Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Vogue 1329, Colorblock Side-Pleated Ponte Dress

Vogue 1329 Thumbnail

Vogue 1329 has taken the sewing world by storm!  I've seen so many great versions of it.  It has a ton of elements that make it flattering to any size or shape:

-Princess seams for easy fitting
-Colorblock possibility.  The sinuous shape of the side front panel coaxes even the most non-existent curves out of the closet.
-Suggested for ponte double knit (which most people have chosen), which has enough stretch to make fitting easier but is thick enough to smooth over lumps and bumps
-Pleating on center front panel offers some tummy disguise

Basically, this is pretty much the most flattering pattern ever devised for a fitted dress.

So I pretty much had to have one.  This sort of sheath dress is the kind of thing I need for networking events and other not-quite-suit-level work-related events, but I don't have many of them because they are not bikeable.  In the ponte, this one actually is bikeable so it's a win-win!

I got the black/white/red houndstooth from the G Street $2.97/yd table in August 2011.  It is aggressively polyester and has a very vintage look and feel, so it would be great for a 60s style loosely fitted shift.  However, when I thought about pairing it with black ponte (purchased from Kashi at Metro Textiles in November 2010, $6/yd) I was willing to sacrifice that vision for something that would suit me so much more.  The houndstooth is a woven with no stretch, but the narrow non-stretch panel doesn't interfere with the ease of wearing.

Swayback Adjustment on Pattern

You all know how rarely I make a dress without a waist seam due to my swayback.  I did some aggressive swayback folding on the pattern.  Check out the size of that tuck--but even that only got me about halfway there.

"Darts" on Side Back Seams for Swayback

When it was constructed enough to try on, I added huge "darts" to the side back princess seams, and took it in a little more at center back.  All told, I removed about 5 inches from the back waist.  Yes, my spinal curve is outrageous.

Moved the Highest Pleat to the Bottom

I did not do any small bust adjusting.  However, I noticed that the highest pleat on the center front panel is up pretty high and the lowest is still above the tummy.  I decided to just move the highest pleat down below the lowest pleat.  There is no looseness at the bust and the pleats are well-placed for tummy disguise.


That said, I think this had an unintended consequence.  The only issue with the finished dress is that the houndstooth side panel collapses/bulges in a weird way a little below the bust when I am standing still and straight.  I do not know if this is a side effect of moving that pleat, or if it has to do with pairing fabrics of two different weights and hands.  Other people do not seem to have this problem, so I assume it is one or the other.  The bulge is above where the uppermost pleat would have been, but that doesn't mean they're not related.  In motion, the problem disappears.

I think I will just add some boning in the seam allowance in the problem area for a slapdash fix to the problem.

The whole dress is meant to be lined, but I lined only the yoke.  I sewed the neckline and armscyes of the yoke and lining as per my usual clean finish method, leaving the 5/8" seam allowances unsewn at the lower edges.

I lowered the front neckline by about 3/4 inch.  My neck is proportional to my body, meaning, yeah, I have a short neck.  Super high necklines just look terrible on me.  I need to at least show my collarbones so as not to look like a head sitting on shoulders.

Yoke with Button Tab

Rather than install a center back zipper, I made a center back opening on the yoke that closes with a button, and the dress portion is sewn closed.  I sewed about 1 1/2" from the bottom closed on the yoke and the lining center back seams, and then sewed the yoke and lining together from the upper neck edge down to the closed part.  I can actually get this on and off without opening the button so I didn't need any closure at all, in the end.

Bias Tape on Lower Armscye

I finished the lower armcsyes on the dress portion with bias tape, then applied the yoke fashion fabric.

It was important that I left the seam allowance unsewn at the bottom of the yoke armscyes, because I then turned the lining seam allowance under and hand stitched it in place.

Untreated on left; steamed and pounded on right
Untreated on left; Steamed and pounded on right

There was a LOT of bulk at those corners where the yoke and the dress are joined at the armscye, but heavy steaming and then pounding took care of some of it.  It is not noticeable in wearing.  (The slight gape from the dress being slightly too large is, though, grr.)

Finished Armscye Finish

I ended up with a nice finish, but next time I would probably draft a facing the finish the neckline and the entire armscye at once, which would be a lot easier and eliminate that bulk.

Sharkfin Correction at CB Seam

I had major sharkfin at center back below the booty, presumably because of my body architecture.  I took in the center back seam by around 4 inches at the hem, tapering up to the curve of the booty.


