Washington Dress – TNT

Greetings! I’m finding myself quite recovered from the Thanksgiving holiday and am gearing up for the Christmas season. As I mentioned our lives have been quite full lately and a big chunk of my time has recently been taken up by church. I’m not here to prattle on about religion. I promise. But church is a part of my life again. Partly because the political climate makes me nervous, partly because I have two little girls and want to give them a solid religious base, and partly because I was really missing the community church brings into one’s life.

For most of October and November I’ve spent Sundays going from service, to sunday school, to grocery shopping, then back to church for New Members Class. It was exhausting, but also fulfilling and I’ve met some pretty nice and welcoming people. I had planned to make a new dress for the service when new members are introduced. The dress is even mostly put together, but well…it wasn’t quite right. I used rayon challis and it will be a lovely spring dress (maybe Easter?), but it wasn’t right for November. Plus I need to take out a huge chunk of length from the back and that means a lot of seam ripping. I just did not have the time for such an endeavor.

So I set aside the rayon dress in favor of something quick and easy, a tried and true pattern. Yep, my favorite winter dress, the Cashmerette Washington bodice with a half circle skirt. I’ve made it several times and knew I could whip one up in just a couple hours.

img_1104Tada! A nice fresh dress to kick off the winter sewing season. Soft and lovely and forgiving to wear.

I don’t really have new to add to my thoughts on the pattern. I’ve used it several times and it always works well. This time I added a touch of ruching at the bust.

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The fabric is Liberty of London Ganton Jersey in the pattern Meandering Chrysanthemum. I purchased it at The Fabric Store in LA a few month ago for what must have been a clearance price. Something like $16/yard when Liberty jersey tends to go for double the price. Usually I like a bit of lycra in my jersey, but this 100% cotton version was too nice to pass up. It reminded me of the fabric I used for my very favorite winter dress. In practice it was hard to find the grain of this jersey and I am wondering if there was a reason it was so cheap.

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I think I’ve mostly avoided the dreaded flower boob in this one. It was a close call with so many blossoms closely placed 🙂

Anyways, this dress was originally intended for Thanksgiving. I figured it would look nice for photos and also be comfortable for the 5 hour drive to Vegas and eating massive amounts of food. I was right on both accounts. I give the dress two thumbs up. It also had me feeling confident while standing in front of hundreds of people in church. Now to sew up the two more dress quantities of fabric I ordered this month. Once I pulled out my winter dresses I realized I have about 5 days worth of work clothes. Not quite as much as I’d like. Plus some of the things I packed away looks a little worse for wear after spending the summer in a plastic bin.

And if you’re interested in other sewer’s favorite patterns, I hope you’ll check out the Sewcialist’s Tried and True Month. It is really interesting to see what styles people pick to make again and again. For me, this skater dress style is now a staple of my winter wardrobe. Easy to make and easy to wear.

 

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The Laneway Dress

Oh August, you really got the best of me. I had plans for at least two items this month, but it looks like I’ll only finish one. Thank goodness for deadline sewing? I thought I’d have more free time, but instead I got all wrapped up in back to school preparations for both home and work. I had no idea getting Lu though the first two weeks of kindergarten would be so exhausting for me!

My lone August project is The Laneway Dress from Jennifer Lauren Handmade. Back at the end of July, Jennifer put out a call for pattern reviewers. I don’t usually volunteer for such things, but I love her clean and classic vintage vibe. I also sympathized with her problem. Pattern testers are great for making sure your pattern is well drafted and error free, but test versions are not always great for promotional purposes. When looking to purchase a newly released pattern I always look for examples, but I don’t want to see tester versions. Test versions are not using the final product, the one I’m paying good money to purchase. It seems I’m not alone in my desire to see final versions of the pattern before making a purchase. A quick glance in Facebook groups, blogs, and Instagram will give you a sense of how well a pattern works in the hands of other home sewers, but that only works if those patterns get sew up right away.

I volunteered for a selfish reason too. Jennifer recently started including cup sizes up to D in her patterns and updated her drafting. I definitely wanted to see if the drafting changes would work in my favor! When The Laneway Dress came up for review I frantically emailed Jennifer from the terminal in LAX hoping I would be selected as a reviewer. Success!!!

