bought the linen (Downtown Fabrics on Queen W if any of you are curious–but I didn’t see any left when I was there on Saturday) and the store owner thought I did it justice, and I have it on good authority that it’s moderately flattering, but it’s not without its problems.
Nice bodice construction. Two-piece sleeves with a dart at the cap for a great shape with lots of movement (that I shortened to make it summery). Good, fitted skirt with a flounce gives lots of space for walking and, yes, dancing.
Waistband does not sit on the waist.
The line drawings make it look like it should, and so does the photo of the dress laid flat.
Put it on the model, and you can see the bottom of the waist band is about where her actual waist is.
I didn’t notice this until I sewed it up, tried it on, squawked, and went back and looked at the magazine photo. It does the same on me.
This was frustrating, as I chose the size of the waistband pieces based on how they would fit on my waist, not on my ribs. Thus it’s a bit snug there, but I expect it will loosen up over time. Consequently this means there is also more ease on my actual waist than I planned; I snugged it in a bit during construction and I may do so again if it proves to be really too loose, but it is comfortable.
Also, the waistband pieces don’t match the darts/seamlines on the bodice.
Why the hell not, I don’t know.
I traced 38 there for everything, and it matched on the bottom, but the waistband side seams do not match the side seams on the bodice. However the total length of the waistband was a perfect (if rib-constraining) match with the bodice at that seam.
I gave myself a 1″ FBA on the princess seams, and it worked out just about perfectly. I also reduced the width and length of the back pieces before cutting the fabric based on what’s worked for previous woven dresses, which means zipper installation was slightly less frustrating than it sometimes is. So this was a first try for this pattern and barring some fairly easily corrected issues, it went together nicely and fit well. I’ll make a fall/winter version with long sleeves, assuming I can find a nice winter-ish dress fabric with just a bit of stretch.
I should be a size 40/44, but I cut a size 38/40 with a FBA on the bodice and some me-specific alterations elsewhere. It does have a fair bit of ease, which is odd considering they state explicitly that you should choose only dress fabrics with stretch. This completely not-stretchy-linen handled the sizing down just fine, barring the ribs thing. I’d measure the waistband pattern pieces and compare to your preferred waist fit to find your desired starting size-but be careful and check to make sure that the length of the bodice pieces will put the waistband actually on or near your waist.
This is a super simple darted blouse with a yoke and an ease pleat. You’ve seen and sewn it before. But the flounce and ruffle variations looked like fun, so:
Basic, no ruffles or flounce, using leftover Liberty lawn from a different blouse years ago.
Oh my god. How things have changed. Let’s not discuss that.
Anyway: having learned my lesson that tana lawn does not drape and is not suitable for patterns where drape is required, the remnants were used for a structured pattern with buttons and everything. It was, despite using the sizes dictated by my measurements (40/44), quite loose–not what I was expecting at all. Not a bad thing so long as I wear it with something that it can be tucked into, and frankly the short sleeves and thin fabric make it better for spring anyway.
Still, overall it worked well and justified a fancier second try.
Altered sleeves, front flounce, fabric mixing.
I have this shirt I bought years ago at Tristan America that I cannot let go of. Since starting to sew I’ve realized that it doesn’t actually fit–the darts end at the wrong place–not that non-sewers ever notice, but you know how it is: I notice, and it drives me nuts. But I love it; it has so many fantastic design elements that I hold on to it for inspiration, if nothing else.
The sleeves! Pleated at the cap, smocked through the bicep. I would love to find a sewing pattern that actually had something like this, but alas, no.
And the fabric mixing!
The front and upper sleeves are a normal shirting fabric.
The back and undersleeves are jersey.
As a whole, the bodice of the shirt has almost no ease, but because of the jersey, it fits perfectly and is incredibly comfortable to wear.
As it happens, I had leftover bamboo jersey and a cotton voile in almost the exact same shade of light grey. Fate. Right? So:
Got rid of the ease please in the back, altered the sleeve to pleat the cap and add more volume, used the flounce this time, sized the whole thing down to slight negative ease, and made the back out of jersey. My scrap wasn’t quite wide enough at the top so there’s a bit of fabric piecing near the shoulders. Good enough for government work, I say.
