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Sep 132015

I’m doubling up again in hopes of getting all my summer makes blogged before it gets too cold.  It’s been flipping back and forth between chilly and blazing hot here, so I might be safe to keep talking about and wearing summer clothes a little longer!

In that spirit of continued summer, here’s the final dress from the seven-dress frenzy of June 2015.  As I’ve been banging on about all summer, I dropped everything else in my life and made seven dresses in like two weeks prior to going to Kansas City to score essays for a week.  I regret nothing.  I’ve worn all of those dresses tons this summer, and they were a good investment of time.

This one is made of Cotton and Steel double gauze, and you can see right away below that I didn’t adequately prepare for the loose-woven nature of double gauze: I should have interfaced the waistband.  I didn’t realize this until the whole dress was together, though, and I abhor seam-ripping serger stitching, so I just have a kind of sloppy dress.  I’m going to just plan to interface all my Belladone waistbands from now on.  Especially since the esteemed McCall’s 6696 asks you to interface the waistband, and those waistbands always come out looking sharp.


I’m still getting used to my camera settings, so sorry about the darkness.  I’ll get it figured out someday!  Using the regular settings was resulting in super blown-out photos, though, so darkness it is.  They don’t look quite this dark on the camera screen, so I’m going to have to start bumping the f-stop down a few numbers past what looks good on the camera screen.


I never put a hook and eye in this dress, which is quite obvious in the photo below.  I hate putting in hooks and eyes, so I often just don’t do it, but the dark color of this dress against my skin makes my laziness a bit too in-your-face.  But look at that waistband matching!  I used a contrast fabric for the waistband to give myself a little waist definition, which is always welcome in my household.  It’s a coordinating double gauze that matches the little asterisks in the print.  I really like the effect and I wish I could find coordinating solids like this more easily.


I also used the solid double gauze to make my own bias tape, which I hardly ever do, but I thought it would be senseless to use a soft and cozy fabric like double gauze and then use stiff pre-made bias tape on it.  I also thought I’d be a genius and handstitch my bias binding down so the dress would have a clean finish from the outside.  But I was too lazy and made my stitches too far apart, so what you see below is what my horrified eyes saw the first time this came out of the washer.  I still haven’t fixed it even though I’ve worn the dress again – oops!  It’s not causing major problems yet, but I clearly need to fix it before the double-gauze binding shreds and I need to replace it entirely.  I’ll probably just machine stitch it this time to avoid having this problem again.


Next up is another Belladone (which, if you couldn’t already tell, is one of my pattern true loves alongside McCall’s 6696).  But this time, it’s a knit!  As I mentioned a few posts ago, I made a knit Belladone a couple years back but the fabric pilled and looked awful right away.  I’d wanted to make another one ever since, and decided against making a Morris blazer with this fabric in favor of making my longed-for knit Belladone.  I LOVE this dress, so I’m glad I went for it.

There is one issue, which you can see below in the way the stripes distort at the shoulder – the fabric in that area has some minor wrinkles.  For one thing, I should have narrowed the shoulders more.  The second thing is that I made my armhole binding slightly too short for this knit, which is very stable.  I read somewhere that 85% of the opening is a good length for knit bindings, so that’s what I did.  That worked out perfectly for the neckline, which is much more prone to gaping or standing away from the body, but it’s a bit too tight for the armholes.  I’d kind of like to cut the shoulders in a little bit and redo the binding, but I’m also kind of lazy.  Plus sweater season is almost here, so this will be covered most of the time anyway.


This is a really stable ponte, so I didn’t size down even though this is a knit.  I thought I might have to take it in, but it turned out fine.  This is definitely a secret pajamas dress, and it makes me want to make a thousand more.  You’ll notice that I kept all the darts, even though this is a knit.  This may seem reasonable for this dress because it’s made of a pretty stable ponte, but I’m actually planning on making all my knit tops with darts from now on.  I get a much better fit, and I’ve noticed that a lot of knit RTW has darts or princess seams.  I have a few knit dresses from Target and LOFT with darts and one with princess seams, and they look perfectly fine and fit well.  I always wanted to avoid darts in knit garments because I thought they would look Becky Homecky, but an ill-fitting garment looks much worse than a well-fitting darted one, and if it’s good enough for Target and LOFT, it’s good enough for me.

