Christmas Dress 2016

Hello all! I took a bit of an unintended break there for a couple months, huh? More on that at the end of the post, I want to get to that juicy sewing content first!

Here is my Christmas dress for 2016! I made one last year and at that point said ‘well how many Christmas outfits does one need?’ Naturally that meant that I decided three weeks before Christmas this year that I needed a new one. I couldn’t stop thinking about this vintage christmas card that Heather posted last year.

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I had an idle look for fabric that would work and found some in Lincraft – it’s part of their basic cottons line. The fabric is VERY crisp, for better or worse, so it doesn’t drape very well and it creases lots and also it was very hard to hand stitch the facing down without it being very visible. But you know, once a year I can live with that. I don’t think I’d make another dress out of this fabric but it would make an ok shirt, or kids dress. The collar is just white homespun or broadcloth or something from my stash.

Anyway initially I was planning to make a half-shirt dress – like this one that Lily has since posted over at Mode de Lis. But then I figured I’d really left it too late, I didn’t want to muslin anything so I’d go with a pattern I’d already made, which meant B6055, my now most worn make. I love this dang dress. Except that the sleeves don’t have great movement, and I’ve been meaning to figure out how to put gussets in it and I figured a christmas dress was a low-stakes way to do that.

Gusset innards with reinforcing organza

Figuring out the gussets was intimidating but fun! For the actual sewing part I used Gertie’s tutorial but since the pattern didn’t come with gussets I had to figure out how big to make them and where to place them. This was surprisingly hard to track down – lots of places say things like ‘just add a slit at the armpit’ but like… there’s a lot of variables there! After some googling I found a google book scan of a pattern drafting book which instructed on sizing and said to take the slice from the turn of the armpit in the direction of the shoulder point. So that’s what I did! It worked really well and was very fun. I didn’t finish the edges because the tute didn’t say so but I think I probably should have.

I also didn’t orient the stripes very well because I was spending my brain power working out which bit went where and didn’t think about it until afterwards. Oh well. The tute didn’t specify topstitching either but I thought it was a good idea. The gussets definitely make it much more comfortable and give much better range of movement – I still wouldn’t want to play tennis in it or anything but I’d say I have about as much movement as in a regular tailored shirt. I’ll definitely be using gussets more in the future.

Anyway the bodice went together smoothly, which it ought to because I’ve made it a tonne before. Except that I forgot it was meant to be cut on the fold so I cut it in two pieces and then had to sew a teeny seam allowance there – but it doesn’t seem to have made it too tight or anything. But then I ran into trouble with the skirt. I had decided to put in a waistband which I did by simply cutting the bodice 2″ shorter – and smoothing out the curve of it because as drafted it fits into a curved circle skirt – and then adding a 2″ plus seam allowance strip for the waistband. But I broke a bunch of my rules about sewing and made decisions before everything was together so I ended up moving the waistband up and then down again because the proportions were off. Note to self: ALWAYS put the skirt on the dress before making that decision, it will weight it down way more than you think. Because of this mucking around the skirt ended up an inch or so shorter than I’d prefer – I think the waist is actually maybe half an inch too high. Close enough!

I initially attached a gathered skirt because I wanted the stripes maximised. but I HATED it. I just do not like gathers on me, at all. I was also limited by the amount of fabric I had because I bought all that was left on the bolt so I found the gathers made the middle very bulky but the skirt was actually quite narrow and not floofy enough.

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NO THX

I think the best thing would have been to do big box pleats but I was coming down to the wire, time-wise and I also was kind of just done thinking about this dress. So I defaulted back to the pattern as-drafted. I tried to stripe match and to get the line down the middle to sit somewhere nice, with moderate success.

The cottons a bit sticky and also I was taking these hurredly on Christmas Day which was stinking hot so I didn’t get a good one of the side but the stripes line up pretty nicely. Please excuse the wrinkles – these are all after a full day of eating and sitting in a hot car for two hours. I think it held up pretty well! The collar is a bit off but I’ve since washed it again and now it’s lying properly – it takes a couple of washes for the interfacing to chill out.

I initially chucked in an invisible zipper because it was quicker but it wasn’t sturdy enough and it popped – also not helped by me deciding it was too baggy and cutting down the seam allowances before I put the zipper in! Dumb, breaking more of my own rules not to make anything drastically smaller before the fastenings are in. I then had to let it out again and use teeny seam allowances and it’s ok but probably could do with an extra cm or two, because it does ride up a bit when I sit.