Some things become apparent with try #2:
The sleeve has a lot more ease in the front of the armscye than the back. This wasn’t a huge deal with the first version, but with the second version, where the pleat needs to be centred on the shoulder, it became much more visible.
The waist is a smidge high. On the loose version you can’t really tell, because the waist is lost anyway in approximately an acre of fabric. But when I made it fitted, I could see that the waist was about 1″ higher than my waist, which is already pretty high. Be warned and check for that before cutting.
The misplaced waist is what’s behind the pull lines on this version. It does up quite easily across the bust but it pulls against that spot on the sides. You can see how they continue on to the back. And the upper “pull lines” are a result of me not shortening the top of the armscye quite enough. Sigh.
I’m getting a lot of wear out of this one. I needed something to wear with all of the brightly coloured skirts I’ve made up recently.
Coral cotton voile. I was going to do the ruffles instead of the flounce, except that the ruffles are not hemmed (and are cut on the bias to reduce fraying). I know bias cut is supposed to make sure things don’t fray but this cotton is prone to disintegration and I didn’t trust it to hold. So I did the flounce again. Regular short sleeves. Put the ease pleat back in but took a lot of volume out of the sides. And lowered the waist by about 1″.
I might fuss a bit with the front darts if I make this up again. And you can see there’s still a lot of room in the waist, despite sizing down and taking a lot out of the sides.
I don’t know how or why but these buttons were a perfect colour match. How often does that happen?
The only thing I’m not sure I like is the sleeves. If it bugs me I’ll come back and nip them in a bit to lie closer to the shoulder, but I’ll try wearing them this way first. After all, I want to be able to move my arms.
Me: Do you suppose it’s enough to make a shirtdress?
Elizabeth: Hmm. Maybe … I don’t know.
Something about the idea of a super colourful not particularly serious fabric made into something semi-serious like a shirtdress made me happy, and I wasn’t about to let a little thing like a potential lack of yardage stop me. Nor would I be deterred by a lack of shirtdress patterns, due to a longstanding disinterest in shirtdresses. (All those buttonholes! So much work!)
So with my potentially inadequate fabric supply in hand, I set off to find a shirtdress pattern I didn’t hate and that could be sewn up with less than 2m of fabric.
I scoured my Burda back issues and the Big 4 online sites. I couldn’t find one. So naturally, I bought three.
I know. But the top of one had cup sizing and the bottom of the other had a narrow skirt with pleats that didn’t use much fabric and the other one was neither, but was actually very pretty and I thought I might make it up another time.
M7351 is the bodice (view A without the pockets) and B6333 is the skirt (view C). By using a contrast fabric for the second button band, the under collar and the interior collar stand, I was able to just eke everything out. (Which also cut down on the thickness a bit and added a splash of really bright yellow.) I cut the interior pockets out of leftover cotton voile and use scraps of the Nani Iro for facing (not in the pattern, but easy enough to hack).
It looks like I may be the only person on the internet to have sewn up the narrow pleated skirt on B6333, so in the interests of furthering sewing knowledge: it works, and it’s a great way to save on yardage if you’re trying to squeak out a shirtdress in not a lot of fabric. The front is perfect, but I find the back a bit small at the hips, so it pulls a bit towards the back as you can see in the side shots.
Sizing was the usual Big 4 adventure: 10D for the M7351 and 12 for the skirt, and even though it’s the same company producing them for the same sizes with the same measurements, only by choosing different sizes was I able to match the waist. Keep in mind that a size 10 is supposed to be for a 25″ waist, which means approximately 5″ of ease; and that according to the charts I should have been a size 16/18 in both. If I were to make this again I would keep the waist the same but add maybe 1/2″ to each side at the hips on the back piece.
BMV likes to argue that you can use their ease charts along with the measurement charts to pick a size. Nope. Neither shirtdress has an ease rating; they just says “dresses.” The amount of ease at the waist on the McCall bodice would put it into the “loose” category. To be fair, both included the finished bust and hip measurements on the website, which normally isn’t available; but once again you have to buy the pattern to find out the finished measurement of the waist. This means for some reason a 5″ ease was considered appropriate for the waist on one shirtdress and 3″ ease was chosen for the other one, with no particular rationale given.
