When I Come Around

I’m trying to use fabrics from my stash, but some weeks ago it occurred to me that my fabric stash had a shortage of summer-weight plaids. Of course, I could have just waited until autumn and pulled out my plaid suitings because plaid in autumn is as inevitable as floral prints in spring. I got impatient though and decided to take a look for some summer-worthy plaid. I found that fashionfabricsclub.com was selling off a 4 yard piece of this rayon faille for less than 20 dollars, so of course I had to get it.

Plaid 7In the world of tartans, there are those that inevitably invite a preppy vibe, those that don’t look like proper tartans, and then there are those that will be snatched up by chain-store designers in those seasons when “punk is in” and predictably paired with faux leather vests, a variety of denims, and the occasional oddly-placed safety pin. For the catalog spread, they might even throw in a Ramones t-shirt. God Save the Queen! No self-respecting punk-rocker is going to buy their look from the nearest Kohl’s curated collection of separates. I’m pretty sure that this particular tartan is of the wanna-be punk variety. So in keeping with the rebellious vibe it gives off, I did the most unexpected thing I could think of with it and made a very, very ladylike dress.

Plaid 4

The bodice is the By Hand London Anna Dress (yes, again, but the first one I’ve made with the v-neckline. It runs a bit low on me, so I’ve paired it with a black camisole here). The skirt is a very large gathered rectangle.

Plaid 5

How large a rectangle did I use for my skirt? I’m glad you asked. I don’t foray into math often (it doesn’t like me), but the 4 yard piece of fabric I’d acquired lent me an opportunity to try something out that’s been on my mind for a while. I’ve noticed with the gathered skirts I’ve made in the past few years that the gathers at the waistline don’t pull up as tightly as I remember them doing when I was younger/smaller. So I started looking on the backs of the pattern envelopes for waist measurements vs. finished bottom of skirt measurements. Sure enough, a pattern might be for a 27″ waist and have a 102″ hem measurement whereas the same pattern in a larger size might be for a 40″ waist, but have a 114″ hem measurement. That makes the ratio for the first one 1 : 3.7, but for the larger size 1 : 2.85. Of course this only applies to gathered/pleated skirts. Circle skirts, by their very nature get much longer along the hem-line as the waist size increases.

I’ve never taken any classes on grading patterns, so I can only theorize about why skirt proportions would be drafted/graded that way. 1) because fabric comes in standard widths so with very full skirts the entire pattern would at some point need to be re-drafted, perhaps with additional seams, so that the pattern pieces aren’t wider than the fabric. 2) plus-size women might complain about the massively different amounts of fabric yardage needed for their dresses compared to smaller sizes. 3) the idea that if a woman has a larger waist size, she must want as little bulk on her waist seam as possible, so less fabric is put there compared to smaller sizes.

Ever since noticing the waist : hemline ratio differences, I’ve wanted to play around with making a plus-size (my current size) dress with a super-full skirt. The plaid fabric was really wide, so I barely needed any yardage to get the bodice pieces cut out. I ended up with enough fabric to easily get 4 panels to use for my gathered rectangle skirt. That makes my proportion of bodice : skirt gathering more like a 1 : 6 ratio. I didn’t measure the end hemline width, but if the fabric was 60″ wide and I used standard seam allowances of 5/8″, it’s still close enough to 240″ around to call it that. 240″ didn’t necessarily sound excessive to me until my brother pointed out that it is equal to 20′. So, yeah, my dress is 20′ around the hemline. A crinoline barely puffs out the fullness because there’s just so much of it.

Plaid 1

I put side-seam pockets in it, and I have to search to find them. The twirl-factor is epic though.

Plaid 3

I’ve found Pettiskirtstyle.com to be a wonderful crinoline enabler supplier since I loath making them myself. Lots and lots of colors, sizes, and lengths. (I’m not getting anything in return for mentioning/linking to them, just really like what they have). That red crinoline I have on in these photos is my latest acquisition from them.

A word of warning if you’ve been inspired to try a super-full skirt experiment yourself. Choose your fabric very carefully. The rayon faille I used has the perfect body/drape combo to be full rather than limp, but without being too stiff or bulky to gather up into the waistline. If you do make or have already made a dress with an over-the-top, super-full skirt like this, please send me a link or picture. I’d really like to see. I have this idea that having extra hemline fullness more than compensates visually for the slight additional bulk at the waistline, but that might just be my brain trying to justify my love of twirly dresses.

