Denim Maritime Shorts

(Aaaand now we continue with the muchly belated summer sewing posts that I really should write again, but I just don’t wanna. I should also point out that in between the sewing/writing and the photographing, I lost quite a bit of weight, so the shorts don’t fit quite as they should. Alas and alack, right? Also, I wear them all the freaking time, so they weren’t exactly “clean” for their blog debut. Oops 😉 )

This being my third pair of Maritimes, there’s not that much more to say.

Maritime Shorts

For this rendition, I used for real cotton denim (with a teensy bit of lycra for stretch)–no poly to be found! The difference is remarkable. They breathe and keep their shape and are generally awesome.

I did make a few adjustments. I removed about 1/2″ from both side seams at the waist and the hem. I also took in about an inch at CB tapering to nothing somewhere along the curve. The fit is much more secure. I think these adjustments would work only for stretch fabrics. So, I’m thinking I should trace a fresh pattern before I make the changes on paper.

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I also extended the right front waistband so that I could add another secret button so that the waistband wouldn’t pull so much at CF. It’s so much better now. Seriously. I wish I’d done this on my white pair.

Here’s the weird thing: I’d inserted three fly zips before these shorts. On the white Maritimes, I barely even glanced at the directions. So, I cannot explain why when it came time for the fly to go in, I totally blanked! I read the directions and got really confused and kept doing things backwards and had to unpick lots of times. So bizarre! It was like being in a play and suddenly forgetting lines that you’ve always had down cold!

And then there’s also the top stitching.

Maritime Shorts

I really didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t sure what was supposed to be top stitched and what wasn’t. I’d thought about flat felling the seams but wasn’t sure which ones to do. In the end, I figured it didn’t matter. It’s not like these are a hardcore pair of jean shorts. There are no rivets, no coin pocket, and no heavy duty button.

My machine did not love the gold top stitching thread. For straight seams, we were okay. But as soon as I tried to bar tack or do a buttonhole? NOPE. Lots of frustrated stitch removal occurred during the course of this project. I used regular thread in the bobbin and when I tried to do any sort of zig zag stitch, the gold thread would get sucked down to the bottom. I played with the tension and kept a tight grip on the thread tails and rethread the machine several times. I have no idea why that was happening.

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I’m just really sad that I didn’t get my gold buttonhole (not that anyone will ever see it. I don’t tuck shirts into shorts. I know better.)

Now that they’re done, I’m super excited to wear them! But, since my hands literally turned blue while making these, I think I should wash them a couple of times to get more of the dye off so I don’t leave blue smudges everywhere I sit.

The top I’m wearing was sort of an experiment with rubbing off patterns. But I’m going to talk about it more in another post. The fabric is Robert Kaufman cotton/lycra knit, and it’s a pretty perfect knit, if you ask me.

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And now I’m going to continue my binge-watching of Gilmore Girls.

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A Lucky, Not-So-Lucky Plantain (And Maritime Muslin!)

And now that I’ve revealed my summer sewing plan, let’s start with something completely unrelated, shall we? 😉

I love it when indie designers offer free patterns. I’m not one to purchase a pattern just because everyone else is–thank goodness! I simply don’t have the budget for every new bit of indie awesomeness that comes my way. So, before I invest in a semi-pricey pattern, I like having the chance to get to know a designer a bit better with a free pattern offering. It gives me an opportunity to see how the downloading works and how the patterns and instructions are laid out.

Deer and Doe designs, as you know, are very beautiful; however, I’d never met one that I just absolutely had to have. Until the Plantain started appearing. I really loved the relaxed fit and the elbow patches–and the price!

The first Plantain I made was several months ago just after the pattern was released. It was really an experiment/stash buster. I used what I think was some rayon ribbed knit in white with some leftover navy for the elbow patches. I don’t know why exactly–maybe I was all about going oversized to pair with some leggings I’d made?–but I made a size or two too large and lengthened the sleeves and the hem, I think. The result was. . . comfy. But not something to be worn out of the house.

So, a few weeks ago, when I purchased some green and white striped jersey from Girl Charlee (it was perfectly cut! They can do it!) with no pattern in mind, I eventually settled on attempting the Plantain again.

