Hello and Happy Wednesday! I’m so happy to be back with you in a more “regular capacity” today after a wonderful few weeks in the zone with TÉLIO and HUSQVARNA VIKING®. I must begin today’s post by sincerely thanking you for a few things. I’m grateful you’re here and reading and following along, but I’m also thankful for your kindness and support. A few opportunities have presented themselves to me this year, and I’m so appreciative that I can embrace those things knowing you’re still interested and cheering me on. There are a few things I need to address from previous posts (underlining, hem facings, waistbands, swayback adjustments, etc) and I promise we’ll get to all of it soon. I have plans for new tutorials and projects to finish out the year, and I will go over your questions in the coming weeks. Keep them coming! Thank you also for your messages and prayers when Olivia died a couple weeks ago. The pet lovers out there know all too well how much our dogs and cats mean to us, and I was touched by your thoughtfulness. I will write a little more about that at the end of the post.
But first, let’s talk about a couple dresses, the first being a piece that will be at or near the top of my “hits” post at the end of the year. You know how you can work steadily on projects and love each one, but then one project comes along that is so good, so you, that it makes you stop in your tracks? That is this dress. I made two other versions this summer, but I always wanted a third in the maxi length. The project didn’t come together until I found this tissue weight floral rayon crepe at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco when Ty and I were there in July. I remember seeing the fabric for the first time, rolled up neatly in the middle of dozens of other rayons with its soft, pastel colors and beautiful floral print basically calling out to me. It’s the most expensive rayon I’ve ever bought (by a long shot, gulp) but I was meant to have it. Without a doubt in my mind I knew it would be perfect for the maxi length version of this pattern, Vogue 9251.
I started making this dress as soon as we got back to Texas, but actually finishing it got delayed when we moved in August, and then TÉLIO happened and time got away from me. It’s one of those projects, though, that I just had to finish. I needed a short break from fall and winter projects too, so this was a great way to give myself time to refresh. I posted countless in-progress pictures of this dress, so it made me feel better to finally finish it and it not be one of those garments that you see all over the place until it disappears without explanation.
This pattern is magnificent. Easy to sew, flattering, versatile. It’s designed to tie on the inside right and the outside left, but it doesn’t actually wrap all the way around you. The first time I made it, I left off the ties entirely in favor of snaps so I would have the option of wearing a belt with it if I wanted. The second time I made the ties as designed in the pattern. This time, I modified the pattern so that the ties are much longer, attached at the end of each bodice piece, and wrap around the waist.
It was as easy as making side of the front bodice longer to accommodate the ties, and leaving the right side of the bodice open for about an inch to create the channel for the tie to feed through. I also lengthened the bodice a little, and you can see that adjustment too. (Normally, I would copy these patterns onto more durable paper and make adjustments from there, but apparently I’m going through a lazy phase.)
Swayback adjustment on the back bodice:
The left side wraps under the right side, so the channel is on the ride side seam. I interfaced the seam allowances for extra stability and topstitched around it. Notice that in order to create the channel the side seams are serged individually then sewn together and pressed open. If you sew the side seams together as one, finishing the raw edges would get pretty messy.
To conceal the edges of the bodice, ties, and ruffle, I added a piece of bias tape which finishes that edge nicely.
Because this fabric is so delicate and drapes so beautifully, I thought a ruffle around the neckline would be a nice addition to the dress. To do this, I measured the neckline and drafted a circle for the back and front. I didn’t want a seam anywhere other than the shoulder, so I doubled the fold of the front ruffle so it would open up as one continuous piece.
Fabrics like this require extra care, so this dress took a little longer to sew than the previous two versions. As with most things you love though, it’s worth the effort – even if leveling the hem and then pressing, trimming, and sewing the narrow hem made me roll my eyes a few times.
I love this dress. Looove it. I cannot wait for the first opportunity to wear it – and we may be months out from that time but gosh it’ll feel great to wear this one.
Another dress I wanted to share before getting back into fall projects is my second version of Vintage Vogue 8788. I’m not dedicating a blog post to this dress because I covered all the pattern and sewing details in the original post featuring the navy polka dot version of this dress, but it’s another piece that got interrupted by our move and my other fall projects before you got to see it. I actually photographed this dress a couple days before we moved, but those pictures were so rushed that exactly none of them were good enough to post. So, here we are five months after I started this dress finally showing it to you!
