Until a few weeks ago, my Instagram profile had a line in it about “building a handmade wardrobe.” A quick browse of other like-minded sewing and design accounts will say the same thing, and I love that there’s folks out there who are investing their time, money, and skills towards such a admirable goal. Some people approach it from a sustainability perspective, making a conscious choice not to buy fast fashion, instead investing in a few natural textiles to build a capsule collection of clothes. Other folks are tired of the endless frustration of never finding well fitting or well made things in stores and are inspired to take matters into their own hands. There are a lot of reasons to sew your own clothes, and I just love connecting with fellow sewers and watching them create a handmade wardrobe.
The thing is, I’m not necessarily interested in sewing an entire wardrobe from scratch. I have exactly zero interest in making undergarments, and the chances of me ever making a pair of jeans are slim – my Levi’s suit me just fine for the three or four months a year it’s actually cool enough to wear them. No camis or tank tops for me, thanks. T-shirts, swimsuits, workout gear? Nope, nope, and nope.
For as much as I believe in creating a wardrobe full of special pieces and handmade, unique items that no one else has, I also recognize that there’s plenty of things sold in stores that are done really, really well and there’s no need for me to try and do any better. There are more than enough great fitting tees to choose from, and I promise the perfect pair of jeans is out there too. So, as much as I love adding handmade piece to my closet every week, I will never have an entirely handmade wardrobe, and I’m okay with that.
All of this to say that the dress in today’s post came about not because I was inspired by the pattern itself (although now having made it, I can say that it’s utterly fantastic) or by the fabric, but by a store bought dress I have in my closet. It’s a rayon knit wrap dress I got from Hobbs in London last year, and it is wonderful. It’s one of those pieces you can just throw on and walk out the door, and it’s comfortable all day long. Every time I put it on I think, “Huh, I really need to copy this dress. I could use about a dozen versions of it.” So I finally did a little digging in my pattern stash earlier this summer when I was planning new projects, and decided it was time to give Vogue 8379 a shot. It was the closest thing I could find to the Hobbs dress.
This pattern has been out for quite some time, and it’s been made umpteen times by just about everyone – and for good reason. Of all the patterns I’ve used recently, this one stands out for its excellent fit right out of the envelope and for how easily it came together. My fabric is a cotton stretch I found at Fashion Fabrics Club earlier this year (I believe it’s sold out now), and I like it for the colors and print, and also because it’s not polyester. I work with poly every once in a blue moon, but I do try to avoid it whenever possible. It’s just not my favorite. This cotton jersey has nice stretch and recovery, and it was pretty easy to work with. Knits aren’t my go-to fabrics, but it was a nice change of pace to make a knit dress after so many projects with woven fabrics.
I made only very minor adjustments to the pattern. I added 2″ to the hem of the skirt, and I left off the cuff in view B. Because I left the cuff off, I added about an 1.5″ to the length of the sleeve to keep it a true 3/4 sleeve length. I also angled the ends of the ties, simply because I like the way that looks.
No swayback adjustment, no length to the bodice, no neckline adjustment, and I cut the same size in this dress that I cut in every other Vogue pattern.
This fabric is a lightweight stretch fabric, so I used a size 75 stretch needle, regular thread, and stretch interfacing on the facings (this Pellon interfacing is great for stretch garments). I put my sewing machine in “stretch light” mode, so it automatically sews a knit stitch. If your fabric is especially unwieldy or you need extra stability in the hem, you can always interface that as well.
You don’t necessarily have to finish the edges of knit garments because they won’t unravel like wovens, but I still serge all the edges and understitch where appropriate.
Here you can see the ends of the ties that I cut at an angle and a peek of the hem of the sleeve. I used a blind hem to finish the hems of the sleeves and the skirt. I don’t have a cover stitch machine, and I don’t always like a visible line of stitching along the hem–especially on a print dress–which is why I went with a blind hem. I love a nice, clean finish.
The skirt hem.
Pleats at the waistline.
This is a true wrap dress, so there’s an opening in the left side seam for the tie to feed through and wrap around you.
This is one of those classic dresses that you can make in a lot of different colors and prints, and I will definitely be making this one again and again. I’ve started a royal blue version, and I’m excited to finish it as soon as we’re settled in the new house.
Speaking of the new house, packing is coming along, and we’ll be moving in a few days. Ty and I have moved quite a lot in the past ten years, but this is the first time we’re moving into our own home, so we’re especially excited. I can’t wait to get in the house and show you my new studio space and share our big remodel plans for the kitchen. In the meantime, the packing continues!
Thank you for the kind words and best wishes for this adventure!
The idea that time flies when you’re having fun could not be more true. In fact, it’s been so much fun and I’ve been so focused on my projects (“in the zone” as I like to say), that I only just realized the other day that’s it’s been two months since I got the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50 to use for the summer. Two months! Before you know it, we’ll be talking about fall and holiday plans. But, right now, it’s my favorite season and I’m enjoying every second of it, even if it is so hot that I can feel my face melting every time I walk out of the house.