Putting it together was fairly simple. I didn’t even look at the instructions; if you’ve made a few button-up shirts and a few pleated skirts with side-seam pockets, there’s nothing new or surprising here. The seams are mostly serged; there’s some topstitching where you might expect to find topstitching; the hem was serged and then turned up once, to reduce bulk. I actually didn’t look at the instructions so I can’t say whether they’re any good or not. But the pattern(s) worked.
Just because it was May at this point was no reason not to delay completion of the dress further while I futzed around with embellishing it.
In my opinion matching up a bright large-scale watercolour print with a shirtdress is enough subversion for something to wear to work, so I decided to complement the pattern by adding some stitches in the exact same colour to some areas of the dress.
Blue: french knots, either singly or in clusters
Peach & light pink: satin stitches
Yellow: bullion knots
I wanted to do something with the neon pink, but no one makes a neon pink embroidery floss. Neon yellow, neon green, even neon blue for crying out loud. But no neon pink.
It’s subtle but it works, IMO. You can’t see stitching in the dress photos, but you can see areas where the print “pops” or stands out a bit more. Those are the stitched areas.
General non-adventure sewingishness
I chose teal buttons from my stash that matched the flowers I embellished with the french knots. On the fabric it’s a bit of a pop; on the yellow button band it’s pretty eye-searing. Not that that’s a bad thing. And I like the bits of yellow that peak out and the bright buttons. There has to be a bit of clashing, right?
Anyway: it’s a shirtdress, it’s done, I made it work with less than 2m of fabric, and I took a type of garment I’d been avoiding forever because it seemed like so much work and made it 10x harder than it needed to be, but I like it.
It’s a slightly stiff (poplin?) lightweight cotton with a watercolour print of trees, leaves, flowers and birds. I lined it with white cotton voile to keep it very light and wearable for super-hot days in the summer (so here’s hoping we have at least one or two this year). And it is a V1353 again, which makes #3. I made a few minor fitting fidgets but otherwise it is the same as the rainbow linen one.
One of the fitting fidgets was less successful; the bust darts on the rainbow linen one are quite low, so I raised them about an inch on the pattern paper. When the dress was ready for trying on I realized this was because the rainbow linen one had loosened up over the year and now sits about an inch lower than it did, so now the bird-print version darts are too high. Oops. At this point it’ll either stay high, or loosen up and sink as the rainbow one did, and only time will tell.
This one was fussy-cut as I didn’t want to decapitate any birds in a pleat or a seamline. That would be grisly. So I laid the pattern pieces out on the fabric on a single layer so I could be sure that the birds remained whole. I also tried to maintain some print continuity between the skirt and bodice but the pleats made that really hard. It’s kind of there. I do like how one branch crawls up a shoulder (that part I do remember doing on purpose). You can’t clearly see any of the birds on a skirt in any of these pictures so please just take my word for it that no bird parts were severed in the making of this dress.
Does anything make this different from the rainbow linen dress or am I just bragging about the fabric find? (Cheap too! 40% off so like $8/m or so.)
Just the hem stitching.
The instructions tell you to do a saddle stitch by hand to hold the wide hem band in place. I’ve yet to do so. (A saddle stitch is a kind of double running stitch that looks like a back stitch when done. Why you wouldn’t just do a back stitch, I’m not sure. I mean, in leather or anything with two visible faces, sure; but for something like this there’s really no advantage.) This time I did a 1/4″ running stitch instead, with an even width marked off by a quilting ruler and a chalk wheel, in white perle cotton. It’s a bit chunky but still shiny, and very subtle on the dress background. So subtle, in fact, that you can’t even see it in the pictures.
You can see a smidge of puckering in spots along that line because the hem band and the skirt were not precisely the same size, and that was with a good amount of pulling and yanking on the skirt to stay even. Overall I’m happy with it though.
According to the measurement chart I should be a size 16/18 (you’re all going to get sick of me saying that).