Plantain 1

 

I ended up cutting different sizes in different areas based on the fit of my first Plantain. The neckline and shoulders are a 34 which goes out to a 40 at the end of the shoulder. The side seams are a 40 or 42 (can’t remember!) and then the length is a 46. Once it was all sewn together, I eyeballed the hi-lo hem (which was not my wisest decision) with a rotary cutter.

Plantain 2I am rather in love with the result. The fabric tends to bunch up a bit above my bust, so perhaps I should have sized a bit differently in the shoulder area. The hem is a bit odd at the side seams; I should have worked out a smoother transition there.

 

Plantain StitchingI used my stretch twin needle for all my topstitching. I finally figured out how to adjust the tension of my bobbin–which is a rather scary thing to do as there’s no visual indication of how tight it is. So, there is some trial and error involved. But, a looser bobbin thread helps the fabric not pucker up as much between the two rows of topstitching and it helps maintain a proper zig zag on the bottom. It looks altogether more polished and professional than any other non-coverstitch machined topstitching, I think.

 

Plantain 3

As luck would have it, the first time I wore my brand new Plantain out, I came home with an oil smudge on the front. I have no idea when that happened. Since it was about 2:00 a.m., I just doused it with cornstarch (in hopes that it would absorb the oil) and washed it in the morning. At first, I thought I’d conquered the stain, but once it came out of the dryer, I could still faintly see the spot. You don’t really notice it unless you know it’s there, and you certainly can’t see it in pictures.

The second time I wore it, I got a tiny tomato sauce splash spot right in one of the white stripes. I pretreated and washed it immediately and luckily that stain came right out. But the oil smudge persists.

Oh well–if I can manage to wear this top without destroying it, I plan to live in it for the rest of the summer. Wish me luck!

The shorts are my first pair of Grainline Maritime Shorts. They are made with a rather terrible cotton/poly blend stretch denim. It feels lovely and soft on the outside and like P.E. in the 80’s on the inside.

Plantain 4

 

Truth be told, they are too big. So too big that I don’t need to unzip or unbutton them to take them off. It’s a little ridiculous; it’s also due to the stretch in the fabric. But, can we all just take a moment to celebrate that this is the first time in the history of the world that I have SEWN A PATTERN STRAIGHT OUT OF THE ENVELOPE. And by that I mean that I made absolutely ZERO changes to the pattern and it just fits (except for the largeness–but they stay on just fine! Seriously, it’s the fabric).

Actually, it’s not the first time–I sewed the Archer without any mods. But the Archer needs some armhole adjusting, so I’m not sure it counts.

Whatever, y’all. Jen gets me.

When I discovered the ickiness of the fabric, I decided to use it as a wearable muslin. I think I sewed a 10 because that’s what I did with my Moss. But, I’m just so happy that there’s no weird gaping or enormous leg holes or odd crotch curving or riding up. The shorts just fit, and I’m so relieved that I don’t have to work on them forever to make them pretty much perfect.

And now, I need to put together a little weekend wardrobe. Friday, I am flying to Arizona for a yearbook conference (my very first grown up business trip!) which I will be late for because my flight gets in with not enough time for me to get my car and drive to the hotel and they were going to charge me $200 to change it! Ummm. . . no. But, whatevs! I’m excited and a bit nervous because I may have to Talk to People. Did you know that I’m super socially awkward? I totally am.

And once I get back, it will be time to start gearing up for school. Wow–where did the summer go??? Must. Sew. FASTER!

Making a Plan: Summer Sewing

Whew! Part 2 was a job, wasn’t it? I had no idea I would take so long with it! But, I did get it done in the end!

Naturally, I have made a summer sewing plan–you know how I am! One of my major goals is to prepare for next fall. A new teaching job demands a new teaching wardrobe, am I right? 😉 But, I also need to stay cool and clothed in these sweltering summer months ahead.

Here’s what’s in store:

Maritime

So excited about this pattern! My other Grainline makes, Moss and Archer, get worn all the time. You already know–because people far more important than me have already told you–that the patterns are impeccably drafted and her directions and sew-alongs are super helpful during construction. This pattern also is one of the patterns up for one of the coveted Top 11 TNT spots. (I imagine my patterns all sitting around discussing who will make it through to the finals. Some of them are probably practicing their gracious loser face while secretly rehearsing their acceptance speech.)

I plan to live in these all summer and pair them with my Archers, my cheerful Sorbetto, and the two tees I’ve made so far. I have other tops in mind, but they might not get made this summer. (Look at me practicing restraint!)