Butterick 4967: A Four Generation Dress

Rainbow Dress 5

I have to start this post by giving credit to both my Mom (an example of her work here) and my Grandma (my Mom’s mom; the one who made this dress). Without these women in my life, this new dress would not be. Not just for the obvious reason (if your parents never had kids, it’s a sure bet that you won’t either), or even for the secondary reason (if my Grandma didn’t teach my Mom to sew, and if my Mom didn’t teach me, is it something I would have ended up learning to do?) No, this project actually involved them a bit more directly.

Both my Mom and my Grandma are very busy women. Even when they could be sitting around vegetating, you will often find that they are keeping their hands busy with some type of sewing or craft project. Thus, my Grandma has had a sewing machine with embroidery functions for quite a few years. Her machine was due for an upgrade, and she gave her old one to my Mom and encouraged her to play around with it. My Mom was looking for something that “needed” embroidery and I had just happened to have cut out this dress for Guinevere. Of course the plain black bodice with no darts or seams was the perfect canvas for some embroidery experimentation. I hadn’t yet started sewing on the dress, so I gave all the pieces to my Mom so she could match thread to the colors in the skirt and told her to pick something fun to put on the front of the dress. She found a really cute design that incorporated all of the skirt colors. I laughed a little when I realized she’d “put a bird on it.” Mom then gave me a blank look…apparently she’s never watched Portlandia.

Rainbow Dress 2

There seem to be ongoing on-line discussions about making clothes that one will actually wear vs. making something just because it seems like it will be fun to make. For me, personally, I think having Guinevere around gives me an advantage in the arena of making clothes that will actually be worn by someone. There are plenty of fun dress ideas that I might not end up wearing, but that work perfectly for her. This dress is one of those, and is pretty much the perfect not-too-casual-but-not-like-she’s-part-of-a-wedding-party kind of dress for a 6 year-old. Also, it’s fun to twirl in.

Rainbow Dress 3

The pattern is Butterick 4967, which has the option for the short, casual skirt or the long, dramatic one. From the pattern styling, it seems that the long, dramatic one was designed as more of the wedding-party type of dress; in this instance, fabric choice sets an entirely different mood. I used cotton broadcloth for the bodice and ruffles. The skirt has 2 layers under all those ruffles, a skirt-stay that the ruffles are sewn to and a lining; for this dress I used white batiste for those portions. That brings the total number of different fabrics in this dress to 9. I believe I had to change thread 11 times while making it up. I did a machine-stitched narrow hem on each ruffle. As far as the amount of work put in, this dress was pretty much the equivalent of making 6 circle-skirts.

Rainbow Dress 7

As much trouble as the thread changing and all was, having each skirt tier a different color may have made some things easier. The ruffles are a series of short circle skirts sewn to an a-line under-layer. Each ruffle is a slightly different size, so I had a cheat-sheet to make sure I cut out the right pieces and put them on in the right order. (ignore my sloppy casual handwriting–evidence that I really have been a nurse for 13 years).

Rainbow dress notes

I wanted this dress to be long-ish, but not to drag on the floor, so I used the floor-length version of the pattern, then shortened the a-line skirt-stay and lining. Because the circular ruffles are specifically sized for their placement lines on the skirt-stay, shortening the skirt involved making small tucks in the pattern tissue between each ruffle placement line, rather than just shortening the bottom and re-spacing the ruffles. This does make the ruffles a little more overlapped than they otherwise would have been. The under-skirt doesn’t stand a chance of showing. I made a size 5. She has some room to grow.

Rainbow Dress 6

For the belt, I added thread loops on either side of the waist, so it would stay where it belongs and used Velcro on the back of it rather than the hooks called for in the pattern. I could see using hooks for fancy bridal-party fabric since Velcro could snag, but with broadcloth, the risk for that is pretty minimal. It fits a bit low and loose around the underarm; I need to start altering that area for Guinevere when I make her sleeveless dresses.

Rainbow Dress 4


I had the idea for this dress last year, and had bought the fabric to make it up, but I had put off making it until she had a growth-spurt since she really had a lot of dresses a few months ago. That’s not so much the case now, so plan to see more Guinevere dresses in the near future.

