Tag Archives: Vogue patterns

Winter Dancing Dress: At The Ball

I might go on at length here–this dress was complicated and challenging but it worked out really well. She said humbly.

I was not sure I wanted to go to this particular dance party, as I’d heard Idiot Harasser might be there. There is little that is less enjoyable than buying a ticket, spending weekends making a dress, and devoting an evening to being harassed by an asshole who won’t take no for an answer.  I ended up going with someone else though, and spent most of the night well across the room; so it was a fun evening. And here, months later, is the dress.


The sequins were bought as practice sequins. I actually meant to make a velvet dress for this occasion, and bought that fabric at the same time, but then I was flipping through a magazine when I came across this Dolce & Gabbana dress:

Except for the collar. Let's just pretend it's not there.
Except for the collar. Let’s just pretend it’s not there.

Which apparently retails for something close to five thousand pounds.

I liked the combination of the very ladylike sleeves and flounce with the sequins, and I thought … why don’t I try to knock it off? I mean, what is this? A sheath dress with puffed sleeves and a flounce. How hard can it be?

I had no intention of making this the masquerade dress, but I didn’t fully understand how time consuming this would be, and didn’t have the time to muslin and sew up another dress pattern, so the practice dress became The Dress.

I based the pattern off of this basic Vogue pattern:

Using the sheath dress variation.

It’s meant to be cut on the bias, but as the sequins were sewn to a stretchy (and transparent) mesh, I cut it out on the straight grain and converted the front pieces to a single piece. I adjusted the pieces to have negative ease, drafted a basic pattern piece for the puffed sleeves, and altered the neckline to a V after I’d sewn it together and tried it on. (I am not a fan of high neck anything.)

The Back
The Back

I then added a lining out of bamboo jersey from the stash, to add some opacity and comfort to the inside. (Sequins=scratchy) Same pattern pieces as the dress, with the shoulders extended slightly to cover the shoulder seams. The dress was then pegged quite a bit and the hem shortened to account for the addition of the flounce, and two flounce pieces drafted and added–complete with sparkly tulle. The original doesn’t look like there was a whole lot of gathering so I went with a 1.5 ratio and it seemed to work.


I used bias strips of silk charmeuse scraps on the seamlines to prevent the dress from stretching or bagging out, and also used elastic at the top of the flounce to support the weight and keep it gathered in.


And added clear elastic at the waist on the lining, between it and the dress, to keep the waist from stretch or bagging out from dancing. You know how knits are.

The Side.
The Side.

On this fabric, the sequins were small and thin enough that I just sewed right through them. It cost me three needles but saved me hours of time, so that’s a win in my books.


I’m not under any illusions that this is as nice as the D&G original, but as a knock-off put together for under $100, it’s not bad.

V1389: Accidentally Underdressed Part II

Revised August 1 2017

It took me so long to make up the shirt from this set that not only is this pattern out of print, it’s not even listed on the website anymore. Oops. Also this means that if any of you like and want to make this … you’re out of luck. Sorry.

I actually originally bought the set for the skirt, which has some very cool seam lines on it, but this winter I found myself in need of long-sleeved shirts. Now, if you are like me, the word “need” comes to have a very ambiguous definition for sewing projects. Like: “I ‘need’ to find a jacket pattern to make up the felted black wool I picked up downtown on a whim,” or “I ‘need’ to find a lightweight jersey with a bit of body so I can try that jersey dress from this month’s Burda.” Or, more recently, “I ‘need’ to find some brightly coloured wool crepes so I can make up some skirts like Mia wore in La La Land.” None of these would pass the global-issues sniff test, and I wince a little every time I catch myself thinking anything like them.


All of my previous year’s long-sleeved shirts were loose and drapey. And then last year went and did it’s I’m-2016-I’m-going-to-make-you-cry-uncle that we’ve all enjoyed so much. And I lost my appetite and a bit of weight. So last year’s “drapey” and “loose” became “looks like a five-year-old dressing up in mom’s clothes.” (Along with a few of last year’s pairs of pants, necessitating a new pair of Style Arc Jasmine‘s, but you don’t want to see another one of those, do you? Suffice it to say that it’s grey and it fits.) On a “need” scale this isn’t “I haven’t eaten in three days” but at least in a first world context it is somewhat legitimate.

So, after my recent sequin adventures and a black skirt that is in the blogging queue, and a long-sleeved shirt for my daughter who also has an unaccountable need to put on clothing that fits and is appropriate for school every day, it was time to do something about this. Shirt #1 was Yet Another Renfrew, and again, you don’t need to see another one of those. It is a purpley blue, long-sleeved, and I’ve finally altered the front pattern piece so that it fits properly, which just goes to show that buying a pattern from a company that specializes in patterns for pear shapes is not the smartest thing to do when you are not a pear shape, no matter how nice the pattern is.

It’s pure coincidence that the colour matches the pattern envelope.

This is basically a raglan-sleeve t-shirt with a very wide neck band and a wide neckline. In terms of construction it is completely uninteresting, except for the neckband which has to be stretched out to its fullest extent while attaching to the shirt in order to lie (mostly) flat when worn. I made this a bit easier on myself by first basting and then serging.

