Oct 292013

It seems like every time I think a project is going to go smoothly it ends up being a disaster. I decided to make an empire-waist dress using the Renfrew with a scoop neck for the top half, and the gathered skirt from Butterick 5456 (you can see my first two versions here), joined at the waist with elastic. I’ve made the Renfrew twice and the Butterick dress twice, so this should have been a piece of cake, right?


I like this picture because it reminds me of the sassy preschoolers I taught one summer. Can you hear me stamping my feet and saying, “NO!” to this dress?

WRONG. OMG you guys, this dress almost put me over the edge! First of all, the fabric.  It’s a Derek Lam rayon/cotton blend I got from Emma One Sock. I don’t know if the cut they gave me was short or if it just shrank aggressively in the wash, but I was 10 inches short of the two yards I ordered and needed to make this dress. I managed to squeeze this dress out of what I had, but it was really close. Also, I somehow missed that this fabric was super lightweight on the website. I thought it might need lined, but it definitely needed lined because it was like a featherweight knit.

Since the fabric was so lightweight and lacking in body, I thought I’d be clever and hand baste the lining to it (I’d decided to underline to give the fabric a better hand instead of just lining). Well, that was a terrible idea. Here’s the hand basting I did – it’s the red thread running around the edges:


Aren’t those colors pretty, though?

I used this rayon embroidery thread that’s really slippery. I always use it when I make muslins or machine baste things because it’s super easy to pull out of the fabric if I need to make any changes. Turns out, it also makes the fabric slide around on it when you use big old hand basting stitches. So I had to pull it out and just machine baste them together.

Which is when I found out that my sewing machine HAAAAATES this lining fabric. It’s also from Emma One Sock, and it’s called Venezia 4-way stretch lining.  I’ve used it before and didn’t have any problems, but this time, no matter what needle I used (and I tried them all – sizes 10, 12, and 14 in both ball point AND sharp – no dice), I got skipped stitches and the thread would snag or something and then bunch up. WTF? Who’s ever heard of this?! I was just banging my head against the wall anytime I was at the sewing machine with this fabric, and the sewing part is usually my favorite.

At some point during all this, I saw that the fabric had a tiny little hole in it near the bottom of the dress. AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH! I nearly cried. Don’t think sewing hasn’t driven me to tears on multiple occasions. This just wasn’t one of them, I think because I was sort of over it at that point. The hole isn’t that noticeable, so whatever. I’m just leaving it as is, because the last time I tried to darn a little hole like this, I just made things worse. These little ones don’t tend to spread unless you put a lot of stress on them, and I think this one will be fine since it’s near the hem.

So after all that, I put it on and decided I didn’t really like it that well. Much like my black and white Butterick 5456, the all-over pattern didn’t give my waist enough definition.


kinda frumpy, no?

So I got out the trusty single belt that I owned and slapped it on, and I like that much better. It’s a new age of belts in my household. I just bought another one to wear with my fall Belladone that I just completed and hope to show you soon.


better, yes?

I got a lot of compliments on this dress, so I guess it came out okay. All I can see is hours of frustration, though. I do like the colors, so maybe the trauma will wear off with time and I’ll love it.


I realized that I never wrote anything about sizing on my last few posts, so here’s some info about that. I made the Renfrew top in a size 14, and the Butterick bottom in I think like a size 18. But I should say that I think I greatly reduced the size of the Butterick skirt because the gathered skirt they had was just too bulky for me. What I ended up with is a piece of fabric 27 inches long by 28 inches wide, which I then gathered down so that it fit my waist.


That reminds me – one thing that did work out very well on this dress was gathering on my serger, which I tried for the first time. I HAAAATE gathering by pulling threads, but I’ve always been too nervous to give up the fine-tuned control that method allows for the serger, which just sort of does its own thing. I did some tests on scraps beforehand, though, and it all worked out okay. I thought it wouldn’t need much gathering, but I ended up turning the differential all the way to the highest amount of gathering and going with almost the longest stitch length, which is the way to get maximum gathering on my serger. I think it worked out because the serger gathering is kind of stretchy, so if it ends up a little small, you can easily fudge it.

You may notice that the sleeves don’t have the typical Renfrew banded hem. I decided to just serge the edge, flip it under and top stitch it because I felt like the banded hem wouldn’t look right with this style.


Or maybe I was just feeling lazy.

I also did the same thing with the bottom hem. I’m still kind of learning how to get my coverstitch machine to do what I want it to do without annoying me, and I just did not feel like taking the time for that with this dress. I wanted it to be done, and the serge, flip, sew method was the quickest way to get there.


Yep, lazy.

Lately I’ve been taking shortcuts like this, and I think a lot of the reason is that I’m just not sure how long I’ll be this size, so it’s just not worth it to go the extra mile. It’s kind of freeing to just not worry about all those little details all the time.

Oct 122013

A couple weeks ago I met up with several bloggers from the Chicago area and Lauren from Lladybird when Lauren made a last-minute visit from Nashville.  I was so pleased to meet these wonderful ladies:  Jen from Grainline Studio, Meg from Meg the Grand, Tasha from By Gum, By Golly, Debbie from Makizy Sews, Liz from zilredloh, Michelle from tres bien ensemble, and Mari from Disparate Disciplines.  I’m stealing pictures of us from Lauren’s blog, since I didn’t have a camera with me and the camera sucks on my phone (along with everything else, but we won’t go into that!).