Anyway I ended up going back and hand picking the zipper so I could get as close to the seam allowances as possible. This meant the zipper teeth show where the waistband is because it was too thick to turn under nicely, but that’s where I really needed the room so I went with it. I actually quite enjoyed hand picking and will definitely be doing that again in the future. It took a bit but it wasn’t as time consuming as trying to set in a zipper five times.

A not very good photo of the zip

I was also contemplating putting cuffs on the sleeves to mirror the collar but then decided I couldn’t be bothered. In the end I think I like it better without.  My cousin reckons it’s low-key enough that I could wear it on non-Christmas occasions, but I’m not so sure! Maybe with a black jumper over the top I could get away with it? Either way, it was a hit at Christmas, I felt very festive in it and my sewing-master grandma approved of the gussets. A win!

So about the break. I think I burnt myself out in October with a bunch of deadline sewing, and just haven’t been feeling it, so there’s been very little sewing and therefore no blogging. Initially I felt weirdly guilty about it but then I decided, you know, sewing is a hobby. It’s meant to bring joy. If I’m not feeling it, I’m not feeling it – although I’ve started to dip back in of necessity because I need some more warm weather clothes and sewing is the only way I get new clothes now. But I’m not putting any pressure on myself to either sew or blog, so I anticipate that things will still be a bit quiet around here for a bit, aside from a couple of FOs that I’ve finally gotten photos of so they will pop up shortly.

In the meantime I’ve still been doing crafty stuff – I’ve been catalouging my stash on the Cora app, refolding everything and getting rid of stuff I don’t love in an attempt to get all of my stash into the designated space in my craft room (there are a couple of secret boxes in the spare room wardrobe). I’ve started drafting a moulage using Suzy Furrer’s crafsty course and it’s going ok although she uses a lot of industry standard measurements with super don’t work for me, and I’m now at the part where I have to do all the adjustments to compensate for that and I’ve gotten a bit frustrated with it. I’ve also picked up a couple of stalled knitting projects and moved them to the next bit, which is satisfying.

I’ve also been extremely busy doing a new job at work – I go back to my regular position when I start back next year. I’ve been doing a similar job but the next level up (as well as training my fill in person at the same time) and it’s been really fun and interesting but definitely tiring, especially at the end of year panic where everyone realises they have to get everything done before January, and my manager was off sick and someone else was on leave and someone else left so I was the only one in my team there! Hectic.

I also started taking zoloft because I realised as we came out of winter that this one was really rough for me (and also tbh the US election news did not help my mental health at all. Yikes). I coped really well but doing that basically took everything I had. I’ve only been on it a week but already I am much less exhausted – I hadn’t realised how tired I was! I mean I knew I was tired but it had become normal to have absolutely no energy for anything. I am hopeful that zoloft will be the right drug for me and will help me get back to a better normal. I’m very lucky to have a great GP who is on the same team as me and determined to find the right thing for me, and helped me get over my weird reluctance to try meds – that internalised ableism will get you! But something has definitely been not right in my brain chemistry, and thank goodness for modern medicine, with all its downsides it sure has many upsides.

So that’s the story! As I said I suspect it’ll still be slow here but I’m getting back into sewing slowly so expect to see me around a bit in the New Year. Until then, happy holidays, whatever you celebrate, and here’s to a wonderful, safe, loving 2017 for all of us and everyone else.

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Christmas dress 2015

How does one go about becoming one of those people who think of interesting blog titles?

Well, anyhow. Titles aside, here is my Christmas dress for 2015!

The pattern is Simplicity 1459, one of their vintage reprint offerings. I bought this pattern with the intention of making it into last year’s Christmas dress, which obviously didn’t happen, and I bought this fabric at the same time. The skirt is one of Spotlight’s Christmas line, and the bodice is just broadcloth from Spotters.

I sewed a straight size 18, with a 1.5″ FBA. I chose this because I looked at the pattern and saw that there is a whopping amount of ease, something like 3 or 4 inches, so I went with 18 which most closely matches my upper bust measurement. However, I suspect a bunch of my adjustments basically retro-fitted it to be mostly a size 20 or so. When I make this again (which I fully intend to, because I’m a bit in love with it) I’ll be comparing my adjusted pattern with the size 20 and maybe doing a mashup of the two.

I did make up a quick muslin of the bodice and sleeve – the pattern has a very nice 3/4 sleeve with darts at the elbow, which makes it fit very nicely, although I found I did have to add a considerable amount to the sleeve to get it to fit. Otherwise the bodice with the FBA fit pretty well as-is. My current practice is to make a bodice muslin and then safety pin an existing skirt onto it, because I find the weight of the skirt really changes the fit.