As you can see below, my stripes got really wonky around the waistband and I’m not sure why.  I cut the waistband pieces so they’d match, but something went awry.  My skirt side seams are still fairly matched because I sacrificed waistband matching to get them to look right.  I figured my arms would cover the side seam at the waist a lot of the time, but the skirt side seams will always be visible.


Back of striped dress is striped just like the front:  truth in advertising.  I accidentally made a cutting mistake right away, so I had to cut my back skirt pieces separately to conserve fabric even though they should have been cut on the fold because there’s no zipper in this dress.  I think I did a pretty decent job of lining up the stripes.  I can see where the seam is, but I think it’s hidden pretty well for those not in the know.


And here’s my lovely binding, which I painstakingly folded right on the stripe so it could be solid black.  You can also see my rear skirt seam.  Oh, and my coverstitching.  I almost used the sewing machine instead of the coverstitch because this knit is so stable that it really wouldn’t matter.  But I went for it because I paid money to own a coverstitch machine, so I should probably use it.


And there you have it:  two Belladones. That brings my Belladone count up to six, I believe, but a couple of them are two years old and too small to wear.  McCall’s 6696 is currently beating it at seven, but it’s close.  I also have a Belladone frankenpattern that I finished a couple of weeks ago, so if we count it, I think my 6696 and Belladone counts might be neck and neck.  Plus I’ve used the Belladone skirt on tons of dresses because it’s my perfect dress skirt: slightly a-line, darted in the back, and front pleats for extra belly room without adding bulk.

When I first started sewing, I never wanted to repeat patterns because I thought it would be dumb to have a closet full of the same clothes in different colors/prints.  I’ve obviously changed my tune on that one, and it’s a good thing because if it weren’t for repeat patterns that don’t require several rounds of muslining, I wouldn’t have nearly as many clothes!

Apr 172015

Hi kids!  Today I have a Deer and Doe Belladone to show you, plus I have some thoughts on purchasing Vlisco fabric, which is what this dress is made of.

First, the dress.  This is the Deer and Doe Belladone, which I’ve made twice before.  You are seeing it photographed in my grandma’s backyard on one of the many days when it was too cold to visit the beach while we were in Florida.  But I’m next to a palm tree, so it’s better scenery than is usually offered on this blog!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-back
Also good scenery:  a puppy!  He’s not really a puppy, but I’ve taken to calling all dogs puppies.  That’s Bentley, my grandma’s dog.  He’s is actually not at all a spring chicken; he’s advanced in years for a miniature Doberman Pinscher, and as a result he has diabetes and poor vision.  Which is very sad, but also adorable when he tries to jump up on the couch to sit on your lap and has the grace of a baby giraffe trying to find its legs.  Re: the dress, there’s a little wrinkling on the back that I’ll try to take care of in future versions, though I’m not sure I’ll use the cutout back again.  It’s a bit too distinctive for me to want to have five of them.  I’ve decided I’m okay with a closet full of Archers and McCall’s 6696s, but I draw the line at cutout backed Belladones!


My lovely photographer, my mother, decided to get artistic, which made me laugh.  But I do like how this photo turned out!


As we were taking this picture, Bentley decided to photobomb me while taking care of his business.  I 1. find this hilarious, and 2. like the way the wind is blowing my skirt, so the photo gets posted.


Another through-the-palm-tree shot with bonus puppy.  You can see here that I scooped out the neckline a bit.  That Belladone neckline is really high!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-waistband

Here you can see my waistband seam matching, which is excellent except for the fact that the side on the right is a little bit shorter than the side on the left.  Boo, but I was very pleased with my invisible zip seam matching.  I didn’t attempt any pattern matching because I just barely had enough fabric to eke out this dress, plus I can’t even discern a repeat in this pattern.  The fabric, as I mentioned above, is Vlisco.  This one is their voile, which seems exactly like their Wax, Java, and Super-wax (I’m pretty sure I have them all in my collection) to me, so I’m not sure what the difference is supposed to be.  This one did seem more shiny when it arrived, but they all look and feel like quilting cotton once they’ve been washed.Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-pink-serging

I used pink thread for my serging!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-binding

And pink bias tape!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-pocketAnd pink pocket lining!  I actually didn’t intend to use pink pocket lining, but I had to cut my pocket linings on a single layer because I was squeezing this out of 2 yards, and I accidentally cut them both on the same side.  I always do this when I’m cutting on a single layer!  Ugh.  But I like my pink lining, so it’s all good.

