The Muslin Diaries: Simplicity 1776 (Finale/ Finally!)

I’m still here! Some craziness has happened–which I’ll get to later. Sorry this post is super long and pictures are random at best. Skip to the end for the punchline!

Monday, March 10, 5:39 p.m.

I have spent a weekend with a friend away from muslins and fitting woes, and I have returned with a renewed will to conquer. After my last post on the subject, my frustration with Simplicity 1776 was making me question whether I really needed to spend all this time fitting a single dress.

Without some much-needed inspiration, I was dangerously close to quitting and sewing only Lady Skaters for the rest of my life. (Come on–would that really be such a bad thing?) So, I turned to Pinterest. I quick search for “shift dresses” revealed so many get-in-my-closet-right-now styling options to pin to my shiny, new “Shifty” board that I felt a renewed interest in defeating my shift dress fitting issues.

The biggest problem was making the armhole seam quit cutting into my arm in front. I drew in a new seam line and then clipped to it. Instant relief. I also pinned in a small armhole dart which helped immensely. It eliminated the armhole gaping and scooped the seam line enough to give my arm some breathing room.

I noticed that there was a lot of wrinkling at the back armhole. A little bit of scoop action back there solved that problem as well. After making the corresponding changes to the pattern, it’s time to sew another muslin. And that’s where I’m stuck. I need to run to Jo-Ann’s for some actual muslin as I no longer have icky fabric I don’t want to sew with. I’m waiting for a 50% fabric coupon. Paying full price at Jo-Ann’s just proves you have no patience :)

Once I get the armhole sorted, I’m going to attack those back darts. After that, I’ll work on the sleeve. And then I’ll be done. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Wednesday, March 12, 4:14 p.m.

I found some muslin! I have no idea what I originally bought it for, but it has definitely come in handy. I’m really hoping this current version works as I have just enough left to test some sleeves.

5:50 p.m.

How much chips and salsa can one eat in one day before it becomes weird?

Unrelated: How much salsa can one’s hair retain before one can be termed “slovenly”?

Thursday, March 13, 3:35 p.m.

Is this my third muslin or my fourth? I’ve lost track. . .

Good news! I’ve almost got the armhole perfect! It needs to be lowered about 1/4″ and scooped more at front and back. Scooping the armhole not only makes it more comfortable, but also gets rid of excess fabric that wrinkles up right at my armpit.

Finding that there was lots of gaping at the back of the armhole, I pinched about 1/2″ out from armhole to neckline. And then pinched out a little 1/4″ dart a little lower down.

The new bust darts look good–they just need to be shortened about an inch. Easy-peasy.

Because the muslin felt a little tight at my chest, I restitched the side seams (front only) at about 1/4″ in between the sleeve seam and the dart. It seemed to help some. I think I’m either going to add a little at the side seams (1/2″ maybe?) or add to the CF. I just don’t want the neckline to be any wider. I’m thinking of splitting my muslin up the middle and sewing a 1/2″ strip in to test.

You know how I was worried about the back darts? Well they looked really good on this muslin, so maybe I just sewed them stupidly last time.

Also, I need to remember to even up the hem line and for Pete’s sake true my neckline!

Slaving away on this fitting process has opened my eyes to fit problems on other patterns which I previously thought were great. Example? The Lady Skater. She is amazing, but she is also very wrong at the arm holes. Very, very wrong. I’ve been cutting off desperately needed visual torso length by wearing armholes too low. I’m a short-waisted person! I need all the torso length I can get!

So, things seem to be progressing in a positive direction. I confess, however, that I am a little scared of trying to get the sleeves to work. I’ve been down this road before. Granted, I know more now and the cut-in gusset really does work wonders. But still. . .

Okay, I’m going to go away now.

Thursday, March 20, 6:46 p.m.

I know I said last time that I had the armhole almost perfect, well this time, I mean it!

So there have been several arm/shoulder adjustments since I last blathered away here. Let me try to sum up: continued back armhole gaping was solved by a combination of scooping the armhole curve and repositioning of the shoulder seam.

There, that was rather neat and tidy.

Of course, it took lots and lots of staring at the muslin and pinning and trying on and pinching and long showers so I could think clearly before I finally got there. I think it was when I realized just how far back the shoulder seam was sitting that I finally started making progress. Now, I have an armhole that fits comfortably all the way around and doesn’t gape. There’s still a bit of wrinkling at the underarm, but let’s face it, I’m working with fabric not plastic. Wrinkles are going to happen.

Also, it’s gone baggy in the middle, so I need to take out that tummy curve I randomly put in.

Also, I’ve decided on the patch pockets.

Now, it’s time for (I hope!) the last round of dress paper adjustments. Then, the sleeves. (“And after that, the deluge. . .” )

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Neville! R.I.P. ugly green flip-flop that I’ve had for about ten years that finally broke. I was not so sorry to see you go. This picture is just to break up the monotony.

Wednesday, April 9, 4:14 p.m.

Friends. Holy freaking cow, friends.

It has been a longish time since I’ve been around here. I have not been idle. I started a new old job which I may or may not have already told you about. I have been very focussed on (and exhausted by) that, but now it is Spring Break and I am accomplishing the things. I have two goals for this week: 1. Finally finish my navy Archer–which I was actually making decent progress on last Wednesday before there was a significant derailment, which I shall tell you about in due time and 2. Finish this freakin’ shift dress for the love of chocolate and be able to move on with my life.

