Friday, August 4, 2017

Random Threads # 28

Hey it's been quite a while since the last Random Threads post - my notebook page is filled up with topics to discuss.

What have I been up to? Teaching classes at Hello Stitch Studio - each class takes a bit of thought beforehand, sewing up samples to illustrate various techniques or just to work out how to demonstrate things. This week I had a class on sewing button front shirts which I cleverly combined (ha ha) with writing a post for Craftsy on the topic: how to attach the collar. Some sewing for others, which I don't do for a lot of people, just a few that I enjoy working with. A little pattern testing for my favorite indie pattern designer (Pauline Alice patterns). Some planning for fall sewing - including making up a sample jacket for an upcoming class. Jacket weekend! I am often asked about doing a class for sewing jackets so check it out on the Hello Stitch website if you are interested.

Which brings me to my first topic - How long does it take you to cut something out? I realize that I've been sewing for ages plus I am one of those people who do things fast whether it is washing the dishes or reading a book, or walking through a store. But I am realizing that the cutting out part of making a garment takes a good chunk of time. And it doesn't need to! Mostly I try to get people to be less tentative with the scissors. Tiny half inch snips are going to take forever when cutting a long center back seam. Trust your coordination and use the whole scissors. Get sharp scissors, pin enough so the pattern piece doesn't shift but not every 3 inches. Relax, breathe. Cutting out should be less painful. Also my last tip - before the first cut, step back, look it over, review all the pieces and then proceed with confidence. Does cutting out stress you out?

Ready to Wear isn't perfect either.  A friend of mine bought a dress that needed shortening, so I had her stand still while I marked the hem all around. I usually run a thread trace around where I have put the line of pins so I can remove the pins, have a temporary but stable hem indicator, and then I can hem it whenever without concern that the pins will come out.

uneven hem on blue dress

Granted that few of us are perfectly evenly built, most of us have a higher hip or lower shoulder that affects the hem. When I looked at the two side seams I had pinned up so much more on one side. It made me question my work and it seemed that I was drastically folding up one side seam more than the other. For some reason I thought - check the side seams and look, one side seam is about 3/4" longer than the other. On a $ 500 dress! Mystery solved and my ego stroked about my own precise sewing :)

Sewing verbiage around the world. My fellow Americans, does it sound strange to you when you read that something has an "elasticated" waist? That sounds so weird to me. I would say elastic waist. Don't get me started on the phrase "my make". I know it's popular but it makes me want to tear my hair out. I love the Great British Baking show and they say "bring your bakes" to the table. So has this verb into noun conversion taken over the UK?  Reading blogs written by people all over the world is great fun but when I stumble across one of these weird to me grammatical constructions I stop short and gnash my teeth momentarily. Probably silly I know but just one of those pet peeves. I am imagining a UK reader of sewing blogs with a pet peeve along the lines of "those annoying Yanks boasting about their 10 for $ 10 pattern sales" Or maybe we have some grammar quirk that gets under their skin. Just for curiosity I would love to know what American idioms annoy you on a sewing blog.

An interesting life: Lucy Spector, one of the founding owners of Britex Fabrics in San Francisco passed away recently and the San Francisco Chronicle had a long obituary on her. She had such an interesting life and great style. If you like to read about successful women in business when that was more of a rarity check it out.

When I make a mistake it usually is a whopper: as evidenced by this picture.

pink linen dress yoke mistake

The story here is that I was making a pattern from an existing dress for a sewing client. The pattern making turned out very well especially considering it was a complicated dress with lots of pieces (actually more pieces can be easier to reproduce). So I was feeling very pleased wth myself and started sewing up a test version in this bubblegum pink cotton? linen? unidentified fabric in my stash that was a good candidate for this type of dress. And thought, I will sew it for real with serging and everything in case someone wants it. The dress has a front and back yoke where the body pieces attach. So you can see that I cleverly attached the dress front to the yoke front not even noticing that the back yoke had a lovely 360˚ twist - no that is not a design feature. aaarrrgh!! Had to detach the dress front including undoing that serging, untwist and start again. Better to discover it now rather than later I guess:)

Here are three things that I don't care about: Wardrobe planning - inspiration boards - sewing basics. These often go together and if I see articles or blog posts I am likely to pass them by. Do you find these topics interesting? The sewing or wardrobe pieces are typically so....well, basic. These often go with a new pattern release that is super simple (perhaps you know which pattern company I might be referring to) and I think "after all that navel gazing THAT is the new pattern you came up with? For $ 18???"  As I often say - I am not the target market for this type of clothing but really, semi-new stitchers - stretch yourself a little and find some patterns with an interesting details. And no, a split hem detail on a top does not indicate an interesting detail.  Is that enough from your grumpy sewing correspondent? Because...

