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Apr 082015

Let’s begin with a point of clarification:  the supposedly fun thing is sewing with silk, not making Grainline Alders.  That is a definitely fun thing that I’m looking forward to doing again.  I’m planning at least one more Alder as we speak.  Further clarification:  I am going to sew with silk again.  I have some silks prints in my stash that I love, so I’m going to sew them up.  I’m just going to change my processes.  Lest I perpetuate the notion that sewing silk is ZOMG hard, let me say that most of the construction on this was easy.  I used a size 60 needle most of the time and a size 70 when going through multiple layers.  I used silk thread.  I tested everything I did on a scrap before doing it on the actual dress since I’d never sewn silk before.  As a result, I had few problems.  However, when it came to doing the narrow hem and finishing the armholes, I was ready to scream.  One supposedly fun thing I will 100% never do again is use silk bias strips to finish armholes.  Talk about a pain in the arse.  My hem isn’t so narrow and my armholes are pretty wobbly.  In the future, I’ll do a clean-finish lining or use a more stable material for my bias strips, and I’ll also use those same strips to stabilize my hem instead of just doing a fold and turn.

You might be wondering why I made a sleeveless lightweight silk dress when it’s still pretty cold in Chicago.  Well, a week ago I returned from a trip to Florida to visit my grandma.  For some reason, whenever I tell people I’m going to visit my grandma in Florida, they groan.  They think I’m in for a really bad time.  But I have no idea what they’re talking about; I love my grandma.   I also love the ocean, and she lives right near it.  So I look forward to these trips.  I’ll likely be making them more often in the future because my mother is planning to move to Florida this summer to be with my grandmother, who needs some extra care nowadays.  Anyway, in the days leading up to the trip, I freaked out and sewed three summer dresses.  I’ve gained some weight since last summer and I was feeling anxious about my lack of a summer wardrobe.  I made this silk Alder plus two dresses out of my recently acquired Vlisco fabric.  I’ll post about those two soon, along with some thoughts on buying and sewing wax print fabrics.

The funny thing about my summer dress freakout sewing extravaganza was that there was only one day on our trip where summer dresses were really required.  I ended up wearing cardigans over my summer dresses most of the time.


For most of our trip it was a bit chilly (for Florida; it was in the 60s) and verrrrry windy.  I really wanted to take pictures at the beach because I only ever have pictures of me in my living room, but taking these pictures was a dangerous adventure – the danger mostly consisting of flashing everyone on the beach my underwear.  In the picture above, I’m standing strangely because I had just finished yanking my dress down, I believe.  But I really liked how my hair is being blown, so I included it.  I’d like to style it this way and maybe join a Flock of Seagulls tribute band.


More windyness!  I was so excited about splashing in the ocean like a little kid, but we only got to do that on the last day of our trip.  It was too cold to even think about getting in the chilly Atlantic before then.  But I did put my feet in the water a couple of days when it was too cold to swim.  I just lovelovelove the ocean and couldn’t stay away.


I’m trying to look pensively into the sea here, but I’m pretty sure I’m grumbling about my fluttery dress.  It’s not just that it was windy while I was taking these pictures.  I was also wondering how I’d ever wear this dress in the windy city.  Fun fact:  when I was a teenager I read that the origin of the phrase “windy city” was a reporter’s description of the windbag politicians in Chicago, not the amount of wind blowing around the city.  Chicago is purportedly actually not much windier than other cities.  I was sort of insufferable as a teenager, so I loved correcting people when they would talk about Chicago being windy.  Then I moved here and had to stop wearing my hair curled because it would turn into a rat’s next in short order because of the wind.  While Wikipedia still assures me that Chicago isn’t significantly windier than other cities, I’ve read that the way the buildings are constructed and the way the streets are laid out on a grid means that the wind really does come off the lake and whip down some of the streets and around some of the buildings.  On UIC’s campus, the building where my office is housed always has me complaining to myself as I’m walking inside because the wind just swirls around it like crazy.  Legend has it that the campus’s brutalist architect (look it up:  it’s a real architectural term) designed it so that the wind would whip around the building and discourage protestors from gathering around it (it was built in the 60s, so this was a major concern).  I’ll buy it.  As one of those protestors, I’m proud to say that it hasn’t kept me away, but it really does make the space more hostile for people to gather.


I think maybe you can tell in the picture above that I’m pretty fed up with the wind.  We headed back to the safety of the car after that one.

My silk is from Mood, but it’s no longer available, sadly.  I got it last spring

Now for some pictures where you can actually tell what’s going on!


I’m hanging my dress on a lamp above because I’m classy like that and because the only places where I can actually hang things in my apartment are dark.


First silk problem:  My collar pieces must have stretched a ton because I ended up with the above.  As you can see, I basted it on before I realized the problem.  FYI if you haven’t made a collar before:  the edge of the collar should NOT align with the edge of the button placket!  So I had to rip that off, undo my stitching on the collar, cut it down, and restitch it.  Annoying, but easily fixable.


You can see in the photo above where the collar should end in relation to the button placket.  Yes, mine had stretched quite a bit!  I used Tasia’s tip to make a collar stand template and I liked the results I got.  My topstitching is a bit wobbly, but the shape of my collar stand is good.


Here’s the corner where the gathered skirt piece joins up with the rest of the front on view B of the Alder.  SO MUCH better than on my first Alder view B, which you see below.


I was too timid in clipping on my first Alder.  I made sure not to repeat that mistake this time.


I asked Instagram whether I should make orange or cream buttonholes, and most people agreed that they should be cream.  I guess I could have tested out orange buttonholes with cream thread on the buttons themselves, but I felt like both things should be done with the same thread.


There’s a finished button and buttonhole on the dress!  The buttons seem simple, but I had such a difficult time finding buttons that I liked for this dress.  I wanted buttons made of shell or glass, not plastic.  Joann’s had nothing suitable, so I headed to Soutache, which is a store in Chicago that has tons of trims – buttons, ribbons, rhinestones, feathers, and more.  They were the exact opposite – they had so many great options that I had trouble deciding!  The owner was very helpful, though, and she and I decided on the shell buttons you see here.  If you visit Chicago or if you live here and haven’t stopped by yet, I can’t recommend Soutache highly enough.  These buttons were more expensive than anything at Joann’s, but it’s very worth it to me for a fine fabric like silk.  Vogue in Evanston has a large button selection as well, but they’re a bit of a hassle to deal with for a few reasons.  Quite often, I find a button I like only to open the box and find that they’re sold out of the button.  Plus they’re on a huge wall that requires you to use a ladder to get to the top shelves.  There is a ladder present, but you’ll get yelled at if anyone sees you using it.  But it’s also so hectic that it really isn’t feasible to get an employee to stand there all day pulling button boxes for you.  Soutache’s selection seems to me to be of higher quality and as long as it’s not busy (it wasn’t when I went), the owner is very happy to help you find what you’re looking for.  She also left me alone for a bit just to browse, so it’s not like she’s hovering annoyingly the whole time you’re there, which is one of my pet peeves.  Bath and Body Works, I’m looking at you.  I’m just here for foaming hand soap, please leave me alone.


This just wouldn’t be a post on Feminist Stitch if I didn’t talk about something I did wrong.  My bottom button is improperly spaced because I decided to flip my fabric around when I got to last buttonhole.  If my buttonhole foot hangs over the edge of the fabric, it tends to not make such great buttonholes.  However, because I’m bad at math and spatial reasoning, I corrected my beginning point in the wrong direction, so the bottom buttonhole is closer to the penultimate one than it should be.  I realized this at the precise moment that I’d finished cutting the buttonhole open.  I hope it’s out of the line of sight enough that most people won’t notice.  If they do, design feature?