So the most recent solution that I had come up with to solve the armhole fitting issues managed to fix the back gaping (yay!) but made the armhole too tight once again (boo!). (Also, I had to lower the darts which I’d previously raised. This is why we fit from shoulder down.) This discovery occurred yesterday. So frustrated I started to hate sewing all together, I tossed the muslin back in its box (to think about what it had done) and went outside.

This is a habit of mine–and I’m so glad it’s warm enough for me to not freeze while I do it. When I get tired or feel like I’m losing my focus, I always head outside to play with the cats or weed the flower beds or just wander around and let the wind blow the thread fluff and general frustration out from between my ears. While I was verbally complaining to the cats about my weird shape (they didn’t sympathize, FYI), the simplest of all solutions hit me. I realized that it wasn’t just the armhole that was tight. It was also tight across the bust. And how do we fix that? We let out the side seams, of course! So easy!

After some more trial and error, I ended up letting out the side seam (about 1/4″ front and back) from underarm to bust, cinched it back in from bust to waist, and let it out again over my tummy and hips. The lines of the dress drastically improved. Then, I lengthened the back darts and voila! A fitted-but-not-too-fitted shift dress.

And this is how my scribbly pattern pieces looked after all the struggle:

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See? Work happened.

Now, it’s time for the sleeves. I confess, I’m frightened. I’ve adjusted the armhole so much that I’m not even sure where to begin on the sleeve head! The armscye is the only part that needs to be adjusted since the rest of the sleeve already fits. I just have to make the armscye fit the armhole.

Time to find my bendy ruler!

Saturday, April 12, 3:24 p.m.

Suck it, Simplicity! YOU DID NOT DEFEAT ME!!! Not this time. . .

Friends–true friends who have actually read this far, I salute you!–my Simplicity 1776 shift block is complete. My final step before cutting out the real thing is to make clean copies of all the pieces.

This is, indeed, a momentous occasion.

Let’s talk about the sleeves.

If you remember, I thought that the only thing I had to adjust was the armscye (I learned from Lynda Maynard that the “armscye” is the curved seam line at the top of a sleeve. Knowledge!). I was wrongity wrong. I made so many changes I’m not even sure I remember them all.

The goal, of course, was comfort and full mobility. Adding the underarm cut-in gusset allowed me to raise my arms comfortably, so that was taken care of. The front of the sleeve was pulling at the bodice–a familiar problem I attempted to deal with in my S2444 days. Because my front armhole was scooped, I had to add extra volume to the sleeve at the corresponding point on the armscye. Follow? I simply redrew the seam line out more. What happened is a little fold of fabric on the front of the sleeve–similar to Lynda Maynard’s cut-in gusset fold under the sleeve. It didn’t bother me really. And it eased the front pulling. I decided to leave it.

Remember the fold. It becomes important.

My next issue was that the sleeve was too tight across the bicep. Now remember, my armhole fits perfectly, so the simple solution of cutting a bigger sleeve was not going to work. Adding more ease to the armscye would only create a poofiness situation that was certainly not the goal. Some of the problem was relieved by adding 5/8″ to the top curve of the armscye. It added very little ease and enough volume to relieve the tightness right at the top of my shoulder. I remember adding some width at this point, but I honestly can’t remember what my methods were. I remember it started like this. . .

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And I somehow transferred some of those changes to the pattern. I’m sorry–it feels like ages ago. (It was yesterday.)

So, the sleeve was far more comfortable. The remaining mobility issue was that I couldn’t raise my arms forward. Up and back were both fine. Forward was super uncomfortable. As in driving to work was going to be a nightmare. Also impersonating zombies. You know–like I do.

I puzzled over this issue for a longish time. Then, while weeding the flowerbeds, I remembered the fold. Remember the fold? The one in front? It was the reason that moving my arms backwards was no problem. Couldn’t I do the same thing to the back of the sleeve? My only other option was to add width across the back which would result in wrinkles and/or a gaping neckline when my arms were raised. But, if I just added extra fabric along the back of the sleeve, I should be able to raise my arms to the front without all the pulling, right?

I WAS SO RIGHT.

I don’t mean to get all braggy, but this is the best idea I ever had. Executing it was tricky, but I ended up just redrawing that armscye yet again, bubbling it out a bit along the backside where the pulling was happening.

And the final problem: the sleeves were belling (is that the word I want?) out at the hem. The problem was that I needed more length along the top of my shoulder. I made a quick horizontal incision on the muslin sleeve and noted the length I needed to make the hem behave properly.

To make the changes to the pattern, I drew in a horizontal line where I’d made my cut on the sleeve. I then cut a vertical line from the hem to that horizontal mark and then cut along the horizontal mark from stitching line to stitching line so I could sort of wing my pattern out at the sides. You can sort of see what I did here:

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I added an inch at the cap and then redrew the sides. It was pretty simple actually.

And that was it.

Now to draw the clean copies and. . . well, I feel that I should memorialize my working pattern copies somehow. . . What’s the best way to honor them, I wonder. . .

Next time, I promise to show you something pretty! Well. . . something finished, at least :)

The Watch Me Walk Away Skirt

. . .

I’ve been sitting here for half an episode of New Girl trying to think of something brilliant and witty to say about Simplicity 2451.

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Why is it that the pictures look so clear in iPhoto but so grainy when I upload them to WordPress? Anybody know what’s happening?

Is it possible for a pattern to be so good that you can’t rhapsodize about it?

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I think so. Because I have no words.

. . .

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And there went the other half of the New Girl episode (it’s the one where Jess tries in vain to have a one night stand).