For this second (and final) version I used a heavyweight blush pink Ralph Lauren linen suiting that I got at Textile Fabrics in Nashville in June. I’m not normally a big pink person, but this particular shade had me at hello. It’s subtle, sophisticated, and just really, really pretty. The fabric is heavy and substantial so there’s plenty of natural volume in the skirt, but I’m also wearing my petticoat to amp it up a little more.
I wanted to make one more version of this dress because it took such a long time to get the fit right that I wanted to squeeze out every last drop of value from my time investment. Plus, I really like the design of the dress! I really like this pink version, and I think it’s another fabric/pattern combo done right, but the design of the dress is such that, no matter what you do to it, it’s a little funky at the sides under your arms because of the way it wraps around to the back. Eventually, I will need to put a dart in the side bodice to get it to lay completely flat against me. I might have just enough fabric left to make a bolero jacket to go with this dress too, which I think would be gorgeous. For now, in my closet it goes!
Here you can see how far in the back the wrap goes:
And here you can see that, even with all the adjustments and contouring I did to the pattern, there’s still some fabric that could be taken in.
With these projects wrapped up, I’m excited to move onto fall and holiday pieces. I needed a couple weeks to refocus and be inspired to work with cold weather fabrics again. I’m ready now, although my focus will be less on coats and heavy winter garments and more on sparkly holiday pieces. (What can I say, I am who I am.) I have, however, had a coat in mind for about a year now, so I’ll get to that first thing next year. First up, the fun stuff.
I have a big announcement to make soon, about a project I’m working on with HUSQVARNA VIKING® so keep an eye out for that. We’re talking sewing inspiration, new garments, lots of sparkle and tulle – and giveaways! As soon as we’ve dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s, I’ll let you know.
Studio tour coming soon too!
I am a private person. This helps tremendously when it comes to being a sewing blogger, because I have no interest in sharing too much that doesn’t have anything to do with our topics here. How often do I mention my morning routine? Or what I make for dinner? I shared our new house with you because, well, along with that came a pretty great bonus room upstairs that I thought you’d be interested in watching being transformed into my new studio. One lesson I learned when I had a business is that staying on message and branding yourself as something specific and sticking to it is to your benefit. I also think that you’re here for a reason and it makes sense to stay in my lane and put the content out there that you appreciate and want to have. I have enough sewing know-how and related stories to fill a book, so those things make sense to share. Life happens to all of us, but you don’t need to know about everything that goes on behind the scenes. Sometimes, though, things happen that interrupt or delay projects and I can’t just ignore them. Such was the case with Olivia.
Olivia had a significant, profound impact on my life. Losing her not only caused a delay in my posts with TÉLIO and HUSQVARNA VIKING®, but completely broke my heart.
Ty and I adopted Harrison in January 2012, and it was just the three of us for about seven months. Then, we decided it would be fun to be a foster home for dogs waiting for adoption. We fostered two dogs over the course of about a month, but neither of those dogs captured our hearts. We were happy to take care of them temporarily, and it was wonderful to see them placed in a home where they would be loved – but we weren’t meant to keep them. Then Olivia walked in.
She was about a year old at the time, so only a few months older than Harrison, and her owners were going through a divorce and had surrendered her to the rescue organization we were working with as fosters. She was dropped off at our house one afternoon, and I think I loved her the second I saw her. Her darling little face and floppy ears and beautiful brown eyes were too much for me to resist. We weren’t really in a place to adopt a second dog at the time, but I think Ty saw how much I adored that precious little puppy and we made it work.
I never had dogs growing up. We had two cats, one of which died when I was a young girl. I don’t remember how sad that made me, but I know it did. Ty always had dogs, and for a few years we would talk about getting one someday. What started as me making a joke saying, “Well, if we’re going to get one, let’s get the biggest one!” turned into our actual plan – and so we set our sights on getting a great dane.