So that’s my first time sewing with silk!  I’m achieving a lot of sewing milestones lately:  silk, blazers, and I’m working on a pair of jeans right now.  I’ve decided to just go for theses things rather than freaking out about them after discussing with another blogger the way we get hung up on certain aspects of sewing more as advanced sewers than we did as beginners.  To wit, the first garment I sewed for myself on my own was a denim skirt with flat-felled seams and a front fly.  Shortly after that I sewed a Burda magazine pattern for a friend and added a lining to it on my own.  I thought nothing of these things at the time.  I only became afraid of things after reading Pattern Review and sewing blogs and seeing people talk about things like they were big bad monsters.  No more, I say.  My jeans are going swimmingly, and I’m excited about the next new thing I’ll tackle, whatever it may be.

Mar 232015

The dress I’m showing you today is a child of Instagram.  It started like this:  Last weekend, I posted a photo of some absurdly gorgeous Liberty fabric I have and asked it if it would be crazy if I made an Alder out of it, seeing as how I already have one in linen and had just cut out another in silk.  All three would be view B because I wasn’t sure how view A would look on me, and I didn’t want to waste my Liberty on something I wouldn’t absolutely love.  The always-smart Charlotte suggested I muslin view A.  So I did.  And, in a rare moment of expediency in the garment conception to blog pipeline, here it is.


My assumption was correct; I do not love this enough to use my Liberty on it.  But I’m glad I gave it a try, because now I know, plus I have a new silhouette in my wardrobe.  Even if I don’t love it, I don’t hate it and I’ll certainly wear it.  Since I knew my first Alder fit well enough, I decided to make this “muslin” out of real fabric.  In fact, my first Alder was a bit too big, but I’ve also gained a bit of weight, so I figured it would even out.  The fabric is quilting cotton from the lovely Needle Shop in Chicago, which will forever be one of my favorite places because they taught me how to sew.  I’d had my eye on this Rashida Coleman Hale print in voile for a while, but it was sold out everywhere.  When I saw it in The Needle Shop, I jumped on it without pausing to realize that it still wasn’t the voile I longed for; it was quilting cotton.  I try not to buy quilting cotton anymore because it’s a bit stiff and I hate how sticky the backside of it is.  I absolutely have to line or wear a slip if I want to wear it in winter with tights, which is a real pain with a dress like this one because of the uneven hem line.  But I do really love the print, so I’m glad I bought the fabric.


Don’t mind my messy sewing area.  I have like nineteen different projects going on right now.  That number probably even even much of an exaggeration.

I thought about putting in some fisheye darts on the back to help with the back wrinkling you see below.  I may still, but I’ve thus far been too lazy to be bothered.  Looking at the picture below, can you believe that I’ve only recently realized that I’m pear-shaped?


A lot of things about my shape are confusing.  I was always self-conscious about my belly, so I thought I must be an apple.  I always felt like I was too busty, so maybe I was an inverted triangle?  But I do have hips to balance my top half, so perhaps I was actually dealing with an hourglass?  No:  I’m a pear.  My measurements slot right into the Sewaholic sizes, and I always have to grade up at size or two below the waist with other pattern lines.  Unless!  If I’m sewing a gathered or flared skirt, which I often do, the grading up isn’t necessary, thus the confusion.  Anyway, I am now a card-carrying member of the pear club, whereas before I was a very confused fruit.  Which provides a nice occasion to post one of my favorite cartoons:

body shapesI may yet decide I’m a broken slinky, but for now I’m sticking with pear.

So, I wondered, if I don’t like this dress because it’s too shapeless, will I like it with a belt?  Turns out, not really.  I can tell that it’s giving me more waist definition, which I like, but I also don’t like how the fabric is wrinkling up around the belt.  I’m impossible to please, I know.

grainline-alder-front-beltI think I might like the side view better with the belt, but I’m not sure.  grainline-alder-side-beltI definitely like the back view better.  grainline-alder-back-beltSo I feel like this shape on me results in a resounding meh.  I suspected that might end up being the case going in, and I figured if nothing else, I could always throw a cardigan over it.  In the end, that option is problematic because cardigan weather means tights weather, and tights mean major issues with my quilting cotton sticking to my legs.  So unless I make a better slip that won’t show at the sides where the hem is higher, this look is a no go.  grainline-alder-sweaterI was talking to the cat in this picture.  We converse quite constantly and seriously.  I think I look a little skeptical of whatever she’s saying here.  The problem with cats is that they talk big but can never back it up.  And by back it up, I mean say it in English so I can understand.  She may have been heckling me because my black tight-clad legs weren’t showing up in my pictures, unbeknownst to me.  “You look like a floating ghost,” she screams.  “You’re very cute but you need to learn to talk sense,” I reply.  And we pass like ships in the night.  grainline-alder-buttonsI found some aqua buttons in my stash that match some of the plus signs pretty well.  I wanted pink buttons, but I had no car the weekend I was making this and I didn’t want its creation to drag on forever.  I have recently come to the conclusion that I need to hand sew on most of my buttons.  When I got my first nice sewing machine, I researched all the feet and learned that there was such a thing as a button sew-on foot.  I was so excited that I ran out and got one immediately because I HATE sewing on buttons.  But I feel like they look sloppy whenever I sew them on with the sewing machine.  If it’s something like the button on a skirt waistband that no one’s ever going to see, I use that button sew-on foot and don’t think twice.  But for shirts and jackets and things where the buttons are more visible, I’m going to stick with hand sewing for now.  I’m so much happier with the results when I do even though it takes like five times longer.

So, the picture below is here to show you how ridiculous my camera is, because this is the amount of light in that room while I was taking the above pictures.  I had no additional lights on.  My camera picks up ridiculous amounts of light from I don’t even know where – you can’t tell in those earlier pictures that it’s dusk at all!  You can also see the sewing mess creep that happened while Ben was out of town last weekend.  That pile of fabric and bin of patterns in the foreground is his desk.  I had it all cleaned up by the time he got home and he usually doesn’t read the blog, so he’ll never know!

dark-roomWhile Ben was gone, I cut out two dresses, three skirts, two cardigans, one pair of jeans, and one top.  The top, a Maria Denmark Edith was a bust – didn’t even come close to fitting.  I must have measured wrong.  One cardigan is finished (the Muse Jenna cardigan) and the other (that McCall’s one that’s been going around town lately) is almost finished.  One skirt is finished the other two are well on their way.  This dress got finished, and I’m currently trying to finished my silk Alder before we leave for Florida on Thursday morning because I’d like to wear it on vacation.  It’s the orange and cream spotted fabric in the photo above and I feel like it looks vacation-y.  The main construction is done and all I have left is the collar, armholes, buttonholes, buttons, and hem.  Those things always end up taking me so much longer than I think they should.  I’m always like, “Am I still making this same dress?!”  But I hope I’m still on track to have it done by Wednesday so I can wear it in Florida and hopefully get pictures there too.


Jan 212015

I’m here with exciting news today:  I think this might be the first time I’ve ever decided to participate in a sewing challenge and actually got everything done on time!  Last fall, Mary at Idle Fancy declared the Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses and invited others to participate in making thousands of amazing shirtdresses with her.  I’d been desperately wanting to make McCall’s 6696, so I was very excited to hear about this.  Mary very graciously extended the deadline a couple of times (which is why the Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses is wrapping up in winter), and if it hadn’t been for that, I never would have made it.  Yay for extensions!

I’ve always wanted to make a shirtdress because button-down RTW things in general don’t fit me.  I love love love shirtdresses, so it’s always been depressing to me that I couldn’t wear them.  My Grainline Alder was technically a shirtdress, but not a classic one, so I was still itching to make a classic shirtwaist dress.  I am very pleased with the results I got from McCalls 6696.



