Dresses

Ikat Hearts and Bluebonnet Fields

Last spring I was told how beautiful Texas was in springtime and that flowers would be blooming all over.  I saw a few, but I wasn’t really all that impressed.  Well, this year, the bluebonnets and other wild flowers are truly in full bloom.  Whether I’m just getting out and about more, or the flowers are putting on a better show this year, I don’t know, but I set out to photograph my new dress in a field of bluebonnets.  It seemed like the Texan thing to do.

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After scouting a location, driving there and dragging along my husband to play photographer, you can imagine my great disappointment when the camera battery died just as I finished snapping a few test photos.  It has an amazing battery that lasts forever, and as a result I hardly ever charge it.  Whoops.  Didn’t even think about it, but it’s surely been quite some time since it was charged.  So much for capturing the flowers in great detail; iPhone to the rescue.
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This dress is Simplicity 2147.  I had two yards of this cotton ikat fabric (only 45″ wide), and I searched high and low for a dress pattern that would work with it.  To help conserve fabric, I paired it with a chambray (cotton/linen, I think) for the yoke.

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I cut out a size 16 and then recut the yoke in a 14 when I confirmed that the shoulders were too wide for me.  I also pinched out a half inch at the center back neck line on the yoke to get a better fit.  It lies flat now, and the fit is comfortable.  The dress is gathered into the yoke instead of pleated, and I also added some width to the lower portion of the dress, so it’s a bit more roomy and swingy than the original pattern design.

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My husband confirmed my suspicions that this dress is a total “moo-moo” style, and I’m gonna be wearing it belted until it gets so hot that I no longer care what I look like.
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The ikat fabric looks like sketchy little hearts.  It is light and flowy; the weave is a little on the loose side, feeling almost like linen.  I was determined it would be a summer dress, and I’m pleased with the outcome.  The pattern is an easy make with no closures and a loose fit.  I did line the yoke to get a clean finish; the pattern directions use bias tape to finish the armholes and neckline, and the bottom edge of the yoke is overlocked.  I don’t think lining the yoke took any more effort, and to me it looks and feels so much better.  Oh!  Almost forgot, I also added at least 4″ in length.  The dress is called a “mini,” and I think the original hem length would have been mid-thigh on me; not my style.

Well, these aren’t quite the photos I imagined, but at least I managed a blog post!  Here are a couple more of the “family” for your enjoyment.
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Sweet Shirtdress

I believe it’s been at least a couple months since I’ve sewn any garments for myself, and I’m so glad I took a break to make myself a shirtdress.  Thanks to Idle Fancy’s sewing challenge, I made McCall’s 6696, and I love it.
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I honestly haven’t sewn very many Big Four sewing patterns; looking back, it seems I’ve stuck to independent pattern companies and vintage patterns.  And also BurdaStyle.  I really loved those instant download pdfs from Burda when I was first getting back into sewing.  Anyway, I am quite pleased with this McCall’s pattern.   This is the first pattern I’ve used where you can select your cup size and the corresponding bodice pattern piece.  It worked out quite well for me.

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I did make two adjustments right out of the gate: I shortened the bodice 1″ and cut off the sleeve cap ease.  I don’t like easing sleeves in, and why should I?  I contemplated raising the armscye as well but decided to try it out as is first.

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I feel the fit is quite good.  The dress is comfortable and I can move freely.  I will probably raise the armscye for future versions, but I’m pleased I can indeed move well enough as the dress is now.

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I’m a little wrinkled in these photos because I was out running errands, and as you can see, I’m wearing slippers.  It turns out I don’t have much selection in winter footwear.  I’m a jeans and boots kind of gal in winter, and I have flats in red and maroon because those colors go great with blue jeans too.

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So now I’m curious, what do you all wear on your feet with a dress in winter?  I need some suggestions, stat!

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Chris was a dear and took my photos so that I didn’t have to mess with the tripod today.  And that meant my hands were free to bring Lucy and one of my clutches.

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I was excited to see, after finishing this navy blue clutch, that it matched with this plaid fabric.  And that is truly why I finished this dress when I did–something to go with my new favorite purse.  For those who may not know, I’ve been sewing leather of late, and that’s why I haven’t been sewing clothes.   You can check out some of my other purses in my etsy shop.

