Sewing, Knitting, Dogs

Monday, November 23, 2015

2 or 52 - Every Girl Needs a New Birthday Dress

For years - I have made myself a new dress for my birthday.  I always wear it on my birthday and again and again though the years.  The birthday dress generally becomes one of my favorites.  

This year's birthday dress is no exception.  

This year - after making 2 version of the Appleton dress as tester versions and another (which still hasn't been blogged - but has been really this years) that I like but don't love, I was determined to make an appleton that I love!  And I did it with this one.  

The fabric is from Fabric Mart and the recent all the florals kick I went on this summer.  The fabric is a navy ITY with pink and white flowers all over it!

This time I read the instructions!  DOH!  All previous versions of this dress that I didn't love Are.My.OWN.Fault!  I am an idiot - who often thinks she knows what she's doing when in fact she doesn't have a clue.  
The first three (THREE!!) versions of this dress where made with ponte fabrics.  They weren't super stable pontes, but they didn't have the stretch the pattern required.  Then, I sewed them up with 1/2" seams!  Reading Comprehension Starts with Reading!!  Um - yea, so firmer fabric and larger seams will result in a dress that it's a bit closer fitting than I like - but good results for Krystle!  

This time, I took a step back, read the instructions, remeasured myself, retraced the dress and sewed with the correct seam allowances (they are 3/8 by the way). 

My birthday was on a Thursday this year.  The dress was cut out on Sunday night, but I ran out of time to sew.  So, Monday after dinner, I headed downstairs.  All I managed to accomplish in an hour was to clean and thread the sewing machine and serger, put in new needles, wind a bobbin, test thread and stitches, finish the front skirt edges and sew the shoulder seams.  Didn't feel like much.

On Tuesday, I went downstairs after dinner and set up again.  This time I set the sleeves in and sewed up the side seams.  I also got the bands put together.

By Wednesday it had to get finished.  I stitched, turned and attached the ties, put the facing on, sewed up the side seams, and hemmed the sleeves and hem. 

As you can see - the dress still doesn't fit perfectly - but it's good enough and I love it!  I have since retraced the dress from the arms down removing the grading between sizes that I did unnecessarily.  

I feel comfortable in this dress and have worn it with my pale pink shoes a couple of times since my birthday already!  

The moral of this story?  Start by reading and don't give up!  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cashmerette's Appleton Times Two

I, too, was a tester* for Cashmerette's Appleton dress.  I was honored to be asked.  While I'm not as vocal about wrap dresses as Jenny, they are a staple in my closet.  I always feel very put together when I wear one.  I equate asking to test a pattern with being asked to sit with the cool girls at lunch during high school - I can honestly say that I never sat at that table and it's kinda fun to be included now.
photo from Jenny's pattern site

So - let's start at the beginning.  I had a bit of operator error in printing the pattern - completely my fault - I missed seeing a box that wasn't checked and should have been, so while my 'gauge' box was the right size, my pattern pages were off just a bit and that may have affected my first version.

I very carefully too new measurements and looked at the size of my most uncomfortable, but best fitting bra to determine my size.  Based on my measurements, I cut a 16 at the bust through the waist and graded out to a 22 at the hip.    I found the construction very easy and sewed up both dresses on my sewing machine.  While I love my serger - I like construction to be neat and look the same all over the inside.  Because I wasn't positive I could make both sides seams look neat and tidy constructing them on the serger, I chose to sew it together with a tiny, narrow zig zag. Because this was a tester version - I did not add any length, nor did I add width to the sleeves.

You aren't seeing things - that's not me!
For my first version - I grabbed a pretty ponte knit that I had bought at Fabric Mart in the last year.  I would guess I paid less than $4 a yard for this fabric.  I had 3 yards and I was able to cut the Appleton and a magic pencil skirt from the fabric by piecing the waist ties.  The fabric print was busy enough that the piecing on the ties isn't noticeable and I honestly didn't worry about matching the print.

Because of my printing errors, I print out the pattern again - properly this time.  Trimmed the pages, glued it together, traced it again and cut out version No. 3.  Again - 16 bust, waist and graded out to closer to a 20 at the hips.  This time, I used a solid knit for the bands and ties.  The floral fabric was a ponte that I bought at JoAnn fabrics.  On this version - I did mix up the construction just slightly - I put the sleeves in flat, before adding the ties/band - just personal preference.

