Clarissa dress

Hello lovelies! I’ve missed you! I have miraculously managed to sew something in the last month, and I’m so keen to share it with you.

This is Vogue 8811, in the rayon I bought in Bali.

Description: Pullover dress has shoulder pads, semi-fitted bodice, French darts, bias, flared skirt, back keyhole closure with button/thread loop, side snap/extension or zipper closing, cap sleeves, and belt. A: Purchased trim. B: Bust pocket. Circa 1940

Recommended fabrics: Linen, Crepe de Chine, Lightweight Broadcloth

 

This one was a bit of a journey. I thought up this pattern and fabric combo while lying in bed desperately trying to stop thinking about work long enough that I could go to sleep (it’s been a BUSY month. I don’t usually think about work outside of work hours – one of the perks of my job is it stays at work). It was prompted by how much I love my Dorothy Lara dresses. I needed another dress that was weather appropriate for the late summer, and given how busy and stressful things have been I needed it to be easy to wear. I love those 50s and 60s silhouettes but it’s hard to beat the comfortable, functional ease of a ’40s dress. When I know I’ve got a rough day ahead and I want to feel and look good without having to put any thought into what I’m wearing throughout the day, I reach for my two DLs every time. I wanted more of that in my wardrobe!

I also wanted to use this fabric soon. It’s very on-trend, and I love it, but I was worried that if I left it in the stash too long it would look and feel dated and I wouldn’t want to sew it any more. So I wanted to figure out what to do with it soon.

I’ve had this pattern in my stash for some time, but I’d bought the wrong size. I had the size 4-12 size nest not the 12-18. Going by my measurements I would normally sew the size 14 , grading to a size 12 at the shoulders, with a 2″ FBA. I didn’t realise my size snafu until I was partway through cutting out the tissue pattern pieces. I figured it was a pretty simple shape, given that I would normally cut size 12 shoulders anyway perhaps I could just add on some width to the sides and do that FBA and call it good.

Pardon my mystery bruise. Looking pretty impressive though!

This sort of worked. The trouble is it has this cool waist dart – it’s angled and one side is curved and you ease it together to create extra shape. It’s REALLY interesting, and makes the bodice sit really nicely, and it’s also quite hard to do an FBA on! I’m not at all sure I did it right and I probably should have sewn it up without the FBA first so I knew what it was meant to be like. However, after the FBA and cheaters grading up, I had a muslined bodice that looked pretty good and sat right, so I cut out the fashion fabric.

The ‘grading’ involved adding 1″ to the front and 3/4″ to the back of both bodice and skirt. I also lowered the front neckline by 1″ at the neck tapering to nothing at the shoulder seam.

By the way, my lovely blue wall now has a bed in front of it so I’m auditioning new photo locations. The best options were this boring grey-blue wall in my craft room with one million powerpoints on it, or outside. Outside worked well but I think it would have been better if I’d waited an hour because I had trouble finding a good spot in regards to the sun and so I only got a few good photos. I’ll work on it.

Anyhow. The dress. So I sewed it all up and tried it on and it was HORRID.

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Noooooo I was not trying to sew a caftan! Or a mumu

The FBA had added length in a weird way, and the rayon was quite droopy and the waist was totally uneven and also way lower than it should be and dipped drastically at the front. Ack! I unpicked it and laid out the bodice and just hacked it off even at the bottom. I’d say there was about 4″ extra at the centre front! Then there was some back and forth of basting and unpicking of seams in a totally unscientific way that will come back to bite me if I ever make it again because I didn’t really write down what I was doing because I did it in bits and pieces over a couple of weeks in a period where I was very stressed and frazzled.

What I ended up with was a dress where (after said hacking off evenly) I took about 1″ off the waist seam – I just sewed that seam at a larger width so it ended up taking the skirt up too. I also took almost all of the width I’d added in at the side seams back out again although I did keep most of it in the seam allowances so that I can let it out if the rayon shrinks up. I think in a firmer fabric I might still need the width, but in the rayon and with such a busy print, it just looked frumpy and saggy. The pattern had instructions for either a hand picked zipper or an extension with snaps, but I found that I could just pull it over my head quite comfortably so I just sewed up the sides. Again, probably wouldn’t be possible in a firmer fabric but works really well for this.

I was going to add pockets in but with all the adjusting I ended up serging one of the skirt side seams shut and I couldn’t be bothered unpicking it. I really would like pockets because the neck is so high I can’t access my alterna-pocket (aka my bra). But then pockets in rayon are a bit less functional anyway, so dunno.

The waist seam is still a bit wonky, and I’m not sure if it’s my terrible hacking of the pattern, or just the way the rayon is hanging. The bra I’m wearing also really changes how this hangs – I guess because it’s such full coverage, the position of my bust point totally changes the drape of the bodice. Yet another lesson in wearing my good bras to sew in.

Those issues are lost in the busy print though so I’m not too fussed. Also I’ll probably always wear this with a belt anyway which covers some sins, although it would benefit from some belt carries to keep it in place. The pattern has pattern pieces for a belt and I was going to make a black one but I don’t have an appropriate buckle so for now it’s this white one or nothing. I like the way the white lightens it up though.

The sleeves have facings and I HATE them. Hate. They’re flippy and chunky and terrible. I also think I need to take 1cm off the top of the sleeves and that would reduce the amount they stick up. If/when I make this again I’ll either line it like Tanya did, or bias bind them. The pattern includes pieces for shoulderpads, so perhaps that would change the angle of the sleeves? I chose not to make them although I would like to have a go some time just to see how it’s done.

