Archive for ‘Dresses’

June 25, 2012

Golden Hills Maxi

Pattern: Self drafted (to achieve a similar look, I’d recommend Jamie Christina’s Mission Maxi)

Fabric: about 2 yards of Ella Moss rayon jersey and tricot swimsuit lining

Notions: Wooly Nylon

Time to Complete: Weeks… but I’ll be able to bust the next one out in a few hours.


Remember this challenge? The one where we tried to sew a style that we wouldn’t normally wear? The one Ina of Sky Turtle inspired? Even though my first dress skirt left much to be desired, I was determined to make this pattern work. After I returned from vacation, I picked it back up with help from my instructor and finished it just in time for the first week of summer!

I’d say the biggest road block to this garment was the fabric. My first version taught me to avoid fabrics with vertical stretch – no one wants to watch the hemline grow throughout the day. I wanted a lightweight fabric with a nice subtle drape that hugged rather than clung. This meant that online shopping was out of the question if I didn’t want to order dozens of swatches. I headed to Stone Mountain Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley and found this knit but I was a little worried about its opacity.  It’s ever so slightly sheer so my instructor suggested lining it with nylon tricot (think swimsuit lining). I was resistant at first (wouldn’t it be hot or itchy?) but I’m so glad I took her advice. I’m not seeing the static cling that I did with my jersey lining and the tricot acts like a lightweight girdle holding me in without restricting me.

Once I had the fabric finalized, the construction of this dress was a breeze – two long seams later, I was ready to think about finishing the neckline and armholes. There are dozens of ways to bind a neckline and the choice can be a bit overwhelming. I’m no expert and I was petrified that I’d stretch the edges out. I tested several samples but finally chose a simple self fabric binding with a narrow coverstitch to secure. I’m so proud of the work as it’s the flattest binding I have ever done. If you’re interested in the method I used, I’d be interested in doing a tutorial.

I’m so happy with this dress and you’ll be seeing many, many more versions to come. For the last few summers, I’ve enviously watched women in their maxi dresses wishing I could pull one off. At 5’1, there’s little chance of finding a dress with the right proportions in the store. For me, this is what sewing is all about. Being able to create any style to match my shape is a dream. When I came out in it for the first time, my husband exclaimed, “it’s as if it were made for you!” He’s always been good with the obvious.

June 20, 2012

Drape Drape No. 13

Pattern: No. 13 from Drape Drape Vol. 1

Fabric: Jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics

Notions: none

Time to Complete: If I added it all up maybe 5 or 6 hours?


I had been in the mood for a high impact but little effort project and this dress delivered! I was a little worried about getting arrested for indecent exposure but it’s surprisingly wearable. I mean, it’s not an everyday garment but it’s not as revealing as I thought it would be. The drape falls beautifully to the back so unless you’re bending down, you’re actually quite covered in the front. While I did end up wearing it over my swimsuit on this particular afternoon, I’m not limiting the dress to the beach. It layers nicely over brightly hued or lacy bandeaus and is perfect for the sweltering weather we’ve been having. While not the most practical garment, it’s so much fun to wear!

The construction is crazy simple. It’s cut from one piece with a seam down the back so the majority of the sewing is in finishing the armholes, neckline, and hem. I finished the neckline and armholes by serging a folded fabric strip to the unfinished edge and then tacking down the seam allowance with the coverstitch. I’m still working on my coverstitch dexterity (especially around curves) but it looks pretty good. There are only two spots (and of course they are front and center on the neckline) that are a little crooked. I also used the coverstitch to finish the hem. I initially thought it might be too sporty for the garment but it blends so nicely and doesn’t interfere with the drape at all.

The book labels the garment as a tunic so I decided to add about 4 inches of length to make it a dress. Absolutely unnecessary! I ended up cutting away all of that excess but it still hits just above my knees. Since the front of the dress is a little shapeless, I’d prefer it even shorter. I’d take it up a few inches but the design tapers and that type of alteration is best dealt with at the pattern level. There’s always next time! One good thing – I’m confident that I’ll be able to fit into any of these designs despite being several inches larger than the XL.