The Mood Fabrics blog shows some truly odd stuff - I DO NOT mean the Mood Sewing Network, which showcases a lot of great home sewers who are very accomplished and choose really nice fabrics, sew up stuff I want and inspire me to shop the Mood website. But they have another blog, which you can click to on the bottom of their store website, Mood Sewciety, more of a DIY with fabrics and I find the stuff they show seriously questionable. The stuff rarely fits, the sewing is sloppy and who are they inspiring with that?   On a different note - I have ordered a few things from Mood this summer and they have all been great.

More notches! I don't know where I found this blog but she posts some interesting things and her point of view is as a trained pattern designer and dressmaker. She mostly does children's wear and tries a number of PDF patterns but her comments and critiques on those patterns also apply to anyone designing and selling patterns. Her recent post "Why are pattern notches missing in PDF patterns?" was really interesting and explains some things I have been wondering. These past few months I had been sewing a number of indie patterns and hmmmm....I'm not all that impressed. Sometimes the instructions, which are designed to handhold someone learning the new construction techniques are really wordy, more confusing than a good diagram with arrows and steps indicated. (large, please. Tiny, pale, cute, slightly cartoonish diagrams help nobody even though they may look stylish or match your brand esthetic).

Wearing something which strays from your typical style: a few people commented on my last blog post and on Instagram that my most recent sewing project, the Mirambell skirt from Pauline Alice patterns was an unusual style for me. While it is black, a color I rarely sew or wear, the silhouette seemed like something I have sewn quite a few times before. I wonder what it was that seemed different? The full skirt? Here's an example of that style which I've made although this one is a bit eye-searing. Or this one, the first Bootstrap Fashion pattern that I sewed. I've been trying to expand my sewing choices and sew different shapes or even colors with some mixed success. My preliminary finding is that if I am lukewarm on a color no matter how nicely a garment turns out I will not be excited to wear it.

That's all for today, I covered almost all my topics. I saw a couple of new things that I will save for a future post, including new Fall pattern releases from Vogue and Simplicity. (quick comment - Vogue some interesting stuff but not a thing that makes me want to buy it now in the heat of summer. Simplicity, a couple of really good coat patterns that I might recommend when it gets closer to coat time).

Sneak peek of something I just finished, I'm on an eyelet kick this summer.

green eyelet top

We're hopefully at the tail end of another 100˚F heat wave here - although when I drive over to Hello Stitch which is about 15 min. from my house the temperature can be a good 20˚F lower. The bay area summer! a mystery to visitors and bring a sweatshirt because it is cold by the ocean (in the best possible way :).

So I am not thinking about fall sewing, we have a good 2 more months of summery weather ahead. How about you?

Happy summer sewing, and stay cool!  

I'm off to swim now and disregard my garden which must fend for itself in these lazy summer days. Fortunately the dahlias do their own thing and always surprise me with the color of the blooms. I plant them but don't label so what comes up in each spot is a very pleasant surprise.

sunset pink dahlia


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mirambell Skirt from Pauline Alice Patterns

Once in a while I make something and feel like it just needs a little extra zing. Perhaps I chose a fabric that didn't thrill me, often this happens when it's something that many would consider a wardrobe basic, in a neutral color. For me that often means I'm not so enamored of the item. Wardrobe basics are just not my idea of fun sewing (or wearing).

So recently I made the Mirambell skirt from Pauline Alice to test the pattern for her. She is my favorite independent pattern designer and I have never gone wrong with one of her patterns. However I was perilously close with this one. Cut to the chase - I think it is so pretty! I am actually in the process of making a couple of tops to wear with it - because I know I will want to wear it a lot.

Beth wearing Mirambel skirt

Look, I make something in black! that I plan to wear immediately. Perhaps I can see why separates in neutral tones are a worthwhile item, as they can go with other things in the wardrobe.