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I did take in the yoke and skirt side seams (just at the pocket–that rather brilliant pocket–actually the pocket is less brilliant than the Moss pockets because I can’t comfortably get my hands all the way in). I love how it fits at my waist and looks pretty great with tucked in tops.

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Here’s the thing, though. I don’t know that I’ll make this skirt again. If I want another straight skirt, I’ll probably stick with my faithful Moss. I’m not really a fan of the other versions of the pattern.

Also, since I’m binge-watching New Girl, I’ve decided a need a red Lady Skater.

Oh, right–I did an exposed zipper. It would have been smart to actually look up a tutorial. I didn’t do that. I did my own thing. Which might be a little wrong. Whatevs! It’s works. And–hurray!–my zipper locks. I wasn’t aware it had this feature, but I see now that it is a very good feature to have. Also, I was a bit worried that it would be a little too “watch me walk away” which is probably not the best idea when you work with children.

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And then I got over that.

There is something weird happening in the zipper area. It doesn’t lie quite right back there. I think maybe the zipper ends at a weird part of the curve.

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This is what it does occasionally. Perhaps there’s a bit too much length at CB?

 

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Guys. GUYS. Let’s play True American. Who’s in?? I have to change my skirt first.

The Muslin Diaries: Simplicity 1776

Thursday, February 13, 7:35 p.m.

Day one. I have begun the muslin fitting stage of my Simplicity 1776 shift/ a-line dress. Whatever. I’m calling it a shift.

Shifts are soooo easy to sew! I had the muslin marked and sewn up (minus seam finishing and lining and all that good stuff) in about an hour. Pressing the darts and setting in the sleeves both take a chunk of time; everything else is straight seams. But, you know this, right?

Since I made no alteration to the pattern, I was prepared for a disaster. And disaster I got. I really started to second guess my ability to wear a shift when I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror. It was bad. Real bad. It looked like “two peas fighting in a pod.”

The obvious issue, as always, is that the waist was too low. So, I started pulling the waist up (I marked the waist with pencil before sewing. Super helpful.) and pinning it. After I did that, it was remarkable how much the silhouette improved!

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Ignore my mullet.

Since it’s dark and I’m tired, I put the muslin away. I simply can’t handle pattern alterations tonight! I have to raise the waist, pinch out excess from the shoulder seams at the neck and taper to nothing at the sleeve seams, add the length I removed at the waist back to the skirt, take in 1/2″ to 3/4″ of sleeve width (honestly, I look like I’m toting a couple of bells with extra long clappers), add 5/8″ to the neckline (I like where the neck hits now, so I need to add the seam allowance), and figure out how to make my sleeves not pull when I reach forward and upwards.

I think I’m going to re-watch the sleeve lesson from Lynda Maynard’s Sew the Perfect Fit class on Craftsy. She specifically addresses the pulling issue, I think.

That’s all for tonight. I am officially excited about this dress! I may just be a shift person after all.

Friday, February 14, 8:07 a.m.

I’m watching “Sew the Perfect Fit.” It’s been a long time since I’ve fiddled with muslins and major pattern adjustments (besides raising the waist seam. Always. I cannot escape that adjustment).

I think I need to raise the armholes and perhaps add a bit of width across my upper back.

1:04 p.m.

I took some pictures of the muslin for you!

S1776 Muslin collage

And, I did a little experiment, all Lynda Maynard-inspired. One sleeve is attached at the bottom and the other isn’t. Look at the difference when I raise my arms:

S1776 Armhole Test

The sleeve on the left is entirely attached, the right is attached at the shoulder. You can see how the left pulls the dress up far more than the right.

I’m going to try Lynda’s cut-in gusset. Should be interesting.

Tuesday, February 18, 12:55 p.m.

Today I’ve begun pattern adjustments. So far I’ve done the front of the dress. Afternoon torpor has set in and a nap is imminent.

I’ve been taking about three inches excess length from the waist area and adding that to the hem. Basically, the torso length was too long, but the leg length was just right. It may have been easier to simply re-draw the side seams. It just feels that this way I can be more certain of a correct fit.

My goal is to finish the paper adjustments today and be ready to cut another muslin tomorrow.

Somehow, muslin fitting is much less painful knowing that I plan to use this pattern multiple times.

Wednesday, February 19, 11:14 a.m.

My second muslin has been cut. I probably won’t sew it today because I need to make a Happy Birthday Pie for my dad. He’s currently on a no salt diet due to kidney complications back in January, so I have to do the crust from scratch. I haven’t made a pie crust in years. I’m prepared to end up covered in flour. It’s unavoidable when I bake.

But, just get a look at this new sleeve:

S1776 Sleeve

It looks like madness, right? Let’s see–the side seams are raised 1 1/4″, I also tapered the sleeve for a closer fit, and I’ve done Lynda Maynard’s cut-in gusset, the reason the sleeve looks like it’s sprouted wings.

One thing I did like about the original sleeve is that it eases in very well. The cap has just the right amount of ease to cover my shoulder with no poof. I tried not to change the stitching line at all, but didn’t think to double check before cutting my muslin. So, we’ll see.

6:06 p.m.

UGH!!!! This is why I love sewing with knits.

So, I ended up making muslin #2 this afternoon after completing my salt-less pies. (Haven’t tasted them yet, so I can’t report on flavor.) I went ahead and tried it on, of course, and I noticed a handful of things that need fixing.

First, guess who forgot to true her neckline after adjusting the shoulder seams. So, that needs to be fixed.