This dress is sort of a wearable muslin; I made a real muslin of the bodice out of muslin fabric and made some adjustments based on that, but decided that I wanted to make a practice dress out of some inexpensive fabric before cutting into the two nicer fabrics I purchased for this pattern.  This fabric was cheap as free because it’s part of the massive stash of fabric I keep referencing from my friend Annah’s grandma.  You may recall that I made my first Tiramisu out of red striped fabric from Annah’s grandma, and I still have one more red stripe from her!  She’s apparently a great fan of red striped fabric, and she’s not wrong.  This particular fabric is really interesting because the selvedge says it’s from Wamsutta, a name you might recognize from shopping for bedsheets.  I didn’t know they made yardage you could buy, but I believe Annah said her grandma told her she got it from the Wamsutta outlet.  I’m guessing it was made for some home dec purpose, but I think it makes a nice vintagey-looking shirtdress.  It has in interesting texture, which you can see in some of my closeups at the end of this post.


I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually like a classic shirtdress on me because I’d never found one that fit properly enough to make an assessment.  I am pretty happy with this, though.  I think this dress probably emphasizes my bustline a bit more than I’d like, but I’m honestly so thrilled with finally having a shirtdress that I don’t even care.  In the picture below, you’ll notice that I took out the back gathering.  I like it on many of the versions I’ve seen on others, but I don’t like it on me.  I also removed a lot of width from the front and back skirt pieces.  There were two reasons for this – first of all, my fabric was pretty narrow and it would have been necessary to not cut on the fold to fit the skirt pieces on my fabric.  I didn’t want to deal with that, plus I generally don’t like as much bulk in the skirt as most pleated or gathered skirt patterns call for.  I probably took four inches out of the back and two or so inches out of the front, and I think it worked out perfectly.  I was able to fit the pattern pieces on my fabric while it was folded, and I really like the amount of ease below the waist.

You can also see in this picture that the back waistline is a little low.  Readers, I’ve already taken off like two inches from the back length!  I chopped about an inch off the bottom and I folded out about an inch at the yoke seam.  I always have a ton of problems with excess back length, and this dress is apparently no exception.  I’ll keep working on this in my next two versions.  All that being said, I’m pretty happy with my stripe matching here.  The collar matching is a total fluke – I initially cut the back, yoke, and collar all on the same fold so they’d match, but then I accidentally sewed the collar without my interfacing.  I didn’t feel like ripping it out, so I just cut a new collar because I had extra fabric.  I’m glad it ended up matching the bodice stripes because I didn’t think of that at all when I was cutting the new one!


Speaking of interfacing, I still don’t have any quality fusible interfacing, so I decided to use bleached muslin as my interfacing for this dress.  I’d heard of people doing this on Pattern Review and decided it couldn’t be that terrible of an idea.  After I finished this dress, Tasia revealed that she used bleached muslin as a sew-in interfacing on her new Granville shirts (which are amazing and I must have this pattern immediately!) because it’s what David Page Coffin recommends in his shirtmaking book, so I felt justified in what I’d done.  I had been admiring the gorgeous crisp cuffs and collars on Tasia’s samples and wanted to know her secrets – little did I know that I was already practicing them!

For another tip on getting crisp collars, I’d recommend using this method for shaping your corners: Tilly’s tutorial on How to Shape a Sharp Corner.  I’ve seen a few people recommend this method, but Tilly’s is the only tutorial I can remember right now (I think Tasia might have also talked about this one?).  This method works, people.  It works much better than reducing bulk by snipping crosswise, and it also works better than this method I’ve seen where you sew a thread into the corner and then pull it from the outside.

In the picture below, I might look like I’m doing the robot, but what I’m actually doing is looking for the pockets that this dress is supposed to have.  I cut out the pockets and everything, but then I totally forgot to sew them.  I didn’t realize it until everything was done except the finishing and once again didn’t feel like ripping things out, so I just left them off.  Unlike others, I’m not one who freaks out about pockets–I feel like they often sit strangely and make my hips look bigger than they are–but I do feel like a proper shirtdress should have pockets so I’ll try to remember to put them in my next two versions!


Because this was a sort of wearable muslin, I decided to pink the seams instead of finishing them with my serger.  It also seemed like a good idea because this dress has a sort of vintagey feel to me.  I’ve never done this before, so we’ll see how I like it.  It was certainly a lot quicker, especially since I have a pinking blade for my rotary cutter, but the seams don’t seem to be laying as flat as my overlocked ones do.


This dress called for some hand sewing, which is something I normally hate, but I’m trying to get better at it.  Part of the reason I hate it is because my hand sewing is messy, so I’ve been trying to work on making it neater.  The picture below shows some of my best hand sewing to date!  But man, was it annoying.  My thread kept tangling like crazy even though I used this Thread Heaven wax that’s supposed to prevent that from happening.  Has anyone tried this stuff?  I feel like my thread was worse with it!  Perhaps I should try some regular old beeswax?

You can see the texture I was talking about earlier here – it has a sort of slubby look to it.  The red stripe is printed on, and in some spots, the the little bumps that you see are loose, if that makes sense, so the dye didn’t take in those spots and there are a few white speckles throughout the fabric (you can see one of those spots on the left side of the waistband above the stripes in the photo below).  Very interesting!  The fabric is cotton, but I’m not sure if it would be called a slub cotton (I’ve only seen slub knits – can a woven be a slub?) or if there’s some name for this.


There are a couple of things I’d like to fix on my next version, even though changing anything up on a version made from nicer fabric makes me nervous.  First of all, I don’t know how evident it is in the pictures, but there’s some significant bubbling at the ends of my darts, even though I ironed them over my ham like a crazy person.  I had to widen the bust darts to eliminate some gappage at the armhole, which is a pretty standard alteration for me.  I’m thinking that maybe the dart is just too enormous now, so I might try rotating some of it into the waist dart.  You can see my mega dart below.  As a side note, I’ve never quite fully understood how moving some of the bust dart width to the waist dart would, as people claim, not make the waist smaller.  If you’re making the dart bigger, wouldn’t you be taking some width out of the waist and therefore be making it  smaller?  But I finally realized that if you rotate your dart properly, you’re not taking width out of the waist.  If you just widened the dart by redrawing the dart legs wider, yes, you’d be cutting off some of the width from the waist.  But if you do what you’re supposed to do, which is make your pattern hinge at the dart point to make one dart larger and one smaller, you won’t be affecting the amount of fabric on either side of the dart, which means your dart will be wider but the width of your waist will remain the same.  I’m not sure whether that explanation makes sense to anyone else, but it was a lightbulb moment for me!


The second thing I’d like to fix (actually the third if you count taking some additional length off the back) is to do something about the collar size.  I’m not sure if you can see in the photo below how wide and tall the collar is on me, but it’s very noticeable to me when I wear it, so this might be more of a comfort issue than an appearance issue.  I have a short neck, so I think I just don’t have the room for a tall collar like this.  There are a few things that I think would need to happen to fix this:  I need to make the actual neckline, the collar stand, and the collar itself all a bit lower.  I think all three are combing to make me feel like there’s a lot of excess fabric at the neck, and if I shave a bit off of each, I think it will seem a little less like I’m being attacked by fabric when I wear my future dresses.  The trick will be making sure everything still lines up for the collar when I make everything smaller.   mccalls-6696-frontI’m really pleased with this dress and I can’t wait to make more of them!  I have a floral cotton voile for a summery dress and a canvas with cats on it (this one) and I’m super excited to start working on my cat dress!  I accidentally bought too little of the cat fabric because I thought it was wider than it is, so I’m waiting on some additional fabric to arrive so I can get started on it.  My cat dress will have sleeves, and I’m excited about seeing how that looks on me.

