Thursday, June 27, 2013

Stepping Outside of My Comfort Zone

The success of my last project, the Palm Tree Shift Dress, got me to thinking about another shift dress pattern.  I've been planning to try this little number since last year, when it was featured in the June 2012 issue of BurdaStyle.  

Planning... but not actually sewing.

I was instantly drawn to this dress.  I don't really know why, because it's not really me.  Know what I mean?  I'm a curvy girl with short, heavy, arms and legs.  I've always felt that I needed to stick to more fitted designs with waist shaping- even if it's relaxed waist shaping.  Straight dresses like this one should be left to slim, tall women with long legs.  Like the model above.

Still, there's just something about this dress.   Maybe it's those deep pleats at the neckline.  

Who am I kidding?  It is those deep pleats at the neckline.

I wondered if I could make this work for me.  Burda shows this dress made up in "Herringbone," which I'm assuming is a woven fabric.  I figured a knit would work better for me.  I'd get stretch and nice drape, which I think is key to making a dress like this work on anyone.  I have to admit, though, I pictured this in my head all along with a belt.  

I traced the pattern Sunday evening and made all my standard adjustments.  Then I made a quick and dirty muslin.  I just needed a couple more fine tuning changes, and now I'm ready to cut my fabric. 

Even though I've wanted to make this dress for a year, I think it's my satisfaction with my last project which has pushed me over the edge and made me actually start working on it.  I'm still a little surprised that the Palm Tree Dress turned out so well and I actually really like the way it looks on me.  It's also made me think about all those projects I've passed on that maybe could have worked for me if I'd only given them a try.

Has anyone else out there ever stepped outside their comfort zone and made something completely different than what they're used to making or wearing?  And had it turn out great?  Or not?  Please share your experience.

Monday, June 24, 2013

BurdaStyle 04-2013-109

I just finished BurdaStyle 04-2013-109A yesterday and I am tickled pink with it.

You may remember it as the cover dress for the April issue.  I was immediately struck by it's simplicity and the calm blue tones of the model dress.  It also appeared, at first glance, to have a sort of boat neckline- one of my favorites.

The technical drawing, however, was slightly off-putting.  The design was intriguing, but it looked like it would require a special bra, and there was almost no shaping, other than the tiny darts angling down from the armholes and a hint of curve in the side seams.
Fortunately I saw the dress  made up online.  I wish I could remember where so I could link to it.  (If you've made it, let me know!)  I decided to go ahead and make a muslin.  And I'm so glad I did.  I couldn't be happier with the finished dress.

This is a simple shift dress, with a high, round neckline (although not quite as high and small as the photo below would have you believe,) cut in shoulders, bust darts, and  minimal waist shaping.
 I  cut a size 42 through the shoulders, a 44 at the bust, and graded out to a 46 at the hip.  (The pattern is offered in sizes 34 to 42, but the pattern pieces are so simple that grading up- or down- is a breeze.)   I also made a 3/8" petite adjustment above the bust, and I added 1.25" of length at the waist, both standard adjustments for me.

I fully expected, when I made my muslin, to have to add a couple of vertical darts in back for shaping.  But I decided I quite like the slim, straight fit.  It's comfortable, and much more flattering than I thought it would be.  So no additional darts.

The pattern is cut pretty slim.  I almost always cut a 46 at the hip- that's my size.  But I found with my muslin that there just wasn't enough room if I wanted to sit or walk.  You can see in the photo below that even on the slender model, the hips are almost snug.

I was able to compensate by taking a 3/8" seam allowance at the hip.  That gave me enough extra room to make the dress work.

Even though this dress is super simple, I highly recommend making a muslin.  I am so glad I did, because if I'd gone straight to my fashion fabric, this would have been a wadder!  The armholes on this are low.  I had to raise them 1.25" just to barely cover my bra band.  And that's after making that petite adjustment.  Oh, and by the way, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I can wear this with my favorite regular bra- no racer back or special bra required!

Burda rates this as a 3 dot pattern, but that's because the blue view is lined and has beads and gems hand sewn at the neckline.  My dress is not lined.  I did not use the facing pieces provided either.  I found with my muslin that I could wiggle into and out of the dress without a closure.  So I omitted the button closure at the back of the neck (another good reason to make a muslin- to see if you can get it on over your head.)  I did install an invisible zip in the left side seam, just because it was easy, it made the dress seem a little nicer, and I didn't want to strain my fabric getting in and out of it.  The neckline and armholes are finished with black bias binding.

