Wednesday, January 27, 2010

V1020, Va Va Voom Side Gather Dress

V1020 Thumbnail

I ordered some Vogue patterns online a while back when they were having a sale, and V1020 was one I just had to have.

I was drawn to it for the dress--you all know what a sucker I am for a knit dress. However, I also really dig the skirt and the jacket, if I ever had the urge to make a knit jacket (no urge so far). I think the waistband of the skirt could be a little ick, because it's designed with that wide yoke and then you put some elastic at the top. I haven't made it yet, but I fear the design would create an unattractive dowdy pouchy elastic waist look. If you have a firm stretch knit with good recovery you really don't need elastic at the top, or you can use elastic for security but don't need any ease at the waist (the line drawing shows some ease gathered in with elastic. The pants hold no appeal to me. This has been well-reviewed on PR.

I got the fabric from Fashion Fabrics Club in June 2008 for $4.75/yard. It is firmer than your usual ITY polyester knit, which is nice. I bought it because I always love black and white when I see it on the street, but then when it's in my sewing room or closet it kind of loses the appeal because I want BRIGHT! COLOR! all the time. So it took me a while to match this fabric to a pattern, but I think it was a great choice. This slinky little number does well in a more subdued print (although it also looks awesome with bright color, as made by The Lazy Milliner).

The pattern calls for a zipper, which is stupid for a knit you can pull over your head and I left it off. I finished the neckline with clear elastic and a twin needle and twin-needled the hem as well.

Double Gather Stay I also ignored the instructions for gathering the side, rather to my peril. Well, it's not much that I ignored them that I didn't read them until after I was done (it's a t-shirt dress, what's to know?). I gathered the front and back sides separately and stitched them to ribbon stays cut to the length the pattern instructs you to gather, then I sewed the side seams. In the past on projects calling for tight gathers this has always worked better than sewing the side seam then gathering it up as one. However, either Vogue's finished measurement for the gathers is off or I cut the stays too short, because the hem of the gathered side is about three inches higher than the hem of the ungathered side, so I have to hike up the ungathered side to wear it.

Which is actually fine because this puppy is, ahem, fitted. Like a glove. I fear I have officially reached the point where I am going to have to buy both sizes of pattern. I bought the size that is 6-12, cut a 6 at the top which fits well and then transitioned to a 12 at the hip. It's very snug at the hip. I had trouble knowing exactly where the waist and hip were on the curved front piece, so I may not have moved out to a 12 high enough. But really, I could have used a 14 or maybe even a 16 at the hip (and a 12 at the waist). I really hope it's just this particular pattern.

SultryAnyway, yanking up the hem of the ungathered side allows the fabric to ruche (nicer than saying "bunch") over my belly so I am a little less uncomfortable. But I am pretty uncomfortable anyway. You all know how I feel about my belly and in this dress there is no hiding it. I made it back in November and wore it for the first time the past weekend. I was at the flattest-belly point in my cycle so figured it was now or never. It was appreciated, but I still felt self-conscious. In the photo at left I am trying to be sultry.

I did a swayback adjustment, but since the fabric is bunched (I mean ruched) over my back as a result of the gathers I don't know if it was necessary/made a difference.

I just don't do t-shirt dresses because of my self-consciousness about my belly, and I thought this gathered dress might be a way for me to do it. If I seriously size it up it might work, but it will need quite a bit more room. Objectively, I know this is flattering and sexy, but that doesn't really help if all I want to do is fold my arms over my stomach or carry a big purse to hide my belly!

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Book Reviews, Movie Review, and I've Been A Bad Bad Girl

I'm hoping if I hide the massive fabric infusion at the end of the post it will mitigate the damage.

Jackie: The Clothes of CamelotSeveral months ago I checked out Jackie: The Clothes of Camelot by Jay Mulvaney from the library based on Cindy of Colour by Numbers' recommendation. It is a great book! It is a bit of a hagiography, more Franklin Mint than trenchant political history, but that is exactly what I'm looking for in a book about the fashion of a public figure. I just want to read about what they wore, not their larger historical significance (for instance, the book skimmed right over the issues of infidelity and unhappiness in Jackie and Jack's marriage).

It is full of lovely pictures, mostly black and white but color when they are available. It's organized chronologically and by type of clothing (evening, daywear, casual sportswear). There is just the right balance of text and photos--adequate description and information on the designers and Jackie's personal taste without getting too much about the author or the story and not enough about the clothes. Although it is neither high literature nor high art, I think this is a superb piece of fashion history.