This skirt is really cute! And it has lovely pockets which are ideal for a full skirt like this. It comes in two different versions, the one I made is View A, which has a center back zipper that goes up to the top of the waistband. View B buttons at the center front. I think in a soft rayon print the button up version would be really cute and summery.

Mirambel skirt pattern envelope

I never really pay attention to the length of patterns, as I don't wear longish skirts much (ever) so when I cut this out I used some black cotton sateen I had in the stash, and chose a length based on some other skirts I wear (shortening the actual pattern pieces since it was going to be a test of sorts) The pleats and pockets sewed together perfectly. However - it seemed a bit short - no fault of the pattern, entirely my own. So I send off my report to Pauline with some notes about pattern markings and then it sat on my dress form, without being hemmed.

Cue the inspiration of Instagram, I saw a picture my friend Laura Mae posted, and had the idea to put an eyelet border at the bottom. I love dresses and skirts with a wide contrast border at the hem edge (I keep planning to make a dress like that) and I had a piece of black eyelet so I cut a long piece about 5 inches wide and basted it on for a look-see. And I was sold. In fact I cut off about another two inches of the skirt, sewed on the eyelet band and then played around with the length. For this type of skirt it should be on the longer side, and then I wanted a good bit of the eyelet at the hem border.

Mirambel skirt close up on me

My fabric has a lot of body since it is a cotton sateen, and then stitching the eyelet which is rather stiff on the edge means that this skirt keeps this A-line shape. I think if you used a softer fabric like a woven rayon it would be really nice and flowy, a completely different look.

Extremely dorky picture so you can see how wide the skirt is at the hem. That top is not the best with it as the placket comes down too near the waistband - but I have corrected that situation by making an eyelet top in a fantastic color - will post soon.

Mirambel skirt pleat viewr

Skirt prior to eyelet band at hem. See, it definitely needed a little something. Which reminds me I haven't blogged that top, which makes a nice pair with this skirt however it has long sleeves so perhaps not something I will wear here in August. Plus bonus content - a peek at how I let all scraps and threads fall onto the floor. A habit that is very hard to break when I am teaching at Hello Stitch :)

mirambel skirt before eyelet edge

mirambel back and side view

This is how I hemmed the skirt - with my scissors. So liberating. No stitching just slicing. And if you look at Laura Mae's you will see she cut hers differently, so that each little circle has the smaller circles still attached, whereas I cut off the edge at each large circle. And that was difficult enough to do. Later I looked at her IG again, and tried on a scrap to do it as she did, kinda difficult. On the plus side, this eyelet is very on grain and straight so both sewing it on and then trimming it was very straightforward, as long as I stuck to a specific row of circles.

trimming eyelet for Mirambel skirt

So that's the latest Pauline Alice pattern that has become a wardrobe success! I love it and will try to find some softer fabric to make a very different version.

For the other Pauline Alice patterns I have sewn, here are the links.

Alameda Dress - for a wild print I wear this surprisingly often. And the skirt by itself a lot. It is so cute - she is really good with the feminine details.

Quart Coat - this was for a friend, and I was quite jealous and wished I could keep it for myself. There are several posts covering the construction that coat, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Saler Jacket - I was amazed at how often I wore this jacket last fall. I made it at the beginning of summer so it wasn't really the right season for a wool blazer but when October arrived I wore it all the time, perfect with jeans. I need to make another one, I'm thinking stretch wool.

I really recommend Pauline Alice patterns. I rarely make any indie patterns, mostly because they often look the same to me but Pauline adds a lot of details which make them fun to sew and wear.

Mirambel skirt on me sq

Quick update on classes for those of you who have made it to the bottom of this post - we have just scheduled a bunch of classes at Hello Stitch for September and October, including...the Weekend Jacket Intensive. I am SO excited to do this class - and show a mix of modern and traditional techniques for great results on tailored jackets, or coats. Sat. Sept 30 and Sun. Oct 2 with the studio available on Friday evening for prep, cutting out, etc. We are going to make a fun weekend of it with food, interfacing kits etc. I don't think it is listed yet on their site - will be very soon. But if you have any questions just email me directly.

