Sep 072016
 

I’ve been trying to expand my shirtdress repertoire lately; my last post was on McCall’s 6891, and soon I hope to post a couple versions of the Deer and Doe Bruyere that I’ve  made (which I know is supposed to be a blouse, but I’ve lengthened it to be a dress).  And let’s not forget about the Grainline Alder, which was actually my first shirtdress!  McCall’s 6696 is wonderful, but it’s good to explore the wider world of shirtdresses.  With that goal in mind, today I bring you Butterick 6333.

butterick-6333-frontOne of the issues I was hoping to address with this pattern is the huge collar of 6696.  As you can see above, though, the collar still looks too big.  I compared the two collar pattern pieces and found that the Butterick was only slightly smaller than the McCall’s.  Part of the problem is my short neck, so others may have fewer collar issues than me.  butterick-6333-side As you can see, I used the slash pockets from the Belladone rather than the side seam pockets the pattern comes with.  I so prefer this style of pocket (and I apparently love them so much that I didn’t get any pictures with my hands out of the pockets . . . whoops!).  In terms of other substitutions, I used the skirt from McCall’s 6696.  I think the skirt for 6333 is a little fuller, but the 6696 skirt is plenty full for me, especially in the obnoxious Chicago wind, which threatens daily to show my underthings to passersby.butterick-6333-front-2 butterick-6333-back

My fabric is quilting cotton from Art Gallery.  The collection is Bari J’s Millie Fleur and the colorway is Wisteria.  I had sworn off quilting cotton a while back, but I’ve been relaxing my standards when I find a good Art Gallery or Cotton + Steel print because I find their quilting cottons to have a better hand than is typical.  I couldn’t resist this one when I spotted it in a local quilt shop while at a Chicago Sewing Social.butterick-6333-closeup

As you can maybe see above, there aren’t any buttonholes on this dress.  That’s because I just sewed the two button bands together and then sewed the buttons through both layers.  This dress is tighter than some of the others that I pull over my head, but it’s still quite possible to do it without unbuttoning it.  The tighter fit is more flattering to my eye, but increases the likelihood of bust area gappage when I sit.  I can eliminate that by just sewing up the plackets and not bothering with buttonholes.  I don’t think it’s noticeable from a distance.  I like to think that rather than people saying, “Wait a second!  Is her dress missing buttonholes?!”, they are instead saying, “Wow, how did that busty girl find a shirtdress that fit her so well?!”

Since this is my first version of this dress, there are some things that did not come out perfectly, despite my doing a muslin beforehand (I never skip muslins!).  The next time I make this dress, I’ll:

-Add some length to the front bodice so the waistband sits lower.

-Cut the tops of the front bodice pieces and button bands on an angle so there isn’t as much fabric at the center front.  I had mentioned doing this in a prior blog post, and I tried it out on my most recent shirtdress (a Bruyere/6696 mashup), and it turned out perfectly.  There is less fabric at the neck to overwhelm me, but the angle is very subtle so it’s not noticeable.  It just looks like the dress fits better.  You can see in the closeup above that there is a crease right next to the button band, especially on the right side.  That fabric can basically be taken out through a slash and overlap on the pattern, which is what I’ll do.

-Make the collar smaller.  I just keep on shaving off more on these shirtdress collars!  One day there will barely be anything left!

-Narrow the shoulders a bit.  It’s not really visually evident, but the front is especially wide at the shoulder and I find that the fabric digs into my arms there, which makes this dress less comfortable than my other dresses.  I’ll probably take out half of what I need to take out at the center front piece along the princess seam and the other half on the side front piece at the shoulder so it’s distributed more evenly across the front at the shoulder, if that makes sense.  Otherwise I’m afraid my side front piece would end up being so narrow that it would look odd because it’s a pretty significant amount that I think I’ll need to take out.

Despite those things that didn’t come out quite right, I do definitely love this dress.  The fit on the princess seams is excellent, and I think it’s an improvement over the bodice fit on 6696 for me.  I’m looking forward to making it again!

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.

mccalls-6891-pattern-envelope
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!

Feb 042016
 

I’m still alive!  It’s been a while since I posted, but I am indeed still a sewing blogger, despite appearances to the contrary.  I am quite behind in posting things I’ve made, though, so I’m going to combine two more of my beloved shirt dresses.  In both photos I’m wearing sandals because I took these photos sooooo long ago that it was still warm.  We did have a very warm fall, so it wasn’t quite as long ago as it might seem, but it hasn’t been sandal weather here for a while.  Taking blog photos is my least favorite thing about sewing, so you don’t get any pictures me of wearing these two dresses like I’ve been wearing them for the past few months: with boots and a cardigan.