From Jackie: The Clothes of Camelot From Jackie: The Clothes of Camelot

Love the day dress on the left; it's similar in style to the Butterick 5209 retro reissue I made last year. And check out the muscle definition in her legs--I thought they didn't believe in exercise back then and just stayed skinny by smoking and not eating? The Grecian evening gown is just gorgeous.

Alabama Stitch Book The girls on Wardrobe Refashion are in love with Alabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin. Amazingly, the DCPL had a copy so I checked it out.

I'm glad I borrowed it from the library rather than purchasing, because the Hipster Cowboy aesthetic is sooooo not my own. I deliberately put the words in order with Hipster first and Cowboy second; although Chanin has returned home to Alabama the look is pure Brooklyn (where she lived while developing her style).

The idea is to use old t-shirts as the raw material for all the projects in the book, which is kind of cool (but, again, not my thing). The first section contains useful and well-written information on sewing basics; all the sewing is done by hand so there's nothing on using a machine. After the preliminaries come the projects. There are a good number of projects and the book includes patterns for a skirt (loose fitting, A line) and corset-style t-shirt refashion. I found it a little frustrating on behalf of beginners that she doesn't make clear the corset thingy is corset style, not an actual corset; it has no structure and being made of a t-shirt won't do anything corset-y or foundation-y. But that's a small quibble.

The book also includes extensive information on applique, reverse applique, beading, and stenciling. I admire the look of the reverse applique projects, but cannot picture incorporating it into my garments. Even though my style is Retro Fantasy, and you'd think the "fantasy" element would include room for lots of embellishment, I am very wary of embellishment. It doesn't come naturally to me and can so easily cross the line into Crafty Crazy, Dated, Dowdy, and just plain Hideous so I usually just leave it alone.

I like the tactile nature of the book, if that's the proper way to describe it. It includes a cardboard stencil (in addition to some additional stencil line art printed on the pages that you are to enlarge on a copy machine and create your own stencil from); two paper patterns at the end; and a postcard to bead.

From The Alabama Stitch Book From The Alabama Stitch Book

Although the clothes didn't do much for me, I did love the chrysanthemum fabric flower project. As with the rest of the book, I don't think I'd make these flowers; I have pretty much zero interest in non-functional decorative objects. But I will keep the idea in the back of my mind should I ever need to create decorations for a shower or party for someone else. As mentioned, I found the beading and reverse applique projects inspiring. The skirt on the right definitely does not look Dated, Dowdy, or Hideous and if it's Crafty Crazy it's in a sweet way, but I just don't know that I could ever get there. Asymmetry is ridiculously hard for me, and looking as though I've casually scattered an assortment of beads on a skirt would in truth be an arduous, laborious mental process (leaving aside the physical work of it!).

I only snapped a few photos from each book so as not to go beyond "fair use" and violate the authors' copyrights, but all images from both books are here


The Young Victoria A friend wanted to see The Young Victoria for her birthday and I was all over that! The costumes did not disappoint; they were sumptuous and breathtaking. It was annoying that there was so much black, but I can't blame the filmmakers for the mourning rituals of the time period. The menswear was just as lovely as the women's clothing. Tall, skinny plaid pants are sexy! I didn't know anything about Queen Victoria other than having a vague idea of her as a prude (based on the colloquial use of the adjective "Victorian"). It was well done and extremely interesting. I highly recommend giving this movie a view; I might even say to see it in the theatre so the costumes have maximum effect.

====================, January 2010

And now we come to the confessional portion of this post. Based on a seriously enabling post on the PR message board, I ordered a lot of the Vera Wang closeout fabric on It was $1.95 yard, and with free shipping and discount codes it was really too good to pass up! Well, that is what I tell myself. In truth, There Will Always Be More Fabric.

Clockwise from left in the photo above, we'll start with the silk/rayon satin. I couldn't get a photo that looks anything like the actual colors but they are beautiful. The fabric is a heavy satin with a beautiful soft finish. Unfortunately, I have already ruined the purple. :( People had posted that the finish of the fabric "crackled" in the wash. I started with the emerald and put it as flat as I could into a bathtub with a few inches of warm water and some mild shampoo and mushed it around, not crinkling it up to the best of my ability. Then I hung it to dry. In the morning it was softer but the smell of the sizing washing out in the tub had been heinous. It seemed very toxic. So I threw it in the wash. It survived with only a few stretch marks. Then I got cocky with the purple. I filled the washer and let the fabric soak for 20 minutes, thinking it would dissolve the sizing and the surface would be ok. I was wrong. It looks like it is covered with dirty chalk marks. I will try over-dying and see what happens. Otherwise I have a lot of pajamas in my future. Actually, I bought these fabrics thinking to use them for linings and it will still be great for lining coats--I love the heavier weight and the satin slide is perfect to pull over clothes. I've not touched the olive yet. It's my favorite color and I don't want to ruin the surface of it.