I find that I really like stretch wovens for bottoms. They just work well with my shape and are far more comfortable than wovens without stretch. Not to mention being much easier to fit! I went with two very basic neutrals, though in the future, there shall be prints. Just you wait and see!

Foxglove

This was originally supposed to be a slightly modified Lady Skater. However, when the lovely fabric arrived from Girl Charlee, I failed to notice that it had been cut twelve inches too short (I did write to GC two months after receiving the fabric and they very kindly gave me a store credit for a half yard even though it was outside the return window and I had actually washed the fabric–check your fabric upon arrival, my friends!). Also, the fabric was a bit too narrow for me to do the kimono sleeve mod I had in mind. So, when I found out about this brand new tank pattern on Sew Charleston, it seemed like a perfect match.

Sleeveless and loose-fitting, it is the ideal top for southern summers and is going to be smashing with my Maritime shorts.

Skater

(Yes, I know that’s not a Lady Skater line drawing. Such a thing does not exist, sadly.) I will be sewing this mid-weight ponte dress in the sultry Southern summer fully aware that I will not be wearing it until the heat and humidity die off in the early autumn. I have two very slight mods in mind for this dress inspired by the red dress Zoey Deschanel wears in the opening credits of New Girl. You may remember me mentioning it in this post.

I’m not going to pleat the skirt since A-lines and semi-circles work best for my shape, but I do want to play with the sleeve shape a bit and maybe add some other details that are floating around my brain.

Skater Mod

When I saw this sweet aqua and coral plaid knit on Girl Charlee, I was immediately inspired to make a Colette Jasmine/ Lady Skater mash up top based on this top which I pinned many moons ago. I confess it’s not the most practical choice for a separate since what I really need is tops to go with my red Moss, but every now and then you have to let your fancy be your guide. It will work with both of my Maritime shorts and with both of my denim skirts. It may possibly work with a turquoise skirt which I will mention later, but I’m not sure yet.

Shift

Yay! Another shift! When I spotted this fabric in Jo-Ann’s a while back, I just Had to Have. I waited at least a month, though, while trying to decide what I would do with it. At first, I envisioned a fit-and-flare dress. Then I pictured a circle skirt paired with a Swiss dot Jasmine. Then, I settled on the shift. After spending so much time on the pattern, I want to use it as much as possible.

The shift will be sleeveless. I had thought about playing around with the neckline or adding pockets, but I’m going to keep it simple. The fabric really speaks for itself.

A line 2

This skirt (and the next) are both specifically made to go with my red t-shirt. I hardly ever wear that tee and only then with the A-line skirt I made to go with it. So, while in Jo-Ann’s when buying the linen above, I picked out a couple quilting cottons to make more A-lines.

After buying this fabric, however, I experienced some pretty serious buyer’s remorse. I felt the flowers were too cute, too reminiscent of something I may have worn in elementary school. But, I’m just going to embrace the twee and make something adorable. And that’s that.

A line 1

This fabric is so similar to my first A-line that it’s almost ridiculous that I bought it. But, I really liked it! So, I plan to make a flared version to mix things up a bit.

Moss

Very excited about this one. Moss is amazing. Turquoise is amazing. What will I wear with it?? Stop raining on my parade! Turquoise Moss forever!

When I start making these sewing plans of mine, I always feel that I’m keeping it very simple. And then I write everything down and realize that I have twenty makes on my to-do list for two months. So, even though I have other secret items I’ll be working on, these are the 9 that I will commit myself to. My goal is to be done by August.

I know–I laughed at that a little, too.

But, as usual my sewing is far ahead of my posting. So at this point, I’ve finished three five items on this list and have two others all cut out and ready to go. I think I’m actually going to get everything done on schedule–except for the red Lady Skater, probably. That one needs some sleeve work, and we all know how many hours that’s going to take me!

So, what are you sewing this summer? Swimsuits? Sundresses? Southern hemisphere winter-wear?

Winter/Spring Sewing Plan Recap

Gracious.

I’ve been sewing this plan FOREVAH! Let’s see how it all turned out, shall we?

B5794 Tie

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I do like this dress. I’ve worn it frequently since finishing it. It’s sort of a mess with the gathers and the neckline, but I’m calling it an “Overall Win.”

