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Category: pattern reviews

the stash collection: vogue 9197

I’ve had so much fun this week. It’s always rewarding to have a group of projects finished and ready to show you. Sewing clothes can be quite a process, so it’s nice when it comes full circle. Today, I’m going to chat about this striped dress, a Vogue 9197 pattern, which is the last item I’m going to spotlight from the stash collection. The other two items, the denim skirt and white popover blouse (Vogue 1486 an Butterick 5997, respectively) will have their day in the sun in the coming weeks. I’m working on another version of those items, so we’ll dedicate a blog post to each one when everything is ready.

Next week is a big week. I’m making a huge, blog-related announcement (it’s all I can do to not spill the beans right here and now!), and I’ve also got a tutorial to share and a fun “ideas” post for an upcoming collection. So, come back next week. Big things are happening!

Now, let’s talk about this dress. It’s another pattern repeat–you saw the first version back in December. Funny enough, that wasn’t even the first time I made this pattern. Last fall, when the pattern came out, I made it in a summery floral sateen with a self-drafted full circle skirt, and it remains one of my favorite pieces. The thing about this pattern is that it’s simple, versatile, and super, super flattering. The bodice is fitted with a French dart and a nice sleeve, and I appreciate the high neckline because it covers that pesky scar of mine on my lower neck. I love finding a pattern that fits well that can be translated into so many different dresses, and I went with this pattern again for this dress because I knew it would showcase the stripes in an interesting way.

I’ve had this striped sateen for something like a year and half, always having it in the back of my mind waiting for the project to fall into place. I decided to cut the bodice and sleeves with the stripes going horizontally with vertical stripes on the skirt. After playing with the fabric on the dress form, I thought it would be utterly fantastic to make this dress a maxi. You’ll notice that none of the dress is actually sewn yet. I like to pin pieces on the form to get an idea for print placement, and that’s what I was doing here. I loved the longer length, but once I actually cut the skirt pieces and attached them to the bodice, the idea didn’t translate. I tried it on and knew something was off, so I ended up ignoring it for a few days while I put my finger on what it was that bothered me so much.

I felt like the maxi length was dowdy and a little sad, so I took off about 18″ to make it midi length. To me, it feels much more youthful and fresh at that length. I’m still dreaming about a striped maxi dress though, so we’ll see what I can come up with this summer. For now, I’m pretty pleased with this cute little dress.

Before cutting the dress, I spent some time thinking about the stripe placement on the bodice. By having the navy stripe concentrated slightly above the bust, the eye goes there, which creates a nice visual–the stripes around the shoulders balance out the fullness of the skirt, and the waist is nicely cinched in. I think I could have brought the stripe down just a hair on the bodice. The white space across the bust gives the illusion of a fuller bust.

I did not use the skirt pattern from the envelope; instead, I cut three rectangles and sewed them together to make the skirt. That’s one thing that’s always, always bothered me about working with stripes: if you use a shaped skirt pattern, the print gets kind of wonky. I didn’t want that. I wanted the print on the skirt to remain vertical. I had about 2 1/4 yards of fabric left to use for the skirt, so I divided it evenly, cut it, and then sewed it just like I would a regular skirt piece. It’s a dirndl skirt, which is essentially a rectangular piece.

I used an invisible zipper and matched the stripe as closely as possible. Because it’s an uneven stripe with a painted effect, it’s next to impossible to get it to match perfectly but you can still get pretty close. To help insert my zipper in the right spot so the stripe matched, I used a double sided basting tape to hold the zipper in place. Basting works well too, but the tape is a little easier to work with. It doesn’t gum up your needle or sewing machine, and it washes out in the washing machine. Easy! (More on this tape and installing zippers later. If you’re interested in the tape, it’s called Wash Away Wonder Tape, by Dritz. Lifesaver!)

I’m happy with how well this dress turned out, but I’m even happier with the collection as a whole. The challenge of using stash fabrics to make this group of garments was a great way to start a new year. Now I’m looking forward to spring! See y’all next week!

the stash collection: vogue 8772

For a long time, I didn’t give much thought to making blouses. I wasn’t interested in designing them or sewing them, and after many a too tight sleeve or lackluster fit, I had all but given up on women’s blouses and developed a habit of shopping in the men’s department for shirts. To be fair, the guys have all the best colors, and I never had to worry about the sleeves being too snug or the buttons pulling across the bust. Those days, thankfully, are behind me, even if I do still have a few men’s shirts hanging on my side of the closet. The more I saw myself in the mirror wearing a men’s shirt, the more noticeable it became to me. It’s a cute look in the summer, with the shirttail tied around the waist and the sleeves rolled up, but it’s not entirely practical in other situations. So, my search for the perfect blouse began.

The moment I saw Vogue 8772 in the pattern book, I knew it was meant to be. The versatility of this particular pattern was especially appealing, to make no mention of the darts which give the blouse a lovely shape. The pussy bow option? Stop it, I’ll make it in every color on the planet before it’s all said and done. And the blouse with the classic collar is just that, a classic. I think the short sleeve option would be absolutely darling with a cuff added. So vintage and summery! So, after careful measuring of the pattern and myself (twice, per the rule!), I cut the pattern for the first time in chambray, the very chambray in this post. The great thing about blouses is that they shouldn’t be too tight, so getting the fit right is less of a challenge than a dress or pants. I didn’t make any fitting adjustments to the pattern which is part luck, part no need because it’s just fine as is.