I ordered the rayon satin the next photo for linings as well, and it is really nice! I didn't happen to have any light colored lining so I tossed it in the cart and am glad I did. Next to that is fuschia silk chiffon. Yes, I know I swore off silk chiffon but the color! It is gorgeous! The fabric! It is soft! I recently made the high-necked version of McCall 5708 in silk/cotton and love it. I think this fabric would be sensational in that pattern, with an underlined body and sheer sleeves.

Pattern ideasContinuing around the clock we have a polyester/spandex print. I expected this to be a jersey, probably because I didn't read closely enough, but it's more like a cross between a stretch and a woven. I have two ideas for patterns, the current version of the classic DVF wrap dress, which I've made before, Vogue 8379 or Vogue 8593 with the interesting pleated neckline. I ordered four yards of this fabric and by laying out both patterns at once and with some judicious cutting I might be able to get both dresses out of it, the wrap dress with 3/4 sleeves, collar, and cuffs and the pleat neck dress sleeveless. Also, can I give a big annoyed raspberry in the direction of Butterick/McCall/Vogue for their website redesign that has broken three years worth of links in my blog archives and creates web addresses that are no longer intuitive like Simplicity did? What was wrong with a web address like
for McCall 6723? Why do we have to add a bunch more crap to it?, January 2010

Now we come to the wools. I got fuschia flannel, off-white boucle, lightweight wool/silk/cotton suiting, stretch black suiting, and brick-colored melton.

I was hoping for more of a hot pink in the fuschia flannel and was initially disappointed in this purple fabric, but it is definitely growing on me. I will start with a skirt and see where we go from there.

The boucle is very lightweight and has a square texture almost like a thermal waffle weave. I have been craving a winter-white coat for several years now but not done it because it will get so dirty so fast. Although the price of fabric for a coat pales in comparison to the amount of work, maybe I will just bite the bullet and do it. I will likely felt the fabric first, though. Right now it is drapey enough for a dress and won't hold structure. Will test that out.

The wool/silk/cotton was a surprise; I bought it for interlining (the cotton content isn't ideal for interlining, but wool and silk are both so warm I figured it would be ok). But the sheen and hand on this fabric are gorgeous. The problem is, I cannot wear this color. It is the same color as me. I would look naked in it, and not in a good way. It would make a beautiful dress, though; I'm thinking particularly of the cowl-drape version of Vogue 8413. Maybe I will experiment with dyeing. I will likely lose the sheen and the herringbone pattern, but I really can't wear that color. Really.

Next is the stretch wool "suiting." This is super lightweight. I would never consider it for pants, for instance, and I really don't see how it would work as a jacket. I ordered three yards of it thinking that you always need a black skirt in the current shape and so I'd just stock up and be done with it for the next 6 years or so (assuming a skirt lasts two seasons). But I don't know that this fabric will work as a structured pencil skirt, for instance, which is what I'm looking for now. It is nice fabric and has a great stretch, but it's not what I hoped for.

Not a MatchLast is the brick-colored melton. I ordered it hoping that it would coordinate with my favorite Carol Collection plaid. I love the idea of making the plaid into the Burda 01-2009-114 jacket with the bias strips around the edges and then a skirt in the rust color. Although really, who am I kidding? Although I make the occasional coat, I neither make nor wear jackets. Ever. Alas, the brick does not match the rust in the plaid; seeing them together I realize I would need something more on the burgundy spectrum than the rust spectrum to match the plaid.

However, the brick fabric is really nice and after your comments on orange I was thinking I should have ordered enough for a coat! I got 2 yards, which wouldn't get me much of anywhere. Also, the color edges toward 70s orange (the color is closer to in the wool composite picture above than the photo with the plaid); it's not a pure, bright orange. I will think of what to do with it. I could still make a skirt, but then it occurred to me that I would really have nothing to wear with it. I wear cools, jewel tones, and blacks, and pretty much never wear browns or warms. I'd hate to have a one-trick pony skirt with only one top made especially to match it, creating an outfit that in truth I would likely never wear. Although I do need to justify the purchase of some brown boots. But the fabric is so nice that I'm not ready to let go of it.

So, um, 46 yards. It took me three days to carry all 24 pounds of fabric home from work (my commute is about a mile and a half on foot, and uphill of course). That's almost half of what I sew in a year. Bad.