Stash-busting stats: 34/50. 71 yards.

A Most Suit-able Flora Dress

When By Hand London started showing teaser pictures for the Flora dress, I was enthralled. When they released the pattern, I ordered it from my phone before I even got out of bed that day. Now I’ve finally made it up, just barely in time for The Monthly Stitch Indie Dress Week.

Flora 8

One inspiration for this dress had nothing at all to do with fancy circle skirts, it had to do with taking grey suiting fabric and turning it into something special. Anne’s dress reminded me I had a similar stash fabric that I would like to use in my own way, but it’s taken me some time to figure out exactly what “my way” meant to me.

Flora 10

The red and gold polyester satin brocade is also from my stash. It’s been in there for years, bought during a time when I either was coloring my hair (and therefore looked less washed out in red) or shortly after I stopped coloring it and my color choices hadn’t caught up. I haven’t colored my hair since Romeo was tiny, so yeah, long time stashed. I think my original plan was some kind of shiny party dress, but I just don’t have many occasions to attend where all-over shiny red and gold would be appropriate. I’m loving how the red subtly peeks out from the high-low skirt.

Flora 7

This skirt is dramatic and swishy. It’s a circle skirt with pleats at the top, so it’s extra-full.

Flora 2 The fabrics I used are on the heavy side, so it takes some speed while twirling to get it to fly up. I’m hoping that means that ordinary winds won’t put me at risk for wardrobe malfunctions. My necklace was bought special for this dress (because special dresses deserve special jewelry). I couldn’t decide what I wanted, so I had Pete troll Etsy to find me something. He always finds me awesome stuff when he does that. This necklace came from PatinaBijoux and I love it.

Flora 1

Let’s talk dress details. After making several By Hand London dresses, I finally made a realization. I was cutting 14/18 at the shoulder/bust, then going out to 16/20 at the waist, but then taking in the seams at the waist. With my Newsprint dress I finally just cut a 14/18 for the entire bodice and it fits quite nicely, so that’s what I did with this one too. I wonder if I shouldn’t have given myself just a bit of an FBA, but overall, I’m happy with the fit. Any lumps and bumps you see are just my natural curves unrestrained by girdle or Spanx.

Flora 9I did change a few things about the pattern. The skirt is really short as-drafted, even on a petite girl like myself. I don’t do above-the-knee skirts, so I added length at the hemline to get it below my knee. Since this is a circle skirt, this also made the pattern piece wider. There’s a really good reason By Hand London drafted the skirt at the length they did. Any lengthening will make it too wide to fit on even 60″ wide fabric. If you want to lengthen this skirt you have a couple of cutting options. You could put a seam in the front of your skirt. This messes with the design lines, but may not be too noticeable, depending on your fabric. That’s what I ended up doing with my lining pieces. The other option is to cut the piece on the cross-grain which is what I did with my main fabric. The pinstripes run horizontal at the center front and to keep it symmetrical, at the center back too.

Inside OutYup, it’s fully-lined. I was worried about having the skirt be two such different fabrics. I really wanted the skirts to move as one. I decided that the best way to achieve this would be to make the dress in such a way that I could stitch the hemline of the skirts together, then sew them to the waist. Being circle skirts, they needed to hang before they could be “hemmed”, so construction was a little bit of a puzzle. I needed to be able to let the skirts stretch without stretching out the waistlines.

I ended up making up the bodice, then cutting two pieces of grosgrain ribbon that were the length of the seamline at the waist. I marked the ribbon with disappearing ink at all the matchpoints (seams and darts).

Making of Flora 1

Then I stitched a length of ribbon to the wrong side of the waistline of each skirt, matching the pleats and seams with the markings on the ribbon.

Making of Flora 2

The ribbon stabilized the skirts while they hung out on my dress form. After a few days, I cut the bottom edges even where they had stretched, and treated the hemline like a facing. I sewed the edges together, then understitched the lining. I left the ribbon on the waistline and sewed it to the bodice. everything matched at the waistline just like it was supposed to.

Changing up the way I did the lining did mean some additional handwork compared to the way the instructions were written. It also meant that I had to sew the back seam in the skirt before I put in my invisible zipper. That isn’t a catastrophe, but it is against every bit of instruction I’ve ever seen about invisible zippers. The handwork attached the lining to the waistline and along the zipper in the skirt.

