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Dec 222015

Apparently I started the draft of this post on October 4th.  Yikes.  The semester that just ended nearly killed me.  I’ve never worked so tirelessly in my life, and I feel like I’m never going to recover.  I read over 2000 pages of student writing and had to comment on most of it, so it wasn’t like I was skimming.  I had 125 students, the most I’ve ever had, and I had three different classes to prep.  I hardly know what to do with all my free time over the winter break!  In theory, I want to sew, but I’m still so exhausted that I haven’t done much since we got back from visiting my mom in Florida a week ago.

I didn’t really get much sewn this semester.  The dress I’m going to talk about today was sewn before the semester started and was my first day of class dress.  I always like to make a new dress for the first day of class because I’m silly.  To my students, any dress I wear will be new, but it makes me happy to have a new-to-me dress!  During the regular semester, I think the only two things I actually finished were a Minoru coat and a corduroy 6696, and the 6696 isn’t quite finished.  It needs sleeves, but I’ve worn it with a sweater because I have a mustard sweater that I think looks awesome with the teal corduroy I chose, plus I was determined to wear my fall corduroy dress in the fall!


Anyway this is Simplicity 1803, which is a Project Runway pattern with a bunch of different bodice options.  It only has one skirt option, though, which is a gathered skirt.  I’m not the hugest fan of a gathered skirt on me, especially in thicker fabrics like the one I used, so I just used my trusty Belladone skirt, sans pockets.  I regret that choice and wish I’d made it avec pockets, but it’s too late now.  The fabric is barkcloth from Miss Matatabi, and I LOVE it.  I’ve since procured some Jessica Jones Time Warp barkcloth, and it has a very different feel, but I think I’ll like it too.  The barkcloth is nubby and soft, and it’s super comfy to wear.  I’ve worn it with sweaters and tights into the winter, but these photos were taken in August!


As you can see in the photo above, I clearly need to add a bit of length to the front bodice.  I didn’t do an FBA for the bodice because it was fine width-wise, but I obviously needed the extra length of an FBA.


This dress came out a little big, but as I’ve mentioned several times, I’m a fan of slightly big dresses because they’re super comfy.  In the above picture, you can see that I’ve used the back bodice from the Deer and Doe Belladone, which I modified to not have the cutout.  The back bodice for this pattern has a really low scoop, which I don’t like at all on me.

Below you can see the detail of the bodice a bit more clearly.  I wanted to take a closer shot to show the little split in the neck, but my face kept looking so stupid in every picture that I finally just turned my head.  I was probably super stressed that day about teaching stuff.  :/


That’s it for today!  I have another dress that I took photos of but haven’t had time to blog, but those photos are on a computer that had the RAM go bad, so I’m waiting on replacement RAM so I can upload those photos.  Everything is backed up, but the photos are unfortunately not backed up to any of my various cloud backups, so I have to wait to get them off my Time Machine hard drive.  Sigh.  I’m s-l-o-w-l-y working on a winter coat right now, but it doesn’t really matter that it’s taking me so long because we’ve only had a few days where I would have needed it.  I’ve been wearing my trusty Minoru tons and subbing in my puffy coat when it gets too cold.  I do want to get the winter coat done over the winter break, though, so hopefully I’ll be able to post about it soon.

Sep 292015

I just realized that it’s technically no longer summer, so I should probably post this dress before it gets too ridiculous.  A few months ago, I saw a woman on the train with a shoulder-tie blouse and all of a sudden a desperate need for a shoulder-tie garment hit me.  I mostly wear dresses, though, so I cooked up a scheme to make a dress with shoulder ties.  I recalled that I’d seen a shoulder-tie top on Handmade by Heather B‘s blog, so I scrolled madly through her archive until I found what I was looking for, which turned out to be the Maison Fleur Summer Blouse.  I decided to pair it with my trusty Belladone skirt, and this is the result.

I have this problem sometimes where I think I’m smiling but I’m actually grimacing horrifically.  I’m guessing that’s why people on the street don’t always smile back at me.  Anyway, I was having one of those days when I was trying to take these pictures, and it was really irritating me.  The more irritated I got, the less I was able to fake a smile.  So I just turned my head instead of trying to fight it.

Back to business:  Maison Fleur Summer Blouse.  Instead of actually sewing the blouse and attaching the Belladone skirt to it, I decided I’d just trace a version of the Belladone bodice with the neckline and tie extensions of the Summer Blouse.  I wanted this dress quick because summer was already waning, and I didn’t want to waste time fitting a whole new pattern.  I do believe it worked out well.