B5794 Cowl

B5794 Peplum Front

A fabric fail and cowl neck fail led to this scoop neck peplum. I confess, I don’t wear it very often at all. I think the problem is the neckline. It’s really quite a mess. Perhaps I’ll fix it. Actually, I just got a refashioning idea that would be great for the summer. So, we’ll dub this a “Partial Win.”

S1776

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I love this dress quite a lot. It was a struggle, and it’s not perfect, but I love it. “Win” all round.

S1776 knit

 

Red Top 1

This is one of those times when I’m really glad things didn’t go according to plan. I love, love this top. Absolute WIN.

Lady Skater Dress (Red)

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Too tight, but still comfy. This is a “Win, with Reservations.”

M6754

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Love this dress, but the blue bled into the white stripes after wearing (and continues to bleed each time I wear it–even after multiple washes.) I have a Hail Mary play in my pocket. We’ll see. . .  This is a “Dress, Win; Fabric, Fail.”

S2451

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Even though the skirt tends to float upwards while I wear it, this is still an “Epic Win.”

Archer Navy Archer 1

 

FINALLY DONE!! Yay! Come on–it’s Archer. Of course, it’s a win. I need to do some adjusting of the arm holes so I can go sleeveless and fix some chestal gappage issues, but seriously–this pattern is so full of win.

Lady Skater Peplum

LS Peplum Side

I feel like I never wear this top, but it’s not a top for warm weather. I did wear it several times while it was still cold. It’s too tight, and that makes it not super comfortable. Redoing the sleeves would go a long way to making it more wearable. So, this is another “Win, with Reservations.”

Overall, I have a very negative impression of this lineup, simply because it took soooooo long to finish! But, there are some very wearable pieces in the mish-mash plus a couple of rousing successes. And even the fails are potentially fixable.

Final Thoughts: Sewing according to a plan with a color palette in mind really does work for me. Though my tendency is to over-plan, I do have enough tenacity to see it through. . . eventually. My fabric and pattern purchases are smarter; my stashes are smaller; my wardrobe is growing and getting regularly worn. I feel like I’m finally reaching a point where I know what looks good on me, I know what I like, and I know what I’m comfortable wearing. I’m learning to identify the patterns and fabrics that live where those three qualities intersect.

I’ll be back soon with a summer sewing plan!

Wardrobe sewers, how’s it going? Have you made any life-changing wardrobe discoveries lately?

Looking-Glass Archer (We’re All Mad Here. . .)

Has it ever taken you so long to complete a project that when you finally DO complete it, you just want to sit and bask in it’s completed glory for a while? And then while you’re basking in the glory, you realize you made a rather egregious error in construction?

 

Navy Archer 2

Welcome to the world, navy Archer! Let’s have a chat about you. . .

As I have made this pattern four other times, you would think that I would know what I’m doing at this point. For instance, that I would know which way the sleeve pleats face (I always have to check. Every. Time.), or which side of the cuffs belong to the button and which to the buttonhole, or WHICH SIDE OF THE SHIRT NEEDS BUTTONHOLES.

Archer Button Fails

What is particularly remarkable about this rendition of the Archer is that I managed to do the button plackets on the front correctly, but when I went to sew on the buttonholes, I put them on the wrong side. Never once during the process becoming aware of the terrible mistake I was making. In fact, I didn’t notice until I’d been wearing the shirt for a few hours.

Sigh. . . honestly. . .

However, I think since the navy is so dark, no one else on the planet would either notice or care. And if they do, well, they’re obviously a super judgy-pants sort of person and they officially don’t count.

Navy Archer 3

 

Full disclosure–I made the same mistake on the cuffs. I realized the problem, though, before I opened the buttonholes, so I just sewed buttons on top of them. No one cares. It’s fine.

Will either of these issues stop me from wearing the crap out of this shirt? NOPE.

Navy Archer 4

 

Even though I have now made this shirt five times, I’m still dreaming of more, In particular, I want a sleeveless version. But, there’s work to be done on the shoulders and armholes before that happens.

Navy Archer 1

 

And that, my friends, marks the end of my winter/spring sewing plan from January (or was it December?). It feels SO good to be done with it. My shift dress trials really slowed things down for a long while. I’ll do a wrap up post shortly, and then it’s on to new adventures!