To atone for this in some manner, I did some stash cleaning last night and culled out an approximately equal weight of fabric (didn't measure the yardage). So Laura, is DC Threads still looking for fabric donations?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

BWOF 12-2007-123, Red Tartan Pencil Skirt with Drapey Front Ruffle

Burda 12-2007-123 Red Tartan Ruffle Skirt Thumbnail

I recently found this fabulous tutorial through Wardrobe Refashion and sort of became obsessed with it. I love it in the plaid she shows, and so I dug into my stash and found the perfect red tartan from The Carol Collection.

The original tutorial is a rectangle with a wing for the ruffle, but I wanted a little more shape for my more pear-shaped figure and decided I should start with a pencil skirt. I went through my Burdas and found BWOF 12-2007-123 (it was still BWOF then). This skirt gets little play in the magazine as it's part of a tunic/skirt ensemble and the skirt is obscured to the hip by the tunic, so it's hard to tell where the waistband hits and what the fit is like. However, it had the shape I was looking for and was designed for a narrow waistband, so I traced it out.

Burda intended the skirt to be cut on the bias, but indicates that the lining should be cut on grain. Because bias stretches, I was concerned that the skirt might be cut too close in my normal size (36 at waist, 38 at hips). I decided that because the lining would be on grain I should not go up a size. In the end, I think I should have sized up as the waist is a smidge, ahem, fitted but it is fine.

Right Back Ruffle Piece The Burda skirt pattern is designed with the front and back cut each a single piece, which makes sense for bias plaid matching purposes. However, for not-having-a-flat-butt purposes, I changed the center back fold to a center back seam and curved the seam above the hip. I cut out the back left as is, and then cut out the right left with the ruffle wing. However, you can see in the photo that I was not thinking clearly and cut the ruffle wing coming out of center back (where you can see my curved seam) rather than side back. Wow, that was dumb. I considered trying to trim the seam so it would match the shape of the side rather than the back, but luckily, I had enough fabric to recut the piece, which is much nicer.

BackCoincidentally, the Selfish Seamstress alerted me to her plaid matching cutting technique shortly after I had cut out this skirt using that exact technique, which is to cut a single layer of a pattern piece, and then turn it over so the fabric is on the outside and line up the plaids (she has a photo on the linked post). My only quibble would be that she has laid out her pieces identically on both the vertical and horizontal axes. My method is to line up the horizontal axes, but to try to set up the vertical axes so that they are offset by one square (along the stitching line, not the seam allowance line). That way, the plaid is uninterrupted across the seam. I am inordinately pleased at how well I did this at Center Back. You can see my button waistband and the little tab of the invisible zipper so you know there's a seam there, but it really doesn't show at all! Proud, I tell you.

Sewing Perfect Plaids The plaid technique I will share with you comes in the sewing portion. I am very generous with pins when sewing plaids, using them about every 2-3 inches. I match up the layers at a prominent marking (here you can see I used the thin lines) and pin at the stitching line--NOT the seam allowance. When you sew, unless you're using a walking foot (which I don't have, as Bernina feet are dang expensive), your feed dogs will ease your lower layer a teeny bit so there is a slight mismatch at the end. Normally, I'm not exercised about this, but for plaids that slippage will create badness! So I just sew right over the pins. It works a charm.

Although the end result is fancy, this skirt is really easy. Just sew your left side seam and center back seams as per usual, inserting zipper at center back (or if you do not need a CB seam, insert the zip at the left side seam). I cut out a lining as for a pencil skirt, not lining the wing ruffle. I assembled the lining and the sewed it right sides together with the skirt at the right front opening (the side the ruffle wraps over). I did my normal invisible zip/lining insertion (which I have apparently never documented), and just lined up the top raw edges of the lining and the the skirt.

Pin pleats Next, you swoop the ruffle up and arrange to your satisfaction. I chose fairly deep pleats, as gathers would not have worked in my wool fabric. I decided not to have the ruffle swoop all the way to the opposite side seam, although now I think that would have looked a little better. I stitched the pleats in place above the seam line for the waistband. Then I sewed the waistband along the inside, catching in the lining, then folded over and topstitched on the outside. I cut the waistband on the bias for visual interest; it doesn't have anything to do with function.

Side Closeup The tutorial refers to this skirt as having a Vivienne Westwood aesthetic--which is what brought this classic red tartan to mind. The side view is not conventional for a skirt; some might dislike the way there is a little pouchiness over the back hip as the ruffle starts to swoop in or the length differential at the wrapover side. I like the overall look and aesthetic of the skirt, however. As my fabric is lightweight and loosely woven, to finish the edges, I did a narrow zizag 3/8 inch from the edge and the pulled out the threads to fray, which adds to the avant-garde-crossed-with-a-kilt kind of look.

This was an extremely satisfying and fairly quick and easy project, which I really needed! I have not been doing a great job lately choosing the best fabric and patterns and I really needed a success.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.