And speaking of fabric, I used black linen embroidered with 1" high palm trees which I've had marinating in my stash for a few years.  It's one of those fabrics that looking back, I don't know what I was thinking when I bought 4 yards of it!  I'd been looking for something simple with few seams so I didn't have to worry with cutting through and sewing over the heavily embroidered trees.  This seemed perfect.

And even though the fabric is black, the loose fit combined with the linen make this dress cool and comfortable.  I just can't get over how much I love this dress.  It's very simple, bordering on plain, but I love it.  I feel quite chic and sophisticated in this.  And the palm trees remind me of home- Savannah, GA.

I have no plans to make this again right now.  I have a ton of other projects on my to-do list.  But I would definitely make it again if the right fabric presented itself.  I'd love to try it in a novelty fabric, maybe with some embroidery or jewel embellishments like the model in the magazine.

I'm so pleased with the way this turned out that I pulled a couple of patterns out of my stash that have a similar silhouette that I've been too afraid to try before now.  In fact, one of my next projects will be a similar straight cut dress from Burda.

Long live the shift dress!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Adding to My Pattern Stash

Yesterday I made it to my "local" fabric store to pick up some buttons for the Flamingo Project.  But it doesn't make sense to drive 60 miles for one card of plain black buttons, so of course I had to check out the pattern sales.  And Hancock's didn't let me down.  The Buttericks and McCall's were on sale.  I was able to restrain myself and only purchase four.

I chose M6752 because it looks cool, comfortable, and easy.  I like both dress views and both top views.  This cross over bodice version is my favorite view and it takes relatively little fabric.  It looks like a great dress to run around in on weekends when the weather is hot.

Butterick has really had some interesting dress patterns lately.  I could have gone nuts and bought a ton of patterns, but I kept my impulses under control and only got three.

This one, B5915, looked really interesting.  I like the contrast fabric, and the asymmetrical "sleeves" look interesting, but not too over the top.

Of course, you don't have to have asymmetrical sleeves (purple view.)  And I really like the view with the border print.  All three views have modest necklines, too.  Definitely a plus.

B5917 is simply adorable.  I love the neck ruffle.  This would make a perfect dress for work.  I even like the tweedy fabric they've used for the model.

I really like the sleeveless version, too.  (And I have some red linen in my stash...)  This dress looks easy to fit and this style is perfect for my long waisted body.

The last pattern I picked up is B5862.  This dress is so interesting.  It's a wrap dress, but the front wrap is held in place with a "strap" that is caught into the side seam.

There are three views:  sleeveless, short sleeved, and 3/4 length.  The sleeveless view looks perfect for summer, while the 3/4 length version would make a great fall/winter work dress.  This is such a cool dress, but interestingly, I couldn't find any reviews for it online.  Has no one made this little beauty?

I also picked up some fabric.  (Had to make the drive worth while.)  I got a navy blue ponte knit which you may see soon, made up into a Burda shift dress; and a gorgeous ITY knit in black and teal, which may end up as  B5862 above.

For now, I need to get the buttons added to the flamingo project and I still need to finish BS 04-2013-109.  It just needs binding on the armholes and a hem and then it can be worn.  I should have pictures to show soon.

In the meantime, has anyone made one of the patterns above?  Any feedback?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

On the Sewing Table

Here is a little sneak peek at what I'm working on.  This project is all done except for buttons.  I have to make a run to my favorite "local" fabric store (60+ miles away) to find just the right ones, so this probably won't be completed before next week.

All I have to say at this point is- Flamingos.

And on my sewing table right now is this little number- BurdaStyle 04-2013-109:

Mine won't have the extra neckline embellishments.  I'm using a pre-embroidered linen, so I don't really need anything else.  Stay tuned for all the details.

In the meantime, whatever is on your sewing table, may it be 110% successful!

Friday, June 7, 2013

BurdaStyle 04-2013-119

I finished up BurdaStyle 04-2013-119 this week.  And I'm going to have to call this one a fail.  It looks okay at first glance, but it has some serious issues that make it highly unlikely that I'll ever wear it.

You may remember the sweet picture in the magazine.  The blouse looks fine on the model, but who knows what kind of clips, pins, or what-have-you they have holding that top in place.

The top is great in theory:  A wrap front blouse with pleats, held together with ties inside and two small buttons on the outside.  The short sleeves have nice wide bands, subtle gathers, and pleats at the shoulder.
 Here's a side view.  Not too bad.  I could work on the fit in the back- I have some sway back wrinkles going on.  This was actually a muslin.  If I were to go ahead with a "finished" version, I would tweak the back, but I don't think that's going to happen.