When on the hanger, there are gathers along that seam that largely smooth out when it is stretched out on the body. However I do find that that neckband really wants to contract and it won’t stay as wide as it is supposed to according to the pattern drawing. I also find that some of the gathers remain on the back of the neck, but I don’t much care as that’s covered by hair anyway.

The Back. Gathers not visible, but everything else is.
The Back. Gathers not visible, but everything else is.

Overall it’s a fun pattern with some interesting details that make it a bit different–I mean, check out that side seam:

What looks like a seam on the back is actually the side seam
What looks like a seam on the back is actually the side seam

Such a small thing but a nice touch.

Dear god.
Dear god.

But I somehow doubt people are going to be paying much attention to the side seam because holy hell is it snug. There is nothing left to the imagination. This was supposed to be a shirt for work–and it probably still can be, if worn with a roomy skirt and a cardigan or blazer. Or I could go for broke and wear it with that front-split burda skirt I made in the summer and get myself sent down to HR.

It is a cool pattern, though. I’ll probably make it again, and maybe give myself just a smidge more ease.

After wearing it a bunch in the winter and spring, an update:

The neckband on this version does not stay flat. I am constantly pulling at the shoulders and sleeves to get it back to where it’s supposed to be. Particularly at the back of the neck, it is always riding up and needs to be tugged back down.

Which means that, despite how snug it is, it is actually not snug enough for that wide flat neckband. Version number two solves a lot of these issues, and you can read about it in this August post.

Be warned that this is a shirt pattern that does not work without a *lot* of negative ease, so if you aren’t a fan of tight knit t-shirts, this is not a pattern for you.

V1353 Encore: The Three Pounds Dress

I altered the pattern tissue after my first attempt so I wouldn’t have to worry about remembering what needed to be changed, and on the August long weekend here in Ontario, I finally cut out that fabulous rainbow linen, and sewed it up on the Monday holiday.


And here it is almost November and I’m finally blogging it.

Am I the only sewer out there who persistently underestimates how long it’s going to take to actually sew something up? I had this idea Sunday night: “I’ll spend tomorrow sewing and then I’ll have a dress for Tuesday and salsa dancing!” And this was, technically, almost true, if one extends Monday by 45 minutes or so into Tuesday morning. I started after waking, and barring food and bathroom breaks, kept sewing all day, all through the evening, and into the wee hours of the next day.

The Back, plus a cookie.
The Back, plus a cookie.

But except for the interior tacking stitches of the bodice lining to the bodice, it is done. And I wore it to work on Tuesday and will wear it out salsa dancing.

Every alteration made to the tissue but one was exactly what I needed. The shoulders are just where I want them; the arms don’t gape or bubble anymore; the waistline doesn’t tilt and it sits just above my natural waist.

The Side, with a cake.
The Side, with a cake.

But I shaved off a little more from the waist itself than I should have. There’s lots of seams so it wasn’t hard to do.

Dear Readers, this dress is perfect, so long as I have no plans to breathe or eat.*

Unfortunately, I always have plans to both breathe and eat. Breathing and eating are always high on my list of priorities. I like oxygen, and I like food. So.

I’m calling it the Three Pounds Dress after Regina George in Mean Girls, because this dress would fit just perfectly if I lost three pounds.


Or so I assume. Given my aforementioned love of food, this 3-lb weight loss seems very unlikely.* Still, in theory, if it were to happen, the waistline of this dress would no longer be painful after consuming a meal. Anyway:

The Front. Pleats hard to see with the print but they are there
The Front. Pleats hard to see with the print but they are there


Unintentionally constricting waist and all. I love the colours, I love the pleats, I love how it swishes when I walk (you’ll have to imagine that part; I have no video footage). It is just the dress I pictured when I bought the linen, which is a very gratifying feeling and makes up for the loss of sensation in my feet. (I kid.) As a kind-of-bonus, the waistline goof does make for a more interesting silhouette.


I am definitely going to risk losing consciousness and wear it out salsa dancing. If I do faint I have faith that some kind soul will pick me off the dance floor before I am trampled, and in the meantime, it’s going to be fun to twirl in.

*I ended up having a fairly stressful August/September and lost the 3 lbs despite myself, so now I get to breathe even when it is fully done up. Huzzah!

V1353: People Think She’s a Hell-Raiser *

Thanks to the Golden Age of Introversion Online, I can trust that you will all know what I mean when I say that I am an introvert.

I score well into the 90s on any test measuring that trait. Go ahead, throw one at me: it’ll spit back a result roughly stating “you never leave your house, do you?”

Q: When you go to a party, do you …
A: [interrupts] A party? Are you out of your mind?

Q: When approaching a group of strangers …
A: [interrupts] Strangers. Oh god. Is hyperventilating an option?

You get the idea. An instinctual horror overtakes me at the idea of being in crowds, particularly crowds of people I don’t know, and especially particularly crowds of people I don’t know with whom I am expected to interact.