Hateful

This pattern has a bunch of nice vintage touches that I really appreciated – it’s one of the reasons that I rarely buy newly drafted patterns. I have or can hack most things from my existing pattern stash, but I always learn a lot about technique or elegant drafting from vintage (repro) patterns. That said, the instructions did have you press down the seam allowance on the waist and then top stitch it to the bodice from the right side, which I tried but found totally bizarre and almost impossible to keep straight. Is there a reason for doing it this way? When I was making my adjustments I unpicked it and did it the regular way.

The neck facing I like though. It’s really neat and well drafted, even if I did also have to hand tack it down.

If I make this again I’ll take an extra 1/2″ off the neck all the way round (but not at the back neck). I like how it sits at the back of my neck but it’s sitting too high up otherwise, and in a stiffer fabric would be uncomfortable. It’s ok in this but it does bunch a little and in wearing it sits away from my collarbone a little bit.

I also sewed the side seam/armholes up higher, because they were pretty gapey under my arms. I probably should adjust the pattern to take them up even higher next time, I think. I liked that the pattern had quite an angular curve for the sleeve – a mod I usually have to make myself for cut on sleeves. The sides do pull a little but that’s the tradeoff you make for a cut on sleeve.

The sides pulling make the back hem look like it’s hanging too low in a lot of these photos. It’s even on the hanger – I hung it for a week and the hem didn’t seem to grow but then once I hemmed it it was way lower front and back. I liked the length though so I went back and hemmed the sides shorter so it is now even. However when i move around it pulls up an inch or so on the sides, making the back in particular look low.

I think I’ll give it some time to see if it grows any more and then take it up again at the back. Even if it is technically even when I’m standing totally still, the reality is that it will always hike up, so I may as well account for that from the get go.

The back neckline has a button and loop. I did a thread loop using this method, although it’s a little thin and hard to loop behind my head, next time I would use a double thickness. The button is from my stash and you can sort of almost kind of see it below. I do forget to unhook the button before trying to take it off 100% of the time. Because I am a fast learner…

I am so totally thrilled with this dress. I debuted it at work on Monday and it was so comfortable all day, and I felt so elegant and put together. I had several compliments and one person asked if I had ‘had it made’ and was blown away when I said I’d made it myself! (Side note, I am starting to feel more comfortable telling people I make all my own clothes. It feels nice, and I’ve never had anything but a positive reaction, and very little of the sort of bewildered or condescending praise I have been used to. Just people genuinely interested and impressed. It’s so lovely.)

I will definitely be making this pattern again. I’d love to find a good plaid to play with the grainlines – and the skirt is cut on the cross grain which means that even though it’s quite full you can cut it out of a narrow piece of fabric.

TL;DR What I made:

  • Vogue 8811 in size 12
  • 2″ FBA
  • went back and chopped the bodice to be even (ish)
  • Added 1″ to side seams of front bodice and skirt, 3/4″ to side seams of back bodice and skirt (most of which was taken out again but which I would keep for a firmer fabric)
  • Took up waist about 1″, losing a total of 2″ length from both the bodice and skirt
  • Lowered neckline 1″ at front neck tapering to nothing at front shoulders

What I would do next time:

  • Line the bodice to eliminate sleeve facings
  • drop neckline a further 1/2″ all round tapering to nothing at the back neck
  • POCKETS!
  • Would probably be worthwhile muslining the bodice with no mods so I could see how the waist seam is supposed to look and what the curve should be so I can adjust my pattern and not have to keep fiddling with it to get it right.
I especially like these photos with the soft light that looks like a film photo on a cheap family camera. It reminds me of so many family photos taken in the garden.

I also thought a lot about the ‘dress like your grandma‘ challenge while sewing this. I won’t claim this for the challenge because this dress wasn’t inspired by the challenge so that would feel like cheating. But I couldn’t help thinking that probably the reason I like the fabric so much is that it’s very similar to the curtains in the ‘back room’ at my grandma’s house – the room which was a playroom and where we all slept when we slept over there. Lots of fond memories of that room, although I can’t seem to find a photo of the curtains.

In fact I don’t have a lot of photos of my grandma. There’s a family album somewhere but it never seems to be brought out even when I ask. In the last decade my grandma has lost her husband, two children and all her siblings so I get the impression she’s not keen to reminisce, so I haven’t pushed it. But all the photos I have of her she is wearing a dress in a similar cut to this – cut on sleeves, high neck, circle skirt, some kind of botanical print, and which she would have made herself.

Here she is with all her kids (if you include the youngest who she was pregnant with at the time so does that count?). She would have made her own dress and almost certainly all the clothes in this photo. My dad is the one in the front in the overalls with the excellent pout. He and his sister next to him on Grandma’s lap are both dead now. Judging by the ages this would be late ’60s.

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And here is my grandma with my cousin (the daughter of my aunt to the left of my Gma in the above pic) and I in about 1984.

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I’m the one awkwardly sliding off my cousin’s lap… I just realised that less time passed between those two photos than between the latest one and now. Wild!

As she and I get older I’m starting to have a deeper but also more complicated relationship with my grandma – I’m realising the ways in which she and I are very different, have different values and priorities. Not in a bad way, but in a way that complicates what has always been a relatively simple relationship for me. I get the impression she never really ‘got’ either my father or myself. But she didn’t have to to love us, and love us she did. I dunno, I’ve typed out and erased various comments several times, I don’t know that I can articulate what my grandma means to me as a person and as a relation. I do know it’s important.

I think a lot of (although not all) that draws me to vintage shapes and patterns is my association of them with her, with her elegance and class and sewing skills and love. Sometimes it feels very retrograde to like these clothes, and I worry about it and what it says about me, and what the world sees when they see me in these outfits which happen to be what I feel emotionally comfortable in. Especially in the recent political climate. And why IS it that I happen to be comfortable in them? I fluctuate between feeling tired of my own navel gazing and feeling it’s important to interrogate these things even if there’s never a final conclusion because it’s complex.