Next, something funky was happening with my left sleeve. The right sleeve was fantastic! Freedom of movement in every direction, armscye seam sitting right at the tip of my shoulder, the armhole was maybe a smidge high but still totally wearable–I am a cut-in gusset believer! But, the left sleeve was tight on my shoulder and my elbow, the shoulder seam was pulling past the edge of my shoulder and throwing off the neckline.

The good news is I’m pretty sure I know how to fix it. Pretty sure. Maybe. I did sew the left side differently (for the sake of experimentation), so I just have to not do what I did. (I think I added some unnecessary length to the “wings.” On one side, I sewed all the way to the tip–so hard to do!–and on the other, I didn’t. The side where I didn’t worked a lot better.)

The other major problem that showed up was some lovely diagonal drag lines on the front. I sliced into the front while I was wearing it (a la Lynda) and realized I was right: I needed more length, about an inch. The back and sides are good, so I just need the length under the bust. So, that’s going to be a fun alteration to figure out. What I’m thinking now is going to cause more skirt flare than I want. Hmmm. . .

I might need a slice of width as well. However, I’m a wee bit bustier at the moment than normal, if you follow.

Speaking of which, I need to lay off this particular project for a few days. Clear my head.

But seriously–the cut-in gusset is glorious. It is significantly unfun to sew, but worth it, I think. This is what I needed when I was struggling with Simplicity 2444 sleeves many moons ago.

(GUYS! I am finally catching up on the last season of Burn Notice! WHAT. THE. CRAP!? Also, since when does Netflix play trailers in the middle of shows??)

Okay. That’s all for now. I’ll be back for muslin #3.

Tuesday, February 25, 5:58 p.m.

Sooooo I’ve started working on my muslin again. In order to add the bust length I need without adding the side length I didn’t need, I had to slash and spread at odd angles which resulted in more front skirt flare than the back skirt. Here’s my conundrum, does the front and back skirt flare have to match? How do I even Google that??? I guess I could redraw the side seam without the flare. Do I want the flare??

I’m too tired.

Monday, March 3, 9:50 p.m.

I got rid of the flare. I also drew in a very subtle tummy curve. I don’t know–it felt right. I sewed up the muslin again on Saturday. There are still some diagonal drag lines, but I have to admit, I rather like them. To my eye, they simulate an hourglass shape. And since the front hem isn’t pulling up, it doesn’t look like the dress is straining to cover my bust.

The next issue to conquer is one that I struggled with last year during my Simplicity 2444 adventures. The front armhole tends to cut into my arms. I think I need to scoop the curve a little bit. I just don’t know what the appropriate counter adjustment would be for the sleeve. The last time I tried scooping the armhole and adding extra fullness to the sleeve cap at the front, I was still getting a lot of pulling across my high bust. And since I’ve finally gotten the sleeves where I want them, I’m a little hesitant to slash into them again.

I also can’t figure out if the back darts are correct. Are they too long? Too short? How do I get rid of the puckers at the bottom of the dart? I iron them out on a tailor’s ham, but whenever I put the dress on, the puckers show up. I’ve had the same problem with my A-line skirts I’ve made. The back darts just don’t seem to be right. It’s super frustrating!

Speaking of darts, I think I’ve finally determined the the front darts are aiming a little high. I’ve been trying to ignore it.

Honestly, I’m getting really tired of working on this muslin. The more changes I make, the more problems seem to arise. I can say that the current version looks so much better than the original, so I think I’m headed in the right direction. And I could make it up as is and have a totally wearable dress, but the armholes would be uncomfortable and I would always be worried about how those back darts look. And since I plan on multiple versions of this basic pattern, it’s worth it to make it as perfect as possible, right? RIGHT???

So, we end this post on a cliffhanger. . .

Will Simplicity 1776 be conquered? 

Stay tuned to find out!

Do you have any muslin horror stories to tell? How did it work out for you?

P.S. GUYS. I have been on Pinterest. ALL SHIFT DRESSES HAVE DIAGONAL DRAG LINES. All of them. It’s not a flaw. It’s how the dress works. I’m going to go sit in a corner and think about what I’ve done.

P.P.S. You know you’ve been on Pinterest too long when you find yourself screaming, “It’s not a shift dress if it has a waist seam, you idiot!!” at the screen. As it turns out, I have very little patience for inaccurate Pinterest descriptions. I might be a terrible person.

The Bow Hides All Manner of Evil Dress

Butterick.

This is what I want to know:

Why would you make a knit dress pattern and demand that your sewers use a knit with at least 50% stretch if you’re just going to add ease to the pattern?? I mean, the whole point of using fabric with lots of stretch is that you can make a garment with negative ease and still be comfortable. If you’re going to add two whole inches of ease to your pattern, why can’t I use a nice jersey with 30% or even 20% stretch? Okay–it might have been more like 1 1/2″, but still. . .

And did you seriously think I was going to ease in a sleeve in the round on a knit dress??? Honestly, Butterick. I’m not convinced you people know how knit fabric works.

(By the way, sorry the pictures are so dark/grainy/blurry. The settings on my camera were wrongity-wrong. I’m learning.)

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So, my lovely readers, I have finished my Butterick 5794 dress. It’s a nice dress, and I like it. But there are a lot of flaws–well, just a few that really bug me.