Tomorrow evening is the first session of my button front shirt class - which also will be repeated in October. Plus a few other things on my calendar so I better say bye and get some sleep.

Happy Sewing, Beth

today's garden photo - this salvia is called "hot lips". It's looking a bit spindly now, I think I will move it to a better location when it cools off and starts raining....which seems very far away from today's vantage point. 

salvia red white

Monday, July 17, 2017

Summer of Love Denim Dress

The summer of denim continues! This dress is my homage to the Summer of Love - which started right here in the bay area. So I couldn't pass up this fantastic denim embroidered with flowers, in the ever-elusive border print. At least elusive to me, I'm always looking for good border prints and they are rare.

flower denim dress in garden2

I had taken some pictures against a plain background but this dress just calls for more flowers. The fabric is from Stone Mountain in Berkeley, and they had several variations of the fabric. I bought the one without any yellow, as I just liked the pink and turquoise with green stems on this one, but the other ones were nice as well. The embroidery is just on one selvedge, so I had to cut on the crosswise grain, which made no difference in this tightly woven fabric, it's halfway between a denim and a chambray in feel. Plus I didn't have to buy very much, just enough to go around me plus seam allowances so I think I got about 1.5 yards and I still have a lot left, mostly of the solid blue, since it is 60" wide.

Dress form view. Can you recognize which pattern?

denim flower dress on form front

It may get retired now as I have just made 3 versions in a row - and I confess the first two were kind of tests in order to get everything right for this one, including the length.  Now that I like the fit I might have to make a winter version.  But it was 106˚F here yesterday so NOT thinking about winter clothes now! New Look 6500 or D0569 on this envelope. strange....

New Look Shift dress pattern

Some sewing details, I decided to line this dress, partially so it would wrinkle less. I decided to make the lining attach to the facing (which I made in the previous post on this dress) as an example so I can show it at my dress class at Hello Stitch.

denim flower dress lining construction

denim lining front and back

That is how it turns out - I really like this way of doing the lining, very ready-to-wear. And uses the same techniques as when I modify a pattern for color-blocking.  The zipper does go up to the top - not sure why I didn't zip it on the form there. I used the grey Ambiance lining because grey is my go-to color for linings that I keep in the stash...

denim flower dress on form back

flower denim dress in garden1

I think these kind of dresses with minimal shaping end up with a few drag lines that I suppose I would have taken out - but it has no darts at the waist or in the back so not a lot to work with. It is
super comfortable though!

This dress reminds me so much of things my mom had in the late sixties, she had some really cute shift dresses with embellishment, I remember a white one with flowers like this that ran from hem to shoulder on one side, and a black one with geometric squares in shades of bright pink and orange. Very mod! I think we had some kid's versions as well.

denim flower embroidery detail

Getting that border to sit right at the hemline was my biggest concern so I think it's just right :)

I have already been wearing this dress out and about, so I took this picture in front of the window at Hello Stitch, with all the sewing machines. and their sitting area. It's really nice to sew there and then take a break, sit on the couch, chat with whoever is around. A nice change from my mostly solitary sewing! If you look closely you can see Chuleenan of reflected in the window as she took the picture. She is the organizer for our Bay Area Sewists Meetup group and she does such a great job arranging interesting topics and events.

flower denim dress in front of window

One of the best things about the Meetup group is that I get to see my sewing friends who are all across the bay area. Even though we are in the same locale to traverse from one end of the bay area to another can take hours depending on the day and the traffic. So it is a treat to see my friend Pauline, (who is @sewuthinkucan on Instagram). If you love stripes you should follow her. You should follow her anyway! I call her the Queen of Stripes. She is on a roll this summer with interpreting things she sees in retail and making her own (better) version. Anyway - it is great to see her and we end up talking a mile a minute to cover everything we need to discuss!

meetup with Pauline2

So that's it for this flowery summer dress - it is my new favorite - until the next new favorite, right?

Up next, hmmm, I don't really know. I am knee deep in making things for others. Including the Charlie Caftan from Closet Case patterns, for someone else, so I will have lots of info on how to do a full bust adjustment on that, add a dart, change the armhole and keep the style but make it look good on any size.

