Friday, March 18, 2016

Finished Project: Vintage Simplicity 7683

This dress and I had a history before I even wore it. As soon as I saw this copy of the 1960s pattern sitting on a shelf at the antique shop, I was like YES. A few months after bringing it home (two years ago) I got to work sewing it up. I had found the perfect fabric at my local thrift store -- well, when I say fabric, I mean pillow cases. It was a set of huge, old, king-size pillow cases in the cutest pastel floral print. I'd been wanting to try sewing with bed linens for a while -- they're soft, come in fun prints, are easy to sew with, and the price is right. They can be super cheap when you can find used pieces in good condition at the thrift store!

This was my chance: great fabric + great pattern = great dress. Right?

A photo posted by Sue (@sue1656) on

A photo posted by Sue (@sue1656) on

I guess the answer is sometimes... or, maybe in due time? Either way, this one took a while. I'd cut all the pieces out, interfaced where needed, sewn the shoulder seams, attached the collar and neckline facings, started on the button placket, and then totally given up. It was one of those times when you read and re-read the instructions, then try to execute them but things are not matching up and you cannot figure out why. After an afternoon of that joyful experience every sewist is familiar with, I decided it was time to give it a rest. I just wasn't going to get it then and I needed to revisit it later. I didn't know that "later" would turn into two years.

While reorganizing my sewing space in a bout of pre-spring cleaning, I came across the poor unfinished object (UFO) in a drawer and decided it was time to take another look. It turns out I had sewn two edges of the button placket structure together that were meant to stay separate. Makes no sense unless you've sewn this pattern, but I think you get the idea that it was just one little mistake that was holding me back. Once I realized what I'd done, I carefully followed the instructions and finished up the dress.

I pulled matching lavender buttons from my stash. They were a bit smaller than recommended, so I spaced them out and added an extra one to the placket. They match the purple in the fabric perfectly! I forewent facings for the armholes and used bias tape to finish those. I'd thought I was being so smart when cutting out the fabric because I'd let the hem of the pillowcase be the hem of the dress. Once I tried it on, it was way too long, and the side seams were wonky because they should've been a little curved/angled (a-line shift skirt shape). I ended up chopping off all the pre-hemmed length and doing a tiny hem with more bias tape as a facing. Thank goodness I was able to make it so tiny because I managed to chop off a bit too much skirt length, and made this mini dress a super-mini.

I can live with the short length, and the fact that the dress is a little too small in other areas, too (since I cut it out so long ago, my measurements have changed). Now I'm just delighted to be able to remove it from my Fails list from this old post and am loving the final look. The fun fabric and buttons and cute collar make me happy every time I look at them!

I'm already dreaming up another version of this dress with some printed cotton from my fabric stash, next time I'll leave slightly smaller seam allowances to give myself a little extra room, since it's a single-size vintage pattern.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Finished Project: A Wearable BHL Elisalex Muslin

Here I am, sneaking around in the wearable muslin that has resulted from my Elisalex party dress journey, so far! I'll admit to having lost a bit of momentum when my sewing no longer had a deadline, since I skipped my company party to fly across the country and meet my new nephew! #soworthit. Now, spring is basically here and my mind is drifting off to summery sundresses and skirts, so, I've resigned myself to a slow, intermittent march on the sparkly party dress front.

That's good, because I'm not quite ready to slice into my real deal fabric just yet -- the sleeves came out weird and I'll need your help!

First, let's review. I tried to replicate the short sleeved view shown on the pattern illustration & photography, though the sleeve pattern piece was not actually made for that shorter sleeve length (BHL is fixing this). I took off a few inches from the half-sleeve length provided. I also perfected my princess seam construction technique -- not hard, but different than the weak approach I'd been trying on previous projects. I sewed the size that corresponded to my waist measurement, and did a full bust adjustment to get the chest to fit right. For the skirt, I took about 1/2" out of each side seam of the dramatic, curved hip shape, and shortened the skirt several inches (lost count), though I think it's still a bit too long. I finished the neckline, sleeve hems, and skirt hem with satin bias tape facings, and skipped adding a lining. I don't love invisible zippers, so I used a vintage regular zip in the center back.