The fabric is from Miss Matatabi’s Etsy store, which I don’t recommend you visit.  It’s a very dangerous place.  I ordered some of the gorgeous Nani Iro Mountains fabric that was popping up everywhere this summer and decided to follow Miss Matatabi on Instagram.  A few days after my fabric arrived, she posted that some fabrics were on sale, and wouldn’t you know that one of them was a fabric I had agonized over adding to my order.  So I placed another order for that fabric, and while floating around the Etsy store I spied this Ellen Baker cranes fabric and couldn’t resist it.  Nor could I resist another fabric from the same Ellen Baker line.  So you can see how I would sternly warn you against perusing Miss Matatabi’s shop.


LOOK AT THAT PATTERN MATCHING.  I’m not a pattern matcher, folks.  I’m the sort who buys the absolute minimum amount of fabric necessary because I hate waste, and that sort of philosophy doesn’t really lend itself to pattern matching.  But I somehow managed to buy more than I needed with this fabric, and how many metallic paper crane print items does one girl need?  So I pattern matched those suckers, and I’m proud to say that when I put my mind to it, I am capable of matching a pattern.  Note that I did not put my mind to matching the waistband, therefore it does not match.  And I’m not just saying that; I really didn’t want the waistband to match.  I wanted it to be a little obvious that there was a waistband there to add some semblance of waist definition.  I find that a regular, all-over print is a great way to camouflage a body’s curves.  If that’s what you want, perfect.  That is not what I want at my waist.  My search for a coordinating solid was a failure, so I had to work with what was available, thus the not-matching waistband.

This fabric is a linen/cotton blend and it’s pretty heavy.  This made the ties quite difficult to manage; I had to get Ben to help me tie them.  I thought of trying to do a single knot and sewing it in place, but I’d like to wear this dress in the winter with a cardigan, and I don’t want strange lumps at my shoulders.  I’m hoping I can devise a plan to untie the knots and make some surreptitious fasteners of some kind so I can wear a cardigan without looking like I have a lumpy mutation at my shoulders.


I bought a crane necklace this summer, but as I told everyone who complimented me on this dress, I don’t want to wear them together lest I look like I have a crane fetish.  And of course, telling everyone, including the internet, this information makes me seem like I do indeed have a crane fetish but am anxious about it.

OMG, you guys.  I wanted to post this earlier, but I’ve just finished an intensive week of commenting on 88 papers because I planned poorly and had students from my composition classes at both schools turn in papers on the same day.  I never want to comment on another paper again.  Except I just got a batch of papers to grade last night.  *sob*

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!

Sep 052015

I’m so behind in blogging dresses that I’m going to have to start doubling up!  This should not be difficult because this year is the year of repeat patterns – especially McCall’s 6696.  Unsurprisingly, I have two versions of McCall’s 6696 to show you today, both made in the seven-dress frenzy of summer ’15.  One is made out of Liberty tana lawn, and the other is made out of my beloved Art Gallery voile.

First up, my third version of McCall’s 6696, made out of Liberty lawn.  This one is a little different.  To make it seem like I’m not just sewing the same exact dress over and over again, I modified this one to only button down halfway, like Mary did here.  The skirt and waistband are solid in front.

My first set of photos for this dress were so washed out!  It was really frustrating.  I tried closing the blinds in the room where I was taking them, but it didn’t help at all.  I gave up and figured I’d just apologize when I blogged this dress.


But then I did a big photo session for some newer dresses and was having the same problem.  This time, I was taking the pictures pretty late in the day and not in direct sunlight, so I decided it might be a good time to actually use some of the manual settings on my camera so I’d have a fighting chance of getting decent pictures.  I increased the f-stop number to make the pictures look less washed out, and I was surprised how much more like myself I looked!  I always look so washed out in the photographs and like my skin glows white, but it really doesn’t.  I re-took the pictures for this dress, and it’s so much better.  Now I look more like me and you can see the print on this beautiful Liberty fabric much better!

I also got new glasses in between the first photo and the second.  They’re apparently not as fabulous at reducing glare as my old glasses


Side view!  I really don’t understand camera settings, which is why the photo below is partially blurry.  I thought increasing the f-stop number would decrease the shutter speed, which is what would let less light through the lens, but that is apparently wrong because the shutter was noticeably slower and I kept moving before it was done.  I didn’t notice all the blurry spots until I uploaded the pictures, so you’ll have to bear with me as I figure out what a camera is and how to use it!