The back is still not awesome and still does not have the traditional pencil shape with noticeable fitting at the hem, but I was afraid to mess with it any more lest there be nothing left of the center back panels.  From the photos (of course, I can't see this in real life), it looks like I need to take the side back seams in a little below the booty and have the CB seam hug that curve a little more.

Even with all these adjustments this was a satisfying, fairly quick project completed in a single day of probably 7 1/2 hours of sewing.  Ponte knit:  the future is now.  I just wish it was easier to find good quality ponte and divine in advance if it was going to pill.  I used this black ponte fabric in my Butterick 5677 Joan Holloway colorblock dress and so far that dress has held up well.  Fingers crossed it stays looking good because I want this dress for a long time!

Side View, Accessorized

If you want to feel insanely good about your sewing and your body, you must pick up this pattern.  I say this even with all the flaws I've just pointed out with mine!  Hurry, before colorblocking is totally passe; though it can, of course, be made in a single color.  Now I actually *want* to go to a networking event, just so I can show this off!  (Introvert=LOATHE networking, even when I know plenty of people there.  It is exhausting.)

All photos are here and the pattern review (my 300th review!) is here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vogue 8631, Kimono Style Wrap Dress

V8631 Thumbnail

I've had Vogue 8631 in the pattern drawer for several years now, waiting patiently to be made.  It's been in there so long that it is unfortunately now out of print.
Soprano Faux Wrap, Nordstrom


This style has shown up in RTW fairly often the past couple years (both of these items are from last year).

I saw a girl walking down the street wearing a dress in that style a couple of weeks ago and it was so cute I decided the time had come!

Shortened Crossover as Sewn

 As usual for wrap styles, I took out 2 1/2 inches of length along the front diagonal neck opening.  For Burdas I do about 1 1/2 inches but I find the Big 4 need much more.  Here, 2 1/2 inches still wasn't enough.  I took up some of the extra length by slightly stretching clear elastic while serging it in place, but I finally had to resort to the Universal Symbol of Sewist Surrender:  tacking the crossover closed where the left and right front intersect at the neckline to prevent gapage.   For next time, I've folded out another inch of length, for a total of 3 1/2 inches.

SBA-narrowed pleats

I also narrowed the front pleats slightly for a small bust adjustment.  The dress is meant to be somewhat large/loose, but I didn't want it to veer into actively baggy.  This seemed to be just about perfect, for once!  The bodice has a lot of ease, but it does not look grotesquely oversized for my bust.

I shortened the skirt 1 1/2 inches along the lengthen/shorten line.   It is still a fairly conservative length; you can see on the pattern illustration (though we all know how accurate *those* are) that this is meant to be right at the bottom of the kneecap.  I'm not sure if it would be *quite* that long on an average height woman, but probably pretty close.

Elasticated Waist Casing

 I considered several ways to fit the dress.  In the end, I decided to make a casing out of the waistline seam allowance and use elastic to fit the waist, leaving the rest loose.  This worked quite well.  The front feels a little bulky, as there are two layers of elastic where the two fronts cross one another, but it doesn't seem to actually look bulky.

The level of ease on the un-elasticated waist is just about perfect for a woven, so it fits fairly true to size for a Big 4 pattern (true-to-size in the sense that I always make about 2 sizes smaller than I "should" and the fit usually requires only minor tweaks from there).

Fronts Tacked Together at Waist
It's supposed to be held together by inside ties, but I topstitched through both layers of the fronts at each of the front's ends (here's an inside view) to make a pullover dress.

The waist sits slightly above my natural waist, which is high to begin with.  It's a flattering spot for me, but most people will probably prefer to lengthen the bodice, and I will probably do so if I make this in a woven.

I was concerned that the sleeves might be too open.  If I were to stand sideways and hold my arms all the way out, yes, you would catch a glimpse of bra band (no side boob visible on me, but I cannot attest to that for someone with a larger bust).  However, I don't think there is any flashing in normal type of wear.  I'll just need to remember always to wear a fleshtone bra underneath (which I generally wear anyway).  That said, I am *not* crazy about the drop shoulder look for the long sleeves, and will probably redraft it to a more normal armscye if I make this with a long sleeve.

Turned Under Curved Hem

I finished the edges by turning under and twin needling.  This is perfectly fine for a knit.  For a woven I would probably make an insanely long length of bias tape to finish all the way around.


