Monday, January 27, 2014

Knit Dress Update- Boy, Am I Glad I Made a Muslin

My latest knit dress project is well under way.  I traced my pattern on Saturday and made my standard adjustments.  For a few minutes I toyed with the idea of skipping the muslin and just cutting into my fabric.  After all, I've made tons of Burda dresses and I know how they fit...   Boy, am I glad I came to my senses.

Tracing and adjusting was as far as I got on Saturday.  Mr. Frogs and I went to the big city for a concert and didn't get home until late.  But Sunday I decided to test my pattern by making a muslin, and I am sooooo glad I did.  Turns out I needed some additional adjustments to make this dress work.

After throwing together a very quick and dirty muslin, I found that I needed additional length through the waist.  That is, on top of the 1.5 inches I already added by slashing and spreading the lower bodice just above the waist seam, and the upper skirt just below the waist seam.  To get the waist  seam in the right place and have adequate length, I had to add an additional 1/2" to the bodice and 3/8" to the skirt. That's a total of 2 3/8"!  That's more than I've ever had to add before, which leads me to believe that this pattern is drafted on the short side.  Or maybe it's just that I normally go for vertical seams, which are much more forgiving.

I also had to do a modest FBA, adding 1/4" to the bottom of the upper bodice and to the top of the lower bodice.  That horizontal seam goes right across the bust-  just FYI, in case you were wondering.  The pattern pieces are shaped to incorporate the bust dart in that seam.  (And yes, I raised the neckline 1 inch for modesty's sake.)

I also had to do an "FBA"or full bum adjustment, to the upper back skirt piece.  That horizontal seam across the backside seemed to ride up when viewed from the side, so I used the same basic adjustment I made to the bust, just upside down, to lower that seam line into place.

I also found that the straight part of the skirt is shorter than expected and the flounce begins higher than I thought it would.  No problem, though.  The overall length looks good... now that I added all that extra at the waist.  Oh, and the sleeves are loooong.  I actually used the shorter sleeve from a different view and they turned out a little bit more than full length on me.

I just noticed, looking at the tech drawing that I made a mistake in my lower front bodice pattern piece and in my cutting:  I didn't put it on the fold!  I am going to have a CF seam on my lower bodice!  Which helps to illustrate my next point which is, even though this really is a simple dress when you get right down to it (all the seams are straight or gently curved, there are no darts, pleats, or inset corners, and everything goes together very nicely) you have to pay really close attention when putting it together.  There are separate pieces for lower front bodice, lower back bodice, upper skirt front, and upper skirt back, which are all very similar, but need to be sewn together correctly to get the shape right.

My dress is all cut out now and ready to be sewn.  Unfortunately, I'm too tired tonight to start.  I think I'm going to go find some snuggly pajamas and head off to bed.  Tomorrow is another sewing day.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


I haven't sewn a stitch in the last two weeks.  I've wanted to, but between the long hours at work, feeling tired in the evenings, and getting laid out flat this past weekend with a bad cold that's been lingering all week, it just hasn't happened.  Now that I think about it, I did put a few stitches in the Traveler Dress last weekend, but I felt so fuzzy headed and uncomfortable from the cold, I decided to just put it aside before I made some terrible mistake and ruined it.

I do plan to get back to that little dress this weekend.  I also received a shipment of ponte knits in the mail this week and I think my first project from that shipment will be this dress from the November issue of Burda Style:

I loved this dress on first sight.  It has that sleek sheath silhouette that I love, plus some pretty fab seaming, and a flippy little flounce at the bottom to liven things up.

It looks like it will be pretty easy to make my standard adjustments, and other than raising the neckline, it shouldn't need too much done to it.  The gorgeous dark plum ponte knit I have picked out should guarantee a pretty good fit, and comfort, too.  And the long sleeves will be very practical for my frigid office and the miserable cold we've been having here lately.  And since I'll be leaving out the center back zipper and the wrist zippers, it should be a pretty fast sew, too.  I anticipate having a new dress to wear next week.

