Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Instant Sewing Gratification

As I'm sure you can understand, I'm about sick to death of the Burda Bubble-less Dress. By Sunday afternoon, I had had enough of it, but I still wanted to sew, so I pulled out some stash fabric and a stash pattern and made this, McCalls 5797:
It's a cute, super simple, super comfy summer dress. I made the view with the contrast hem band and used the extra long neck tie so the Princess could have a bow on her shoulder.
I sort of have a love/hate relationship with McCall's kids' patterns. On the one hand, they have some really cute things. On the other hand, some of their patterns are what I call "super fiddly," meaning difficult and fussy to put together. In fact, I just threw one in the trash last weekend when it was almost completely done. That's the second time I've thrown up my hands and just cut my losses with McCalls.

This pattern, however, is super easy to put together and I highly recommend it if you want a really simple, cool summer dress. We were kind of in a hurry to get the pictures, so I didn't arrange the neck tie very well. The dress slides freely on the tie. Once we arrange it "just so," I'll tack the edges of the casing to the tie, so it can't slide around anymore.
I used this super-cute fish fabric that I got at Hancock Fabrics several years ago. What could be more summery? I chose the orange stripe, which I purchased at JoAnn's, for the contrast. The lace, also from Hancock's (I think), is topstitched on along the seamline. I'm still debating putting a strip of baby rick rick along the header. I don't have a good color in stash, and honestly, it looks fine as is, so I might just forget it.
The Princess likes the dress. She says I can make more. It is just a tad short, but I like it that way for summer, so I'm going to use the orange fabric and make a simple pair of elastic waist shorts to go under it.

Here's a shot of the Princess with Lily, one of our new kittens. Lily is less than thrilled about the new dress.

I have not given up on the Burda dress. I just needed a break. I already attached the sleeves and all I really have left to do is the lining. I'm thinking I will line the skirt with something slippery since the wide neckline will prevent me from wearing my favorite slip under it.

Hopefully I'll have finished photos this weekend. Or maybe photos of another one of these easy little dresses. I'm still kind of sick of the Burda Dress!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Second Thoughts... Or Just Plain Waffling

So I put the Bubble-less Dress on hold this week while I waited to make a run to the fabric store for lining fabric and a zipper. And while I was waiting, I began to have second thoughts. Do I really want to wear a pink, polka dot, puff-sleeve, babydoll dress? I am over 40 after all. Uh... I think not.

But I went to all that trouble fitting that dress, making two full muslins and two bodice muslins. I think I estimated I used 12 yards of stash up in the muslin process alone. I can't just not make it.

I began to wonder what I could do to make it more "me." Or at least more appropriate for me.

I finally decided to ditch the A-line skirt and try a sheath style. I dug out the pattern pieces from BWOF 02-2009-124 . You know, the other difficult easy dress.

I had to make a few adjustments to get the sheath skirt to fit the new bodice and to get the darts to line up, but here is my wearable muslin so far:

Bear in mind, this is just basted together. I haven't added the bodice lining, so the armholes are off as well as the neckline. I'm liking it, though.

I still need to tweak the front darts in the belly area, but that's no big deal. The back isn't perfect, but it's good enough. I already shaved 1/2" off the top of the skirt back pieces and adjusted the CB seam. I coud probably use a small sway back adjustment, but I haven't figured out how to do that with darts.

I also doctored the sleeves a bit. I added 1" of length and made sure the bands have plenty of ease. I have my fingers crossed that they will look like I plan for them to. I'll attach them next and share pics later.

I can't wait to wrap this project up and move on to something else. Remember what I said... it's those easy projects that turn out to be ordeals?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Burda Bubble Dress: The Verdict

Thank you to all my tasteful readers (and yes, you all are extremely tasteful!) for the encouraging comments about the Bubble Dress. Based on the comments received here, the comments from my family, and my own honest assesment of my wardrobe preferences, I have decided to proceed with the Bubble Dress project.

I will be leaving off the bubble hem, so I suppose I should come up with a new name for the project. I will be using the sleeves and I will be adjusting the neckline back down a bit.
I will use the pink dotted fabric from the previous post. I still need to purchase some pink batiste for the lining and some thread and a zipper. I hope to make it to the fabric store for supplies by the weekend.

In the meantime, the triangular neckline of this dress remeinded me of a previous Burda dress from May 2008 which I muslined with only limited success:

Here's a photo without the startled and unkempt looking model:

I say I only had limited success because I cut a straight size 44 for my first try. The top was too big and the bottom was too tight. I think after the success I've had with the Bubble Dress in a size 42, I might have better luck with this one if I go down one size on top. Of course I'll have to go up one size (at least) on the bottom, but that's the way it goes.
Luckily, I still had the traced pattern pieces. I only had to re-trace two pieces, the upper bodice piece and the facing. I was able to adjust all the other pieces down one size. (I also added 1.25" of length through the waist- my standard long torso adjustment.)
So while I'm waiting to get the rest of my materials for the Bubble-less Dress, I might give this one another go. Wish me luck.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Burda Bubble Dress Saga Part 4

The bubble hem is done.