This dress is cut as a size 12/14 and then tweaked for individual fit issues:
1. Removed 1″ from each centre back seam, tapering to 1/4″ at the waist, to stop the zipper from gaping.
2. Took in side seams at the waist over 1″.
3. Took out length in the front armscye around the princess dart to reduce gaping.
4. Lengthened the bodice front about 1/2″ to eliminate waist tilt.
Fellow sewers, do you find it weird when people compliment dresses and overlook handmade pants and buttoned shirts?
I guess dresses look more impressive, but in my experience, pants and buttoned shirts are a thousand times more challenging. More seams, more moving parts, more things to be fitted and it’s more obvious when it’s wrong.
I can whip up a t-shirt in an afternoon, a skirt in a day, a knit dress in a weekend, a woven dress in a week or two–and this shirt took over a year.
Now a lot of that is plain old procrastination, of the “this is going to take forever, I’ll just make a dress instead” kind. But a lot of it is that this is a very very involved project.
It has a lined yoke, hidden button placket, proper collar and cuffs, hem facing, and a tower sleeve placket.
Plus I also decided to make this my first-ever silk crepe de chine project, so everything is made with french seams–which means, they’re all sewn twice. And sewing marks couldn’t be made with a wheel or chalk so were instead made with tailor tacks.
I bought the silk, I think, two years ago. I cut out the pattern over a year ago. I spent one weekend making all the tailor tacks. Another weekend sewing together the main shirt pieces. A weekend messing up the collar. A day fixing the collar. Another weekend making and attaching the sleeves, and attaching the hem facing. A day doing the handstitching and fixing the collar (again). And then another evening finishing up the hand-sewing.
The collar still isn’t perfect–the only thing I could think of to interface it with that wouldn’t alter the colour (it’s pretty sheer) is itself, so that’s what I did, and it is a bit wobbly as a result. And the silk was very stretchy, slippery and fussy so some seams are not as neat as they could have been. But overall, I think, it’s pretty. Plus it’s red silk and such a classic style I should be able to wear it forever.
Sizing Notes and Alterations:
–I chose the size based on the bust measurement as it’s meant to be loose and drapey and will be tucked into things with a snug waist. Thus it’s a 14 all over. (Which is two sizes smaller than I’m supposed to be–I went by the finished measurements printed on the paper pattern.) It’s mostly ok. I had to add in another button on the front to keep it closed across the chest because the volume is all elsewhere, which is annoying. I’d have to think about how to fix that if I make it up again.
Still, if you are thinking of making up this pattern, you can probably size down by two and still have a loose, drapey blouse.
–I didn’t shorten the sleeves on this one. Instead, I tapered from a 14 at the shoulder to an 8 at the wrist (small bones), so that the cuff is small enough to keep the sleeve from slipping down my hand. This keeps it in the loose/drapey mold. I probably could have taken an inch off the length, though, and kept the drape.
Other than that, it is as the pattern had it, and it all worked out fine. Fussy, finicky, and forever, but fine.
I’ve wanted to make this dress for ages, but could never find a fabric I thought it would work well in. It’s a regular jersey dress, yes; but the twist meant I wanted something with a bit of body that would hold the shape. Or at least, hold it longer than something soft and drapey would.
This is a cotton jersey from Fabricland that is just a bit stiff (and was on sale) and it seems to work fine.
Given the twist in the pattern pieces, it’s hard to measure the flat pattern to ensure the fit. I made it a 40 at the waist and 44 at the bust/hips and hoped for the best.
Construction is super simple. It’s four pieces: front, back, two sleeves. (Technically I guess it’s six since there’s a front and back facing, but those are just shorter versions of the front and back.) Because the sleeves have a twist in them, it’s important to sew them together and insert them in the round, which otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered with. Otherwise: sew the front and back together, insert the sleeves, sew the facing pieces together and attach it to the dress, clean finish the armholes, hem the bottom. Voila: dress.
Basically no fitting changes were made. I did have to take it in a bit at the sides after trying it on, but no biggie.
The bottom of the facing is just serged, and the dress hem is serged and then turned up once.