More blurriness with a back view.

More buttons from the lovely Soutache.  These are the same buttons I used on my Liberty Alder, just in a different color.  I love them, but if there’s any strain at all on the buttons, they want to slide through the buttonhole and pop open!  I never need to unbutton these buttons to put the dress on, so I just handstitched the two plackets together.liberty-mary-jean-c-mccalls-6696-detail

Next up, my Art Gallery voile 6696.  This one buttons all the way down, but I used a gathered skirt instead of the pleated skirt, again, to give some minimal sense of variety to these dresses.  Now that I’ve sewn up and worn my two pieces of Liberty fabric quite a bit, I feel like it’s definitely much better than quilting cotton, but not as good as these Art Gallery voiles.  They are smoother and come out of the washer (if I’m hanging them to dry) or the dryer (if I don’t have hanging space or time to let them hang) wrinkle-free, while my Liberties always get all crinkly in certain spots and it’s nearly impossible to iron the crinkles out.

flowered-engrams-voile-mccalls-6696-frontThis particular print is designed by Katarina Roccella and it’s called Flowered Engrams in Ornate.  I LOVE it so much!  I think it’s my favorite out of all the Art Gallery voiles I got this summer.  I’ve wanted a larger scale floral dress for a while, but I have trouble finding prints that don’t look grandmotherly to me.  I love the colors in this one, and as you’ll see better below, the flowers have a blocky, pixelated look to them, which I think makes the print look much more modern than lots of other large-scale florals.flowered-engrams-voile-mccalls-6696-sideA back view for journalistic integrity.  I had no idea that I’d apparently cut my waistband with the flowers almost-but-not-quite matching the bodice.  I didn’t even realize it until I saw this picture!  It looks sort of strange, which makes me think a belt would be a good idea for this dress.  I’ve already worn it like a billion times without one, though, so whoops!flowered-engrams-voile-mccalls-6696-backHere you can see the print a bit better, along with my square buttons, which delight me because they echo the pixelated nature of the print.  They’re nothing fancy, just from Joann.  Every time I’m looking for a teal button, these are the closest thing they have at Joann, and they never match.  I was excited that they actually matched this dress since they’re perfect for it!flowered-engrams-voile-mccalls-6696-button-detail-closeupI finally remembered to use a tip from this Grainline tutorial for getting flat bias binding, which is understitching.  It works pretty well!  I used premade bias binding because I hate making my own, and that makes it a little more difficult to get a perfect finish because it’s so stiff, but I’ve definitely been getting the best finishes I’ve ever had now that I’m understitching.


That’s it for today!  I still have six dresses I’ve made that I have yet to blog, and they’re all pretty much summer dresses, so I have to get my act together!  I’ve just been so busy lately – probably the busiest I’ve ever been in my life.  I’ve been a TA for the past six years at UIC, where I’m doing my Ph.D.  I’m still teaching two classes there this semester , but I’m also teaching two classes at another school.  Remember my interview suit?  Well, I didn’t get that job, which was at a community college, and I heard through the grapevine of a friend who works there that it was, at least in part, because I didn’t have any community college teaching experience.  So I decided to teach part time at a community college to get some experience.  It’s difficult to get a full time job, but it’s ridiculously easy to get a part time job.  My interview for the part-time place was barely an interview, and I was told I had the job like 20 minutes into it.  So they hired me to teach two composition classes, and I discovered when I looked up my rosters that I’d have 32 students in each one.  Our course limit for composition at UIC is 24, and most of us feel like that’s too many.  32?!  I was horrified.  And I continue to be horrified every time I have to spend hours upon hours reading their homework or commenting on their papers.  Plus I have more than the normal number of students at UIC for convoluted reasons having to do with the fact that one of my classes this semester isn’t a comp class.  So in total I have somewhere between 120-130 students (some of them have a lot of absences already and might end up dropping), which is the most I’ve ever had, even though I taught four classes one semester when I was an adjunct in between my MA and Ph.D.  I only had 85 that semester.  I’m behind in everything in my life except teaching, and I feel like I’m always either prepping for class, reading homework, commenting on papers, or actually traveling to or being at one of the two schools.  This semester may actually kill me.  I’m hoping to take some time over this long Labor Day weekend to get ahead a bit on class prep, plus sew a little bit.  Plus I need to finish some last revisions on an article I’m sending to a journal.  There’s definitely no time for relaxing this weekend, which is what this holiday is all about!  Blergh.

