Wednesday, December 31, 2014


I knowingly skipped over my third blogiversary, or however it's spelled, because I felt that my neglected blog didn't deserve any hoopla at the time. As the year 2014 rolls to an end, though, I thought I should revisit this space to catch up and do a bit of reflecting on the past year of sewing in general. If only to distract myself from thinking about the impending nightmare of filing my taxes as a self-employed person for the first time. And I've certainly missed you all!

As you may know (from this blog post), in February I quit my position as a grant writer in order to sew for a living. For awhile after that I was mostly sewing for a studio that did bridal alterations and custom projects. The owner ultimately decided to narrow her focus and cut down the volume of her workload, so I stopped working there in early September and ventured out on my own. 

One of my last projects at Seamstress for Hire: a tablecloth playhouse. Naturally I had to try it out for myself.

Since then I've been freelancing, sewing on-demand for a few Etsy shops and local brands (Rebourne; Cuddle Sleep Dream; Brynnie). The work is consistent and I get to work from home on my own equipment, which is excellent in that I can set my own schedule and I certainly enjoy the autonomy and pajama dress code. But it also means that my small sewing room is in a constant state of chaos and I never know how to stop working because the work is always staring at me.

Above: my pile of items to sew/alter before the holidays

I have also been teaching more often at Butcher's Sew Shop, leading the Sewing with Knits workshop as well as some sections of Sewing 101 and 201 and private lessons for adults. In the past I never imagined myself being any sort of teacher due to my introverted nature, but teaching people how to sew has been incredibly fun. I'm lucky that Butcher's is a laid-back and warm environment, and it's rewarding to witness the students' proud moments of finishing a new project. I've learned that patience and encouragement (...and being able to multi-task like kRaZy...) go the longest way as a sewing teacher. If you're interested, you can read more about the talented owner of Butcher's on Madalynne's blog here.

Clockwise from top left: Sewing 101 students with their finished clutches; a student's Linden sweatshirt from my Sewing with Knits class; me with a student in Sewing 201 working on the Salme Kimono top (photo by Maddie found here); and a student's finished Deer & Doe Plantain tee.

The rest of my time is spent doing custom projects and alterations. I'm trying to shy away from this type of work when possible because it takes a lot of (unpaid) time to meet with people and do fittings, and the work can be unpredictable. The majority of these type of clients so far have been friends or people I know, though, which is certainly more enjoyable that way.

Clockwise from top left: Custom button-back top for my friend Charlotte; duffel bag made from firefighter gear for a retired fireman; a Craftsy post I wrote on hemming jeans (quite a controversial subject according to the comments); and a flat tummy adjustment in progress on a RTW dress.

My hobby sewing (and blogging, as you know) has slowed considerably, but I have cranked out a couple easy things for myself in the wee hours. I did sacrifice a whole work day and made hedgehog costumes for Corey and me for Halloween. (People thought we were lions.) I also took time where possible to make birthday and Christmas gifts for some dear ones this year.

Above: wide-wale corduroy pants I made for Corey's birthday. I used the Thread Theory Jedediah Pants pattern, which fits him perfectly with no modifications. He wears these cooooonstantly!

Favorite makes this year, clockwise from top left: Linden sweatshirt for myself in a loopy sweater knit; Portside duffel bag I'm obsessed with (I replaced that white zipper with a gold metal one and it's bangin'); Several pairs of handmade underwear because I hate shopping for anything anymore; Hedgehog costumes made from fleece and a ton of felt triangles.

2014 has been a truly bonkers and amazing year. I almost can't believe this is my life now. I certainly do not miss working in the office environment and never for a moment have regretted my decision. Working for myself of course comes with its own stressors, like unreasonable deadlines, taxes, business licenses, expense tracking, clutter!, picky clients and 15 hour work days where I don't leave my house. I work about 70 hours a week and earn less than half the income I had at my office job. But! I feel as though I own my stress because I can decide what work I'm taking on in the end. It's taken me awhile to build confidence and I still get frustrated at myself for making dumb mistakes or taking too long, but I've more often been proud of myself than anything for what I've done so far.