Inside DetailI’m inordinately pleased with myself about this dress. It turned out lovely inside and out. It is completely different than anything I could probably buy in a store, but without looking weird and homemade.

Final picture: I like this one because I look like I’m up to something sneaky.

Flora 3

Stash-busting Stats: 33/50. 66 yards.





Dress 4

Coach Tour Copycat Dress

During May for The Monthly Stitch, the focus was on knits. I suppose the t-shirts I made for Romeo would have counted, but what I really wanted to make was a copy-cat version of the “Coach Tour Dress” from ModCloth.

Image via Pinterest

I’ve never run across a pattern for a dress exactly like this one, so I combined some patterns with some self-drafting and came up with something pretty close to my inspiration dress.

The most distinctive feature of this dress is the asymmetric collar. I used McCall’s 6796 for the top of the bodice.

The sleeves were part of the McCall’s pattern, though the inspiration dress doesn’t have them. I was hoping for a multi-season dress, so sleeves seemed like a good idea. The waistband and tabs I drafted on my own. The skirt is the Kitschy Coo Lady Skater dress skirt. I slashed and spread the pattern at the waist line it to give it gathers and put a little length on it. The side-seam pockets in the skirt are from the Tiramisu pattern.

The fabric is out of my stash. It’s a cotton/lycra jersey, but not just a jersey, more of a double-knit. I had bought it online thinking it would be a lovely color for a Pavlova top, and it would be, but since it turned out to be a much heftier weight then I was expecting, I decided a wrap top would be too bulky. It’s the perfect dress-weight knit, so I wish I could find more, but like many things bought online with sketchy descriptions, this was a one-in-a-million kind of find.

Hmm. Maybe not the most “flattering” in the conventional sense, but very comfortable, and unlikely to give me a wardrobe malfunction with the high neckline and mid-length skirt. It’s a little too heavy to be a good summer dress, but I think through the rest of the year this will get worn a lot.

Flattering or not, I’m fairly certain that my version fits me better than one of the RTW ones that inspired me would have. If you’ve made a Red Velvet dress or followed along during the sew-along for it, you might have caught the phrase “deep bust adjustment“. A lot of RTW might fit me circumference-wise, but not necessarily length-wise in the bodice, so that empire waisted seamlines often end up crossing my bust-line rather than sitting under it. Since this dress was a mish-mash of patterns, there wasn’t technically a deep bust adjustment, but the same fitting principle still applied. I don’t think the original Coach Tour dress was meant to have an empire waist-line, but I think on me it would have ended up with one.

Stash-busting stats: 32/50 projects. 59 1/2 yards.

It’s OK–He’s With The Band

It seems a long time since I’ve posted. I know there’s all those rules out there about how to run a successful blog, usually involving something about posting on a usual day/multiple times per week, but the only rule that really makes sense to me is that one about only posting if you have something worth sharing. Not that I don’t have things I consider posting that aren’t finished projects, but finding the time to write about the ramblings of my scattered brain is something of a challenge. In lieu of random brain wandering, I bring you my latest project. Not just one finished project, but the foundation of an entire wardrobe, thus the time lag since my last posting.

Flannel 1

After about 2 years of wearing the same clothes/size, Romeo suddenly is growing. His old school/home clothes still keep him covered, but they don’t look quite right. Not to mention that part where he’s managed to put holes in every single pair of jeans he has as he outgrows them. (Those jeans are getting refashioned in an uber-cute Cochella Festival-worthy way that I will try to share later.) I had made Romeo one pair of jeans to check the pattern. Now I’ve made him 4 more using up nearly all of the stretch denim I had in my stash. 3 are exactly alike, with the traditional gold topstitching. Another one has dark blue top-stitching, subtle but classy. (nope, no pics of that one, just one of the gold ones here.)

Flannel 2

The jeans are from Ottobre 1/2014, design #37. I added a little bit of length to the legs to give him some growing room. Also, I added some elastic (7 inches of 1 inch wide) to the back waistband. I anchored it to the waistband facing before stitching the waistband down. He has to wear a belt with the first pair I made for him, but these new ones stay up just fine without being too tight. No one at school has asked him about his jeans, which means that they are completely successful in looking like “normal” (aka ready-to-wear) jeans–the highest acheivement possible for mommy-made clothes.