Aug 132015

Here’s yet another Alder – number five to be precise!  It’s made of yet another Art Gallery voile, this one from Leah Duncan’s Gramercy line.  The print is called City Lights in Night.  I’d had my eye on it for a while and was delighted to discover that it could fit in with my plan to take home all the dark, printed voiles this summer.  I do love the print, but the hand of this voile is much different than the two other Art Gallery voiles I have.  It seems stiffer and stickier.  I’m guessing it’s the fault of the black dye, which is known to wreak havoc.  So if I’ve inspired you to buy the whole catalog of dark printed Art Gallery voiles, be aware that this one is not quite as magical as the others.  It’s still light and breezy and good for keeping as cool as possible in summer, but it’s not the wondrous fabric that led me on my dark printed voile quest.leah-duncan-gramercy-city-lights-night-grainline-alder-front

I really don’t have much to say about this dress that I didn’t say in my post about my Liberty Alder.  Like that dress, I also straightened the hem on this dress instead of using the shirttail-style hem of the pattern.  The only thing I have to say about this one that I didn’t say about the other is that the armhole on this one is a bit higher than my other Alders, thus making it a bit uncomfortable.  This happened because I forgot to use a 1/2″ seam allowance on the shoulder seams and instead used a 5/8″ allowance.  You wouldn’t think that 1/8″ would make much of a difference, but it really does!  The Liberty Alder armholes are high, but not as uncomfortably so as these.


I mentioned in my post about the Liberty Alder that I wanted to shorten the back bodice for future versions.  Since I made this one at the same time as that one, I didn’t make that change.  I’ll have to remember when I make it again, and I definitely will.  I’m thinking I might need a long-sleeved version for the fall.


These buttons are not very thrilling, sorry!  They’re just from Joann’s.  I had such a hard time deciding on buttons, though.  I thought maybe yellow, but I couldn’t find a yellow I liked.  Blue was my second choice, but these buttons only match the blue of the dress in certain lights/at certain angles.  So not the best option, but in my seven dress making frenzy, I didn’t have time for a trip to Soutache, which is further from me than Joann’s and has less convenient hours.

And that’s the tale of dress four of seven.  I have three more to show you (basic math, ya’ll), then I can move on to the two dresses I’ve made since.  My output has slowed down significantly since the seven dress making frenzy, perhaps understandably so.  In addition to being a little sewed-out, I’ve also been working on a really annoying dress that doesn’t inspire me to sit down at the sewing machine.  I hope it will turn out to be great dress, but the sewing of it is driving me nuts.  I forgot one of the lessons I learned when I sewed more in the month of January than I had all last year: if I’m not happy sewing something, give it a break and move on to something else.  I have this resistance to changing the thread in my machine and serger for some reason.  Sewing machines are easy to thread and I have an air-threaded serger, so there’s really no excuse.  I told myself in January that I just needed to rethread my machines if it meant I got to work on something more exciting, and I need to remember that so I don’t get hung up on one annoying dress!


Aug 052015

Last year I made a summer Sureau out of some gorgeous Cloud 9 organic voile, but I only wore it a couple of times.  I thought voile would be the perfect thing for a summer dress, but the print I bought was very light in color, so I had to line it.  The lining made the dress unbearable in the heat, so I never really wanted to wear the dress.  I believe I’ve previously mentioned that this summer, I discovered that dark printed voiles are magical summer fabrics.  Light enough in weight to keep you cool and dark enough in color to not need lined.  When I bought a pile of dark printed voiles a few months ago, I earmarked one of them for a new summer Sureau, and it is much better than last year’s version!


I made this one out of a Pat Bravo printed voile from Art Gallery.  It’s from the Etno line and it’s called Shore Remains in Algae.  In the little images online stores use to sell this fabric, the background looks sort of brown or grey, but it’s actually a dark navy blue that looks pretty much black.  I never would have ordered it if I thought it had a brownish greyish background, but I saw photos of the actual fabric on Hawthorne Threads so I knew I liked the way it actually looked.


This was probably my least favorite of all the voiles when I bought them, but the dress has gotten a ton of compliments and I like the color more than I thought I would, so it’s moved up in the rankings.


