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Category: sewing

my dream dress: vogue 8789

For years, I searched and searched and searched for the perfect lemon print fabric. I know this may sound silly (really, Emily, a lemon print? and years?), but something that specific isn’t the easiest thing in the world to find. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of options out there, but nothing stood out to me, and I wasn’t going to settle for something less than absolutely beautiful. Everything I came across was either a quilting cotton, poor quality, or featured the lemons on a black background. Nothing wrong with a black background, I just wanted something that looked a little more light and springy and a lot more me(Funny side note: I found an adorable lemon print fabric a couple years ago and used it for an apron design I had in my shop. I’ll post the pictures at the end of this post.)

It’s been so long since I first had the idea for a lemon print dress that I’m not entirely sure where it came from. For a couple of seasons, designers were doing interesting things with fruit prints, including lemons, so it could be that I saw something which sparked the creativity, or maybe I just had a dream about it. That’s definitely been known to happen. At any rate, I stumbled upon this fabric a few weeks ago, and all of my dreams for a lemon print fabric came true.

And it’s Fashion Fabrics Club for the win, again. I have a good laugh sometimes when I think about the fabrics I’ve found on that website over the years. I can go for ages without finding a thing and then, all of a sudden, find exactly what I’m looking for. As soon as my order arrived, I posted this fabric on Instagram and it sold out the next day. I’m sorry about that! It seems I wasn’t alone in wanting a fabric like this, and I wish there was more in stock for you to go buy. It’s a cotton/spandex heavyweight twill with a scattered lemon print, and I love it. I ordered 8 yards, because I wanted enough for two garments and a couple of aprons for me and my mom. Plus, I got it for $5.75/yd so it didn’t exactly break the bank.

Considering how long I waited for the right fabric to come along and my love for this vintage Vogue pattern, I wasn’t going to cut any corners in construction. I made two muslins for the bodice, and I’m glad I did. There were a few things that needed tweaking to get a nice fit: I shaped the front waist darts, took in about 1/2″ at the side seams under the arms grading to nothing at the waist, and pinched out fullness in the back.

I moved the side zipper to the back (personal preference), and cut the skirt in three sections instead  of four because I didn’t want a seam down center front. I also added side seam pockets. When I sew a muslin for a dress with a zipper in the back, I always cut the muslin bodice back on the fold, and pin myself into the bodice in the front. This makes it much easier for me to not only get in and out of the muslin, but I can get a more accurate read on how much fabric to pinch out of the back, which is a common thing for me to have to do.

The front view. I have only pinned on one half of the bodice so that you can see what the original looked like. I transferred these adjustments to my pattern, made another muslin to ensure everything fit correctly (it did), and then I cut my fabric.

I shaped the bodice facing pieces and drafted lining pieces to match. I also drafted a pattern to line the skirt.

I’m glad I invested the time into getting the fit right. Makes a big difference!

A peek at the inside, which you know is just as important to me as the outside. Vintage Vogue garment labels can be purchased on the Vogue patterns website.

The waistline stay, a nice (and practical!) detail.

The hem is 3″ deep, which I really like. I used the blind hem stitch on my machine to finish it.

Buttons at the shoulder. Because my fabric was on the heavy side and wouldn’t have worked for the loops, I used cotton poplin to make the button loops. Buttons are from JoAnn.

Inside of the front bodice.

I omitted the cummerbund simply because I wanted to save fabric and I’m much more likely to wear a thin belt with this dress, if I wear a belt at all.

This dress is everything I ever wanted and had envisioned for a lemon print dress, and it was worth the wait. It was also worth every second of fitting and adjustments and patternmaking and sewing and everything in between.

As for the pattern, I love it too. I have plans to make it again right away, in coral and navy blue. This is one of those silhouettes that looks good on just about everyone, so if you’re in the market for a ladylike dress I’d recommend starting with this pattern. Hard to go wrong.

And, finally, here’s the apron I designed a few years ago. What can I say, I love lemons!

Have a wonderful weekend!

how to: slanted pockets

I love pockets. I like having them in most of my garments for a lot of reasons, but I especially like them because they’re practical. For me, it’s worth the effort to include a pocket or two in most of my garments because I actually use them. Sometimes I slip my phone or my keys in my pockets if my hands are full, and there’s usually a lip gloss or chapstick hanging out in there too. Plus, isn’t there a “cool girl” vibe with pockets in womenswear? Guys get to stand around with their hands in their pockets looking all laid back and chill, why can’t we do the same thing?

