I made my own patterns for a long time. I drafted and tweaked and tested and revised patterns for everything you can imagine (pants, coats, dresses, tops, skirts – all of it) for longer than I’ve not been doing it. Patternmaking is a tedious, long process that I actually really enjoy. I still draft my own patterns from time to time when I need to – and knowing how to alter commercial patterns is a skill I’m not only grateful to have but one that has definitely come in handy – but I’m less inclined to draft from scratch these days. The convenience of well designed patterns neatly folded in an envelop available for a reasonable price is too much to resist. The work is already done for us! So now that I’m all about those patterns, I watch with eager anticipation for each new season’s collection. Vogue is my favorite brand and never disappoints me, and I probably use those patterns more than any other, but McCall’s and Butterick aren’t too far behind. The last time I used a Simplicity pattern was sometime in 2016, but one of their recent releases caught my eye so you’ll see that skirt soon.
This fall, McCall’s released a pattern for a wrap dress that had my name all over it, and I scooped it up as soon as I could. I thought it was so pretty, and it had lots of potential to become something I could make into a few versions. And the blouse? Stop it, it’s too darling!
My fabric is a floral cotton sateen I got a few months back from Fashion Fabrics Club. It’s sold out now, but I like to search “sateen print” every couple of weeks to make sure I keep an eye on their inventory of that fabric. I cannot tell you how many sateens I’ve ordered from them over the years, and the prices are unbeatable. (I’m not an ambassador for them or compensated in any way to say that. Just passing along helpful information!)
Right off the bat, I want to say that this is a lot of dress. The skirt is a full circle and the sleeves are quite wide, so thank goodness for the cinched in waist to give it all some definition. I initially wanted to make view C without sleeves, but I let my “it should be a fall garment with sleeves” mentality get the best of me and used the sleeves from the blouse in view A. Of the three sleeves, that one is my favorite because it’s subtle and not too in-your-face.
This pattern fits well and is incredibly easy to sew, and I will happily make it again in the spring. Gingham, maybe? Denim and poplin are also good options, and I also really like the idea of this in yellow cotton. I made it in one day, just hemming it the following day after letting it hang overnight to let the bias settle. (See more about leveling a hem here.) The only change I made to the pattern was to narrow the sash belt. I was short on fabric, and I also didn’t want to see the wrong side of the sateen. (Per the instructions, the ties are gathered and attached to the bodice as a single layer, no lining, and the edged are hemmed – so the wrong side of the fabric shows.) I thought this would be distracting, so I’d planned to cut two of the ties, but had to make an adjustment when I nearly ran out of fabric. (We’ve all been there, right?!) So I made the ties narrower and cut out two in my self fabric and two in black cotton.
You know how I’m always going on about “breaking up” a print in an interesting way to avoid being overwhelmed and distracted by it? Well, you’d think that thought had never crossed my mind when you look at this dress. The waist ties should be solid black, to interrupt the print a little but also define the waistline better. (Come on, Emily.) I’m going to replace the ties with solid black, and I will cut them using the original pattern piece, because I do like how wide it is. It gives the dress a little more character.
Putting the bodice together was fun, and I really liked the look of the sleeves at that point. After I finished the dress, though, I completely changed my mind. I think the combination of the big sleeves and the busy print of the fabric are too much. It’s almost robe-like, and I had a huge flub over the summer with a dress that looked like a robe, so I’d very much like to not make the same mistake twice. Eliminating the sleeves does make it easier to wear this with a cardigan or jacket, so I definitely appreciate the uptick in versatility. Without the sleeves, it’s a little more predictable and less special – but I’m okay with that. I can wear predictable, but I can’t wear robes or things I don’t feel good in or that aren’t flattering.
This will be much better:
The sleeves and sash belt don’t take away from my love for this pattern, however. It’s a good one! It’s true to size and flattering, and fit adjustments should be minimal. I think it would really shine in a solid color, and the blouse version with the flirty peplum is simply adorable.
This dress is unlined, and there are neckline facings. I don’t mind facings at all, and I think they’re just the thing in unlined dresses sometimes. With facings, I have do have one suggestion: finish the edge. I see unfinished or serged-only edges all the time, and some big time sewists prefer that and encourage their followers to do the same. I happen to believe that the smallest, easiest details are what take your sewing from “I made this in our spare bedroom” to “I made this but you would think I bought at Saks.”
Whenever I have a facing with an edge that doesn’t attach to anything else, I like to serge it and then press it under and edgestitch it. Simply serging it (or zigzagging it or what have you) isn’t wrong. I just think it looks a little unfinished. And to press the edge under and stitch it only adds a few minutes of production time. It’s worth it.
I’m looking forward to making a couple of tweaks to this dress, and turning into something that I really, really love. That’s the beauty of sewing – everything is fixable!