Thank you so much to Mary for thinking up such a great group sewing idea and providing so much great inspiration for McCall’s 6696!  I’m so glad I decided to sew up this dress!


Sep 042014

Those of you following along with the hair color game will notice that my hair is much redder than before.  Thanks are owed to Wella 6R, and no thanks are owed to Age Beautiful’s “light strawberry blonde,” which turned out more like light carrot orange.  These pictures are a week and a half old and I’m realizing that my hair is noticeably lighter now.  My roots are also coming in with a vengeance, so it won’t be long before my hair is teal!


What you see before you today, aside from a gorgeous mop of red hair, is a Grainline Alder, view B.  Oh, and also a new spot in my living room.  I took these pictures very late in the day, so I had to move from my usual spot in the corner furthest from our windows because it was totally in shadows.  My camera may not be the DSLR I long for and it may, to my perpetual consternation, not be compatible with remotes, but what it does do is pick up all available light like a mofo.  You guys, it was really dark in that room when I took these pictures and I was pretty sure I’d have to give up and try them another day.  They’re not the brightest, but I’m shocked you can see anything!  You can definitely see that mess of wires under my husband’s second desk, though, so sorry (he works from home and this is his personal desk, while I usually stand next to his work desk.  Your eyes do not deceive you – we have two of the exact same desk).


So, the Grainline Alder.  I was obsessed with this dress from the moment I saw it on Jen’s Instagram.  You see, I love love love shirt dresses, but I feel like they don’t flatter me very well.  But when I saw these style lines, I thought I might have a shirt dress I could actually wear.  The results are debatable, but man did I have a fun time sewing this up.  I had no idea how enjoyable shirt-making could be.  I loved the precision of all the steps and I enjoyed putting on the collar, and I love how it turned out – so professional!  A lot of what I sew seems unique to me; for the most part, I sew because I can’t find things I like or that fit me in stores.  But a button-down shirt is a button-down shirt.  It seems silly after sewing for so long, but I got a thrill out of making such a standard, recognizable item.  Like, “Wow, I really can sew things just like you can buy in stores!”  Like I said, silly.  I’ve traced off a pants pattern because I’m determined to conquer them this year, and I expect to feel the same silly way about them.


But the above photo accurately captures my dissatisfaction with how the Alder looks on me, and let me be clear that the problems are all my fault.  This pattern is great, it’s just that I made it a size too large, and failed to notice until literally the last second.  I finished everything, tried it on, and thought, “Oh, this is actually way too big!”  And I’d made a muslin and everything – a muslin that was too big.  I made very few adjustments to the muslin, and I think I was just so shocked and delighted that the fit was pretty good right out of the package that I didn’t quite see that I’d chosen the wrong size.  The Alder is supposed to be loose-fitting, so it’s not that it looks terrible or inappropriately large.  It’s just that I think I’d like it more and find it more flattering on myself if it wasn’t quite so billowy.  I’ve thought about nipping in the side seams a bit, and I may do that.  It would mess up my nice finish on the inside, though, which would make me sad.

The only alteration I did make to this dress was to pinch out some armhole gape and rotate it to the bust dart.  This made the bust dart look to be about the same size as most of the patterns I sew, so I thought I was golden.  In retrospect, the fact that such a narrow bust dart fit me should have been a sign to me that I was going about things incorrectly.  I think what I really needed to do was sew a smaller size and do a full bust adjustment.  Next time!  And I’m pretty sure there will be a next time for this dress.


Hey, there’s that collar I loved constructing!  Like everyone else who’s sewn a collar and stand recently, I used Andrea’s tutorial, which makes the whole process so easy.  If you notice any floppitiness in my collar, it’s only because I didn’t interface anything on this dress, not because Andrea’s tutorial was lacking.  I don’t have any good interfacing and I’m on a fabric fast, so I couldn’t buy any.  Perhaps I could have made an exception for interfacing, but I didn’t think it would be a big deal for this dress.  It’s a more casual sort of thing, so I didn’t think I would miss the extra stiffness in the collar or button band.  I may live to regret this decision; only time will tell.grainline-alder-collar-detail

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Hark! I see some shiny space fabric in this Grainline Alder view B!”  And you would be correct.  This dress is from space, and it has the harsh reflection of light from its silvery coating to prove it.  This fabric is a funny story.  I saw Sew Dixie Lou’s post on her metallic linen cami and immediately high-tailed it on over to Mood’s website, where I ordered some of what I thought was the same thing.  When it arrived, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I unfolded it and realized that it would make a great costume for this guy who wanders around downtown Chicago dressed in a metallic suit and covered in metallic paint, pretending to be a robot for tourists.  It was WAY shinier than Clare’s appeared to be.  I even asked her if hers was blindingly metallic, and she assured me it was not.  Readers, I bought the wrong fabric and Mood doesn’t accept returns.  And this fabric wasn’t all that cheap.  I was quite distressed, but eventually came up with what I thought to be a quite inventive compromise:  using the fabric with the wrong side out.  Someone (I sadly can’t remember who!) recently posted about how Kenneth King argues there’s no right side to fabric – there’s only the side you want to show.  I think that Kenneth King fellow is right on.  I was initially set on dyeing this fabric a deep teal, but was too lazy to order everything up from Dharma trading and didn’t relish the idea of hand-stirring my fabric for an hour as I can’t extend the spin time on the coin-op washers in my apartment building.  So I stuck with the grey, also rationalizing that my hair would soon be bright colors, which would mean that perhaps some neutral clothes are called for.  I ended up really liking the grey, so I’m glad it worked out.grainline-alder-metallic-inside

And here’s the inside of my shiny shiny space dress.  I was a bit worried that the metallic surface might reflect my body heat back on me, sort of like those space blankets, and make me too uncomfortable in the summer heat.  My husband assured me it wouldn’t work like that.  I’m happy to report that my understanding of science was woefully inadequate enough for my suspicions to be proven untrue.  It’s a wee bit hard to tell in these photos, but I did use the metallic side as an accent on the button band and collar.  Despite my concerns about looking like the robot man, I secretly do love my shiny space fabric, and wanted a bit of it to be visible.



A few closing notes:

-You can barely see my scar from my hideous wound anymore!  It’s on the leg closest to the camera above.  I was diligent about putting vitamin E oil on it once I was able to stop bandaging it up, and I think it really helped.

-There’s been a lot of great discussion about blog photography lately, making me want to purchase a DSLR and a prime lens to make my photos look as gorgeous as those of Amy and Jenny. Lacking the funds to do so, I decided to take another bit of Amy’s advice about posing. So here’s me trying to face the light and trying to look pensive.  I think I look depressed, which may not be that inaccurate during what is going to be a very busy semester for me on many fronts.  Next time I experiment with blog photography, I will definitely use the low-to-the-ground Oona tip.  These photos were taken before she posted about it, so I haven’t had the opportunity yet.

-In the past few weeks I’ve sewn three Deer and Doe Daturas and have a fourth on the horizon.  I’ve been toying with the idea of participating in One Week, One Pattern, and I think I’m going to go for it, so look for that next week.

-I sat down and planned a bunch of fall sewing earlier tonight, and while I’m positive I overplanned, I’m excited about sewing some cooler-weather items.  I have a pair of purple pants planned, so my game plan is obviously the best.  I’m also very excited about sewing a winter coat, which my button-down shirt success inspired me to do. I think I’m going to go with the Deer and Doe Pavot because I usually have success with their patterns.  I’m also having a great time ogling wool coatings on various websites. September 22 and the end of this summer stashbust cannot come quickly enough for me!

-On a summer stashbust note, I consider this make a real win. I was certain this shiny, impractical fabric would sit in my fabric bin forever, so I’m really glad I found a use for it!