This made it extra fun when I got to organize public meetings for angry crowds of people I didn’t know with whom I was expected to interact, but that’s a story for another time.

I am also a bit of a goody two-shoes.

People are generally surprised when they hear me swear for the first time, having assumed that I would never do such a thing. I’ve never been drunk. The closest I’ve been to smoking is picking cigarette butts off the ground and putting them in the garbage. I’m a professional tree-hugger by trade and I tend to sign up for volunteering activities well beyond my time and mental resource capacities. I got straight As. And I’m one of those unfortunate people who tends not to consider that lying is an option when being asked a direct question until after I’ve answered it truthfully. My main hobbies are sewing and reading, for the love of god. Sewing and reading. Put a bonnet on my head and slap me back in 1850, why don’t you.

~~~~~!!***!!~~~~~Magical Relatives Barrier~~~~~!!***!!~~~~~

In fact, my reputation for goody-two-shoes-ness was so complete that druggy friends in highschool would use me as their mule. (“Can you hang on to this for me until third period? Thanks. Oh my god. Do my eyes look fucked? My eyes look fucked, don’t they? No one’s going to check your bag you look too innocent.”) (And they were right–no one ever checked my bag.)

But I did have one minor vice.

Using friends’ fake ID to sneak into nightclubs underage and go dancing.

(American friends, the legal age here is 19. So this was strictly a highschool endeavour as back then we all graduated at 19.)

Possibly alone amongst all of my nightclub-sneaking acquaintance, I’d go the bar and get a water and spend the night dancing. Because it was fun, and all-ages clubs were spectacularly lame–empty and boring, populated by the sad dregs of young people without fake IDs and older men with young-people fetishes. Ew. Sure the real thing was filled with letches with a blood alcohol level so high they didn’t even know they weren’t maintaining eye contact, not to mention the smoke that would take two showers to get out of your hair. The music was loud and the dance floor was packed.

~~~~~!!***!!~~~~~end Magical Relatives Barrier~~~~~!!***!!~~~~~

Then I decided to do something super-smart and get married at a ridiculously young age to a guy who promised he loved dancing too and we would go out dancing all the time–and after the wedding ceremony reneged (on that and a pile of other things which shall remain nameless). And my friends stopped having so much fun at bars, and I had a kid, and the kid needed a fair bit of extra help, and then my friends had kids, and one thing let to another and almost 20 years passed without dancing, barring the odd wedding.

(Sometimes being a grown-up just sucks.)

Then my Dad got sick and family dysfunction exploded into new shrapnel-laden patterns and Frances’s hips got worse and we were told she would need reconstruction surgery and I decided that this would be the absolute perfect time to just go out dancing with strangers.

It even involved a bit of lalochezia, a la:

“Oh my god this is such fucking bullshit. This year is a bullshit monkey that can suck on an elephant’s balls I am so sick of this. No embroidery in the world is going to distract me from this overwhelming mountain of fucking bullshit and its bullshit spawn. Either I am going to punch this year in the fucking face or I am going out.”

I went out. I found a meet-up group for dancing lessons and just showed up in a room of strangers and started learning the bachata. I did not even know what the bachata was. Now I do. It’s a 4-step latin dance. There has also been some swing dancing, involving a lot of spinning, which is fun, even when I trip over my feet and/or fall over. If no one gets a concussion or loses a limb, I count it a success. (The secret to happiness is often having a low bar.)

As a result, almost every free weekend night for the past month-plus has been taken up with dancing. With strangers and near-strangers. It has been a very effective distraction.

My one issue being:

An almost complete lack of going-out clothes.

I don’t buy clothes anymore and everything I’ve made myself for the past few years, that one dress excepted which yes has now actually seen the outside of the house, has been either for work or for casual wear. I’m not even sure what counts as dancing-wear for the 40-something set. (Going shopping for some brings to mind that scene from Sisters–you know the one.)


So when I haven’t been out dancing, I have been home sewing clothes for dancing. My poor neglected pile of library books remains noticeably un-shrunk.

Which brings me, at incredibly long last, to V1353:

(Andrea’s Prologues! Now 10% longer, with added swearing!)


Here is the first try:

Photos taken on my way out the door for a salsa lesson. Why on earth do I look so terrified here?

The fabric is a mid-weight linen/rayon blend bought last year at Fabricland, lined with a poly/rayon that I’ve decided I really like as it is mostly rayon and not at all slippery, unlike bemberg. Easy to sew with, presses beautifully, dirt cheap.

This is a test version, so I made a few obvious adjustments to the pattern–grading between a 14 at the waist and an 18 at the hips and bust, then adding another inch at the bust to the side front piece, plus an extra 1/2″ to the shoulders–but otherwise left it alone to see how it would work up. The instructions were clear and worked well, all the notches matched, and it mostly fit.

The Back.
The Back.

