The idea for this week’s posts only came to me recently. I never gave much thought to doing any type of review–or recap, even–but I’m glad I did it. It’s fun to look back and not only round up all the things you’ve sewn, but really analyze what you’ve poured so much of your time and energy into. I always want to be able to look back and assess my projects fairly, because not everything will be a winner. But as long as the successful projects outnumber the duds, we’re doing something right.
And a lot has gone right so far this year, and I’m truly thrilled with the garments I added to my closet. I’ve made a lot of things that either worked well on their own or were a great addition to the things I already had, which is a step in the right direction towards a thoughtful, curated wardrobe. So, with that, let’s talk about the hits of the first half of the year.
Hit #1: the cocktail dress. This project was a success from top to bottom. From fabric choice to finishes, it’s a superstar. I needed this dress for a cocktail party Ty and I attended in Florida back in March, and I had a heck of a time deciding on the design. In the end, I went with a bodice I designed using my own slopers and a skirt from a Butterick pattern. I made a muslin to perfect the fit, and the bodice has built in structure with an interfaced underlining. The skirt is equally supported, and there is 6″ horsehair braid hand sewn into the hem band, which I cut to showcase the wrong side of the fabric. There are side seam pockets, a back invisible zipper, and the dress is fully lined. And don’t get me started on that fabric. It’s from Promenade Fabrics in New Orleans, and it’s some of the most exquisite (and expensive) I’ve purchased in a long time. Worth it.
Hit #2: the sequin skirt. This is a version of a skirt I designed when I was in business, and it felt good to revisit it and make it for myself. I used a sequin mesh and treated it like a woven, putting it on top of a heavy twill to support the weight of the sequin fabric and build volume into the skirt. The hem facing is sewn completely by hand, and there’s an exposed zipper in the back. Fully lined. I adore this skirt, and every time I look at it I’m glad I made it midi length. Eventually, I’ll make a floor length version (because they really are so stunning), but this was a project that will serve me well for a long time. And you’ll never miss me at a party. I’m basically the disco ball.
Hit #3: the green gingham dress. I had to include this dress in the hits because I think it so perfectly represents me as a person and a seamstress. I love classic silhouettes and design, but I also like using unexpected fabrics and cheerful prints. This green gingham was the first gingham I’d bought in a long, long time and it certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s linen (one of my top two favorite fabrics ever). I made a muslin for the bodice to perfect the fit, and I went the extra mile to fully line the dress. The inside of that dress is so neat and pretty I smile every time I see it. I added fullness to the skirt, and I really think the bigger skirt adds some pizzazz to the overall design. I’d like to make this dress again sometime in a solid color, but this little green number is so good it might also have to stand alone.
Hit #4: the striped skirt. This is another design of mine from back when I had my business, and it’s a winner to me for a lot of reasons: the proportions are correct, the stripes are a great width, every seam matches, and–perhaps most importantly–it looks like me. What’s the point of sewing our own clothes if we don’t sew our personalities into them? Love this.
Hit #5: the lemon dress. I waited for a long time for the right lemon print fabric to come along, and I’m over the moon for this fabric and dress. I again took a commercial pattern and elevated it a little, fully lining it, moving the zipper, and perfecting the fit of the bodice. All of those things are time consuming, but the result is a dress that fits me like a glove, and I’m really comfortable in it. This is one of those patterns I will absolutely make again, in at least two more colors. Couldn’t be happier with how well this turned out.
Hit #6: the polka dot dress. This little number makes it onto the hits list for three reasons: the pattern adjustments I had to make to correct the fit, the construction, and the overall aesthetic. I had a feeling before I started making this dress that it would become a favorite, and it didn’t disappoint. I’m probably happiest with the fit, which also means I’m happy wearing it. This dress checks all the boxes for me style-wise because it covers what I want covered, the fit is flattering, and the skirt is nice and big but not too enormous for my everyday lifestyle. It’s also incredibly easy to sew, and I predict a few more will be made over the coming months.
I’ve always thought I had a preference for separates, but this list tells me that while that may be true, the dresses I’ve made have been some of my best work. (So maybe I’ll be stepping up my separates game this summer?) This list also tells me something very, very important: hard work pays off. The projects on this list were some of the most time consuming and tedious things I’ve ever made, but I saw them through with great success.