The twist does not like to stay put, so there’s a bit of wrenching it back into position while it’s being worn, particularly when say walking or dancing, or doing anything other than standing still for photos. Otherwise it looks just like the pattern photo and is a really cute take on a basic jersey sheath dress.
I’d definitely make this one again. A lightweight, structured knit without a lot of drape is key to hold the twist in the waist, if you decide to make this yourself.
This is one of those projects where a well-timed Burda issue, a Fabricland sale and a nice fabric on the ends table combined to make a skirt project that I in no way need but will wear a lot anyway.
It’s sewn up twice in the magazine; the floral version looks pegged, and the solid version doesn’t. Go figure. But I loved the “pockets” (more on that below) and it looked work appropriate and the print is perfect for a bunch of very brightly coloured tops I have already. This is a lightweight cotton satin.
1) Size down. There’s three inches of ease in the waistband. No one needs three inches of ease in a pencil skirt waist. What were they even thinking? Even after sizing down I still took about an inch out of the waist.
2) Be extremely precise with your hem allowances. Because of the “pockets” panel, all pieces are hemmed *before* being sewn together. There was a whole lot of finishing, hemming, pinning, unpinning, rehemming, and repinning in the skirt construction for me, and even so, one of the edges doesn’t quite line up.
3) It’s not lined: serge, overlock, or otherwise finish the seam allowances before joining.
4) It’s not particularly pegged.
Is it? The actual skirt pieces have a pegged shape, but the side seams are left open for a slit for walking and it takes the shaping right out. I took about an inch out of the bottom back seam, tapering to the hips, and it helped–these photos are post-pegging. The original was very boxy.
5) With the instructions as written, they’re not pockets, they’re “pockets”: They’re not sewn horizontally to the underlying skirt anywhere. This is easy to fix by sewing them down yourself, but it’s a weird and puzzling gap.
6) I still found it a bit loose at the waist. I took in the waist about an extra inch to get a snugger fit, which was a pain in the butt, but less so than having a loose pencil skirt.
7) It is very long and because you do the hemming first, it’s not possible to shorten it after you try it on.
8) Also, I misunderstood the directions with how to attach the “pocket” panel to the skirt below the first seam mark and edgestitched it. Which is fine, but apparently you’re supposed to sew the rest of it down on the *inside* edge, not the outside edge. No biggie but I’d do it the other way next time.
It’s a nice, if finicky, skirt pattern with a few interesting details that make it a bit different from a standard pencil skirt. I recommend being very careful in choosing and tracing a size due to how difficult it is to alter afterwards, and making up a first version in something less expensive to see what you think of the length. I’d probably shorten it by about six inches myself.
According to Vogue, I am a size 16-18. The website lists only the back length and hem width for this pattern’s finished garment measurements. What’s a sewer to do?
After long experience with Vogue et al’s ridiculous ease issues, I cut a size 14, which was still too big.
I don’t know about all of you but I’m getting really sick of Big 4 fit and ease issues. It wouldn’t be so bad if they listed meaningful finished measurements on the website (and if those measurements were always accurate–but they’re not) so you could pick a size that fits based on published information somewhere. But it’s a shot in the dark every time. The Burda mag has ease issues too, but at least with the pattern in front of me before I trace/cut I can figure out which size is actually going to fit.
Rant aside: I made it work.
It’s a knit dress with a fitted two-piece yoke, an empire waist, and two-piece raglan sleeves with length options. I made view D.
Standard fixes for me:
1. Took about 3/8″ off the shoulder seam.
2. Took in about 1/4″ on the raglan seams, front and back.
3. Took in about 1 1/2″ on the top of the zipper, and nipped in quite a bit at the waist through the back seam. If I made this one again I’ll distribute it more but after edge stitching the yoke to the top and skirt, I didn’t want to unpick to take in at the sides.
4. Shortened the back yoke at the waist too. I’d rather have taken it out of the seams at the top and the skirt but, again, edgestitching.
Next time I’d also broaden the shoulders at the sleeves and widen the bodice front a bit. I’ve got those pleats stretched out pretty far and it’s not meant to be like that.
