Lucky 13: Baby shower extravaganza

I figure yesterday’s post was pretty dry for much of my readership (well, at least my friends-and-family readers). So not to disappoint those who don’t care about my crafting plans but like it when I make cute things, here is a quick bonus post of the gifts I made for my friend Diana’s baby shower last weekend. I was going to include it on the end of last night’s post, but things just got way too long! Sorry for the photo quality (and quantity); I was working on these up until the last minute (really beyond the last minute, and I even enlisted my mother in the button sewing effort), so I just snapped a photo each before they went into the gift bag:

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This baby is due next month, so I figured I’d give something wintry for now and something summery for later. I tried to channel a little bit of a 30s/40s flavor with the prints, and I like the classic feeling the gifts evoked. Can’t wait to see them modeled by baby! My thoughts by project:

The bonnet is the Winter Baby Bonnet from Purl Soho, which is a free pattern on their blog. I got two of the kits, which now seem to be sold out, but you could definitely find the needed materials from other sources. It was a great pattern and I got to break out my walking foot for the first time. The stitch length was a little very short, but otherwise using it went without incident. Well done me! This was also my first time sewing with Liberty Tana lawn, and I loved it!

The booties are Saartje’s Booties, a pattern that has been in my queue on Ravelry for years. Weaving in all the ends was a little fiddly and I didn’t have a crochet hook available to make the button loops (I ended up braiding them), but I absolutely love them in the end! I used some Debbie Bliss Rialto 4 ply from my aforementioned stash and resisted going out and buying more yarn to have a contrast color (pats self on back). I love the simplicity of the garter stitch and black buttons, and the finished booties are so squooshy and delicious, perfect for little feet.

Finally, the dress. This is another Seashore Sundress from Oliver + S (see my last one here) in the 6-12 month size, and I don’t have much new to say about it, though construction was even smoother the second time around. The fabric for the dress and bloomers are from one of the Denyse Schmidt DS Quilts lines at Joann’s. The picture isn’t so great above, but the dress is in this great little flower print, and I have enough left over to make another baby dress. As you can see, I made no effort to match the plaid on the coordinating bloomers (which is printed on the bias but asymmetrical, argh!) because I thought it would be really hard, and it shows; oh well. As my Grandma Mary Jane said about sewing errors, you no one would notice from a galloping horse.

And there you have it. Knitting and sewing in one post! Next up, something for me!

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An Anna dress for all seasons, except probably not winter

Hello, dearest readers! I’m wrapping up a short holiday break from work, which means more sewing and more blogging! I got a new friend for Christmas, and she’s here to help me introduce you to my latest and happiest dressmaking adventure, the By Hand London Anna dress:

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That’s right, I am the proud owner of a dress form! I have named her Bluebell (we’ll see if it sticks), and I’m pretty excited to have her. It would have been nice if she had been in my life for dear Anna’s construction, as there was A LOT of fitting and tweaking involved, and when you are your own fit model, you end up doing a lot of sewing in your underwear. Here’s to a future of sewing fully clothed! Anyway. Let’s talk about the dress, shall we?

The gals over at BHL call this dress “effortless,” and I’ve seen many a well fitted version floating around the internets, but for me things were quite a bit more…effortful. Not in terms of construction per se (which was made even easier by leaving out the zipper) or ease of wearing (truly a great design), but certainly in terms of fit. In my attempts to get this little number to both fit and flatter, I went through 4 (!) bodice muslins and made some major edits to the skirt. Worth it for a great fit, but woof. I’m going to focus on the fit issues in a later post about the full bust adjustment I ended up settling on, but suffice it to say that I learned with this project that even if a pattern matches your measurements, a good fit is not guaranteed.

In addition to the bust adjustment (Cliffs notes version: I lengthened the bust by 2 inches and added a 2 inch side seam dart), I also raised the waist by 1/2 inch to account for my short waist. I probably could have gone a little higher but I didn’t want to truncate the bust pleats too much. In the end, I think the fit through the bodice turned out really well.