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First of all, the gathers on the bodice look sloppy to me. Second, the shoulder seams are at least 1/2″-3/4″ too short, which is odd because I didn’t have that problem with the peplum top. Third, the neckline under the bow is a mess. (The directions have you reinforce the neckline seam at CF and then cut to the stitching and hem that couple of inches at the middle. The problem is that you’re working with a knit. So, once you’ve attached the neck tie, the neckline tends to pull away from the hemmed edge and reveal the stay stitching. Does any of that make sense to you? It’s confusing; I know. If I do a neck tie on another knit dress, I’m not doing any of that madness, and my neckline will be much more stable. Butterick, you are confusion.)

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The side seams from the sleeve hems to the waist are sewn with 1 1/8″ seam allowance. From the waist to the hem I moved back to 1/2″. I found I needed a bit of extra room around my tummy. (Note to self: no more hot fudge. You have a problem.)

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I do like the bow, and I like the slight hi/lo hem. I think this dress will fit very nicely into my wardrobe.

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I have to say, though, that I’m pretty much over gathers in general–especially in knits. It just seems like a waste of stretch fabric, you know?

Was literally falling over. . .

Was literally falling over. . .

Now that I’ve made this pattern twice, I’ve decided it’s unlikely I’ll make it again. So, I’ve added this one to the pile of patterns that I’m clearing from my stash. If I want a dress like this again, the obvious answer is the Lady Skater. I already know exactly how I’d do it.

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Have you ever sewn up a “Big 4″ pattern for knits? How did it turn out?

On Stashes and Snowstorms

Hello, newbie sewists. I have something to say to you.

I also have unrelated snow pictures (because I’m southern and this is a big deal!).

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With nearly two whole years of sewing under my belt, I’m here to share something that I wish someone had explained to me when I first started sewing.

As you browse and follow the myriad of sewing blogs out there, you will hear one word pop up again and again. It’s going to seem like a magical word, a word that will solve all your problems. But, I’m here to tell you, it’s not. You don’t need it. Resist the urge to force yourself acquire it.

What’s the word?

Stash

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I started following sewing blogs long before I actually started sewing. It seemed to me that these ladies were constantly exulting that they whipped up a pretty little dress using nothing but odds and ends from their stash. “I only spent $3.00!” they would proclaim. When I finally acquired my sewing machine, I felt like a chump actually paying money for fabric.

And it wasn’t just fabric–it was trims and buttons and zippers and elastic and any other notion you could dream of–these women had everything tucked away in their overflowing sewing rooms! Every time I purchased a zipper, I felt a tiny piece of my frugal soul die.

I needed a stash. I needed a stash bad. I needed to hoard patterns and fabric and notions so that I could be like those ladies with their magical stashes full of unrealized potential just waiting for the perfect opportunity to emerge. So, that’s what I started to do. Cheap floral fabric for sale at Fabric.com? Yes. I bought that. Ten Simplicity patterns for $10? Yes–ten please. And I’ll be back tomorrow for more. Will I ever wear these? Doesn’t matter! Patterns, patterns, patterns! I even bought a random assortment of bias tape and seam binding (which I had no clue how to use) and such from an Etsy dealer who was quite happy to be rid of it. I became obsessed with finding thrift stores nearby that sold “vintage” patterns for super cheap. Only once did I ever stumble across actual patterns from the 60s and 70s.

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And slowly, I began to accumulate yards and yards of bold, colorful fabric, hoards of “Big 4″ patterns, and more seam binding than I knew what to do with. And slowly, the clutter started to weigh me down. I felt obligated to use up what I had already purchased, and it was mostly bad. I created floral dress after floral dress that I didn’t want to wear.

Something had to give.

When I started this wardrobe-sewing business, I began to realize that I had too much. I had too many things that I didn’t really want. Things that would never make outfits that I wanted to wear. I had long ago purchased cheap fabrics that looked cheap, trims that I would never use, and patterns that absolutely didn’t fit my style.

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First, I made a resolution: no more stocking up. No more hoarding. Fabric and patterns and notions would be bought intentionally, as needed. Also, I would use only those things I actually liked. Other fabrics would be given away.

Next, it was time to clean out the patterns. Since I’ve decided to focus more on simple patterns I can modify myself, I didn’t need the enormous pattern stash. And there were so many that I would never, ever wear. So, I purged. I purged with a ferocity that cannot be expressed with mortal tongue. And even after that, I purged again. I don’t have the exact numbers, but I got rid of about 75-80% of my pattern stash. About half of that went to my sister and the other half to Goodwill. Don’t worry–there wasn’t anything good left, or I would have totally offered it to my lovely readers :)

I also sorted through my fabric and made a nice little pile to donate. The rest I organized into three groups: knits and knit scraps for some future projects I’m planning, wovens, and woven scraps for bags/purses/crafting in general.

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Here’s the lesson I want to share: you don’t need a stash.

Having a stash is not a bad thing, but trying to force yourself to accumulate a stash is a bad thing. Don’t be lured in by cheap sale fabric. You will save more money in the long run if you buy only what you know you can use. Is it a terrible thing to buy a special cut of fabric without an immediate plan? Or a pattern for an evening dress that you may never get to wear? No, of course not! But, I really encourage you not to make it a habit to collect and collect and collect without concrete plans to use everything up. I’ve been there. It’s not a happy place.

Balance is the thing.

So, where you do stand on stashes? Is it good to have things “just in case”? Or better to buy as needed?

The Swirls and Stripes Dress

The basting! The endless, endless basting!

Striped 2

This is McCall’s 6754 in a cotton/lycra knit from Girl Charlee.

In order to match up all these stripes in all the crazy ways, I had to baste, check, rip, baste, check, rip, baste, check, rip, etc. And, because it’s me, some of the stripes only sort of match up.