I had big plans for maxi dresses this summer. I spent an entire morning one day on Instagram Stories going over my plans for at least three maxis, and I had a couple pages of notes and sketches in my journal with big ideas for these dresses. I even had cute blog titles for them like “great lengths” and “maxed out” and “floored” but this summer has flown by in a blink of an eye and I only got around to one maxi dress. I’m okay with that though, because it’s a pretty great dress. (I’m kind of bananas for it, really.)
Maxi dresses in the summer are one of those things that just make me laugh. It’s the hottest time of year and yet we’re intentionally searching for the longest dresses to wear? Isn’t there something ironic about that? I’ve had maxi dresses in the past, but besides the dress in this post I only have one or two store bought pieces in my closet now. I grew weary with the frumpy drape and cut of most of the ready-to-wear options, and I’m not someone who can wear low cut or spaghetti straps or something with lots of back exposure comfortably. So, I was always running to a styling issue of covering what I needed covered. “I can wear this if I put a necklace with it and if I throw on a cardigan too.” Not a great solution, but of course I spent a couple years trying to force the issue – which just made me uncomfortable and sad.
My idea of the perfect maxi dress for me is something with a high enough neckline that it covers that scar on my neck I’m always complaining about and has full back coverage – but with enough flow and fullness that it doesn’t look like I’m a piece of sausage on sandals trying to walk around in a poorly cut full length dress in 100 degree Texas heat. I wanted something in a yummy rayon challis – lightweight enough to be comfortable but with enough drape and movement that it made a statement as you wore it. Why be boring when there are so many other options, right?
This fabric is another great find from Fashion Fabrics Club. (Not sure if it’s still in stock.) It’s a paint splatter print crinkle rayon, and it’s just really, really pretty. An unusual print for me, but I think it’s a perfect fabric/pattern match.
Like so many others I talk about on this blog, this pattern has been in my stash for a while but only when the right fabric came along did I finally get around to making it. It’s pretty clear to see why I like it so much, as it has all the design elements I need in a maxi dress. It also has a very interesting shaped hem with front and back slits. I appreciate this for air movement around your legs, but it’s also a very clever way to show off your shoes. (Virtually high-fives the fellow shoe lovers out there!)
I cut this dress out during my I-want-to-make-all-the-maxi-dresses day way back in June, but I got about halfway with it and decided to move on to something else. I’m so glad I rescued it from the unfinished pile because, my goodness, what a dress. Most of the things I make are comfortable, but this dress really deserves that adjective. I cut my normal size and didn’t make a single adjustment to the fit or design of the pattern. I will say that it runs a little big and that you can probably size down at least one size in it, and the hem was a little long on the sides, so I had to adjust that so that it didn’t drag on the ground. I omitted the armhole facings in favor of a bias tape finish, which I like much better.
Thank you all for the kind messages about our recent home purchase and move. It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, but we’re so in love with our new house and feeling incredibly grateful and humbled to have it. I’m still working on the studio makeover, but the end is (finally) in sight. I decided that this move was the perfect opportunity to finally make this the studio of my dreams, but it’s a huge undertaking. It’s pretty big room with seven doors (four leading to attic storage, one to a regular walk in closet, and two entrances), three windows, two built-in window benches, and a bunch of angled walls. Every inch of the space is getting painted, along with all of my tabletops and a few other furniture pieces. This has been an enormous test of my patience and determination, but I’m happy to do it because I know what it will look like in the end.
These photos are from a few days ago, and the walls have since gotten a second coat of paint, tape has come down, the tabletop has been finished and reattached to the table, sewing tables have been painted and sealed, and the window benches and cabinet doors are almost finished. I’ll go into more detail about this room once it’s more finished, but if you’d like to follow along with the progress, find me on Instagram – I’m posting updates in Stories every day. Seeing it all come together is so much fun!
Window benches mid-sanding:
Window benches after sanding, two coats of primer, and two coats of paint. Much, much better.
Have a great weekend, and I’ll be back next week with new posts and the first TÉLIO garment!
I’m in a sewing groove, if you will. I know–after many a style stumble and failed attempts at being trendy or wearing things that I’m not comfortable in–what works for me and what doesn’t. 99% of the time, I stick with my formula and my projects come together very well. I know where I can experiment and try new things (mainly through color or prints), and I’m happy to challenge myself and venture a little outside the box from time to time. But for the most part, I’m quite happy to stay in my lane, and I happen to really, really love my style.