Flannel 3

On a daily basis Romeo tends to wear layers, usually hoodies, but now his hoodies are getting ever so slightly too small which makes them look a little funny. He really likes Superman, so I thought maybe he’d like a Clark Kent-inspired flannel shirt to wear some of the time, since he’s not the sort to wear a Batsuit around town.

Flannel 4

The shirt is from BurdaStyle 8/2012 #152. The flannel is from my stash, originally from fashionfabricsclub.com. My ulterior motive in making him a flannel shirt was to test the fit of this pattern to see if it would make a better-fitting dress shirt than what I can find for him in ready-to-wear lately. My verdict is yes, absolutely, so I’ll be making him a few of these out of shirting fabric at some point. The plaid matching isn’t perfect, but overall, the shirt turned out pretty spectacularly.Flannel 5

Under the flannel shirt we find Jalie 2918. This is the same shirt as I had made for Pete, since the Jalie patterns have an incredible size range. I’ve made 3 of these so far for Romeo in grey, green, and black. The grey is new fabric, but the others are out of my stash. All of them are Laguna Cotton (95% cotton, 5% spandex). He says they seem extra stretchy compared to his old shirts, but that they are comfortable. I finished them up on Wednesday, and now, two days later, he has already worn all three of them.

Flannel 6

Where did he wear his new outfit? To his first concert, Foster the People. I’ve wanted to see them live for years now, and Guinevere has bestowed upon them the highest honor a 1st-grader can bestow; bucking the opinion of her peers and saying that she likes Foster the People even better than One Direction. Romeo is kind of a laid-back/stoic kind of kid a lot of the time. An expression of absolute enthusiasm for him might be a shoulder-shrug with a “yeah, I guess that’s cool.” When it came time to ask if he wanted a ticket to go to the concert with the rest of the family (minus Ace, because it was a small venue and all general admission so we needed the proportion of kids : parents to be equal) and he shrugged and said “yeah, I guess so” we took that as great excitement on his part and got him a ticket. After passing the security-check, he got tagged with a stamp.

Flannel 7

Portland concert-goers are in-general a lovely group of people. If you ask a couple of girls up against the fence in the front row whether your (short) kid can squeeze in with them, they will say “awww” and let him in. (My kids did have ear plugs which was good because we were right in front of the really giant speakers). At the risk of sounding like a complete Fangirl, it was an awesome show. (totally not zooming in on my phone camera in this pic. We were that close to the stage.)


Romeo’s relaxed ensemble also lends itself to quick getaways if needed, perhaps from adoring fans.

Flannel 8

Maybe none of our family got pulled up on stage or handed a backstage pass (such are the things of idle daydreams), but it doesn’t mean we have to dress less than stage-worthy. Guinevere wore her tiger taffeta skirt with a black t-shirt and denim jacket. I wore my newsprint dress and a denim jacket. (Pete had RTW stuff involving Levis and a black linen button-front shirt) Romeo had the new jeans, flannel shirt, and black t-shirt I made him. He likes piano and he likes to sing, maybe someday he’ll play with a group of his own. He’s got the clothes for it.

Flannel 9

Stash busting stats:  31/50 projects (yes, that’s a giant leap in numbers compared to my last post. 4 new jeans, 2 new t-shirts, one flannel shirt = 7 new finished projects). 57 yards.

Always Be Yourself. Unless You Can Be Batman, Then Always Be Batman

I don’t even know how to preface this project. Maybe a short back-story? Maybe not. Lets just say that Ace (like most children) has an active imagination and loves costumes. Unfortunately, I can’t find Ace lately. Batman seems to have moved in with us, and I’m sure Ace would love to meet him, but I never see them in the same room. So weird. Anyway, we feel extra-safe having Batman around, so I wrote a short story in graphic novel format about our latest adventures at home. I’ll upload the pics to Flickr, so hopefully you can click-through to read them even if you are on a small-ish screen; though, like much super-hero entertainment, a bigger screen is probably better. I hope you enjoy.