In giving both knit and woven as a choice for this pattern, McVoguerick expresses once again that nobody at the company sews.

First of all, there is the difference in ease, though their philosophy is always "the more ease, the better!" so perhaps they think the extra ease that will come in making this in a knit is just a bonus.  It also has little touches, like the tiny back neck darts, that really aren't details for knits.

Nonetheless, the dress works really well in a knit (next time I would just fold out those tiny back neck darts.)  The only issue is that print poly jersey is not the absolute best choice for this pattern because there is a high likelihood the front skirt hem will flip outward occasionally, and the fabric has a distinct, lighter-colored wrong side.  But that can be an issue in wovens, too.


I was genuinely surprised by how cute this turned out.  I thought the pleats might be bulky or poofy, but in fact they lay well and have a nice flow in motion.  It's also a fairly easy make with only 4 pattern pieces, once you mark and sew the 16(!!!) pleats and darts.

I made it in a knit that came in a Fabric Mart free bundle I got in September 2011 just in case I was disappointed by it.  In fact, I am pretty sure it will become a go-to piece.  I even decided that I can finally retire my short sleeved version of Simplicity 3775, which has been in my closet for over 5 years now and which I have been completely over for at least the past two.  The Simplicity was useful in its shoulder coverage and figure-flattery.  This fulfills both of those *and* is more current as well (the wide ruched midriff of the Simplicity feels dated).

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Retro Striped Bikini, McCall 5400 and Burda 01-2012-128

Retro Striped Bikini Thumbnail-1 (1)

Burda 01-2012-127/128 bottoms, McCall 5400 View E top.  I got the striped fabric from G Street's $2.97/yd table in February 2012.  I assumed it was a polyester knit, but after I'd already cut the whole thing out, taking extra special care with all the stripes, I wet a scrap to make sure it would be opaque with my mesh lining.  And then when it got all papery and stiff I realized it was rayon.  Ugggghhhh.  It was too late, though, and I didn't have anything else in stash suitable anyway.  I using the lining as underlining to help the pieces keep their shape and it held up ok...for one wear.  The bottoms are already pilled.  I'm glad I considered this a muslin all along.  At least I moved 1 1/4 yards out of stash.

Finish Keyhole Opening in Top
Top: right side out; Bottom: right sides together

One of the features I really love about the top is the keyhole opening between the upper and lower front bodice.  McCall's directions have you sew the fashion fabric and the lining separately, sew them together at the top, and then turn under the seam allowances at the keyhole opening and stitch in place by hand.  I underlined, rather than do a regular lining.

Since I thought hand stitching wouldn't look great there, I started by clipping into the seam allowance on either side of the keyhole opening and sewing the lining and fashion fabric right sides together between the clips.

Top Inside Finish

Then I sewed the upper bodice and lower bodice together, treating fashion fabric and lining as one.  I used my serger for this, and was careful to get the seam allowance exactly right at the clip so the two lines of stitching would line up.

Then I turned the seam allowance down, and tacked it to the lining only (which was still open at the bottom, so I could easily separate the two layers) on either side of the keyhole opening to keep it from showing.

Front Chevron

This makes for a nice tidy opening.  Note that the opening in the upper bodice is longer than in the lower bodice, so markings are important.  The ruched effect on the upper bodice is accomplished by pulling the tie through the keyhole and over the upper edge and knotting it.

The upper front bodice is drafted to be cut on the fold, but because I wanted the chevron effect of the stripes I cut it with a center front seam.

Gather Tie

The top pattern is drafted with a narrow halter strap that is stitched on either side of the front, i.e., not adjustable.  Several reviewers mentioned that the strap was (1) skimpy, and (2) too long.  Rather than mess with all that, I used the pattern for the center front tie to cut straps as well.  After comparing the length with straps on a RTW halter top I had, it turned out to be pretty much the same size.

The tie is drafted as a rectangle, but I angled the ends on both the bust tie and the halter ties.  I cut the halter ties on the bias for another chevron effect.  I gathered them slightly before attaching to the upper bodice, right sides together.  The tie's raw edge was later covered by the elastic and turned under.

My top is quite a bit shorter than drafted--more of a midi top than a tankini.


The bottoms are available in 34-42.  I would normally cut a 38 for the hip, but this was drafted for a stretch woven (with a side zip!) and I was using a knit.  I went for the 34 with generous seam allowances in case I needed more room.  That turned out to be the perfect size, so I recommend going down two sizes if you make this pattern in a knit.