As with my latest versions of McCall’s 6696, I very unscientifically added a little extra at the side seams to accommodate weight gain.  The dress ended up a little bigger than necessary, but it’s supremely comfortable, so I left it as is.  I am so loving my loose breezy dresses this summer!

pat-bravo-etno-shore-remains-deer-and-doe-sureau-button-detailThe buttons are just cheapies from Joann’s I had lying around.  They’re a sort of iridescent shell, but it’s hard to tell in the picture.  I looked everywhere for buttons that would match the light blue triangles in the print, but it turned out to be a really difficult color to match.  I settled for sort of matching the cream flower petals.

I’m really glad I redeemed the concept of the summer Sureau with a a better fabric choice!  I really love the Sureau – I think the neckline is flattering, and I love that the gathering at the bust means fewer darts.  The skirt also seems to have the perfect amount of gathering – not so much that it’s poufy and just enough that the skirt looks appropriately gathered.

I still have a few of my summer dresses to post, but I’ve been sewing in the meantime.  I’ve been working on another 6696 (my sixth!) that’s trying to kill me, and I’m also making a knit Belladone.  I made one before but never got around to posting it; here’s a quick picture I took back when I made it:


I loved that dress but the knit was pretty crappy and got pills all over it right away.

I’ve also been working on a pile of muslins.  Since it worked out so well to cut a bunch of dresses out at once and sew them all up, I decided I’d give a try to cutting a bunch of muslins at once.  I posted a picture of them to Instagram, though it’s hard to see which patterns they are:


I’ve got Butterick 6168, McCall’s 6503, McCall’s 6891, Simplicity 1803, and Simplicity 1873.  I’ve got the fit sorted on the two Simplicities and McCall’s 6891, but McCall’s 6503 is giving me major fit issues, ugh.  Butterick 6168 doesn’t have a side bust dart because it has under bust pleats.  But I still need a side dart, so I’m trying to figure out if I should add one or if I should somehow figure out how to rotate it into the pleats.  But I hope to finish up my knit Belladone and my 6696 soon so I can get started on sewing a few of these up as final summer patterns.  It might seem late to be sewing summer dresses, but it will be pretty hot through September, and I’ll need lots of clothes because I’m going to be teaching five days a week instead of three this fall. Wish me luck with teaching and sewing for teaching!

Jul 132015

As I mentioned in my last post, I made seven dresses in like two weeks.  Today I’m going to talk about the second dress, or what is chronologically the first dress I completed.  This one is my second version of McCall’s 6696.  When I made my wearable muslin, I knew I wanted to make two more versions of this dress; one is the one below, out of Art Gallery voile, and the second is a recently completed version with sleeves made from Cotton and Steel tiger print canvas (you can sort of see it behind me in the photos below).  I began this dress in late April at a Chicago-area sewing event, but then I didn’t get to work on it again for a while because I was busy sewing nine gazillion things for my niece.


I’ve gained some weight since my wearable muslin, so I very unscientifically added some extra fabric to all the seam allowances below the bust (my bust size has remained the same).  The dress turned out a bit too big, but I decided I actually liked it that way.  It was very breezy and perfect for summer weather.  The first day I wore it I had several revelations:  1.  dresses that are slightly too big are pretty comfy, so maybe I should cool it on the fitting quests; 2.  Art Gallery voile is amazingly soft and cool in the heat; 3.  allover printed voile on a dark base is the perfect summer fabric because it makes it possible to not need a lining or slip with this very lightweight fabric.  I took action on these revelations by buying a pile of allover printed voiles on dark bases and proceeding to sew them up into breezy summer dresses (see:  seven dresses in a few weeks).  Unfortunately the universe has not shared in my awe at these revelations and has not sent me much summery weather in which to enjoy my new breezy dresses.  I’ve been wearing cardigans with them most days.


This particular voile is from Katarina Roccella’s Indelible line, and the color is Floret Stains in Mulberry.  I love it so much!  I seem to have a lot of fabrics in my stash in prints that I only sort of like, so I’ve been sewing up new prints almost immediately after I get them.  I’ve been trying to buy with a plan in mind rather than stashing in mind, which I guess is what I was doing for a while after I began sewing.  I have a few silks that I’m not sure I’ll ever sew up, so perhaps I should try to get rid of them somehow.  I wish my stash was smaller, but since I can’t seem to stop buying fabric, I’m at least trying to sew up more of it when I get it.


