Sister Gift – Charlie Caftan

My sister has had a shitty year. When her birthday came around I really wanted to make her something beautiful. While we were on vacation in Hawaii I hit up a local fabric store chain Discount Fabric Warehouse with the mission of finding caftan appropriate fabric for my sister.

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I was able to find a ton of cotton or cotton/poly blend fabrics, but the apparel options were tucked away against the wall. There were only about 20 options in rayon so I selected the print I though suited Kat best. She and I have very different taste when in comes to color. She inherited olive skin that tans easily and looks great in reds, oranges, and other warm colors.

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I wasn’t able to finish her dress before her birthday, but I was able to surprise her at our family reunion. I think she likes it!

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I used the Charlie Caftan pattern from Closet Case Patterns. I made a version for myself last year and found the insert extremely annoying to install. However, this time around everything went really really smooth.

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I measured my sister a few months ago and she easily fit into the size 20. I probably could have sized down, but a caftan is forgiving. I went extra dramatic with the deep sleeves and the only alteration I made was to lower the inset 1 inch so she had plenty of boob room.

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I think she looks absolutely fabulous in her new caftan and I hope she’ll be able to enjoy wearing it through the heat of summer and maybe even on her annual trip to Burning Man. I can’t take away all the crap life is throwing her, but I love my little sister.

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Baptism Dresses

This spring felt a bit crazy for our family, so I’m playing a bit of catch up! We decided to take a family trip to Hawaii over spring break and it was wonderful. Our littlest one keeps asking to go back (like every single day, multiple times) and our older daughter loves volcanoes so she’s very interested in the eruption taking place right now. I mean how often does a 6 year old visit a volcano and then have it erupt a month later? Pretty cool in her world.

Then we got home. Our plane landed at the airport at midnight and that very same day we had to get ourselves together to attend Baptism class at our church. I’d always intended to baptize our kids, but before last June we were very infrequent attendees of services. Since June the girls and I have attended nearly every week. We love our new church home! So I started seriously looking into having the girls baptized. I opted for the mass baptism date held as part of the Easter Vigil services so that it would be easier for friends and family to attend, particularly my mother in law who would be traveling quite a distance (hi Widget!).

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Our kids were the oldest and I was tempted to make their dresses in something other than white. Delicate white fabric is not really the best for rambunctious kids who have a mother who likes to procrastinate on the laundry. Tradition won out and so the girls wore this darling white dresses.

 

For inspiration I turned to this sweet little dress at the V&A Museum. The original is from about 1870 and made with velvet with satin ribbon and lace. I just love this dress so very much.

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Poor Chi Chi. Easter is so rough on 3 year olds! Anyways I think my version of the V&A dress makes enough of a nod to the original, but these were a little easier for me to make under a deadline. Plus I just could not afford that amount of lace and ribbon times 2 dresses! I splurged on some lovely trimmings, but there is a limit to what I’m willing to spend on a one time use garment.

The fabric is some lovely super sheer shirting I grabbed at The Fabric Store. I bought 8 whole yards! Way too much, but now I have plenty of leftover for another project or two. Then I lined them with cotton lawn. The lawn was a slightly different shade of white, but it isn’t noticeable in the finished dresses.

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I drafted the pattern from The Building Block Dress from Liesl Gibson. It’s a genius little book that is well worth the cost. I’m not afraid to slash and spread a pattern, but it is nice to have a little hand holding from a trained professional. I used the basic bodice with a puffed sleeve and gathered a-line skirt. Thankfully the bodice size for both girls was the same as at Christmas so I could use those dress patterns as a starting point.

 

I doubt these dresses will be wore very frequently, but they did turn out so perfectly and I’m glad they got at least two days of wear out of them, Baptism and Easter. As for the baptism ceremony, the girls were just perfect. So happy to participate and then come home for cake and presents. Just as fun as a birthday!

Colette Myrna

Oh Colette. Their patterns are often so cute and just my style, but their fit issues have become legendary in the sewing community. Like many sewers I followed along with Rue-gate and the reorganizing and rebranding that followed. I’ve really liked all 4 patterns Colette has released since the Rue failure, but the samples have been pretty awful. Why don’t they make samples to fit the models? I just don’t get it. It makes it so hard to know if the patterns just don’t fit the models or if the drafting is terrible. Maybe both?

Anyways, I’ve been avoiding Colette patterns because like many others I was a little worried the quality was poor. It’s a real shame because with their increased size range Colette should be a go-to brand for curvy sewers and it’s just…not.

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But then Colette released the Myrna dress and I loved it. I loved it so much I was willing to take a chance on Colette again and see if I could get the pattern to work for me. It has a few features that make this an easier pattern to fit.