I used knit interfacing on the yoke pieces and sewed them up with a regular stitch rather than stretch or serge. The last thing I wanted was for the yoke/waist to bag out and that skirt is pretty heavy. So the waist is, so far as I can make it, not stretchy. That’s making what looks like pull lines–it’s not; it’s the interfacing letting go of the fabric after washing. I ironed it back on and it was fine. There’s also clear elastic all over the place. You can see it a bit at the shoulder seams, which I’m not 100% thrilled with, but anything that keeps it from becoming a bright red garbage bag through wear gets a thumbs up from me.
I think it’s going to be a perfect summer dancing dress.
There’s been a discussion on the McCalls FB group–several, actually–about BMV sizing and ease. So a slight rant extension:
Sizing charts put me at a 16-18, as stated.
This pattern is described as close-fitting.
According to the BMV ease charts, that means 0-3″ of ease at bust and hips.
That’s the manufacturer’s sample photo, which certainly shows very minimal ease.
Knit garments often have negative ease and rely on stretch for fit.
The pattern has 1 1/2″ of ease at the waist according to the pattern tissue, which should have meant a 29 1/2″ waist on a size 14.
But when you measure the tissue and subtract the seam allowances, it’s actually 30″. So that’s 2″ of ease at the waist on a close-fitting knit dress.
This pattern has the perfect confusion storm of wearing ease, design ease, and inaccurate finished measurements combining to create a pattern where it is impossible to know from any published information which size is going to fit.
With a dress like this, 2″ of ease at the waist is going to completely destroy the fit. There shouldn’t be any ease. In order to support the pleats in the top of the garment, the yoke pieces need to sit securely on the hips. In order to hold the weight of the skirt (particularly the flared one) the waist also needs to fit snugly, or the whole thing would just stretch out into a potato sack. A ponte might–might–be able to hold the structure with 2″ of wearing ease at the waist, on one of the sheath versions. But the lightweight jerseys recommended on the pattern? Or for the flared skirts? No. The only way they would hold the shape of the dress is if the yoke and waistband pieces are snug enough to rest the structure of the dress on the hips, and not just hang from the shoulders.
If I had cut the size 16 that I am supposed to be and sewn it up, it would have been a waste of my time and the fabric.
BMV, fix your damned issues, and stop gaslighting your customers. You have a sizing/ease problem. The only people who don’t see it have somehow convinced themselves that making a muslin first for every freaking pattern is a necessary state of affairs. God help me if I always started with the size you told me I’m supposed to be; nothing would ever fit.
Back in 2015 I visited the ROM for the Viva Mexico exhibit on Mexican textiles, clothing and embroidery. I took a ton of pictures, hoping that I would have a good use for them one day–and that day is today!
Most of the pictures are my own; I’ve taken a few from elsewhere where necessary and will credit when that’s the case.
Everything at this exhibit was created by regular people in out-of-the-way places. Everything was made by hand; some garments were traditional and some more modern. But all were beautifully embroidered and embellished. Professional embroiderers were commissioned for many (maybe all) of them, but in this case “professional embroiderers” means “local nameless expert,” not “D&G” or “Alexander McQueen”–but they’re all producing work at that level.
Satin stitch, with beautiful sharp borders and gorgeous shading. The shading, however, isn’t particularly blended; there are borders between shades.
And then they wore it. Imagine spilling dinner on it.
This one has more long-and-short stitch, used to effect a more gradual transition between colours. But look at those borders. And see too how, even though the fabric is very sheer, you can’t see any threads or knots from behind.
The whitework is stunning too. Those flowers are perfectly regular.
A detail from the neckline. Some of the tendrils look to have been done with a stem or back stitch.
The leaves have a naturalistic border, while the flowers have dark outlines, further highlighted by bright light colours immediately adjacent. It makes them slightly more graphic, but still the overall effect is of “beautiful shiny bright flowers” not “hand-stitched.”
The knots are most likely buried within the stitching on the reverse to ensure nothing shows on the right side.
On the garment as a whole:
The hem is plain. All of the attention is drawn to the top half.
The embroidered motif in the centre is quite stiff, and that pushes the lightweight fabric out to either side.