So here's to another bonkers and amazing 2015. Happy new year, friends, and I will see you on the other side!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

steaming out permanent creases on altered garments

I seem to know a lot of tall guys. Poor guys, can't find shirts or suit jackets that fit in the shoulders and chest AND are long enough for their gorilla arms. Poor seamstresses (me), having to alter the tall guys' sleeve lengths and mess with those awful mitered vents.

I will answer a couple major questions here. Can you lengthen a suit jacket sleeve? Despite the sad lack of internet tutorials on how to do so, YES, you can. In this case I lengthened the jacket sleeves by 1-1/4" and added a facing so I would have enough fabric to recreate the sleeve vent. The buttons along the back sleeve seam are not functional, so I could pop them off and re-position them after the sleeves were lengthened.

Another major question: Can you get rid of that pesky horizontal crease that persists from the original factory-pressed hem? YES. Maybe not 100%, but yes. Here is what it looked like before, even after pressing and steaming, steaming, steaming with water multiple times:

Many moons ago, Megan Nielsen blogged about steaming out a seemingly permanent crease on her denim Kelly skirt using a brown paper bag that she wet with a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water. Luckily I was able to find her post again (HERE) and followed her lead to remove the hem creases on this suit jacket. 

I cut a scrap of brown packing paper from one of my far-too-frequent Wawak mail orders, then I dipped that in a mixture of white distilled vinegar and water. I placed the wet paper on top of the creased area, then steamed the daylights out of it. Held my iron there with constant steam for maybe 15 seconds until the paper was dry, then moved to the next section.

Side note: I have a "one size fits all" iron shoe tied to my iron, in case you're wondering what that thing is. Helps prevent scorching and shine.

And here's the finished sleeve after the vinegar magic show:

Not bad! The garment does not smell like vinegar, though my sewing room and hands now do. I'll also note that the thinner packing paper worked better on the crease than when I tried this with a Trader Joe's paper bag, which is a bit thicker. 

That's all. Just wanted to share this tidbit in case you ever have to alter clothes for a tall guy (or gal). Have you tried this?

Friday, October 31, 2014

fear fabric: leather

This past year of sewing has been all about facing (not necessarily conquering) my fears -- fabric fears being one of them. I mean, just think of how many wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses I had to work with. That's a lot of chiffon, satin, organza, netting, lace, beading, charmeuse, and many more types of shiny polyester that nearly suffocated me mid-bustle. Nothing's scarier than being trapped under the train of a two-ton wedding dress, swimming upstream through miles of scratchy tulle as you try to find where you dropped that hand needle...

So when Beth of 110 Creations announced her Fear Fabric challenge again this year (I sewed lace last year), I was stumped for awhile deciding what kind of "scary" fabric could top bridal fabrics. The Project Runway devil on my shoulder made me briefly consider neoprene or, ha!, fringe. I don't know where to find those fabrics locally though, or most importantly, where I would wear those garments locally. 

I decided to return to the basics: leather. I've sewn vinyl before, as seen on my beloved Portside Duffel, but never the real deal because it's expensive and I figured my machine couldn't sew leather. The ethical issue I won't really get into here, but I've recently swung my moral pendulum after a lifetime of purchasing cheaply manufactured fake leather items from Target that peel or fall apart before the week is through. Which is now an industry I'm no longer keen to support. Anyway, I bought a black leather hide remnant at a local shop on Fabric Row in Philly. The piece was damaged so I got it at a discount. I know that my machine (and wallet) can't handle much, so I decided to keep it on the small scale and just use it as an accent on a bag.

This pattern is a foldover clutch that students learn to make in Sewing 101 at Butcher's Sew Shop, the studio where I work sometimes. Appropriate that I'm sewing with cow skin in an old butcher's shop? That's dark. I'm at the studio quite a bit, so I'm always getting inspired by what the owner and the students are making. Those newbie sewers blow this bag out of the water, by the way (example here).