First off, it features a cut on sleeve. This makes is way easier to fit through the shoulder. I have narrow shoulders and often have a hell of a time getting that part of a pattern to fit, but with this type of sleeve it was less of an issue. I will say the shoulders are pretty straight across on this dress. That works in my favor as I have a pretty flat shoulder line. I also found the sleeve opening to be generous so that I didn’t need to enlarge it. I have 14.5 inch biceps and almost always need to do a full bicep adjustment. Also the bust gathering is generous, so even though I wear a F cup bra I didn’t need to do a full bust adjustment.

However I won’t say the dress was perfect for me as is. I encountered one big issue that is apparent right in the pattern photos, the bodice is too damn long. And because I have a full bust that’s not so perky anymore, I chose not to alter the pattern at the lengthen shorten lines. Instead I took the extra height from the midriff piece in the front, 1 1/2 inches total. I was able to decide how much height to take out by measuring my sloper and comparing the length to the Mryna pattern pieces.

Ultimately the length adjustment was the only thing I changed for this version. I went by the chart and blended sizes as needed for my measurements, 14 for the bust and 16 for the waist and hips.

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The dress was super easy to construct and I love the finished dress, but the fit is still not great. The whole bodice is too long still and too big. I put in a side zipper as instructed, but I can throw this dress on without even needing the zipper. I’d guess I could go down a whole size in the bust and waist and take out more length. I’ve been slowing losing a little weight, but not that much! I picked the sizes that correspond to my current measurements and yet…too big.

However I wore this dress to work last week and it still got favorable comments. It’s not a total loss. The fabric is big and bold. I picked it up on a destash from Mary of Idle Fancy fame and the colors are super fun. Plus the pattern was busy enough that I didn’t need to worry about pattern matching. I just tried to avoid getting a obvious spot right on my bust apex. I see I only kind of succeeded. Whoops!

Will I make another Myrna? Yep. I probably will. I think if I go down a size and take out a touch more length this could be a really solid pattern for me. Light and cool for summer, but totally work appropriate. Will I tackle more Colette patterns? Of that I’m not sure. I think I’m still unlikely to try anything with a set in sleeve, but I would be open to using sleeveless or cut on sleeve patterns in the future.

Wrap Dress Duo

I have a love/hate relationship with Art Gallery knit fabrics. I really love some of the prints. In the world of quilting cotton companies AGF has done a pretty good job at producing apparel fabrics and designs that are great for adults that don’t have weird repeats and are nice and crisp. So many companies seem to focus heavily on baby or childish prints, so I applaud AGF for their taste. The jersey knit is also easy to work with and feels wonderful to wear, BUT all designs are printed on white fabric. What’s the problem with printing on white fabric? Well the problem comes when you wash your garment and the white fuzz from the wrong side of your dress lands all over your dark clothes.

However, sometimes a fabric design is so pretty I buy it even though I know I probably shouldn’t.

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I first saw this plum floral at Michael Levine’s months and months ago. Maybe last summer? I almost bought yardage back then, but I refrained when I saw it was printed on white. Then as the months passed by I kept thinking about this design. Of course by late fall it had disappeared from the shelves of Michael Levine’s and I had to go seek it out! Thankfully I found yardage available at Harts Fabric (and on sale too)!

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I’ve been in desperate need of new winter clothing. A lot of my old favorites look really old from weekly wear and washing, so it was definitely time to spruce up my clothing options. I used my pretty new fabric to whip up a hybrid dress that would be suitable for the office. This is a combination of the Cashmerette Dartmouth Top with a half circle skirt.

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I’ve come to really love wrap dresses and this mock wrap was really simple and extremely wearable. I find the neckline on the Dartmouth to be reasonably modest for work, no flashing of my bra (yay!). Though I do think it runs large, I’ve made 4 Dartmouth tops prior to this dress and they all had something odd in the sizing. This version is a 12G/H for the bust and a 14 for the waist. When I compared the pattern pieces to my much loved Washington Dress bodice I saw the Dartmouth has more ease.

I think I mostly avoided the dreaded boob flower with the print placement, but I am a little sad the print isn’t more balanced on the front. I had 3 yards which was just barely enough if I wanted long sleeves. I also tried to make sure I didn’t have a big flower right over my um…feminine area, though I did end up with a butt flower. I think it isn’t too noticeable unless you go looking for it.

My biggest issue now is not owning a sweater that matches. Too bad knitting is slower than sewing!

And even though I get a little annoyed with how AGF fabric washes up, it is super easy to sew! When I purchased the plum floral I also tossed in this small scale floral on dark green so I could truly test out both fabric and pattern.