Anna dress, front

Anna dress, back

Looking at this second photo, I think the back is still a little long, or perhaps in need of a swayback adjustment? I would not be surprised if this is my next fitting challenge, but I’m going to ignore that extra fold of fabric until I fully conquer the whole bust adjustment business. For the time being, I’m proud enough of the fit I was able to achieve.

Then we come to the skirt; this is where I was rather worried about flattery. My first skirt bodice confirmed that the hip-skimming design just did not work for me. I have admired many an Anna with an alternate skirt (this and this are particular favorites), but I wanted to maintain the paneled skirt because I like the look. And I REALLY didn’t want to totally redraft the pieces to create a fuller skirt. With those parameters, what’s a girl to do?

I’ll tell you what this girl did: she trimmed 2 1/2 vertical inches off the skirt at the waist seam. This created a skirt that was probably 4 inches wider than the bodice, so some easing/gathering was required, but it gave the skirt just the fullness I wanted around the upper hip. This plus raising the waist did result in a skirt slightly shorter than I’d envisioned, so if/when I make another Anna I will need to add some length to the bottom of the skirt, but it’s certainly not indecently short, so I’m satisfied. The view below probably best shows the final length.

BHL Anna dress

The fabric is a lovely, buttery Joel Dewberry rayon that I picked up at the delightful Finch Sewing Studio in Leesburg with this dress in mind, and on a return trip I noted that the owner Nicole had made up an Anna floor sample in the very same fabric, proving that great minds do think a like. (To answer a few questions: yes, as in Leesburg, Virginia, and yes, I have driven there twice for the sole purpose of visiting this shop, and yes, I know I am crazy, but it’s totally worth it. Go there, you will not regret it.)

I bought the pattern this fall thinking I’d take part in the Anna sew-along, which given my schedule at the time was laughable, but the fabric was selected with a fall dress in mind. That was itself a stretch. After construction actually started, I briefly convinced myself it could be a holiday dress, but the length, weight of the fabric, and short sleeves ultimately have put this dress solidly into the spring-summer (and maybe fall) wardrobe.

That did not stop me, though, from getting dolled up and making my sister brave the subfreezing temperatures for a Christmas day photoshoot. It was cold (see picture 3), but at least my theatrical shivering pose took my hands off my hips for once. Though I suppose everyone needs a signature pose, and “arms akimbo” is certainly more fun to say than most. Please ignore my dayglo white legs.

Anna dress triptych

Ack, I just love this dress so much, and styling it was so fun. Maybe I can reclaim it for winter with a nice cardigan and woolly tights? Never say never.

Stay tuned for the aforementioned FBA post later this week (non-sewing friends, you might want to skip this one, unless you’re eager to learn about adjusting sewing patterns for an…ample bosom). And with that, I leave you with perhaps my favorite pic from the frigid photo session. Hope you had a very merry Christmas and wishing you a fantastic New Years!

Anna dress holiday greeting

Endless Summer dress

OMGs, friends, how did it get to be October already?!? Though the calendar says it’s fall, until pretty recently it seemed like the weather didn’t quite get the memo and summer was here to stay. Just in time for what seems like a beautiful fall day (can’t say I’ve seen i for myself, what with working the day away, though obviously not so hard that I’m precluded from blog updating), though, I’m posting a truly summery garment I made quite a while ago. In fact, it’s a me-made version of my absolute favorite dress of the summer, this little number from Target:

Sourcing this image, I’ve just learned that my Dress of the Summer is *actually* a juniors garment. So not necessarily designed with a woman of my advanced years in mind, but no matter. I loved it so much I bought it in two colors. And then I loved it so much I decided to make my own.

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This was a pretty easy make, and one of the projects from my fall sewing list. I made a few small modifications from the original pattern, which is McCalls 6744. First, the pattern is designed for knits, but I used this Robert Kaufman dotted chambray that was all over the internets this summer. The pattern certainly has enough ease that it worked for me without any adjustments. I love this fabric so (too?) much–it is soft and light and so comfortable I may have accidentally worn this dress to bed. Twice. Really a great fabric.