A Summer Top for Fighting Fate (Or Embracing It. . . Whichever)

This top was almost not meant to be. Or maybe, it was ALWAYS meant to be. . .

Red Top 2

 

To begin with, I wanted a shift with 3/4 sleeves to wear with tights in the cooler weather. Well, that was just a bad idea. Tights and knits don’t work so well for me. So, when I had my Girl Charlee fabric fail #2, I had to ditch the sleeves and make a sleeveless shift for warmer weather which was a much better idea.

My goal was to take my highly modified Simplicity 1776 shift pattern and adjust it for knits thereby making two block patterns from one. Things. . . did not go well. It ended up too big and the side seams were mis-matched. The skirt looked bad, as though it were too full and also not full enough. Very odd.

Red Top 3

As it happened, a few Thursdays ago, I was heading out for some waffles and Bourne Supremacy with friends, and I simply couldn’t decide what I wanted to wear. I wanted something light and flowy and comfy. I had been working on my shift that afternoon, and suddenly, I got an idea.

The shift dress clearly wasn’t working for me. Perhaps this fabric was never meant to be a dress. So, I got out my shears and went to work. Literally ten minutes later, I was walking out the door in an unhemmed, unfinished but supremely adorable knit top. It was everything I wanted it to be. Except done.

Red Top 4

I later went back and bound the neckline and arms with a new-to-me technique that leaves the insides looking much cleaner. I sewed the binding to the inside and then flipped it out to the right side and top stitched it down enclosing the raw edges underneath.

Red Top Neck Binding

I actually received a compliment from a Jo-Ann’s employee when I was dashing in for some thread or a zipper or something the other day. She asked if I’d made the top. I said, “Yes.” And being a Jo-Ann’s employee, she thought to ask what pattern I’d used. I said, “We-ell. . . ” and by the time I’d finished explaining, she looked very sorry she’d asked. 🙂

Here’s a thing I will always tell: The Whole Story.

Red Top 1

So, in spite of all the troubles, I am stupidly happy with this top. If you would like to make something similar, I suggest using Deer and Doe’s Plantain tee sans sleeves with a slightly modified hem if you’re into the high/low thing (LIKE I CLEARLY AM!!). I won’t use my cobbled 1776 for knits pattern again as it was wrongity-wrong (And yet, SO RIGHT).

(Wait–could I use the Plantain to make a knit shift? That could be a thing, right???)

Here’s what I want to know: what is your favorite top/shirt/tee/blouse pattern for summer? Drop me a link to one you’ve made–I’m always up for inspiration!

The Shift in My Fortunes Dress

Fitting is an invisible art.

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If you read my Muslin Diary posts–if you didn’t, no worries. There was a lot of blather–you know that the struggle to fit Simplicity 1776 was no simple afternoon of muslin-making. It was hours and hours of measuring, marking, cutting, taping, stitching, pressing, wearing, removing, and starting over again stretched out over several weeks (over two months, I think).

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Yet, when you look at this dress, you probably don’t see all that work. I know that I never notice when someone’s clothes are particularly well-fitting. I definitely notice if something is too tight or very baggy–but if it fits just right, all I see is the person wearing it. And, of course, color and style and all that. But, aren’t color and style meant to somehow reflect the person within?

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So, I guess the purpose for the long-fought fitting battle is two-fold. One, of course, is that I wanted the dress (any garment, really) to be comfortable. I have to be able to move freely. Fighting my clothes all day just adds a level of exhaustion that I don’t need in my life. Plus, when I am comfortable, I am confident.

Two is to make the clothes “invisible.” Not like the “Emperor’s New Clothes” (scandalous!). But, to make sure that what I wear doesn’t detract from me.

It makes me sound “egomaniacal” now that I’ve written it down, but it’s still true.

I do wonder if there are some lovely people out there thinking, “Wait a second–this is the dress she spent months fitting? It’s a shift! It’s easy shapelessness is supposed to be a breeze to whip up!”

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Well, that may be true, but when you have bumps and squiggles and proportions that defy logic, you have to work a little harder at “effortlessness” and the invisibility of a fine fit.

Alas, even after all that work, I cannot say that this is perfect. But, I can say that I can easily raise my arms and move them about in ALL directions! I confess that the sleeves are still a bit tight across the tops of my shoulders. And after wearing the dress to work, I realize that it’s not the most comfortable to drive in. Also, it really is too warm and sticky (already!) to be wearing a lined dress. When I planned this dress, it was still winter. I had no idea it would take so long to make! However, I am content to store it away until fall. Rather than feel like I failed my winter wardrobe, I feel like I’ve got a jump on my autumn.