Classes at Hello Stitch - next week starts my two-part shirt making class on Wednesday evening, I think there are a couple of spaces available. You know I love to make shirts - so rewarding, so many fiddly details that am excited to show.   Sunday July 30 - one day dressmaking class.   Sun. Aug 19, Fit Lab, I think there is only one space left.
Jacket making - you know this is the one I am excited about - we are planning now. If you are in the bay area, reading this and would be interested in doing a jacket class, probably starting mid-late Sept or early October, please email me as I have some questions on how to structure the class and would love to discuss.

Happy Summer of Love Sewing,

today's garden photo, a very old rose with small blooms that I kind of want to pull out and replace with something grander  - but oh, this peachy color is so pretty.

dahlias etc


Friday, July 7, 2017

Chambray tunic top with bonus sparkle

This is one of those projects where I finish it, take some pictures, take a look and think "it looks better on the dress form than when I wear it." Perhaps taking photos in the bright sunshine wasn't the best idea - but hey it was 4th of July and I had a barbecue to get to!

Or maybe one of those items that looks better in real life than in the photos. Actually I think that is it. Although my sister did give me one of her quizzical looks, and say "hmmm, is that sparkly?" Why yes it is.  And her opinion was fairly evident in her tone - not a fan of my new sort-of sparkly top.

This was a case of off of the sewing machine and onto me. So I will play around with other things to wear it with. Perhaps even tucked into a skirt.

Here's the dress form view.

chambray top front view on form

This fabric is something I looked at on more than one occasion at Stone Mountain, and finally decided to buy 1.25 yards to try and make a top of some kind. Not really sure if it is ideal for garment sewing but I washed and dried it and it softened up quite a bit. They also had it in a couple of neutral shades, kind of flax or linen colors which were interesting.

Inspiration for this top was something I saw at Talbots one day. And they send SO many catalogs in the mail...I should tell them to stop although it is useful to be able to tear things out and stick on my bulletin board.

chambray top inspo

chambray top and pool

Some sewing details. How to get a tunic top out of 1.25 yards of 45" wide fabric: creative folding, which is something I do all the time. Since this fabric doesn't have any nap or direction you can reverse the pattern pieces as shown.

chambray top cutting out

I used my basic tunic top pattern (an oldie, New Look 6677. blue eyelet version here and silk version here). I made copies of the front and back and then enlarged the neck opening a good bit, as it is kind of higher up than I would want for this version, since the original has a collar. Aligning the shoulder seams I made the neckband portion, and then for the front placket I just winged it based on some other things I have made. First I decided on the finished placket size and shape, and then added the seam allowanced. I decided to determine how long to make it once I tried the top on. For more info on creating this type of placket I wrote 2 posts for Craftsy a while ago on how to make a tunic top, part 1 and part 2 here.

chambray pattern pieces

On the top I saw at Talbots the edge on the placket was pleated, and I tried to do that but this fabric didn't want to cooperate - it was just too bulky. So I hemmed one edge of strips and then gathered it onto the placket. I sewed it on once I got it to look even on both sides.

chambray top making placket

After sewing the placket onto top - right side to wrong on the inside, I cut the front V and then flipped it to the outside and stitched it down. Same technique I use on most tunic style tops I've made in the last few years.
Next, same idea with the neckband, stitch on right to wrong on the inside, then trim and flip to the outside. For the center edge I wasn't quite sure how I would do that, this is my improvisational sewing so I just wing it as it go. In this case I trimmed, tucked the edge under and hand stitched it to hold in place and then topstitched all around.

neckband on chambray shirt

The armholes are finished with bias binding. I am including this photo so you can see just how sparkly this fabric is. And why it is ever so slightly scratchy, around the neck - after all, metallic threads.

stitching chambray top

Now that I am looking at these images I have decided that this is too long - it should be more like a top instead of tunic length. I might take it in on the sides just a bit also. The fabric is slightly more stiff than plain chambray would be - all those metallic threads provide a slight aluminum foil quality :) My other versions of this top have been in silk so a lot more flowy and they drape better.

chambray top on steps

Insides. I do really like this method for tops where there is no facing or anything on the inside, a very neat finish.

chambray top inside view

chambray top side view

Yeah, needs a little further adjustment for shape and length. Although it would be cute if I lengthened it to dress length. Idea for future. **

chambray top in shade

So that's it for my sparkly chambray top. I think with a few fixes it t will be just right with some white jeans.