I found, again, that the broadcloth had much less give than the muslin. I ended up sewing the side seams quite narrow to account for this, which is another thing that makes me say I could do with going a size up. In particular, I needed an extra centimetre or so for the back. I also ended up tapering the bodice overlap a bit, so that it had more ease at the stomach. This IS a Christmas dress, after all! You can see the tapering in this internal shot.

This does make the bodice sit a bit odd, and isn’t ideal, but it’s fine. It does mean I probably added back in the intended ease. And I must, say, I like the way it fits. I might be with Gina on starting to prefer a slightly looser dress. It feels comfy and as long as it is fitted to shape, I think it’s more of the look I’m going for – less prone to riding up and shifting around during the day. I also don’t know if you can see but I sewed the vertical dart in a teardrop shape rather than a straight angle, to get the bodice to fit how I wanted. This was all on the fly adjustments. I really should have thought about it more and split the darts into two darts each, for a total of eight darts on the bodice. They are all quite large and it’s ok but inevitably leads to some wrinkles and bumps, and did make them harder to sew and to avoid the bubble at the end.

Crinoline peeking out

I top stitched the overlap down because it’s a faux opening anyways. I was planning the side zipper as the pattern instructs but I ended up skipping it. It is fine to pull on although I must say it’s a slight struggle to pull off and I think when I make a non-novelty version I will add the zipper. But given that it’s a dress I’ll only be wearing occasionally, I really didn’t think it was worth fighting with the reduced seam allowances to insert something. It probably would have been a mess.

I had intended putting in sleeves but ended up being so in love with the collar that I left them off, to emphasise the collar’s hugeness. I feel most comfortable in sleeves but actually what that turns out to mean is ‘with covered shoulders’. Since the collar is SO huge that it covers my shoulders… well then that’s fine! It does make it mildly impractical, I don’t know if you can see that one side of the collar is creased from carrying my handbag on top of it, from when I wore it to the work Christmas party.

I used quite a stiff interfacing for the collar, which made it more dramatic. I am very into that but it would be easy to tone down slightly with a less extreme interfacing. The only heavy one I could find was sew in, so I sewed it in, which was fiddly but fine. It does ride up as I move but that’s fine with me, although looking at it perhaps it would benefit from a slight slash and spread along the back? I suppose because of my poor posture in that area making a strange shape for it to drape over.

Another time I would line it rather than do the facings. I have just now noticed you can slightly see my bra, and you can see the front facings which bugs the heck out of me. I also found the facings incredibly fiddly, and I had to hand sew them down all around the arms or they’d pop out when I put the dress on. A full lining would have been about one million times easier, especially on a sleeveless version.

I sewed the shoulder seams 1cm smaller, because my muslin was pulling there but I hadn’t really noticed until after I cut the bodice out. To compensate I just traced the largest collar size, which was fudging things a but but worked out fine. I should have planned better, however, and raised the neck accordingly. It’s not scandalous but it’s a bit lower than I would be comfortable with for a regular day dress. My notes say I thought I should also have raised the waist by 1cm but I’m not sure I think that now.

Here are some photos of it without the petticoat under it.

I LOVE how it looks with the petticoat, and am wondering how weird it would be to wear a petticoat to work. I did also include the tulle underskirt and the lining.

I just overlocked the waist seam and it was pretty scratchy on the first wearing but appears to be fine now. Here’s an overview of the whole innards.

I also could have thought it through and cut the skirt straight, instead of as an A-line, but actually I don’t mind how it looks even though it makes the kookaburra’s slightly wonky. I love the shape of the skirt.

The buttons are, of course, from The Button Bar. I was going to make a belt to go with it but the vintage belt buckle I had is more maroon, and then I remembered I do own a red belt that I almost never wear. I do think it benefits from a belt, and when I make a regular one I might consider putting in belt loops.

I am definitely planning a non-novelty one, I just have to decide, sleeves or no sleeves? Tanya Maille has made a couple of lovely versions of this pattern. I should note that this one is a fabric hog. Often I find I can get away with considerably less than the pattern calls for, by cutting carefully. But the collar takes up a whole width of fabric, and you have to cut two, and they’re an odd shape. So that alone takes up almost a metre! Plus there are four wide skirt panels. If you’re making this, with the skirt as is, definitely buy as much fabric as the pattern tells you.