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Oh the finished dress is so lovely, but it took a little work to get here. I started with a muslin in size 16D at the bust and 18 for the waist and hip. A couple problems were apparent from the beginning. 1) The shoulders were too wide. 2) I needed more room in the front waist and less room in the back waist. Both of these fit issues are really common for me.

Last time I did a really detailed muslin process I was just making it up using common sense, logic, and internet tutorials. This time I purchased a copy of the popular sewing book, “Fit for Real People“. What I learned is that a lot of my instincts were good.

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To address the too wide shoulders I put on the muslin bodice and drew in a line where I wanted the shoulders to hit. Turns out they were 1 inch too wide. With a new armscye  the whole bodice sat much better.

The sleeves miraculously fit pretty dang well right out of the envelope. I almost always need to do a bicep adjustment, but this time there was enough ease! The only alteration done to the sleeves was to increase the height of the sleeve cap to fit the new armscye. I have never had sleeves sew in so smoothly. Not a single pucker!

Next I altered the waistline to give me more tummy room. A lot of people make this adjustment at the side seams, but I prefer to alter the darts. I just made the legs of the darts .25 inches wider in the back and .25 inches narrower in the front. The circumference was perfect out of the envelope. I just needed it distributed in a different way. Thankfully I remembered to alter the skirt too by adding .5 inches to the front skirt piece. Technically I should have also removed .5 inches from the back skirt, but I always need extra booty room so I left the back skirt the same width and eased the extra skirt width in at the waist.

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After altering the shoulder width and darts there were just a couple tiny fixes to make. 1) I squared the shoulders and 1)  I did a slight sway back adjustment.

This probably sounds like a lot of adjustments, but in reality the only major adjustment was the shoulder width. Everything else was just drawing slightly different lines on the pattern pieces.

In full disclosure, Jennifer sent testers the pattern for free, but she asked for complete honesty, so I’m giving it here. Aside from the fit alterations things went really smoothly. The pattern was easy to download and I liked the way it was tiled so I  only printed the pages needed for the D cup dress. The biggest gripe I have about taping the pattern pieces is there is no grid of notches to help you match pieces. I found it easy enough to match things on the bodice, but with so much blank space the skirt was a bit more of a challenge. I hope in the future Jennifer will add some sort of feature to ensure better accuracy during the pattern taping process.

The construction was pretty straightforward. I’ve made a lot of dresses so I took a glance at the order and then took off without having to give them another glance. If you’ve made any other basic woven dress, you can make this one too.

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Stylistically I think it is a cute basic dress. I love the three different necklines and it would be easy to adapt another pattern to include this detail or use your sloper. That had been my original plan until Jennifer Lauren’s review announcement. I also really like how the pattern has open ended darts. It is super bust friendly because you don’t have to worry about the darts ending in exactly the correct place.

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And oh look at that fabric. I think it might be my favorite part. The print was purchased at The Fabric Store back when Jenny from Cashmerette came to LA for a visit. It is hard to tell in the picture, but the background color is a deep navy, my favorite neutral. I always find myself drawn to darker colors as fall approaches, but it is still rally damn hot here. This fabric is super light though and incredibly similar to a Liberty of London lawn.

My husband thought it was “a lot of print” before I added the contrast facing. The facing fabric also came from The Fabric Store, but was purchase specifically for the Laneway Dress. Lu and I took a side trip to look for fabric on our way to LACMA and after walking the whole store I just could not get this sheer stripe out of my head. The color matched perfectly, but I could not figure out how to interface such a sheer fabric. In the end I flatlined it to a piece of the main print and that method worked really well. Both fabrics are also cotton so laundering should be easy.

The finished dress fits pretty darn well. Is it perfect? Of course not! But I wore this dress all day to work and the ease and fit suited my lifestyle well. If I’d taken out all the ease and wrinkles the dress would have been too tight for carrying children, buckling car seats, and using a desktop computer all day. I also got multiple compliments on my Laneway and who doesn’t love compliments?!?! Now I’m thinking I should make another. Maybe with a different neck treatment?

 

 

Dartmouth Double Take

Yay! I had unexpected sewing time! Boo! It was because of a sick kid. She’s totally fine, but Lu and I have both been limping along with our colds and adding vaccines on top of her cold meant a miserable little kid for a day or two. I wasn’t terribly sad to stay home and have a little down time for myself. Plus I came home last Wednesday to find a new pattern in my mail box. So nice I made it twice!