This is a lined zippered bag with D-rings on the sides to attach a strap. I did not make the strap shown in these photos, and I know it doesn't really match, but my machine would NOT sew through the layers necessary to make my own leather strap, try as I might, so I swiped this one from my camera bag for the time being. The fold in the foldover clutch is also supposed to be deeper, but I wanted to make it tall enough to carry my laptop/tablet thing.

The upper layer is camel colored wool, also purchased locally at yet another fabric store that is going out of business in this world. RIP PFO. 50% off though, yo. I used a gold metal zipper and lined the bag with a quilting cotton print I bought, like, pre-blog. I applied fusible fleece to the lining pieces because I originally hoped to use this as a laptop bag, but the zipper I used isn't long enough for my laptop to fit through, horizontally anyway. Nice planning!

Other than the strap issue, my machine did okay with the construction. I found it slightly easier than vinyl to sew because it was more pliable and less sticky icky. I used a walking foot, a leather needle, and Wonder Clips instead of pins to keep the layers together. I bought 20 Wonder Clips two weeks ago and I'm already down to 14, with the lost six huddled together somewhere hidden, giggling at me. How does that happen?!

Happy with my bag because obvi I love black and camel as a color combo, so it matches like 85% of what I've been wearing lately. I'm also happy that Corey recognized the genuine leather on this bag and thus assumed I didn't make it. Boomy. I did.

Paired here randomly with New Look 6299 that I made in black and gold stretch denim. Unblogged, like most of what I've made in the past 6 months. Sorry about that. Rest assured that most of what I've made is either black and white, black and tan, or black and brown. Or are undies.

Thanks for hosting the Fear Fabric challenge again this year, Beth. And Happy Halloween, spooksters!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

diana cardigan + magic pattern book giveaway

Updated 10/23/2014: This giveaway is now closed. The winner of a copy of the Magic Pattern book is Ruth Griffeth. Ruth, check your e-mail!

Hallo sweeties. Please (continue to) bear with my blogging infrequency as I learn how to be officially self-employed with a sewing workload of 12+ hours each day. More on that later, perhaps! #stillloveyou 

Pattern: Diana Cardigan from Amy Barickman's Magic Pattern Book
Worn with: Nettie bodysuit (similar blogged here) and buttonlesss Beignet skirt (blogged here)
Size: Medium
Fabric: Poly blend sweater knit

Here I'm showing you the Diana Cardigan, one of the 36 patterns included in the new Magic Pattern Book by Amy Barickman, founder of Indygo Junction. I haven't yet heard much about this book in my corner of the sewing blog community, which is kinda surprising because the book is pretty great and includes many patterns that are cute and wearable.

The Magic Pattern Book includes six styles of garments (tank top, dress, skirt, cardigan, coat and accessory) that each have six variations for you to sew. All patterns are included in PDF format on a CD in the back of the book, or are available to download online with your purchase (thankfully - since I don't have a disc drive on my tiny baby 'puter). The variations go beyond just sleeve length or design accents; they include different silhouettes and construction methods entirely, which is pretty cool. Amy also sometimes includes ways to take existing garments (like men's trousers) and cut fabric from them to make the pattern.

The book is essentially a giant pattern library and that's about it, which is a pretty amazing deal when it comes to the price you're paying. You really are getting THIRTY-SIX patterns. 

When I read about the concept of the book, I first assumed that they give you six patterns and then tell you how to modify them yourself to achieve more looks. Like, "take this pattern piece and shorten it by 3 inches and cut off a wedge here, etc." Little lessons in pattern alterations or drafting. In actuality, they already drafted all 36 patterns for you and sectioned the pieces out by style, so there really is no modification or brain work needed at all. You just download the exact pattern you want and it's all there ready for you to print on its own.

