This skirt tested my fitting abilities to the limit. Such a pretty pattern–
–and so many opportunities for the fit to go disastrously wrong, most of which I found on version #1. So:
To tweak the fit with something low-risk, I made the shorter variation out of some leftover wool. And promptly discovered it was much too big all around. Why does this keep happening? At any rate, I ended up taking it in–several times. The lining was much too big as well, which was hard to discover in advance as it was a single piece cut on the fold with two darts and joined together in the back. I had to sew it up with about a 4″ seam allowance to get it to be the right size.
I feel like I’m making up the size as indicated on the pattern but maybe I need to recheck the measurements because this was pretty ridiculous. Anyway:
Multiple unstitchings and restitchings later, I finally got something that is mostly ok, but it’s still a bit wavy and weird in the back. It’s wearable, I think, but not great. So instead of moving on to the nice fabric, I thought I should make another test version:
This time with the longer version and the drapey godet in the back, out of a poly/rayon/spandex fabric. ($6/m. Can’t beat that.)
It’s red. Hurray!
The adjustments on this version worked really well. It only needed a few tweaks to fit just about perfectly. Except for the lining, which was still way too big.
When wearing, I discovered that the front waistline is about half an inch too high, and that the waist as a whole is about an inch too loose to stay put. So these were tweaked for version #3. You’ll notice that the drapey godet in the back does not drape the same as it does in the pattern drawing. More on that in version #3.
Version 3: Wherein I Found More Fitting Issues
Apparently I over-corrected the fit for version 2 out of the stretchy fabric, because when I cut it out of the not-stretchy silk-wool blend, it didn’t want to zip up. I was able to loosen it enough to make it technically work, but I was worried about the stress on the seamlines so I re-cut the ruched side pieces and the upper back pieces. It worked perfectly and it is now very comfortable.
It is a really fantastic fabric–and even after needing to recut some pieces I still have enough leftover to make a handbag–and it doesn’t drape the same as the red one does, so the back godet is an issue. It’s interesting still and I like it but, meh. It might have been better if I’d gone for the version where the godet is two pieces sewn together down the middle, so the grain runs differently. But it’s too late to find out now. (But it’s not too late for you, Dear Readers!)
I still love that side pleating bit.
I think, given that it’s silk-wool and fully lined, this is one I can wear in fall and winter. So I’ll just pretend I got a head start on next season’s sewing rather than having taken forever to make up something from last winter. It is a really cute pattern. I highly recommend a muslin, as the fit is challenging to tweak with the seamlines; I also recommend making it up in something very drapey and using the two-piece godet in the back to get a better drape. But it is overall a cute and very different pencil skirt pattern.
(You can read the post about the Cambie experiment to use as a hack** for La La Land here. I’ll try not to revisit my obsessive fangirling too too much in this one. Quick summary: I knew I wanted to hack this dress as soon as I saw the movie last year; the Cambie was the closest I could find to it, with the separate waistband, sleeves joining along the top of the bodice, and a full skirt; and I made up a straight Cambie a month or two ago to work out the kinks and figure out what I’d need to change and how.)
Possibly the best part of making this dress was the built-in excuse to watch the movie a bunch of times so I could be sure to get the details just right. Research, right?
The second-best part is the dress itself. I love it, but it was a big undertaking and I’m glad to be done with it. Maybe once I’ve had a chance to wear it out dancing once or twice, and have recovered with an easier project or two, I’ll decide I love it even more than watching the movie again.
Pattern Alterations and Changes
I drafted a 3/4 circle skirt pattern to replace the Cambie skirt. I wasn’t sure what type of skirt the La La Land Dress had, but given the lack of darts and the movement when she’s dancing in it it looked to me like some kind of circle skirt, and I wanted to be able to spin without it going all the way up to my waist* and the movie version didn’t look as full as a whole circle skirt. So 3/4 it was.
I did line the skirt since yellow is, regardless of fabric type it seems, generally translucent when worn. Why is that? The lining is very short; I didn’t get enough of the voile to make it longer. But it covers what it needs to cover to make it something I can wear in public. After wearing it a half-circle might have been a closer match, but live and learn: I can’t imagine making two yellow La La Land dresses, but if this is something you might try, go for a half.
The front of the Cambie was altered to be straight across.
I altered the bodice darts to be slightly narrower, to allow for gathering similar to the La La Land Dress. I didn’t get quite as much gathering as I wanted, but it’s similar enough and I’m happy with it.
The back was shortened, and straightened to allow for separate sleeves.
And then the Cambie sleeves were altered to make for a cap with that straight bit over the shoulders, and the join altered for the square front and back necklines. Originally I had them about as wide as the movie version, but I had Underwear Visibility Issues, so I moved them in a bit.
The only thing about the original Cambie pattern I didn’t change was the waistband.
Just typing that out exhausts me all over again.
Fabric & Lining
The main fabric is a bright yellow Fabricland rayon, and the lining is the coordinating bright yellow Fabricland cotton voile. Neither were expensive. Then again, the yellow La La Land Dress was made from a cheap Joanne’s polyester the costume designer got on sale, so this may be unique in that the handmade knock-off of the movie dress cost more than the original. I’m ok with that. I intend to dance in this dress, outside, and polyester would not have been pleasant.