The second change from my original plan (which was to use bias binding on the edges of the sleeves and racerback) was just a simple narrow hem. This was great practice working with a double fold narrow hem (without stretching the heck out of everything). I’m not sure the shape of the racerback ended up being the most flattering–it just seems a little out of proportion to me–but the hem worked out pretty well.

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Finally, in a tribute to the Target inspiration garment, I drafted (okay, drafting is a strong word for what I did, but it was done off-pattern) a faux button placket for the bodice of the dress. Not gonna lie, pretty proud of myself. And it even looks pretty straight.

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That’s my excited face. I had my heart set on purple buttons, and the only ones I could find in my limited button stash were these kind of country casual daisy buttons, but the color was right so I just went for them. They are absolutely my least favorite part about the dress, but can be easily changed so I’m sticking with it.

So there you have it, a summer dress shared on a (decidedly) fallish day. How about you–still digging out from your summer sewing (and knitting, equal opportunity here), or are you more seasonally appropriate than I?

Sara’s Fall Sewing School

All around the internets, it seems that people are talking about their fall sewing plans, so I figured I’d join in. I’m not sure how autumnal most of these projects are (though who can blame me with today’s 97 degree temperatures?!), in part because I spent all summer making a mental catalog of all the things I wanted to sew, and I have quite a backlog!

So instead of focusing on sewing for the season, I’ve selected these projects based on two principles: things I’d like to wear, and things I’d like to learn. With these two guiding principles in mind, I think I’ve come up with a sewing plan that will keep me busy for the next few months, teach me a ton, and spruce up the old wardrobe. Let’s check out the list, shall we? We shall!

Lesson 1: Dotty chambray tank dress

The fabric: Dotty Robert Kaufman Union Chambray

The pattern: M6744 (except with the racerback), view B (c) McCall’s

This is probably the most summery (summeriest?) project in the works, given its very lightweight fabric and racerback cut. But it’s also the closest to being ready to wear this Indian summer, with the pattern traced and cut out. Instead of the narrow hem in the pattern, I’m planning on finishing the neck and arm holes/racerback with bias tape facing. I’m also thinking of adding a faux button placket to add some interest to the front.

Skills to be practiced: so much bias tape facing, making my own bias tape

Lesson 2: Mo’ chambray, no problem shirt dress

The fabric: RK Union Chambray in slub indigo

The pattern: M6520, view A (c) McCall’s

Can you tell I’ve been on a bit of a chambray kick? I’m planning on making up view A (or maybe B if I choose to embrace the season) in this Robert Kaufman slub chambray. My biggest concern is it might turn into a bit of a sack given the relative lack of fitting, but I like the shirttail hem and open neckline, so I’m going for it!

Skills to be practiced: buttonholes!

Lesson 3: Parenthetical potpourri skirt

The fabric: Anna Maria Horner field study linen/cotton blend

I’d been drooling over this fabric for months, but it wasn’t until I saw this skirt (which I could not love more) in the Hawthorn sew-a-long contest, that I knew I had to make it mine. I’m still undecided on what pattern to use, though I have two main ideas. One is a slightly less full version of Tilly’s Picnic Blanket skirt, which would be more buttonhole practice and keep the waistband element of the inspiration skirt. The other idea I had was to do an A-line with a few interesting design details, like this number with a fly front and contoured waistband:

The pattern: M6361, view D (also, what’s with her bracelet?!?) (c) McCall’s

I have to say, this doesn’t seem to be the most modern cut, a suspicion confirmed by reading some reviews of the pattern, but I think that if I lower the waist by an inch or two it should update this classic design a good bit. Will certainly be making a muslin for this!