Striped Front

Plus, the pattern has a LOT of ease. I should have made a size smaller than my measurements indicated. As it is, I had to sew the CF, CB, raglan, and princess seams at something like 3/4″ and the side seams at 1″.

Striped Back

I am really surprised at how much I love this dress! It’s a little overwhelming with all the stripes, but it’s so fun! And the skirt–so full and lovely.

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Kitty snorgles test: PASS

One thing I would change were I to make this pattern again would be to bind the neckline rather than turn it under. Also, I would raise it about 1/2″. It’s not too terribly low, but I’d like to play it a little safer if I’m going to wear it to work.

Striped Dress 1

Twirl test: PASS

If you’re not matching stripes and if you get the sizing right, sewing this up would be very easy. However, if you’ve never sewn with knits before, I would not recommend this be your first pattern to try. I’m not a fan of the directions; I did my own thing. For instance, rather than do an elastic casing at the waist, I simply sewed clear elastic to the bottom edge of the bodice front and back. It works beautifully and was very simple.

However, I do have some sad news. I wore this dress once with a white cardi and belt and when I got home discovered that the blue had bled into the white stripes and onto my cardi particularly at the underarms (was I super sweaty that day? I don’t remember being very warm. . . ). I had prewashed the fabric and I have since washed the dress and cardi twice with no luck (I didn’t put them in the dryer–that would be madness!). I have one last trick I’m going to try. On the dress, it’s not super noticeable, but I’m afraid the cardi will need to be retired :(

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Lounging on the floor test: PASS

Besides the Lady Skater (which we all know I already love), do you know of a great pattern for a knit dress? I’m always in the market!

The Not-a-Dress Peplum

It was supposed to be a dress.

“Why isn’t it a dress?” you may ask.

“Sometimes, the people we trust to cut our fabric fail us. They fail us hard,” I respond.

Such is the case with my Butterick 5794 peplum-that-was-supposed-to-be-a-dress.

B5794 Peplum Front

I didn’t notice the problem until I had already washed the fabric and laid it out to cut. It was so severely off-grain that probably a third of it was unusable. It looked as though it had been cut at a 30-45 degree angle. I didn’t take pictures due to lighting issues; you’ll have to take my word for it. Since my pattern pieces wouldn’t fit, I had to cut the skirt down to a peplum and cut out my two sleeves separately.

B5794 Peplum Back

When I finished sewing, I absolutely hated this top. It was way too busy with the yoke and the gathers and the print and it originally had a cowl neck on top of all that. In a solid, it might have been fine. But, the cowl just wouldn’t lay properly. It was super bulky at the back of my neck; I kept feeling the need to fidget with it. So, I did the only thing I could do: I cut the cowl off, folded the edge under, and sewed it down.

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B5794 Neck

It’s not my favorite, but it’s comfortable. I have worn it quite a few times already. It works with jeans and my denim skirt. And when I eventually make my gray Moss, it will go with that, too.

I do have a lot to say about the pattern itself, but I’m going to save that for the dress version. Let me just say, “Seriously, Butterick pattern designers? Seriously??”

So, friends, have you ever had an unfortunate off-grain experience like mine? How did you handle it?

The “Suck It, Fashionistas!” Peplum Top

We actually had snow here in Atlanta a couple weeks ago–so crazy! (And, as I’m writing this, we may be having some more this week.)

Winter Greens

I am very thankful to have made it home safely–lots of people were stranded. But still, it was refreshing to wake up that Wednesday morning to a free day at home and a fresh blanket of snow. So, I dashed out to take pictures in this rare phenomenon. Unfortunately, they’re all very hard to see.

To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of the peplum. They look nice enough on other people, but I have always felt pretty strongly that a peplum would look ridiculous on me.

And maybe they do. But I really like this top.

LS Peplum Front

Somewhere behind the scarf and the frigidness is a black peplum top.

I used leftovers from my color blocked skirt. Some pieces are cut on the cross grain which is why they fit tighter than they should and why the peplum flares more than it ought to.

Modifying the Lady Skater was very simple. All I had to do was shorten the skirt to peplum length.

LS Peplum Side

Because the peplum isn’t as weighty as a skirt (and because of the grain issues I mentioned before), I should have lengthened the waist just a bit. It’s not terrible, though. It would have been much worse if it had been too long.

LS Peplum Back

This top works with denim, of course. And the surprise is that I also like it with my red Moss. I’ve never really liked black and red together, but this works for me. I did try it with my color blocked skirt, and . . . no. Just no.

LS Peplum Red Skirt

Couldn’t handle the cold in a skirt.

Even though I really love dresses, I always find myself needing more separates, simple separates that aren’t hard to pair but aren’t too “plain Jane.” This one fits the bill exactly.

What’s your favorite separates pattern right now?

Making a Plan: Part Two

Can you believe it? I actually finished a sewing plan! I’ve made plans many a time, and they have never been completed.

Planning is my favorite part, so I started collecting patterns and picking out fabric for a new round long before I finished my first sewing plan. I’m still sticking with my palette (for the most part) and still trying to make items that are mix-and-matchable. However, this round is very dress-heavy. I’ve determined that separates are great, but you simply can’t beat the ease of tossing on a dress. Also, I’m relaxing my rules for dresses. I’m not great at creative layering, so in my world, a dress is a dress. If I can wear more than one pair of shoes and maybe a couple different cardis, I’m calling that a win.