You can see how the sleeves are pulling. Obviously, my shoulder needs more length.

You can see how the sleeves are pulling. Obviously, my shoulder needs more length.

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During construction, just after I had inserted the lining to be exact, I tried the dress on and discovered quite a bit of bagginess under the bust at the side seams. It turns out that I did something crazy with my darts and added some unnecessary width. I undid my side seams and removed about 3/4″ from just the front. It’s still a bit baggier than I’d like, but it looks so much better! And I might just be getting used to the whole shift silhouette, which is very new to me.

On it’s first day out, the dress received tons of compliments, which is always nice. Most people at school (did you know I was a teacher now? I can’t remember if I told you) know that I sew, so they automatically ask, “Did you make that?” whenever I’m wearing something they haven’t noticed before.

This is a miracle. My arms are comfortably raised. The neckline is crazy, to be sure, but the rest of the dress--no problem. Success!

This is a miracle. My arms are comfortably raised. The neckline is crazy, to be sure, but the rest of the dress–no problem. Success! Very curious to try the cut-in gusset out when there’s a waist seam.

Question: have you ever had trouble with your zipper when you attach a lining? I’m speaking specifically of finishing the top of the zipper. On one side, the zipper seems to cause the lining to peak out at the top. I’m thinking of either interfacing the lining in the back just to give it more structure to fight against the zipper or cutting facings of the self fabric for the back to sew to the lining or attempting to remove the zipper teeth above the neck seam line. I suppose I could just line the plastic stopper up just underneath the seam, but then the zipper doesn’t quite zip all the way up. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s such a minor thing, really.

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Let’s see–construction details. The zipper is interfaced–best thing ever. I’m going to always do this from now on. It just makes the zipper better. All better.

I used a cotton/rayon chambray twill–and let me tell you, if you ever see a listing for this stuff, get it. It is probably one of my very favorite fabrics I’ve ever worked with–top three, even. It’s soft and smooth and has this lovely sheen in person. The dress is lined with aubergine rayon bemberg which is perfectly lovely except when it’s sticky out. The lining was in my stash, so that’s why it’s sort of a random color pick. I used my rolled hem foot to do a narrow hem. It worked really well most of the time. When it screwed up, it was generally due to me rushing and not keeping everything taut and properly folded. But I’m really rather pleased with it overall.

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I decided at the last minute to add the pockets. And then I decided to add the flaps and some gold buttons from my grandmother’s button stash. I do love to use up old buttons. The buttons and buttonholes are functional.

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Sorry about the wrinkles. This is what happens when a dress gets worn all day. So, you’re seeing it in its most natural state. Just keepin’ it real.

I did not know that I liked shift dresses. I assumed that I would feel flabby and shapeless in them. But, I felt great wearing this all day! When I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror, I couldn’t help but think, “Man–this dress is amazing!” I have one, possibly two, more versions planned for this summer.

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It still needs some tweaking before obtaining official “TNT” status, but I’m fairly confident that it will happily join the ranks of the Magnificent Eleven-ish. . . and there shall be great rejoicing throughout the land.

And now, my lovelies, do tell–what was your greatest sewing victory?

A Tiny Tip for Successful Sewing

Note: I actually wrote this post ages ago when it was still cold in the South. That explains any odd references to tights–which no self-respecting southern gal would be wearing in May!

How do you decide what to sew?

I know a lot of sewists out there like to sew whatever they feel. And I know there are many who have been caught up in this wave of wardrobe sewing. Those of you who are attempting to sew according to a plan, do you ever find it difficult to plan wisely?

I still struggle sometimes trying to determine the difference between a garment I know I’m going to wear and a garment that I ought to want to wear because it’s something that everyone else is wearing. I was thinking about this the other day. How can I make consistently great wardrobe-sewing choices?

And then I realized–the best time to decide what I need to sew is when I’m getting dressed in the morning and I don’t know what to wear. I’m more likely to be inspired by what everyone else is wearing when I’m sitting down with pen and paper and a hundred blogs to read. I’m inspired by what I actually want to wear when I really want to wear something that doesn’t exist in my closet.