Every once in a while, though, I find myself wearing a newly finished project that I’m not completely thrilled with for one reason or another. Most of the time, the projects I dislike are the ones where I’ve forced myself into a style that doesn’t work for me or I’m not comfortable in. (See a few examples of previous disappointments in this post of project fails from the first part of the year in this post. If you read that post, just be sure to follow it up with the successful projects post, just to balance it out. 🙂 ) The dress in today’s post has me feeling a little torn, and I can’t decide if I’m truly disappointed with it or not. It’s entirely possible that I’ve just been looking at it too much and I’m being overly critical, but I can’t decide if it’s a styling issue or a it-looks-like-a-robe-to-me-now kind of thing.
This dress is Vogue 9253, and it’s hardly a stretch to call it one of Vogue’s most popular patterns of the summer. I’ve seen some truly stunning versions on social media, which is where a lot of inspiration to sew it came from. It’s also a very flattering design and easy to sew. The plunging neckline is elongating and frames the face beautifully. I love the skirt and the pockets and the kimono sleeves and the ties and the pleats on the bodice. Lots of good stuff there.
For me though, I can’t really pull off such a plunging neckline, which is my way of saying that I can wear it but I’m not actually comfortable wearing it. My solution to this was to cut the dress as is but add lace trim around the neckline. My original idea was to only add the trim around the neckline, hem, and along the edges of the ties. I wanted it in those three specific areas so that the eye was drawn there, top to bottom: neckline, empire waistline, and hem. I had no plans to put it on the sleeves or down center front.
This dress has a center front seam in the skirt, and it was really distracting. I didn’t like it all, so in order to cover up the ugly center front seam, I added lace on either side of it. Then, I eliminated the idea of lace around the hem and the self ties, and I added it to the hem of the sleeves instead. I really like the placement of the lace (mirrored down center front, hugging the edge of the hem on the sleeve), but it does bother me that the lace around the neckline isn’t set against the white fabric like it is on the skirt and sleeves. If the lace was around the neckline but on the dress itself, I think I might like that a bit better for continuity. But then we’d have the low neckline again. Quite frankly (and this is my honest thought as I’m typing this), I think I should make that change and get over this silly nonsense about not being comfortable in the low neckline. So I have a dress in my closet with an extremely low neckline that I only wear twice a year and requires body makeup and special bra cups and nothing less than perfect posture at all times? Would that be the worst thing?
I didn’t make any significant adjustments to the pattern, except to shorten the waist ties a little and make the skirt hem 1 1/4″ instead of 5/8″. I made the hem deeper because I added 1″ horsehair braid to the hem to give it a little more structure and support the added weight of the lace down the front.
I made bias tape for the full measurement of the neckline, not just the back as the pattern suggests. This way, I could sew the lace in between the bodice and the bias tape. Keeps it in its place nicely. I also added a piece of grosgrain ribbon next to the zipper. The pattern instructs you to sew the bias tape on first and then install the zipper. That would have been fine if I hadn’t waited to serge my center back seams until after I’d sewn the bias tape. The result was a bit of a mess that I didn’t like.
The cover up.
The sleeve hem.
I’m always saying that sewing and creating is a journey, and it’s projects like this–the stuff we’re less than thrilled with–that prove that point. Everything can’t be another oh-my-goodness-I-love-this-so-much winner. Now, you better believe that I do aim for a steady stream of outstanding pieces I absolutely adore, but it doesn’t always work out that way. To not share this dress with you would be disingenuous to the process. It would also be insincere and icky. Because I don’t care who you are, the “meh” stuff happens every once in a while. We all have the box of unfinished or abandoned projects or a secret closet where the disappointments stay hidden until the end of time. The point is to figure out why something didn’t work and make a note of that for the future. It’s also worth mentioning that you should never feel like you have to force yourself into something that you know won’t work for you just to try something “new” or simply because you’ve seen so many other people look fabulous in it.
Your style is exactly that: your style. Just because you may not look as amazing in a plunging neckline as someone else doesn’t diminish how ravishing you may look in something else. Be true to who you are and make what you like and what works for you.
We got the keys to our new house this week, and the movers will be here in a couple of days. It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks with the sorting and packing and excitement of it all. I’m to the point where I’m ready for the actual move to be over and done with so I can start enjoying the new space. We went to the new house as soon as we got the keys the other day, and it was the first time we’ve seen it empty. I really like seeing houses empty. I don’t need to see staged rooms or other people’s things scattered everywhere. I can visualize what a space will look like much better when there’s nothing in it. We have big plans for the terrible kitchen, and I’m also making a few updates to the studio next weekend. Looking forward to sharing that with you soon.
Wish us luck for a smooth move this weekend, and I’ll be back soon with more new garments. I’m really excited about the things I’m showing you in the coming weeks. It’s good stuff.
We walked out of the new house yesterday morning to this. Deer, everywhere. I’m over the moon about the charm of this house and the neighborhood. Definitely getting some rockers for those magnificent porches too.
Have a great weekend!