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I hope to blog a little more about sewing leather and purses in the next couple months, so if that interests you at all, keep an eye out, or better yet, let me know in the comments.

Floral Flora Maxi Dress

With summer heat comes mosquitoes.  I was brutally attacked by swarms of the little bloodsuckers while watching my husband play softball Monday night.  Even covered head to toe with bug repellant, they were still biting.  With big red welts all over my legs, I knew it was time to sew up a new maxi dress for summer.

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Maxi dresses: light and breezy while still covering your legs, which means of course, I can cover up unsightly bug bites and stubble.

This dress uses the Flora (By Hand London) dress pattern for the bodice, and about 80″ of gathered fabric for the skirt.
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The floral fabric is rayon challis from Hancock Fabrics, and the bodice is lined with batiste.  The rayon is splendidly drapey and light, and the batiste adds just enough stability and coverage in the bodice.
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The neckline was a pain to fit; I intentionally made a couple tucks where the front pieces overlap into the waist seam.  I thought I had it all worked out and was quite pleased until I sat down in my finished dress.  My shoulders dropped forward and I looked down only to see my entire chest hanging out.  I tacked the overlapping pieces together at the center front to make the dress wearable, but it does not lay flat at all.  Unfortunately, this is not a bodice pattern I will use again.  Regardless of the gaping neckline, I intend to wear this dress all the time.
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My love for rayon has been renewed.  I’ve already got a skirt put together with this same print in another color scheme, and I’ve got two more geometric prints in my stash ready to be made into another skirt and dress.  I am machine washing and hang drying my rayon makes in order to prolong their life.  How do you care for your rayon garments?

Seersucker Sundress

I made another sundress out of seersucker, this time in green gingham.  Cotton seersucker has earned a special place in my heart this summer–it really is quite comfortable in the Texas heat.  Don’t be surprised if you eventually see a dress in every color of seersucker that I can source.

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I made it back around to Pattern Runway’s Gathered Sundress, and this time I made some fitting changes to the pattern and even made a muslin!  I basically kept the medium size shoulder straps but graded the rest of the bodice up to the large size.  My muslin had some gaping at the armholes, so I ended up reducing the curve in the side bodices (front and back) to eliminate the extra fabric.  I redrew my pattern pieces for the sides of the bodice and tested the fit on the lining.  The fit was great!  This is the best fitting dress I have made yet!!

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It is so much more comfortable to wear a dress that fits correctly through the bust and shoulders, not to mention the waist.  I don’t have to suck my tummy in for the dress to hang straight ;)

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I decided to change up the skirt and pockets this time around.  I cut a half circle skirt, a straight waist band, and drafted patch pockets.  I’ve been crushing on patch pockets; I see them a lot on skirt and dress patterns from the 40’s, and I wanted some for my own.  I found Tasha’s post on pockets quite helpful, but I may go back at some point and topstitch the pockets down.  Who am I kidding?!  I doubt I’ll actually ever fix these pockets, but I do think my hand stitching isn’t super strong.  On future projects I would consider topstitching patch pockets instead of sewing them on by hand.  When I put my hand in the pockets, the littlest bit of weight or pressure reveals a little space between the skirt and the pocket.  So maybe I just need to pull my stitches tighter?

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I’m quite happy with the overall look of the pockets though, and they are functional.  I intended there to be a larger pleat down the middle of the pocket, but it looks more like a small tuck at the top.  A little ironing might help, but part of the fun of seersucker is the bubbly texture that defies ironing.  I added a strip of green bias tape to the pocket to help make it stand out a little bit.  The green of this dress is so subtle, I was desperate to add a little more color in.

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I hemmed the skirt using my machine’s blind hem stitch.  Since discovering the gauge that attaches to the presser foot to help perfectly align the folded fabric, I have been quite satisfied with the results of the machine stitch.  I’m not big on hemming wide skirts by hand, so as long as the machine can do it consistently, I’ll skip the hours of hand stitching.

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I’m thrilled with the results a little fitting and muslin testing can produce.  But now that I have a dress that fits well, I find myself shunning the older dresses in my closet that weren’t quite right.  Does anyone else have that problem??  I think it’s just part of learning…  And I seem to like learning the hard way since I generally pass on muslins ;)

Sundress: Study in Stripes

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I love the scoop neck and pockets of Pattern Runway’s “Gathered Sundress” pattern, so I made it up for the third time.