There’s so many different types of pockets, so incorporating them into a project is not only easy, but it’s a fun challenge to think about what particular pocket would work best. Most of the pockets I make are hidden side seam pockets, but I really like patch pockets on shirtdresses and skirts and welt pockets on pants and tailored coats. I happen to really, really like slanted front pockets too, the subject of today’s post. Also called angled pockets or inserted seam pockets, this pocket is created by drawing a line from the waist to the side seam, which becomes the entry for the pocket. You see this type of pocket a lot on pants.

This is the slanted pocket on my linen pants, which you’ll see in more detail as soon as I finish a blouse to wear with them. Pattern is Vogue 8836, out-of-print.

I like this pocket design on unlined skirts because it’s a much cleaner look on the inside. With summer fast approaching (it was 90 degrees the other day, so maybe it’s already summer here?), I’m thinking about all the things on my list to make to stay comfortable this summer. Loose fitting and lightweight tops, linen everything, and unlined skirts are a few things I’m focused on right now. When I finally found the lemon print fabric of my dreams a few weeks ago, I bought enough for a couple of garments knowing one of them was going to be an unlined skirt. I will get so much use out of this skirt.

I wanted something relatively simple in design, but with a little flare and personality, so I went with Butterick 6129 again, after a successful first try with it back in January. Only this time, the pockets would be different. I made a quick change to the pattern for slanted front pockets, and just like that, I have a new summer skirt. (Definitely making this one in a couple more colors!)

The first version of this skirt, which will make my top ten list of projects for 2017, for sure.

So, to draft slanted front pockets, it’s as easy as drawing a line from the waistline to the side seam. You don’t want to come too far in on the waistline, and be careful to draw a line down to a point on the side seam that is neither too small nor too long. You want an opening that can accommodate your hand.

This is the front skirt pattern piece, before any changes. I came in from the waistline 1.5″, and drew a line approximately 8″ long, down to the side seam. (This is covered by the tape now, because I got ahead of myself and cut it off before taking a picture. Silly me.)

Then, draw the outline for your pocket. You couldn’t see my outline in the photo, so the blue line indicates where it is. My outline includes seam allowance of 1/4″.

Trace the outline you just drew, along with the waistline and side seams. This becomes the pocket itself, or entry/pocket pouch.

Then, the corner piece that was created when the entry point line was drafted gets cut off. Before doing this, add seam allowance. I always add 1/4″, because anything more will just get trimmed off.

Trace again for the pocket lining/backing piece.

This next step is important, especially if your skirt has design elements like pleats or gathers. In my case, there are four front pleats, so I folded them and taped them in place. Then, place your pocket pieces on top, matching at the side seams and adjust the waistline if necessary. This is called truing your pattern, and I needed to add about 1/8″ to my pocket pieces. It may not seam like much, but we always want matching pattern pieces so that nothing pulls or hangs in a weird way.

I always do this with the waistline facing me, which is why it may seem like this is upside down.

The arrow points to the small adjustment I made to the pocket so that it matched the waistline seam with the pleats folded.

With the pocket pieces taped in place, draw the grainline by marking a line parallel to center front.

Once the pieces are cut out, sew the lining pocket pieces to the skirt front.

Then, press the pocket lining away from the skirt. Then, fold it under the skirt, press, and topstitch.

Topstitched:

Now the pocket gets sewn to the pocket lining. Sew all the way around, then serge. You can also pink or use bias binding if you don’t have a serger. Or, if you’re feeling extra couture-y, cut these with a bigger seam allowance and sew the pockets together with a French seam. Press.

Sewn and serged:

Next, baste the pocket to the side seam

Then, serge the side seams of your skirt.

Sew the side seams and press open.

Finish the skirt as you normally would. The finished pocket will look like this:

Because this skirt isn’t lined, I used a little bias tape along the edge of the waistband lining. It’s certainly not necessary and it doesn’t serve any purpose, but it’s a nice detail that finishes that edge nicely. I sewed it to the waistband lining along the seam allowance and then hand sewed it along the waistline seam.