I do recommend basting the shoulders together quickly before adding the lining to see how it fits. A few more changes at that point:

1. removed 1″ from each centre back seam, tapering to 1/4″ at the waist, to stop it from gaping. I could have taken out a smidge more and will for version #2.
2. Took in side seams at the waist about 1″ (1/4″ per piece). Will take in a bit more from the next version. The bodice is quite loose.
3. Need to take out some at the armscye between the front and side front pieces–a bit too gapey. Also need to lengthen the front piece on the next version as it’s just a bit too high to hit the waist properly in the front. Since technically it isn’t supposed to hit my waist at all this isn’t a pattern error–but thanks to being bizarrely short-waisted, it does hit my waist in the back and I’d rather lengthen the front to match than shorten the back.

Then hours upon hours of hand-sewing to finish internal seams plus the saddle-stitching, which is a nice touch but does take forever.

The Side.
The Side. Backyard notably short on Hell to be raised, but apparently a lovely plastic bag I failed to notice before taking photos. Woops.

I love it, and have a fabric and lining all picked out for version #2–this brilliantly fabulous lightweight linen which just screams dancing dress. (For sure it does not scream business suit or casual summer shorts.)

Photo from the Marcy Tilton fabrics website, but fabric bought downtown at Leo’s Textiles.

I’ve yet to see any bad versions of this pattern on the interwebz, so it seems a pretty safe bet and like it suits a variety of body sizes and types. I’ve noticed that for those who posted their tweaks and fixes as part of their review, taking an inch out of the top of the back centre seam on each side seems like a consistent alteration, so be warned.

Who knew I would finally have a valid excuse to sew up a bunch of dresses?


*I don’t think they do, actually. But bonus points if you recognize the source of the quote.

First Day of the New Job Outfit: Sick Day Edition

To say that the second half of my period of unemployment did not go as planned would be an understatement. Rather than a bit of a break wherein I tried to catch up on things and also had some extra fun and sewing time, I ended up spending a hefty chunk of time in the hospital with my father before and after he had emergency brain surgery to remove a tumour. Yes, you read that right. Not all eventualities can be prepared for and brain tumours, as it turns out, are one of those unplannable things.

He is recovering at home very well now. The pathology results have come back and I’m not sure if or when I’ll be talking about them here.

Sewing and making things is how I manage stress, so what will probably happen, in blog terms, is more sewing and less sleeping.  My plan is to keep this a cancer-free space, for my sanity if nothing else. Please don’t think me heartless. It’s just that most of you I don’t know all that well.

So I still did a good bit of sewing, mostly in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping. I managed not to sew through any body parts (thank goodness), but I did make a series of embarrassing mistakes, like sewing the wrong part of the crotch curve together when making up the pants. I thought briefly about making the rear fly pant closure the latest internet sensation, and then shook my head and tore out the offending stitches.

I managed to get the First Day of the New Job outfit all sewn up and ready before the first day of the new job, and I pressed it and had it all ready to go, and then Frances got sick the night before I was to start. So I spent that day emptying and cleaning out puke buckets (oh the fun things you get to read here!) instead of becoming orientated. I thought briefly of putting the new duds on anyway and taking some photos of myself, sleep deprived, at home, doing Mom On Sick Duty things, but fortunately for you I was just too tired and decided to pass.

Anyway. After much ado, here is the outfit:


The top is Vogue 8689, and the pants are the StyleArc Katherine pants. The Vogue shirt I’ve made before, so I’ll skip most of the verbiage:

1. Blue rayon challis. Very soft and drapey and wonderful to wear as a shirt.
2. 1/2″ self-cover buttons. I couldn’t find any pre-made that matched.
3. Faux-french seams. Serged the seams then top-stitched them down w/ a 1/4″ foot.

4. Shortened the sleeves about 1 1/2 “, and cinched in the cuffs by about 3/4”.
5. Made a total mess of the back of the collar. Good thing no one can see it.

6. Basted the middle of the button plackets to keep all the layers in place while putting in buttonholes and sewing on buttons. But they still seemed to get all out of place when washing.
7. Oh, and I very quickly added a 1 1/2″ ease pleat to the centre back, just under the yoke. I wanted a shirt that was very drapey and loose and would give me lots of movement when driving to and from work, so I just moved the back pattern piece about 3/4″ off the fold line and notched the top seam line where the original fold was so I’d know where to put the pleat. Then I trimmed the shirt down a bit more in the waist so it wouldn’t be too baggy all the way down–just a bit extra across the upper back.


Also, in proof that stylistic inspiration can be found anywhere, this was a shirt conceived after watching Deep Impact on Netflix. That girl journalist had a very nice drapey blue work shirt with a very nice ease pleat in the back.

This one, I think, but no ease pleat view. And the internet has informed me that her name was Jenny Lerner

So that’s the shirt.

The StyleArc Katherine pants were new for me. I thought about doing up a muslin … and then impatience overtook me and I just added some of my standard pant alterations:

1. 1 1/2″ extra on the crotch curve
2. 1 1/2″ extra between the hips and waist, front and back. Lengthened the underflap and overflap pieces for the fly to match.
3. Slimmed the waist down a bit

I used the wool I bought at King Textiles last year in Toronto, a lovely dark gold with a faint plaid to the weave. To combat itchiness, I lined the pants to the knee with bemberg, but imperfectly because I had no idea what I was doing around the fly.