We love our dogs. We love them a lot. We are affectionate with them and take care of them and just enjoy being around them. Harrison is a big, lazy sweetheart and Olivia was the charming, energetic one. I could go on and on about all the things I loved about her. She got sick in August, but we were on the road to recovery – until one day we weren’t and there was no turning back. Watching your beloved pet – a member of your family – suffer and die is one of the worst things you will ever experience. My heart aches at the memory of her laying on a bed at the animal hospital, unable to move and hooked up to an IV. I completely break down when I think about watching Ty carry her in his arms to the car in the middle of the night before we took her to the hospital for the last time. And it takes every ounce of self control to keep from crying remembering when the hospital techs wheeled her into the room where we were waiting to have her put down. She lifted her darling little head up just one time in those final moments, and that was to watch Ty as he walked around the table to stand next to me near her face. It was awful.
We buried her in our backyard, and that has brought me some comfort, knowing that she’s back home with us. I couldn’t eat or sleep well for a week, and I have moments when I’m completely caught off guard and burst into tears at the thought of her. Sometimes it’s knowing I’ll never see her again. Other times it’s because I’m angry that I only got five years with her. I miss everything about her. She was my dog, and I know without a doubt that she knew exactly what I was saying when I held her face in my hands the night before she died and told her she was the perfect dog and that I loved her. I also know that we did everything we could for her, and that the last decision we made for her was the right one. I just never knew how painful it would be.
I’m slowly coming to terms with losing Olivia, but I can’t dwell on the final weeks of her life. I have to cherish the time I had with her when she was healthy and brought us so much joy. My goodness, I’m so lucky to have had her for any amount of time. Eventually, we’ll get another puppy. Maybe in a couple years, maybe sooner. I can’t fathom the idea right now, but I think we will. For the time being, I’m so grateful for Harry. We think he knows Olivia is gone, but he’s always been the easygoing one, so he’s his regular, goofy self. He’s getting even more attention these days, so he’s doing just fine.
Thank you for all the kind messages you sent me about Olivia. I never could have anticipated hearing from so many of you, and I was truly touched by everything you said and the prayers you prayed. Pets are such an important part of our lives, and I think you’re doing something right if you’ve experienced that kind of unconditional love.
And just like that, three weeks have gone by since my last post. June and July have been busy and full of new adventures and distractions, but I certainly didn’t think my blogging routine would fall by the wayside. And I’ve had good intentions, saying things like “coming next week” and “look for the new post in a couple days” but time and other things kept me from sticking to it. All of this to say, my apologies for getting off track. I’m excited to be back with you today, and I have tons of content planned for the rest of the summer. The funniest part about all this is that I have the pictures and ideas ready to go, it’s just a matter of editing and typing it all. Maybe I’ve stumbled into a lazy streak when it comes to computer work?
If you’re wondering about what’s been going on with us this summer, I’ll put some highlights at the end of this post. But first, let’s talk about this darling skirt. I’ve had this out-of-print pattern for ages (McCall’s 5431), and it’s one of those patterns that always gives me pause when I’m digging through my pattern stash. It’s a great little skirt for summer, and I especially love the big patch pockets. For the longest time, I thought the design was missing something, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was. That is, until Emily’s Summer of All the Buttons 2017 mindset kicked in and the lightbulb went off: Buttons! It needs buttons! (And I’m not kidding about my button obsession. I’ve made two new button-up blouses, and I have plans for four shirtdresses. I can’t stop with the buttons.)
My fabric is 100% linen, and I got it from Textile Fabrics in Nashville last month.
In order to have the skirt button up the front, I added a button extension. It’s an easy pattern change to make, and once you know the rules for button placement and spacing, you can apply this concept to just about anything. There’s a few different ways to execute the placket itself (a fold-over facing, a separate placket, etc.), but for this skirt I went with a separate facing piece.
The rules for button placement and spacing are pretty simple, but it all starts with the size of the button. I used 7/8″ buttons for this skirt. Usually, with button extensions (on a blouse, for instance), spacing is determined using the first and last buttons as a guide. Then you fill in the rest, making sure each one is evenly spaced. With a skirt, however, buttons don’t always go all the way to the hem, so determining placement and spacing is much easier. You can just start at the top and work your way down without having to worry about spacing the buttons in between the top and bottom buttons. So, if this is something you’d like to try on a project, I’d recommend starting with a skirt.