B5794 Tie

I’ve had this pattern for quite a while now. I’m pretty excited to finally use it. But, having been spoiled by the attention to detail and sensible directions of indie designers, I worry a little bit about attempting to do a “Big 4″ knit pattern. I’m convinced that the amount of ease is going to be ridiculous. So, my plan is to use my Lady Skater to compare. I had actually thought about just modifying the LS to match the details on the Butterick, but it seemed like so much work to add a yoke and gathers and modify the neckline, and I’m simply feeling too lazy. I may regret it later.

And, in case you’re wondering, teal is not really on my Color Palette. I reserve the right to cheat whenever I want. Plus, a color palette is more of a suggestion or guideline, not a rule.

B5794 Cowl

This time I’m doing view C. I think the fluid nature of a cowl is going to be lovely in the watercolor print. This knit is very lightweight, so it’s probably not the best choice for winter wear, but this is Atlanta. And there are tights. So, I think I’ll be okay. What I can’t figure out, though, is why the back of the skirt needs a seam. I’ll probably just eliminate the SA and cut it on the fold. Because I’m a sensible person.

S1776

What’s this? An actual woven fabric? With sleeves? Yes. It’s time to face my fears. . .

I originally bought this fabric to make my McCall’s 6706 skirt. But when it arrived, it was too lightweight for what I wanted. Also, it feels like magic; using it for a skirt seemed like a waste. I only had 1 1/2 yards, so I started wracking my brain for what else I could use it for. After lots of thoughts that were wrong, I finally noticed the unassuming S1776 waiting patiently for me to do something with it.

At first, I was unsure. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this could be something amazing. My plan is to make the version with the sleeves. Probably not the pockets. As it turns out, I’m not a patch pocket fan.

This pattern will either be glorious. . . or frumptastic.

S1776 knit

Oh. Man. As soon as I saw this print, I was like, “That is happening.” Right now, I’m not 100% sure what I plan to do. It needs to be something versatile enough for all sorts of Atlanta weather. I’m leaning towards some type of shift. I don’t really want it to be fitted. And I think I want 3/4 length sleeves. And a scoop neck. Like a modified Simplicity 1776 maybe? We’ll see.

Lady Skater Dress (Red)First of all, I know that drawing is not a Lady Skater. The problem is that there is no black and white line drawing of a Lady Skater, or even a skater dress in general, anywhere on the interwebs. If you know better, please inform me! I really like putting together these graphics to illustrate my plans, and I know there will be more Lady Skaters happening in my life.

And secondly, I know this is not your typical winter sort of dress. I’m making it anyway. I want more red in my wardrobe, and I think this will be lovely layered under a sweater. Because it’s such a summery print, I’m using the short sleeves.

M6754

I originally bought this knit to make a simple shift or t-shirt dress. However, when I saw this pattern in my stash and noticed the interesting, chevron-y madness of one of the samples, I changed my mind. Again, I think it would be a good idea to compare the sizing with my Lady Skater–tricky because of the princess seams and raglan sleeves, but still doable, I think. It is going to be a challenge trying to match up all the stripes and weird angles, but I am super excited about this dress.

S2451

Based on what I’ve read and researched over the past (almost) two years, this is quite possibly one of the most-beloved skirt patterns out there. Even people who regularly eschew “Big 4″ patterns admit that this one is well-worth making. I’ve been curious to try it but haven’t been quite sure what direction to take it in until now.

I already have a denim skirt, but the fit is hardly spot-on. The waist is too big while the hips are too tight (very, very unusual for me), so it really only works with loose, long tops. I like the waist yoke on 2451 and the pockets. I’m not totally sold on the pleats, but I could probably make them work. I plan on making something between versions C and D. And I’m toying with the idea of an exposed zipper in the back.

Are people over exposed zippers yet? I hope not, since I haven’t had the chance to try one yet. Eh–whatever. I do what I want!

Archer

I know, I know, I know. How am I not sick of sewing Archers? At this point, I’ve made four. But, the three challis versions I’ve made are so fantastic, so exactly what I’ve hoped and dreamed of, that I simply need another one. Plus, I have a crazy-pants idea to thrift myself some white jeans which I shall skinny-ify to wear with my loverly navy Archer and probably some gold jewelry and the whole thing will be amazing. So there.

Lady Skater Peplum

Hey, look–it’s not navy! Did anyone else notice how navy-heavy my plans are? What can I say–I love navy. It’s my favorite neutral.

I’m using fabric left over from my color blocked skirt to whip up a peplum top based on the ever-fabulous Lady Skater pattern. I plan to make the peplum a wee bit longer in the back. Or if I’m feeling frisky, I’ll try something resembling the picture.

And, if you’ve been following along, you know that I plan for two months at a time, about one project per week. So, I really should only have eight projects planned. But, I’m cheating a bit because 1. some of these are super easy to whip up and 2. some of these are already made.

I think after this round of sewing, I will lay low for a while and make an army of t-shirts and lounge pants and camis. And I probably won’t be done with all this sewing until at least March. If I get done before that, I’m going to be remarkably impressed with myself.

So, what are your plans for February? Anything you’re really excited about?

More Rules = More Fun!

I’ve been burned by sewing plans in the past. And I can tell you three reasons why:

  1. Bad Choices.  Creating sewing plans based on the patterns and fabric that you’ve already bought sounds good, but when you buy fabric and patterns willy-nilly, you may not be purchasing quality items that you’ll actually want to use. I used to have a tendency to make things that I think I ought to want to wear rather than things I know I’ll love. And that’s what got me into the “I have nothing to wear” mess that I was in.
  2. Ambitious Plans. When you plan out thirty different makes that you’d like to accomplish in three weeks, you may find yourself becoming a bit overwhelmed. Especially if you decide not to sew anything that’s not on the plan until you’ve accomplished all your goals.
  3. Crazy Life. Guys, it happens. Life gets in the way of all the things you want to do. There’s no getting around it. You just have to be flexible.