“All this could be perceived as nostalgia for an age of innocent exuberance. Indeed, this may be part of the story, but there is also the natural process of reappraising past etas, searching for inspiration, tracing social patterns and making sense of our origins” – Peter Cuffley ‘Australian Houses of the Forties & Fifties’

Acton shirt

This shirt has been many months in the making! Fair warning, this is a very long, very picture heavy post because I’m just so pleased with this shirt that I took a squillion photos and had trouble paring them down as much as I usually do.

The pattern is the Sewaholic Granville shirt http://www.sewaholicpatterns.com/granville-shirt/ A lot of things came together to make this a slow project. It had its frustrating moments but in the end I am really pleased I took my time on this one.

Never work with kids or animals

I started muslining this in August, and although I took good notes that’s long enough ago that the details have started to fade so I hope I can get everything I did down. I have to say, by the way, how grateful I am that I have gotten into habits of taking notes as I go along. So useful.

Anyways, I muslined this at the very start of August. I muslined a size 16 which is for a 41″ bust, and did an initial FBA of 1.5″. This is what it looked like:

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Thank goodness for Instagram too, because it is helping keep track of what muslin is which. I ‘grammed this noting that I had done the 1” FBA but needed another 0.5”. I had been reasonably sure I would but wanted to do it by increments since I wanted a close fit. Also the sleeve is SO long and SO SO tight, to the point where it was actually cutting off the blood to my hand in this photo. I had read everywhere over the internet that the sleeves on this shirt are tight and long but just forgot to do anything about it.

An Opinion

Here’s my second muslin – the green side is the same as muslin #1 and the white side is the adjusted side:

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I added an inch to the sleeve and it’s still way too tight. I noted on this muslin that I should try a narrow shoulder adjustment (as suggested by Andie on my insta post of the first muslin), and perhaps add room at the hips.

My sewing machine then went in for a service which slowed me down. When it was back I made a THIRD muslin. This one is a size 16 graded to an 18 from the waist down, with a 1.5″ FBA. It also has had the yoke slashed and spread to add an extra couple of cm in it, and the back princess seams bumped out at the top too, to give me more room in the upper back. I didn’t note it exactly but I think there’s a total of 1cm added across the back.Here it is, in brown bedsheet this time:

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This one has a darted sleeve, which I drafted using this tutorial from iconic patterns. I muslined the darted sleeve in my 2015 Christmas dressand really liked the way it sat, and have been wanting to try it in an actual garment ever since, since I went with no sleeves for that dress. Drafting it was really fun! I forget how much of a thrill I get from drafting, I really need to get my moulage finished and do more of it from scratch. I also did a bit of fiddling around and experimenting with sleeve cap height and width and shape. I didn’t take super great notes about this, unfortunately, but it was really interesting how drastic the difference was even with quite small changes.

For ages I’ve been widening and flattening my sleevecaps, as per LiEr’s advice in this post  – and also I know I’ve seen other people mention that it gives more movement room. However when doing this I found that there was definitely a sweet spot. If it was too low and wide I got the same sort of pulling at the armpit that I get with a too-tall sleeve cap.

I have always found it hard to fit the area around my armhole and bust – I end up with fabric pulling one way or the other, no matter what I do. Even with an armhole dart, like in my teal M6696, I end up with pulling – that make now is coming apart at that seam in fact, so there’s clearly stress at that point. That sleeve was quite tall and thin, I guess the point where it’s straining is exactly where a wider cap would have more fabric. Maybe I am making slow progress on understanding sleeves. Maybe.

You can see that there is still a small amount of pulling, as well as some pooling of fabric when my arm is down. I think I would benefit from taking a dart at the armpit and rotating it out into the bust dart but then again, that curve is already quite sharp from my large FBA so I’m not sure how practical that is.

Trying vainly to show off elbow darts
Elbow daaaaarts (they’re on the inside of the elbow so… yeah you can’t see them here at all)

The final sleeve is a size 16, darted + a full bicep adjustment of 1″ made + an extra 1cm added to the seam allowances at the end as it was still a little too tight. I also shortened it further because the darts mean that it doesn’t pull up as I move, so it can actually be exactly wrist length without looking like it doesn’t fit me when I move. I neglected to note how much I shortened it by, whoops.

Anyway, that third muslin was still a little bit tight but I thought that since the sheet I made it from had zero give, and all my intended fashion fabrics had give, that I could probably go ahead and make it up.

Fully bent wrist and cuff is still exactly in the same spot. <3_<3 elbow darts!

I have a bunch of shirting fabrics that I bought from the Fabric Store probably about a year ago, intending to make a few plain white shirts. I was only going to buy one shirt’s worth but ended up buying four because when they sent out the samples I kind of fell for all of them. I’m a sucker and I can’t resist a good shirting. The one I used for this is a bit heftier, and I didn’t keep the swatch so I don’t know the exact composition but from memory it was a small percent of lycra in it, so it’s a bit stretchy.

When it came it was a bit more ivory than white, which I hadn’t noticed in the swatch – you can’t really tell in artificial light but in daylight I can definitely see it’s more yellow than the white thread. This meant I was feeling a bit less enamoured of it, so if I arsed it up I wouldn’t be too sad. I also figured the stretch would cover some fitting sins so I could launch in to it without more (frickin’) muslins and anyway at a certain point the only way to fit something further is to make it up and wear it in real life.