Thank you for all the comments on the Vogue 8597 Headmistress in Space Cowl Neck Top! I never wear orange because I assume it looks horrid on me. I was surprised so many people like the color! I like orange a lot, I just fear that it washes me out or whatever. I will look for more of it!

Your comments are also why I had resolved to give the pattern away. I know that eventually I would start thinking, "It was probably just my fabric choice. I could easily modify the pattern to fix it. Maybe I like the Headmistress in Space look" and then I'd make it again and hate it again and have nobody to blame but myself! I need it out of my sewing room to forestall future sorrow. Using the random number generator, the winner is Spottedroo.

I interpreted your comment of


Is it wrong that I really liked this top when I saw the picture? Maybe I am a space-headmistress in my heart of hearts. I do love the orange sherbet color. I agree that there is something weird with recent Vogue top drafts. I made 8616 and it has a similar problem with wrinkles above the bust."

to indicate an interest in the pattern. Email me at t r e n a [dot] b at g m a i l (taking out the spaces and replacing the bracketed word with appropriate punctuation) to claim your prize (or let me know I interpreted wrongly)!


Voting is on for the PR Refashion challenge. I entered my colorblock sweaterdress. There was a lot of creativity going on in the contest so check out the gallery and cast your vote!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Vogue 8597: Headmistress in Space Cowl Top

V8597 Thumbnail

I might as well get both fails of 2009 out of the way in one week. Hearing about patterns that didn't work is perhaps even more valuable than patterns that do work, so I've got to tell y'all about Vogue 8597. I dropped by Joann a while back and figured since Vogues were on sale I'd take a quick look. I loved the pattern envelope drawing for this--it looks kind of slouchy and relaxed but hip. I was thinking it would make a great loose-fitting knit dress, very casual chic.

However, I was idling around online so I decided to check out the reviews. Hmmm. Although there was an explosion of making this top at the same time I did at the end of November, when I made it there was only one review with photo of View A/B with the cut on cowl made up, Nikki's version, and it doesn't look at all like pattern drawing. The drawing indicates that you'll be showing some skin at the neckline but the made up version looks rather prim. I couldn't tell if this might be a function of the fabric, though, as Nikki mentioned that her fabric had quite a bit of body.

I needed to make a pajama t-shirt anyway, so I decided I would use it as a *gasp* muslin. I'm glad I did. This pattern is kind of fug. My fabric is a thin cotton interlock, so it has a *tad* more body than a polyester ITY, but not enough to make this much difference. Instead of looking slouchy and relaxed, this looks like the self-imposed uniform of a strict headmistress of the future who runs the on-board school of a Star Trek-like space ship. Seriously, just picture it made up in a heavy white double knit, add a glass fish-bowl helmet, and voila. She engages in banter with a surprising frisson of sexual tension when she and the captain meet in the hallways. Someday, she will take off the glass fishbowl helmet and they will kiss. In fact, it might make a good Halloween costume. But it does not fit in with my style at all.

It's not just the style either. The drafting is also kind of bad. Check out that wrinkle that catches over my bust. And I have a small bust, tiny even. Imagine on someone with an actual bustline! It would be terrible.

It's drafted with a skimpy hem-type facing for the cowl neckline that you sew in place. First of all, a cowl needs to be fully self-faced. Nikki mentioned that her fabric has a distinct wrong side and the top is very fussy to wear to keep the wrong side from showing, and I can back her up on that. Second of all, in addition to maintaining the look of a cowl, the self facing is also there to avoid having some kind of tacky-ass stitching line across it. Ew.

It was so yucky that I couldn't even wear it as drafted for pajamas, so I chopped off the cowl neck.

I need to get rid of this pattern so that I don't accidentally give it another chance, so I'll send it to the lucky winner of a drawing from this post. After all the bad things I've said about this pattern it's possible nobody will want it, but it is mostly a matter of taste (other than the lack of a full self-facing on the cowl). This is just NOT my style. If you want to enter a giveaway for the pattern, mention that in a comment below. It is size AA(6-8-10-12). The pattern pieces for this view are cut out along the largest size line (I think--that's my usual MO) and the pieces for the other view are uncut.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Simplicity 2473: Quotidian Fail

In my 2009 roundup I mentioned two fails. This is one of them. This dress is not an Epic Fail such as seen on failblog (warning: not necessarily safe for work or tasteful but sometimes funny), but more of a run-of-the-mill, every day kind of fail. It's wearable, and I will wear it often during cold weather, but I don't love it.

I really liked the look of Simplicity 2473 when it came out. I've been wanting a coat dress for a while without the work of a coat dress, which would be as much effort as an actual coat but at a fraction of the wearing value, and I thought the collar version on this would give the same feel. Perhaps someday I'll try again.