I mean, it works, and no one is looking at my pants on the inside except me, so whatever. But it’s not elegant. And I discovered while wearing them that they really need bartacks on the pockets, otherwise they bag open, even with interfacing to reinforce the opening.


They fit nicely. They’re a smidge on the loose side, which is by no means a negative when you’re going to spend most of your time in them sitting down. My doctor switched out one of my medications recently and I think it’s made me lose a few pounds; I’m never sure whether a medication-induced weight change will be permanent or not, so I left the pants a bit big. I didn’t want to make them small enough to be snug now, only to gain five pounds next month and then I can’t wear them anymore. So.

Also, I sewed in a buttonhole and then decided I didn’t want to interrupt the waistband with a button, so I didn’t slash it open and sewed hook-and-eye closures in instead.

The pattern overall was simple to sew together, and the pockets and the front seam detail add a nice touch. Pieces match up and sew well, with the exception of the smaller pocket bag piece. It didn’t match the side seam of the pants at all. I cut out four of the larger pocket bag piece and trimmed two of them down to fit instead.

And now if I can finish the blazer I have on the go from the same fabric … I’ll finally have that suit!

That’s the quick-and-dirty version. I’ll share some more details when I write up the pair I made from the alpaca flannel I’ve had in my stash for years.

V8747: Encore

This is take two of a shirt I made last summer, with only minor changes:

I took the pictures for last year’s shirt in the same spot, too–go figure. And I apologize for the lack of eye contact in these photos. Every shot where I was looking at the camera was either badly out of focus or I looked like someone had been trying to poke my eyes out with a stick.

1. Made out of pink cotton voile, mostly to match and be worn with the border print skirt, but also wearable with other things.

2. Added 1/8″ on the seams width-wise to make it a bit less snug. Worked like a charm.

Sleeves! Blurry sleeves. My camera was determined to take pictures of the trees behind me instead of me. I’m trying not to take it personally.


3. Changed the sleeves. At first I thought maybe smocking, but with the gathers on the front, I thought it would be best to remain consistent and use gathers on the sleeves too. So I drafted a fairly snug cuff in the same dimensions as the front button band, cut and spread the sleeve to make gathers the same width and density as the front gathers, and added a smidge to the height of the sleeve cap to give it a nice bit of puff up top.

The Back.

The only thing I might change for next time is to take some of the length on the front out above the bust, instead of between the bust and the waist. It’s the right length but I think the gathers are just a bit too low for my taste, and I wonder if that would help the neckline stay put (it likes to drift wide). But it’s a pretty minor thing.

V8997, the Sheath Dress Edition

Perfect place to take outside pictures in public with a good back-drop and no observers: a church on Saturday night!
Perfect place to take outside pictures in public with a good back-drop and no observers: a church on Saturday night!

I bought this stretch cotton pique at Fabricland on sale for $5/metre knowing that it would make the perfect V8997 sheath dress–snug but still comfy! Big colourful floral pattern! Enough body to hold it’s shape nicely! Figuring out the perfect lining fabric took a little longer, but eventually I settled on a stretch cotton poplin in white. I wanted something with the same give of the fabric, first of all, but secondly, I wanted to keep the cotton feel and breathability for those super-hot days in July and August when anything slippery on the skin feels like a wet plastic bag coated with silicone.

Yes, I know; it’s summer now and I still look like a ghost. It’s either that or bright red, Dear Readers. I don’t do tan. Actually, this is my tan.

As I’d made the circle-skirt version of this before, the sheath dress was pretty simple. I shortened the bodice pieces on the shorten line, as last time it was too long; it turned out to be just a smidge too much and next time I’ll put back in 1/2″ of it. I also needed to take out between 1/8″ and 1/4″ for all the waist and hip seams (and that’s a lot–there’s eight pieces between the front and back) to make it reasonably snug and sheath-like. I took out about 1/4″ on the princess seam right at the armscye as well, to deal with some gaping that only become evident once the whole thing was sewn together (of course–so it had to be disassembled and reassembled at that seam. Always an adventure).

I also added about 3/4″ to the inside of the v at the shoulders to better cover bra straps.

The Back! Which I forgot to do up at the hook & eye. Oops.
The Back! Which I forgot to do up at the hook & eye. Oops.

The main variation was the welting. This is the same white stretch cotton poplin I used for the lining, in 1 1/2″ bias strips, folded in half. One of the things I really love about this dress pattern is the seamlines, particularly that angle around the waist (empire waist in this case thanks to the extra shortening–d’oh!), and I didn’t want it to be hidden by the busy print. And then I thought if I were going to add welting around the waist I should add it at the neckline and armscye as well, just for greater consistency and visual balance.

The Side. Still debating if I should snug in the waist a bit more. The stretch means it has a tendency to bag out a bit after wear.
The Side. Still debating if I should snug in the waist a bit more. The stretch means it has a tendency to bag out a bit after wear.