This is Cashmerette’s new pattern the Dartmouth Top!

So far Jenny’s knit patterns have worked really well for me, so I was pleased to see her come out with a fixed wrap top. I totally love wearing this style on the weekends or as a pajama top. So comfy, but not quite as casual as a typical t-shirt pattern. I also think they work particularly well on a figure like mine with a full bust, narrow waist, and full hips.

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My first crack at the pattern was using this heavier weight cotton/lycra fabric from Sahara Fabrics. After shrinkage in the wash I only had a 46 inch length to work with and I could just barely fit all the pieces in the yardage if I used the short sleeve and cut the neck band in 3 pieces.

Overall I really like this shirt. I really rarely wear separates, but on Friday I had a mammogram after my doctor found some thicker tissue in my breast. Having this new, fun, and colorful shirt to wear really lifted my spirits. It was also a lot more practical than my usual dresses. (And thankfully my boobs got a clear bill of health!)

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The Dartmouth Top wasn’t quite perfect straight out of the envelope. Besides grading between sizes (14/16/18) I made no alterations. But the front hem was a tad bit on the tick side since there is 4 layers of jersey there. Sure, it would have been easier if I’d used a thinner knit, but 4 layers is still a lot. I’m also going to need to do a sway back alteration of future versions. I think Cashmerette patterns usually have a sway back built in, but I need more.

So we had the feverish 5 year old, my cold, my boob testing, and oh did I mentioned pink eye for the 2 year old? Yeah. It’s been one of those weeks. On top of all of that my husband and I also had our first weekend away from the kids (shout out to my parents for babysitting)! It was an awesome weekend away for a friend’s wedding and then I came home and made a Dartmouth Dress.

As soon as I put on my finished top version I knew I had to attempt a dress version. The hip curve perfectly covered my widest part so I wouldn’t even need to add fullness. Sweet!

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I dove into my stash and pulled out this ugly ass plaid jersey. It was purchased in one of those Girl Charlee Knit Fixes where you get a bunch of ugly fabric for cheap and is some sort of thin cotton jersey/mystery fiber blend. I’d guess polyester. Basically I hate it so much that I figured if the dress was a total fail then I’d have a soft and lightweight nightgown.

But it wasn’t a total fail even though I made it into a mock wrap.

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I spent all weekend mulling over the ways to make the Dartmouth have one layer below the waist and finally determined I’d trace off just the shoulder and see how it worked. I also shortened the neckband.

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This is still going in the pajama pile since it is thin and needs a sway back fix, but my experiment worked pretty darn well! I even got the plaids reasonably matched up despite having just 2 yards of material.

Now tomorrow I pack away my machine while we have family visiting, but I think I’m going to pull out more of my ugly mystery knits to make up a few more of these as a nightgown while I play around with some minor alterations to the pattern because the Dartmouth Top is a fun and simple sew!

Rayon Appleton

Whew! Time is flying by. The first draft of the post was written when I was feeling worn down by the news, but a great weekend has boosted my spirits!  Today I’m here to share a dress I finished back in January. A beautiful reminder of our fantastic family vacation to San Jose for Thanksgiving.

At this point my winter wardrobe is in pretty good shape. I have several skater style dresses, some more casual knit dresses, a couple of skirts/sweater sets, and a couple of wrap dresses. That’s enough to see me through our short and mild cold season. But I couldn’t help squeaking in one more Appleton Dress before spring arrives.

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I love this dress so very much. After trying 4 different fabrics with the Appleton pattern rayon is hands down my favorite. It just has such great fluidity and drape. It is so smoooooooooth. I also love the way it feels against my skin.

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That said I was picky about the rayon I choose. I made sure it was a decent weight so it wouldn’t be too sheer. Also went with a dark color. Rayon will show every wrinkle and seam in your undergarments. The deep plum color helps mask those issues.

This version also has a lot of vertical stretch so everything falls a little longer than my other versions. I don’t mind, but it did put the hip shaping lower than I anticipated. Oh well, it is very minor and doesn’t detract from the overall look.

I purchased this fabric at Britex in San Francisco while my husband and I were on a rare childless outing. Here it is modeled with my new spectator pumps. Such a fun outfit to wear to work and shake away those winter doldrums.

And now back to the work week, but lots of fun stuff coming up in the next few weeks!