Hmmm. . . time to spruce things up in there. Winter things need to be put away. Hangers need to be sorted. And, yes, that IS a small bear sitting atop a container of catnip. Is this not something everyone keeps in her closet?

Hmmm. . . time to spruce things up in there. Winter things need to be put away. Hangers need to be sorted. And, yes, that IS a small bear sitting atop a container of catnip. Is this not something everyone keeps in her closet?

I imagine it’s something like the difference between basic training and the battlefield (super dramatic metaphor, yes, but just go with it). Spending hours falling into the deep, dark abyss of Pinterest or trolling countless sewing/fashion blogs is like your basic training. You learn what’s out there. You get an idea of what you can make. You discover what you like to look at. But, when it comes time to actually put on some clothes and rush out the door–that’s the battlefield. That’s when things get real. That’s when things don’t always go according to plan. Sure, maybe I pinned and made a yellow pencil skirt that I thought I absolutely couldn’t live without, but if I never want to actually put it on in the morning, what’s the point?

Sometimes, I’m standing, staring into my open closet trying to figure out what clothes best reflect the girl I am that day. It’s too cold for my Moss; I just wore my Lady Skater yesterday; and all my Archers need to be washed (true story). First of all, that tells me that the Lady Skaters and the Archers are really excellent wardrobe choices. Also, I need tights to wear with my Moss (get some gray tights, Jen! Honestly. . . ). When this happens, I always have a thought along the lines of, “If I just had a ________ then I could wear ________” or “I’d really like to wear _______ but I haven’t made one yet.”

These are the makes that need to happen. These are the garments that if I made them, I would actually wear them. How do I know that I’m not a vintage-lovin’ gal? I have never, not once when I’m getting ready thought, “I’d really like to wear a 60s style wiggle dress today.” How do I know that I love a knit skater dress? Because I wear mine every chance I get! Because there are some days when I think, “I really want to wear my navy Lady Skater, but people will think I’m weird if I wear it three days in a row.”

Here’s the catch: thoughts occurred and thoughts remembered are two different things. Thinking, “I need more knit dresses,” at 6:30 in the morning may not mean that I remember that I need those knit dresses a month later when it’s time to make another plan. (Oh, who am I kidding?? My love of knit dresses is well-documented. But you get my point!)

The solution? So simple, I probably don’t even need to mention it.

But, I totally will.

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Post-it Notes! All I do is take a moment to ask myself, “If I could wear anything today, what would it be?” When the answer comes to me, I either find its equivalent in my closet, or I jot the idea on a note and stick it to the inside of my closet door. When planning time comes round again, all I have to do is match my wardrobe wish list with existing patterns. To help me in my wardrobing endeavors, I’ve been curating a Pinterest board of potential patterns. Like virtual sticky notes!

Thanks to a simple office supply, some day I will stand in front of my open closet doors and rather than feeling like my closet is full of nothing, I’ll be greeted with more options than I can choose between.

Idealistic? Unrealistic? Maybe. But I believe!

Do you have any great tips for sewing what you’ll love to wear?

On the Sidelines with a Sleeveless Skater

Me-Made-May, a celebration of self-stitchery and the daily donning thereof, is an event that I am wholeheartedly in support of. So, why am I not participating this year? Well, here’s the thing. . .

I decided a couple months ago that I probably wouldn’t take part in MMM14. I’m going through sort of a transitional time as I finish up one new job and prepare for another. Yep–that’s right! Starting in August I am teaching two new (one brand new, one new-to-me) classes in both middle and high school. Let the general insanity ensue! As I’m finishing up grading and lightly mourning for my departed seniors, I find myself also neck-deep in planning for a new writing class next year and the happy surprise addition of being the new yearbook adviser! This all just happened last week, and I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it.

So, while I’m happy to be free of the responsibility of daily outfit documentation, I’m also a little sad to be on the sidelines while everyone else proudly displays their lovely Me-Mades. I guess I am still following along in spirit since I wear things I’ve made almost every day. There are still considerable gaps in my closet, but doing this whole “Sewing a Wardrobe” thing has really helped me get ready every morning and–bonus!–be happy about what I’m wearing.

All that said, as promised, I do have something to show you today! It’s not the shift dress you’re expecting, but it is wardrobe worthy.