So what am I talking about when I mention liking problematic things?  Well, for background, you can read this: How to Like Problematic Things*.  After buying my Vlisco fabric, I realized I didn’t really know anything about it.  People call it African wax, but in what precise way is it African if it’s made in Holland?  So not at all like the good consumer I would like to be, I looked up information about this stuff after purchasing it.  I found a couple sites explaining the history of the type of prints Vlisco sells: What is Ankara? and The Origin of Ankara.  I learned that these types of prints are the result of the Dutch appropriating Batik fabric-making techniques from Indonesia in order to sell fabric in Indonesia for cheaper than local producers could.  Hmm, I don’t like that.  Colonizing, mass manufacturing a good made by the people you colonized, then selling it back to them for profit?  Not cool, Dutch (but then we all knew the Dutch were no paragons of virtue when it came to colonization, right?).  The fabric ended up not being very popular in Indonesia (good for the Indonesians!), but was popular among people in West Africa.  Which is why we call these prints African wax prints or Ankara today; they’re just most closely associated with West Africa because that’s where the most people wear them.  So the fabric seemed kind of problematic to me because of its history, but I also found this article: The History of Dutch Wax Prints. That author raises concerns about the way these fabrics dominate the textile market in West Africa such that people don’t buy as many locally-produced fabrics because they’re not considered high fashion the way something like Vlisco is.  This, to me, seems to be the more pressing concern.

Finally, I also have some concerns about the appropriative aspect of wearing fabrics associated with cultures that are not my own.  I’m still working through those concerns.  When I went to India years and years ago, I wore saris and salwar kameezes, but I would never do that today.  But would I wear something I sewed out of a sari?  I’m not sure how I feel about that yet.  I’m certainly trying to avoid being appropriative, but intentions don’t really matter in this debate.

Anyway, those are my thoughts, and those are the reasons why I feel some unease about Vlisco.  I’ve already bought another piece after my first order, so it’s not like I’m boycotting the stuff.  I have no willpower in the face of a gorgeous print, and I’m not always the noble consumer I would hope to be.  But I do think it’s worth recognizing the problematic aspects of the things we like.


*That article is talking about liking problematic texts, which is different than liking problematic products.  If I buy Scott Pilgrim comics, which is the example from the article, I’m giving money to an individual who has some problematic views.  If I buy fabrics, I’m supporting an industry.  My “support” is not likely to make or break either the individual or the company, but I like to be intentional about what I give money to.  This is less an issue of boycotting for a particular effect and more an issue of avoiding cognitive dissonance.

Nov 182013

I had planned to write this post a week ago, but I got sick last weekend and spent the next few days totally miserable – tired, stuffy, sore throat.  I didn’t feel like doing much of anything, especially getting all gussied up to take blog photos of completed projects!  I cancelled class for my students on Tuesday but had to drag myself in on Thursday because they had a paper to write, and I also had an appointment to get my sewing machine cleaned on Wednesday, so I was really worn out from all the activity and was just a vegetable while I was home.  I’m still sniffling now, but I’m mostly recovered.

Anyway, I finished my second Deer and Doe Belladone a few weeks ago and have been wanting to blog about it ever since.  I have such a backlog of things I’ve finished and haven’t posted about that I’m going to talk about my first and second Belladones in this post.  Let me start by saying that I LOVE Deer and Doe patterns!  They fit me very well right out of the envelope, which is amazing.  This happens more often with independent pattern makers than it does with the big 4, but it seemed like the Belladone was particularly easy to fit.  I almost could have made it without any modifications, but I tweaked a few things here and there to make the fit better.

peacock-deer-and-doe-belladone-front-1So this is Belladone #1, for summer.  I was obsessed with this fabric – I just love colors (haha, can you tell from the walls in my apartment?), and this has lots of them, so it’s clearly superior to other fabrics!  It’s a linen/cotton blend from Anna Maria Horner’s Field Study line, and it’s called Parenthetical in Potpourri.  I was really pleasantly surprised with how little it wrinkled, considering that it’s a blend of two fabrics that are known for wrinkling.  The first day I wore it I was running late, so I had to drive instead of taking the train to campus, and being scrunched up in the car plus seatbelt didn’t leave me with a wrinkled mess like it usually does.