Anyway, I totally burnt myself out on all those muslins, and wanted to sew quick and fun things for my Bali trip instead, so I shoved all the muslin pieces into a box and folded up the adjusted pattern pieces and put it all away, until right at the end of last year (literally December 31) when I wanted to sew something and I didn’t know what. I figured this was all muslined and ready to go, and I was feeling guilty about having put in all that work and then left it right at the end. So off I went.

I went slooooow because, honestly, I just wasn’t feeling it. I wanted to sew but every time I got this (or any other) project out I just felt ‘ehn’ about it. Also I was coming off the Connie blouse and trying to learn my lesson from that about not rushing things. I wanted to be happy with the job I did of this shirt, whether or not the fit ended up turning out. And I was hopeful that since what I wanted was the process of sewing, I could enjoy that part if nothing else, and practice some skills (including patience!) in the meantime.

Channeling the Rock.

It’s not perfect, but I’m proud of the work I did on this. I flat felled the back seams – they’re a bit wonky, next time I won’t clip the notches because that meant I had to tuck those areas a bit deeper in than the rest.

The sides are French seamed and everything else is finished in another seam. I initially put the collar together per the instruction order before getting confused and reverting to Andrea’s order. much better. I slip stitched the collar closed, so everything is lovely and near on the inside.

The fabric stretched a little as I sewed it, I probably should have used a walking foot. Most places it came good with a wash and a steam but it has meant that the sleeves are a little but puckery where they are set in. Just enough to annoy me but not enough to be bothered redoing.

Innards

I could probably have taken a slice out at the back for my swayback, as you can see it bunching – it’s worse when tucked in to something because it sort of bunches on top of the waistband.  Something to think about for next time.

I don’t have any nice iron in interfacing and I had read about interfacing with silk organza, so I did that. I basted the organza to both pieces – i.e. both the under and upper collar, rather than just the under – for extra oomph. I was worried it would be less crisp than regular interfacing but actually it’s perfect. Crisp without being heavy. I’m not sure how it would go on a lighter fabric, though.

I’m in love with the darted sleeve. I feel so proud of it! It does make the sleeve very irritating to iron though, because it’s an odd shape – although I realised afterwards that I have a sleeve board now and that probably would have made it easier! Initially I was thinking that I could stand to lose another ½” off the sleeve length, but now I’ve worn it a few times I’ve decided it’s perfect.

It’s only the second or third time I’ve done a tower placket and for some reason I just could NOT make my brain understand it. The first one I did came out really well but the second one is a bit wonky. I was sewing and ironing this thinking ‘I just have to keep practicing, and one day I’ll be able to do a tower placket without even looking at the instructions!’ One day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought about putting the pockets on this but I can’t find my paper pattern, only the pieces I traced, and I didn’t trace that piece. So no go, which I think was the right decision anyway. I’m honestly not sure where the pattern could be – I remember putting it with the envelope of traced pieces and now I just can’t find it. Luckily I put the instructions in with the traced pieces! I hope it turns up because I would like to compare it with the Oakridge blouse which I also have, because I’d like to make that up but don’t want to do a bunch of muslins if I don’t have to, so if they’re similar I can mash up the Oakridge with my adjusted pattern.

I also neglected to mark the cuff and collar stand buttonholes on the pattern pieces I traced, so I had to guess where to put them. I don’t think I did a good job with the collar stand one! It’s right at the edge. The buttons are from my stash – I have a huge tub of white buttons I got at an op shop, all sorted out. Thank you to whoever’s stash this came from. I had seven of the ones I liked so I used those for the front and some similar-ish ones for the cuffs. They look close enough that I won’t notice.

I did cut the wrong side for the button placket though! I didn’t have quite enough fabric to cut it out again, so I just went with it. I thought I would find it confusing to button because it’s the opposite to what I’m used to but actually I don’t notice, so therefore I don’t care!. I can’t tell if I cut the placket slightly off grain or just sewed it wonky, but I had to do a bit of manipulating to get it to sit right. I will be extra extra careful with it next time, because that IS annoying. I place dthe buttons by finding my bust point and putting a button there, and then using the set spacing on the pattern piece to mark the others.

I also wish I hadn’t added to the sides, because now they stick out a bit oddly. I don’t think I’ll go back and take it in but I really wish I could find that dang pattern so I could revert it back to a straight size 16 at the sides.

 

I really like how it looks buttoned all the way up, however I don’t wear it that way because it feels a bit chokey. I also notice myself tugging at the front and pulling it forwards. Having watched how it sits, I think this is because of where the collar is. I have a forward neck, and so the collar sits back off my neck – see the extreme version above – and therefore sits back further on the front of my neck than is comfortable. When I tug it so the collar is comfortable, the shoulder seam sits a 1/2″ too far forward.

I can see various other ways that the collar is pulling the rest of the shirt off, too. When the top button is undone you can see drag lines from the second button. When I tug it forward it sits nicely, and if I arrange the collar so it’s not being pulled by my neck it sits nicely. So I think it’s coming from that issue.

I can’t find much information about adjusting for this, though. I did just buy ‘Fit for Real People’, finally, and am waiting for it to be delivered, so perhaps that will enlighten me? I have thought about how I would adjust this and cut out another shirt with my made-up adjustment so I guess we’ll see!

I don’t feel it pulling across the back but it is stretchy fabric – for the next version I’ve given myself a little extra room at the top there. Just an extra 1/2cm or so.

So yes, it’s just short of perfect. But the fabric feels so lush and I’m so pleased with how well put together it is, and the fit is pretty dang close. I learnt a lot making this and am proud of how I did keeping myself patient and doing little bits at a time until it was done. I feel pretty great when I’m wearing this one – and the first day I wore it five people told me I was looking very fancy, so I’m taking that as a good sign!

Anchors away!

So here is my second M6696, which I DID finish in time for my self imposed deadline and wore when I was in Sydney for the Thrilling Adventure Hour shows. Which were, by the way, amazing.