I tried a new technique on the collar, and it turned out to be a fail.  I usually use the ubiquitous method from Four Square Walls, but I read about a different collar method from Beth at Sunny Gal Studio that is supposed to solve the problem of the bulky seam allowance at the bottom of the collar stand.  I hate dealing with that seam allowance, so this seemed like a good method to try, but something about it just didn’t work with my brain.  I couldn’t get the curve of the collar stand or the part of the button band that meets the collar stand to look good no matter what I did.  What you see below is the best I could muster, so I’ve gone back to Andrea’s trusty method.  I don’t know why my topstitching doesn’t meet up in the photo below; I was probably fatigued and just gave up, but I should probably go back and fix that.


My buttons are vintage glass from Soutache in Chicago, which has quickly become my favorite place for buttons after my first visit this past spring. The buttons are more expensive than those at Joann’s, but they’re so worth it for the beauty and selection.  I love these buttons, which pick up on the coral flowers in the print.


As you can see in the photo below, I remembered the pockets on this version of the dress!  I forgot them on the wearable muslin and I vowed to remember them for future versions.  I never used to like pockets because they add bulk in a place where I’d prefer not to have it, but I’ve become a fan because they are a great place to put your hands when you’re feeling awkward, which is 90% of the time for me.  I don’t like to carry things in dress pockets because they tend to distort the way dresses hang, but it does come in handy to have a pocket to throw something into when you need your hands free.  Last weekend we had a picnic for the fourth of July and it was great to have a place to put my phone and keys while I ran in and out of our apartment carrying food and everything else we needed.


You can see some pulling above the bust and I’ve tried to fix that in later versions but I’m not sure I succeeded.  I think it’s caused by excess fabric above the bust due to me not doing an FBA.  For subsequent versions I muslined a new bodice using a smaller size and doing an FBA, and it turned out much worse, which is generally what happens when I do FBAs.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but FBAs seem to hate me.  I know I said I’d cool it on the fitting quests, but I would like to take care of that issue, so I’ll keep trying!

Jun 262015

Well, I made it through my week of scoring AP essays!  I scored 1,850 essays this year, which is my most ever.  I think in prior years I’ve done around 1,700.  I won’t go into all the gory details, but there are three questions that students answer on the exam, and each year you get assigned to read one question the whole time you’re there.  I got the easiest/quickest to score this year, so I was able to speed through the essays pretty quickly.  It doesn’t take long to realize that most 17 year olds have very similar experiences and ideas and say the same exact things in their essays.  You quickly start to recognize which essays are saying the same thing that isn’t a very good answer and which essays are saying the same thing that’s a decent answer.  There are definitely some phrases I hope to never see again after those 1,850 essays!

This year the scoring took place in Kansas City, MO rather than Louisville, KY as it had in all the prior years I’ve gone.  It used to take place in Daytona Beach, FL, but I missed out on that awesome experience!  I was concerned about having enough cool, breezy dresses to wear in the June heat of Kansas City, so I went a little berserk and sewed seven dresses in the couple weeks leading up to my trip.  Yes, you read that correctly:  seven.  I’ve gained some weight since last year, so a lot of my summer dresses don’t fit.  Some of them still do, but last summer I was sewing everything to be pretty snug because I was hoping to lose weight based on my exercise plans.  Those plans didn’t come to fruition, so now most of my summer clothes from last year are really uncomfortable.  There’s nothing worse than a tight sausage casing dress in the summer humidity!  So I ordered up a bunch of Art Gallery voile based on how much I loved the first of the seven dresses I made, which was my first time sewing with that fabric.  I think I like the Art Gallery voile better than Liberty Tana Lawn, and it’s a third of the price!  I threw in a Cotton and Steel double gauze for good measure and began on my merry way making seven dresses.

I’ll begin my series of posts about these dresses with some of that Liberty Tana Lawn I just mentioned.  Two and a half years after buying my first Liberty fabric, I finally got it sewed up.  For a long time, I didn’t see the appeal of Liberty fabrics, but then I saw this one.  I fell in love with the colors and the scale of the print, and I had to have it enough that I paid full American price, resulting in the most expensive piece of fabric I’ve ever purchased.  And that includes a stash full of silks I keep collecting but not sewing.  I really don’t understand the price of Liberty fabric, but when I see a print I like, there’s almost nothing that can stop me.  Even with shipping from the UK, you can get Liberty cheaper from Shaukat, so that’s what I’ve done for the most recent two pieces I bought.  The full price in America is pretty bonkers.