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I hesitate to call this a Lady Skater “mod” since all I did was go sleeveless. But, getting from the original plan to the final product was the sort of process that a mod typically induces.

So, here’s what happened. . .

Gaping armholes have always been a problem in my sewing life. Typically they require adding a dart and then rotating that dart into an existing dart which produces the scooped armhole that I need.

However, when working with a knit dress that has long sleeves, it’s not really a problem. Until you notice it, that is.

I became very aware of the problem when I attempted to use the cap sleeve option on my red and white nautical flag Lady Skater. When I completed the sleeves and tried the dress on, something was very wrong.

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The sleeves were too, too big. Why? Because they were meant for armholes that were too big and the wrong shape for my shoulders.

Very poorly framed photo, but you can see the terrible sleeve on the right.

Very poorly framed photo, but you can see the terrible sleeve on the right.

Since I didn’t have enough fabric to cut out brand new sleeves, I had to improvise. The dress really looked more summer-appropriate than cold weather-friendly, so I decided to try going sleeveless.

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First, I had to cure the armhole gaping. The only thing for it was to cinch up the shoulder seam on the outside edge and add that armhole dart.

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I know. A dart in a knit. I know. It’s going to be okay.

But, you can see, it greatly improves the fit around the sleeves and bust. Well, the bust is a bit tight now, but that’s an easy future fix.

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Then, I cut a couple of bands to bind the armholes. First, I made them too wide, and they looked ridiculous. . .

Okay, you can't really tell in this picture, but the bands gaped at the bottom and it looked terrible.

Okay, you can’t really tell in this picture, but the bands gaped at the bottom and it looked terrible.

And then I got to rip those out and try again with a much narrower band. They looked much, much better.

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There were two reasons it took me forever to make this dress. 1. I was in shift-fitting hell. 2. Steam-a-Seam hasn’t gotten their act together yet and re-released their fusible tape. I always use Steam-a-Seam Lite to get a really nice, even hem on my knits, but several months ago they ceased production because they had run into a problem with. . . something I can’t remember. When I checked back in February to see how things were going, they were promising to re-release “soon.” Soon has not yet occurred.

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Well, not wanting to wait forever for the power to hem knits, I decided to try the Dritz version, Stitchwitchery.

. . .

I am not a fan.

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First, it’s fiddly. You have to use the wool heat setting and a damp press cloth (which, if you’re doing a hem of a full skirt means re-dampening your press cloth several times). Second, there’s no paper backing to allow you to press one side into place before fixing it to the other side of the fabric. Third, it doesn’t have the slightly tacky texture that keeps it in place before being ironed. Fourth, because it’s very lightweight and “floaty,” it easily slips out from underneath the hem you’ve attempted to perfectly fold encasing the stitchwitchery in between the layers and then gets fused to your press cloth (or worse, your iron.)

Altogether, I’ve become used to working with a much more user-friendly fusible tape. And I miss it and it needs to come back.

In spite of all those trials, I managed to create a decent hem which may or may not be even all the way round. I even attempted to use my twin needle. I didn’t have an extra spool of red thread, so I just used white. It’s whatever.

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Here’s the thing with twin needle hemming that I can’t get right: the tension. My bobbin thread never becomes the zig-zag that it’s supposed to. It’s always very easily pulled out. Even when I crank my tension up as high as it will go. I had better success this time with my Janome, but it’s still not perfect. And were this a fitted skirt, I would definitely have problems with the bobbin thread breaking.

In the end, I think we can all agree on one thing: This dress is finally done.

Outtake #1. Apparently, I wasn't aware there was one more picture to take.

Outtake #1. Apparently, I wasn’t aware there was one more picture to take.

I know I sound a bit sour, but I do like this dress. It’s only flaw, really, is that it’s too tight. And maybe the back waist is still too low.

I plan this summer to embark on a fitting journey to conquer the Lady Skater. I have quite a few legitimate mods in mind, and I need to start with a good fit. But, we’ll discuss Summer Sewing details in a future post.

If I never show up here again, it’s only because I’ve been shanked in a shady, back alley Steam-a-Seam Lite deal gone wrong.

Outtake #2. There was a wasp. I was worried.

Outtake #2. There was a wasp. I was worried.

Anybody doing Me-Made-May for the first time? How’s it going?

P.S. Raise your hand if you found the kitty 🙂

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?