My cutout in the back is still ever-so-slightly gappy, especially when I move in certain directions, but I’m mostly happy with it.  When I wore this on that first day, everyone was complimenting me on the front, and then a few minutes later when I turned to leave, they’d gasp and then compliment me on the back!  This is a dress that really knows how to make you feel good about your sewing skills, especially considering that the back isn’t really that hard to make!  The directions are really well-written, and I wasn’t confused even once.  The back is the area where I had to make the most alterations, which is typically the case for me.  I took the two back pieces in slightly at the center seam and overlapped the top triangles a little more than was called for in the pattern.  I also cut the back just a little shorter than the pattern called for because I always have a problem where if the front of a bodice fits me, the back is slightly too long.  I suppose what I really need to be doing to solve the back problems is starting with a smaller size and then doing a full bust adjustment.  There’s been a rash of really awesome and clear FBA tutorials going around lately, so I’m going to give it a go on my next new make.  Lauren’s tutorial for the La Sylphide sewalong finally made sense out of FBAs for me, as did Alana’s for the Dakota sewalong.

peacock-deer-and-doe-belladone-sideI was really worried about that front pleat sticking out in an obnoxious way, but it looks pretty good, I think!  Another alteration I had to make was taking the dress up a bit at the shoulder – I think about a half inch.  As I’ve mentioned before, this solves two problems for me – armholes and waists that are riding too low.  I also usually have some gaping at the armholes, and this dress was no exception though it was pretty minimal.  In order to deal with it, I pinched out a little dart where it was gaping and then rotated the amount of the dart into the horizontal bust dart that was already in the pattern.  It was my first time rotating excess into an existing dart, and I was pretty excited about how well it worked!  It’s amazing to me how excess fabric in one area can be taken care of by removing it in another area.  Magic, I tell you!


For winter, I want to make myself a long-sleeved t-shirt out a black tissue knit, because for some reason I think this would look awesome to wear underneath this.  For now, I’ll just wear it with a cardigan, tights, and boots.  This cardigan, by the way, really shows you how much I need to knit my own sweaters.  It’s just way too long, even though it’s a petite size.  I can’t wait until I know enough to make my own sweaters!

So that’s pretty much it for the first Belladone.  After making and loving this one so much, I decided I wanted one for fall with sleeves.  I had been eyeing some fabric for a while and it went on sale for like $4 a yard, so I grabbed it and decided to make my fall Belladone with it.  Now that it’s all said and done, I’m not as in love with the fabric as I originally thought I’d be.  It’s a quilting cotton, and it just doesn’t drape as well as the linen/cotton blend.  I have a bad habit of falling in love with quilting cotton prints and then making things out of them that don’t live up to my expectations.  I still have a few in my stash that I need to use up, but I need to institute a rule about buying them in the future.  It’s so hard, though, because you can find them so cheap that it always seems like a great idea to buy them.  Anyway, this fabric was annoying for two other reasons besides its hand.  First of all, I didn’t buy enough of it to make the sleeves.  I bought the same amount that I bought for the summer Belladone because I’d had plenty of extra left over and could have easily cut sleeves out as well . . . but that fabric was 54 inches wide and the quilting cotton was 44.  Ugh.  So I went online, found some at fabric.com, then hemmed and hawed about what else I wanted to buy along with it, and by the time I made up my mind it was sold out.  Remember how I said it was on sale?  Yeah, that’s because it was being discontinued and was in the clearance bin.  I was really irritated with myself for being so stupid twice over and even cried.  What can I say – I’m a crier.  You’ll probably hear a lot about me crying on this blog!  I finally found some at a website I’d never heard of before – Ladyfingers Sewing Studio. I was concerned that their obscurity wouldn’t bode well for my shopping experience, but it all worked out smoothly, so yay for Ladyfingers!  This nefarious fabric is Lucky Penny Fallen Leaves in Night by Allison Glass, for those curious.  Though don’t be too curious because you’ll never find the stuff!