See you soon with my stockpile of Daturas!

Aug 282014


So, first things first.  I bleached my hair and now it’s red!  I was bleaching it with the intent to dye it a more vibrant shade of purple, of course.  Once I bleached it, though, I really liked the gingery color that resulted, so I decided to do red for a little while.  Even though I liked this color a lot, it’s a little too light and orangey for my skin tone, plus it was uneven because I didn’t listen enough when people online said your roots would bleach a lot faster than the rest of your hair because of the heat from your head, so my roots turned out bright yellow.  I ended up dyeing it a much darker and more vibrant red, and I think it looks better with my skin and more natural.  I mean, it’s still pretty obvious that I’m not a natural redhead, but at least it doesn’t clash quite as much.  I think I must have been inspired by Tasha’s recent transformation, which I love!  I finished a Grainline Alder last week and already have some photos, so if I can get my act together and write up a post, you should be able to see the new red soon!  Once my roots grow out, I’m going to use hair dye remover, bleach out whatever red is left, and actually do teal first.  Once that fades, I think I should be able to put purple over top without too much interference.  Yay colors!


Now on to the actual topic of this blog!  Today I have a fairly altered version of McCall’s 5893, a maxi dress.  The two substantial changes I made were to make this a little bigger so I could sew it in a woven, and to make the dress out of a single piece in the front and a single piece in the back rather than having a separate bodice.  I didn’t really like having a seam line breaking up the length of the dress.  I’m so short that I thought a continuous piece of fabric would be more lengthening.  I don’t know how much of a difference this makes in a busy print like this, but it was especially important for the second one I made, which was a border print with stripes along the middle of the fabric.  Keeping those stripes intact made the dress look a lot better than it would have broken up.  Unfortunately, my darts are all kinds of wonky on that dress, and I really don’t want to wear it.  They were super pointy and I couldn’t do anything to fix them.  When I tried, the points actually turned from single points to these weird elliptical bubbles.  Ugh.  I really liked the fabric I used, but at least it was only two dollars a yard at Vogue.  It’s a poly and wasn’t taking a press very well, which I think is part of the problem.

Another thing that making the dress all one piece did is allow me to eliminate the gathered skirt.  I didn’t feel like a long gathered skirt would be a good look for me, so what I did was just leave the vertical bust darts open at the bottom so the dress would still give me some ease through the stomach and hip area, which makes me feel much more comfortable.  I really like how this turned out.  I think it’s flattering, and I have plans to use this construction method on tops and other dresses.


In that photo, I was trying to smile at the voluminousness of the skirt, but I ended up looking skeptical, which I think is actually quite appropriate!  I’m not sure maxi dresses look that great on me in the first place, but the volume in this skirt especially made me worry it was too overwhelming for my short frame.  I’m still not sure if I should take it in at the side seams.  The width of this skirt was another thing I altered, come to think of it.  I was worried it wouldn’t be wide enough based on the pattern as drafted, so I used a maxi skirt I have from Target as a guide.  However, the skirt is a rayon jersey and has awesome drape, whereas this skirt doesn’t drape quite as nicely.  I thought it might because it’s a nice cotton lawn, but it’s just not as good as jersey.

So you might be wondering why I decided to make a maxi dress if I was so uncertain of how it would look on me.  I had kind of been wanting to try a maxi dress this summer, but my hand was forced about a month ago when I stupidly fell while out for a run and got a huge disgusting scrape on my leg.  It was truly gross and had to be covered with a huge bandage, and there was no way I was going to go out with it or even the bandage exposed.  So I pulled out this pattern, which I think was one of the first ones I bought back when I started sewing!  I also went to Target and bought a bunch of maxi skirts because I just didn’t have enough clothes to get me through the week and couldn’t sew up everything I needed quickly enough.  One of the Target skirts is so ridiculously long that I’ve actually hiked it all the way up and have been wearing it as a dress.  I know I’m short, but come on, Target!  These skirts are made for 7 foot tall women!


So my foot looks a little pale and dead in this photo, haha.  But this photo captures what’s constantly happening as I wear this dress – I have to hold up the skirt to go up stairs, get in cars, avoid getting the dress in puddles.  It’s actually one of my favorite things about this dress.  It makes me feel like a princess!


Not much to say here, but I like to include a back shot because sometimes what looks good from the front looks hideous from the back.  I’m happy with this one, though.  I do think I’ll make the back narrower at the arms, though.  This extending pretty far out onto my arms, which happened because the neckline is really wide on this dress.


Not much to say about the side, either.

mccalls-5893-dramatic-frontThis picture cracks me up.  I wanted to do a dramatic shot, but I ended up looking like I’m leading the charge into battle in some old painting.

I’ve definitely been inspired by Oonaballoona’s maxi awesomeness, and I did sew this during Oonapalooza month, but I didn’t get my act together with photos.  So I’m going to say this is my contribution for the Sewcialists’ Tribute Month, and it’s a late tribute to Oona!  I only wish I would have caught on to her low-to-the-ground style of photography, because this just-shy-of-five-feet girl needs all the help she can get.  I’ll definitely try it next time.

So with all that being said, I’m sort of thinking of chopping this dress off at the knees.  A maxi just isn’t that wearable for me, and I would kind of like to wear this into the fall with tights, boots, and a cardigan.  On the other hand, this is a really summery print, so maybe it would look weird in the fall.  What do you think?

Jul 082014

Friends, I am so excited because in about  half an hour, I’m going to get my hair dyed!  I’ve wanted to dye my hair for forever, but it’s so dark that I’d have to strip color from it first, and I’ve never felt like I wanted to do the maintenance for all that.  But I’m getting to be an old lady and I have quite a few grey hairs now.  Grey hair is awesome and I can’t wait until all of my hair is grey, but for now, the hairs are so few but so noticeable that I’m not really loving the look on me.  I figured since I was going to start dyeing my hair anyway, I might as well take some color out and dye it a color, which is way more fun than just dyeing brown over brown.

The dress I have today is from quite a while ago – I made it before my Summer Sureau and my Simplicity 2648 Belladone mashup .  It’s based on Kwik Sew 3758, but it’s really only the concept at this point, because I took a TON of volume out of the gathered skirt and used my v-neck Renfrew pattern for the top.  So I didn’t even get out the Kwik Sew pattern for this one, but I did get the idea from them!


The top is some kind of doubleknit from Vogue.  Vogue sells these beefy doubleknits I really like called Sophia from Logantex (the same people who make Ambiance bemberg lining, also a fave).  Vogue advertised the doubleknit line above as a cheaper alternative to the Sophia knits.  I think the Sophias are like $13 a yard, and this one was around $5.  It was a great deal and it’s very similar to the Sophia knits, but it’s not quite as beefy.  I decided to be a super cheapskate when I bought it only got a half yard because I knew that would be enough to make this top, plus I didn’t want a ton of leftover.  It turned out that Vogue cut my half yard WAY off grain, so I ended up not having enough to do binding around the armholes – I just barely eked out what I have here from the wonky half yard they gave me.  I ended up just folding the armhole under, which resulted in it being kind of wavy.  It sort of irritates me, but I don’t really want to go back and buy a micro piece of this fabric just to be able to make bindings.  I’m also having some gappage around the armholes that make me think any more tinkering with this wouldn’t be worth it.  I often have wrinkling around the armholes in knits, I think because my upper bust measurement is so different from my full bust measurement.  The next time I make a knit top, I’m going to use Devon’s tutorial for fixing armhole gape.  It looks like it will work well.


So the other thing about this dress that’s bugging me is that I made this obi style belt thing for it, and I think it looks better without it!  Above is the dress with the belt, and the first picture was without.  Now, as we know, I’ve had a moment of clarity regarding belts and decided we were friends.  Maybe not so with obi belts?