I have big sewing plans for June, like I always do, and I can’t wait to get back to work on this little handmade wardrobe of mine. While I don’t see any more off-the-shoulder tops in my future, I do see a lot of new and exciting things. Thank you all for reading and commenting and following along. Your engagement is a big reason why this whole thing is so fun and rewarding.
Have a wonderful weekend!
It occurred to me other day that 2017 is basically half over. I’m both surprised at how quickly time always seems to pass and happy to see summer coming right up. So, with half the year behind us, I thought it would be fun to review a few of my favorite projects and also talk about the ones that miss the mark, the “hits and misses” so to speak. To ignore the flops in particular does a disservice to growth, and I think it’s important to know why something didn’t work in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Most everything I’ve made this year is either a favorite or something I really, really love, which made compiling the hits list a challenge to narrow down. The misses, however, were a breeze to identify. The projects in this post are stinkers for a variety of reasons: overthinking, straying too far from my aesthetic, and making silly mistakes. In the case of this first flop, I’m guilty of forcing myself into a trend I knew wouldn’t work for me.
Miss #1: the off-the-shoulder top. I’ve worn this top one time, and I will never wear it again. Never. It sits my closet, looking pretty, but it’s completely impractical and I am really, really uncomfortable in it. It’s hard to resist a trend sometimes, especially when it’s everywhere and so many people look so cute in it. The off-the-shoulder thing is a trend so pervasive that you kind of look around and wonder if the fashion industry is having a good laugh at our expense. “Let’s do a bunch of the same top over and over and over again! They’ll love it! The’ll buy them all, and then everyone will look exactly alike!” Even the pattern companies are popping out top after top that looks exactly the same. It’s kind of a bummer.
Anyway, the thing with these tops is that you have exceptional skin to wear them comfortably, and I do not. I have a couple scars on my back that I like to keep covered, so a top like this instantly becomes a situation where I say, “I can totally wear this IF I wear my hair down AND if I wear a necklace . . . ” and that is no way to approach your projects or getting dressed. I’ve wasted a lot of time doing that, and it’s too frustrating and discouraging. I do like the color and the pom pom trim, but anything this baggy doesn’t do me any favors. And if the stupid off-the-shoulder part had popped up over my shoulders one more time the day I wore it, I was probably going to rip it off and chuck it in the trash right then and there.
Miss #2: The navy striped dress. I can’t tell you how much I despise this dress, and considering how much I love stripes, this one really stings. The original idea was to have all the stripes going in the same direction but in an effort to do something different, I decided to go vertical on the skirt. Shouldn’t have done that, it’s distracting and jarring to look at. Also, the navy stripes on the bodice should be more over the bust. So much white over the bust draws the eye to that area, which is awkward and unflattering. This bodice pattern is 1″ too short for me (I’ve since corrected that), so the waistline is sitting higher than it should which makes me look stumpy and messes up my proportions. My effort to hide that with the sash belt only exacerbates the issue.
This dress didn’t even make it to my closet. It sits in a spare closet, waiting for the day I finally just toss it or donate it.
Miss #3: the yellow striped dress. This one breaks my heart, because the fabric is some of the prettiest I’ve ever bought. I had big plans for this dress, after using a Butterick pattern with such success earlier this year, but I just couldn’t get on board with it. After deciding to scrap the Butterick pattern and go with something more classic and simple, I cut a new bodice and skirt. Trouble was, I cut the skirt in three pieces instead of four, creating an interesting dilemma where the side seams end up about halfway into the front of the skirt. I never cut rectangles for skirts, so I was really tripped up by an incredibly basic principle. (And maybe the two margaritas I had the night before weren’t helping?) I tried to cleverly pleat the fabric to hide the seam, but it just didn’t work. I do like the bodice though, so it’s possible I’ll be able to cut out a straight skirt with the scraps I have left and salvage some type of dress. But, quite frankly, I’m not terribly optimistic at this point. You can read about the progress of this dress as of a few weeks ago here. And, if you follow me on Instagram, you saw this fabric all over the place. Now you know how that worked out.
Annnnddd, version 3 is a pile of cut up bits of fabric.