I’m glad I did. I think it looks sharp, emphasizes those seamlines well, and adds an extra 1/2″ on the shoulders for even more bra strap coverage (key!). But oh my god did it ever make assembling those pieces that much more finicky and time consuming.

The zipper was just a regular white zipper–I didn’t want to mess with an invisible zipper with a really thick and spongy pique fabric. But hey! Check out how those seamlines and welts match up!


Not bad, eh?

Used a blind stitch for the main fabric at the hem, and my new 6mm hemming foot for the lining, which I totally love and which is also going to revolutionize my shirtmaking, I can tell. It was the easiest hem I’ve ever sewn in my life, ever.

And a ton of hand-stitching to attach linings to seamlines internally once most of the construction was done.


I’ve worn it a few times already and I can atest to it being super, super comfortable, thanks to the stretch. Like pajamas comfortable. And find me another sheath dress that you would compare to pajamas, I dare you.

Can you see the migraine in these photos? Plus: meet Butch, an arm-patch activity monitor I'm wearing for a few weeks as part of a medical study. Butch joins Bertha, my insulin pump (named after the crazy wife in Jane Eyre--yes, really) and the Biologist, a continuous glucose monitor I'm also wearing for the study. The Biologist does not get along with acetaminophen, which is the only kind of painkiller I can take. Point being that until July 6, when I get a headache, I get to just suffer through it. And also I will be sporting extra weird medial bulges in blog photos for a couple of weeks. Did you care? Probably not.
Can you see the migraine in these photos?
Plus: meet Butch, an arm-patch activity monitor I’m wearing for a few weeks as part of a medical study. Butch joins Bertha, my insulin pump (named after the crazy wife in Jane Eyre–yes, really) and the Biologist, a continuous glucose monitor I’m also wearing for the study. The Biologist does not get along with acetaminophen, which is the only kind of painkiller I can take. Point being that until July 6, when I get a headache, I get to just suffer through it. And also I will be sporting extra weird medial bulges in blog photos for a couple of weeks. Did you care? Probably not.

V8689: I like to make things complicated (or: why my April Fail-Bingo blouse was finished late May, posted in June, and also a multitasking RBG trip)

Oops! But the picture looks pretty cool I think so ... here it is anyway.
Oops! But the picture looks pretty cool I think so … here it is anyway.

Saturdays are busy days Chez McDowell.

Yes, yes, Saturdays are busy for everyone–but this is my blog, so I get to talk about my own busy Saturdays.

Saturdays are the days I do a full week’s worth of errands (groceries, bills, library, drugstore, etc.) , get in a decent workout, a longer-than-average-shower, any required yard work, and oh yeah, wouldn’t it be nice to do some blog photos or some sewing? All before 6pm, which is when my daughter comes back from her Dad’s house. Technically yes I could do some of that on Sunday, but my Frances-time is precious to me and I prefer to keep it as free as possible so we can hang out and I can listen to all of the amazing and quirky and clever and hilarious things that go on in her head. I do laundry on Sundays. Everything else I try to do on Saturdays, before 6.

Royal Botanical Gardens Lilac Dell with a band playing. Lots of trees = privacy, right?
Royal Botanical Gardens Lilac Dell with a band playing. Lots of trees = privacy, right?

As a result, my handmade garments have been piling up and I haven’t had a chance to shoot any of them. Why do I think every year that May will be a great chance to get outside for some decent photographs? Of course I’m outside–mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, picking up branches, trimming the hedges, and generally filling up my time and getting myself so sweat-grimed that a camera lens is the last thing I want to see.

This Saturday I was determined to get those photos done. I thought–hey! The lilac dell is in full bloom at the Royal Botanical Gardens; I need to renew my membership anyway; I can combine it with a hike while I’m there and kill two birds with one stone, plus it’s the RBG and so guaranteed to be gorgeous. Accordingly, I brought my camera, timer and tripod to the RBG and took some hopefully discreet selfies in the lilacs and along the trail while Getting My Exercise, Appreciating Nature, Renewing My Membership, and Losing Five Pounds in Sweat Through My Face.

Fortunately you can't see the sweat pouring off my face like the Mississippi. Right?
Fortunately you can’t see the sweat pouring off my face like the Mississippi. Right? Also: to go with the multi-tasking theme, you can expect this outfit to reappear when I blog the shorts. I’ll try to use different shots though.

It was so hot, Dear Readers; almost 30C. In May. I tremble to think of August.

Keep all that in mind while you read about the many ways I unnecessarily complicated my Fail Bingo shirt.


So this blouse took a long time.


Partly because it was a new pattern, to me. I made it up in a size 14D as a test garment, tweaked the fit to be a bit looser around the bust and less loose around the waist, along with the standard shorter in the back and broader in the shoulders. On the whole it was pretty good and I consider these minor tweaks. Oh, plus moving the shoulder seam forward by about 3/4″.

Partly because I made it out of the cotton/silk voile that I adore so much and used for the other Vogue blouse. It is quite sheer and needs underlining. In fact, even with the underlining, it`s still a bit sheer. But I can wear it to work without embarrassing myself, and that’s key.