A couple weeks ago, I highlighted some of the features and capabilities of the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 50, and today I’m going to show you the projects I made using it. I mentioned before that this particular sewing and embroidery machine is only two models up from one of my own machines (I have a DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 25), so it was immediately familiar to me. I was able to dive right in and while I did sew a handful of garments on this machine, the focus this time was really on showcasing the embroidery this machine can do. It is spectacular.
The ladies at my local dealer (hey, Linda and Karen!) were immensely helpful in walking me through some of the basics, and I invested countless hours into various tests of thread/needle/fabric combinations, while also experimenting with the design functions on the PREMIER+™ EXTRA software I have. Just like anything else, it just takes a little time and practice to get the hang of machine embroidery, but I also found that I was unnecessarily anxious about it. It’s so easy!
There are 150 embroidery designs that come with the machine, so you’ll have plenty to choose from the moment you unpack the machine. One of the designs is for a pair of earrings, which has got to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. We all probably associate embroidery with some of the same things: tea towels, tote bags, t-shirts, etc., but this machine really opens up a lot of creative possibilities beyond the typical projects. Who would have thought about embroidering earrings?! The HUSQVARNA VIKING® folks, that’s who.
The earrings are made by embroidering on water soluble stabilizer and a piece of polyester organza (a tip I picked up from Linda at my dealer, and it really did make a difference). For the earrings you’ll need your choice of thread (I went with one solid color), stabilizer, earring hooks, hotfix crystals, and a hotfix applicator. I also found applique scissors to be the easiest for cutting the organza from the finished embroidery, but small, sharp scissors will work just as well.
My applique scissors. (Get a pair here.)
I used the small hoop that comes with the machine (the DESIGNER™ Splendid Square Hoop, 120 x 120), selected the design from the machine, and pressed the start button.
After you’ve embroidered the earrings and cut the organza away, soak them in warm water for about ten minutes to allow the stabilizer to dissolve, and then air dry. Once dry, apply the crystals and the earring post, and then you have yourself a brand new pair of adorable earrings. So much fun! Makes a great gift, too.
I had some intricate ideas for embroidered garments (still do, I’ll bring them to life eventually), but for this first project I decided to go with something a little more straightforward. One thing I didn’t want to do, however, was a simple, centered design. Not that there’s a thing wrong with that, but I kept going back to something with a more random, scattered placement that wasn’t a symmetrical design. I had high hopes for an embroidered wrap top, but I ended up going with an apron because it allowed me to go with a smaller design that I could embroider in sections. With the top, I kept running into overlapped embroidery or wonky placement, which was just a result of lack of practice. I didn’t want any of the embroidery to get into the seam allowances, but I also wanted it to follow the lines of the bodice. Because the front bodice piece was a little bigger than the hoop it needed to be embroidered in sections. The tricky part came in figuring out whether to do that in a top and bottom section or one big middle piece and two side areas. I tried both, but even with careful placement and measuring I couldn’t quite get the sections to work together without overlapping or creeping into the seam allowances.
Here you can see that the middle section of the embroidery has been applied, so I’m attempting to embroider the shoulder and side areas without overlapping what’s already there.
So, instead of a bigger design, I changed things up and designed a small cluster of three stars that I could embroider in various places. I will revisit the blouse idea later on, but the idea of a patriotic apron with stars on it was one I couldn’t pass up. So, I picked some denim from my fabric stash along with a red check cotton for the ties, and I got busy embroidering.
I traced the outline of the apron with tailor’s chalk, making sure to mark my seam allowances and pocket placement to avoid embroidering in those spots. I did a quick test run of the star cluster, and used that test piece to determine the placement of each little trio on the apron.
By simply rotating the design each time I embroidered it, I achieved the look I was going for: scattered placement that didn’t look repetitive or too intentional but was thoughtfully arranged. And each little cluster looks different, but it’s the exact same design. All I did was rotate it.
I thought it would be fun to embroider the pocket in a neat row of stars of the same size, so I decided how big I wanted them, designed and measured it to make sure it would fit the size of the pocket and follow its shape, and embroidered it in one go on the big hoop (the DESIGNER™ Royal Hoop, 360 x 200), and attached it to the apron. The apron is denim, and I used a size 80 titanium embroidery needle, black embroidery bobbin thread, and INSPIRA® Whisper Web Mesh Light Cut Away Stabilizer. Sulky embroidery thread. Worked like a charm.
I’m calling this apron “The All American” because if there was ever an apron deserving of that name, it’s this one. I love it!
These projects were so much fun I kick myself a little for not getting into embroidery sooner. Think of all the things that can be made now! I have big plans for an embroidered cropped jacket to go with this dress I made recently, and I’d like to do some fun embroidery (bees, maybe? or something cute like bananas or some kind of animal?) on a dress, so I’m looking forward to doing those things later this summer.
Happy Fourth of July! For me, this holiday is up there with Christmas. I love celebrating our nation, and I love everything patriotic and American during the summer. It reminds me of the summers my brother and I had when we were growing up. Biking to our neighborhood pool, sunny afternoons in the magical treehouse in our backyard, beach trips with our grandparents, church retreats, and running around with all of our friends. Most importantly, the freedom we had to do it all.