Can you blame me for being such a spendthrift?  Isn’t that print one of the most gorgeous things ever?  Don’t worry, I’ll throw a close up at you before I’m done here!  This print is called Tresco C, and I paired it up with a Grainline Alder in a modified view B.  I am in love with the Alder, but since I’d like all my versions to be slightly different from one another, I decided to even out the hem on this one.  The Alder is designed with a shirttail style high-low hem, where the back is longer than the front and the sides are shorter than both the front and back.  My other two view B Alders are unaltered, but this one just has a regular hem which is a very easy alteration.


That is a very uninteresting side view of my dress, but you can see my Cotton and Steel kitties dress behind me on top of my serger (not the double gauze; this one’s canvas).  I can’t wait to finish up those kitties and wear them!


And the back.  Not much to say here except that after three rounds, I think I still need to shorten the bodice in the back a bit.  It’s still hanging a little low for me.


That print!  Swoon!  I’ve worn this dress twice now, and each time I’ve gotten tons of compliments.  I wore it on Tuesday and a woman stopped me when I got off the train to tell me she loved my dress.  I was wearing headphones so she had to wave her arms to get my attention, and I must have given her a look of utter horror because she first apologized, then told me she loved my dress!


And there are my buttons, which I got from Soutache in Chicago.  I was unsure what color to get for this dress, but I think the orange pretty well matches the orange flowers in the print, which you can see between the two buttons.  I looked for pink to match the pink flowers you see on the left side, but I couldn’t come up with a good match.  I really like these vintage glass buttons; so much so that I bought another color to use on a different dress.

All seven of my dresses were repeat patterns, which is the only way I was able to make so many things in such a short period of time, so my posts about them will probably be short and sweet.

May 012015

I have one more dress to show you from my Florida photoshoots, but first a word about Me-Made May.  Like I said last year:  nope.  I really don’t get Me-Made May as a concept that’s designed to encourage you to wear the stuff you’ve made.  I constantly wear the stuff I’ve made.  I wouldn’t keep making it if I didn’t.  I do own some RTW, though, and I don’t care for the idea of discouraging myself from wearing it.  I like it a lot, which is why I bought it.  I don’t buy a lot of RTW these days, so if it’s in my closet, it’s because I really liked it.  Plus there are some days where I don’t even leave the house – such is the life of a grad student.  Other days, I only go to the library, and I don’t get all gussied up for those days.  I usually end up wearing one of three super comfy knit dresses I own on those days, and one of them is RTW.  So for these many reasons, I give a hearty whatevs to MMM.