I really like parts of this dress, but others I'm not so sure about. I love the fabric, and the front and back necklines -- actually the whole bodice (apart from the sleeves/shoulders). I like the idea of the skirt, but I'm now finding I'm just not sold on this exact shape. I'd initially been drawn to it, and I can't quite seem to come up with a better shape, so, perhaps an even more reduced hip curve would do the trick. I'm thinking that if I underline the skirt with organza, like SewHopeful did, the dramatic shape will sit more nicely and appear intentional instead of the weird vibe I'm getting now.

Here's where I need your help! as you can see in the photos, the armscye is weird. Wearing the dress, the armholes feel surprisingly tight, and the neckline slips off towards the edge of my shoulders, like the dress is trying to eject me at the shoulders. It feels too small and yet also like there's an excess of fabric all at the same time. My first idea is to make the armholes a bit bigger by adding a little to the side seams of the bodice/armhole pieces as well as the sleeves, to give me more room around the armpit and help the sleeve hang better -- but what about the shoulder? It feels sort of like I need to move the shoulder/sleeve cap seam back up onto my shoulder (somehow?!) and then, what? Would that end up moving excess fabric across the upper bodice toward the center back, and cause the back neckline to gape?

I've seen similar-looking sleeve/armpit fabric bunching in other versions of the sleeved Elisalex out in the SBC, and some bloggers note they've done a forward shoulder adjustment, and then also taken a chunk out of the back neckline. How do you know if you need a forward shoulder adjustment?

I suppose I could try this and just see what happens, but I'm skeptical! It just doesn't seem like this armhole shape wants sleeves. In the far right photo below, it looks like the sleeve cap is too voluminous for the armhole? Is that a totally separate issue? Oy!

I'm not quite sure, at this point. What do you guys think? I'm happy to wear this test version as is, but I'd hate to cut into my nicer, sparkly fabric before figuring this out. Perhaps giving it some more time and a revisit at a later date will help. Any comments, tips, or ideas you can offer are much appreciated!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Finished Project: Testing The Nita Wrap Skirt

Wait, this isn't an Elisalex dress or a men's shirt?!!

That's right, we've veered off plan a bit. Today I'm sharing my test version of the latest pattern offering from Beth of Sew DIY, the Nita Wrap Skirt. Surprise!

This is the first time I've helped a designer test a pattern, and I enjoyed the process. As there's a deadline, I'd be nervous to test something more complicated, but this beginner-friendly wrap skirt was great. As a selected tester, I got a PDF copy of the test version of the pattern for free, in exchange for my time and effort sewing it up and providing feedback. 

I appreciate Beth's design for this simple skirt. It's fitted at the waist and hips, but the wrap style offers more freedom of movement than a pencil skirt, which feels great, and the diagonal line of the wrap opening is sleek and interesting. It definitely fills a hole in my pattern library!

no explanation for this pose; it just felt right .

I sewed View A, the shortest option, in a straight size 14 and didn't need to grade between sizes. The finished skirt fit without any tweaks, another benefit of sewing an adjustable wrap skirt.

One of my favorite things about the skirt, other than its wardrobe workhorse potential, is that it provides a fun way to show off  bold prints or fabric colors that aren't necessarily flattering to your skin-tone (like mustard for me; so fun, but so ugly) -- attributes I'd previously relegated to sewing non-apparel, like throw pillows and bags. With bold prints in mind, I finally pounced on this black and white Cotton + Steel fern print I'd been eyeing since its release, and I really like the way it worked for this skirt. 

Just ignore the grey-ish tone, as it was a gloomy day and black fabric is notoriously annoying to photograph, so, these were all lightened a little.

The instructions are clear and straightforward, as you'd expect, and even break out separate steps for the lining. I did opt to go the lining route and used some dark purple-blue bemberg rayon from my stash. I tend to stock up on the stuff. It's pretty much the only type of lining I ever want to use; it feels wonderful but isn't as pricey as silk!

All in all, I would absolutely recommend this skirt as a quick, fun project for an experienced sewist, or as a great beginner project for a sewing newbie. It's my first time using one of Beth's patterns and her thoughtful design and instructions made this project a breeze. Next time I'm in need of a quick creative project, I might try the Nita Wrap Skirt in denim or eyelet. Can you tell I'm ready for Summer?