Saturday, May 21, 2016

McCall's 6959 A Summer Wrap Dress in Black and White

This little wrap dress came out of my sewing room last weekend.

This is McCall's 6959 View C:
 When I bought this pattern, it was for the dramatic View A with the full, swingy skirt and the contrast binding.  I still plan to make that one when I find the right fabric.  But View C immediately intrigued me and every time I've picked this pattern up while going through my stash, my mind has gone to that one.  Last weekend I was scrounging around through my patterns, looking for something to make up a glorious flamingo novelty print and I pulled out this pattern.  My eyes then went to the black and white stretch twill folded up on a nearby shelf, and I remembered I had some black cotton linen blend left from another recent project, and on impulse I decided to make this dress.

And here it is.  View C, a wrap dress with fitted bodice, inside ties, collar, and semi fitted skirt.  I briefly considered adding one of the sleeve variations, but decided I like the sleeveless view.  I can always add a cardigan at work for warmth.

The fabric is a stretch twill from Hancock's, one of my last purchases before they announced they were going out of business.  I originally bought it thinking I would make some slim pants, but once I mentally paired it with this pattern I decided I can always get something else for pants.  The collar is a linen/cotton blend from stash.

I cut a 14 through the shoulders and a 16 from bust to hip, grading out to an 18 at the hip point.  I added 1" of length to the bodice right above the waist at the marked adjustment line and I shaved 1/4" off of the back bodice at the waist between the darts, tapering to nothing at the sides- a small sway back adjustment.  I love that McCall's added a matching adjustment line to the front facing piece so I was able to adjust that easily without distorting it.  I cut the front bodice pieces using the center front line as my grain line to keep the print running straight up and down like the skirt.

I like the finished dress, but it still needs a few tweaks to make it wearable:

I added a plastic snap to keep the front closed.  The snap is next to useless.  No, it is useless.  I had to use a safety pin for the photos.  I will replace that snap with a metal snap ASAP.

I need to go back and hand stitch the entire facing down- the skirt and the neckline.  It wants to flap around even though I topstitched it under the collar and hand tacked it to the shoulder seam allowances.

The front gapes.  I tried adding a snap there, but it didn't work.  The facing just wanted to roll out.  I think hand stitching it down will help and I might try the snap again after that.  The front is pinned in the photos.  I may just have to wear it that way.  No big deal- I have several other dresses that I have to pin for security!

I also need to add a snap to the skirt.  A small gust of wind blew the skirt open right before the photos were taken.  Lucky for me I always wear a slip!

I also want a narrower belt, more like the one in the pattern illustration.  I think the proportion will look better.  I could try experimenting with a color, too.  Maybe red?

Overall, I'm pleased, and I think once I make my tweaks I will get a lot of wear out of this dress.  I love the straight, simple shape and the wide, solid collar.  This is a super easy dress to make (it says so on the pattern envelope!) and only took me a day including the muslin.  I'll wear it like this during the heat of the summer, and I'll dress it up with a colored cardigan for the office.

I still want to make View A in a bold cotton print with the contrast binding.  And View B looks nice too.  I could see making it up in a pretty challis to get extra swish from the skirt.  Since the bodice is already fitted, it will be no big deal to make another view.  I'll be putting this pattern in my TNT box!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Burda Style 04-2016-119 A Summer Sheath in Fuchsia

 Last weekend I completed this Burda Style sheath dress and it feels like I've been reunited with an old and dear friend.  I haven't made a Burda project in a little while and I was really missing it.  Making this dress was a reconnection for me, and hopefully the start of higher productivity.

This is the Asymmetric Shift Dress from the April issue.  I'd say it's more of a sheath than a shift since it's a more fitted dress, especially through the waist and hips, but that's a minor quibble.  I fell in love with it at first sight, but then I'm usually a sucker for the projects with unusual seaming.

My version of the dress looks very similar to the model version, even though I'm twice her age, twice her weight, and half her height, because I used a similar color.  My fabric is a fuchsia ponte knit purchased last year from  I don't know if they have this particular fabric any more, but they do have an extensive color selection and always seem to have something exciting to offer.

This pattern is offered in sizes 34 to 42.  I traced and cut a 42.  I was too lazy to actually grade all the pieces up to a 44, and I knew I'd need little extra room at the hip, so I added 3/4" seam allowances to all of the pieces at the side seams and saved the side seams for last during construction so I could fit the dress to me.  It worked.  I ended up using 3/8" of those seam allowances at the hips so I added about 1.5" to the circumference- approximately a size 44.  I also added 1" of length to the bodice pieces right above the waist seam, a standard adjustment for my long waist.