I'll admit that disappointed me a tiny bit at first because I was hoping to learn more about altering patterns properly, but in the end, the time-crunched/lazy-grumpy side of me is much happier to have it all there ready for me so the book will get more use. Part of me loves to hoard patterns so this book definitely speaks to that dark side. I still am nosy, though, and want to see how she actually modified the original cardigan pattern to make the other variations. Like, how do you draft your own jacket lapels?!

For my cardigan, I used a black and tan sweater knit print from a local fabric shop. I mostly followed the Diana instructions except I shortened it by about four inches (it's really long to begin with!) and used my coverstitch machine for the hem instead of a double needle. The Diana is the only pattern in the book that recommends a knit fabric, I think. Kinda a bummer because obvs I love knits. It probably means I'll end up turning to the Diana over and over again because it's such a practical layering piece and whips up pretty fast!

One thing to note, at least for this cardigan, was that a cutting modification instruction was included as part of the sewing directions. So if you're the type of bozo like me who usually cuts all your pieces and THEN looks at the instructions, this may cause a problem. I mean, the modification in my case was that I just needed to add 3/8" of fabric to the back of the neck, so it wouldn't be a colossal mistake if I hadn't, but it's something to look out for in the book's other patterns as well.

An issue with sizing I had when sewing this cardigan was that the book only gives you finished garment measurements for each style, with no recommendations on what to sew for your body measurements. Usually I'm all about the finished garment measurements, but without knowing how much ease is intended, it can be tricky to figure out which size to sew. Like for a drapey cardigan, what do I want the bust measurement to be? Do I want it to be 8" bigger than my actual bust measurement, or 9-1/2", or way less or way more? I have no idea off the top of my head, so I wish the book would at least give a recommended amount of ease so you can do the math. For this, I chose the medium size with crossed fingers. It worked in this case with a stretchy cardigan, but I'd be a little more hesitant when choosing the size of a woven skirt or something.

Normally I don't buy pattern books because the ones currently on the market feature garments that are a little too folksy, twee or retro. The Magic Pattern book does have some rufflage that I'll skip, but with 36 options for women's garments, there are quite a few that I would like to sew beyond this basic cardigan, like the Delia Jacket, Cecelia Dress, or the Bridget Skirt (sans elastic back). 

The options are mostly pretty casual and nothing too complicated. I didn't notice anything with buttonholes, but there are garments with zippers, bias tape, snaps, facings, toggles, pleats, tabs and pockets, so there are definitely details to tinker with if you please. Amy also includes other fabric suggestions for each style so you can get an idea of what else you could use, though the garments are illustrated in this case so you can't see how the fabric actually affects its drape:

I'm happy to have this book on my shelf now because it does have fun options to sew. I really wanna make a coat this winter so I'm thinking of using one of these patterns as a jumping off point.

If you're digging the idea of this book, Workman Publishing has offered to give away a free copy to one of YOU. This giveaway is only for USA residents, though (sorry!). To enter, leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, October 22nd at midnight EST. Good luck, ducks.

And to check out what other people think, hit up the tour:


October 7  WINDY LOU
October 8  MELLY SEWS
October 10  SEW MAMA SEW
October 14  LILACS & LACE
October 20  CUT OUT & KEEP
October 22  CHIC STEALS
October 23  THREADS

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me for free by Workman Publishing in exchange for participation in the blog tour.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

sewaholic sewtionary review

Despite being mostly a self-taught seamstress, I actually don't have many sewing books in my arsenal. I've survived so far with only a few: one good reference book and a couple fun pattern or project books. Obviously you can now find most anything sewing-related online, but the quality of that information is sometimes questionable and there are many sources that give conflicting or confusing advice. And not everyone wants to have to prop their laptop up on their sewing table and inevitably become victim to the bottomless pit of sewing blog tutorials. Having a reference book written by a reputable source is essential for all sewers.

Tasia St. Germaine, owner and designer behind Sewaholic Patterns, recently released one such book, called The Sewtionary: An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques and Definitions. It discusses a wide range of alphabetically-listed sewing terms in detail, including the term's definition, when to use it, and how to do it with accompanying full-color photographs of each step. It has a spiral binding and a matte finish on the pages for a more pleasant reading experience.