Today was another of our glorious (ha ha be careful what you wish for) 104˚F days, so I spent the afternoon at my parent's house swimming in the pool pictured above. And though about how as a teenager would get out of the pool, go into the boiling house (un-airconditioned in those days) to finish sewing something that I just had to have for that evening's social event. Can I say that made me the stitcher that I am today? Or just that I was cuckoo for sewing? Some things never change - but I'm glad for the AC now on a day like today.

Up next - my sewing for the Stone Mountain Fabrics Summer of Love theme. Check out this blog post to read about the history of this wonderful store and also the Summer of Love.   I absolutely love what I made with a special fabric which I got there recently so I'll post that soon.

Stay cool everybody - enjoy the summer sewing as well as all the rest that summer brings.

Here's today's garden photo - it's dahlia time so another one for you. 

dahlias etc

Friday, June 30, 2017

Simplicity 1654 in green ponte, also knows as Plenty of Pattern Pieces

Here's another thing I recently sewed for someone else, that I thought might interest everyone out there who like to see the pattern manipulations for fit on a somewhat crazy pattern. Sometimes I think the simple patterns are more difficult to alter for fit - as they require you to choose a path and pursue it, whereas the pattern with lots of little pieces affords opportunity for many small adjustments. However the sewing does take some with this type of dress, a bodice with multiple shapes, front and back, and then an 8 panel skirt.

Here's the finished dress so you can see what I'm talking about. To my eye it looks a little lumpy bumpy but I have the dress form padded out to fit the size with all manner of stuffing - not exactly smooth and sleek under there.
The pattern is Simplicity 1654, and a quick search turns up no reviews - did anyone make it? It was released in 2013.

green ponte front full view

Here's the pattern envelope and tech drawing. Cute, huh? and I would definitely take a 2nd look if I saw it in a store. The blue version is very striking although when I look at the drawing that stitching on Version A makes me think of a baseball :). We decided against the stitching.
This dress is for the same person who recently had me make the plaid coat. A tall person (some envy) who can wear this style well.

Simplicity 1654 pattern envelope

S1654 tech drawing

Where to start on the fitting? I use a size 14 as the starting point although I know it will be a bit big in some places. Based on other things I have made for her (blouses) I needed to add some length over the bust, but not really much in the way of circumference.

Now the fun part for those of you who like to look at sewing pattern adjustments. I want to say sewing nerds but really you are my people!!  Some people like to talk about their cookware or their newest olive oil find, some people are obsessed with their cars, there are those geeks who pore over the latest tech gadgets, and we love nothing more than a good analysis of a sewing pattern, right?

Here's my slightly unorthodox method for adding length to the bust in these princess seam patterns. This picture is missing one pattern piece which is a curved one, that attaches to the side princess panel and also to the center front piece creating the armhole and shoulder portion. But I forgot to add it to my tableau of bodice pieces. You get the idea. The main adjustment is the lengthening of the princess seam right over the bust, which is that triangle section opened up along the seam. The key is to add just the right amount, and then to make sure the seam sews together smoothly. Which for me is a bit of intuition and measuring of the stitching line.

bodice pieces Simplicity 1654dress

So this pattern has a lot of pieces. On other dresses with pieces above the midriff I have added at the bottom of the upper pieces (if that makes sense) and then what that does is make sure that the waistband piece always stays at the waist, horizontal, and doesn't pull up towards the bust. Here's an example of that change, scroll through post to see the adjustment.

There are separate lining pieces included with this pattern (oh happy day!) so they need the adjustment also. I added the darts so you can see how they take care of the shaping that is inherent in all those princess seam pieces on the dress bodice. My adjustment for length is there on the bodice front, added to the bottom on the lining piece. I think about 3/4" of addition.

lining pieces S1654

I did these adjustments on the flat pattern and then sewed up a quick muslin in a scrap of ponte that I had. While I typically use muslin it's helpful to use a similar fabric to the final one to get a really good feel for fit. But I don't buy anything extra - this was literally a scrap from some other project.

test adjustments S1654 SaveSave

The fit was really good, the only further adjustments after the muslin were to take it up at the shoulders about 1/2" total and then to pinch in that shoulder princess seam a bit, the wearer has a very narrow upper chest relative to pattern size. You can also see that this dress is fairly low cut and open - so you are warned in case that is not the look you are going for!
After that it was onward to sewing.

