But of course I couldn’t make it black and white. Friends would probably worry about my health if they saw me in clothes without colour. So instead:
Where the white was replaced with a large-scale multi-colour floral on a black background. Both are cotton satins, not at all stretchy–and despite Burda’s directions, given the ease and boxy fit, you don’t need stretch. This is my now-standard 38/40 combo and it is nowhere near tight. I probably could have gone down another size, particularly given the faux-wrap in the front and the walking room it provides.
It’s not a really complicated pattern, once you have it traced and cut out. Tracing the pieces out correctly and cutting everything out on grain so that the print is aligned over the bands is the hardest part. Also a note of warning, in case you overlooked it as I did: Both sides of the front have a facing on the bottom rather than a hem, so don’t add a hem allowance, just a regular seam allowance. And the instructions will try to tell you that underlining the facings will keep them in place, but the skirt will laugh in your face if that’s all you do. Some extra stitching is needed to keep them from flopping down at the bottom.
The skirt front is two pieces when constructed: the right hand side with all the bands on it, and the left hand side underneath that is all cut out of the main fabric with two standard darts. You then baste them together across the top and treat them as one piece for the construction of the skirt.
I really like it. It’s boxy but comfortable and striking with the large print and the bands. Plus it has so many bright colours in it that it kind of matches by accident with half the shirts in my closet.
It might also be fun to make up with a solid for the main skirt and the print on the bands, if you like the overall pattern but find this a bit much. I’m a fan of a Bit Much personally, so this works for me.
The extent of my Spanish is the very small amount that penetrated through the two-foot-thick barriers I erected around my skull when Frances watched Dora as a small child. Which is to say: not much, and nothing specific to sewing.
I’m also not generally a fan of midi skirts or hi-low hems. But here we are: a hi-low midi-skirt in light yellow cotton twill, from a Spanish sewing magazine.
And you know something? It was pretty easy. Getting the pleats pointed in the right direction was the hardest part, but arrows are fairly universal in meaning and otherwise it was just–you know–a skirt with four pieces, pleats at the waistband, side seam pockets (that you do have to draft yourself but hell, it’s just a standard pocket shape, drawn to the waistband so that it’s nice and stable). Sew the front together to the notch to make the front slit. Invisible zipper extends through the waistband. Front slit was serged and turned once to make it neat, as was the hem.
And now I have yet another yellow garment.
(It amazes me that once upon a time I thought I didn’t like or wear yellow much.)
(I mean, I have three yellow t-shirts, two yellow blouses, two yellow skirts, two yellow dresses, and a predominantly-yellow striped skirt. I wear yellow the way other people wear black. Apparently. All I need now is a pair of yellow pants, and I mean that sincerely.)
The one downside of yellow being, again, that it is always somewhat see-through, and this is no exception, even though it is fortheloveofgod COTTON TWILL. That’s like denim. See-through denim. How is that possible? But I don’t care, I love it, I’m wearing it.
Now I’m trying to fight the temptation to get a subscription. I should fight that temptation, right? I don’t need another sewing magazine subscription.
I’ve heard of Patrones, Knipmode & La Mia Boutique from sewing bloggers and on forums, but have never bothered to buy them before. In part because it’s a bother: none of them are available on news stands in Canada, so it involves some hunting, online ordering & exchange rates in order to procure them. And in part because I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to mess around with patterns where all of the instructions would be in languages I can’t read.
Then I made the World’s Most Complicated Shirtdress (thereabouts) and thought, if I don’t need to look at the instructions to make a shirtdress, maybe I can make things up that are basically instructions-free. And I ordered one or two of each and picked a pattern from each that looked simple enough to be a good test of instructions-free sewing. First up was this different-but-easy Knipmode t-shirt pattern in leftover yellow cotton jersey.
(I’m writing this in early June, by the way, in case it gets published well after other posts that make mention of the new sewing magazines.)
I didn’t look at the instructions, because they were in Dutch. Google translate helped me confirm that it was made up in a jersey and that “mouwbies” means “sleeve band” and “heupband” means “hip band.” Otherwise I traced, cut and serged.
And it’s … ok. The armscye is too big (story of my sewing life) so I’d shorten it by 1″ or so on front and back if I were to make it up again, and this jersey being yellow is–though not thin–translucent. Why. Anyway, you can see the facing. And last but not least, the front was about 2″ shorter than the back. I have no idea if this was a pattern error or a tracing error on my part, and I don’t care enough to go back and see for something that’s so easy to fix.
So I don’t know how much wear I’ll get out of this, but I did learn two things:
I can sew in Dutch.
I can make a few modifications to this and end up with a really cute and different t-shirt pattern, so long as I make it out of something completely opaque and not too drapey.
Technically this is a petite pattern, which at 5’8″ I am not; but believe it or not, I still had to shorten the armscye by 1/2″ front and back, and the bust dart was still about an inch too low, necessitating much weird sewing to avoid weird pointy bits.
I also did an FBA, which introduced a fisheye waist dart in the front. I tried it with and without the dart, and with is better IMO.
For construction, I serged any exposed seam allowances and used the sewing machines for the seams. It’s very tidy.
The pattern works. It all goes together properly. The sizing is as portrayed in the description and photos. It’s a cute idea. And yet … I don’t love it. That old bugbear: I don’t like blouses without closures on me. If it were a really drapey fabric it might be ok, but this is not drapey enough to make up for the lack of shaping inherent in a pullover woven top. Even with the waist dart. It’s just very boxy. I think it can work with a fitted skirt or pants with a good snug waist, but otherwise probably not.
The fabric is a cotton voile bought years ago and just sitting around waiting for the right blouse pattern. At the time of purchase I thought the right blouse pattern was going to be much bigger, so I have some left over. And I’ll be using it on something with closures.
Somehow or other this beautiful linen jumped into my shopping bag when I went fabric shopping with a friend. It was insistent on being turned into a big skirt, but all of my skirt patterns–even the pleated ones–have curved hems. A curved hem would not have looked right with this lovely poppy print, so I used the skirt part of the V1353 dress pattern, with wonderfully flat hems perfect for border and linear prints, and added a narrow waistband.
And then added a narrow band of matching bright pink cotton voile to the hem to finish it off. Just something a bit different. I cut two 2 1/2″-wide strips of the voile, sewed them together, matched the width of the skirt hem, folded it in half, and sewed it to the bottom edge of the skirt.
And I have nothing new to say about the construction or sizing on this one. This is a mid-weight linen, and I used a white cotton voile to line it. The seam allowances were serged before sewing them together; the hem on the lining is just serged, to keep it light and floaty; the hem on the linen skirt was serged to the hem band. That seam was then edge-stitched to keep it from flipping down after wear.
The pattern repeat wasn’t quite tall enough, and I didn’t have quite enough of the fabric, to line up the pattern perfectly between the front and back. Thus everything is about 2 1/2 inches higher on the back. But I don’t think it’s visible to a casual observer.
The zipper goes right through the waistband. There are no other closures.
It just so happens that it perfectly matches that coral voile blouse and a pink t-shirt I already have, plus the pink voile that I was planned on making into a top–fate, right?
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.