Image courtesy of the Sewaholic blog

Tasia kindly asked me to be a part of her Sewtionary book blog tour this month, and I agreed to review the book and try out a technique from it. I've been a long-time fan of Sewaholic Patterns and Tasia's blog, not just because she designs for pear shapes like me, but because her blog is a wealth of information (and purty clothes). Tasia's education and professional background make her a qualified patternmaker (bio here), so I've always trusted the quality of her designs. And whether she's leading a sew-along of her own pattern, sewing her first quilt, or sewing a vintage McCall's pattern, she covers the details of her construction process in extensive detail. I've followed many of her tutorials before and it's clear she knows what she's talking about. Her sewing is impeccable!

So who better to write a new sewing reference book? I'll admit that I own a pretty stellar one already that is a 350-page beast and covers almost everything possible (fabric types, machine use, fitting, pattern adjustments, technique tutorials and projects). However, I do think there's a place on the shelves for a book like the Sewtionary. First of all, my Singer photo reference book covers so much that it's a bit overwhelming and difficult to navigate. When looking for info about hems, I'll get distracted by info about serger tension or swimsuit sewing and then I feel like I've fallen headfirst into a Pinterest-ish abyss. The Sewtionary is more concise and straight-forward due to its alphabetical format. The pages all follow the same layout with careful spacing so nothing feels cluttered or extraneous.

Tasia is of a younger generation of sewing professionals and is aware of modern techniques and fabrics. This affects the styling of her book and I think sets it apart. Even though my Singer book is revised regularly, the garment samples are not and the result feels dated even though the information is still sound. I know I'm biased, but I appreciate Tasia's use of samples such as the Minoru jacket, the Renfrew top, the Grainline Studio Archer shirt, and other more casual designs that modern women want to sew and wear everyday (since I have sewn those patterns and do wear them everyday!).

It makes the techniques feel more applicable to me and makes me feel more inspired to sew. Whereas this skirt suit from my Singer book -- ummm, not so much:

I think the Sewtionary would be a good buy for someone who is relatively new to garment sewing or, say, needs a visual aid when trying to interpret Burda magazine's garbled instructions for a fly-front zipper. But it's probably not for more advanced sewers or those who already have shelves upon shelves crammed with sewing books. I found some information that is new to me but not a ton. If I wanted to execute an advanced technique like tailoring a jacket with hair canvas, I would probably try to consult several sources more focused on that technique. If you only want one reference book in your library, however, this could be the one because it is very well-done, but maybe it doesn't have enough supplemental information for you if your library is already robust with reference books. Or, yaknow, if you're a dude. I'm sure you could guess that the Sewtionary is aimed more toward female sewers than male sewers, which makes sense considering Tasia's expertise and pattern market. It includes terms like horsehair braid and boning, but not collars or tower sleeve plackets. Ohhh why is it so hard to find info about how to sew tower sleeve plackets? 

Anyway, I decided to put the book to the test and use it to learn a new skill. I chose bound buttonholes since those are tricky to teach and tricky to learn. I've tried them once before but ditched that particular project long ago. The bound buttonhole section is one of the longest sections in the Sewtionary and rightfully so because it's an involved little task. I appreciated the clear photos and pro tips along the way because my buttonhole ended up looking alright! I will definitely be following that exact technique if I need to sew bound buttonholes in the future.