First up is my 6696 kitty cats shirtdress:
cotton-and-steel-hatbox-tiger-stripes-canvas-mccalls-6696-front

It’s not without its faults, but I love it so because the kitty cats are so adorable!  The teeny tiny one on the bottom left with its tiny head cocked to the side is my very favorite.

cotton-and-steel-hatbox-tiger-stripes-canvas-mccalls-6696-detail

The fabric is canvas from Cotton and Steel.  Canvas is perhaps not the very best choice for a shirtdress, but I actually like the heft of this fabric.  The only problem is that the stiffness of the fabric exacerbates the issue I’ve had with the collar on McCall’s 6696, which is that it’s enormously huge on me.  I keep shaving off height from the neck, collar stand, and collar, and it’s never quite enough.  I wasn’t sure what I should do next, but I had a revelation a few days ago when I read Beth’s post about a silk blouse she made, in which the top plackets don’t meet in the middle; they subtly veer away from each other to form a sort of v-neck.  I think that’s what I need in addition to all the collar-shrinking I’ve been doing.  I never button anything up all the way to the neck, so it won’t cause any problems for the center front to not meet up at the neck.  I’m going to give it a try on my next 6696!

cotton-and-steel-hatbox-tiger-stripes-canvas-mccalls-6696-too-big-collar

Side view!  More cats!
cotton-and-steel-hatbox-tiger-stripes-canvas-mccalls-6696-side

Back view!  Even more cats!

cotton-and-steel-hatbox-tiger-stripes-canvas-mccalls-6696-back

The other problem with this dress is that the sleeves really restrict my range of motion, which is a problem when I’m teaching because I need to write on the board.  Not sure what to do about this one either, but I’m not too worried about it because I don’t have a lot of plans for sleeves on dresses.  I generally like to avoid sleeves because they make it harder to wear cardigans with dresses.  For some reason, I kept envisioning this kitty dress with sleeves, though.  It caused me no end of trouble because I didn’t even have enough fabric to make the dress without sleeves, and then when I ordered more, it was from a different dye lot or something because it was quite noticeably a different color.  I ended up using the different-colored fabric for parts that wouldn’t be visible: the under collar, the placket that isn’t visible, the pockets, the inside yoke, and the waistband facing.  I also had to piece the upper collar to make it work, but you can hardly tell.

cotton-and-steel-hatbox-tiger-stripes-canvas-mccalls-6696-side-stretch

Next up: denim 6696.  (Forgive the wrinkles and sudden changes in brightness; I’d worn the dress all day when I took these photos and I was playing with the settings on my camera and apparently didn’t take a full set of pictures on any one setting.)

mccalls-6696-waxed-denim-front

The idea for this one came from Fiona, who made a lovely denim 6696 a while back.  I initially bought this denim from Emma One Sock for a jean jacket, but when it came it was shinier than I’d envisioned, even though it was called “waxed” denim and I knew it would be somewhat shiny.  It just didn’t seem right for the kind of jean jacket I wanted, but when I saw Fiona’s dress, this denim suddenly seemed perfect for a dress.  It’s lighter than regular denim and has slightly better drape.  It seems like tons of people have made things in denim with red topstitching, so I hopped on that bandwagon as well, and I love it.  I haven’t worn much red in recent years, mostly because red and black used to be my uniform so it consequently seems a little boring these days.  But I’ve enjoyed wearing red again, and I especially like how this dress looks with a red cardigan I bought expressly for the purpose of wearing with this dress, and which I’ve helpfully not photographed for you.  Trust me when I say that there’s a reason I wore red to death a few years ago, though: it goes well with my dark hair!

mccalls-6696-waxed-denim-back

As my love for the Belladone suggests, I love a good back cutout.  The idea for this one came from Pinterest, where someone had pinned a vintage dress from Etsy.  The dress has long since sold, but here’s the inspiration picture:

Screenshot 2016-01-24 19.37.47

Here’s a side view for completion’s sake.  You can see in these various photos how the denim is dark but has a sheen to it; the color of the denim in the first picture is true.  It looks lighter in the second two photos, which isn’t really what it looks like in real life, but it does have a sheen that I think is more apparent in the lighter photos.  You can also see that I used a different kind of pocket on this one.  I thought side-seam pockets in this denim would be too bulky, so I used the pocket pattern from the Belladone dress.  That pattern is the gift that keeps on giving, I’m telling you.  mccalls-6696-waxed-denim-side

This denim dress actually drove me nuts during construction; I couldn’t get the bodice to match up with the waistband correctly, and it’s actually off center.  If you look closely, you can see that it’s a little bigger on the left side (my left/your right) than it is on the right.  Whatever.  At least I finished it, and I really like it!  And it gets a lot of compliments, so I think the pretty red topstitching and buttons are distracting enough for people to not notice.

With those two dresses out of the way, I’m caught up on things I’ve photographed.  I have some things that need to get photographed, and I’ve finished up my epic winter coat, which will call for its own epic photo session with my new camera whenever it next snows.  Yes, readers, it’s true: I plan to go outside for photos.  I also have a super boring year-in-review post that I’ll post soon, but it won’t be very interesting because it will talk about a bunch of stuff I made but never photographed.  :/

 

 

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.

katarina-roccella-indelible-floret-voile-mccalls-6696-front

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.

katarina-roccella-indelible-floret-voile-mccalls-6696-back

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.

katarina-roccella-indelible-floret-voile-mccalls-6696-side

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.

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

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.

katarina-roccella-indelible-floret-voile-mccalls-6696-front-2

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.

mccalls-6696-front-2

 

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.

mccalls-6696-side

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!

mccalls-6696-back

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!

mccalls-6696-no-pocket

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.

mccalls-6696-pinked-seams

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!

mccalls-6696-mega-dart

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!

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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).

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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.

grainline-alder-back

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.

grainline-alder-collar

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.

grainline-alder-side-2

 

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!