With both versions of the dress - I loved that the back fit my back and hugged my curves - whether they were on my sides (waist to hips) or my back (low back to butt). I can't wait to get the final version of the pattern and make another version.  Jenny mentioned that she had smoothed out the hip curve (which was an issue for me with my drastic grading between sizes) and she also took a wedge out of the skirt so it hangs straight (which Krystle has mentioned is an issue with her).

When both girls were home for a family friend's wedding in August - I offered the dresses up to either of the girls.  While both dresses fit both girls - they ended up going home with Krystle.  For sizing purposes and information - Krystle wears a either a size 12 or 14 in RTW and a D cup.  I think these dresses look smashing on her - and a a young married lady trying to build up her businesses and design clients she likes the opportunity to have a nice, professional dress without spending a fortune to add it to her closet (maybe one of these years I'll get a fabric mart gift certificate for my birthday or mother's day ::winkwink::)  Now - don't get me wrong - I did not gift the dresses to Krystle because I didn't like them - I would have kept them and worn them - but I didn't LOVE them and thought if one of the girls did - so be it.  I have made another - which I will keep and wear and just bought fabric for more.

I hope you found my review of the sewing helpful.  But want to hear how the dresses wear?  And see how they fit my girl?  How they fit into her professional lifestyle?  And be entered into a little giveaway?  Go check her blog - go now!

*As a tester, I was provided the pattern and ultimately a Appleton Dress Kit, however the opinions on the pattern and construction are my own.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Floral Southport

 This is truly my most favorite-ist dress currently!  I love it.  

Looking at the photos - I can honestly say - it's not the most flattering thing I've ever made.  But I would quickly follow that - by it's so comfortable, I really, really don't care! 

The fabric is a rayon challis bought from Hancock fabrics some years ago.  I added a little football shaped sleeve so I could take my cardigan off when I wear this to work.  

It was pointed out by a co-worker (and I agree with her) that I could size down with this pattern.  I think I made the largest size available.  I made no alterations - except maybe length - I honestly can't remember now.   

The Southport in rayon is floaty and feels cool and fabulous to wear.  It moves without making noise and just seems to float around my body.  I feel dressed up and like I made an effort when I put this on.  I want to figure out how to wear a sleeveless maxi dress all winter!  That being said - I think the short version of this dress as designed (without sleeves) would be fabulous as a jumper over a button up, with tights and boots for Winter.  Wonder if I'll have time to get to that.  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Floral Southport - Behind the Seams

Way back in May - I talked hubby into tacking a week in New Jersey to the end of our vacation.  This was two-fold, we got to spend some time with The Princess and Carolyn had a very un-talked about birthday party.  At that party, I got to meet Kelly and she was wearing a maxi-Southport.

It took me awhile to get on this bandwagon.  I have loved every version of this dress that I have seen.  

In the middle of August, JB was gone fishing for a bachelor party and I spent an evening, trimming, gluing and tracing Southport (right after I made my favorite breakfast for dinner!)

 I have come to the conclusion that I just am NOT good at putting PDFs together.  I'm always just a smidgen off when I trim them and can never get the pages to line up perfectly.   

I pulled 2 pretty floral rayon challis from the cupboards and then sewed up my least favorite of the as a wearable muslin.  I was actually ambitiously hoping I could sew up 2 versions of this dress while The Princess and The Sports Writer were here on vacation.

The truth is - I was lucky to get this one hemmed.  

Last year - I went on strike because I couldn't get either JB nor The Musical One to help me hem garments that weren't already level and needed more than a simple, evenly turned hem.  While JB still won't help me (eventually - I'll just quit cooking for him and pack nothing but PB&J in his lunchbox - that should do the trick!), The Musical One will.  

It was The Princess' idea that pictures of this process happen.  I have flats on and am standing.  She is sitting on the floor with an industrial t-square (generally it's a yard stick) and a pin bowl.  She puts pins in every 3" around the hem where the hem should go - she does not pin it up - if that makes sense.

Next time - I'll show better photos of me wearing the dress.  And I'll try to be back sooner than 2 weeks!  Happy Sewing Everyone.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

Behind the Seams - The Dress

Colette Crepe
I had originally bought this fabric to test a pattern, but that didn't happen.  Then I remembered that I had a copy of Crepe.  I've always wanted to make this dress - a woven wrap dress with a lovely sweetheart neckline?   Yes please.  