Of course, it`s a yoked blouse with princess seams, which means there are fifteen pieces to be underlined before assembly.

View D, the one I made–but without the boob pockets.


Two of each, of course, stitched together carefully by hand before assembling the blouse. I bought 1 1/2 metres originally, and ran out and needed to buy an additional half metre to finish the shirt. That’s two-metres for one short-sleeved blouse (cost-wise still not bad though; under $30 including thread!).


Partly because this blouse pattern suggests felled seams. Which means sew together, trim one side of the seam, press the other one in half, fold it over the trimmed side, and sew it down again. Or you know, buy a felling foot and use that. I don’t have a felling foot. I`m reconsidering this, however, in light of the amount of time spent assembling this blouse. Though Janome doesn’t make a felling foot. Anyone have any generics they can recommend?

The Back. Horizontal lines brought to you by the treachery of tucking in. Why do they do that?
The Back. Horizontal lines brought to you by the treachery of tucking in. Why do they do that?

The pattern does not suggest finishing the seams in the sleeves, which is just odd. I ended up felling the sleeve seams and french-seaming the shoulders, then top-stitching the french seams down. This voile is incredibly light-weight and cut edges essentially disintegrate on contact with air, so sturdy finishing is necessary. I accidentally top-stitched the french seam down outwards instead of inwards (oops) but I love it anyway.

Inside Out. Yes, this is the inside of the shirt. Right? Also you can see how semi-transparent it is by reading the dry-cleaning joint's logo through the yoke.
Inside Out. Yes, this is the inside of the shirt. Right? Also you can see how semi-transparent it is by reading the dry-cleaning joint’s logo through the yoke.

I wish the buttons were a bit smaller and a closer colour match. It turns out that citron is not an easy colour to find in small shirt buttons. Who’d have guessed.  Other than that, I freaking love this shirt. It’s incredibly soft and lightweight, it’s loose enough to be comfortable to wear without being baggy, and it’s CITRON. Consider: it was 30C, just about; my face was a river and my bottom half got plenty sweaty under those shorts but the shirt, even double-layered as it was, stayed comfortable to the very end, even hiking in the woods.

The Side. From very far away. Sorry about that.
The Side. From very far away. Sorry about that.

I interfaced the shirt with a light sew-in interfacing; I avoid fusibles wherever possible. It’s not as crisp as a fusible would have been but it keeps the softness and drape beautifully.

I’ve now fitted three separate and slightly different Vogue button-up shirt patterns (this one with yokes and princess seams, one with princess seams only, and one with princess seams and a gathered front–yes, there’s a theme). I’ve got one with pintucks left, and then I’ll have four blouse/shirt patterns that should get me through whatever kind of button-up shirt I want to make pretty much forever. Add to the list a wish to learn how to make a hidden button placket on every shirt forever so I never need to worry about perfectly matching buttons. I’m reading through David Coffin’s two shirtmaking books right now (yes, simultaneously) in an effort to master this and other tricky bits of shirtmakery before tackling the pink cotton voile shirt I’ve already cut out.

My Me-Made Voyage of Self-Discovery, including a Final Recap

Dear Readers, far be it from me to pass up any opportunity for self-exploration. There is so much about myself I don’t yet know! And sure there is an entire world of books, movies, songs, science, hiking trails, locations, cities, cultures, languages, and nearly seven billion people I also don’t yet know, but I’m sure that I can’t properly figure all that out until I am chock full of self-esteem as a result of hard-earned self-examination.

And what better way that a purposeful self-voyage based on an analysis of and appreciation for the many and varied garments I have made and worn this month of May?

Accordingly, to begin, I looked for myself everywhere. I looked in the kitchen, the dining room, the front yard, the bathroom, even under the laundry basket in the basement. All I could ever find of myself anywhere were my own two hands, just ahead of me, always out of reach. My hands were all over the place (and are, even now, taunting me on my laptop keyboard), but the rest of me? Just glimpses, Dear Readers.

It was a very confused May (though a much warmer May than last year, where I remember shivering in the backyard all through the month for the selfies and wondering when it would ever be green again, and for the excessive warmth this May I am mostly grateful). How am I meant to Discover myself if I can never find more of me than my own hands? To be sure, it’s those hands that make the things I wear. But why? I can’t question them. They have no ears and if they did, no mouths to give me answers. Not that I’d want mouths on my hands. I’d never be able to go to the bathroom again.

At last I discovered the secret. And myself. In a mirror. Gazing into a mirror is, I’ve since found, a time-honoured way–nay, THE time-honoured way–of truly divining the ultimate worth of oneself and one’s purpose on this earth. The earth itself can wait. Right?

In so doing, I discovered something legitimately surprising: I wear a lot of yellow.