The dress was very easy to construct.  There are a few pieces to trace and you have to cut some on single thickness, but the pattern is extremely well drafted and goes together perfectly.  In the ponte knit, the curved seams went together like a charm.  I didn't really use the instructions other than to read through them before starting.  I used their suggestion to interface the curved edges to prevent stretching, but other than that the construction is very intuitive.  One change I made was to assemble the front and the back and then attach at the shoulders and then use the "edge to edge" method of attaching the facings so that I got a nice neat finish at the neckline and armholes with no hand sewing.

Speaking of facings, I like that this dress has one piece front and back facings with armholes and neckline included.  Everything lays nice and smooth inside and having it all one piece prevents it from wanting to flip out to the outside of the dress.  

I don't know how I did it, but I forgot to make my standard petite adjustment above the bust.  When I tried the dress on the low point of the neckline revealed a flash of bra so I took the shoulders up 3/8".  Perfect.  I will make that adjustment to the pattern for the future.

All my seams are serged inside for neatness except the center back seam which I left unserged so I could press it open.

I was worried about bulk where the darts come together at CB, but pressing the seam open helped everything to lay flat.  I was also worried about the darts themselves because I have problems sewing darts in knits sometimes, but these turned out nearly perfect.  I'm quite proud of them.

I really like the finished dress.  I might make it again- I love the striped version with it's optical illusion effect.
It would be so cute for summer.  I just need to find the right striped fabric...

I'm very happy with this project.  The dress turned out great and has already been road tested and passed.  I can see a tiny bit of rippling at the high hip on the sides- I think I need to shave a bit off of the curve there.  The asymmetrical neckline is one of the key features of this dress and it is certainly not as daring as some Burda necklines I've encountered, but be careful- the low point on the left just barely covers my favorite bra.  It does, however, cover the cleavage completely so I feel comfortable anyway.  I did wear a black cardigan over it for work both to increase the modesty and to cover my arms and prevent freezing in my meat locker office.  The photos were taken after work, hence the boring office pumps.  When I wear this out somewhere other than work I plan to wear strappy sandals.

Overall this is a fabulous dress and a surprisingly easy project.  Don't let the extra seams fool you.  An adventurous beginner could make this with great results.  I love it and I plan to get a ton of wear out of it this summer.  I may be sharing an update with a striped version later...

I'm off to my sewing room.   I already have a project from the May Burda cut out and ready to assemble.  What's on your sewing table?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

McCall's 4394 Spring Sewing Has Begun

My sewing productivity has declined in recent months.  Wintertime, with its cold, dark, short days, makes me want to hibernate, not sew.  And in the last year, my sewing stuff has been pushed around the house into corners, cabinets, and out of the way places making everything disorganized and cluttered, which also leads to a loss of mojo.  Needless to say, I haven't made much in a while.

But two things have happened lately which are making the sewing forecast look pretty good right now:  Spring has arrived with warm weather and the time change, and I now have my own dedicated sewing room to work in!

The first finished project for me (technically the first completed project was a pair of skinny jeans for the Princess, but it's hard to get her to model these days) is this sheath dress:

Say hello to McCall's 4394, a very OOP Palmer/Pletsch wardrobe pattern that has been marinating in my stash for years.

I remember buying the pattern for the dress and jacket.  At the time I wanted an outfit like the one in the center of the envelope.  Actually, I still do.

Anyway,  this is a very simple princess seamed sheath dress that can also be made in a shorter length as a top.  The jacket is also a very simple princess seamed style with two piece sleeves and a stand up collar.  A pair of pants with front and back darts is also included.

So far I've made just the sheath.  I love the Palmer/Pletsch patterns which come with lots of extra fitting information and adjustment lines marked on the pattern.  I don't particularly like their method of tissue fitting, which is hard to do by myself, so I opted for a muslin to check fit.

I cut a size 14 through the shoulders and a 16 from bust to hem.  The only adjustments I made were to add 1.25" of length at the waist, and I folded out the pre-printed swayback adjustment on the back pieces.   I was looking for a relaxed fit, and I think I almost got it.

My fabric is a large scale floral stretch twill from Hancock's.  I so wish I had bought the coordinating solid red for the coat.  I could kick myself for not getting it.  I just heard that Hancock's is going out of business and the clearance sales have begun.  I'm sure by the time I can get back to the store, that luscious red twill will be gone.  (And of course even more sad is the fact that Hancock's will soon be gone.  I will miss it greatly.)