First let me apologise for the blown out photos. I have really limited photo taking opportunities since it’s so dark all the time, and not much shade in the backyard, so I had to take what I could get. Which is annoying because you can’t really see the details, so I tried to take some detail shots in the shade. And also it explains the sunnies – my choices are wearing sunglasses, or having squinting death glare. I chose facial expressions. You’re welcome.

Squinty death glare

It was a bit of a push to make the deadline. I was intending to work on this the weekend before we left, and I would have had plenty of time. The dress actually comes together pretty quickly. I cut it out right after I finished my black one and sewed up the bodice during the week. Unfortunately, I ran into some issues which lead to me needing to take apart and resew the bodice, which was quite time consuming. And then the weekend before was busy and I didn’t get much sleep on the Saturday due to sleeping in a caravan on a friend’s property in 80kmph winds (not restful. 2/10. Do not recommend) and being totally zombified on Sunday. I didn’t want to attempt fixing the bodice in that state. So I sewed this whole dress during the week. I meant to time myself but forgot, but I spent maybe three hours on it on Monday and Tuesday night, another couple on Wednesday and then Thursday it was done enough that I could actually pack the rest of my clothes! I think that’s not too bad, really, for a dress with this many bits.

So, the bodice issues. As I noted with my black voile version, there was pulling at the armpit. I was a bit worried it would become an issue in the heavier fabric, and it did!

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Yes. My room is 100% trashed.

I spent some time tugging and pinching it and seeing what would help. I had just enough fabric to recut either the bodice or the sleeves – I bought 5 whole metres but since it is a narrow fabric with a directional print, and the skirt pieces are wide, there was not much left from the initial cutting, at least not big enough to do anything with. I thought maybe I needed an FBA after all. I even adjusted the pattern piece but I just wasn’t sure that was the problem. In the end, I think the issue is armscye shape, which is a thing I have had problems with many a time.

During problem solving, I laid the sleeve pattern over a pattern I know works for me, the sleeve from my Ottobre tops and my ottobre dress.

There is a substantial difference. The slope of the ottobre sleeves is gentler, and less peaked. A while ago I tried muslining the Colette Jasmine blouse and had exactly this issue. I had to make so many changes to that, and armscyes are tricky things to change, that the muslin is still sulking in the bottom of a box, all wadded up in fury. So I was worried about changing things but I also knew from that experience that small changes can make a big difference. So I mashed up the sleeve, basically tracing the ottobre dress sleeve (because it was closer to the shape than the tshirt sleeve) but copying the hemline from M6696. I recut the sleeves and basted them in and it WAS better. But not fixed. I tried pinching out a wee dart from the armscye and that made a BIG difference.

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Pinched out dart on the left. Unchanged on the right.

So I figured that as close as I was going to get quickly, without recutting.

I think, from this and also from the fold lines my black one gets when worn, that I actually need to grade in a couple of sized from the armhole up. I do usually have to do a narrow shoulder adjustment, even when I’ve chosen my high bust size and done an FBA. I have sloping shoulders, I think is the issue. So next time (oh yes there will be many next times) that is what I will do. I won’t bother with an FBA unless the next one seems like it needs it after the armscye adjustment, but I think I will move the horizontal dart up just 1cm and maybe make it a bit shallower. It seems like I need the room there, a bit. I know I have wide-set boobs – I can’t wear underwired bras because no matter the cup size the underwires come in where my boobs still are, and it HURTS. So I guess I just need more room there? There’s plenty of room under my boobs, which is good.

The sleeve does rouche up a bit, and twist, on this, but not enough to really notice (except that of course I am minutely scrutinising any flaw) and I think lifting the seam towards my torso by grading it in will help.

Still some pulling. Luckily my sunglasses make me real cool.

Apart from that, the sewing was pretty straightforward! I did end up with two major flaws and a minor one. The minor one is that the pleats at the back somehow ended up being as intended one side, and box pleats the other

D’oh! Box pleats on right, as intended on left

But I figure if you’re looking that close we have other issues. I think this happened because, when I went to sew the skirt to the bodice, it was somehow massively too small. I guess I pinned and basted the pleats too generously? So I had to kind of wing it because I was pushed for time at that point, and I guess one side got caught up weird.

Also the gathering at the top is not entirely even, as you can see here it’s bunched up to one side.

The major ones are 1) the button placement and 2) the front waist placement, both of which exacerbate each other.

I sewed the buttons last (obviously), and late at night (and there’s one missing because I needed another card of buttons and Spotlight is out and clearly doesn’t restock often). I sewed by placing the waistband button first, because I wanted that to line up, and then working up and down from there. Looking at the late night photo I took of it, I can see it’s every so slightly off, but not very much

IMG_4677
It’s not very clear, but this was the photo I took at almost midnight, when I was done bar buttons. With a mostly-meeting waistband.

But look at it now

That’s not just waving in the breeze.

Washing must have loosened something up, I guess. So now the waistband is off kilter and, as a consequence, the bottom of the button bands don’t meet! I only noticed this when I went to put it on for its first outing, in Sydney. Luckily I had brought needle and thread and I quickly sewed up the longer hem to match

I don't know if you can really see it, but the left side is tacked up.
I don’t know if you can really see it, but the left side is tacked up, so they meet in the middle.

Obviously this is not a great fix, and it makes the front noticeably shorter than the back!

Also exacerbated by the way I’m standing, but not actually that much, it looks pretty much like that angle when I’m standing normally. I was trying to show the wonky waistband, but it got blown out.

But it’s relatively easily fixed by cutting off and replacing the buttons in better positions.