S2473 Thumbnail

I got the fabric, a rayon/wool/linen blend, from for $4.49/yd, so I can't mourn the unloveliness of the result too much as at least it wasn't an expensive mistake. When the fabric arrived it was perfect, a chunky but smooth coat-y houndstooth. I pre-washed (cold water wash, hang dry), because I just don't dry clean. The fabric really fluffed up! Although I didn't lose much length, holy cow did I lose width! It got down to about 38 1/2" wide. I thought the fluffy loft would be well-suited to a coatdress so I kept my original plan, but it made squeezing the pattern out of what had once been 3 yards of fabric into a jigsaw puzzle. I managed to do it with pretty much zero fabric to spare and no scraps larger than my hand.

Back Princess Seams I started with my pattern alterations. First of all, I don't like that this dress has princess seams only on the front bodice. It looks cheap. So I split the back into princess seams as well. Of course, after I got started with the cutting layout on this one I realized that an appropriate subtitle for this post could have been: "Houndstooth is Just Another Way of Saying Matching Plaids" and had a moment of regret for my princess stickling. But in the end, I think it looks so much better that way, so meh. One of the adjustments I really should be doing as a matter of course but never do is narrowing the front shoulder and creating a dart in the back shoulder. I didn't do that here, but next time it will be easier since I've already got the back princess seams, right?

SwaybackNext comes swayback. I split it between the midriff piece and the skirt piece because I find in Big 4 I need a huuuuuuge swayback adjustment and I figured it would distort the pieces less to split it. Had I thought of houndstooth as the stripe/plaid that it is, I might not have done any adjustment to the skirt. I have a whole other grotesque houndstooth matching problem on the right back skirt panel, but on the left back skirt panel you can see the houndsteeth march upward a little bit at center back.

Underlining/Lining When I was still planning this project, after I had prewashed the fabric and it lost so much width I was trying to figure out whether to line or underline it, unsure which would be the most comfortable and best for keeping it from bagging out. In the end I did a hybrid--I underlined the bodice as it would look much worse if the bodice bagged out and lined the midriff and skirt (with a heavy interfacing fused to the midriff). I finished the neckline with bias tape. After a few wearings I can say that this system seems to have worked well.


After all this planning and anticipating, it turned out that I couldn't use the collar after all. It actually looks ok there in the photo where I pinned it on, but in real life it was way too bulky. And that was pinned on. I literally could not imagine how to attach to the dress (three layers of fluffy fabric turned under to make six layers) without it being two inches thick. It was not going to work.

SideThe back skirt. Ugh. It is horrible. I am not going to repost the picture because it is too embarrassing, so you will have to scroll up. Instead I have posted a side view where you can see how nicely the houndsteeth match up at the side seam. I assume that I had not folded my fabric carefully enough to cut doubled (although miraculously the rest of it is reasonably lined up--I used the lengthen/shorten lines as my "check" as Burda would say). Because I had no more fabric my two choices, when I saw the back pieces, were to mismatch the houndsteeth or to ease the right back piece in so that the houndsteeth match at the side and center back seams, but the panel is on a slight diagonal. I chose the latter, figuring that most non-sewing people would not be arrested by the terribleness of the slight diagonal, but would be more likely to notice the non-continuousness of the stripes at the CB seam. It was a Hobson's choice, and the result is awful. Ugh. I hate it so much. Luckily it is behind me and so I can wear it without obsessing about it. Out of sight, out of mind.

I wanted to trim the seams, not only to add interest but to cover very slight mismatches. I was thinking some sort of fancy black cording type trim, but neither Joann nor G Street had more than two yards of any black trims. So frustrating!!!! I ended up using flexi-lace hem tape in pewter.

This dress was a lot of work and it was disappointing when I was done and unfortunately I can't blame the pattern! It's not just the houndstooth mismatch at the back, although it is truly awful. The fabric just was not suited to a dress and I refused to recognize it. The fit is very boxy, which I can blame on Simplicity and their Ease of Doom, but I have to blame my fabric choice for the fact that I couldn't alter this to fit because the fabric is too bulky. So it has to be worn with a belt, which is fine, but the fabric is kind of bunched under the belt which doesn't look nice. It is just a mediocre dress. It is warm, however, and I am complimented when I wear it. My goal will be to wear it as many times as I can stand it this winter, maybe even every week, and then I can get rid of it at the end if I want.

All photos of this project are here and the pattern review is here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sweater Refashion: Colorblocked Sweaterdress

Let me begin by discussing terminology. Remaking items into other items goes by many names: remake, refashion, reconstruction, recon, etc. These are all descriptive and your preferred terminology is merely a matter of taste.