Here is the back.  Again, not too bad.  I cut a size 42 at the shoulder, eased out to a 44 at the bust, and then gave myself a little extra room in the hips.  I ended up having to let the back darts out about 1/2" each.  Otherwise it was too snug for comfort.

Here is a close-up of my closure.  I used two pearl buttons from stash and loops made from 1/8" elastic rather than fighting with bias tubes.  You can't even see the loops so it worked out perfectly.

This is the nifty pleat at the sleeve head.  The shape is nice and keeps the sleeves from looking too precious.

Here is where the problems begin.  The neckline gapes something awful.  Now I could have stretched it a little bit during sewing.  And it's possible I messed it up when I adjusted my facings- I made a petite adjustment above the bust (standard for me) and maybe I didn't get the shape of the facing just right, although I double checked it and it looked pretty good.  So it could all be user error.  But you can see in the photo below that when I put my hands on my hips, suddenly the neckline isn't even touching my body anymore.

And in this photo I simply shrugged and all of a sudden I've got major gaping, pulling, and serious bra visibility.

I figured I'd have to sew a snap in it to keep the neckline closed, but I attempted to pin it for the photos, and I found that even pinned, the front pulled open and the facing simply rolled out and stayed pinned to the bottom layer.  A snap would probably do the same thing.

I also noticed that I just kept feeling like I needed to adjust it, to tug it into place, to keep checking that the front was closed.  I'd never be comfortable in this top.

It's a shame really, because I like the look Burda was going for.  I think a wrapped front woven top is a great idea.  It's just not working for me.  I could tweak it some more- work on the sway back, pinch out a bit at the neckline, lengthen the sleeve a little so the bands are parallel to the floor.  I'm just not feeling it.  Other patterns are calling my name.

Other patterns and other fabric. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

My Image M1303 A Skirt that Works

Allow me to present the finished M1303- the My Image skirt, and my first ever MI project:

Here is another peek at the model photo and tech drawing:

And here I am in my new skirt which I will wear to work tomorrow.  After all the second guessing, and fitting issues, I've decided I quite like this.  There is something really fun about those big 'ole pockets.

The back, of course, is pretty standard.  Not much to write about there.

The side view isn't anything special either.

I think part of the reason that I like this, and a big part of why I didn't toss it in the trash when I tried it on the first time, is that the pattern itself is so unique and interesting.  Here is a shot of the pattern diagram in the magazine.  You can see how the skirt front is cut all in one piece:

Once the skirt is cut, all you have to do is fold, sew along the bottom of the pocket bag, clip one little place (where the upper pocket opening edge is attached to the side seam) and then sew up your sides.  Once you figure out how the pocket folds, it's really much faster and easier than sewing a traditional pocket.

Here is a look at the inside of the skirt:

I used a hot pink stretch poly crepe for this.  At first I was afraid it had a little too much body and made the pockets stand out too much, but I've since changed my mind.  The stretch makes the skirt quite comfortable, but I was afraid that throughout the day it might grow and start to sag, so I used a quilting cotton for my waist facings to help the waist hold it's shape.  The cotton was also less bulky and helped me get a smoother seam finish.

Here is the side seam before I serged it.  You can see where I clipped into the fabric right at that point where the upper pocket edge meets the side seam:

Here it is with the pocket lifted up (with the making thread still in the fabric:)

You can also see where I took the side in- twice above the clipped point, and once below.

If I were to make this again, I would start with a smaller size.  This skirt began as a straight 46 (MI offers it in sizes 36 through 46) and it was way too big.  I used the measurement chart provided in the magazine to chose the 46.  I'm not sure if maybe MI patterns run a little bit big, or if it is just the unusual nature of this skirt which causes it to finish up a bit on the large side.  I suppose I'll have to make another MI pattern to check!

In the end, I took in the waist approximately 2.5" total with all the adjustments I made.  I took in the lower part of the skirt about 1" over all below the clipped point.

I added 1.25" to the bottom of the pattern pieces for a hem allowance, but I ended up turning up just 3/4."  So I effectively added 1/2" of length to the skirt.  I like where the hem hits- mid knee.

Yes, I'm going to wear this to work tomorrow and see how it performs.  I'm thinking it will do just fine.

In other sewing news, I finally got around to putting new sleeves on BS 04-2013-119.  The sleeves fit now, but the blouse has other issues, including some neckline problems and issues with the back darts.  I'll be fiddling with it a little more before I share it.

I also have another project that I've been quietly working on, which I hope to share soon.  It features flamingos!  I love me some flamingo fabric!

How about you?  How is your spring/summer sewing going?