Skills to be practiced: either more buttonholes or a fly front with zipper insertion

Lesson 4: Sorbetto fitting school

The pattern: Colette Pattern’s Sorbetto (c) Colette Patterns

I’ve already made two sorbetto tanks (yet to be blogged) in two different sizes, and neither of them fit. Woes. I gave up in a fit of pique. I knew enough to know what I needed to solve the problem: a full bust adjustment. But I just got overwhelmed at the mere thought. So before I make more garments that are fitted through bust, I know that I must embrace the FBA. With its simple construction and just one dart , I figure the Sorbetto is a great place to start. I’ve bought Kathleen Cheetham’s Adjust the Bust class on Craftsy and a few fun Lisette cotton voiles on clearance at Joann’s, so once I get my nerve up, I’m ready to go!

Skills to be practiced: did I mention I need to embrace the full bust adjustment?

Final exam: Fabric TBD Traveler dress

The pattern: Lisette Traveler dress (S2246), view A, (c) Liesl and Co, Inc.

I have a passion for a good shirtdress (see lesson 2), and this one is no exception. In fact, this is the first sewing pattern I ever bought, and I think it will be such a wearable garment for me. It will also be a nice place to bring together the skills I’ll have practiced in the earlier projects, especially those buttonholes and fit adjustments. I have a few fabrics in my stash that would work, but I may also pick something totally different that says fall. An excuse for more fabric shopping!

And there you have it! A solid, if ambitious, plan for sewing and learning. And there are so many ideas that didn’t make it into this list. We’ll just have to see if I stick with it or if other projects make their way in (I’m sure they will).

How about you? Any suggestions for great, wearable patterns for building sewing skills?

Feels like the first time…

Because it is! The first time I’ve sewed a dress, that is. And here she is in all her glory:

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Some of you will likely recognize this as the Staple Dress. My obsessive/thorough reading of the sewing blogs this summer turned me on to this dress, a beautiful and relatively simple pattern by April Rhodes that seemed to be sweeping the internets. I, too, was swept away, and decided to make it one of my first projects ever. I made it up in a fun cotton voile by Anna Maria Horner I got on sale (hurray for savings!).

I actually LOVE the way it looks on the hanger, and I learned lots from making it: pockets, shirring, and adding this kind of narrow facing at the neckline and sleeves. I could feel myself improving with each step of the pattern construction, which was pretty exciting. Plus, who doesn’t love a high-low hem! Actually on my body, though, I have to admit I don’t love it quite as much.

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Issue 1 is a pretty big one, which is I don’t think this style and fit are totally flattering on me. The bust has no shaping, and while bust adjustments (which I assume are in my future as I start to make more fitted garments) intimidate me, it definitely creates some fitting issues. Exhibit A for the prosecution:

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I’m most irritated by that little bit of pulling across the middle of the bust and the extra fabric at the armpits. I think I also could have used a little more width at the hips. I knew this at the outset but decided to go for it anyway without any pattern adjustments because I thought going a size up would have resulted in more of a shirred-waist mumu, and I was too lazy to make an adjustment of my own.

Issue 2 is the positioning of the stripes. I will say that I think I did a good job of centering the stripes, and I like the chevron effect at the hip and the stripe placement on the arms. But in retrospect, I think that centering the more dense purple stripes would have been a better choice, and I wouldn’t have these bright pink stripes running down my behind. Exhibit B:

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(Excuse my facial expression, which is saying “camera timer, you still workin’ over there?”) The stripe down the butt really is straight IRL, but I think the twist here shows the unfortunate ways it can distort while being worn. Oh well, live and learn. And I certainly learned that getting a printed fabric straight and aligned well is just as important as thinking about where the elements of the print will fall on the body!

Issue 3 is that the insides are not so pretty, but that I can live with (it’s my secret, shh), and assume it will get better with time and practice.

All in all, though, I think things are off to a pretty good start for my first wearable finished garment ever, and so I’ll leave you with a final photo that highlights my favorite features of the dress: the hem, the pockets, and the neat chevron at the side seams. Looking forward to sharing more makes with you!

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