But there is now an odious and trendy word that is making the rounds and I would like to do my part to stop it: "upcycling." When I first saw this I thought it was cute. Then I saw it a thousand more times. Then I hated it. First of all, it is overused. A search on Etsy yields 49,422 items (and a few moments later 49,425 items) using the term in some fashion.

And second of all, it is misused. I will buy "upcycling" for taking something that could no longer serve its original purpose and making it into something useful again. But most items that are labeled "upcycled" were actually just fine in their original purpose, but the person saw another use lurking behind that usefulness. Obviously, that's fine--considering the sweaters I used here (although the tan one has stains and a fair number of small holes so it was on the edge of wearable as a sweater) were suitable for their original purpose but I wanted them for something else. But don't give turning one useable item into another a cutesy, vomity, hipster name (and *definitely* don't give turning a useful item into something useless a cutesy, vomity, hipster name).

That is all. I feel better now. Here is my non-upcycled but refashioned colorblocked sweaterdress!

Colorblocked Sweater Dress Thumbnail

I have been thinking about this refashion for several months! I refashioned a sweaterdress last year, but it is a bit too short and too fancy for work so I wanted something I could wear on an everyday basis. I knew exactly what I wanted and went to the thrift store in November (I think) to get the sweaters. Then the color of my serger was never right and the project got back burnered. Luckily, PatternReview announced a Refashion Challenge for January 1-15, 2010. Perfect!

I purchased the largest sweaters I could find in the colorways I was looking for with mostly wool content. When I am buying sweaters at the thrift store I am a fiber snob! The thing to remember is that no matter how big a sweater seems, there is always less fabric there than you think.

Here's how you do it(there are larger individual photos of each step in the flickr album):

Colorblocked Sweaterdress Tutorial

I started with the red sweater. First I cut off the turtleneck and ribbed bottom. Then I cut up the side seams and resized it to fit me.

My brilliant flash with this was to scoop out the front neckline and ease the ribbed bottom of the sweater as the new neckline. I hoped it would make a cowl, but it makes more of a portrait neckline. Had I felt more confident about how long the sweater would end up after I had altered the sides I would have cut more length off with the ribbing (as it was I cut just one inch above the ribbing to have a seam allowance), which might have yielded me a cowl, but I didn't know how much it would shrink when it was more fitted.

I had already used the body of the blue sweater to make another pair of wool knickers to wear under skirts in winter. This is seriously one of the best ideas I've ever had. I wore pants on Monday for the first time since last year (I wear them maybe 5 times per year on the coldest days). If it's above freezing, the wool knickers and knee high boots are enough to allow me to wear a skirt.

I took the sleeve of the blue sweater, cut open the seam, chopped off the sleeve head, and cut a 5 inch wide strip from each sleeve.

I determined where I wanted the midriff to be placed, then cut off the red sweater to that length and sewed the midriff in place, lining with a strip of lycra knit fabric for stability as I don't want the midriff to bag out. I should have done a better job shaping the bodice before stitching on the midriff because I should have made a reverse saddle shape, with the bodice cut higher at center front and center back than at the sides, because it dips a little in front and back.

Next, I chopped off the arms and neck of the tan sweater and opened out the shoulders. I checked the length with the bodice midriff and cut a few inches off the shoulder edge, then stitched up the side seams.

I wanted a tulip shape to the skirt, so I used my dress form to figure out where I wanted the pleats to be on front and back. I decided to an inverted pleat type thing in the front, while the pleats in the back face outward.

Then I sewed the skirt in place and was done! All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Front Back


When I came up for the idea for this project I was concerned that colorblocking was too early 90s, but it is one of those things that comes in and out of fashion rather quickly, apparently. My colors here might be a little too classic early 90s, but the silhouette is current so I think I'm ok. I found a few fun examples of current colorblocking to assure myself that I wasn't going to be stodgy and behind the times!

Ali Ro Knit Combo Dress - Prints - Ali Ro Velvet_Wool Contrast Dress - Prints -

I love these two yellow/black/white combos from Ali Ro. Yellow is such a great color but so hard to wear and having pops of yellow that can be kept away from the face is an excellent use of it.

Milly Colorblocked Wool Dress - Prints - BCBGMAXAZRIA Ponte T-Shirt Colorblock Dress - Prints -

I also love this more traditional Milly colorblock dress in unconventional colors. Orange is another underused color that's hard to wear but great for an accent. And of course, there is the classic t-shirt dress with the bodice in a contrast color. You could work some magic with BWOF 02-2009-119; I loved this pattern when I did it in an allover print.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sweetheart Jersey Dress Knockoff

I posted a bunch of inspiration pictures a while back, including the very cute ABS Sweetheart Jersey Dress (not so cute in that blah solid brown, in my opinion, but great design). I got encouragement in the comments (thank you!) to give it a shot.