Here are the guidelines for adding a button extension:
This skirt has a yoke, and only one button could fit on it, so that made this even easier. I simply centered the first button on the yoke and worked my way down.
To determine the spacing for the remaining buttons, I used a couture method I like to call “eyeballing” it. (Hey, when it works, it works!) Bigger buttons need more space between them, and then the opposite is true. Just keep an eye on proportions. My buttons are spaced 3″ apart.
And that’s it! I’m quite happy with how this skirt turned out. I think the buttons give it a little something extra, and I know I’ll get a lot of wear out of this piece this summer. I really, really need a few garments like this (easy to sew, unlined, comfortable in the heat), so I know I’ll be making this one again.
This pattern is out-of-print, but it is still available to purchase on the McCall’s website. I’d also check eBay too, if you’re interested. I didn’t make any other changes to the pattern, but I will say that it runs a bit big. I ended up going down two sizes. The pocket flap is also a bit funky, so I ignored that pattern piece and tweaked the pocket piece so it would have the same look.
I didn’t have any ribbon on hand that I really liked, but I did have a small piece of lace to use along the bottom of the yoke lining. I think it finishes that seam nicely. It serves no practical purpose, it’s just a pretty detail for the inside.
It’s been a busy summer for us. I mentioned a few weeks ago that we were house hunting, and I’m thrilled to tell you that we found one. YAY! This is our first home purchase together, so it’s extra exciting for us. We have big renovation plans for the house, so I’m excited to share those with you soon too. We’ll be moving next month, and I’ve already started organizing and packing the house we’re in now. It’s been a few years since we last moved, so I’d forgotten (or just blocked out) what a task all that is. But I’m taking it one day and few boxes at a time.
The house we found is truly a blessing for us, and it has just about everything we’d been looking for. Ty has an office, and I lucked into a huge studio space (even bigger than what I have now!), and we have plenty of room for guests and an acre lot for the puppies to run around in. The neighborhood is charming with tons of mature trees, which takes me back to growing up in North Carolina. The house itself has quite a bit of southern charm, and I can’t wait to get some white rocking chairs for the porches and enjoy having usable outdoor spaces. We love it.
Ty had some business to do in Alaska and California recently, and I got to tag along. His parents have a cabin in Alaska, and they happen to live 20 minutes from where Ty needed to go, so we got to visit with them for a few days. We explored and fished for salmon and had a wonderful time. This was my first trip to Alaska, and it was magnificent. Then we spent a couple days in San Francisco for the final leg of the business trip. I spent an entire afternoon at Britex Fabrics, easily one of the best fabric shops I’ve ever seen.
It’s always fun to leave for a trip, but it’s also nice to come home. I’m glad to be back, and it felt so good to sit down at my sewing machines after a few days away. You know me – always working on projects is my happy place.
Ty in his element, fishing at the Kenai River.
Walking along the beach in Homer, Alaska.
I caught a salmon. ALL BY MYSELF. It was amazing. (Also, kind of gross.)
Have a great rest of the week!
I really can’t say it enough: I love gingham. For whatever reason, I didn’t use it very much until this year, but after discovering the fabric for this Butterick dress I made in March I can’t seem to get it out of my head. It’s such a happy print, and nothing else reminds me more of summertime and America and classic, timeless style than gingham. Today I’m finishing a red gingham dress, and then I’ll have a fun little trio of gingham dresses. So maybe a matching skirt and blouse set will round out the collection for this year? Yes, I like that idea.
The dress in today’s post came to me one afternoon, after I finally found the perfect navy blue gingham. I found it at fabric.com, and it’s not a poly/cotton blend, which I especially like, and I also like the size of the checks. I like prints that aren’t so small that they essentially look like a solid color and not so large that they’re overwhelming. This 1″ gingham was the perfect size for this project. I can’t quite remember what sparked the idea for this dress, but it’s possible I saw something somewhere that inspired it. All I know is that once I had the idea, I couldn’t get it out of my head. And, I can say this with complete confidence, this dress will make the “hits” list at the end of the year. It is exactly the vision I had in mind, it’s easily one of the most comfortable dresses I’ve ever made. It also felt good to use my slopers and execute my own design. I love the convenience of commercial patterns and I’ll never stop using them, but every once in a while I need to design something on my own. It’s what I know, and I enjoy it.