However, it’s also exacerbated by the fact that the front waist is too high. When I was sewing them together I noticed that the front was shorter than the back by about 1cm. I figured this was due to wonky cutting of the back bodice, which I had adjusted, and I simply cut the back to match. Which was a good move in the sense that now the back is absolutely perfect. But bad in the sense that I think actually what happened was I somehow cut the front bodices too short.

The adjusted back piece. I think I need to straighten it out so the side is the same length as the centre back, which is how I ended up trimming it anyway.
The adjusted back piece. I think I need to straighten it out so the side is the same length as the centre back, which is how I ended up trimming it anyway.

I have no idea how I did that but that must be it. It is much shorter than the bodice of my black dress. I have been going back and forth between fixing and not fixing but it’s annoying me a lot, both to wear – it means the waist is actually on my ribs, and it constricts me when I’m sitting down – and to look at. And the pockets sit too high to be useful. So I’ll have to fix it. SIGH. Once I unpick the button band and the waist seam (and all my lovely topstitching, boo hoo!) I’ll just sew the front seams at a smaller seam allowance, it only needs a little bit extra at each seam. No biggie. And then re-place the buttons. And then hopefully the front will sit right!

Sloping hemline and visibly higher waistline at the front.

It’s also annoying because it makes it almost empire line, which is not at all the silhouette I’m going for. Even worse when wearing the petticoat I bought, because it is a bit longer than I need it so I have to wear it high up on my waist, which mean lots of poofiness at my belly where I really don’t need the help. That said, I am still plotting ways to wear a petticoat in my every day life without people thinking I’m mad. They are SO fun to wear!

Yeeeaaahhhh! As worn to the Friday night show. I should have bought a petticoat a good 3″ shorter. But I kind of dig the maximum puff + peep out the bottom. The neck tie is just a piece of silk satin I bought at the Fabric Store in Sydney. It has abstract flowers on it and it also came in teal. Don’t think I wasn’t tempted to buy more of it.

Construction wise, I French seamed the armscyes, serged and then sewed the skirt pieces, and sandwiched and French seamed the waistband as I did last time.

French seamed bodice
Sandwiched waistband… except where it’s not.

I topstitched the button band – it was much easier in a stiffer fabric, although you can see bits where it flipped out and I kept sewing – that was in the home stretch and my deadline was LOOMING. I did slipstitch the collar, it was just quicker. Unfortunately the top buttonhole is in an area where there are too many seams meeting – I didn’t clip carefully enough I guess – and it’s in fact impossible to get the button through. That might soften up with washing, maybe?

I also am tempted to fuss with the collar. The collar itself is great, but it feels like it’s 1/2” too high up on my neck. Is that a thing? Maybe because I have a dowager’s hump/my head is forward on my neck? I am tempted to try to move it down next time, because I feel like it makes the collar sit funny, because it’s all perched up high with nothing to support it where it should be supported. I also wonder if there’s too much room in the centre front and maybe I should rotate some out, but I’m going to adjust the shoulders first and see what that does to that problem.

DSC_0286
Part of it is that because of the button issue, the right side is actually sitting a bit too high. But… does the collar look like it’s in the right place to everyone else? I’d really like some opinions on this one.
DSC_0287
You can also see the pooling above my bust, still. Just not sure about the right fitting fixes for this. Help?

In summary!

Changes made:

Took 1” out of the back both horizontally and vertically. Pleated back instead of gathering. Swapped sleeve for one with a wider and shallow sleeve cap. Pinched out a small (probably 1cm) dart in each armscye, where I felt it needed it.

Fixes needed:

Need to fix the too-short bodice/waistband. Need to re-locate the buttons.

Changes to make next time:

grade the shoulders/armscye down two sizes, front and back. Move horizontal dart and make it a bit shallower (not sure about this one). Maybe adjust where the collar sits? Or perhaps leave that until I see what the other changes do. Make sure to cut the bodice long enough!

Even with its flaws, I’ve worn it out a couple of times since Sydney, to great acclaim. I do still love it, but I know the flaws will bother me.

I am planning to make another cotton one to test these changes. I have some cotton with spots that I bought planning to replicate a dress I had as a child. I thought I had this blue spotty one and a multi-coloured spotty one but I can’t find photographic evidence of the latter.

I'll probably give the socks and sandals look a miss, though.
Pretty sure this was handmade, either by my mother or my paternal grandmother.

No matter. I’ll probable wear it with knee socks, too (although not socks AND sandals), which I probably should be concerned about. Actually I realised when we were in Sydney, I was wearing the anchor dress with knee socks, the nurse-like shoes I am wearing in these photos, and a thin knitted jumper the same colour of the socks… I had recreated my school uniform. Thankfully in a MUCH nicer colour scheme. I feel like I should feel some kind of way about that but… I don’t. Shirtdresses are forever, so there.

Anyway the point is, spotty shirtdress. I’m thinking about swapping the skirt out for a circle skirt with no pleats. And then I have three metres of flannel that I bought for pjs but might be destined to be one of these, but I think I only have enough for a straight skirt, especially if I want long sleeves. AND I have some of the teal flannellette from my shirt, probably enough for a dress. Oh, AND, I bought some sparkly, glittery snowflake fabric to make a solstice dress from. So, that’s less than a month away.

IMG_4766
This stuff! It’s much less see through when it’s not wet, although it will still require a slip.

So it seems I’m destined for a wardrobe full of this one pattern. Partly because I want to nail the fit of this, but also because, I just love shirtdresses, I love this pattern in particular, and I feel totally fine with having multiple copies of it and being that woman who wears all the shirtdresses. There’s many a worse fate.

Knits and fixes

Rounding out the FOs now. We’re down to the dregs, don’t worry, I’m almost done! Just in time for Craft Camp and hopefully some more FOs.