This picture was taken on the only day of our trip that we were able to go to the beach.  It was still quite windy, as you can see – so windy that I think I’m gesticulating and barking at my mom to wait to take the picture until I can get situated.  I like how it looks like I’m doing a sort of stilted dance, though, so I decided to include the picture!vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-front-3The beach was really busy that day, which was crazy because it was a Monday, but I think it was the beginning of spring break for a lot of people.  This theory was bolstered by the massive group of bros that we unfortunately set up in front of.  Bros of the world:  feel free to keep on bro-ing, but could you try to be a bit quieter about it?  I don’t want to listen to your every inane conversation while at the beach, or as was the case last week, while at the library.vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-front-2But that’s enough about bros – what kind of dress is this?  This is the Washi Dress pattern from Rae Hoekstra.  One of the first things I ever made was the Made by Rae Buttercup Bag in a class at the shop where I learned to sew, The Needle Shop.  When Rae made a dress pattern, I snapped it up, having had a better experience with her bag pattern than a lot of others I tried.  I’ve made two other Washis, two of the first dresses I ever made.  I really love this dress because it has shirring on the back, which gives it an almost custom fit.  At the time that I made my first one, I was amazed at how easy it was to fit, especially after having struggled with a Simplicity pattern for what seemed like forever only to be foiled by poor fabric choice in the end.  The Washi is designed for quilting cottons and other similar fabrics, so it was perfect for me at the time because I had a lot of those in my stash.  I still wear those two Washis, one made of a gorgeous Echino fabric, and the other in a Valori Wells quilting cotton.  In the photo below you can see that the dress can sometimes have a little bit of a baby bump illusion effect, which is annoying.  My other two don’t have this and the bodice seems longer on them as well, so I think I may have lengthened the bodice but didn’t mark it on the flat pattern.  I think the longer bodice eliminates the empire silhouette, which is what gives me the pregnant look.  I’ll make note of this for future versions.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-sideThe fabric is another Vlisco pick ordered with Charlotte.  When it arrived, I knew I wanted to make a maxi with it because of the large print arranged vertically.  I wanted the fabric to go the other way around so that the longer lines were pointing down, but I accidentally cut it wrong and had no extra fabric to recut.  I was quite irritated by this, but I’m over it now.  I think it looks a wee bit obscene with those finger-like lines pointing up, but Ben said he didn’t know what I was talking about, so maybe I’m crazy.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-backYou can see in the picture above that there’s also some funky swayback issues happening on the back, which I’ll also correct in future versions.  I think I want to make another Washi with another Vlisco print Charlotte and I ordered, but I’ll probably keep that one knee-length.  When I make it, in addition to fixing the swayback and lengthening the waist, I’ll take a wedge out of the center front because I have some gaping at the neckline.  I guess I was a lot more forgiving of fit issues like these when I made the first two dresses!vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-printHere’s a closeup of the print, in which you can see that it isn’t actually green, as it appears in the photos above.  It’s yellow with dark navy crosshatching.  I love the green look, so I prefer that everyone stand at least a few feet away from me when I wear this!vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-selvage-center-backThe Washi isn’t supposed to have a center back seam, but I had to use one because I was cramming this maxi onto three yards of 45 inch fabric.  I used the selvedge as my fabric edge because it’s neato.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-shirringThere’s my shirring, which is always so much fun to do.  For those unschooled in shirring, you just use elastic thread in the bobbin and the longest stitch length your machine with do (6mm in my case).  MAKE SURE you wind your bobbin the right way around!  The first time I tried to do shirring, I wound my bobbin backwards and thought my machine was broken when it made a terrible noise and refused to stitch.  Internets to the rescue:  if you google something like “shirring problems” there are tons of people giving you the sage advice above.  Very important.  The funnest part of shirring is blasting it with steam once you’ve sewn all the lines.  The first line doesn’t look very gathered at all, but as you continue to sew more lines, they begin to look slightly gathered.  When you blast them all with steam, though, they shrink up a ton and it’s nifty to watch happen.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-bias-binderOver a year ago I bought this bias binder attachment for my sewing machine and never used it.  I was making this dress at the same time that I was making my silk Grainline Alder and since I was having trouble with my bias-bound armholes, I thought I’d test this thing out to see if it would make my life easier.  Um, NO THANKS.  It was hard enough to manage with a stable cotton like Vlisco – no way was I going to attempt it on silk!  As you can see more clearly below, the binding you end up with is very narrow.  I actually like the way it looks (and it looks this way on both sides because the foot works by wrapping the binding around the edge), but it’s so narrow that there’s no margin of error, so my fabric kept slipping out of the reach of the binding/stitching.  In a few cases, it looked like the binding had caught the edge of the fabric, but I discovered when I attempted to press it that it had only caught the very edge and any pressure made it come undone.  Those spots were annoying to fix.

Aside:  I know you’re jealous of my stack of theory books!  It’s actually not just a stack of books – it’s a stupid form-over-function bookshelf that makes it look like your books are just stacked, but without the risk of them falling over and crushing your feet or small animals.  It looks really cool, but it has a big footprint because it needs a large, heavy base to keep from tipping over, and you could definitely fit a regular bookshelf that would hold more books in the same amount of space.  Not recommended.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-bindingBack to bias binding:  as you can see below, trying to finish off the edge is way messier looking than regular bias binding.  Blergh.  I’m going to sell this thing on Ebay, methinks.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-binding-join

That’s it for this Vlisco Washi!  I finished a pair of Ginger jeans last week, but after wearing them for a day, I discovered several problems with them and have demoted them to wearable muslin status.  I’m not going to blog about them until I fix the problems because I want to make sure I know how to fix them.  Among the problems:  excessive front crotch length (and thus begins the discussion of crotches on my blog, ushering in a new era of spam, I’m sure); gapping at the back waistband despite my corrections after muslining; misplaced pockets despite MANY rounds of moving them up, down, and all around; too much ease at the back thigh; and overcorrection for my hyperextended calves.  I’m also not in love with the stretch denim I used, but I think I’ll make the next pair out of the same denim because it was cheap at Vogue ($5.99/yard).  Once I get all the fit stuff down, I’m going to try to get my hands on some better stretch denim.

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.