I wanted something that tied in front, but anything remotely skimpy or revealing was out of the question. I also needed a dress with full back coverage so anything strapless or spaghetti straps wasn’t an option either. Sometimes you’ll find a dress or top with a tie element, but it’s pieces of fabric sewn into a seam that ties over another part of the garment. For example, in my research I saw a button front top with ties that came from the side seams and tied on top of the button placket. I didn’t want that. I wanted the tie element to be functional, not decorative.
To achieve the bodice I had in mind, I drafted a fitted bodice with a midriff and shaped pieces that tie in front. When I have an idea like this, I often start my search in a commercial pattern catalog, in case there’s something similar that I can adjust to save time. I never did find anything that would have worked, so I made the pattern myself. This was the best way to go for this project because it let me control every design detail without having to test too much or worry about the fit.
I outlined my idea on the dress form and used that as a guide for the pattern. This step just gives me a nice visual for style lines, seams, and specific measurements like width of the ties or shoulder seam.
After drafting the first pattern, I made a muslin on which I noticed only two fitting adjustments that needed to be made. I pinched out a little excess fabric under the bust, and made a slight swayback adjustment. Here you can see the midriff and bodice pinned where the fullness needs to be taken out. (And, gah, my apologies for such an icky picture!)
The muslin on the form:
My pattern pieces looked like this:
Lining the entire top bodice piece would have made the ties a bit bulky and difficult to tie, so I had to get creative with the lining. The ties could have been lined in rayon, for example, but I didn’t want the lining to show anywhere. That would have been distracting. So, the lining extends far enough into the ties so that cups can be sandwiched in between, but it ends in a spot that keeps the ties free from an extra layer (and you also never see the lining from the right side of the dress).
Here you can see the lining pattern on top of the bodice pattern that shows where it ends.
And here’s how that looks in the dress itself.
I had a pair of cups hanging around in the studio for ages, so I just used what I had on hand. You can find these at JoAnn. I just tacked the cups into place underneath the lining.
Once I decided that the ties wouldn’t be lined I had to figure out how to finish the edges, but I knew I didn’t want a narrow hem. So, I frayed the edges. Just having frayed edges on the ties didn’t make sense to the continuity of the garment, so I cut the selvage off of my fabric and continued that detail around the entire neckline and the armholes. I’m particularly crazy about this part of the dress. It’s so darling!
The skirt is a simple full circle skirt pattern, and there are side seam pockets. The skirt lining is a half circle pattern (no need for a full circle lining), and I used bemberg rayon to line the skirt. This gingham fabric is very “cotton-y”, and a cotton lining would have gotten bunched up under the skirt and not allowed it to move and flow like it should.
I let the dress hang on my dress form for a day to let the bias settle. Then I leveled the hem so that everything would be nice and even. For more information on leveling a hem, see this post from last fall.
I wore this dress in Nashville last week on the day my mom and I went fabric shopping and had lunch. I got lots of comments on this dress, and the ladies at the fabric store especially liked it. They also appreciated the sewing and time it took to make it. Every once in a while if someone compliments something I’m wearing I’ll respond by saying, “Thank you, I made it!” Then, I get the enjoyment of seeing their reactions, because sewing your own clothes is still one of those things that most people don’t think about. Usually, they’re so shocked they have no idea what to say. Isn’t it funny when that happens?
I cut the midriff pieces on the bias, because I liked the visual of the print going in a different direction around the wait. It interrupts the placement of the gingham in a way that isn’t distracting or overwhelming.
There’s this cute little flower truck that parks in spots all around Nashville, and it happened to be close to where we were that day so we had to check it out. Adorable, right?
My parents and my brother live in Nashville, so I like to go visit them a couple times a year. We had the best week together! The fabric store I mentioned is Textile Fabrics Nashville, and I would encourage you to go there if you’re ever in Nashville. They carry the most beautiful things, and I stocked up on some delicious linen for some summer projects and a plaid shirting that I think will make a pretty shirtdress.
I’m happy to home and back at work. I missed my studio, and it felt really good to crank up the sewing machine on Monday. Have a great week!