There is a nearly-but-not-quite-symmetric pansy motif (in particular, colours change between sides while shapes remain the same). There’s a lot of little birds, and a few non-pansy flowers.
Look how flat and smooth it all is. From this distance, the main stitch is a satin or long-and-short stitch.
A little closer.
At the top of the smocked/gathered panel in the middle, human figures are stitched in a band. They’re all wearing slightly different outfits.
And a close-up:
The shading between colours on petals and leaves is flawless. You have stem stitches and french knots for stamens and buds.
Someone made this by hand. Isn’t it incredible?And then they wore it.
The garment’s outer edge looks, to my eye, to be a crocheted border embroidered with a buttonhole stitch in bright blue. It gives that frilly, scalloped look you see in the first two photos.
This one is cross stitched. I bet you could wear your eyes out looking for a single stitch that is less than perfectly square.
It’s less naturalistic and more geometric, because that’s what cross stitch does best; but the overall colour scheme is much the same and you still have repeating motifs of flowers, leaves and birds.
Another garment with perfectly even cross stitches, again with flowers and leaves. This one is more naturalistic than the first one. The ribbons around the neckline are pleated and the three embroidered sections appear to me to be joined by the pink ribbon. It’s not quite symmetric; the motifs on the left and right haven’t been mirrored, for one thing; and for another, the colour of some elements is changed.
My guess is that this was done without the aid of waste canvas.
More pleating and smocking between embellished panels, but this one has been beaded. The beads are applied in a line, creating an illustrated effect.
Again you’ve got flowers, leaves and birds.
In the middle the words “libertad” has been embroidered into the sun, so I guess this is an early example of political clothing.
The centre panel has been completed with more of a bead-weaving style, where the shapes are filled in.
It’s hard to make beads behave as regularly and predictably as thread, as you can see here; but also when you zoom in, you can see that some of the wonkiness in the line is because the beading is used to embellish smocked sections.
I think this also helps to illustrated different looks created by outlining a shape, filling it in, or outlining and filling it in. Outlined shapes have more weight, particularly if a dark outline is immediately adjacent to a bright or light area.
C) That said, flowers, birds, and repeating motifs are hardly unique to Mexico, and embroidered tunics are not a North American innovation. Just exercise some common sense and don’t be an asshole.
You can’t go wrong with a brightly coloured floral.
Packing the motifs in and covering the textile is very visually effective. It will also take forever.
Keeping motifs in a similar scale works well, even if it’s not quite realistic (such as the small birds in amongst the flowers).
Beads like to be wonky. You can make them less wonky if you are exceptionally careful and outline larger shapes.
Cross stitches, when used to create pictures or motifs, should be as square, even and regular as you are capable of making them.
Satin stitches should be shiny and smooth with even borders. They should follow the shape so that they can reflect the light well.
Embroidery makes fabric stiff, particularly when it’s dense, and the embroidered fabric will hang differently.
If you wanted to recreate something similar as a beginner, I’d choose an opaque, medium-weight, white cotton like muslin or poplin, stabilized with maybe more muslin or poplin behind, with a medium-sized floral motif in either cross-stitch or long-and-short stitch. Cross stitch will be easier to do well with a larger stitch size, in the 11 ct range, using 3 or 4 strands of cotton floss. Long-and-short stitch is normally done with one strand of floss or thread at a time, but you could use two to save a bit of time, particularly for larger motifs. To make a nice clean border, particularly if you’re not sure about being able to make even satin or long-and-short stitches, use a buttonhole or chain stitch around the edge. Buttonhole will blend easier with the long-and-short if that’s the way you go, but inevitably it means the border colour will be blended into the motif.
If you are, as I am, a person with a job and responsibilities and the desire to spend free time doing something other than embroidering one garment and also a desire to finish and wear the garment before it goes out of date, I’d also recommend embroidering a small part of a garment: a collar, cuff, neckband, button band, part of a yoke, waistband, pocket.
The needle painted butterflies for this bookmark project took me an hour or slightly more each, and they are just about one inch square. Just to give you an idea of how much time to allocate to a smallish motif–plan on an hour, especially if you’re just getting started.