The Sewtionary is a nice resource overall and I couldn't admire Tasia more for sewing ALL those samples and creating such an organized and polished book. I think it reflects her brand and her blog quite well, but doesn't feel catered to Sewaholic fangirls only, if that makes sense. Like you could buy this for your second cousin for Christmas and she'd dig it even if she doesn't know a Cambie from a Belcarra.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of the Sewtionary signed by Mrs. Sewaholic herself, you can do so here. It's also available on Amazon and such. The blog tour is still going! The following galz are participants, many of whom are hosting giveaways of the book:

Wednesday, September 10th: Thread Theory Blog
Thursday, September 11th: Miss Crayola Creepy
Friday, September 12th: Coletterie
Monday, September 15th: City Stitching with Christine Haynes
Tuesday, September 16th: Tilly and the Buttons
Wednesday, September 17th: Madalynne
Thursday, September 18th: Closet Case Files
Friday, September 19th: By Gum, By Golly
Monday, September 22nd: Lladybird
Tuesday, September 23rd: True Bias
Wednesday, September 24th: Four Square Walls
Thursday, September 25th: Ada Spragg
Friday, September 26th: Did You Make That?

What's your favorite sewing reference book? Do you have the Sewtionary? Have you tried a technique from it yet?

Disclaimer: I was given an electronic PDF version of the Sewtionary free of charge for this review, and I tried to be as honest as possible about my impressions.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

how to gather fabric with a serger

Darlings! I haven't had a moment to breathe sew much for myself since I last updated, but I figured I could at least share some lil' techniques I've been learning "on the job." In my freelance work, I often sew multiples of the same thing, so I use those opportunities to try out different ways of executing the same step to see which method is fastest or looks the best. 

Gathering fabric is one of those [obnoxious] tasks that can be done a few different ways, such as pulling on two parallel lines of basting stitches, zig-zagging over a strand of dental floss or string, or using a gathering or ruffle foot on your machine. Those all work fine... when they work. I actually haaaaate gathering fabric because those methods very easily go wrong and can be time-consuming, especially when your threads snap and you have to start all over again. And what if you need really dense gathers, or your fabric is a bit thick? A gathering foot won't do you much good there.

Well, I was recently commissioned to make 10 gathered party skirts for a local startup clothing line, so I had to figure out a way to get fast and consistent results with sewing gathers. OR ELSE. The fabrics I'm working with for these skirts are cotton sateen and silk taffeta, and they have a skirt-to-waistband gather ratio of 2.75-to-1, so they're pretty frickin' poofy and need a lot of gusto to gather. I think 3-to-1 is the determined max limit on gathered skirt poof before it becomes, like, physically impossible to sew and maybe socially unacceptable to wear.

I knew in the back of my mind that sergers could gather fabric, but I had never tried it. So when I did try it, I couldn't believe how much easier and faster it seemed. All you have to do is adjust some settings on your serger and get gathering. Now, of course this method can go wrong, too, as nothing in sewing is fool-proof, right? This technique actually works in an opposite manner as the basting method because you gather the fabric as you serge and then loosen the gathers to fit. This is unlike the basting method, in which you typically tighten the gathers to fit. This means you should test out your gathers on scrap fabric first to make sure it gathers tightly enough on your serger. If the gathers are too loose after serging, it will be difficult to tighten them up.

The first step is to set up your serger for four-thread overlock. The tightest gathers will occur if there are two needles engaged instead of one. Once you have threaded your serger properly, tighten the tension of the two needles (not the loopers), which are typically the two leftmost dials. For this particular project, I needed to gather the fabric very tightly, so I increased the needle tension as high as it would go, which on my Brother 1034D serger is at a "9" tension. After some trials, I found I achieved best results if my left needle is at "9" and the right needle is more like a "7" tension. Your machine may react differently. I left the loopers at default tension, which for my machine is a "4":

Next, tighten the differential feed if you are able to. The serger has two sets of feed dogs, one in front of the other, and the differential feed controls the ratio at which these feed dogs move the fabric under the presser foot. A higher differential feed -- in this case, a "2" -- will move the first set of feed dogs twice as fast as the second set, which gathers up the fabric. Conversely, a lower differential will move the first set of feed dogs more slowly, which stretches out the fabric. Here I've set it to the highest ratio possible:

Now, all you have to do is serge along the edge of the fabric and the machine will do the gathering work for you. 

Here is a video I took of the gathering at work. This is high production value, folks. Oh you're welcome!