My favorite part of the garment has to be the fabric. This poly/lycra blend is like no other jersey I have ever felt. It doesn’t cling like I’ve come to expect from poly-knits and it has the most wonderful texture that Ann describes as “spongy”. It drapes beautiful with a substantial weight but doesn’t feel heavy to wear. There are only 9 yards left at Gorgeous Fabrics so nab this one while you can. I would buy it in every color if it weren’t a one and only!

I’ve been a bit knit obsessed lately and it’s not going to stop any time soon! I’ve been getting so much use out of my new serger and now that I’m more familiar with the machine I owe you all a good solid review of the Bernina 1300MDC. For those of you who have asked about the machine, are there particular features that you’d like to hear about?

June 4, 2012

Silk, Cotton, Sand

Pattern: Self drafted

Fabric: Silk/Cotton from Stone Mountain Daughter Fabrics

Notions: Elastic for the waist

Time to Complete: This project had way, WAY too many muslins!


We just returned from Ambergris Caye, Belize. It was a great week of playing in the sun and sea – lots of snorkeling and some scuba diving, too! We hadn’t been diving in years and I had forgotten how much I love it. Since returning home, we’ve visited all the local dive shops in hopes of getting back in the water soon. Regardless, the vacation came at the right time and I’m feeling much more relaxed. It was so nice to get outdoors and spend some time in the sun. While there, I couldn’t help myself and took some pictures of my new sundress. I’ve been so excited to show them to you!

This dress is part of a two dress project at school. I wanted to create a lightweight sundress that’s easy to slip on and off at the beach but could still look put together at dinner. The dress features a scoop neckline, a subtle asymmetrical hem (although these pictures are making me think it’s a little too subtle), and a gathered waist with elastic casing. The neckline and armhole are bound with self made bias tape. This particular one is unlined but I can see including a lining in other versions.

The drafting of this project took way too long for something so simple. It took me a while to figure out that the neckline dart that I added to prevent gaping in the lowered neckline had pulled the waistline and dart apex up. To be honest, I didn’t want to include a dart – I thought it would look bulky with the gathered bodice – but my instructor insisted that one should be there. I still don’t agree because when worn it has a tendency to wrinkle and isn’t necessary for building a cup. Oh well, I can always change this outside of class.

Despite everything being in its right place, I still couldn’t decide if I liked the garment. Muslin is difficult for me to look past and I eventually caved and made it up in some fashion fabric. I purchased this yardage at Stone Mountain Daughter in the sale section for my spring wardrobe but never found the time to make something. I was thrilled that I could make this up before our trip and it was a really lovely piece to have on the beach.

Now for some catching up on my reader – can’t wait to hear what you all have been up to!

February 6, 2012

A Purple Dress

Pattern: Self drafted

Fabric: Midweight wool/poly blend from, bemberg rayon from my stash

Notions: Invisible zipper, a couple of yards of lace trim

Time: Maybe about 8 hours total. There was some hand stitching to be done.


I’ve been so excited to share this dress with you! After making up the first muslin for my someday dress, I started thinking about what type of skirt I’d like to add to it. My first thought was some form of circle skirt but since I don’t own anything like this, I wondered how much wear it would see. I started by rummaging through my stash to find some yardage that wasn’t already tagged for something. I had picked up this wool blend from in December at 25% off for another dress and quickly realized that it was just too heavy for what I originally had in mind. It was perfect for a wearable muslin though!

I drafted a simple bodice to go with a half circle skirt. I took my notes from my last dress and drafted the body with only 1/4″ of ease. I probably would have taken it to 0″ but I wanted to leave some room for the bulkiness of the wool. After cutting out the pattern, I had second thoughts about the simplicity of the bodice and started brainstorming for some details that I could add. I’ve been seeing all these great cut outs (particularly in back bodices) on Pinterest and wanted to try my hand at it. Since I had already cut the pattern, I was limited on what I could do but finally settled on leaving the back seam open until the neckline.