First, the fixes.

At the last craft camp I made a McCalls 6559 maxi dress. The not-maxi version, because that was the length I had fabric for. It came out a bit big – the pattern has SO much ease. At camp I had run the sides in, but the neckline and armscyes were too low by a good two inches, so I didn’t even bother finishing the edges. I figured it was a good muslin and maybe I’d wear it as a heatwave housedress.

Then a couple months after camp I was thinking about it and it occured to me… neck too low… armscye too low… maybe the SHOULDERS were too long? Like, duh. I took it up two inches and it was perfect. I finished the neck and arms with binding from an almost-but-not-quite-the-same piece of fabric. The fabric of the dress is really light, so instead of hemming it I attached a wider band of the same fabric I bound the neck in. That was a slight miscalculation, as it doesn’t sit right, but given that this fabric is thinnnnnn I don’t wear it out of the house except in heatwaves.

The thing about heatwaves, though, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, is that we’ve had quite a lot of them lately. I wore this dress almost every day I wasn’t working for a good two months. All that wear means it’s stretched out a bit – again, thin fabric, but that really just made it even better for those days where you think, if you let fabric touch your skin, you might actually melt.

I would definitely make this dress again, it was so easy – basically cut it out, sew the side seams and shoulders, finish the edges, done. And I love wearing it. Next time I would cut the neckline about an inch higher, though. Although I see in the photo that it’s pulling a bit under the shoulder, so maybe I’d only raise it 1.5″ and cut the neckline 1.3″ higher. Side seam-wise I would probably cut it to the first adjusted size, because it’s super easy to accommodate any stretching later by whipping in the side seams, and I don’t know that I’d want a skin-tight maxidress. I suspect maxidress season is over, although if I can work out sleeves for this I might make a winter weight one – I had a bought one that I LOVED that I friend called my ‘goddess dress’ but I wore it in winter and stood in front of a heater and, it being polyester, it melted. I still have it and I’ll probably just hem it shorter and wear it, but I’ve kept it to copy.

Next up are some pencil skirts I made at last year’s March Craft Camp. They are both Kasia, which I have made before. I added lined kick-pleats to them, but they stuck out.


Added to that, I sewed these both up on the overlocker, and didn’t use the whole seam allowance. So I had planned, at March Craft Camp, to undo them and bring them in, and add a lining, and fix the pleat. Janet even very kindly picked me up some stretch lining for them. But then that was the Craft Camp of the Great Pestilence, and I was too ill to concentrate on anything much, so they didn’t get fixed. They sat in the sewing room waiting for attention, and never got them.

So the other day I pulled them out again and tried them on. They… did not seem too big? Although I have actually lost some volume around my belly since I stopped eating gluten and am not bloated all the time, so who even knows what that’s about. I did nip in the black skirt’s waist by a centimetre or so. So I fixed the kickpleats and have been wearing them.

I fixed the pleats by topstitching the outside edge, pressing a lot, and sewing the pleat to the skirt at the top. In the case of the black skirt, the pleat was probably too big, so I brought the edges in as well. I just serged them off. It still sits a bit funny but is much improved. I tried to get some photos but they just look like… fabric. Nothing to see, really, but this paragraph can serve my own future reference. They do look much better.

Feb 001

 

I was going to crop this but I’m quite fond of pics whee you can see the random crap in people’s lives. This is my laundry. It is actually relatively tidy in this picture. It’s just that there is no storage to speak of in my house, it makes me crazy.

Anyway, excuse the crappy photo please, but you can see that it is much better. You can ALSO see the same waist/hemline problem I described last time. The waistline is about even (my shirt is covering it a bit at the front) but you can see the bottom of the yoke angles down, as does the hemline. The way I am standing in the photo above is my normal posture, it’s not particularly bad (for me) or anything. All my family have slight scoliosis and I have rounded shoulders and I just stick my butt out. That’s the way it is, no point making clothes pretending I’m going to ever stand up straight.

I… might have to start making yoked that are thinner at the front? I am really just kind of stumped, guys. Any suggestions welcome. I also think that yokes may be my answer to my circle skirt conundrums, maybe? I have worn those skirts again this week in the name of figuring out my options, and they are just… not COMFORTABLE. Which is a shame.

Anyhoodle, I also pulled out the zip in the black skirt and put in an invisible one, because you could see the tape in the old one, and I would have done the same for the red one but I didn’t have a red invisible zip. I have since bought one. I might swap them one day. I wore the red skirt today and it did actually bag out a bit so that it was a bit loose by the end of the day. I might whip in the side seams, although the extra room is really at the centre front yoke seams, but I am not changing them because it’s faced and everything’s overlocked and I can’t be bothered.

These would certainly benefit from a lining, they stick to everything and since I always wear shorts of leggings there is always something to stick to. But I am thinking of making bikeshorts out of the satin lining that Janet bought for me, instead.

So that’s the fixes.

The first knit is also a fix – and it isn’t even finished yet. It’s my Essential Cardigan, which I had finished up to the bands at September Craft Camp.

I actually finished the band in September, and started sewing it up. But because I had put so much work into the fitting process, I wanted to sew it properly. This is why I never do anything properly, guys, it is not finished yet. I sewed petersham ribbon onto the button bands because they pulled a bit, but then I had to hand sew the buttonholes by hand. My sewing machine can barely manage one ok-looking buttonhole on regular fabric, let alone several on a hand knit. I did about four before getting tired. Also it was hot and that wasn’t motivating me.

Also, once the bands were done and I tried it on, I was… a bit underwhelmed. It fits me well, but I am just not sure I did the shaping in the right place. I don’t know. I think it’s probably fine, except that I was expecting it to shoot glowing rainbows of unicorns, and obviously it didn’t. It only managed one shitty pegasus, you guys. So disappointing.