I actually kinda like it. I wouldn't want to have a bunch of these in my closet, but it is kind of fun.

I think I need a little bit more length to the skirt. I like my hems to hit me at mid-knee.

Unfortunately, I got only negative comments from my family. "That looks like a clown dress." "What's wrong with the bottom?"

I can't help but wonder if the fabric is influencing their opinions. Let's face it, the fabric is loud and it's a little bit stiffer than the fabric I've chosen for the actual dress. In case you're curious, here's a (rather dark) pic of the intended fabric:

It's a really nice, soft cotton. I bought it at Joann's in the quilting section, but it's a little bit thinner (notice how you can see through it) and drapier than most quilting cottons. I plan to line it with pink batiste.

Right now, however, I think I need a break from this dress. I'd almost love to just work on something completely different for a while, but I'm afraid if I do, this will become a UFO and never get done. Maybe I should just press on.

I can't get too far, though. I need a pink zipper and enough pink batiste to line it in order to get this dress completed.

So, what say you, tasteful readers? Yay or nay on the bubble hem?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Burda Bubble Dress Saga Part 3

Thanks, y'all, for the encouraging comments about the bubble dress.

Not to muddy the waters or anything, but I went back to my "quick and dirty" muslin and slapped some sleeves on it just to see how they would look and feel.
I kinda like them. Much to my surprise. They even feel okay. The cuffs (which I cut much longer than Burda instructed) look a little bit tight in the photos, but I think that's because I didn't even trim the seam allowances before taking the pictures.

I do think they need a little bit more length- they almost look like they're pulling up on the outside of my arm. I think I'd like the band to be more horizontal. That should be an easy fix, though.

I'm really liking the sleeves and I'm thinking it's a better look for me. Suggestions?
I have the lining attached to the skirt on the pink and yellow muslin, and the casing is sewn. I'm off to insert the elastic and see how the bubble skirt works. I should have an update tomorrow!

Burda Bubble Dress Saga Part 2

Here is my muslin of the Burda Bubble Dress (05-2010-106) so far.
I have not sewn the lining down inside, and the dress is not hemmed. I will attach the skirt lining and fix up the bubble hem tonight for comparison hopefully tomorrow.

I am not loving this. The sleeveless bodice is not particularly flattering to my short, chubby arms. And my neckline adjustments have steered the dress dangerously toward the frump end of the spectrum. If I do end up making the real version, I will lower the neckline back down about a half inch.

I hope the bubble hem works out and adds some unexpected excitement, because as it stands, this dress is just nothing to write home about.

The fit is pretty good. I have considered adding the sleeves from version 107- they may be a better look for me. But the truth is that I'm afraid the sleeves will just start me over on the fit roller coaster. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to try, though.
Any suggestions, tasteful readers?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Is an Easy Dress Like This Supposed to be so Hard?

Now that I have the Kyoto Skirt and the Burda sheath done (and thank you for all of the kind comments, by the way,) I have turned my eye to the May issue of Burda Style and dress #106. It's a cute little sleeveless empire waist number pictured in blue batiste with white dots.
Now I don't really know why this particular dress caught my eye. It may not be a good look for me, or even age appropriate, but I'll decide that once I get the muslin done. Maybe it was the dots. I'm loving that dotted fabric.