Yellow Vogue blouse in Liberty lawn.
Yellow Vogue blouse in Liberty lawn.
Yellow Butterick t-shirt in cotton knit.
Yellow Butterick t-shirt in cotton knit.
Yellow/citron silk-cotton voile blouse, Vogue again
Yellow/citron silk-cotton voile blouse, Vogue again
Yellow Butterick t-shirt again, with new Style Arc Jasmine shorts--mostly blue, but some yellow too.
Yellow Butterick t-shirt again, with new Style Arc Jasmine shorts–mostly blue, but some yellow too.
Vogue 8997 sheath dress--inexplicably, this dress has no yellow in it. This discovery causes me to question everything I thought I'd learned about myself in May.
Vogue 8997 sheath dress–inexplicably, this dress has no yellow in it. This discovery causes me to question everything I thought I’d learned about myself in May.
That yellow t-shirt again. Do I never wear anything else? Or maybe I just don't photograph myself in anything else? OH MY GOD. I WILL NEVER FIGURE MYSELF OUT.
That yellow t-shirt again. Do I never wear anything else? Or maybe I just don’t photograph myself in anything else? OH MY GOD. I WILL NEVER FIGURE MYSELF OUT.
Thank god there's yellow in these shorts. I can only take so many upsets to my newly emerging Theory of Andrea.
Thank god there’s yellow in these shorts. I can only take so many upsets to my newly emerging Theory of Andrea.
Yellow again! No mirror though. At least this photo demonstrates that the preference for Yellow still exists, even when it cannot be mirrorically confirmed.
Yellow again! No mirror though. At least this photo demonstrates that the preference for Yellow still exists, even when it cannot be mirrorically confirmed.

I had no idea I even owned so many yellow clothes. If anyone had asked me what my favourite colour is, I would have given the three replies, in order:

1. I don’t have a favourite colour. Any bright colour is fine by me.

2. I wear/own a lot of red though.

3. And I have a lot of blue fabric.

How did all this yellow slip under the radar?

My fabric stash is … err, stashed … in the den closet. I bought a few of those hanging Ikea sweater-storage thingies and fold my fabric up in those. It’s cheap, it keeps everything viewable when the closet doors are open, and when closed, shuts it away–except for the overflow currently serving Purgatory on the den floor. In contrast to the two full compartments of red/pink and the THREE full compartments of blue/teal, I have one total compartment for both yellow and orange and it’s not even full. Previous working theory: I don’t actually like/wear yellow all that much. Competing hypothesis: I like it so much that I sew it up as soon as I bring it home (except for the yellow cottons I brought home to make work pants–yes! it’s true!–which are still in the stash, weeping silent cottony tears).

Moreover, it’s all just so much more proof that I make a lousy 40-year-old. Yet another magazine has confirmed for me that in one’s 40s, one is meant to be wearing red. Alas.

However, it must be said that today I am not wearing any yellow at all. Burgundy pants, grey shirt. It may be that I will never Discover myself well enough to have the impact on this world that I know I am capable of. I suppose I’ll have to just muddle along the old way, without much thinking about Who I Am and How That Intersects with What I Wear. (Except for when I do. Yes, I know.)

I also discovered that I still need to make more shorts, and that it wouldn’t be amiss if I focused less on button-up shirts and more on knit shirts. Whether this will happen is as yet anyone’s guess. I couldn’t even begin to tell you, as apparently I just don’t know myself at all.

It only took me ten months (rayon V8963 top)

I made a wearable muslin of the top from this Vogue coordinates pattern package last spring, and loved it. NowI finally made it up as a ‘real’ garment.


I don’t know why it’s been so overlooked. I can’t find any reviews online. Let me correct that:

The sleeve construction is very cool. Kind of like a raglan-sleeve, only flutter style, and at the back it’s joined in towards the middle so you get this overlap.

The shirt is the top part of the dress.

The back shaping is totally awesome. I know that makes me sound like Jem. I do not care. There are four pieces, fitting snugly through the back and then flaring out at the hips.


The whole thing is cut on the bias so, if you choose a good drapey fabric, you will have a flattering fit.

Let’s just pretend that everyone must agree this is flattering. OK?


The front has no darts; they’ve been rotated out to gathers at the neckline, which provide  shaping while still giving plenty of room to get the shirt on and off.

And it is lined, and the lining is joined in such a way as to get all of the seams inside the lining, so no seam finishing is required.


It is a lovely, woven pullover top without closures and with good shaping.

My first wearable muslin was a bit loose in the waist for my liking, and a bit snug through the bust. So this time I added an inch–cut the pattern in half horizontally below the armscye, cut the top half in half vertically, slid each 3/4″ out from the centre line, taped them back down, then trued them up with the waist a size down. I gathered in from the same points on the neckline so I didn’t have to change the facing pieces at all. I also added an inch to the outside of the sleeve to account for my shoulders. The only thing I would change on this new fit is that the back is a bit loose at the armscye. I’d snug that up a bit next time, maybe 1/2″ on each side. And yes, there will be a next time on this top; I just love it. It is comfy, classy, flattering and easy. A bit time consuming due to all the pieces involved, and take some care when attaching the lining to the armscyes, but follow the directions and be patient and it will all work out.


This was made up with Fabricland (the Canadian one) floral rayon challis on sale–so not fancy!–and lined with the same in a solid white. It’s incredibly soft and drapey and a real pleasure to wear.