For the latest version, I chose this navy blue poplin print. I found it at the fabric market in Amsterdam last spring, and I’m so excited I finally had the right project for it. It fit right in with the other fabrics in this little stash collection.

I’ve made this blouse three times now, and I enjoy making it even more every time. I think that’s the beauty of working with a pattern more than once–you’ve worked out any kinks and construction is smooth and enjoyable. Back in December, I blogged about the red plaid linen version of this blouse, which I love. However, I didn’t get into the particulars about the fit, and a number of you have asked me about that.

This blouse is designed to be fitted, so expect a blouse that follows the shape of your torso. There are front and back darts, as well as a small shoulder dart in the back. I have bigger arms, so I can tell you with confidence that these sleeves are great. Plenty of room, yet not too big.

As much as I love a good full skirt, I think this blouse would be absolutely unstoppable with a super fitted, ultra sleek pencil skirt, one that falls to mid-calf and really elongates your legs. Now my mind is swirling with ideas . . . maybe I need a new pencil skirt? Nah, I’ll save that project for later. Back to the blouse: I edgestitched the neck ties, which the pattern doesn’t tell you to do. I think it’s a nice detail.

The buttons required some extra attention. They are slightly unusual, with one single bar down the middle, so they tended to slide around as I attached them. Normally, I can sew buttons on without using the matchstick technique, but this time I actually used one to help keep the button in place as I sewed it. Doing this also helps keep the button from being sewn completely flat against the fabric. Too tight buttons won’t button easily and will create ugly puckers.

The pattern instructs you to sew the button plackets the opposite way I’ve done them here. My fabric has an obvious right and wrong side, so I had to fold the placket towards the inside. Otherwise, the wrong side of the fabric would show on the right side, which wouldn’t have been good.

In contrast, the chambray blouse looks like this:

Here’s a quick tip for marking darts: use your awl and punch drill holes in your fabric at the circles on the pattern. Tracing paper and a tracing wheel works well too, but I don’t always like getting tracing paper on my fabric. Drill holes are an industry technique used to mark pocket placement, darts, buttonholes, etc. I will punch a hole 1/2″ from the top and bottom of the dart, and then drill slightly to the inside of the circle so that when I sew next to the drill hole, I’m actually sewing exactly where I need to.

I have this blouse cut out (and half assembled) in white poplin, so I’m excited to finish that one soon. Then, I’m moving on to some new patterns for spring. Can’t wait to show you! As always, let me know if you have any questions. Happy sewing!

the stash collection: butterick 6129

When you set out to create a new wardrobe essentially from scratch, as I did last year, you learn some things about yourself along the way. It’s impossible not to, what with the challenges you inevitably face throughout the process, the time invested into each stitch, the thought and care that goes into each garment. None of these concepts were new to me, as I’m sure they’re not new to you. When you’re creating something worthwhile with your own two hands, it’s a prospect that comes with its own set of uphill battles and special set of rewards and satisfaction. What’s still new to me–and an absolute delight, I must say–is having the chance to create something for myself, without the pressure of trying to sell it or worrying about deadlines or stressing out about consumer response. Design and fashion and sewing are fun for me again. It’s a reminder to never let this thing I love and enjoy so much become a burden, like it was for a long time.

Making clothes takes time and I haven’t yet met all my wardrobe needs, but I’ve made a big, healthy dent in my to-do list. Over the past few months, I’ve learned that there a a few things I like to do to help keep me engaged in sewing, and one of those things is creating collections of projects. I like the challenge of “playing designer” and putting fabrics together and thinking about texture and pattern and movement. It keeps me on my toes, and I don’t have to tell you how fun it is to spend a couple of days playing with fabrics and carefully choosing patterns. Anyway, I knew after Christmas that I wanted to do something that sort of cleansed my palette, if you will. No big, exciting color stories yet, no new fabrics. The first collection of the year would be simple and classic–and I would use only fabrics from my stash.

You see, my birthday is in January and, even as a grown woman, I still get a little cash for Christmas and my birthday. Do I save it like the adult in me says is the smart play? Do I buy legit things like groceries or gas or other necessary household items? Of course not, who do you think I am?! I buy fabric, because I am the person who cannot turn down the opportunity to freshen up my stash a little bit. Now, I like to balance the scales whenever I buy new fabrics, so I make myself use some of what I already have before treating myself with the new goods. That brings us to The Stash Collection, a group of projects I made using fabric I had in my stash. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that one fabric is new. In my defense, it was on mega sale for $4/yard, and it goes so perfectly in this group that I had to give it a pass. Had to! Coincidentally, it is the fabric for this first project, Butterick 6129. But first, the whole collection.

Left: top is Butterick 5997, skirt is Butterick 6129, a dress pattern I converted to a skirt.

Middle: top is Vogue 8772 (my favorite blouse pattern), skirt is Vogue 1486.

Right: Vogue 9197.

If making small collections for yourself is something you’d like to try, here’s a tip: choose your patterns carefully. Balance out a difficult or more time consuming garment with one or two easy pieces. In my case, the dress and converted skirt took the most time and attention, so I intentionally went with more simple blouses to keep from being too overwhelmed. I made all of these pieces in about 3.5 weeks.

In my stash I had some poplin shirting in white and navy with a bird print (from Amsterdam last spring), a striped sateen that I’ve had for ages, and a nice mid-weight dark denim that would make a beautiful skirt.