Having never done something like this before, I wasn’t entirely sure how to go about it. I ended up attaching some lace trim to the right side of the seam allowance (remember that I had a seam allowance for the zipper). I then turned the seam allowance to the back and handstitched the lace to the lining. The top is secured with a small ribbon at the neckline. Now that it is all done, I’ve learned that I would have gotten a better fit by taking the back bodice to negative ease at the armholes to prevent the gaping that you see in the bottom picture. That being said, I think it fits quite well for a trial garment and the gaping you see is as bad as it gets.

The design is surprisingly wearable. I wondered if the back would make me feel really exposed and worried about the taste level but I was amazed at how comfortable I felt it in. I ended up wearing it to the movies with friends and everyone gave me such wonderful compliments. There is one downfall. As you might imagine, the material is rather warm while the cut is not. It’s possible that I’ll only get a few weeks of wear out of it each year. Then again, we’ve been having such wild weather here that I could be wearing it all spring. I’m going to play around with layering different shirts under it to see if that’s a good way to get more from the dress.

I realize that I’ve been on a bit of a dress kick lately. I wonder if my subconscious knows that another challenge is looming and that its desire to sew up pretty little dresses will be squelched soon. I know I’m not alone when I say that I love sewing dresses and could probably be quite satisfied never sewing another garment type again. Unfortunately with my lifestyle it just isn’t realistic. I don’t, and won’t, wear a dress everyday no matter how many of them I try to cram into my closet!

So, the half circle skirt was a success! I know I wouldn’t want any more fullness but I might try out a quarter circle to see what that would be like. I’m getting some help on the sweetheart/opera neckline at school and I figure that I’ll use the design for one of my “final” projects. Slowly but surely, the dress is coming along.

January 24, 2012

My Polka Dot Confection

Pattern: Self drafted version based of Colette Truffle
Fabric: 2 1/2 yards of rayon shirting (it has a really nice slubbed texture that isn’t shown in these pictures) and 1 yard of white cotton lawn
Notions: No, eliminated zipper
Time: once the first muslin, the drafting, and the second muslin were finished… 5 hours.

I’ve been in a bit of a sewing slump since my last wardrobe challenge ended. It’s strange not having a clear plan to sew from – I get so easily paralyzed by all the creative directions that I could take and I’m not nearly as productive as I’d like to be. I gave myself a week to just be but finally it was time to get moving again.

Since receiving my copy of the Colette Sewing Handbook, I knew that I wanted to make Truffle. It’s feminine and fun while still maintaining a crisp and tailored look.  I traced off the pattern in early January before I even had an idea of the fabric I wanted to use. However, the muslin showed that I had a lot to fix – a small bust adjustment, taking in the upper sides while letting out the waist, and shortening the bodice back length were the biggest issues but certainly not the only ones. I tried my best but I quickly become frustrated by the amount of work and decided to scrap the original pattern and draft my own instead. My patternmaking classes are starting again in February (I took a leave in November for our trip to Vietnam) and this was a nice exercise to get me familiar with the process again. The neckline could still be lower and wider but all in all I think I did a pretty good job at recreating the look.

Since I decided to leave out the back zipper I needed to leave about 2″ of ease in the bodice so that I could slip it over my head without help. I go back and forth on whether this was a good idea. I find that dresses without zippers get more use in my wardrobe. More than likely it’s the added ease and not the lack of zipper that sways me! That 1 1/2″ to 2″ gives me enough room to move around but I still feel gussied up because I’m in a dress. However, looking at the photos, I do wish that the bodice was more fitted and I don’t think the rayon helps. It definitely has a tendency to sag at the waistline whereas the muslin had enough structure to stay “up”. Or at least that’s what I think is going on. It’s certainly not something I had thought of when I started the project.

The sewing process was pretty uneventful. I started with french seams on the bodice lining but when it came to the self fabric the rayon shirting was fraying like crazy so I pulled out the serger. My serger has been on the fritz (I think there might be a short in the pedal) but it pulled it together long enough for me to put the body together. Since I eliminated the back seam, I needed a way to finish the armholes so I grabbed out Lynda Maynard’s The Dressmaker’s Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques and tried out her baby french binding. I’ve wanted to try it since I took a class from her last summer and I’m so glad I finally did. It’s similar to a turned in bias binding and although this particular go around isn’t perfect but I can see how easy and clean it could be.