My other concern was that the crotch would be too narrow at the front, as the illustration shows it to be rather skinny.  In fact, it has the opposite problem, a bit of scrunchy fabric for the toe-of-the-camel look.  I will shave off a teeny bit of width when I make this again, but only a touch because I'd rather have scrunched fabric than inadequate coverage.

The concern I didn't think of was that with the bottoms being so high waisted I really needed a swayback adjustment!  I had to do one after the fact by just shaving some length off the back of the panties from the waist, but that was only a makeshift solution.  For a really good fit, I would need a center back seam, but I think that would be more distracting than a little swayback bunching, so I will just take the length out a few inches below the upper edge and take some width off the back's side seams.

Lift Knife to Serge Elastic

I have very little to say about construction of the bottoms, they were really easy and went together with no problems!  To finish the edges (waist, legs, lower edge of top) I first zigzagged elastic in place.  Before elastic, the back of the leg opening was rather gapey and slack.  My first try I stretched the elastic to 95%+ on the back, with no stretch along the front leg.  That was too tight so I picked it out and stretched the elastic to about 80% on the back.  I can live with this but I think it is still slightly tighter than needed.  Next time I will do 70-75%.  Next time I will also be sewing with proper swimsuit fabric with good recovery, which will help too.

After the elastic was in place, I serged it in place with the knife lifted so I didn't accidentally cut into the elastic.  This was purely for aesthetics.  What can I say, I like things to look nice on the inside!  Then I turned it under and zigzagged in place.  I'm really not crazy about how homemade-y the zigzagging on the outside looks, but it is not noticeable from more than two feet away, so I will just stick with that method.

I'm so annoyed I didn't notice the front waist was turned under!

I couldn't get perfect stripe matching on the bottoms because of the curves of the seams.  I am sure a print-matching master like Amanda S. could have worked some magic on them, but it is beyond my skill level.  However, some of the stripes match and that's good enough for me!

Sailor Salute

I had another trip to the beach, this time to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, so of course I needed a new suit.  I was curious to try the high-waisted trend and see how it would work for me.  I was afraid that it might emphasize my round belly but in fact it is either neutral or actively flattering to that sensitive area, much to my great surprise.  I'll take it!

I felt adorable in this suit, and my photographer obliged with lots of photos on the deck of the awesome beach house (this was another family event, and they rented the beach house and invited us as guests--score!).  I had never been to the OBX and was suspicious that it couldn't be as awesome as everyone always said.  Well, I loved it!  The water is not dirty or too cold, the waves are very mild, the beaches are smooth and sandy, and with the sea breeze it was not too hot and humid at all.  I could definitely see staying there for a week someday; we were just there for a very brief "long" weekend (one afternoon and one full day).

I ordered some real swimsuit fabric for another of these and a Bombshell (yes, I am a lemming).  I am planning a vacation in September that will include beaches (I hope) so these projects can't languish for too long...

The bottoms are reviewed here, the top is reviewed here, and all photos are here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

I'm a Winner! Schmetz Needle Prize

Schmetz Needles

I have entered many, many PR contests over the years and have been flattered by the many votes I've received, but I've never actually won.  They're more for fun motivation and a way to decide what project to sew next.

Burda 06-2013-102 Thumbnail
I entered my Downton Abbey silk dress in the Natural Fibers Contest at Pattern Review.  Well, I got 2nd place!  I was very surprised because there were tons of great entries in that contest.  Thank you to all who voted for me!

The prize was a $75 gift certificate to Schmetz Needles, which is a really great prize.  I sew with Schmetz needles anyway, and remembering to buy needles tends to slip my mind and if you don't have the right needle--you can't sew.  Not to mention it's sewing money that could be used for fabric, lol.

They had me send them my list of needles and supplies and they shipped it to me super quick in a nice little box.

I got a whole bunch of universal needles (love the multi-size packs) and my favorite specialty needles.  I go through Microtex needles like they're potato chips, and I prefer stretch needles to ballpoint needles for most knit projects.  I also go through twin needles like potato chips so I got a few of those.  They also stock 45 mm rotary cutter blades.  I got a rotary cutter fairly recently and love it for whizzing through straight line cutting.  They even included a guide to the different types of needles and their uses.

