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Category: patternmaking

progress report: the yellow stripe project

I tell you what, making your clothes is always an adventure. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m in the midst of a project or two with some gorgeous yellow stripe rayon/silk fabric. Or I was, anyway, until a couple days ago. After getting about halfway through a dress and barely started on a skirt, I decided to scrap them both and go with one dress, the very dress that I originally wanted to make and then talked myself out of, in the name of “doing something different.”

My extra careful, overthinking it approach to this project stems from two things: this fabric was not cheap (so don’t mess it up!), and the abstract stripe absolutely requires that you give the garment a little more consideration. Back in January, I bought the fabric from Promenade Fabrics, and it’s spectacular. Also in January, I made Vogue 9197 for the umpteenth time in a navy stripe fabric, so I felt like I should do something new with this special yellow stripe. They’re two completely different fabrics though, so I shouldn’t have worried so much about making the same dress.

When it comes to stripe fabric, I like to use it in a literal, directional way. If it’s too abstract, it bugs me. An abstract interpretation can work beautifully and it’s interesting to see a jumble of stripes in all different directions, but I appreciate something a little more simple and subtle. I’m also someone who thinks about the longevity of my garments, and I don’t want to steer too far from classic lines so I can enjoy the garment for as long as possible. The yellow stripe has an abstract feel to it on its own–the stripes are painted and uneven and marvelous, so going with a simple design doesn’t mean it’s not thoughtful or interesting.

I had about 4.25 yards of this fabric, which is enough for two garments, depending on what they were. After such success with Butterick 6446 last month (that is one of my favorite dresses so far this year), I thought I would do that one again, this time in the yellow stripe. I loved it in a major, major way until I attached the skirt and tried it on. It was awful, and you’ll just have to believe me because there will never be a reason to post the photo that documents how horrible it was. The skirt fell flat, the stripes were a mess, and there’s too much body in the fabric for the pleats to lay nicely across the bodice.

You’d never guess it was so unattractive on, because it is so darling on the form.

So, I left it on the form for a few days to see if it grew on me. I even tried it on a number of times, forcing myself to say that I would wear it. I was lying to myself, because there was no way I’d ever happily pick it from my closet and feel good in it. And that should never be the case with our clothes, especially the ones we invest so much time into making. A fabric this pretty deserves to be made into something I not only love, but would feel good in and want to wear. So, it was back to the drawing board.

Fortunately, there’s no zipper in the dress yet, so removing the skirt an reusing it will be easy. As for the maxi skirt, I’m going to use that too and cut a new bodice. The maxi skirt (the second garment I was making) had been cut and I’d started to gather the skirt, but I messed up cutting it and cut it into thirds instead of in half. (We all flub sometimes, folks. I was due!) So, I was working through the challenge of fixing that too. This was a comedy of errors from the word go! Also, when and where was I going to wear this fabulous maxi skirt? The grocery store?!

Late Monday night, I quickly pinned the fabric to the dress form in the way I originally wanted: a fitted, sleeveless bodice with a bateau neckline, and a gathered skirt, both cut to show the stripe horizontally. I was in love. So, after all that fuss and work, I’m starting over. I couldn’t be happier about it.

This? This I can get behind, and this isn’t anything but a sloppy drape job. But I can see the final result, and I know I’ll love it. Doesn’t it look more like me and something I’d wear? I think it does, and I also love the stripes all in one direction. The gathers in the skirt will give it some volume and body, and the fitted, uncomplicated bodice will show off the stripe really well. The bateau neckline mimics the stripe and draws the eye up and out towards the shoulders. Then, with the nice fit around the waist and the full skirt, you have a lovely ladylike silhouette. My favorite.

So, this is my solution, and I’m really excited to whip it up. The skirt is cut in rectangular sections, so provided I don’t muck it up again, that will be easy. I will draft the bodice using my slopers, and with side seam pockets, an invisible zipper, and a lining, we’re good to go.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re stuck working on a project you don’t love, then you turn it around and start over? I’d love to commiserate!

I may not work with it much, but I do love yellow. I designed a handful of pieces when I was in business, and I have the pleated striped skirt in my closet. See, my eye for placing stripes in a deliberate direction goes way back!

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!

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.