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The green dress is made just the exact same way as the plum dress. I even remembered to sew the wrap to disguise the fact that my breasts are two different sizes. I think the prints are different enough that more people wouldn’t notice that style is the same.

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Oh and both dresses were made with my long neglected serger. When I cleaned the house over the holidays I made a decision to put my serger next to my sewing machine on the kitchen table. It looks ridiculous having so much sewing machine taking up half the space, but it’s been working well. It is so much easier to just move back and forth as needed and the serged seams look so great. One of my friend declared my clothes looked professionally made!

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While the color might not look perfect for long, I am thrilled to have two new dresses to keep my warm on chilly mornings and looking chic in the office.

 

Mourning Dress

One of my biggest projects of 2017 was tackling a mourning outfit. Every year Heritage Square holds an event that explores Victorian mourning customs including a mock funeral procession. I really needed something I could wear to the event each year, however I’m never actually in the mock funeral. I prefer a station in one of the other areas of the museum, especially since I bring my older daughter along. So as I was researching mourning wear I had a generous time frame to pull from (1870-1920). I also wasn’t restricted to the deep mourning of the recently deceased. It was freeing and yet felt pretty overwhelming.

Since I knew I’d be tackling this project for the fall I kept a look out for fabrics and hoped that eventually the right thing would come along and help narrow down my choices. Luckily I was able to get some black cotton lace yardage in a destash for a reasonable price. Shortly afterwards I found lavender cotton sateen (no longer available) at Renaissance Fabrics and the two paired together so nicely. A half mourning dress would be perfect for our annual event!

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I spent a whole lot of time looking at pictures of extant gowns to see if anything had used black lace and lavender. I found…not many options. Information about mourning clothes seems to be a little harder to find in the Edwardian-1920s period. I probably could (and should) have done more research, but I needed to get sewing. So I found a pattern that was very similar to the gowns I liked from 1910-1912 and ran with my vision.

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I think I did pretty well. The wrap front bodice with guimpe underneath is completely period appropriate. So was the lace overlay on the skirt and a belt (with bonus heirloom buckle from my MIL!). Not an exact match to my examples, but the basic elements are the same. The one detail that might have been nice to include is the contrast trim at the neckline, but I got a little fatigued during the process. The cotton sateen also turned out a little thicker than I remembered and so I started cutting elements to decrease the bulk.

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For such a time consuming project I don’t really remember many of the details. October was kind of a whirlwind between making this dress and planning my younger daughter’s 3rd birthday party.

I decided not to line the dress because the sateen was pretty bulky. The front neck edge has a bias binding hand sewn on. The pattern (Butterick 6093) called for a side zipper and I swapped that for hook and eye. I thought about having the lace overlap in the front, but now I can’t remember why I decided against it. Maybe not enough lace fabric? Lazy? Too tired? Maybe all of the above. Butterick patterns fit me decently well so the fitting process was not too bad. I compared the shoulders to my recently completed Jennifer Lauren Laneway dress and otherwise blended sizes. I’m getting better and faster at mock ups so the process moves a little more quickly. I need to trust my gut instinct more frequently.

The guimpe was made with Wearing History’s Edwardian Era pattern. I bought it because it was one of the only patterns I could find for a guimpe and I didn’t have the brain power to figure it out for myself. I could have drafted my own and it probably would have fit better, but I was balancing too many things in my life.

Because nothing could go smoothly, the original fabric I ordered for the guimpe ended up sold out. The seller more than made up for the inconvenience, but I had hoped for something slightly more transparent. This is black wool gauze. One thing I totally didn’t see coming was how badly the gauze would combine with the underside of the sateen. The fabrics LOVE each other. So now every time I wear this ensemble I have to have my husband yank my under sleeves for me. Whoops! Thankfully once they’ve been pulled down everything fits nicely and stays put.

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And then after wearing my new dress to the museum, it got a second life as my Halloween costume. For my daughter birthday I dressed as a witch and my adorable mom dressed as a gnome. Getting to wear the dress two days in a row was fun, and adding a witch hat was super simple. I purchased one from a halloween store and covered it with lace scraps from the dress. Whew! Thank goodness I didn’t need to make a mourning dress and a costume for the same weekend!

How’s everyone settling into 2018? I’m really trying to keep a positive attitude and in a couple weeks I’m going to follow along with the Orange Theory Fitness Transformation Challenge. I’m not officially signing up because I cannot physically make it to 3 classes a week, but will aim to work out 3 days a week and to OTF 1-2 a week. I’ve been attending classes for 6 month now and have made a ton of progress on my fitness. Plus the 8 week challenge sounds fun to way to kick a few bad habits.

 

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.