Sweetheart Dress Thumbnail

Rather than try to draft from scratch--I have only done this a few times and it takes me 8-9 muslins for even very simple designs--it seemed that frankenpatterning would be a more efficient process.

I started with Vogue 2980, the Sandra Betzina bolero shoulder top for the fauxlero, bodice back, and sleeves. I also drafted the midriff based on the front and back width of this top. The first time I made this top I cut a size A at the top, transitioning to a C at the hip and found it a little snug. This time I cut a B (since I was only using the top portion I didn't need to transition larger).

Serious Staytaping of Back Neck EdgeI don't know if it is the difference between my two fabrics--a sturdy cotton jersey versus a lightweight poly/lycra--or what but the back shoulder on this dress came out waaaaaay too wide and floppy. It kept wanting to open up around and slip off my shoulders, creating sagging and bagging at the underarm. To "fix" it without taking the entire thing apart and starting over, I took up as much width as I could by "easing" the back neck/shoulder seam onto twill tape. By "ease" I mean almost to the point of gathering. This helps the dress wear more comfortably, but I am curious what happened there.

Then I went to Burda 05-2009-103 for the front bodice. It was a good match, as it has pleats to create bust ease in the surplice/crossover pieces, rather than gathering, as the original dress appears to have. The V2980 top is designed so that the front bodice is not a full bodice piece that attaches at the shoulders, but instead is matched with the bolero at the lower armscye and stitched about halfway up the armscye, and then the square neckline goes straight across. At first I tried tracing the V2980 armscye curve onto the Burda piece, but it was just not happening for me. This sounds simple, but somehow it was insanely complicated. So I gave up on that and just used the Burda armscye curve as it had been drafted on the original pattern piece.

I then measured the depth of the armscye on the V2980 front bodice piece (i.e., how far up the armscye the front bodice goes) and marked that on the Burda piece. Using that marking, I created a new diagonal line to the pleated tip of the bodice piece, creating the neckline.

Sweetheart Front Bodice PatternI decided to get fancy and self-face the front bodice piece. The neckline looks right, but in the end I'm not sure it was the best plan. Where the pleats overlap, the bodice is 8 layers thick. Even in a lightweight poly knit, 8 layers is really, really, really thick. Add in the midriff and midriff lining layers and there are 10 layers in spots on the front. Had I changed the pleats to gathers self-facing might work, but I think a better plan probably would have been either to create a separate facing piece with the pleats folded out and just a little gathered ease, or just to have a single layer bodice and finish the neck edge with a twin needle and clear elastic as I often do for (faux) wrap necklines.

The other issue I had with the bodice, which I knew I would have, is that I didn't do do a small bust adjustment on my fancy self-faced piece. Normally, I adjust a wrap style so that it won't gape on my bust by taking out some length on the diagonal neckline edge, as seen here. I didn't do that here (too impatient, truth be told), so to get a good fit on the bodice I had to stretch the bodice pieces way beyond their intended meeting point. The front midriff is about three inches smaller than the back midriff, if that tells you how much stretching I did!

Once the bodice was figured out the rest was cake. The midriff is just a straight piece because it's high on the ribcage where I don't have much contour, and the skirt is straight out of Simplicity 2754 (with the inverted V folded off to have a straight edge at the top as I'd done for the back in the gray and yellow fan dress version of S2754).

Bodice CloseupAfter it was all put together not only were the wide back shoulders slipping off, but the bolero was flopping open like crazy. In the first iteration of this top I'd had to hand-tack the bolero onto the bodice because it was bunching under my arms, so I wasn't surprised I had to some post-construction molding. I did a little hand-sewing magic (aka slapdashery) and gathered the bolero below the neckline to stop it from looking floppy, and then stitched the bolero and neckline edges together to keep my bra straps covered. In the photo at left, one side is hand-tacked and the other is not--you can definitely see a difference.

FrontI could certainly have done a less slapdash job on this knockoff, but I don't know that I would have been *that* much more satisfied with it. That is why I am slapdash. It doesn't take too much to make me happy. `-)

And I am satisfied with this dress! It is really cute in a nice print and the shapes come together in a very flattering way, making the most of nice collarbones, giving the illusion of a bust, and emphasizing a narrow ribcage while accommodating a larger belly and hips. Plus, sewing problem solving is fun and you feel so accomplished when it's done. Thanks to everyone for the encouragement to give this project a shot!

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.