No, but really, the sleeves were also about an inch too long. I made the sleeves up myself because I wanted full-length, and I guess I overcompensated. That’s ok, they have cuffs so it’s easy enough to chop them off and regraft, and I also made them a bit thin so they could actually use being taken up like that. I might try to remember to bring this to craft camp and do that then.

I also cast on for Neon, in the flush of an almost-finished essential. Then when the Essential bogged down, so did Neon. It still looks pretty much like this:

and I am concerned that the red is too light for me and might make me look washed out. I’ve picked it up again this week and once I have sleeve holes I’ll try it on and see. The yarn is Bendigo Woolen Mills Luxury. I think I might need to go through my stash because there is a bunch of ‘fine but nothing special’ yarn and to be honest, I don’t want to knit it. I only want to knit special yarn. Really, I knit so slowly these days that I could put a whole year’s yarn budget towards one jumper. (Not that I have an actual dedicated yarn budget, but you know). But if the fine but nothing special yarn is in my stash, I feel like I have to knit it.

Well, that’s 1600 words about not very much, so that’s probably enough from me. The next two days are going to be crazy busy so I should really go PACK FOR CRAFT CAMP. Which is actually quite annoying at the moment because I am catsitting my cousin’s cat for a month. He’s in the spare/craft room, because he and my cat are both pretty territorial. So if I want to go into the craft room I have to either squeeze in without letting him out and my cat in, or else lock my cat in the bedroom. So I can’t pack both clothes and craft stuff at the same time. It’s very ‘don’t leave the fox with the chicken’ and frankly, I’m not enough of a lateral thinker for that kind of business.

Mobster’s wife

I could call this a Minnie Mouse dress (note to self: make big bow for head), but I prefer ‘Mobster’s wife dress’ because that’s what I think I look like in the first photo I took.

Terrifying. I look like I’m about to take someone out with a frying pan. I was trying out the timer on my camera and apparently I have time to smile or to pose, not both. I had another go at the end of the day and had some better luck with my face.

This is a frankenpattern of Butterick 4443 and a self drafted bodice. The bust point on this pattern was so high that I knew it wouldn’t work for me, but at that stage an FBA seemed terrifying. But my bodice block was old and a size and a bit too small. So I sort of smooshed them together. I started sewing it basically this time last year, but I had to make so many mods to get it to fit right that it was a bit of a disaster. So I took it to craft camp to work on.

At craft camp, I cut the bodice up and used it as a pattern. I got it almost right but it still wasn’t there so it waited until the last month or so to get finished. It’s still far from perfect but I’ve done enough futzing for now and I’m calling it a wearable muslin, emphasis on the wearable. I would certainly be thrilled to find a dress that fit this well in the store, so I’m trying not to be too nitpicky.

I lined the bodice but didn’t bother lining the skirt. I will another time but by the end I knew I was done for now but it would need work in the future, so I didn’t bother, just sewed the bodice lining down at the waist. I also lined it before I remembered I wanted sleeves, so they’re sewn on top of the lining – the inside of this thing is pretty dodgy. It was nice sleeveless but I’m more likely to wear a dress with sleeves.

Here are the problems. The princess seams don’t go over the bust point, not quite. I think the centre front bodice needs to be smaller, and the side a bit bigger, although not by much. The last round of tweaks I did basically involved reverse engineering a FBA, so I think what I need to do is knock two centimetres or so off the centre panel, and then do an FBA, to get the shape right.

The back is droopy – I need a swayback adjustment. And the top back is too high and wide. You can see both of these issues below.

Too much fabric in the back.
Dunno what this pose is about but you can see the height and extra fabric in the back.

Obviously I didn’t even bother matching the pattern. I got bigger issues!

I wish I had a good photo of this issue from the side. The back stops at my nape, but because I have a mini dowager’s hump that means it’s sort of creeping forward. It’s just way too high, it needs a good 3cm lopped off at the centre, tapering to the edges. I already knocked 2cm off so I dunno what the go was with the block I used!

You can’t see it here because I’m leaning away and it’s pulling it taught, but if I stand up straight there’s a little pyramid of fabric at the zip. You CAN see that it’s ripply, and you can see that the shape of the side front panel isn’t right.

The back neck is the one I find the most annoying, because it’s most obvious to a non-sewer. I’m irritated by the poofiness at the boobs, but that’s more obvious from my vantage point than other people’s, and I think will be less of an issue at shark week – it’s lowest boobage ebb right now. But to fix the back I’ll have to unpick the zip so… whatever. At some point I think I’ll undo the bodice and try again but for now, it works.

I think I probably need an extra centimetre in the back, from the shoulders down. I know I just said I have too much fabric there, but that’s past my shoulders. It fits ok but it’s a bit tight if I cross my arms. Fine, but not great. And I dropped the waist because I have a long waist but I’d take it back up a centimetre next time. Its at my true waist, from the side, but it actually hits the biggest part of my belly. It ends up hiking up a bit when I sit or slump, which I basically do most of the time, so. The arms are a bit weird too. I think the sleeve cap needs to be shorter but wider. They work, but if my arms aren’t straight down the fabric doesn’t sit nicely.

After that litany of failures, I’m actually pretty pleased with it. I know over time I’m going to get fed up with looking at it and seeing the flaws – I don’t think they’re small enough to fade in my mind. But it is very comfortable, especially on a 30+ day like today, and I feel good in it. I certainly learnt a lot from it, and am still learning, so I definitely can’t call it a failure. A wearable red polkadot dress could never be a failure!

Oh, and happy Beltane, from me and the chooks.