Ty and I are in the midst of our first house hunt. It’s exciting and frustrating and tons of fun and a huge pain and everything everyone always says about buying a home, but it’s also humbling in a way. I’m so thankful to live in a country where we have the freedom and opportunity to work hard and make a life for ourselves. I have always dreamed of living the life I live now, and it’s days like today that remind to take a moment and appreciate being an American and be thankful for the freedom to make choices for myself and live as fully and as heartily as I possibly can. Because, no matter what, I love my country and I’m proud to be an American.
Now, let’s see if I can whip up an apple pie.
A few weeks ago I set a lofty goal to make quite a few new pieces for summer. With it hovering around 100 degrees here almost daily now, I’m in desperate need of clothes to help me survive the heat. So, long gone are the projects with full linings and zippers and sleeves. In their place are all the things I not only love to make but will also get a lot of use out of this season (hello, linen and floaty dresses and swishy blouses and wide leg pants!). The two dresses in today’s post are certainly on that list.
I have a standing date with my pattern stash every couple of weeks, where I look for inspiration or pull a pattern that has been patiently waiting for its turn to be whipped into something pretty. I can’t remember when I bought Vogue 9182, but I think I’ve had it for quite some time and I stood out to me during a recent dig through the stash. I’d been hesitant to use it because it exposes a little more skin than I’m used to and for a long, long time I was averse to anything sleeveless. Well, I’ve finally kicked the “I can’t wear sleeveless things” silliness, and to get a little more skin coverage I simply raised the back pattern so it covers my back completely.
The red gingham is from Fabric.com, and the creamy white linen is from Textile Fabrics in Nashville. It’s a Ralph Lauren linen suiting, so it’s quite substantial and weighty. I have enough of it left to make an embroidered jacket later this summer. Excited about that.
I initially wanted to make the red gingham version to take to Nashville last month, but time got the best of me before I could finish it. As soon as I got home, I not only finished it but turned around and made a second version because I liked it so much. (And I got the perfect fabric for it in Nashville, so the stars aligned.) Maybe it’s the buttons or maybe the full skirt (maybe both?), but this dress is just dreamy to me. I love it.
I only made a few adjustments to the pattern for the red gingham dress: a swayback adjustment and I raised the back pattern pieces for full back coverage. I also combined the back and side back pieces so that the back bodice piece could be one single piece. Because I was short on time I skipped making a muslin which, as you well know, is not something I normally ever skip. I knew, based on the finished garment measurements, that the dress would fit nicely and any small adjustments could be made later. I was happy with the fit of the red gingham dress, but for the white linen version I raised the side seams for more coverage under the arms and shaped the front princess seams for a more flattering fit.
This is what the back pattern pieces look like after the adjustments were made. And, again, I would usually trace my tissue pattern pieces on paper and make adjustments from there (to avoid messing with the tissue), but time was not on my side.
And here’s how the back looks on me. I have the coverage I need, and it’s nice and smooth because of the swayback adjustment. You can also see the difference raising the side seams under the arms made to the white dress. I raised the side seams by 1 1/2″, and I think the additional coverage is a little more flattering.
And the front pieces:
The skirt for this pattern is a full circle, and I went with the longer length in view B, which is 31 1/2″ from the waist. Both skirts needed to be leveled (more info on that here).
Matching the pattern on the gingham dress was a task that made me go a little cross-eyed, but I’m happy with the end result. I told myself I wouldn’t be using any gingham or stripes or plaid for a while after this, but what did I do but turn around and start working on a madras plaid shirtdress. I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess.
I keep referring to this as “white” linen, but it’s really more of a creamy vanilla or eggshell white. I like that because it will transition to fall nicely, especially once I make the matching jacket to go with it. I love linen so very much, and this fabric was a dream to work with. I’ll have to get video of this dress in motion eventually, because the way it moves it just stunning. And tons of fun to wear.
I included a waist stay on both dresses, which snaps together underneath the button extension. It does its job beautifully, because there’s no pulling around the waist where the dress is buttoned. That can happen sometimes with shirtdresses or any kind of dress that buttons closed even if it’s the right size, but the waist stay eliminates that.
Anytime there’s a facing in a garment that isn’t attached to a lining, I like to not only serge it but turn it under and edgestitch it too. It hides the serged seam nicely, and makes the garment look a little more professional and high end.
If you’re looking for a summer dress but your version of a sundress is more like mine (I need a wee bit more coverage), I recommend this pattern. I really love making buttonholes and sewing buttons. It’s a refreshing change of pace sometimes, even though my machine really does all the work for the buttonholes.
I think both of these dresses will serve me well this summer and beyond. The white linen dress is a little more dressy, so it might become my summertime date night dress. And you know I love gingham, so the red number will be worn a lot. Sometimes I know when it’s time to walk away from a particular print or color for a while, but I think my heart is set on one or two more gingham things. Probably a blouse and a skirt. Then I’m done, I promise. Almost for sure.
Have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll be back next week with more summer projects and a new “how to” post. Lots of fun things coming up!