See how the waistband is perfectly horizontal -whew!  I think it looks good. It's really annoying me that it looks a bit puckered on the form, on the body it's fairly form fitting.

green ponte dress front close up

Back view. Oooooh I am happy with that zipper/seam alignment :) for which I have a trick which I will have to show one of these days.

green ponte back full view

green ponte side full view

With the side view you can really get an idea of how full that skirt is. Actually I am just putting the finishing touches on a 2nd version of this dress for the same person so I decided to measure the skirt circumference: 134". Of hand hemming! That is what episodes of Granchester are for, hand sewing...

So that's the scoop on this interesting Simplicity dress which it appears few people sewed, or at least shared online. Actually I just searched again and found one version on Kollabora. That is not many for a Simplicity designer pattern. Interesting, maybe all that seaming put people off. By the way, I rarely sew with ponte knit, this was a very nice weight and while it's not my favorite fabric I can see the appeal, it's certainly easy to sew and presses nicely.

And what's next? I have several things to make for my friend Heather - including some shirt dresses, for which I am using Butterick 6333 which is a really good pattern. Shoulder princess seams and smooth lines (unlike that McCalls 6696 shirtdress which was really popular but had that oddball poof in the center back that kind of took away from the crisp shirtdress-ness of it).

Also maybe a new top for me, I bought some kelly green eyelet yesterday which I have been eyeing for weeks and it might be quickly make up into a summer top to wear immediately.

The Hello Stitch Studio in Berkeley where I'm teaching classes will be closed the next week for the 4th of July holiday week but you can still register online for any classes - mid-July we have the Tunic top class, Skirt class and starting at the end of the month is the Button Front shirt class. Plus we're doing another all-day Dress class on July 30. I hope to meet some of you there.

Have a great 4th of July weekend, stay safe and enjoy the fireworks. Also the barbecues, ours will include fresh corn on the cob among other yummy things. There's a little farm stand not far from my house, where they grow corn, tomatoes, peppers, sunflowers, and bring in peaches from their sister farm in Brentwood. It's a precious gem and I hope it lasts there for another 100 years.

Happy Sewing, Beth 

today's garden photo - the flower that most resembles a firework. I've been waiting for weeks for my dahlias to bloom and this one did not disappoint. Love it!

dahlias etc

Friday, June 23, 2017

New Look 6500 shift dress: a simple pattern that I couldn't leave unmodified

How much adjustment do you do on a very simple pattern? Do you feel it's worthwhile to make very small changes to get it just right or perhaps you sew up simple things as is and save your efforts for a special dress or coat.
This simple dress pattern is something that I choose as one of the suggestions for my Sew a Dress class at Hello Stitch in Berkeley. (scheduled again for Sun. July 30 - the first one was great fun. More details at the bottom of this post on all the upcoming classes). As it happens Craftsy asked me to write a longer post outlining all the steps to sew a simple dress, consequently I decided to sew up this pattern and get a lot of things done with one project. Plus I've been on a shift dress kick lately. They are such simple and pleasant things to wear. Since it was 107˚F in the SHADE here yesterday I would rather have worn a dress made of ice cubes but since that is not going to happen a shift dress it is.

batik shift dress

I have had this fabric in my stash for a good 5 or 6 years. It's a cotton batik that I bought in Hawaii, quite a large amount (5 yards) and just never found a use for it. Slightly heavy as a lot of batiks are, so not really good for most dresses plus the vertical stripe had me stumped. I think I found the perfect style for it that uses the stripe best. Plus I can wear my striped navy blue espadrille sandals - double win.
Here's the pattern envelope, with a sneak peek of a subsequent version of this dress. Which everyone has gone wild for on my Instagram teases, embroidered denim must be the thing this summer. The envelope says D0569 but all the pattern pieces say New Look 6500 so I'm calling it that. I really like New Look patterns, they come up with some super cute dresses and tops, plus they include all sizes in one envelope and cost $ 3.99 all the time.

