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Category: style

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!

the florida collection

There’s nothing more rewarding in sewing then when a plan comes together, when weeks of thinking and organizing and fitting and cutting and sewing finally come together. In February, I posted my thoughts about a few new pieces I wanted to have for a trip to Florida. The trip has since come and gone (and it was fantastic!), and now it’s time to see, of the things on the list, what came together and what didn’t.

You know I love to sew in groups or collections of garments, and sewing for a specific event or trip is my ultimate project. It is so much fun! I always appreciate a collection with a clear and cohesive color story with coordinating prints, and this particular group is lacking in that respect. The blue top sticks out like a sore thumb and I’ve got three very different prints going on, but this project was more about specific garments for specific events, so from that perspective I’m very pleased.

In the planning post, I mentioned that I needed the following: a couple comfy tops to travel in, a swimsuit cover up, a cocktail dress, a couple of sundresses, and an outfit for exploring Miami.

Garments successfully made: tops, cocktail dress, sundresses, Miami outfit

Garments not made: swimsuit cover up

I had big plans for a wrap skirt swimsuit cover up in this yummy rayon challis, but time ran out before I could get to that project. (I ordered a navy sarong from Amazon and called it good.) As we got closer to the departure date I had to prioritize my unfinished projects, and this one got left behind. I’m okay with that though, because I think this fabric will be great for another project in a summer/4th of July collection I’m planning. Maybe a maxi dress?

I finished this dress first, and I wore it to dinner one night. I am completely and totally in love with this little gingham number, and it was perfect for this trip. It’s linen so it wrinkled quite a bit and required some ironing after we got there, but that’s okay with me. It was so comfortable, and I got loads of nice compliments on it. For more about this dress, see this post.

Full disclosure: I made this dress last summer. I knew it would be a great dress for this trip, and it was. I wore this to the welcome reception on the beach. Loved it. For more about this dress as well as a tip for a better fitting bust, see this post from last week.

I made three tops for this trip, all using the same pattern. This one is my favorite of the bunch. The floral trim is just so pretty! It wasn’t ridiculously hot in Florida yet, so I could still wear jeans and not be uncomfortably hot. My travel outfits and the exploring Miami outfit were the same: one of these tops, skinny jeans, a hat, and sandals. It was great. For more about these tops and a tutorial for the ruffle, see this post.

The cocktail dress: easily one of my favorite projects. I got more compliments on this dress than I’ve ever gotten on any other project, ever. So not only was I glad other people liked it as much as I did, I was proud to tell them that I made it. (You should have seen some of the reactions that got!) Read about the cocktail dress here.

This is by no means a sundress, but it came in handy for another dinner event. This is one of my all time favorite patterns, and this is fourth time I’ve made this dress. Read about the others here and here. This is Vogue 8825 in a coral rayon ponte knit from Mood.

I also planned to make a pair of white linen pants, and while I did make them, I didn’t take them to Florida. They didn’t really work with the tops I made, so you’ll see those soon with a top that makes a little more sense.

I was so excited to get pretty blog pictures on the beach (what a great opportunity, right?), but a funny thing happens when I get to a beach: I don’t care about pretty pictures. I’m much more concerned with how quickly I can throw on a swimsuit, get to the beach, and swim my little heart out. There were also a lot of people there, and taking selfies and blog pictures in front of a bunch of strangers isn’t my idea of a good time. At any rate, the trip was a wonderful, and I couldn’t be happier with the collection I made for it.

Now, on to more projects!

final grade: the cocktail dress

Don’t ever let anyone tell you sewing is a mindless craft. Those of us who endeavor to create and make know better. The mental acrobatics required to properly execute the tedious and challenging projects is one of the things that keeps me engaged and inspired to continue sewing. Because to settle for the easy projects all the time does nothing for growth and learning, and why bother if you’re not doing much of value or quality. This dress is one of those garments that required a little extra determination and planning and, just like every other project like it that has tested my patience, it was more than worth the time and effort. (Expect a few of those “easy” projects in the future, just to balance things out!)

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Ty and I were headed to Florida this month, and I was excited to make most of my clothes for our little weekend getaway. On Wednesday, I’ll tell you how successful I was in bringing my ideas to life, but today I’m thrilled to show you the cocktail dress I made for the awards reception. It came together beautifully, I felt like a million bucks in it, and I was comfortable all night (the ultimate trifecta!). I lost track of all the sweet compliments I received on this dress, which was just icing on the cake for me. (I think a lot of the compliments had to do with the fabric. It’s just so stunning!)

For more details about how I decided on the design and the sewing techniques I used on this dress, see the progress report from a few weeks ago.

The bodice is my own design I drafted using my slopers, to which I attached the skirt from Butterick 6129 (see the other skirt from that pattern here). The skirt on my cocktail dress is about 2.5″ shorter than the white damask skirt from January, and I like it a little better. I used the wrong side of the fabric on the hem band again, because it adds a lot of visual interest to the skirt and it’s a fun way to showcase both sides of the brocade.

There is 6″ wide horsehair braid in the hem facing, and I closed the hem band with a catchstitch. I did this for a couple of reasons: there is flexibility in a catchstitch that allows for movement while still being strong, plus I think it’s pretty. The skirt/hem band seam allowance is serged and pressed up towards the skirt to keep the hem facing from getting too bulky. Normally I would press all the seam allowances down into the hem facing and close it all up, concealing all of the seams.

I used Bemberg rayon to line the bodice and pink cotton to line the skirt. I wanted a more substantial lining for the skirt, which is why I went with cotton there. (Cutting and sewing rayon lining for the bodice was about all I could handle with that material for a while. It’s not a fabric I enjoy working with at all, I must tell you.) I sewed coral grosgrain ribbon around the waist of the lining, because it bugs me when the bodice and skirt linings are different colors. The ribbon makes it all look intentional.

And here we are at the awards reception. (The wind was so terrible that night, which made it impossible to get a good picture of the dress!)

I’m so proud of Ty and all of his hard work. He is the ultimate professional, and I’m so delighted his achievements were recognized. We had a wonderful time!