Check out my pattern matching at center back!  That happened purely by accident.  I centered the center front panel, but just squeezed the rest of the pieces onto the 2 yards that I bought.  They just fit.  But I couldn't have done better on the back if I'd tried.

I love the print.   It's so bright and cheerful and ready for spring and summer.  It does, however, wrinkle like mad.  these pics were taken after work and I have creases across my lap from sitting at my desk most of the day.  Perhaps a lining will help on the next version.

The instructions for this dress are insanely easy.  It's very simple and intuitive to put together.  The pattern would have you sew all the vertical seams including the sides and then sew the facings to the front and back and then sew the shoulder seams, causing you to fiddle with sewing a narrow strip together in a small area and then wrestling with finishing the seams on the facings.  Instead, I sewed my shoulders, but left the sides and center back unseen.  I sewed the facings together at the shoulders and then attached them to the dress at the neckline and the armholes.  The final step was sewing the side seams from facing to hem, giving me a smooth, edge to edge finish.

I finished the facing edge with bias tape adding a little pop of color to the inside.  The back is finished with an invisible zipper and a hook and eye.  There is a slit at the back for walking ease.

All my seams are serged on the inside for neatness.  The pattern has a generous 2.25" hem which I am quite happy with.  Maybe it's because this pattern is a few years old, but I love the length on this dress which hits me right at the knee.

I'm pleased with the finished dress, but I think it turned out a tiny bit too big.  I'm not sure why since I made a muslin.  This fabric has a tiny bit of stretch to it, which could be a factor, but I'm thinking I might take in the side seams about 1/4" and see if that improves the fit.  It's also a little big around the armholes (which you can kind of see in the photo above) and the neckline is a tad too wide, leading to some gaping.  I probably missed that because I didn't finish the edges of the muslin.  Live and learn.

For my next version I will raise the armholes about 1/2" and I'll narrow the neckline.  I may even need to go down a size across the shoulders.  But there will be another version.  I plan to tweak this pattern until I have a TNT sheath dress.

In the meantime, I have sewing plans.  These are just a few of the fabrics in my queue right now.  On the left is a blue and white floral jacquard which will probably be version 2 of M4394.  Next to that is a black and white geometric knit which will be a shift of some sort.  The red fabric is the floral twill before I cut it out.  Next to that are three stretch denims which will be more skinny jeans for the Princess.  The blue has already been cut out and started on.

What's in your spring sewing queue?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Checking In

What's been happening around here?

As it tends to do each year, my attention turned to quilting over the holidays.  Christmas is stressful.  Between the shopping, the cleaning, the decorating, the cooking, and more cleaning, I tend to get overwhelmed.  So simple, straight seams on well behaved, colorful cotton prints can help me calm down and relax.

I noticed that I had quite a bit of Dolce fabric left from when I made the Bento Box quilt a few years ago.  So I decided to cut up everything that was left into 2.5" squares and use it up on this:

I combined the prints with a tone on tone white to give the eye a place to rest.  The blocks are simple 9 patches that will end up 6" square once they are sewn together.

I messed up when I counted and I ended up with more print blocks than I thought.  When I laid them all out this morning, I had enough blocks for 2 extra rows.  What to do?  Make more white blocks of course!  Luckily I had extra Dolce squares left.  I need 16 more white blocks.  That will have to wait until tomorrow when I can run to the fabric store and get more white.  (I was already planning a trip since the ponte knits are on sale this weekend...)

I still have a few garment projects in the works.  I made a pair of pants for the Princess over the holidays, but she has no desire to model for the blog.  I'm also in the middle of making a top for her.  And I have a wrap dress cut out for me, waiting to be sewn together.  And of course, a stack of Burda magazines with projects earmarked.

I got a new heavy duty sewing machine for Christmas and I'm looking forward to broadening my sewing skills this year.  I want to make things like jeans and coats using heavier fabrics.  I also want to experiment with leather.  And the new machine has adjustable pressure on the presser foot, so I'm hoping lightweight fabrics will be easier to sew as well.

Hopefully this will be an exciting year in sewing!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

McCall's 6884 The Last Wrap of Summer

I finished McCall's 6884 months ago when the days were still long and the sun was warm.  Somehow, I forgot to blog it, even though I've worn it quite a bit and I love it.

I made View B with the plain front, full coverage skirt, and 3/4 sleeves.

The pattern has lots of options, though, and you could use it to make a whole week's worth of wrap dresses and every one of them would look different.