Side view without belt.


Side view with belt.  I feel like it emphasizes those weird wrinkles around the bust.


Back without belt.  Looks okay . . .


Back view with belt?  The less we say about that, the better.


If I scrunch up kinda funny, it looks a little better, but still no.

If I wear this with a cardigan, the belt looks okay, so I guess I’m not totally irritated that I spent time making it.  Anyway, it was a simple and straightforward make – Renfrew v-neck cut off at the waist with two gathered rectangles attached.  The gathered rectangles are made from quilting cotton, which I seem to keep buying because I fall for the patterns, but never want to sew because the drape is never what I’m looking for.  But it’s perfect for something like this, so I may have a ton more of this kind of dress in my future!   The specific quilting cotton is Secret Garden Bamboo Pebble in lilac from Nel Whatmore.  I like it, but the colors looked more saturated online when I bought it, and I wish I had the fabric I saw on my computer screen rather than this.

Anyway,  I gotta run so I can get my hair dyed!  See you soon with fun hair color!


Jun 282014

Hello, dear readers.  It appears I haven’t abandoned you for quite as long as I have previously, so huzzah!  What I’m about to show you has been finished for a while, and the photos were taken and edited a while ago as well.  I had every intention of posting sooner, but right after I published my last post, I headed to Kentucky to spend a week scoring Advanced Placement exams.  It was my third year doing it, and while it’s never fun to read 300 AP exams per day 7 days in a row, this year was probably better than the last two because they made us work fewer hours.  There are three questions on the exam, and every year the topic for the each of the essays is different.  This year, the question I scored asked students to analyze a letter Abigail Adams wrote to John Quincy Adams, who, if you took US History classes and can recall them, you will remember is her son and the fourth president of the US.  Let’s just say that if I never hear about the Adams family again it will be too soon.

Anyway, I had grand plans for drafting blog posts while I was there and doing a bunch of other stuff too.  Not only did I not do it, but I also sat around like a zombie for a week after returning because my brain was so fried from reading all those essays.  The only thing I did manage to do was get to the Zappos outlet in Sheperdsville, KY, which was about a half hour from where I was staying in Louisville.  It was awesome – everything is at least half off the retail price!  I got one pair of shoes that have been on my Zappos wishlist for a long time, a random pair of sandals that were super cheap, and another pair that are super comfy and cute.  You’ll see them soon because I’m planning a dress to go with them. They’re blue, and I asked the friend who went with me whether I should get them because I woudln’t know what to wear with blue heels.  She was like, “Are you serious?  Just sew something to go with them!”  So that’s what I’m doing!  I even had some fabric in my stash already that will work.

What I’m writing about today is a Deer and Doe Sureau made sleeveless for summer out of Cloud 9’s Palos Verdes organic cotton voile.  I had been seeing it floating around the blogosphere (both garmentosphere and quiltosphere!) for a while and loved all of the prints, but couldn’t decide which one to get.  I ended up getting “Abalone Cove,” but in looking up the name to be able to tell you, I question whether I should have gotten “Lunada Bay.”  I just joined Sally’s Summer Stashbust, though, so that ship has definitely sailed for this summer!  I’m not usually one to swear things off (see my thoughts on continuing to buy RTW in my last post), but I’m running out of space to store fabrics, and I’m also finding that I have several beautiful silks that I’m too nervous to sew with.  I need some motivation to quit buying more fabric that I can’t store in one of my three spots designated for doing so, and I definitely need motivation to sew what I have.

As I have mentioned before, I LOVE Deer and Doe patterns (though I just had a bad time with the latest, Centauree, but more on that in a future post), and I especially love the Sureau I made last fall in corduroy.  Ever since I made that one, I’ve wanted to make a sleeveless version for summer.


I don’t have a ton to say about this dress, actually, because everything was the same – it was a pleasure to sew and fits beautifully, just like the last time!  When I made my version last fall, I made the shoulders a bit narrower.  They turned out to be the perfect width for a sleeveless dress, which was one of the things I was nervous about in attempting a sleeveless version.


The voile was also a pleasure to work with.  It’s nice and lightweight, but since it’s cotton it’s not difficult to sew.  I lined the dress in bemberg rayon, but after wearing it in the heat, I wonder if it would have been better lined in something like cotton batiste, which would be more breathable and less sticky in the humidity.  I think I might switch to using cotton linings for summer dresses and using rayon for fall/winter dresses only.  This would mean that when I wear my summer dresses in winter with cardigans I’d have to wear a slip because cotton would probably stick to my hose, but whatever.  Being too hot in the summer is the worst!


One thing I did change was to leave off the zipper.  I never use the side zip in my corduroy Sureau because the dress is loose enough to just slip over my head.  Because I was lining this dress, putting in a zipper would be even more annoying than usual, so I just omitted it, and it’s been fine.


I don’t remember what I bought these buttons for, but they match the fabric pretty well.  They’re shell, and while they’re a little browner than I would have preferred, I didn’t want to buy new buttons when these worked well enough.

I have one other new dress to show you, then I really need to get cracking because I don’t even have a new project cut out yet!  The dress I’m making to go with my blue shoes is what I’ll make next, and it will be a Cambie made with bluish grey eyelet.  MOAR EYELET!  Right now I’m also working on a new ironing board cover.  I may have mentioned that my apartment is very small one or a million times.  Well, my ironing board is usually folded up and put away because I have no permanent spot for it, and when I do set it up, it goes in the kitchen, with the unfortunate side effect of us using it as additional kitchen counter space when it’s set up.  You can see where this is headed.  I spilled juice on my ironing board and now whenever I iron things, I have to put a towel down over the cover unless I want whatever I’m ironing to smell like rotten juice.  I’d been wanting to make a new cover because the one that came with the board was never padded enough for my liking, so this just gives me the motivation to finally do it.

So I hope to be back soon with new dresses and a new ironing board cover!  And I hope to finish my Miette that I’m knitting sometime soon, too.  I’ve been seeing so many awesome sweaters I want to knit up after I’m done, but I absolutely refuse to have more than one knitting project going at a time, nor will I buy yarn unless I’m actually going to start knitting with it that day.  The shop I frequent gives a discount on new yarn when you bring in a completed item made from materials from their shop, so that’s a good motivator to not buy yarn before I’m ready to start knitting with it.

Apr 202014

Today I have something a little different to talk about:  a dress for a little girl!

I’ve been thinking about what makes me enjoy sewing and what makes it feel like work lately.  A lot of people talk about “selfish sewing,” which is a term I don’t really like.  I have enough trouble feeling tremendously guilty when I do things for myself.  I don’t want to feel like whenever I sew for myself, I’m being selfish.  I put a lot of hours into learning what I know about sewing, and I want to reap the benefits of those hours by having clothes that actually fit my body, which is something that is simply not possible when I buy ready-to-wear clothes.  There’s always something I have to alter or decide to live with even though it’s ill-fitting.  I enjoy my sewing time most when I’m making things for myself, and it’s my hobby, and I’m deciding to not feel guilty about it.

But with all that said, it’s not that I hate sewing things that I won’t personally wear.  When I decide to sew something as a gift for someone else without them asking, I find that I really enjoy it.  The dress below is one I decided to make as a birthday gift for a friend’s little girl, and I really enjoyed sewing it.  I still don’t know if it fit her well, which is the problem with sewing gifts for people, but wondering about the fit was really the only thing that was stressful about this dress.

