the florida collection

There’s nothing more rewarding in sewing then when a plan comes together, when weeks of thinking and organizing and fitting and cutting and sewing finally come together. In February, I posted my thoughts about a few new pieces I wanted to have for a trip to Florida. The trip has since come and gone (and it was fantastic!), and now it’s time to see, of the things on the list, what came together and what didn’t.

You know I love to sew in groups or collections of garments, and sewing for a specific event or trip is my ultimate project. It is so much fun! I always appreciate a collection with a clear and cohesive color story with coordinating prints, and this particular group is lacking in that respect. The blue top sticks out like a sore thumb and I’ve got three very different prints going on, but this project was more about specific garments for specific events, so from that perspective I’m very pleased.

In the planning post, I mentioned that I needed the following: a couple comfy tops to travel in, a swimsuit cover up, a cocktail dress, a couple of sundresses, and an outfit for exploring Miami.

Garments successfully made: tops, cocktail dress, sundresses, Miami outfit

Garments not made: swimsuit cover up

I had big plans for a wrap skirt swimsuit cover up in this yummy rayon challis, but time ran out before I could get to that project. (I ordered a navy sarong from Amazon and called it good.) As we got closer to the departure date I had to prioritize my unfinished projects, and this one got left behind. I’m okay with that though, because I think this fabric will be great for another project in a summer/4th of July collection I’m planning. Maybe a maxi dress?

I finished this dress first, and I wore it to dinner one night. I am completely and totally in love with this little gingham number, and it was perfect for this trip. It’s linen so it wrinkled quite a bit and required some ironing after we got there, but that’s okay with me. It was so comfortable, and I got loads of nice compliments on it. For more about this dress, see this post.

Full disclosure: I made this dress last summer. I knew it would be a great dress for this trip, and it was. I wore this to the welcome reception on the beach. Loved it. For more about this dress as well as a tip for a better fitting bust, see this post from last week.

I made three tops for this trip, all using the same pattern. This one is my favorite of the bunch. The floral trim is just so pretty! It wasn’t ridiculously hot in Florida yet, so I could still wear jeans and not be uncomfortably hot. My travel outfits and the exploring Miami outfit were the same: one of these tops, skinny jeans, a hat, and sandals. It was great. For more about these tops and a tutorial for the ruffle, see this post.

The cocktail dress: easily one of my favorite projects. I got more compliments on this dress than I’ve ever gotten on any other project, ever. So not only was I glad other people liked it as much as I did, I was proud to tell them that I made it. (You should have seen some of the reactions that got!) Read about the cocktail dress here.

This is by no means a sundress, but it came in handy for another dinner event. This is one of my all time favorite patterns, and this is fourth time I’ve made this dress. Read about the others here and here. This is Vogue 8825 in a coral rayon ponte knit from Mood.

I also planned to make a pair of white linen pants, and while I did make them, I didn’t take them to Florida. They didn’t really work with the tops I made, so you’ll see those soon with a top that makes a little more sense.

I was so excited to get pretty blog pictures on the beach (what a great opportunity, right?), but a funny thing happens when I get to a beach: I don’t care about pretty pictures. I’m much more concerned about how quickly I can throw on a swimsuit, get to the beach, and swim my little heart out. There were also a lot of people there, and taking selfies and blog pictures in front of a bunch of strangers isn’t my idea of a good time. At any rate, the trip was a wonderful, and I couldn’t be happier with the collection I made for it.

Now, on to more projects!

final grade: the cocktail dress

Don’t ever let anyone tell you sewing is a mindless craft. Those of us who endeavor to create and make know better. The mental acrobatics required to properly execute the tedious and challenging projects is one of the things that keeps me engaged and inspired to continue sewing. Because to settle for the easy projects all the time does nothing for growth and learning, and why bother if you’re not doing much of value or quality. This dress is one of those garments that required a little extra determination and planning and, just like every other project like it that has tested my patience, it was more than worth the time and effort. (Expect a few of those “easy” projects in the future, just to balance things out!)

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Ty and I were headed to Florida this month, and I was excited to make most of my clothes for our little weekend getaway. On Wednesday, I’ll tell you how successful I was in bringing my ideas to life, but today I’m thrilled to show you the cocktail dress I made for the awards reception. It came together beautifully, I felt like a million bucks in it, and I was comfortable all night (the ultimate trifecta!). I lost track of all the sweet compliments I received on this dress, which was just icing on the cake for me. (I think a lot of the compliments had to do with the fabric. It’s just so stunning!)