In other news, I think I'm going to have to bow out of the Shift Dress Sew Along.  Sigh...  I was really looking forward to making a "winter/office" version of that cute pattern, but unfortunately, I just haven't found a fabric that spoke to me.  I shopped several online sites and my local Hancock's and I just couldn't find what I was looking for.  I don't want to force it.  The right fabric and the right pattern have to work together.  I've made the mistake before of settling for a fabric to go with a certain pattern, or vice versa, and it almost never turns out well.  The garment just ends up hanging in the back of the closet, never being worn.  I have too many other projects in queue to waste time making something that won't get worn.  You will see that dress again- I have a pretty, seersucker plaid earmarked for it for spring/summer.  I just don't feel like making a seersucker dress right now when it's below freezing outside.

What are your weekend sewing plans?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

February Burda is Here!

The February issue of Burda Style arrived today- about 4 days before I expected it to!  What a nice surprise on a Monday evening.  February is usually a pretty good issue, and this one is no exception.  There are a lot of great pieces just waiting to be made, but here are a few of my favorites- some things you may see here later on.

 Dress 116, shown in red and white cotton satin, features a V-neck and an a-line skirt with pleats in front.  A belt attaches at the pleats and wraps around to the back where it's fastened with buttons.  The shape is simple, but has just enough detailing to make it interesting.

Dress 112 has been getting a bad wrap around the internet.  A lot of people don't like the ruffled sleeves, but I think the overall shape is great.  I love the shift silhouette, and the bias cut hem band.  The raglan sleeves combined with the square neckline look like they would be very flattering and would set off a great necklace.  As for the ruffles, Burda suggests using chiffon with a raw edge for a different look, or just leaving them off altogether.

Dress 113 uses the same basic pattern pieces, but with a longer, plain sleeve.  I thought this was a striped fabric when I saw the online preview, but it's really three different fabrics pieced together.  How cool is that?

Jacket 114 is simply gorgeous and looks like a perfect jacket for spring.  I love the raglan "over sleeves."  I could even see this made up as a short sleeve jacket (without the long sleeve portion) as a cute spring top.

Skirt 110 is a great basic skirt with cargo pockets- but thankfully "flat" cargo pockets!  I also like the yoke detail on the back.  This looks like the perfect casual skirt to pull on with a cute blouse for work or a plain t-shirt for the weekend.  I even think I have some khaki fabric in my stash.

Skirt 139 from the plus section is also really nice.  The details include pockets which are applied to the outside and a bias cut hem band with 2 buttons on the back.  Another great skirt that can go casual or corporate depending on what you wear it with.

There are a lot of other great garments in this issue- skirts, dresses, tops, you name it.  Another great February issue.  I can't wait to get started on some of these, but I'll have to wait because I still have a project from the January issue that's waiting to be made.

So what do you think?  Are any of these February projects calling your name?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Burda Style 01-2014-108

This is the first project started and finished in 2014, Burda Style 01-2014-108, the Waterfall Top.

This is what it looked like in the magazine.  Graceful, with elegant draping and form fitting at the waist and hips:

I'd love to see the back because I suspect there are some serious pins and clips back there.
Because there is no way this top is going to fit like it does in the photo with a line drawing like this:

I knew that going in, and yet I chose to go ahead and try this pattern.  And I was right.  It did not fit like the photo.

This is, however, a very cool, interesting pattern to sew.  It only has two pattern pieces to trace- the back pieces which are joined with a center back seam and then folded to the front to form the dolman sleeves, and the front which is basically a square.  The bottom band is just a rectangle that you cut to the dimensions given in the magazine.  All the seams are straight, so it is simple, fast, and easy to sew.

I used a jacquard fabric just like the magazine.  I bought this silvery floral print a few years ago at Hancock's.  I figured it was time to use it.

The problem with this pattern is that there is no waist shaping at all.  So the figure skimming look in the model photo is a complete illusion.  Unless you want to walk around with clothes pins clipped to your back!  I sort of solved the problem by adding elastic to the waist.  Now the top snugs up to my waist more like the photo... but not quite.

Another problem with this pattern is that it runs huge.  I cut a 42 front and back and used the 44 measurements for the bottom band (plus 1 extra inch to make sure I had enough ease to wear this over jeans.)  It swallows me.  There is just way more fabric than there appears to be in the model photo.  I also have a bit less drape in front because I sewed up my shoulder seams an extra inch on each side to cover my bra straps.