I’ve made quite a few skirts with slanted front pockets, and I’m excited to make a couple more for summer. I think a denim version is a must, as is a great basic like khaki or white. These three skirts are my own design, the ‘Louisa’ skirt.

how to: line a sleeveless dress

One of my favorite classes in college was the senior capstone course called mass marketing. It was the class where all of the skills we had learned came together, and we were required to design, produce, and present a six-piece ready-to-wear collection. The focus was on knowing your target market, identifying your customer, and designing a spring or fall collection to meet her needs. Spec and cost sheets were part of the final presentation, along with full color sketches, a marketing plan, and styled photos, and we learned about industry standards in manufacturing and pattern making, sourcing, and the elements of a successful collection. It was one of the most stressful semesters of my college years, but it was definitely the most fun. I loved every second of that class.

A couple of us had lined, sleeveless dresses in our collections and questions came up about how to close the armholes. I remember very vividly one student exclaiming that she knew how to do it and all you had to do was open up the shoulder seam and . . . this was the point that I looked over at my professor (my absolute favorite teacher who knew everything) and saw her sort of roll her eyes and say, “No, no, no. That’s not the proper way to do it.” Class was over at this point and we all had to be elsewhere, so my professor told me she’d call me the following morning and explain it to me.

So there I was the next morning, which happened to be a Saturday, sitting on my living room floor finishing up some hand sewing and watching a cooking show on PBS when my phone rings. My professor, who to this day remains the best seamstress and biggest source of fashion knowledge I’ve ever known, explained to me how to line a sleeveless dress in about five minutes. I did it later that afternoon, and have done it since hundreds of times.

This tutorial shows you this method. I’ve never seen it explained this way in commercial patterns, so I hope this is helpful. Sleeveless dresses are such a big part of our wardrobes in spring and summer, so why not know how to make these garments truly shine?

(Quick note before we get started: by this step in the process of lining a dress, I have already attached the lining to the neck and understitched it, and the skirt lining has not been attached to the bodice lining. I like to do this after the armholes are closed.)

Firt step. In this photo, we’re looking at the right shoulder seam on this dress. You can see the raw edges of the armhole on the right.

Fold the armhole seam allowances under and hold in place. It’s alright if what you pinch isn’t exact, we’ll get precise once we get underneath.

Putting your hand into the dress, pinch the seam allowances that we just folded under. Your hand is sandwiched between the lining and the fashion fabric.

Here, a different angle showing me holding the seam allowances together.

Still pinching the seam allowances, carefully pull the seam allowances towards you and turn it wrong sides out. This is when we can re-match the shoulder seams if things got wonky as they got turned. So, now I’m holding the shoulder seam allowances, right sides together.

Carefully sew the armholes closed, using whatever seam allowance you have in this area. You can pin as you go, or just match your notches along the way. I usually keep an eye on my notches and pin the side seams together as I get closer. Sew all the way around the armhole. It may get tricky around the shoulders if you have a narrow shoulder seam, so be mindful that a shoulder seam 1.5″ or narrower will be a challenge. I’ve got about 4″ at the shoulders on this dress, so it was a breeze.

I like to backstitch at the shoulder and side seam for a little extra strength in those spots. The arrow in the photo points to the front armhole notch, which I’ve made sure matches the notch on the lining underneath.

Once you’ve sewn all the way around, trim the excess seam allowances down to 1/4″.

Clip the seam allowance about every 5/8″. This step is essential because it’s what allows the armhole to spread properly once it’s turned right sides out.

The armhole will look like this after it is sewn.

Then, press and understitch the armhole just like you would understitch any other area. And remember, if your shoulder seam is narrow you may not be able to understitch all the way up to the shoulder so just go as far as you can. (This step is shown on a different dress.)

As for your pattern, there are a couple of easy adjustments you can make to ensure that the lining “rolls under” correctly. Lining pieces shouldn’t be exact copies of pattern pieces, they should be trimmed in some areas so that they remain hidden from the right side. This example shows a simple sleeveless fitted bodice. Keep in mind that different designs may require additional adjustments.

Begin by tracing the bodice pieces to make a copy. This copy will become the lining.

Around the armhole, trim off 1/8″, grading down to nothing at the side seam. Repeat for the back.

You can see the difference with the lining pattern on top of the bodice pattern.

Trim off 1/8″ from the waistline. Repeat for the back.

Again, this shows you the difference in the two patterns when the lining is placed on top.

A full view:

And that’s it! Let me know if you have any questions!

This is the sleeveless dress from my senior collection. This dress is umpteen layers of various silks with an empire bodice and boning in the side seams, an inner belt, a ruffle that took forever, and a sash belt. After a few tweaks to the design, I’d make this again in a heartbeat!