I used the Geranium pattern from Made by Rae.  I have two Washi dresses made with Rae’s version of this pattern that’s for adults, and I love them.  I’ve never blogged them because I made them so long ago and they don’t fit so well anymore, but I want to make more of them, so maybe I’ll end up writing about one in the future.  Both dresses have cute pleated skirts and lined bodices (Rae has instructions on doing a full lining if you’d like), but the children’s version has a button up back and the women’s version has no closures and a shirred waist in the back.  The looser fit is cute on little girls, but I love the way the shirred backing allows for a closer, more customized fit in the women’s pattern.


The fabric I used for this dress is quilting cotton from Pat Bravo called Innocent Charm from the Coquette line.  I bought it for myself because I thought it was so pretty, but when I got it, I realized it was too pale both for my skin tone and my personal style.  I spent hours online looking for the perfect fabric for this dress, but then I realized that I already had it in my stash.  I used some hot pink ribbon at the waistline because I apparently can’t do anything without a shot of bold color, and I really like how that turned out.  Using ribbon or piping at the waistline also allows for a cleaner finish, because you have to stitch in the ditch around the waistline to secure the bodice lining, and if you have ribbon or piping, you can just stitch under it where no one will ever see.


These buttons are again from my friend Annah’s grandmother.  I have tons of buttons that I bought myself, but lately I seem to find the perfect match in her grandmother’s buttons.  You guys, these buttons were so hard to get lined up straight!  My markings didn’t line up because I didn’t overlap the two back pieces as much as the pattern called for because it looked like it was distorting the way the skirt was hanging.  I don’t know why – it might be that I did something wrong, or it might be that there’s something funky about the way the pattern is designed.  I don’t know how closures usually work on kids’ clothes, but on this one, there’s a center back seam on the skirt, and you when you sew them together, you leave about three inches at the top unsewn.  After sewing the two pieces together, you fold the seam allowances over twice so they’re finished, and then you stitch them down to the skirt.  Then the skirt pieces connect to the bodice pieces, and the opening on the bodice extends into the skirt, if that makes sense.   So the problem I had is that when you overlap the two bodice pieces, the opening on the skirt sort of bubbles because there’s overlap built into the bodice pieces, but not into the skirt pieces.


I don’t know if any of that makes sense because I’m terrible at describing spatial relations (perhaps why I never got any of those technical writing jobs I applied to straight out of college!).  But the point is that I moved my buttons over a bit to compensate for the way the skirt wasn’t laying flat, and that made the buttons really difficult to line up.  You would think it would be easy to just use the buttonholes as a guide, but it wasn’t for me.  I think I sewed them on three times trying to get them straight!  As you can see, I eventually got the buttons on straight and the ribbon on the back lined up reasonably well.


For the clean-finish bodice lining, I used Bemberg rayon.  Sorry for the sort of poor quality of these pictures, by the way!  I took them the night before I left for Ohio, which is where the little girl who now owns this dress lives.  I finished it that night and was leaving super early to catch the Megabus, so I didn’t have a chance to get photos in the daylight.


It even has pockets!

Overall, this is a really cute pattern and pretty easy to sew up.  I don’t know what happened with the back closure, but I’m guessing I just did something wrong because no one else has complained about it.

I had a lot of fun making this tiny dress, from choosing a pattern (it was between this one and the Oliver + S Seashore Sundress) to sewing it up.  I really wanted to make a handmade gift for this particular little girl, because her mother was one of my dearest friends before she passed away three and a half years ago, and we bonded over creating things.  We used to make hand-stamped cards together all the time, and I know she would have appreciated a gift I made with my own hands.  Even though she wasn’t there to appreciate it, I felt like I was honoring her memory while I was making this dress.


Apr 112014

Last weekend I finished the Victory Patterns Anouk dress just in time for a meetup with other Chicago sewing bloggers.  Just like the last time I met with them, it was tons of fun.  I love talking to other sewists, not least because when I mention how much I hate doing alterations for other people (or even myself!), people like Mari and Liz immediately know exactly what I’m talking about. In addition to Liz and Mari, I saw Michelle and Meg again, and met Ashley, Sally, and Pat for the first time. I saw Rhonda but unfortunately didn’t get to officially meet her because I didn’t see her while shopping in the massive Textile Discount Outlet, and then she was sitting way at the other end of the table during lunch. I also met a friend of Michelle’s who doesn’t blog.

Even though I’d only met the group once before and it’s not like they would be tired of seeing my whole wardrobe repeatedly, I felt like I wanted to make something new for the meetup.  I’m really glad I did, because I haven’t been sewing a lot lately and this got me back at my sewing machine.


First I had to cut my pattern out, though, and Desdemona generously offered to help.  She loves my desk because it’s right in front of the window (or what we refer to as the cat television), but it’s usually piled high with fabric, patterns, and other assorted junk, so she can’t sprawl out and make herself comfortable.  When I clear it off to trace patterns and cut fabric, though, she believes it’s all hers.  Bonus:  she can plop down on fabric or paper, which are obviously perfect cat bed materials.  If I leave a single sheet of paper out, this cat will find it and take a nap on it.

This dress looks pink, but it’s actually red chambray.  The mixture of red and white threads makes it look pink from a distance.  The white yoke and bib are linen, and both fabrics are from Vogue.  I think I paid $3.99 per yard for the chambray, and the linen was a remnant that I got for a few dollars.

I made several alterations to this dress, the first of which was removing the gathers from the front center skirt.  The fabric is supposed to be gathered right underneath the white bib, but on my muslin, it made me look pregnant because it was ballooning out so much.  I took out the gathers by removing about 3 inches from the front center.  I removed about an inch from the back center and a half inch from either side as well, because this dress ran pretty big.  I think I made a 12, which is a size smaller than I’ve been making in other patterns, and it was still too big.  I think it’s meant to be blousy, but I’m not a huge fan of blousy on me.


The dress has pintucks on the back and ties that are attached in the front and wrap around the back.  Speaking of blousiness, I have to sort of pull the top of the back of the dress over the ties to make it look a little blousy because I have a major swayback issue going on with this dress that I somehow forgot to take care of in the muslin stage.  There’s lots of wrinkling of the excess fabric at the small of my back and it ends up looking terrible when it gets squished by the ties, so pulling it up makes it look a little neater.


For the front bib detail, Victory recommends you use a striped fabric, which you then cut on the bias for the two center strips and cut lengthwise along the stripe for the two outer strips.  I may use a striped fabric on another version someday, but I knew that wasn’t the look I wanted for this dress.  A while ago, I saw an Anouk on the Victory Patterns blog that used pintucking to create some visual interest on a solid-colored bib, and I knew that would look perfect with this chambray.


The wide pintucks I made wouldn’t match up with each other where the horizontal pintucks meet the angled ones, so I didn’t even try – I just staggered them slightly.  I don’t know if my pintucks were just slightly off or if it was something mathy about the way the angled ones worked with the horizontal ones.


One of the fit alterations I had to make was changing the shape of the yoke because it was totally wonky on me.  If I had the two pieces overlap where the pattern said to have them do so, I had a lot of neckline gaping and it was at an odd angle.  I overlapped them my own way until they made sense, but as you can see here, the two sides don’t meet properly at the bottom.  I actually kind of like it this way – the way the little flap angles up looks whimsical to me!  One of the things that happened when I made all these alterations is that the flaps got a lot shorter vertically.  You’re supposed to have enough room for two buttons to be sewn on in a vertical line.  I obviously didn’t have enough room for that, so I decided to go with three smaller ones in a line horizontally.  These buttons are from my friend Annah’s grandmother, whom I’ve mentioned here before.  Thanks, Annah’s grandma!  I initially thought these buttons would be too pink, but of all the reddish buttons I pulled from my stash, these matched the best.  I’ve just realized while looking at this photo that the one on the left is a little bit too high, though!  I’ll have to remove it and sew it back on.