It's an "easy" pattern and it really lives up to that title.  It went together quickly and with no problems.  I cut my standard 14 at the shoulder and 16 from the bust down and then lengthened the waist.  I also lengthened the ties thinking the pattern pieces looked too short to wrap behind my back and then tie in the front with enough left to hang down.  I really should have left them alone- I have to wrap them twice and then tie in the front to keep them from hanging down and catching on things.

The only other change I made was to add bands to the neckline.  I wanted that extra 3/4" of coverage and I thought it would make a nicer finish than just turning under and stitching.  I cut them on the cross grain and I like the way the print looks oriented that way.  I wish I had cut them a bit shorter- they don't snug up to my chest quite the way I wanted them to.

The neckline is rather low.  I don't have it pinned in the picture, but I do have to pin it for daily wear.

I think the best thing about this pattern, at least for this view, is the way the skirt is put together.  the wrap is caught into the side seam below the waist and that makes it very secure.  It would take a hurricane force wind to cause a wardrobe malfunction.  I'm confident and covered even sitting down or climbing in and out of my car.

My fabric is an ITY knit from  I LOVE the print!  The colors are different than what I usually choose but the orange, blue, and green combination is fabulous.  The fabric is a little on the smooth and slippery side, but it's opaque and I wear a slip anyway.  It sewed easily and has held up well to washing.

I'm quite pleased with this little dress and it has gotten a lot of wear throughout the end of the summer and into fall.  It's a little bit loose now and I will eventually have to take it in at the sides to keep the bodice from looking baggy, but I think it will be easy to do.

I can also see myself making this pattern again in one of the other views.  The gathered waist in particular has caught my eye.  If you have this one in your stash, make it!  It turns out a great dress with no stress!

In closing I'll just leave you with this.  I am so not a fashion model!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Vogue 9050 A Little Green Dress

I haven't sewn a stitch since the time change a couple of weeks ago.  The early darkness seems to stifle my mojo.  However, the latest thing to come out of my sewing room a few weeks ago is Vogue 9050, a simple sheath dress with seaming.

This is an Easy Options pattern offered in a slim skirt view and a flared skirt view in two lengths.  It has a sleeveless option as well as a long and short sleeve option.  I chose the slim skirt and long sleeves.

The pattern calls for woven fabrics or ponte knit.  I chose ponte, of course!  This lovely emerald green came from and was part of my birthday present to myself.

I cut a 14 through the shoulders and a 16 from bust to hem.  Adjustments included adding 1 3/4" of length to the waist and shortening the sleeves about 4".  My waist adjustment was spot on, but I went a bit overboard with the sleeves- mine ended up more bracelet length, but it's okay.  I usually push them up anyway.  But next time I'll add 2" back...

The dress is easy to sew.  It's really just a princess seamed shift with the princess seams ending at the neckline instead of the shoulder or the armhole.  The side front and side back are two pieces with a nifty little diagonal seam at the hip.  The sleeves are two pieces with a seam running from the shoulder point to the wrist.

The dress is designed to be fully lined, but of course I didn't do that with the ponte.  Facing pattern pieces are provided for the interfacing which Vogue would have you iron onto the front and back neckline after the princess seams are sewn and finished.  I just used them to cut actual facings to which I fused the interfacing and then sewed them together and finally attached them to the dress.  It worked beautifully.

All of the seams are serged on the inside and the facing is tacked down by hand at all of the section seams.  I left off the zipper and the back slit.

I'm pretty pleased- I love the color and the fabric and the design lines.  But... this thing is short.  I made a 1" hem and it hits me right above the knee.  It feels kind of scandalous.  If I make this again, and I might, I will add about 3" to the skirt length and hem it at mid knee.  In the meantime, I'll wear it anyway.  In this bright green, it will make a great dress for Christmas.  And St Patrick's day...

I can also see making this again for spring/summer in the sleeveless view, maybe using a print for the center panels and a bright solid for the sides.  Is it sad that I'm already wishing for spring and long daylight hours again?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Burdastyle 08-2015-124 A Study in Beige

I knew the moment I saw this sheath dress in the August issue of Burdastyle that I would be making it.  Dresses like this- knit sheaths with interesting seaming- make up a significant portion of my work wardrobe.  I've even had a coworker say that it's my "uniform."  I take that as a good thing.

I love the style lines on this garment.  They are different enough to be interesting, placed well enough to be flattering, and just complicated enough to make sewing this dress fun.  I also love that the neckline is modest and the whole package looks elegant and suitable for my lifestyle which consists of going to work and coming home.