New Look Shift dress pattern

batik dr front view

Onward to my adjustments: I sewed this dress for the Craftsy post, not as a wearable but as a "photograph-able" item, i.e. something that would really show in the step-by-step tutorial but I had no intention of wearing it. It was actually quite a pleasure to just sew up a dress with no changes, I sewed the size 12 and went from there.
Here is the version I sewed for Craftsy, in a quilting cotton that I had in my stash, I think a remainder from a project I did for someone on Etsy ages ago. And I really loathe this color of green so don't even tell me that you like this dress on me :) Plus for the most part sewing/wearing garments with quilting cotton is a big NO for me. With some exceptions they always look a bit off: too wrinkly, too juvenile, too unsophisticated to claim my interest.

green shift dress

green shift dress3

But I include the photo of me wearing this one to show the neckline fit. That neckline was choking me - I don't like that high round neckline and when you move your head forward it's so uncomfortable. Good shoe match thought, right?

Back to the blue and white batik version. Can you see the difference in the neckline? It is so much more comfortable for me in the second version. I wanted to figure out exactly how much to open the neck so I made a version of just the top half of the dress in swedish tracing paper - and every time I use that I remember that is has absolutely no give. While it seems like a good idea because you can sew it - putting it on is not so easy. I did put a zipper so I could actually try it on - which worked in the end but it was kind of shredded. However it was good enough to slice and dice a bit, figuring out how I wanted the final neckline to be shaped.

neckline comparison

I cut out the batik version based on my new neckline, and basted it together at the shoulder seams to see if I liked the neckline. It still seemed a bit too high for my preference and also I like the armholes to be more cut in at the shoulder in a sleeveless dress. So instead of cutting more off the edges of the dress I made a one piece facing for front and back, and then used tracing paper to mark a seam line. At the neck I took away a further 5/8" (total seam allowance now 1.25") and then on the armholes I think I sewed it at around 7/8" which makes the armhole a bit bigger all around. You have to be careful that it doesn't make the armhole too low but this dress had a very tight armhole so there was plenty of room.

batik dress facing new seam

On my next version of this dress (the embroidered chambray fabric)  I'll show how I make the one piece facing plus this upcoming version is lined so it incorporates facing and lining together.

The original New Look pattern had separate neck and armhole facings which works ok, not my preference but not as horrible as some make it out to be. But there's a better way. Another option for these simple summer dresses is bias binding but I wanted to show the traditional or basic type of dress sewing.

But we are not done yet! In fact this adjustment should have come up first in my writing but I only remembered to take this picture a few minutes ago and include it. The bust dart on this dress is both large and high. I measured it on the pattern piece and could see that it needed to be lower so I did that before I did anything else, just a straightforward shift downward about 3/4". The bust dart is kind of larger than it would be had there been other darts (vertical waist darts)  or other shaping. Trying it on it made the dart a bit too pointy - not my favorite look. So I reduced the width of the dart.

dart adjustment on shift dress

On the tracing paper on the left you can see the faint outline of the original dart, too high. The second placement, lower but too big, and then the final version in the purple dotted line, just right. I sound like Goldilocks don't I but if you're going to do adjustments you might as well go all the way until you like the fit.

Batik dr side and back view

Back and side view, you can barely see the dart but that is the ideal, at least for me. Since the side seams were not even in length I split the difference at the top of the seam at the armhole and sliced off about 3/8" off the side back at that point. Worked out fine.

batik dress front 2

So that's chapter one on my summer shift dress extravaganza. I have some more complex things in line for my sewing table but not sure what order I will sew them.

Here's the link to that Craftsy post: The Complete Beginners Guide to Sewing a Dress.

Update on classes at Hello Stitch Studio on Berkeley. The Fit Lab was great - we are going to schedule this class again soon. In July we are repeating Saturday classes for sewing Skirts, Tunic Tops, and a new one starting on Wed 7/26 in the evening is a Button-front shirt class. All these classes are two sessions scheduled a week apart so not a long term time commitment and you will get a project done (or nearly) and learn some new and useful techniques. The Dress class is an all-day one on Sun. 7/30. FYI: I've found parking to be surprisingly easy around the studio and it is no more than a 10 minute walk from the Berkeley Bart station so really convenient to get to.

This was yesterday afternoon. Survival mode with an iced coffee. thankfully lots cooler today (ha ha only mid 90's˚F).


Happy weekend sewing,

today's garden photo, this white daisy just looks so calm and cool, even in this heat!

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