Red and white striped seersucker seemed like the perfect lightweight sundress fabric, so I cut it out, playing with the stripe placement.
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Unfortunately, I seem to have forgotten that my previous version had some serious fitting issues, and I charged ahead, over-confident.  The major problem is that the pattern is 2″ too small around the waist for my body, so I had to get creative to salvage this dress.

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I added 1″ strips to either side of the zipper to add 2″ to the waist, while maintaining the original size of the neckline.

Besides some drag lines, I’m happy with the result and even like the added back details.  The side seams are pulling to the front, so I definitely want to adjust the pattern and give this another try.  But even with all my mistakes, this dress is super comfortable and will see a lot of wear this summer.
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Silk Twill Laurel

I pinned the hemline of my Laurel dress, preparing to sew a blind hem, and then peaked out the window.  The sun was dipping below the apartments to the West, so I put on lipstick and ran outside with my camera.

So here she is, Laurel, with a pinned hem.
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I used this silk twill from Harts Fabric, with silk chiffon sleeves.

I think I’m in love with silk.  At least this silk.  It wasn’t as scary to work with as I had feared, and it has just the right amount of drape and body.  I love how it feels on.

I’m not in love with the sleeves, but I kinda ran out of time to experiment with different styles, seeing as I wanted to enter the Collette Laurel contest which closes at midnight.  They are gathered at the bottom with elastic, and pleated at the shoulder.

Although this is a simple pattern to sew up, my schedule has been very full, and it’s taken over a week to get the dress together.

I’m preparing for a trip to Europe in a couple weeks, and I’m using every spare moment to sew, which leaves me no time for blogging.  To make life even more busy and exciting, we are moving to Texas days after we return from our trip.

So… I’m a little stressed right now, and I don’t think I’ll be blogging much between now and June/July.

But when I return, I hope to have some photos and me-made outfits to share from my Mediterranean Greek Isles cruise–maybe even a swimsuit or two.

I’ll be reading blogs when I can, so we’ll talk soon!

-Qui

1940’s Dress-Part 3 (the photos)

I lost a little sleep this weekend, but I finished my 1940’s Du Barry 5947 dress for the Sew for Victory sewalong.
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I’m pleased with the way the dress turned out. The fabric is light and comfortable.

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I did a fair amount of hand stitching, which I hadn’t counted on. Mainly, the hem. I wanted a blind hem, and because the skirt is curved, I didn’t want to mess with a blind hem on the machine. I haven’t had success with easing and blind hemming at the same time. So I stitched it by hand while catching up on Mad Men.

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I successfully raised the armscye and reduced the sleeve cap ease. The original sleeve had 5″ of ease–no wonder I had trouble setting it! I reduced it to a little over 2″ of ease, which took the poof out of the sleeve cap, but I don’t miss it one bit. I was able to set the sleeves without any gathering stitches. And my range of motion is much improved.

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Scout leader Qui.

I thought this lovely silk scarf matched the dress beautifully, but I really don’t know how to style it! I feel like a scout leader and at the same time over-dressed.
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Maybe the hardest part of this whole project was taking the photos of myself–it isn’t so easy. First I went to the park, but it was quite crowded and I chickened out. I settled on this vista overlooking the Capitola village. It’s a pretty view, but I’m not sure it’s really the best spot for photographing a dress. I made the best of it, and I practiced with some different settings on my camera.

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Now that it’s all said and done, I’m so glad I joined the 40’s sewalong!  Working with the vintage pattern turned out to be not so scary at all.  In fact, I’m really pleased with the drafting of the pattern.  It went together nicely and fits great.  I like the pleated skirt now that it’s hemmed–it lays nice and flat around my midsection, but it flares out to a comfortable size.

I think I’ll probably avoid patterns with vestees in the future.  I didn’t really like putting in the vestee–I think I’d prefer a regular button up shirt dress with a collar.  I topstitched in dark green to accentuate the green-ness of the fabric, but it’s hardly noticeable in the photos, so I’m not sure it matters all that much.  Up close I guess it’s a nice detail, and it does help to outline some of the pattern design.

The sewalong motivated me to finish this detailed project, and also to try new techniques.  I’ve decided I love pinking seams!  Thanks Rochelle for organizing this event–I hope to join more sewalongs in the future and try more 40’s patterns too.