Mostly assembled per Cambie instructions: assemble bodice and skirt, attach each to waistband, install zipper; repeat with lining except for the zipper; sew right sides together along the top, leaving space for the sleeves; sew sleeve outer to sleeve lining, baste into sleeve openings and check fit; hand to allow hem to settle; hem. Nothing here differed from that general order. The only minor change is the hem, which I serged and then turned up once. I hate fussing with the fullness on a wide, round hem, and this makes it just a bit easier.
Sewaholic patterns are drafted for pear shapes, which I very much am not; the sizing chart puts me into a size 8-14, but a fairer comparison taking into account body-type differences would be a size 8-10. And this dress is a size 8 with a hefty FBA.
There’s a lot of volume in the hips on both Cambie dresses, and in the 3/4 circle skirt replacement, so the limiting measurements for fit are bust and waist. Both have generous ease–2-3″–so you have room to size down if you want something more fitted, and if you go ahead with the size indicated by your measurements, you won’t end up with a tent.
***Already posted over at The Monthly Stitch. Apologies for those of you who are seeing this for the second time.
**Yes, I said hacking, and I’m not sorry.
*This utterly, utterly failed, as I found when I wore it out dancing. Actual conversation afterwards:
B: I love how floaty it is!
M: Yes! It really goes quite high.
Andrea: It sure does. A little higher than I was planning.
M: Maybe make a pair of matching yellow bicycle shorts.
Andrea: Yeah… believe it or not I made it less full so it wouldn’t go up all the way like that.
B: Really? But it wasn’t so bad.
Andrea: Yes it was. That’s ok.
M: Really, yellow bicycle shorts! Then it looks like you did it on purpose. And you can put “salsa” across the butt.
If you haven’t seen the movie…
…and would like some idea of what I’m talking about: the scene with The Yellow Dress
I made this one before in grey, and you might want to go back and reread that post, because it’s been revised. If not, charge ahead, and be warned that you might be somewhat confused.
The fabric is leftover bamboo jersey from the first dancing dress of the year. I thought I might have just enough to make another one of these tops, which I did. But first, I had to redraw chunks of the pattern, some to do with inherent fitting issues created by improper sizing and ease, and some because of my weirdly short upper body.
The grey shirt, as snug as it felt in places, was oddly loose in others, particularly the back. The neck wasn’t as wide as shown in the pattern photo, and in the back, it tried to crawl up my neck whenever I wore the shirt. Also, there was a lot of excess fabric in the centre back. The sleeves were longer than they should be and didn’t stay in place. The fit was ok, but it wasn’t great.
For try #2, I made a lot of what are for me standard pattern fixes:
1. Shortened the armscye front and back by an inch each; in the front, tapered to nothing in centre; in the back and sleeve, took out that inch straight across.
2. Took out another 1 1/2″ or so lengthwise in the centre back and redrew the back seams to true them. This made for a narrower waist, which of course carried through to the front, as well as a shorter back.
3. Shortened the sleeve by two inches in addition to the 1″ taken out at the armscye.
Funny, right? My main comment for the first try when it was first done was that it was so tight; but all the fitting problems when wearing turned out to be from it being too *loose* in certain places.
I thought about adding extra ease across the bust but was concerned that would have ruined the line of the wrap-around side seam, so I didn’t.
This brings me to the inherent fitting issues, which are just …
Look at that picture.
Do you see any excess fabric *anywhere* in it?
OK. So tell me then why Vogue, in its infinite wisdom, has two inches of positive ease at the waist in that pattern.
Two inches! of positive ease!
That is delivering a product that does not in any way match what people are promised by the advertising. It’s dishonest.
Moreover, a purchaser can’t easily correct for this, because the finished garment measurements are nowhere printed on the pattern tissue for the shirt.
You can get the waist finished measurements, more or less, on the skirt pattern that accompanies it–assuming they’re the same, which is a big assumption.
But really, you have to fucking measure the tissue to figure out how big it’s going to be when done. (Fortunately the waistline is at least marked; the bust and hip points aren’t even marked so finished measurements for those, even measuring on the tissue, are not easy to determine. I was able to determine that there is indeed positive ease throughout the garment, but whether it’s 1/2″ or 1″ I can’t say.)
Repeating myself: I am a size 16/18 based on the size charts. I cut a size 12 for this; that’s how far down I had to go to get any negative ease. That grey shirt was the size 12. And it was TOO BIG to make this design work.
Pattern reviews for this shirt almost universally report difficulties with getting the neck band to lie flat.
The neck band is fine as drafted. It fits in to the neck seam just fine, so long as you stretch as you would for any knit neck band.
But it’s very wide, as you can see; both in terms of the actual band and how it’s supposed to sit on the shoulders.
That fit is only going to be achieved with metric shit-tons of negative ease. It needs to be very, very tight across the shoulders, chest and upper back to hold that very wide neck band as flat as it’s supposed to be.
And of course, Vogue delivers a pattern with POSITIVE EASE, then a bunch of people buy it and make it up and wonder what’s wrong with them that they can’t get the neck band to lie flat. It wasn’t the sewers, it wasn’t their skills or fabric choices.
It was Vogue, delivering a pattern to customers that did not match the advertising or product description, and not giving purchasers the information they need on the tissue to correct their issues before making it up. Not a surprise to anyone who’s been sewing with BMV patterns for a while, I suppose, but it irritates me to no end.
If you are making up this shirt and are frustrated to hell with the neck band: you’re making it too big. If you’re going by the size chart, go down at least by two sizes, maybe three. If the neckband isn’t lying flat, you don’t have enough negative ease in the chest, shoulders and back to pull it flat–that’s how it’s supposed to work. It’s not your fault.
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.