L-R:  Mari, Eliza, Debbie, Jen, me, Meg, Lauren, Liz

L-R: Mari, Eliza, Debbie, Jen, me, Meg, Lauren, Liz

L-R:  Lauren, Mari, me, Michelle

L-R: Lauren, Mari, me, Michelle

As you can see, I’m wearing my Renfrew in the second photo.  I was so flattered when Lauren told me that she admired the “v” in my v-neck that I promised it would be the first post on the blog I had already begun to plan by the end of the weekend.  So here we are!  Not a very exciting first post, but I like to give the public what they want.

what the public wants

what the public wants

I saw SO. MANY. Renfrews being made over the past year or so, and I always thought I’d hate it.  I’m not much of a t-shirt wearer, and I thought the band along the bottom would be unflattering for my shape.  I finally gave in a few months ago, and I’m so glad I did.  The Renfrew is amazing, ya’ll.  First of all, there are so many options.  I’ve since made a scoop neck and a dress based on the scoop neck, both soon to be featured here.  I love all the different sleeve lengths, and the band is actually quite flattering on me.  Believe me, I NEVER wear t-shirts out of the house unless I’m running, but I wear my Renfrew all the time.  It goes with skirts and jeans and can look casual or slightly dressy depending on what you pair it with.  I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here because everyone on earth has already made a Renfrew, but if you happen to be a holdout like me, seriously, go make one right now.


My measurements indicated I would be a size 14, so that’s the size I made my muslin (I muslin every last thing I make, no matter how simple or fool-proof it is).  I like a little more ease in my knits than the pattern is apparently drafted for, so I widened out to a 16 below the waistline.  I feel much more comfortable in the shirt with a little extra room there.  Aside from that, the only change I made was to shave off the tiniest little piece at the underarm of the bodice – a quarter inch on each piece – because it seemed like I had some excess fabric under my arms.


I made the v-neck first because I feel like it’s the most flattering silhouette for large-busted people.  I used to wear really high-necked things because I thought that would somehow disguise my enormous bust, but all it really did was make me look super matronly.  I’ve since learned that neckline detail that visually breaks up the bust area is what will minimize the appearance of a large bust.  Just a little pro tip for you.

wrinkly back

As you can see in the photo above, I have a bunch of wrinkliness on the back of the shirt at the waist and below.  I have no end of problems with swayback/prominent buttocks/terrible posture, and I always have this problem.  I can usually fix it with a center back seam or even better, darts on both sides, but that would just look silly on this knit top.  I’m not exactly sure what to do about it, so if anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears!  I’m not excessively worried about it, because I see RTW shirts looking this way on people all the time, and when I buy RTW, I usually get shirts that are blousy in the back and make me look like a hunchback.  So some wrinkling is not a major concern of mine, but better fit would always be nice.

not-really-so-perfect v (and a crooked necklace)

Finally, a close-up of the v, in which I reveal that it’s not precisely perfect.  You can see that the line in the center of the v in the neckband is a hair off from the center of the v in the bodice fabric.  It’s hardly noticeable, and I’m still really pleased with the top of the v of the neckband – the v is nice and sharp with no puckering.  I think if I had been more precise with my topstitching, it would have fixed any appearance that the neckband and bodice don’t quite line up, but I didn’t want to rip stitches out of a knit and risk putting a hole or a run in it.

The fabric this is made out of is quite beefy.  My muslin was made out of some gross ITY knit I got at Joann’s from the red tag rack, and it was really drapey and I liked that.  I knew this fabric was more substantial, but I didn’t realize quite how beefy it was until I finished it.  I didn’t like it when I first made it in July, partially because it was too thick to wear in the summer heat.  But in the early fall, I’ve grown to love it, and the beefiness of the fabric means I’m comfortable wearing it with pants.  Do you guys get more lumps and bumps with pants than skirts?  I do, and I hate it when shirts cling to them.  It’s a Sophia doubleknit that I got from Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL.  I love that I live close enough to Vogue to pick up stuff like this at a moment’s notice.  I have a few other Sophia colors for Renfrews in various permutations.  I heard cowls are out now and I also heard they’re not for the well-endowed, but I want one, so I’m gonna make one and there’s nothing you can do about it!

Finally, a note about the skirt.  I didn’t make it, which is odd because skirts are so easy that I usually make them myself.  But I LOVED this fabric so much when I saw it at Banana Republic that I had to have it.  I tried to deny my love for a while, but when I went back and it was on sale for $28, I couldn’t stop myself.  While I like to make my own skirts because they’re easy, they’re also something that it makes sense for me to buy right now because I’ve been losing weight and skirts are pretty much infinitely alterable down in size if you’re willing to unpick enough seams.  Once I got the skirt home and saw that the tag said it was from the Milly Collection, it immediately made sense to my why I loved it so much.  Milly speaks my language – whenever I see Milly fabrics at Emma One Sock, I jump on them right away.  I’ve sewn up one in a Tiramisu that I’ll show you soon, but others I’m just hoarding because they’re so beautiful that I’m afraid to sew them, haha!

Well, that’s it for now!  I’m looking forward to sharing more of my closet with you all!