The magazine photos didn't really do the design justice in my opinion.  Thank heavens for tech drawings because otherwise I might have missed all that gorgeous seaming.  Burda showed this dress in navy and in tan:

I felt that I needed a light color to show off the seaming and the intricate, inset corners of this pattern.  When I saw this beige ponte knit at I thought it would be perfect and I ordered it as a birthday present for myself.  I've been trying to add more varied colors to my wardrobe and the truth is, other than gray and black, I don't have a lot of neutrals in my closet.  I don't even own a pair of khakis.  I wanted to try something outside my color box and I pictured this paired with gold accessories maybe with pearls.

I'll admit when the fabric arrived I had second thoughts.  It seemed very close to my skin and hair color.  I was afraid I might end up looking like a big blob of beige.  But what the heck, I already had the fabric and I just forged ahead.  In the end I'm happy with how this turned out.

This pattern is offered in tall sizes 72-88.  I cut an 84 through the shoulders and an 88 from the bust down, which compares to my "regular" burda size of 42/44.  Because this is a tall pattern, I did not add any length to the waist, but I did remove 3/4" of length above the bust; 3/8" to "un-tall" the pattern, and another 3/8" as my standard petite adjustment.  I also removed 1" from the sleeve cap.

I assembled the front and the back and basted them together at the sides and then began the long process of fitting this just right which I did by trying on, basting new side seams, trying on again, basting again, and so on.  In the end, I took the side seams in 1/4 all the way down, and an additional 1/2" at the waist.  I also took the CB seam in at the waist about 1/4".  I also had to tweak the side front seams just below the corners.  I have a little bit of tummy and it causes a hollow area on either side right below my hip bones.  I had a little bit of fabric pooling there, but taking that seam in about 1/8" helped.

And oh yes, I shortened the sleeves by about 1" to accommodate my T-rex arms.

Burda rates this as a 2.5 dot pattern.  It really isn't difficult at all- the pieces are perfectly drafted and fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  In fact, I didn't even look at the written instructions.  There is some precision sewing involved with the inset corners, 4 in front and 4 in back, but they were very easy to do in the ponte knit.  It helps that they aren't right angles, but a little bit wider.

All my seams are serged inside for neatness.  I remembered to interface my facings, which really helps with pressing and keeping them tucked neatly to the inside.  They are tacked down at all the seam intersections for extra security.

I have already worn this to work and road tested it and I love it.  It's comfortable and looked nice all day.  Because of the neutral color, I think I can change up the shoes and jewelry and get several different looks with this.  I'm looking forward to trying, anyway.

I don't have plans to make this dress again, but who knows what the future will bring.  I could see myself making the top version.  I've seen a couple of really nice color-blocked versions of this and I might like to play around with that idea.

Up next will be this dress, I think:
Vogue 9050, but with sleeves.  Another sheath with interesting seams made up in ponte knit to add to my uniform collection.

Do you have a "uniform"?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Princess Sewing Update

If you judged by the activity on this blog, you would think there hasn't been much sewing going on around here this year.  The truth is that there has been plenty of sewing, it's just that taking pictures for the blog has become a chore.  The kids are older and have more activities going on and I work more and want to do other things when I come home.  But last weekend the Princess and I took time out to snap a few shots of this summer's projects.

We started the summer out with this, McCall's 6886, an insanely easy knit dress.

This was actually our muslin, made up in this awesome tribal print ponte knit from Hancock's.  The princess loves these kinds of prints and she was thrilled with this dress.

We actually bought this pattern to knock off a dress she had seen in a department store.  I liked the dress on her, but I felt it didn't fit well enough to buy it- it was way too short and the bottom was too snug while the top was too loose.

After the successful muslin we made this one- the knock off version.  It has a CF and CB seam and a waist seam which we added by cutting the pattern pieces at the waist and adding seam allowances there and to the center fold lines.

Like I said, this pattern is insanely easy.  There are just 2 pattern pieces for the sleeveless version- front and back- no facings or bindings!  I don't really like the "turn under and stitch" method of finishing necklines and armholes in knits, so we added a neckband and finished the armholes with a binding strip on the inside.

If you want a very quick and easy knit dress, I highly recommend M6886!

I made Burda Style 6-2015-121 for myself and was very pleased with it.  The Princess liked it, too, so I thought why not make one for her?

For her version, I used another tribal print, this time an ITY knit from Joann's.  I also hemmed hers much shorter than mine.  She likes to show her knees and her legs are long enough to make the shorter length work.

I think we cut a size 36...

It's so much fun for us to go through the Burda magazines together, although it's hard for me to believe I'm sewing adult patterns for her.  Seems like just yesterday it was smocked dresses and Children's Corner patterns.  Where does the time go?