deer-and-doe-fall-belladone-frontSo there it is, the fall Belladone.  I had the worst time with that sleeve.  I tried to use a tutorial from Threads to draft my own sleeve, but it was ridiculously too huge for the armscye.  I don’t know if I did it wrong or if Threads is a propagator of the unnecessary sleeve cap ease that’s so rampant in commercial patterns, but it did not work out at all.  I ended up just taking the sleeve from the Deer and Doe Sureau pattern and popping it in.  The Sureau sleeve is gathered, but somehow it turned out that I needed to use a quarter inch seam allowance instead of 5/8 to get this sleeve to fit, plus it ended up not having enough fabric to be gathered.  Whatevs, it covers my arms and doesn’t look horrible.  I was never committed to the idea of the gathering anyway.

deer-and-doe-fall-belladone-sideI really love the mustardy yellow paired with grey.  I started to type that this is one of my favorite color combos, but honestly, when I really think about it, there are tons of combos that could qualify as “favorites.”  I’m pretty indiscriminate when it comes to pairing colors!

deer-and-doe-fall-belladone-backI wanted to make the back solid as well as adding sleeves so this could be worn for fall without a cardigan.  Everything seemed fine at the muslin stage, but I must have mucked something up because the top of the back was way too tall.  It was crawling halfway up my neck.  I hacked it down and it looks mostly okay.  You can’t really tell in this picture, but when I hacked it down, it meant that some of the zipper teeth had to be enclosed in the bias binding I used on the neckline.  I tried to cut the teeth out, leaving just the tape to be caught in the binding, but I didn’t do such a great job and the the stiffness of the zipper in the binding caused the two halves of the bodice to be uneven.  You can’t really tell in the picture, but the right side is definitely higher than the left.  I ripped it out once and redid it because it was really noticeable, but I didn’t want to rip it out a second time to get it perfect because I was worried about causing additional problems by stretching out the neckline with all the handling.

deer-and-doe-fall-belladone-no-beltI mentioned earlier that there were two problems with this fabric, but I only told you the harrowing tale of not having enough of it to make sleeves.  I also ended up not liking the all-over print once it got put together.  Once again I chose a busy print that left me with no waist definition.  I could tell right away that I didn’t like it before I even tried it on.  I thought I might rip it apart and substitute a different color for the waistband.  I had some grey fabric in my stash that I thought would be perfect.  It turned out that the grey fabric didn’t match at all – it was too cool to go with this warm yellowy grey with mustard accents.  Then I decided that it would be totally awesome if I could find a mustard fabric to match the leaves in the print.  I even mocked it up in Gimp and loved how it looked.


What I didn’t realize is that that mustardy yellow color is exceedingly strange.  I took a swatch into Joann’s to look at the Kona cottons, assuming that quilting cotton designers might take coordinating solids into account when designing their prints.  No such luck.  Against everything I could find, this mustardy yellow actually ended up looking sort of limey.  So I gave up on that idea and went to Target, where I bought my second-ever belt.  Woohoo, belts!  You solve all my problems!


See how happy you make me, belt?  You’re awesome.  Why on earth did I ever think I couldn’t pull off a belt?  My body apparently pretty much requires a belt whenever I wear print dresses.

So goes the tale of the Deer and Doe Belladone in my household.  Wow, that was really long!  At least you got to see two different dresses, though.  I’m resisting the urge to call them “looks” after the marathon sessions of Project Runway watching that I’ve been doing.  I feel the need to not call them “looks” or discuss how I’ve “styled” them.  Maybe when I start taking myself more seriously as a seamstress (though it’s not Project Seamstress, is it?).  For now, my ineptitude at making sleeves and ordering enough fabric make me feel that I’m not worthy of such high-minded language.

I finished my Sureau last weekend, just before the sickness caught me in its grip.  I did a marathon photo session, so the photos are all ready to go and I’ll post about it in a few days.  During that marathon photo session, of which this fall Belladone was a part, you may have noticed that my tripod is captured in the bottom right corner of all my photos.  Editing it out would cut off my feet or part of my arm in most of the photos, so I’m leaving it as is.  Ah well.  I will figure out this photo thing someday, including not capturing the tripod and getting rid of the three feet of dead space above my head!