The inside yoke and bib are lined with a clean finish.  This pattern had instructions to do the clean finish that were a little different than what I’ve done before for clean finish bodice linings, but I followed them and it all worked out okay.  I think the other way I’ve done it is easier, but maybe it wouldn’t have worked as well because of those flaps?  I wasn’t sure so I just did it the way the instructions told me to!


And there’s the inside of the back of the dress.  You can see the pintucks on the wrong side there, though it’s hard to tell it’s the wrong side because the clean finish lining makes it look so pretty!


I haven’t seen a ton of people making this dress, but I really like it.  I really wanted to try out Victory Patterns because a little independent fabric shop near me carries them, and I like to support the shop.  The Anouk was my absolute favorite, though the Nicola is also pretty cute.  I actually got this pattern last summer and then made the muslin in the fall.  The muslin looked like it was going to be too big and it had all these complicated markings for all the pintucks and I just got intimidated.  I’m really glad I decided to get it back out, though, because I really like this dress, and it’s gone over very well with everyone’s who’s seen it.  I think the pintucking looks more complicated and time-consuming than it really is, so people are amazed by the detailing – I was thrown off by that as well when I was contemplating finishing that muslin, but it really wasn’t that hard!

Dec 142013

I don’t really like tiramisu.  The dessert, that is.  People have told me I’m crazy for not liking tiramisu because it’s supposed to be so amazing and because I’m Italian, but I say no thank you!  Benjamin and I went to see Wicked on Thursday and went out to eat at an Italian restaurant beforehand.  When the waiter asked if we wanted to try the world’s best tiramisu, we laughed nervously and asked for cheesecake, hoping not to offend him.  Our cheesecake was delicious (and Wicked was a lot of fun)!  When it comes to the Tiramisu dress from Cake Patterns, however, I’m a huge fan!


I’m going to be honest – I hated it at first.  Surplice dresses are cute and all, but they always gap open on me, so I dismissed the Tiramisu as just another dress that wouldn’t work on my body type.  I also hated how tall the waist band was.  A lot of people seem to think it’s flattering, but I would haaaaate it on me.  I’m short-torsoed (and short-everythingelsed, for that matter!) for one thing, and for another, the proportion just looks off to me on pretty much everyone I’ve seen it on (sorry, fans of the tall waistband!).  As I read more reviews of the pattern, however, I discovered that the Tiramisu has a special neck binding that’s supposed to keep it from gapping.


And holy crap, it worked, you guys!  Please forgive the brightness of that picture – it was taken before I started taking real pictures for the blog, so I wasn’t worried about standing in a spot where the sunlight didn’t wash everything out.  But you get the point – I’m leaning over and there’s no gap!  Woohoo!  I was pretty amazed by this and was so thrilled I decided to give the Tiramisu a chance.


I even managed to line up my stripes perfectly thanks to the grain/stripe lines on the pattern pieces.  Genius!  As you can see, I did shorten up that waist band quite a bit, though.  I think it looks perfect now.  I think everyone pretty much knows the drill with Cake Patterns by now, but just in case, they don’t use regular sizing.  They have their own sizing system based off of your high bust measurement and then customized to work with the rest of your measurements.  I LOVED this idea, because my high bust (for those not in the know, this is the area above your actual breasts) is way smaller than anything else on my body, so tops always fit me wonky, especially cut-on sleeves like the Tiramisu has.  What you do is cut the top according to your high bust size, then the pattern has dots for waist and hip measurements, and you connect the dots to create a pattern piece that’s custom-fit to your body.  It’s not precisely perfect, but it’s pretty close, and we’re talking knits here, so it doesn’t have to be exact.  The only thing that I think needs to be changed is the bodice needs to be a smidgen longer on me because of my large bust size.  I tried to correct this in the second Tiramisu below, but the finished garment didn’t end up much different, so I think I wasn’t aggressive enough with adding more length.


My kitty was wandering around while I was taking these, so I thought I’d let you all meet her.  She refused to look at the camera, though, because she’s like that.  She seems to know what cameras are and does her best to avoid them.  If we’re Skyping with friends or family and she walks in, it’s nearly impossible to get her to come into the frame so people can see her.  But I got her this time!  So, readers who haven’t met her in person already, meet Desdemona.red-stripe-cake-patterns-tiramisu-spinning

Yay, twirling!  Another pre-nice-blog-photos picture, but I love this one.  I won’t even tell you how many takes it took or how many injuries I sustained while trying to capture a picture of me spinning using just the camera timer.  This experience really made me wish I had a camera that would work with a remote, though I’m so clumsy it may not have mattered.red-stripe-cake-patterns-tiramisu-layout

I took this photo to show how you can lay out this pattern using just 2 yards of fabric rather than the 2.5 recommended for a size 35, which is what I made.  I wanted to remind myself as well because the fabric I wanted to make my second Tiramisu from was only 2 yards.  I never buy more than two yards  when I don’t have a specific plan because you can always at least make a sleeveless dress out of two yards, and I hate ending up with tons of extra fabric.  I don’t want two garments made of the same fabric, so I never know what to do with it, and I don’t want to waste it.

There’s an interesting story behind this fabric.  A friend of mine was home for the summer, cleaning out her grandmother’s old house because her grandmother had come to live with her family.  Her grandmother had a huge stash of sewing things, but wasn’t well enough to sew anymore.  My friend texted me to see if I’d like any of her old fabric.  She was really great about describing everything that was available, but in the end I took everything she wanted to give because I’m a greedy fabric monster.  As soon as I got the fabric package in the mail and saw these stripes, I knew I wanted to use this piece to make a wearable Tiramisu muslin since red striped fabric is what’s on the pattern envelope.  If it didn’t work out, at least the fabric was free.  Lucky me – it worked out great!  I’m lucky because I not only ended up with a dress, I ended up with the admiration of my friend’s grandmother.  She showed her a picture of me in the dress, and her grandmother apparently gushed about it and even mentioned me in her next letter to my friend.  I’ve always been popular with the grandmotherly set, but I was really flattered that this one liked me because of my sewing!


And now for Tiramisu #2.  This one is made from a purple and black doubleknit made by Milly that I bought from Emma One Sock.  I LOVE this fabric!  I love the shade of purple and the abstract pattern.  Some of the swirls sort of look like skulls, but not quite, which is one of my favorite things about it.

Still no gapping!  Yay!


In addition to the tall waist band, one thing I changed when I made this is the way the arms are sewn.  The pattern tells you to put the arm binding on flat and then sew up the side seam.  I think this looks messy and have no problems sewing binding on in the round, so that’s what I did.  That way I didn’t end up with any messy seams.  I think most reviews and blog posts I’ve read about this dress have said they did the same thing.  I really don’t understand why the pattern would tell you to do things this way – it just ends up looking unprofessional (and “professional” is one of the complimentary words my friend’s grandma used about me, so I don’t want to disappoint her!).purple-cake-patterns-tiramisu-fabricFinally, a close-up of that fabric I love so very much.  Both of these dresses were so easy to sew up – I didn’t have to spend tons of time adjusting fit, and it’s just a few seams on the serger and you’re done.  I’m so glad I gave it a try!

I hope everyone is keeping warm!  It’s been in the single digits in Chicago this week, so I bought my first pair of fleece-lined leggings.  I’d love to make my own, but I don’t know where to find nice non-bulky fleece-lined lycra.  If you have suggestions, let me know.  Target only has black, which is kinda boring, plus they’re made for people who are like nine feet tall!

I hope to have more to say before Christmas, but we’ll see if I find the time.  Benjamin is having surgery next week, so I may need a distraction while I’m waiting in the hospital, or I may be too anxious to think about doing anything.  I never know which way I’ll go when stressful things happen.  If you want to send any good thoughts his way, I know he would appreciate it, and I would too!  🙂