Now I am set for a couple of years at least.  Bring on the fabric!  (Which I, um, have.)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Beach Caftan

Beach Caftan Thumbnail

This was *supposed* to be my project for our gulf coast trip.  Something nice and simple that I could easily make in the weeknights leading up to our departure with no stress and no last-minute-itis.  It got done in plenty of time and I would have had a nice leisurely night of packing were it not for that darn muffin top compelling me to make a new swimsuit.

Many years ago I made a beach cover up that I really like.  It's just a square of poly chiffon with a long, diagonal slit cut out of it.  It can be worn as a poncho, but I generally wear it as one shoulder; because the slit is on the diagonal the points of the square hang interestingly asymmetrically.  However, it doesn't really cover the booty, and for a family trip I figured I should go for a little more coverage.

I don't buy poly chiffons.  Chiffon is such a bear to sew that if I'm going to work with chiffon it damn well better be silk.  I didn't think I had any left in stash, having purged it all over the years, but then I found this piece.  I loved the colors and print so much I couldn't bear to get rid of it.  I made Simplicity 2594 out of a it a couple years ago (and bias poly chiffon?  fuggeddaboutit.  The grain is all kinds of messed up on that blouse.)

I didn't have enough length to make another square, as planned.  I could only make a rectangle.  So I decided to go caftan.  Thank goodness this otherwise difficult fabric tore.  I just tore me some straight edges and went to town.

Beach Caftan Pattern

Although it drives me crazy that Burda always publishes a "pattern" for a rectangle, in making this I realized that there is some design involved, albeit extremely rudimentary, and that there are decisions to be made.

The dimensions I ended up with:
-36 inches across the shoulder (apparently I had exactly one yard of full length fabric left)
-Total finished length:  29.5 inches from the shoulder fold to the hem
-Side seam:  9 inches down from the shoulder fold, 7 inches in from the side, and 7 inches long (it ends a little above high hip so there would be no issue of decreased mobility)

Serger Rolled Hem and Stitched Hem

My fabric was 60 wide, which I folded in half, the fold forming the shoulder line.  I finished the side edges using the serger rolled hem.  The hem is the selvage edge.  Once the side edges were finished, I folded the selvage under twice and stitched it down.  The edge finishes were very quick and easy.

Slightly Rounded Neckline

If anything about a rectangle can be said to be tricky, the neckline was the only difficult part.  I have a small head, so others might need a slightly larger opening.  I folded the fabric into quarters to find the very center, then cut a slit 11.5 inches long.  I created a little extra room for the head and a slightly more graceful shape by slightly rounding the neckline, as shown in the photo at right.

Fray Check at Corner of Neckline

I finished the neckline with a serger rolled hem, but I wanted to make sure the corner wouldn't fall apart under the needle, so I dabbed Fray Check in each corner and let it dry before taking it to the serger.  I started in the center of one edge of the slit; when I got to the corner I pulled it so the fabric was as straight as possible and continued the serging line.

Neckline Finish

The result is a nice clean finish.  I just cannot stop being in love with a serger rolled hem.  So far, the corner has held nicely through many puttings on and takings off.

Button and Loop

My innovation was to add a button and rouleau loop that can be used to create different looks for the caftan, taming the flowiness of the fabric and creating a narrower silhouette.

The button and button tab are placed 16 inches down from the shoulder fold, or 13.5 up from the hem on the same plane/layer of the caftan (which can be either the front or the back). I used a shank button and stitched around the serger rolled hem, which is sturdy enough to support the button's weight.

Modeling the Rectangle

While the rectangle in and of itself isn't entirely glamorous, I was quite pleasantly surprised by how much I kind of love this caftan.  It can be worn five(!) different ways, as shown in the thumbnail at the top:
1.  Free Flowing
2.  Belted
3.  Buttoned in front
4.  Buttoned in back
5.  Inside out

Buttoned in Back
Buttoned in Back

I can't decide which way I like it best.  Maybe buttoned in back?  Though it creates a little bit of a weird dual-length apron look in the back with a much shorter hemline at center back.  I like the tamed volume in the front though.

While I was at the Gulf (in Fairhope, Alabama, for the curious), I wore it belted, which is always a safe bet.  I felt quite Ibiza, minus the strobe lights.

I actually like the caftan so much I'm almost considering making one out of opaque fabric to wear as real clothes for the Fall.  I think it would look cute with my jeggings...

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.