holly jolly christmas: day 1

Today is the day! Holly Jolly Christmas has officially begun, and I can’t think of a better way to kick off this huge giveaway event. Tulle skirts have been one of my favorite things since, well, forever, and it was one of the most popular items I sold when I was in business a few years ago. I love this skirt all the time but especially for the holidays, because it’s just so dreamy and flirty and fun to wear – and I promise there’s not much else that’s more fun to dance in. (Read the tutorial for making it here.) In the tutorial I mention waiting to serge the center back seams until after the tulle has been basted to the underlining – which brings me to the first item in today’s giveaway: a serger. Yes, the incredible HUSQVARNA VIKING® H|CLASS™ 200S overlock machine! I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve talked about this thing this year, but it’s a lot. I spent a few years without a serger – and it’s totally doable – but, gosh, they sure do make your sewing life a lot easier. This serger is an absolute workhorse in my studio, and the hundreds of garments I’ve made over the years have pretty, clean seams because of this machine.

My version of a tulle skirt is simple but effective: it’s layer after layer after layer of tulle. The difference in this skirt and others you may see online is that mine is cut using 108″ wide tulle so that there’s only one seam (it accommodates the length of the skirt). When I was developing this method a few years ago, I spent a lot of time looking for 108″ tulle – and at that time it wasn’t as readily available as it is now. In my search one day, I stumbled upon Online Fabric Store. They sell, among other fabulous things, 108″ tulle by the bolt in various colors. There’s 50 yards on one bolt, so that was perfect for me because I could squeeze out at least two skirts with that much. It’s also a great amount to share with a friend or split among various projects of your own.

So, along with the H|CLASS™ 200S overlock machine, today’s winner will also receive a $100 gift card to Online Fabric Store. Between the tulle and the gorgeous home decor fabrics and the supplies available (batting, thread, foam, zippers and more) you’ll have no trouble filling that shopping cart with pretty things for new projects. They have amazing things!

The projects you’ll see during this six day event were all made using commercial patterns (two favorites, three newbies), with the exception of this tulle skirt. I drafted the pattern myself (a super easy circle skirt), and while I don’t draft patterns from scratch as much as I used to, it’s still something I do quite often – but I definitely spent a lot of time altering patterns to correct the fit or add length or change style lines. In order to do this successfully, there are a few tools I must have on hand – and the third bundle of goodies in today’s giveaway is a few of my favorite pattern drafting tools: pencils, pattern hangers, rulers, Sharpies, tape, and a hole punch. I’m especially in love with the two rulers: the 18″ straight edge (it will never break; believe me, I’ve tested more than my share of rulers over the years), and the flexible curve. I use that thing all the time to measure waistlines, necklines, and any design line with a tight curve. It’s much, much easier to use a flexible ruler in those areas than it is a straight edge.

So the winner of the Holly Jolly Day 1 giveaway will receive:

  • the H|CLASS™ 200S overlock machine from HUSQVARNA VIKING®
  • a $100 gift card to Online Fabric Store,
  • and a bundle of patternmaking supplies.

See the official rules here, and best of luck! The winner will be announced tomorrow!

Many thanks to HUSQVARNA VIKING® for the donations for this event, and special thanks to the kind folks at Online Fabric Store for the $100 gift card.

 


a holly jolly christmas

I love this time of year. The music, the colors, the lights – it’s all so inspiring and uplifting. I have the best time decorating our house and planning holiday meals for the Christmas season – and I also love any excuse to sew something fancy and get dressed up. If ever you needed a reason to wear an enormous tulle skirt and a glitzy sequin top without people wondering what costume party you were headed to, this season is it.

I’ve had more fun sewing Christmas projects this year than I ever have before. This is partly because that’s just where my mind is right now (sequins! red! Christmas plaid! green!) and partly because – as some of you know – we’re remodeling the entire first floor of the house we bought in August so there will be no Christmas tree or decorations or big holiday meal here this year. (We have no walls or cabinets or floors – it’s wild.) It’s a bummer, but I’ve poured all of the energy that I would have used decorating our house into another project – and I think you’re really going to like it.

2017 was my first full year blogging. As with most things, it took some time to find my voice in the sewing community and figure out what my contributions could be. It’s been the best kind of challenge, and I have loved every minute (and I can’t wait for next year!). I cannot put into words how rewarding this journey has been so far, and I am truly humbled by the opportunities that came my way this year – the biggest one being a brand ambassador for HUSQVARNA VIKING®. (You can read about how that came about in this post from February.)

We’ve had so much fun this year, and we wanted to celebrate the holiday season with you. So, HUSQVARNA VIKING® and I have partnered to bring you a huge giveaway event. And if HUSQVARNA VIKING® is involved, you know what that means: notions, supplies, embroidery goodies, and yes, machines! And, in addition to everything from HUSQVARNA VIKING®, we’ve got loads of other goodies from some of my favorite brands, including McCall Pattern Company, Threads Magazine, Promenade Fabrics, M&J Trimming, Online Fabrics Store, and Fashion Fabrics Club – and that’s in addition to books and supplies and software and tools and other accessories. There’s tons of good stuff, you guys.

This is a six-day event, and the fun gets going on Wednesday, the 13th. Each day will feature a new project to inspire your holiday sewing, and there will be a daily giveaway package for one, randomly selected, US-based winner. (I’m so sorry to all you cute Aussies and Canadians – silly legal things keep this one on American soil. Fingers crossed for an international giveaway in the future.) Look for a new post at noon (central time) each day, and enter to win the giveaway right here on the blog. There’s no messing about on a bunch of different websites or social media accounts. Just come here and enter. You have until midnight each day to submit your entry, and we’ll announce the winner the following day.

Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday, December 13th: ‘Tis the Season

Thursday, December 14th: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Friday, December 15th: Jingle Bells

Monday, December 18th: Holiday Gala

Tuesday, December 19th: A Merry Little Christmas

Wednesday, December 20th: Presents Under the Tree

I’m so excited about this, and I can’t wait to watch you guys win some truly incredible prizes. See you Wednesday!

one dress, three ways: mccall’s 6886

Right off the bat, let me say the following: this dress is magical and I love it. That statement makes me laugh because if I only knew a long time ago what I know now, you better believe I’d have more than just four versions of this dress. (See the first one here.) I have had this pattern – and genuinely wanted to make it – for a really long time. Longer than I’d like to admit, because I consider myself a pretty fearless seamstress, one who normally doesn’t let the “what if it doesn’t fit/look right/flatter me” mentality get in the way of a project or new idea. This dress, however, is different.

We all know the feeling of a failed or disappointing project. It stings, and the only thing worse than trying on something unflattering or unattractive or what-have-you is trying on something that is any of those things, except . . . you made it. Right?! It’s such a waste! And it happens to all of us, so that concern was always in the back of my mind about this dress until, one day, I decided to get over it and just make it. Fast forward a couple of months, and I have three new versions. I made two small fitting adjustments (swayback and grading down a size at the waist), and it’s one of the easiest things I’ve ever sewn. Easy to sew and quick to sew – and all the positive reviews you’ve seen for it are true. Somehow, this dress looks good on everyone. This pattern is a versatile design that translates into a lot of different, wearable looks, which we sewists can appreciate.

I wanted something work-appropriate, a version that was a little more casual/everyday, and a special occasion dress in a knockout fabric. The navy super stretch denim, navy floral scuba knit, and the white super stretch denim (used as the underlining for the sequin mesh) all came from JoAnn. The cracked ice sequin mesh came from Fabrics World last year. And no, the fabric suggestions on the pattern envelope don’t mention the super stretch denim or sequin mesh or scuba knit that I used, but all of them can work for this dress. The denim has a backing on it which makes it as stretchy as a knit, and the scuba is a stable knit with just enough stretch to work for this design.

We all need pieces in our closet that are appropriate for the office – and even better if they work for after-hours cocktails, right? This dress will work well for me year-round for countless different events, and I am absolutely over the moon about this fabric. I saw it at JoAnn a few weeks ago and knew it had to come home with me. It’s a lot of my favorite things in one fabric: navy blue, shimmer, florals, stretch. It’s just so pretty! (I don’t think it’s available online, but check your local store in case it’s still in stock.)

Construction of this dress was incredibly easy. I serged all the seams and went with a blind hem stitch to hem the skirt and sleeves. The neckline is turned under, turned under again, and stitched.

The denim version is my new go-to dress for running errands or traveling. It’s stretchy and comfortable, and it’s easy to toss in the wash. I combined the neckline from view E with with sleeves from view C for this version. All three of these dresses are the length from view E, simply because I like that length on me (a couple of inches below my knee). Attaching the neck band is pretty straightforward, but I did find that I had to clip the neckline at center front before sewing the band to the neckline, which is opposite the typical order of operations.

Last fall, I made Butterick 6244 in this creamy double wool, and it’s a nice outerwear piece with this dress. Here in Texas, we’re lucky to get a couple months of super cold weather, so it’s all about smart layers for the days when it’s too warm for a coat but too chilly to wear a dress on its own.

Now, for the showstopper. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been dreaming about this dress. When I bought this fabric over a year ago I knew exactly what I was going to do with it: a sequin skirt and this very dress. The skirt happened earlier this year and now, finally, the dress is a reality too. I make a lot of things, and I make a lot of things that I love, but this dress is pretty incredible. It’s classic and simple, but special and beautiful.

In order to hide seams and hems, I used the sequin mesh as the outer layer and the super stretch denim as the underlining. Basically, it’s the same concept I used to create the skirt in this fabric earlier this year. In place of hems that you turn up and stitch, I went with hem facings using the stretch denim. This does two things: it keeps the hem neat and clean and keeps the sequins off your skin. I wanted a prettier seam finish on the inside of the dress, so each seam is bias bound, and the hem facings (sleeve, skirt, neckline) are all sewn down with a hidden catch stitch.

To get a more personalized fit, I graded down a size at the waist and made a swayback adjustment to the back pattern pieces. This is an adjustment I have to make to most of my patterns, but it’s not always needed in knit garments. When I made this dress for the first time I didn’t make this adjustment and I should have. It’s probably not obvious to anyone but us seamstresses, but I wanted to take out some of that excess fabric before making these versions. Put simply, all “swayback” really means is that you’re curvy and there’s not enough of your back to fill out all that fabric.

Here, you can see the fabric that is pooling at my lower back in the first version of this dress:

To eliminate the excess fabric, you simply pinch it out, pin the excess so you know how much to remove from the pattern, and transfer that to your pattern piece. The adjustment starts at the side seam, but be sure to not lengthen or shorten that seam at all. We’re only interested in removing the fabric from the back.

A great resource for fitting patterns is a book called The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting, and it walks you through each step of this process really well. I’m on my own when I make adjustments like this (and yes, it’s a bit of a challenge), but I would recommend enlisting the help of a sewing buddy to help you with this if possible.

It’s an easy but significant adjustment to make. This is what the back of this dress looks like now:

Sewing your own clothes is a rewarding endeavor by itself, but adding pieces to your closet that are well made, flattering, and wearable is an exceptionally satisfying feeling. Love these dresses!

Special thank you to the McCall Pattern Company for sponsoring this post.