Happy Birthday to Me!

I squeaked out one more dress for 2016! I really didn’t think I had the time, but the fabric was washed, the pattern was something I’d made before, and I had a couple free evenings! Plus my birthday was falling in a pocket of cooler than typical weather.

This is Cashermette’s Appleton pattern in some gorgeous green merino wool jersey from The Fabric Store. I’d purchased the yardage last December on my first visit to the Los Angeles location, but then I started to doubt my ability to sew with it!

I’m glad I waited. This past year I have learned a lot about sewing knits on my Janome. It doesn’t have the lightening bolt stitch so I’ve had to repair many of my dresses as the various test stitches have popped with wear. This jersey is so fragile that I don’t think the seams would hold up to the wrong stitch. As I’ve mentioned before I now use something like baseball stitch and it work really really well. Then I use a faux coverstitch for the hems. I own a serger, but I enjoy sewing on my regular machine. I also don’t have a dedicated sewing space, so it is frankly easier to have one machine out all the time than swap them out with every project.

The finished dress is a breeze to wear. Since my birthday is so close to Christmas this dress will do double duty for both events and keeps me nice and warm as well. The only negative thing about it is the fabric is sheer in photos taken with flash. So I’ll be sure to wear some good undergarments!

Houndstooth and Distraction

I have a new dress to add to my stack of Washington dress hacks! This time a mash up of the Washington Dress from Cashmerette for the bodice and sleeves, the Moneta from Colette for the neckline, and a self drafted half circle skirt.

My husband was out of town, so I had my enthusiastic four year old take photos for me. It’s something she loves to do. “Do a pose mommy!”

The dress overall turned out pretty great. I love the fit, but oh that pattern placement. As I was cutting the fabric the dog was walking back and forth over it and the four year old was standing over my shoulder asking me for snacks. I did great at placing the pattern for the sleeves and top, but the skirt is off. Dang! I totally forgot to make sure the center fronts lined up.

Hello photo bomber!

The fabric is Ann Kelle Remix Knit from Robert Kaufman. It is a 100% cotton interlock. I’ve used this fabric a few times before and this is the most success I’ve had. Why? Well I took a step away from my serger and made the entire dress on my regular machine using something like a baseball stitch. It has become my go-to stitch for knits since I don’t have the lightning bolt option.

I really wish I could fix the pattern placement. I suppose I could, but the fabric doesn’t take to seam ripping very well. I’d ended up having to cut all the pieces apart and deal with having the lengths of the skirt and bodice be too short. So I think I’ll just leave it and try to take the misplacement as a reminder to slow down when I’m cutting. At least the fabric only cost me about $9 at M & L Fabrics and about 2 hours of my time.

And here is what it looks like at the end of the day. Stretched out for sure, but a run through the dryer will tighten the fabric back up for the next outing. And I at least have one more nice heavy weight knit dress for winter!

Lovely Linen

Nothing says the end of summer like finishing a sun dress on Labor Day!

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But that is exactly how I spent my weekend when I wasn’t focused on potty training our toddler.

I love this dress. After so much frustration with getting something to fit I am thrilled I gave it one more try before moving onto another pattern.

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This is a mash up on my heavily modified Gertie bodice with the gored skirt from Cashmerette’s Upton Dress. When I made my Liberty dress a few weeks ago I made the mistake of lowering the bust darts way too much. This time I did all the same alterations only I lowered the bust dart 1/2 inch. Such a difference.

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Still not 100% perfect, but oh so close. Once I tried it on I had to take it in 1/2 inch at the under arm. No big deal and easy to adjust on the pattern piece.

But damn this fits my bust well.

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And in the back I got the back adjustment just right in the upper back. But then I forgot to re-add the width to the waist. Whoops! Also easily added to the pattern piece for next time. So you can see a bit of pulling there.

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The fabric is a linen/cotton blend from The Fabric Store. I purchased it right after the Upton pattern came out, but then it sat in timeout while I battled my fit issues. The fabric is quite open in weave so I lined the entire dress with some bright apple green Free Spirit voile I purchased when my local fabric store went out of business. The lining took just 2.5 yards, so I still have another 3 yards of voile for another project.

Thankfully here in Southern California we’ll have warm weather for another 2-3 months so still plenty of time to wear this beauty through fall!