I’ve made a lot of garments so far in 2017, so I’m okay with having three things in the flops category. There’s a handful of things that fall into the middle somewhere–I don’t love them or hate them–but these three were without a doubt unsuccessful. I will note the mistakes, focus on what did work, and happily move on to the second half of the year. And, on Friday, I look forward to spotlighting the things that did work. Any guesses what they are?
Feel free to tell me all about your hits and misses. We can commiserate! Ha!
Have a great week!
I recently overheard a conversation among a group of women during a shopping trip. They had just discovered a rack of clothing that included a few striped blouses, linen drawstring pants, and a polka dot skirt (you know, just a few of my all time favorite things). They all agreed–and with great enthusiasm, I must add–that polka dots were ridiculous. “Who actually wears such a stupid looking print?”
My feelings were hurt for the polka dots. Look, to each her own and all that, but polka dots?! What’s not to like? There are a few prints I will always have a soft spot for (gingham, stripes, big florals), but polka dots must be the happiest print on earth.
I found this polka dot print earlier this spring from Fashion Fabrics Club, and I love it. It’s a navy blue medium weight stretch twill with a pretty stiff hand. It would make for a lovely spring jacket, and a shift dress or full skirt would be a nice option too. When it was delivered, I knew it would be the perfect fabric choice for a vintage Vogue pattern I’d been eyeballing for weeks. There’s enough volume in the fabric to support the fullness of the skirt. No petticoat needed!
This pattern appealed to me because there’s good coverage in the bodice and the skirt is nicely flared but not too huge. I was also intrigued by the wraparound detail, which is quite flattering.
Like I do before every project with a commercial pattern, I did a little research to see what other folks were saying about it. The pictures I came across told me everything I needed to know. I thought there might be an issue with the sides of the bodice being too big, and they are (understatement of the year). So what began as an easy project quickly escalated into an enormous fitting challenge.
I want to preface my summary of the fitting issues by saying that this wasn’t a sizing issue. I am the same size across the board with Vogue patterns, and I appreciate that consistency. The issues with the fit of the bodice have to do with gaping in one specific area: the sides of the bodice where it wraps around the body. I had to contour the pattern to fit my body, which is a common thing patterns need when there’s a low neckline, a wrap detail like this, or anything with style lines that follow close to the body, like a strapless design.
The first thing I did was sew a muslin of the bodice to have a look at the fit. It was a mess, but the waist fit and the princess seams were in the correct spot.
I made three sets of adjustments to this pattern. Along the way, I had a good laugh about it because this has to be the most simple pattern I’ve ever had to adjust to such an extent. When I got into the thick of the adjustments, determination kicked in and just sort of said, “I will win this, you silly pattern!” I knew that if I could correct the fit I would have a really, really great dress pattern on my hands that I could make in a lot of colors and patterns, because it really is an easy sewing project. Once you get beyond the task of fitting it, that is.
Three muslins later.
In addition to the contouring (which is essentially just “pinching” out excess fabric), I shaped the front princess seam under the bust and removed some excess fabric from the back bodice (a swayback adjustment).
With the fit finally conquered, I could move on to construction. This dress is unlined so the seams are finished with bias tape. I’m particular when it comes to that finish. Sometimes, on white, for example, I don’t mind sewing the bias tape on my machine. The visible sewing line doesn’t bother me. On prints, however, it bugs me a little. So, all of the bias tape on the bodice is slipstitched down by hand so that there are no visible sewing lines on the right side of the fabric. Notice on this scrap how distracting the sewing lines are, even the navy one.
All that slipstitching took some time, but I’m glad I did it. The edges on the bodice are nice and clean. I used bigger hooks and eyes at the back of the neck and on the back wraparound pieces because they are easier to hook than the little ones. Plus, they’re sturdier, and I just like them.
I opted for the hook and eye and snap closures instead of the ties in view A because I want the option of wearing a belt, which wouldn’t have been possible if there was a tie already around the waist.
I mentioned this whole contouring thing in my Stories on Instagram, and there were lots and lots of questions about it so I will be dedicating a post to that concept sometime in June. I promise, it’s not that complicated and it makes a world of difference to how a garment fits. If you have any questions, let me know. Have a wonderful long weekend, and happy sewing!