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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 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.