For more details about how I decided on the design and the sewing techniques I used on this dress, see the progress report from a few weeks ago.

The bodice is my own design I drafted using my slopers, to which I attached the skirt from Butterick 6129 (see the other skirt from that pattern here). The skirt on my cocktail dress is about 2.5″ shorter than the white damask skirt from January, and I like it a little better. I used the wrong side of the fabric on the hem band again, because it adds a lot of visual interest to the skirt and it’s a fun way to showcase both sides of the brocade.

There is 6″ wide horsehair braid in the hem facing, and I closed the hem band with a catchstitch. I did this for a couple of reasons: there is flexibility in a catchstitch that allows for movement while still being strong, plus I think it’s pretty. The skirt/hem band seam allowance is serged and pressed up towards the skirt to keep the hem facing from getting too bulky. Normally I would press all the seam allowances down into the hem facing and close it all up, concealing all of the seams.

I used Bemberg rayon to line the bodice and pink cotton to line the skirt. I wanted a more substantial lining for the skirt, which is why I went with cotton there. (Cutting and sewing rayon lining for the bodice was about all I could handle with that material for a while. It’s not a fabric I enjoy working with at all, I must tell you.) I sewed coral grosgrain ribbon around the waist of the lining, because it bugs me when the bodice and skirt linings are different colors. The ribbon makes it all look intentional.

And here we are at the awards reception. (The wind was so terrible that night, which made it impossible to get a good picture of the dress!)

I’m so proud of Ty and all of his hard work. He is the ultimate professional, and I’m so delighted his achievements were recognized. We had a wonderful time!

how to: get a perfect fitting bust

I designed a dress a few years ago for a fall collection, and it was the most simple dress you can imagine. It wasn’t trendy or fussy, and other than two well placed pockets, there were no bells and whistles, because I’m a big believer that the bells and whistles aren’t always necessary. Sometimes, simple is enough.

The Millie dress was always popular, and it was in every collection I designed up until the very end. Like many other things I designed and sold at one point, I never managed to keep a Millie dress for myself. I wish I had, but the beauty of sewing is that nothing is ever really gone forever. And now, I finally have one of my own.

The Millie dress, over the years:

I actually made this dress last summer, but it’s only now making its debut. I was reminded of it recently when I used the remaining two yards of the fabric on a spring blouse, which you saw me wearing in Florida and in this post from last Friday. I got the fabric (cotton sateen) in early 2016 from Fashion Fabrics Club and, not surprisingly, it sold out pretty quickly. Fingers crossed they restock their sateen inventory soon!

Because the design is so simple, it’s important to get the fit just right. The bodice has front princess seams and a back dart, and there’s a very simple trick I use to get a closer, more flattering fit around the bust. (A lot of you commented on the fit of this dress, so here we go!)

You can apply this technique to self drafted patterns as well as commercial patterns, and you can also use this method to shape front bodice waist darts for a closer fit. For this tutorial, I’m using my own sloper to draft a front bodice with princess seams.

Essentially, what we’re doing here is taking out some fabric from under the bust and contouring that area to fit more closely to the body.

I’ve traced the front bodice and drafted a princess seam. Then, I mark on my dart legs 3″ up from the waistline, which is where I want the bodice to fit me better. Now, this is important: you will want to measure yourself because this particular measurement is different on everyone. For instance, if you’re short waisted, you may only need to measure about 2″ up from the waist and vice versa for you taller gals. When I first started doing this to my patterns, I tested it on a muslin to make sure I was taking in the right amount in the right place.

Next to the marks on the dart legs, I measure about 3/16″ into my bodice. Those of you with a bigger cup size may need to take more in here, and the reverse is true of smaller cups. Cup size aside, if there isn’t much difference in the bust measurement and directly below the bust, this adjustment may not be necessary at all.

Using a French curve, connect the waistline, marks under the bust we just drew, and princess seam lines. Your pattern will look something like this:

For reference, this is what a princess seam looks like just following the original dart leg, and one that has been shaped. You can see the difference that 3/16″ makes!

If you have any questions, let me know. I hope this helps you get a closer, more tailored looking fit on your spring projects. Happy Sewing!