And even though I used the same type of fabric that the pattern called for, I think this fabric has a little bit too much body for this design.  The pictures make it look even worse.  It was very windy out and the breeze just picked up this fabric and inflated it like a balloon.  That combined with the shiny finish just looks awful.

I really think this pattern is screaming to be made up in a knit... with either a shaped band or at least a band cut with negative ease so that it fits the hips and waist better.  A knit would also flow better and give it more of that "waterfall" look.

I'm going to have to call this my first wadder for 2014 (might as well get it out of the way early, right?)  I just can't see myself wearing this.  I enjoyed the process of putting it together, but the finished product just isn't flattering.  Maybe someone else can take my experience and use it to make this top successfully.

There's more to come.  I have another top to share that was completed during the holidays, and I successfully muslined a dress from a back issue of Burda which you will see soon.  I'd also like to make a successful project from the January 2014 issue, so stay tuned for that.

Happy sewing!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

McCall's 6787- The Last Finished Project of 2013

This is the last thing I finished before the new year.  I think I put the last stitch in on December 31st.  The problem is that it has been excruciatingly cold and wet here lately and today is the first chance we've had to get outside and take pictures.  It's nice and warm today, but very windy...

Anyway, this is McCall's 6787, a girl's pullover knit dress with a gathered neckline and elastic waist:
 I made the size 14, the biggest size in the envelope for my 12 year old.  I added 1/2" of length to the bodice, and 3 inches of length to the skirt.  I also added an additional 3/8" to the waist seam allowances so I'd have a wider casing inside to use wider elastic.  The pattern calls for 1/4" elastic, but I thought 1/2" would work better.

The dress pretty much looks just like the drawing.  I used a colorful "paint splotch" knit print that I found at Hancock Fabrics.  The Princess picked it out and she was thrilled to find that it matches her favorite shoes- the emerald green flats she's wearing in the photos.

The dress was easy to make up.  I do have a couple of quibbles with the pattern however.  First, McCalls did not see fit to provide a separate pattern piece for the overskirt.  I'm not sure how I was supposed to lay the whole dress out at once with both skirt pieces being on the same piece of tissue.  I suppose I could cut the underskirt first and then lay out the over skirt and cut, but then what if I wanted to make the pattern again?  My under skirt piece would be gone.  So I had to trace the overskirt so I'd have both pieces.  Now I trace Burda patterns all the time, but when I buy a McCall's pattern I expect all the pieces to be there and I should not have to trace anything.  Hmph.

My second quibble was with the instructions for finishing the armholes.  Why yes, McCall's, I'd love to narrow hem a tiny little, extremely curved armhole by turning the seam allowance under and then turning again!  I'm sure that would look nice and smooth and neat when it was done... uh, probably not.  So I cut binding strips from the fabric and used those to finish the armholes.  It was much easier and looks great from the outside of the dress.

Other than those two things, it's a great pattern.  The pieces go together perfectly and it's pretty easy to sew.

When I make it again, and I will because I want to make the peplum version above, I will narrow the bodice a bit.  It seems a little bit wide on the Princess.  But then, that has been my experience with McCall's kids patterns- they are drafted short and wide.

The Princess was adamant about wanting the sleeveless version of this dress and I went ahead and made it because it will be easy to put a shirt and tights under it during cold weather.  I expect her to get plenty of wear out of it during the spring and summer, too.  We are planning a shopping trip this week to find some tights/leggings and a cardigan to go with it.  I did not make the self fabric belt, because the princess has an emerald green belt that will go perfectly with the dress and match the shoes.

I've already begun the next Princess Project- the Lisette Traveler shirt dress.  I hope to finish it up this week.  It will also go with the emerald green flats.

There is more in the pipeline, too.  The Christmas holidays gave me a chance to recharge my batteries and my creative juices and I have lots of motivation to sew.  Not as much time, now that I've gone back to work, but the mojo is there.

So how is your new year shaping up?  Are you feeling motivated?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

McCall's 5190

The first finished project of 2014 is McCall's 5190.  Actually it was done before the new year except for the buttons, which I finished sewing on Thursday.