So my forced creation turned out to be a success but it did nothing for my slump. Now that it’s finished I’m back to wondering where to go next.

January 11, 2012

Sew Weekly: Accessorize

Although many of you are readers of The Sew Weekly, I thought I’d mention that I’m a contributor this year and yesterday I was featured for the weekly theme! Jump on over to read about my version of Chloe from Victory Patterns.

December 16, 2011

5. The Art Nouveau Dress

I’m finally posting pictures nearly two weeks after finishing this garment! The lack of light and a crammed schedule made it rather difficult to get some shots for you all but I finally succeeded.

I go back and forth on how I feel about the dress. It’s a great vehicle for color and with the right belt and accessories it can be quite cute on. However, I don’t seem to gravitate towards it and I fear it might be forgotten in my closet.  I’m hoping that once it warms up around here, I might feel more inclined to wear the dress. The sleeves are an awkward fit with coats and you can forget about a cardigan – the ease in this dress is just too bulky. I’m going to keep experimenting with styling the dress but there’s just something about it that isn’t all that flattering.

The first time I made Pattern Runway’s Kimono Dress pattern, the fabric was heavier with more drape and hugged my curves for a much more flattering look. I think the pattern either needs a lofty, ethereal fabric or one with significant heft like my 4 ply. This poly crepe from Gorgeous Fabrics doesn’t fit into either of these categories.

It’s too bad really because I was so in love with this yardage when it came in the mail a few months ago. It immediately reminded me of art nouveau posters and graphics. If I could do it all over, I would take this original inspiration further and incorporate the fashion at the turn of the century into the dress design. I’m afraid I picked the wrong fabric for the pattern and the wrong pattern for the fabric.

October 14, 2011

Belle De Jour

 Pattern: Belle De Jour from Sew-U Home Stretch

Fabric: 2 yards Cotton Jersey from the remnant bin


This is my first foray into knit fabrics! I was bummed about missing my class on Tuesday but I decided to do something unexpected and cut this dress out. I was amazed at how fast this project went together and had the dress finished in a few hours. I used my serger for the majority of the project except for the topstitching around the neckline, the cuffs, and the hem; for those, I used a twin needle. The neckline stretched a little in the process and it’s a bit wavy as a result. I learned from this though and made the stitch length longer on the other two areas.

I’m happy with the results but I’ll admit it’s not something I would normally purchase. First, the color is a little too cutesy for me. It’s also rather revealing and it hugs me around the middle where I’m most self conscious. However, I think it will work nicely for work where I wear an apron. I’m always looking for something comfy that I can move in and I’m not worried about getting dirty.

I can’t wait to try my hand at more knits and I’ll definitely be using more of the pattern variations from the book!

In other news…

My Blouse was a featured member project on Burda yesterday! I’m super flattered – thank you everyone for your kind words in the comments both here and over at Burdastyle. It’s so nice to receive such awesome support from the online sewing community!

October 7, 2011

1. The New Sarafan

Pattern:  Pattern Runway’s Sundress

Fabric: 2.5 yards of black silk noil and 1 yard of black silk habotai from Dharma Trading

Notions: 14 inch invisible zipper (should have made it longer like the pattern suggested)

Total Cost: about $40


I picked this pattern up after my success with Pattern Runway’s kimono sleeve dress. I had hoped to bust out a version in vintage gingham before the weather turned but time snuck past me and we ended up with early rain. Rather than wait until next summer, I decided to go against the instructions and use a medium weight silk noil. It has that distinctive silk scent like a cup of earthy black tea. The finished product reminds me of Russian sarafans and I plan to layer it over  long sleeved blouses this winter.

In accordance with my challenge, I’ve chosen to focus on texture for this dress. Silk noil is made from the short fibers leftover after spinning. It has a nobby texture that resembles an old pilled sweater. I anticipate the rough hand pairing nicely with a smooth fabric like charmeuse but today I’ve layered it with a sheer chiffon.