Keep in mind that the serger will gather along the edge, so you may need the adjust your seam allowance first or serge so the blade cuts off part of the seam allowance if it is 1/2" or larger. Make sure the left needle of your serged seam does not extend past your desired seam allowance because the threads will then be exposed on your garment and they're hard to pick out neatly. It may help to match your serger thread color to your garment, but I did not do that here (the skirt is lined and I did not want to spend money on four fuschia cones for one project!).

If you are attaching the gathers to a flat piece of fabric, it helps to have marked the gathered fabric and the flat fabric into fourths so it's easier to match up the points and distribute the gathers evenly. Below, I have matched the quarter marks and then I gently loosened and distributed the gathers so they match the length of the flat fabric. If you yank on the serging too hard to loosen it, the threads may snap, so be currful. Lots of pins help secure the gathers.

When you sew the gathers to the flat fabric on your sewing machine, it helps to have the gathered side facing up so you can make sure the gathers aren't folding over or jutting out from the seam allowance. Be sure your needle sews right below the serged seam.


It's worth mentioning that you can do something similar with a regular sewing machine by upping the tension, but the serger helps create tighter, more even gathers because it is set up to sew two parallel lines of stitching with two needles and you can adjust the differential feed as well. I also like that it finishes the edge as you gather so there's less annoying fray to deal with when you're attaching it to the flat fabric. And because it's so fast, if your gathers somehow fall out or get too loose, you can just zip over one section again with the serger. Much less stress than having to rebaste two full lines.

How do you prefer to gather fabric?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

a painterly dress

I keep waffling between LOVING this dress and thinking it looks like a 90s thrift store special. Something about the mix of pink and purple in the color palette seems dated, maybe, and sometimes I think I see butterflies in the print that aren't actually there. Butterflies on clothing reminds me of my childhood. But I mostly love the dress. It helps that it's relatively well-made, by my standards, and it fits quite nicely, by my standards. And I do like the abstract floral print. I made it specifically to wear to a wedding so I enjoyed having an excuse to sew a fit-and-flare dress that has more than three seams, is fully lined, and not made of cheap jersey like my usual handmades.

I started with one pattern -- Simplicity 1418 -- but went completely off script as I tend to do. I bought a few of those Simplicity Project Runway patterns on sale at JoAnn recently and then decided they were kinda "meh" once I got home. It used to be I was so bored by the Big 2 offerings that indie patterns seemed shiny and bright, but now I'm bored by indie patterns --at least for dresses-- so it felt exciting to flip through the commercial pattern books and see a bunch of new-to-me stuff that I could gobble up for $1.99 each. But, it turns out they're all basically the same sort of silhouettes anyway with a few questionable details tacked on, like the fake lace-up binding on the back of this dress:

I first made a muslin of View B with the wide cap sleeve things like the yellow dress on the envelope. It looks cute on the model. It did not look cute on me. Getting those sleeves to fit would be tricky. They actually have an elastic casing attached underneath to help the sleeves stay put on your shoulders, but they still kept slipping down into 80s territory and were all gapey in the back so I knew I would have to play too much with the sleeve pattern to make it work. Plus, strapless bra requirement? Ew.

So I decided to make View A.... kinda. Here's what I actually kept about the pattern:
  • Princess seam lines on the front
  • Back pieces with darts and high back inset, though I seamed in the inset instead of attaching it behind the back pieces
  • Side zipper placement

Here's what I changed:
  • Changed the neckline from a v-neck to a scoop neck and cut the front piece on the fold instead of as two pieces.
  • Eliminated facings and edge bindings.
  • Added full lining, which narrowed all the edges since I was turning under seam allowances instead of binding them.
  • Used the half-circle skirt from Simplicity 1651 instead of this pattern's pleated skirt. I assumed that since they were the same pattern line and same size, the skirt would match to this pattern's bodice, and it did perfectly.
  • Added pockets to hold my phone and keys while I'm dancing at the wedding reception, of course.