It's really a simple little dress. It has two bust darts, an empire seam, and an A-line skirt. Yes, it is completely lined and there is the bubble hem thing going on, but even so, it should be pretty simple to fit and construct, right? After all, there are only four pattern pieces.
Sigh... Why does it so often seem that the simplest projects end up being the most difficult? Remember the Googly Boiled Egg Dress? Yeah, it was simple, too. And I never did get it to fit quite right. I think I've worn it to church once, even though I love it on the hanger.
Could it be that simple pieces are hard (at least for me) because they have fewer seams and therefore, fewer places to manipulate the pattern? That's my theory.
So. I started the Bubble Dress Journey this past week by making a muslin of just the bodice. That's all I really need to "fit," right? I began by tracing the pattern, which only goes up to a size 42 (as so many Burda patterns seem to do.) Once I had the bodice pieces traced, I proceeded to grade up to a size 44 at the side seams. I decided to experiment a little bit and leave the neckline and shoulders at the size 42. I thought I might get a better fit that way, and prevent the neckline/shoulder gaposis that I often experience with Burda.
The next step was to cut out the muslin. I used a scrap of quilting cotton from my stash. I sewed the darts, basted in a spare zipper to hold the back closed, and sewed the front to the back. It was time to try it on and check the fit.
Hmmm. The bust circumference was good, and the neckline and shoulders seemed to be in the right spot, but the underbust edge was way too big. The fabric fell straight from my bust, going nowhere near my chest wall. That would result in a baggy, sack-like finished dress, and that's not the look I'm going for. Also, the front bodice was way too short. If I attached a skirt to it, there's no way that underbust seam would have been in the right place. And the neckline was too low and wide for my taste and to wear with a good bra. But I knew going into this that I would have to raise it and maybe narrow it slightly as well.
(Sorry there are no photos of this muslin fitting session, but after all, I made the bodice only, and I trust no one really wants to see my pasty white belly in an ill-fitting "crop top" and a pair of ratty sweatpants!)
Back to the pattern. I added an inch of tissue to raise the neckline. Then I folded the darts out of my paper and tapered the side seams back to the size 42 at the underbust seam on the front and back pieces. Next, I wandered around the house for a while trying to decide the best way to add extra length to the pattern by slashing and spreading. In the end, I decided why get all complicated about it? I just added 5/8" to the bottom of the pattern piece, tapering to nothing at the side seam.
The I cut and sewed another muslin and tried it on.
The empire edge was still too big! Crap! What is going on? Then I realised, I neglected to sew the back darts! So I basted those in, put it back on, and the width seemed to be just about right. The only problem was that the back seemed a little bit tight across the shoulder blades. I decided to make a broad back adjustment by slashing my pattern vertically from the shoulder to the lower seam and spreading it 3/8". I figured I can take the excess in at the back dart, and either ease the shoulder or make a small dart there also.
So I made a "quick and dirty" muslin to check it out and to see if the weight of the skirt would pull the underbust seam into the proper place since it still felt like the bodice was a hair too short.
It's promising. The skirt went on perfectly and the underbust seam seems to be just right. I still need to tweak the neckline a little bit and maybe the armholes. This just seems like a whole lot of work for such a simple dress.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the Bubble Dress Journey, when I stitch up a "wearable muslin" to see if all my tweaking pays off and to judge the overall look to see if I want to make the "final version" of this pattern out of good fabric. Which will be- you guessed it- dots!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Kyoto Skirt!

Woo hoo! The Kyoto Skirt is done!
This skirt is not only fun to wear, it's actually fun to make, too! I finished it up on Thursday morning and wore it to work that day! I enjoyed having it on all day!

I just love the curved yoke seam, and the godet in the back is what makes this skirt. It's so unusual, and yet I think it's one of my favorite wardrobe pieces now.

You can see that I chose to go with the black/blue/green "kiwi" print for my bias trim. Check out my topstitching- 5 rows above and below the yoke seam and around the godet!

I chose to leave off the waist toggles. I used a continous strip of elastic at the waist and it's anchored by the outermost rows of topstitching at the center back. I considered leaving off the pockets completely, but after pinning one on just to check, I decided I like them a lot and added them on. I did not do the bellows pockets, however- mine are simple patch pockets. I wish they weren't so plain and if I make this again (and I very well may) I might add a pleat or something to spice them up.

The pockets and flaps are lined with the same print fabric I used for the bias.

I used a standard zipper and serged all the raw edges to keep the inside neat. The pattern recommends stabilizing the areas that are to be topstitched with interfacing. It does help keep the topstitching smooth and nice, but the inside is not very attractive:

But who is going to see the inside but me, right? (Well... and anyone who reads this blog!)

This is my very first HotPattern and I have to say, I am very pleased. I made the size 16 (chosen by my hip measurement) and it fit just right- not adjustments at all. The instructions were good, although they do seem to assume a little bit of sewing experience. The pattern pieces are printed on nice, heavy paper, all sizes in one envelope. I traced my pattern. I wanted to keep the pattern sheet intact in case I want to use a different size later on.
The fit is awesome. I love that the skirt sits at my natural waist! Some people have commented that it seems silly to have an elastic waist and a zipper, but I quite like it! The elastic waist is extremely comfortable, especially since my waistline seems to fluctuate from day to day, and sometimes even from hour to hour. And it's not a full waist at all. The gathers are minimal, making the zipper neccessary to get the skirt over my hips.

I would love to make this again! I highly recommend the videos at the HotPatterns website if you want to see how this pattern can be used to make several completely different skirts. I'd like to try dressing up the pockets or even tucking the pocket flaps into the yoke seam. I've got to find just the right fabric to make it again!
Well, my May Burda magazine arrived today, so I'm off to drool over the dresses in it. Stay tuned for a new outfit for the Princess. And who knows what I'll make for myself next!