Please excuse the shadows in the photos.  My photographer is only 12 and it was freezing outside- much to cold to quibble about the photos and definitely too cold to re-take!

Here is the pattern picture.  I made View A, the tan jacket on the upper left:

 I should know by now to be wary of patterns that don't show real photographs.  But more on that in a moment...

I deviated a tiny bit from my standard pattern sizing for this project.   Usually I cut a 14 through the shoulders, a 16 at the bust and waist, and an 18 at the hip.  But I figured the fit on this jacket would be somewhat similar to the fit on M5859, which was very close through the body.  I wanted to be sure this jacket would fit over a blouse or thin sweater, so I cut a 16 through the shoulder and bust and eased out to an 18 at the waist for the muslin.

I made my standard pattern adjustments:

1.5" of additional length at the waist
Shortened the sleeves 1"

The muslin turned out okay.  I tried it on over a sweatshirt and decided I needed to add an additional 1/2" at the side seams.  I also decided to do a 1/2" FBA.  And I trimmed the shoulders back to a size 14.

Why on earth I didn't notice at that point that this thing is too darn short, I don't know.  The waist is in the right place and the hip shaping is, too.  I just need a couple more inches at the hem for it to really feel right.  Notice in the photo above that the hemline and the cuffs are almost the exact same length!  Compare that to the pattern illustration.  Notice how the sleeves are so much longer than the body of the jacket in the drawing.  I really can't tell for sure from the drawing if this is supposed to be extra short or not.  It would be great to have a photo of the jacket on an actual human to have a better idea.  In any case, my length adjustments didn't help the proportions.  But that's the way it is, or rather, the way I am- my torso is long and my arms and legs are short.  Really short.

The fabric is "cordless" corduroy from Hancock Fabrics.  I purchased it several years ago, I'm not sure for what, and I finally decided to just use it and get it out of my stash.  I love the color, but the napped fabric was kind of a pain to work with.  I thought it would be easy, but it wanted to shift around a lot more than I expected.  All the seams are topstitched, and it shows up nicely.  I did a test swatch to check before starting.  The buttons are silver toned plastic also from Hancock's- completely machine washable and cheap.  I think they were $1.00 for a card of two.   There are ten buttons on the jacket so they only cost me $5.

Here's a shot of the back.  I borrowed the "belt" from a different view just to give the back a bit of interest.

Seriously, if I had just added another 1.5 to 2 inches at the hem, I think the proportion would be so much better.  On the other hand, the stand up (mandarin) collar is perfect.  I was worried when I saw the pattern piece that it would be skimpy, but I think it turned out just right.

There are no pockets in this jacket.  The pocket flaps are decorative only.  I moved the bottom set up one whole inch.  When I pinned them on at the pattern markings I felt like they were way too close to the hem and they looked odd.  There may be no pocket under there, but it should at least look like there could be one, right?

I pretty much followed the pattern instructions as written.  The jacket is fully lined- I used a coordinating cotton print for the lining and the underside of the pocket flaps and belt.  Normally I wouldn't use cotton to line a jacket.  I'd want something more slippery.  But I didn't have anything just right in my stash and this cotton print went with the blue fabric so perfectly I just had to use it.

This is not a difficult pattern, but it does take time to put it together.  There are a lot of pieces to cut and sew together.  If you're looking for something quick to sew, this is not the right project.  But if you want a cute (short) jacket with a military vibe, this is it.  A beginner could make this jacket with some patience and attention to detail.

I love this jacket on the hanger.  On me... well, I wish I had added more length.  But I'm still going to wear it.  It will be perfect to stay warm in the office and it will certainly look better than wrapping myself in a blanket.  And when I start my next jacket project (yes, there will be more) I will be paying extra close attention to not only the lengthwise fit of the garment, but the finished length as well.

Will I sew this again?  Well, I've learned to never say never.  It is a cute jacket.  I love that it has a military vibe, but it's not over the top.  There are some other nice views.  But I think I've had enough of this one for a while.  I have tons of other jacket patterns to try, so I'm moving on for now.

I'm off to finish up a simple top that I started the other night.  Then I'm going to dive in and trace a new Burda project... a knit dress.  What are you up to this weekend?