So, in order to make plans that are actually useful, that I will actually stick to, I had to rethink my planning process. I’ve already written about the steps in depth in all my Sewing a Wardrobe series (I’m so sorry–I feel like I link to this ALL THE TIME. It comes up a lot when that’s all I talk about, I guess. . . ) but in short, I had to figure out what things I actually like to wear, plan to make things that fall in line with my style that work with other items in my closet, and keep it simple (for Pete’s sake).

My first round of wardrobe sewing, though I was able to make it through the whole list, may have been a bit too ambitious. It took me a little longer than I’d like. But, the good news is that a lot of it gets worn pretty regularly. So, I know that I’m learning to make wise choices when deciding what to sew.

For subsequent plans, I intend to keep things even more simple and balanced. My thinking is that I should plan for about two months at a time. I am a very moody person. Sometimes I’m all about dresses, and at other times I just want separates. Not planning for longer than two months ensures that I can more easily cater to my changing whims–and, for that matter, changing weather.

If I figure about a week per project, that equals eight simple projects per plan. So, if I decide on something more ambitious that will require muslins and extra-finicky fitting (like a jacket or a first attempt at pants), I figure out how many weeks it should take. A jacket would take maybe three or four slots while a t-shirt would only take one. See my logic? This is all just estimation, but it really does help me stay sane. And choosing makes that I’m really excited to wear helps me stay focused.

However, sometimes it’s hard to decide, even when working with a plan, what I should be working on next. Or, maybe I get tired of a particular project, and I really just want something fresh to work on for a while. I know lots of people have multiple UFO’s lurking around their sewing rooms. Others will only work on one project at a time. Me? I like to have options. Sometimes I’m in the mood to sew, but I am not in the mood to cut anything out (I’m never in the mood to cut. I always have to force myself). Or, perhaps, I’d like to sew a little something brainless, but on my current project, I’m getting ready to attach a collar or sew on patch pockets that need to be flawless. It helps to have another type of project ready to go where I can just go to town on some side seams or pleats.

So, I had to come up with a system that would allow me to stay focused on my plan, be able to have multiple projects in the works at once, and also provide me somewhere to keep track of everything.

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My system is nothing new. I simply bought some file boxes from an office supply store. Inside each box there is room for the pattern, fabric, notions and anything else I need for each project. I’ve had them for months, but it wasn’t until recently that I really found the best way to use them.

These are the Rules of the Boxes:

  1. I may only work on a project that I pull from one of the boxes. (There are five. There used to be six, but a cat threw up on one. I don’t use that one anymore. For obvious reasons.)
  2. Two or more projects based on the same pattern may be stored in the same box. For instance, I put all of my Archer fabrics and supplies together in one box. For my sanity. This way, I could cut them all out at the same time (which I mostly sort of did) but not spend my whole life sewing Archers.
  3. Before a project has been started, I can switch it out for a different one. Once the fabric has been cut, there’s no turning back until the project is completed. For instance, I had a Simplicity 2451 in a box, but since I hadn’t started it yet, I switched it with a McCall’s 6706 because the M was from a phase one plan while the S was from phase 2. However, I have a little purple knit nightgown in a box that has been in there for ages because it’s already been cut, but it needs significant work to be completed (because the pattern designers had a series of idiotic moments when designing it. But, we’ll get to that someday. . . ).
  4. The one exception to the rule: If I can start and finish a project in one day, I can throw it in whenever I please. Just this afternoon, I whipped up a knit top that didn’t come from a box.
  5. Chill out. It’s just sewing. I can follow or break any rules I please.

I really like this system. It works for me better than sewing one thing at a time (which is too constricting) and far better than having bits and pieces of different projects floating around. It allows me to work on multiple makes but keeps me from the chaos of too many UFOs. And it helps me stay motivated.

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This also really helps with my goal to sew 20 minutes a day. What I typically do is place pattern and fabric and any notions I already have for a particular project in a box once it’s emptied. I set aside a weekend afternoon (or now that I’m working a rather sporadic schedule substitute teaching, I can do it any day I’m at home) to cut out several patterns at once. Then, the pattern pieces get stored back in their boxes until I’m ready to work on them. I also use Post-It notes to keep track of box contents and any notes about what I may need to purchase. See? Simple. Organized. Efficient.

I feel the need to pause here and make it clear that this is a system that works for me. And that I make all these crazy rules for myself because I enjoy following (and breaking, of course!) my own rules. Weird, right? I read this post from Couture Academic about making sewing more enjoyable. I absolutely agree with her suggestions #2-5, and I agree with the spirit of #1–you should sew whatever you want. But the idea of sewing something impractical stresses me out, seriously! I think this goes to show that we all have our own version of “fun,” and when you find what makes you happy, go with it! For me, happy is sewing things that I really want to wear every day. But please don’t assume that I think everyone needs to do the same. You want to sew an enormous ante-bellum ball gown that you may never get to wear in public? By all means, do it–I shall live vicariously through you as you sew :)

(If you’ve been at all interested in my Sewing a Wardrobe stuff, you need to go read up on Kat’s Wardrobe Basics. I especially loved how she did her planning with Polyvore–so cool!

So, friends, how do you like to organize your sewing? Are you a conscientious planner? Or more of the sew-on-a-whim type?