But - that isn't what I ended up with.  And not for lack of trying.  I traced crepe - because that's what I do and matched the bodice up with a double darted bodice I have that fits well.  Then I tried to make it fit on my fabric.  I'm guessing my now - you know it didn't work.  

BHL Elisalex
So, then I turned to my Elisalex bodice, because while I've never made that tulip skirt and had it look good on my hips - I love the bodice!  It fits well and flatters.  So - I took a page from Carolyn's book and layered my pattern pieces, I put the center front of Elisalex on the bottom, then put the Crepe over it, topped by the tracing paper - of course, I didn't think I'd blog this, so no photos.  

Then - I made a new tracing of the center back.  Keep in mind that Elisalex has armhole princess seams, not darts - and it works for me.  My changes were only made to the center sections - the parts that went to the shoulder.  Once I had that new back - I literally just drew a new v and went with it!  The bodice is fully lined.  
Butterick 5930

Of course, I stupidly cut out the bodice pieces before even making sure the skirt pieces would fit on my yardage.  And - as Murphy's Law would have - they wouldn't fit.  I did not want the skirt that I generally put on the Elisalex bodice, nor did I want to put the Lilou skirt on this bodice - I wanted a full and flirty skirt.  There is a huge stack of patterns on my cutting table and Butterick 5930 was in my line of vision.  Hmmm - wonder if it will fit.  The skirt is pieced and has princess seam lines.  I measured the pieces of my bodice and the skirt and adjusted as necessary to make the seams line up - not that you can tell in this print!  

I was able to cut most of the skirt pieces (and by most I mean the center front and back pieces, but no side pieces) from the yardage I had left.  

There were large pieces of fabric - that were almost big enough.  So - I pieced in some fabric to make it work!  I couldn't even get JB to see what I was trying to show him while taking the pictures- again - it's all about the print!

I hand picked the zipper.  I think this is the 3rd hand picked zipper I've done and I really like doing them.  I will admit - I'm still not perfect at lining up the top of the zipper.  

Because my bodice fits and falls at my waist - the skirt hung even and I was able to turn up a 2" hem.  I put pockets in the dress and then put in a machine blind hem.  Because - print!  

I stretched myself a little bit making this dress - changing things, layering patterns and drawing what I envisioned.  Piecing fabric to get enough and basically just making it work.  I really like this dress and I'm glad to have worked through it and added it to my closet!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Dress

Honestly - I don't love the photos of these dress.
Honestly - I'm not loving much these days. 
But I do love this dress - it's full and twirly and was perfect to wear to a wedding.

This dress is completely different than the dress I had in mind when I bought the fabric.
This dress is a mash-up of patterns, some drawing to get what I wanted.
The bodice is a modified Elisalex and the skirt is from Butterick 5930.
I plan to do a 'behind the scenes' post to show you close ups of the front neckline. 
The bodice of this dress is lined and I hand picked the zipper. 

How about a last photo of JB and I all cleaned up and ready to go to a wedding.  

Saturday, September 05, 2015


This was truly a case of what came first - the Cardigan or the dress.
I made both - this post is about the cardigan - because it came first.

There is a group on Ravelry, called Free Pattern Testers.  Every once in a while I will troll through the posts and find something stunning!  This was such a case.

Jennifer Wood was asking for testers for her Beautiful Liana, here's a link to her blogpost.  Jennifer is quite a prolific designer and I love her designs.  

I didn't pause when throwing my hat in the ring for this lovely design.  I only hesitate over my yarn choice.  I knit this with Malabrigo lace - which I love.  The yarn is soft and cushy and make incredible fabric.  I've knit several shawls from it, Mal Lace is truly one of my favorites to knit with.  

It doesn't show very well in these photos, but this cardigan is full of twisted stitches, cables, twisted rib and lace!  I used 4 full hanks of yarn and just barely dipped into the 5th.  I knit on US 1.5 (2.5mm) needles and magic looped the sleeves.  This sweater was started on March 8th and finished in Spain on May 1.  Thank goodness we were given an extension of time to finish!

The fabric for the dress just happened to be sitting on my ironing board one day while I was winding another hank of the yarn.  I noticed how well they went together.  I didn't make the dress I had originally planned, but I'm quite happy with the one I did make.  I'll tell you about the dress next time!

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?