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Vogues!

Happy New Year!  I do have finished projects to show- three of them!  But it's way too cold to go outside and try to get any photos right now.  One of those projects is the McCall's jacket that I worked on throughout December, and I'm pleased to say that now that it's finished, I've fallen back in love with it.  Stay tuned for a report on that later...

In the meantime, it's never too cold for new patterns and Vogue just released their spring collection.  It's been a while since I've bought a new Vogue, but there are several in this release that I just have to have.

First up is this designer Ralph Rucci dress:

This just looks cool.  The shape is simple, but the topstitching details are fabulous!  They will probably take for-ever, but in the end they would totally be worth it!

 Next up is this fabulous color blocked shift:

Have. To. Have. It.  I love this dress!  Once again, a simple shape, but I love the front seams (making it easy to do an FBA) and the dual colors.  I love the black and white shown, but I can totally see this in brighter colors for spring and summer- maybe hot pink and orange?  Purple and blue?  Lime and turquoise?

 This one is from Sandra Betzina:

Again, super simple, but you have to love that it's only 2 main pieces.  It's shown quite dressy on the model, but I think this would make a great weekend dress.  If you used the longer sleeve length from the t-shirt it would make a great early spring/fall piece, too.

And it wouldn't be a Vogue collection without Donna Karan:

Nice jacket and somewhat plain t-shirt (although I love those seams that wrap to the back) but I would buy this for that skirt alone.  Those are seams, y'all.  Love this!

And last up is probably my favorite, this Easy Options Custom Fit dress:

It does look pretty easy and it already includes bust cup options, so no FBA needed.  It's basically a princess seamed sheath with a shaped waist inset.  I love that it includes the cap sleeves and a 3/4 sleeve.  I can see making a dozen of these all in a different color ponte knit!

Have you checked out the new Vogues yet?  Are any of them on your "must have" list?  Have you even started to think about spring sewing yet?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Shift Dresses!

Lauren over at Rosie Wednesday is having a Shift Dress Sew Along!

Simplicity 3833 Sew Along

She will be using one of my favorite patterns, Simplicity 3833:

I love, love, LOVE this little retro reprint.  I've made two of these and I love them both.  Not surprising, since the shift dress is one of my all time favorite styles.  I especially love the vintage shift dresses from the 60's and 70's.  I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to "Mostly Mod Fashion Inspiration."  

I love the sleek, clean lines of the 60's shift dress.

Most of these dresses are deceptively simple, but can feature unique seaming and details which make them fabulous and timeless.

The fit is relaxed through the waist, making the dress not only flattering, but comfortable, too.

Once the 70's rolled around, the shift seemed to soften a little bit.

The dresses skimmed the waist a little more closely and there was a little more flair to the hem.

This little beauty is McCall's 2545, which I am fortunate enough to have in my collection!  I adore those cool pockets.  I plan on making this one, I'm just waiting for the right fabric and the motivation to size it down- it's a size too big through the bodice.

The shift dress is still a fashion staple today.  Here are a few picks from my "modern" fashion inspiration pins:

Chevrons- very trendy right now.

Color blocking- simple, but high impact.

Diane von Furstenburg- very chic and glamorous!  Love that beaded collar.

Linen shift with hemline detailing.

Oscar de la Renta- beautiful lace overlay.

Ralph Lauren- high impact with simple lines and gorgeous color!

Plain white shift- very similar to the vintage 60's shift dresses, and still wearable today.

Gold shift- unique seaming makes this one fabulous.

Zipper shift- a plain cut with creative zipper detailing.

So hop on over to Rosie Wednesday and check out the Shift Dress Sew Along.  You can read all about it (she has a little video, too) and decide if you want to participate.  I'm still trying to decide if I can make room in my sewing roster (and fabric buying budget!) but I'll probably succumb and join in because I can't resist a shift dress!  Especially when the pattern is so perfect (and I've already made it so no fitting issues!!!)  My first two versions of S3833 were sleeveless summer dresses in linen and cotton, so I'd love a chance to "winterize" this pattern and make it something warm, yet fashionable for the office.

But first I'm off to trace something out of the Burda January issue- my first new project of 2014!  Happy New Year!