I am happy that I got to make this as a novelty dress – I find that I never find all the fit issues until I’ve worn an item for a whole day. I wore this to my last day of work for the year, for our work Christmas party. I got a bunch of compliments, and a lot of ‘didn’t you wear that last year?’ so I guess now I’m the person who wears novelty Christmas dresses. I’m cool with that. It was too hot to wear it with the petticoat but, being sleeveless, I found it ok to wear even on that day, which was 42! Obviously I was in air conditioned buildings most of the day, however.

I’ll be wearing it tomorrow to our family do, which is on Boxing Day, with the petticoat.

Here’s me attempting a twirl

And feeling dizzy

Merry Christmas, to those of you who celebrate it. And happy holidays and general good wished for peace and joy in your lives for those who don’t, or who can’t bear to. Here’s hoping that 2016 is a wonderful year!

Christmas skirt

No, this is not me being early – this is last year’s skirt! I was going through a period of not blogging when I made this, and this skirt isn’t very exciting so it never made it up here. But I just made a similar skirt and I wanted to reference this, so here it is!

I found this rad Christmas cockatoo fabric at spotlight last year, and decided I had to have it. I have now bought several more Australian-animal Christmas fabrics, that may or may not make it into garments. I feel fine about having these in the stash – any time I see an Aussie-centric Christmas thing I buy it, pretty much on principle. I was initially going to make a shirtdress out of this other fabric I bought, featuring kookaburras. I was planning to use Simplicity 1459.

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Kookaburras and contrast fabric. I haven’t decided which bits of the dress should be which.

However, it will definitely need an FBA and maybe other adjustments and I didn’t leave myself enough time to muslin it, and then I realised I wanted to wear it to my work Christmas party which was in early December, leaving me even less time. So I decided to fall back on my backup, and just make a simple skirt.

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Close up cockies. The text says ‘Merry Christmas’

I used the waistband of an Ottobre skirt which I have made a million times, although it looks like only three have made it to the blog. It was the first Ottobre pattern I made, I think I traced it from Sue M’s magazine although I think I’ve since bought the edition – it’s  5/2007. I know it fits me, although I have historically had to make various adjustments depending on the fabric, because the waistband will sit differently. Also I think my waistband has been getting bigger over time, because when I traced it I added seam allowances, but I usually just sew it on the overlocker which means I don’t need as much. Anyway, long story short, it’s a curved yoke which I find much easier to tweak to fit my actual body, rather than a straight one.

An attempt at a twirl. These photos turned out darker than I realised, sorry.

I wanted a gathered skirt, with a decent amount of flounce and from memory I had limited fabric – I can’t remember exactly how much, maybe 2 metres? I ended up just cutting the fabric in half, lengthways. Then I sewed it together, and gathered it to fit the waistband, and sewed it on. Tada! I put in a side zip rather than a back one because I didn’t want to have to think about where to split the fabric, and I had uneven panels because I’d cut the waistband out of one of them so it was shorter. I didn’t think about it and ended up with the zip on the left side (the front and back yokes are different), which is annoying and means I have to zip the skirt up with the zip facing the front, and then scooch it around to sit right. I also didn’t bother to think about adding pockets.

What is this pose? Who knows.

To mazimise length and cut down on sewing time (I was now down to the day before the party) I just serged the hem and turned it up and sewed it. I did line the yoke with a facing, just using some random lining fabric from my stash, adn then top stitching that down along the yoke/skirt seam.

Innards

I can’t remember if there were any fitting issues with this one, it’s too long ago now. I do know the back dips – it’s a bit exaggerated here because of my posture but also does happen in real life. I think this is because the yoke sits out from my swayback, so the weight of the skirt can pull it down. I should have shaped the waistband there more, I guess. I think it needs for the bottom curve of the yoke to be smoothed out and less curvy – you can see that bit kind of sits out of line with the rest of the curve.

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Fuzzy work bathroom selfie with the skirt as worn to my work do, with one of my ‘painted roses’ rayon tops.

I wore it to my work do, and also on Christmas day, and it was a hit. I know there were things I was unhappy with when I first sewed it – it’s certainly not the most elegantly constructed skirt. But given I can’t remember what most of the issues are, I’d say it’s a good lesson in focusing on the things that matter and not getting caught up in little imperfections, since my goal is generally ‘wearable’ rather than ‘couture’.

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And as worn to my Christmas lunch with the family.

I’d still like to make the kookaburra dress for this year (I probably should get moving, then) but if I don’t – or even if I do – I’ll happily pull this skirt out over the holiday season. I’d wear it all year if I could.