Aug 242016
 

Well hello!  Yes, I do still have a blog!  And yes, I have definitely been sewing, as those of you who follow me on Instagram surely know.  I’ve been doing a pretty terrible job of keeping up with photographing what I make, though, and then even when I do a big photo shoot and edit all of my photos, it takes me a month to actually write a post to go with them!  So here’s me like two months ago:mccalls-6891-nani-iro-mountain-view-front-1

This is McCall’s 6891, which is a Palmer/Pletsch pattern.

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Observe the “easy” badge on the envelope and “3-hour perfect fit shirtdress” description on the instructions.  Blatant lies, I tell you.  I made two muslins of this bodice that probably took me 2 hours to cut out and sew alone.  And as an eagle-eyed Instagram follower pointed out when I posted this there, the example is made in plaid!  It would probably take me 3 hours just to plaid match while cutting!  Plus you need to make buttonholes and sew on buttons, which usually takes me two hours all by itself!  I get that Palmer/Pletsch are professionals and can probably do things pretty quickly, and that I’m outrageously slow at things, but I’d like to see someone make this whole thing in 3 hours.

In any event, you can see that I made the sleeveless view A, and the fabric I used is a Nani Iro double gauze called “Mountain Views” that was popular last summer (back when I began planning this dress).  I really love the print, but I must say that it doesn’t behave the way double gauze usually does.  This is because some of the print is done with a thick ink that makes the fabric stiff in some spots.  I don’t really mind this because I find double gauze to be shifty and annoying sometimes, but if you’re looking for that soft, cozy double gauze feeling, this won’t fit the bill.  mccalls-6891-nani-iro-mountain-view-side

The photo below makes it look like I didn’t iron this dress before taking the photos, but I did.  This is just the way the fabric looks, which is also not typical for double gauze.  I can usually get cotton double gauze to press very nicely, but this fabric is a little more crinkly because of that thick ink.  mccalls-6891-nani-iro-mountain-view-back

Conversing with a cat.  Can you see her little floating eyes, ears, and mouth?  I know you can definitely see her cardboard scratcher on the right and the little mat I keep in front of her pet fountain on the left.  I usually move those out of the way when I do photos, but I guess I forgot.  mccalls-6891-nani-iro-mountain-view-side-with-cat

As you can see, I added pockets because pockets.  I just used the pattern pieces from the Deer and Doe Belladone, which is my go-to pocket.  I don’t like side-seam pockets because they tend to sit funny and things fall out of them.  These pockets from the Belladone are ideal.  They always lay flat, and I’ve never had anything fall out of them.  I also substituted a modified version of the Belladone skirt for the circle skirt included in the pattern.  I really hate the way circle skirts look on me for some reason, but I didn’t want to substitute the pleated skirt from McCall’s 6696 because I wanted a more streamlined look.  I’m pleased with this substitution.  I’ve used the Belladone skirt like a grabillion times now with various bodices, and it’s always perfect.mccalls-6891-nani-iro-mountain-view-front-2

Things I like about this dress:

  • The notched collar.  I like the open neckline on me.  I’m very short from bust to neck, so having too much going on in that area can overwhelm me.  I like the open v-shape this collar style provides.
  • The less flared shape.  It’s less likely to blow up in the Chicago wind, which is great, plus it’s just a different silhouette than my other shirtdresses.
  • The fabric, which is from Miss Matatabi.  Despite its stiffness, I love this fabric.  The beauty of the print is almost too much – I kind of want to frame it and hang it on my wall instead of wearing it!  Nani Iro is amazing.  I just finished two more dresses in double gauze prints from her (they do not share the stiffness of this one – they feel like regular double gauze).
  • The fit at the shoulder.  It’s almost perfect.  I always think I have a perfect fit, but then when I take my photos, I see all sorts of pulling.  I can ever so slightly see some ripples, especially in my cat whispering photo above, but I think that’s down to my bias tape insertion.  I bought premade bias tape from Echino from Miss Matatabi as well, and it’s not nearly as stiff as the Wright’s stuff you get at Joann, but it’s not as supple as when I make it myself.  I’m also having this issue lately where I cut the shoulder in too narrow and my bra strap shows.  I began doing this because shoulders are always too wide, but I’m apparently taking it too far lately.  This dress is perfect.  It’s not too wide and I didn’t cut it so narrow that my bra strap shows.  It’s also a great balance between being not gaping at the armhole and not being too tight, which is a problem I’ve caused in my attempts to balance armhole with bust size.  A too-tight armhole is SO uncomfortable!

Things I don’t love about this dress:

  • The lack of a waistband.  I prefer how I look with a more defined waist.  I was into belts for a while, but they’re so shifty.  I feel like I’m always fiddling with them.  Part of this is probably because I like to wear them loose so they don’t sausagify me, and that makes them more likely to rotate on my waist.
  • The side zipper.  No, this dress is not supposed to have a side zipper.  I’ve begun sewing all my shirtdresses together at the center front because no matter how well they fit, as I move throughout the day, I’ll eventually cause them to gape between the buttons.  Several bloggers have discussed putting in additional buttons backwards (if that makes sense – the button faces your body instead of outward, so you can’t see it).  That would be a good solution, but I usually don’t unbutton my shirtdresses when I put them on anyway, so why not just sew the front closed and be done with it?  For this dress, though, it looked very sloppy until it was quite fitted to me, and I was worried I wouldn’t easily be able to put it on without having some kind of closure that I could open up.  I decided to put in an invisible side zipper, but as it turns out, I don’t actually need to use it!  This dress is a little tighter when I put it on, but it’s perfectly put-on-able without unzipping the zipper.  So it’s just unnecessary and the zipper tab irritates my arm sometimes.  I put the zipper in after the dress was constructed, so it’s not the cleanest insertion either.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to rip it out soon.

So the good outweighs the bad, and I’ll definitely be making another version of this pattern.  I love the notched collar, and I think I’ll try to add a waistband even though I think it might look odd in combination with the notched collar.  We shall find out precisely how odd it looks, I suppose!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

katarina-roccella-indelible-floret-voile-mccalls-6696-collar-detail

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.

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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.

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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!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

 

Aug 282014
 

red-hair

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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

mccalls-5893-back

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.

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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?