Having a short torso, I know I have to make adjustments in the bodice for princess seamed garments. Despite knowing this, I was ansy to get started and decided to skip the muslin. As expected the bodice has some fit issues. I was able to bring in the side seams at the underarms to prevent gaping but I really should have taken off 1/2″ of length at the waist. In addition, the back armholes could loose 1/2″ at the shoulders. Since I plan on layering this, I’m not too concerned but if when I sew this next summer in a lighter fabric I’ll need to make these changes. If you plan on making this yourself, the good news is you won’t have to make the entire thing in muslin. I recommend just cutting the bodice and the waistband since the skirt is gathered and, as such, is more forgiving to small changes. 

Overall, I really enjoyed working with this pattern. As with the other Pattern Runway garments, the instructions were great and everything went together quickly. I used my serger to finish the seams even though the bodice is lined; the silk noil unravels and I was worried about those princess seams. Speaking of which, the princess seams that extend into the skirts pockets are adorable and I love the gathering detail. My one complaint, and it’s a relatively easy fix, is that the zipper is exposed inside. We went to all this trouble to line the garment and the zipper really should be sandwiched in between the lining and the self fabric.

Next up… Burda 09/2011 #128. I have it on the table ready to cut!

September 1, 2011

Feeling Good in Your Skin

Pattern: Kimono Sleeve Dress from Pattern Runway, $9.50

Fabric: 4 ply silk crepe purchased at Satin Moon Fabrics in San Francisco

Notions: 1 shank button from stash, silk organza for interfacing

Cost: I’m embarrassed to admit this but about $120


Like I said yesterday, this is my favorite finished garment to date. It was so satisfying to make and even more satisfying to wear. This is the type of dress that makes your feel good in your skin. Here’s the low down on the process:

Since I did a run through with muslin last week, there weren’t any surprises this time around. I can’t say enough good things about Pattern Runway’s products. The assembly of the pattern was made really easy with little paper ledges and graph lines. The instructions were straight forward with diagrams where needed. If you get stuck there is also a tutorial on the blog that has step by step pictures. This project has really changed my mind about print at home patterns and I already have plans to make the sleeveless sundress before fall gets here.

I made an error in judgment by cutting out the pattern late Friday night. The combination of poor lighting and a tired seamstress could have ended in disaster but (thankfully) I only fouled up in cutting the skirt portion. One of the edges was off kilter when I went to examine it the next morning and I spent some time pulling threads trying to get the pieces on grain. I’m so thankful that I decided to cut the length as printed because otherwise I wouldn’t have had length to sacrifice.

In addition to not cutting at midnight, I’d lay out some cotton flannel underneath to give me better control. The fabric isn’t as shifty as charmeuse or chiffon but it isn’t as stable as cotton either. I didn’t have any flannel so I chose to use pins in lieu of pattern weights, my normal method. The pins added some bulk in places so the cut wasn’t accurate. This didn’t affect the garment though.

Although most of this was mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m going to repeat it here so that it is all in one place. I used a 2.6mm stitch for construction with Mettler mercerized cotton thread. I finished the seams by hand overcasting using silk thread and blanket stitch. I chose a braided no-roll elastic which was heavy enough to hold up the skirt. For the hem, I used my machine blind stitch. Although the average person won’t notice, you can see the prick stitches on the right side. If I were to use this fabric again, I would blind hem by hand.

To interface the facings, I decided to go with silk organza. I wanted the crispness without interfering with the drape and it came out as desired. If you’d like a sleeve that is less pronounced at the top, you might consider using a silk georgette for the sleeve facings.

I varied from the given instructions in two places. One, I reinforced the underarm with a row of stitching an 1/8″ from the seam line at the curve and then clipped the curve. Two, when I overcast the sleeve facings I took a few prick stitches along the way to anchor the facing because, even with the understitching, it kept peaking out. Other than that my construction followed that of Pattern Runway’s.

The dress feels so good on and is really comfortable to wear. Any wrinkles from sitting down are quickly released within a few minutes of standing. The style is great for both day and evening wear with a quick change of accessories and shoes. Depending on the culture, it could also be work appropriate. Just imagine it with a belted waist, some sensible shoes, and a blazer! I have a feeling that I’m going to be living in this dress.