The details:

Bat-suit and mask from Burda Style 1/2014 (not yet on their website) size 110 (it fits over his clothes, but he’s on the small size for being nearly 5). The pattern comes with a utility belt, but Pete and I opted to skip the pattern for the belt and put together something special using an old belt that must have come attached to some shorts Pete bought some time ago. I gave it elastic loops to hold the Bat Light and the bubbles. The thing dangling off the front of the belt is a 3′ tape measure with a glow-in-the-dark Bat symbol painted on by Pete. I don’t know what that has to do with Batman, but little boys seem to love having a tape measure handy. (As an aside, I hadn’t realized how good Pete was at free-hand drawing the Bat symbol until he helped with this project) The pocket is slapped together out of quilting cotton and sewn on. Robin-Puppy is held on by a loop of fabric with Velcro so he can be easily attached/detached by Ace without help. Since all the stuff on the belt makes it heavy, I sewed down velcro on the free end of the belt loop and on that side of the belt to give it some extra hold. He hasn’t had it fall down on him yet. There are also cape instructions on the pattern, but I pretty much ignored them and free-handed the cape out of satin I had to make an emergency run to Wal-Mart to buy (how do I not have a stash of black satin?). Robin-Puppy’s mask and cape were also made on the fly with scraps of satin, grosgrain ribbon, and velcro for the cape, and felt/elastic for the mask.

The Bat-suit is made of Laguna cotton jersey, some from my stash, and some from a new piece I had bought to replenish my stash. I may have to stop counting Laguna cotton jersey as stash-busting or hoarding. It seems to be my #1 staple fabric for all purposes.

The shirt Guinevere is wearing just happens to be one I made for her last year and never blogged. It’s mainly made of a shirt Pete wasn’t going to wear anymore, with scraps of Laguna cotton jersey left over from this shirt color-blocked because I didn’t have enough fabric with the way Pete’s shirt was configured. She looks so good in orange it just amazes me.

Stash-busting stats: 24/50 projects. 50 yards.

I never did like the idea of sitting on newspapers. I did it once, and all the headlines came off on my white pants. On the level! It actually happened. Nobody bought a paper that day. They just followed me around over town and read the news on the seat of my pants.

If my first pair of Sew Dolly Clackett dresses were a bright and breezy floral tribute to romance and family, then this dress is the cynical cousin who just can’t seem to find love. If the thought of a stream of June weddings without a steady plus-one to bring along has you repeatedly looking at your cat and shaking your head in disgust, this is the dress for you.

Newsprint Dress 8

I’ve had this quilting cotton in my stash for a few years, just waiting to make up a fluffy dress. It’s one of the most unique prints I’ve ever seen.

Newsprint Dress 1

As you can see, this print is both directional and geometric so the finished garment needed to be designed to accommodate accordingly. I didn’t want to break up the print too much, so I used the By Hand London Anna dress bodice (once again).  I used three widths of fabric for the skirt and pleated it along the print lines, then trimming off the excess at the back, about 4 inches on each side so it would fit the bodice at the waistline. I figured that if I really was using newsprint rather than fabric I would pleat instead of gathering. I tried large box pleats first, but didn’t like them. Modern vintage-look dresses seem to avoid the asymmetry of having the pleats go all the same direction, so pleating it the way I did seems a little extra retro to me.

Newsprint Dress 3

It twirls so nicely.

Newsprint Dress 5

I don’t have a lot to say about dress construction, since it’s so similar to my other Sew Dolly Clackett dress, so I’ll share a story instead. A few years ago I was working for a small local nursing home. We needed to add a nurse to the staff, so a help-wanted ad was put in the newspaper. This was before the recession hit; there weren’t any applicants. I wasn’t in charge of putting the ads in, but the person who was in charge talked it over with a few of us. We brainstormed which led to all kinds of silliness. It was decided that a help wanted ad that read like a used car ad wouldn’t be a good idea. What nurse wants to respond to something that says: “looking for used nurse, high mileage okay, must be extra clean.” A personal ad, though, has potential. You can imagine the look on the Administrator’s face when a month later she got a bill for an ad of which only the first part was listed: “Lonely RN looking for another RN to share…” Someone got hired shortly after the ad ran.

Newsprint Dress 7

I wore this last night for “Cosmic” bowling. It glows quite nicely under a black light. Turns out that bowling while wearing a petticoat is not difficult at all, and it garners plenty of random compliments from strangers.

Stash busting stats: 23/50 projects. 49 yards.