So, I basically made it more boring! I very nearly bound all the edges in black bias tape as the pattern calls for. It didn't "feel" right, though, so I consulted the smart gals of Instagram because it's impossible to make decisions on my own in this approval-obsessed age of social media. The vote for clean finish vs. black bias tape was 36-to-18, so I had to go with majority. I do think it was probably smarter for this kind of occasion -- black edging would have made the dress more casual and bias tape can look hokey and be difficult to apply neatly. Without it, though, some of the design effect of the back bodice is taken away because the binding is supposed to outline the inset piece. Ohwell.

FABRIC: The fabric is a linen print from Jo-Ann, so probably a third of you own it as well. It's a bit scratchy on its own which is why I chose to line it. The bodice lining is made of some off-white cotton I found in my stash, and the skirt lining is cream-colored Bemberg rayon.

FIT: I was kinda surprised to see that these envelopes are split at size 12 instead of size 14 like other Simplicity patterns I own (so you have to buy either 4-12 or 12-20). Maybe it has to do with the amount of design variations included in the pattern, so they can only print so many sizes. Fortunately it doesn't affect me too much because I only make a size 10 if it's a knit pattern, so I just bought the upper envelope. Choosing size for this dress was a bit of a gamble; they do list the finished garment bust size on the back of the envelope, but I had to consult the actual pattern pieces to find the finished waist size. I fall between a size 12 and 14 for bust and waist, but cut the size 12 to cut down on some of the built-in ease. I got nervous that adding a lining would bulk up the dress, so I sewed the side seams at 3/8" instead of 5/8" and it worked out fine.

I made a muslin and tweaked issues like puffy princess seams, sticky-uppy shoulders (technical fitting term), a gaping armhole and a waist seam that dipped too low in the back. I actually altered the pattern pieces (!!) so the issues would already be taken care of on the final fabric. Yeah, I don't normally do that...? This is one of those patterns that has the option of sleeves vs. sleeveless without any change to the shape of the armhole, which seems like bad drafting IMO. Luckily the front princess seams end right where the gape at the front armhole is, so it's easy to adjust there. I also folded out a small (3/8") wedge out of the back armhole pattern piece before cutting into my final fabric.

CONSTRUCTION: The original pattern has facings, but the facings are supposed to be basted to the garment edges WRONG sides together, then all layers of the raw edges are bound with double-folded bias tape. Huh? What's the point of the facings if they're not there to help finish the edges? I don't know if it's just to provide stability to the neckline or what, but if I were to make this garment without a lining and with the binding, I would probably just eliminate the facings all together. Am I right or wrong on that?

I used a 14" invisible zipper in the left side seam. Sewing an invisible zipper around an in-seam pocket is always an adventure, and since I added my own pockets to the pattern, the instructions weren't included for that. The only tutorial I can find linked to online is from 2008 on the Pins & Needles blog that no longer exists. Luckily I own Simplicity 2215, which uses this method.

The half-circle skirt is cut so that the side seams are on the straight of grain and cross grain, with the center front and center back hanging on the bias. Helps with zipper application, maybe. I had limited bemberg rayon for the skirt lining, so I had to cut the lining with its side seams on the bias and the CF and CB along the grains. I'm not willing to figure out the geometry of why that saves fabric but, it does. I... don't recommend this, if you can help it. I guess you have to even out the hems separately no matter what, but it made it seem like more of a headache because after hanging, the main skirt was drooping too low in the front and back, while the lining was drooping too low on the sides. Zzz hemming. Once I got it even enough, I did a blindstitch hem on my machine, which I only attempt on textured or printed fabrics.

I feel like I'm providing an unnecessary amount of detail about making this pattern, so I'll shut my trap now. Have any you had success with a Project Runway pattern lately? The Project Runway collaboration with Simplicity makes me laugh because Nina Garcia would probably kick me off stage if I sent this dress down the runway for real. Too twee and fashion-backward for Marie Claire, perhaps. BUT ILIKEITALOT.