Blue Flowered Birthday Dress

I think I’ve mentioned how every year I like to sew myself a birthday dress. This year was no exception.

I used Sprout Patterns once more, and this time chose a dress I’ve had my eye on since the very beginning. This pattern is the Anna Dress by By Hand London. It is super simple to put together, but still feels elegant without being intimidating.

I think my favorite thing about this dress is that I made mistakes all over the place, but because its got simple lines and a relaxed flow you can’t even tell. Most obvious, I wasn’t paying attention and bought the wrong size zipper. Which I didn’t even notice until midnight the day before I wanted to wear it, no craft stores open now! (As a sideline, I’ve always wanted to start a business that makes craft supply vending machines for moments like this.)

What do you do when you only have 9″ of zipper to close up 22″ of back seam? You modify the dress to have an open key hole back! I simply inserted the zipper in the 9 inches of the narrowest part of the waist, cut out a curve in the rest of the back seam, and put a button at the top! Its even a self-fabric covered button, because I had a few left over from a previous project.

Its not a perfectly fitted alteration, but it works for the casual look I wanted anyways. And besides, thats not even the worst of it. Halfway through I mixed up the skirt panel pieces, and discovered way too late that I had attached them in the wrong order, with the front three halfway around the back. Can you tell? Not a bit! I’m pretty sure the front seams were supposed to line up with the pleat lines in the bodice, but oh wait, I kind of screwed those up too.

And yet, with all that, I love this dress. Its obviously hugely forgiving of mistakes, you can put it together half asleep and still look incredible.

Christmas in the 80’s

Our work party this year was themed “The 80’s.” And snarky costumer that I am, I said to myself “I don’t really want to dress like the 80’s. I was alive for them, they weren’t all THAT long ago. I’d rather do something crazy like…. the EIGHTEEN EIGHTIES.” Luckily, I have a boyfriend who was totally willing to go along with it.

I was so pleased with myself that one of those photos became our New Years card. The party was truly wonderful, and the team who put it together did a great job. They even had little instant polaroid cameras everyone could play with. These now have proud places on my desk.

I promise you some excellent real quality photos of the actual costumes whenever I get a chance. But to tide you over, here’s some sloppy shots of my hair, which I was actually pretty proud of doing all on my own.

Halloween Fun

I was a little worried about Halloween this year. What with life being so busy, and spending all of September in Berlin, I hadn’t had time to come up with another brilliant amazing idea (if I do say so myself), much less SEW it. But it all turned out well in the end, even if I did cheat a little bit.

If you remember, I sewed a pretty amazing pickle dress for the Science of Sour event. It was such a beautiful dress, it needed to get worn again. So, I decided to be a pickle fairy!

What’s a pickle fairy, you ask? Its an excuse to wear a pickle dress with pickle themed jewelry and wave around a pickle fork as a wand, and hand out sour pickles to people at parties which are usually devoted solely to consuming as many overly sweet things as possible. With glitter. And yes, that is dill in my hair, with a tiny cocktail fork.

The pickle fork was actually the trickiest part of this costume. Who would have thought that such a specifically useless piece of flatware would be so difficult to find? Luckily there’s a place nearby called Replacements, Ltd whose purpose in life is to supply you with an exact match for that teacup you broke from your grandmother’s teaset, or the silver fork that got lost, etc etc. If you’re ever in central North Carolina you need to go find this place. It is part gigantic warehouse of old plates and forks and cups, all documented and findable, and part MUSEUM OF THINGS. Like collectable teacup sets with Elvis Presley on them, or strange porcelain people, or fantastically expensive wedgwood things. Anyways, go there.

They also had pickle forks, thank goodness. I couldn’t decide between two forks, so I got both. One from 1910, one from 1900, both silver plate, and long, and shiny, and curvy. Perfect for wands.

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My favorite part of this costume turned out to be the jewelry. The best part about working at such a creative place are the trades. Yes, I will absolutely trade you a woven scarf for a pretty hand carved hair piece. I’m looking for some pickle jewelry, of course I’ll do some sewing for you… So yes, I got to commission some hand made themed jewelry on the spot. And oh did they ever turn out PERFECT.

Yes, she printed out tiny vintage pickle labels. And yes, she molded each individual tiny pickle. And yes, the jars have real liquid in them and the pickles move around a bit when you turn them. I can not imagine more perfect and beautiful jewelry. I mean look how tiny they are, that is my THUMBNAIL in the picture, compared to the jar for this earring.

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Altering the Alder: Sprout hacks

I wrote a post for the Sprout Patterns blog where I dramatically alter a garment using their service. I’ve wrote about it before, but Sprout Patterns is a really cool project and product I’ve been able to work with. They use Spoonflower to print a sewing pattern directly on the fabric. Think about that, no pinning tissue paper, no tracing lines, just simply cut out the pieces!

You should absolutely go read what I wrote in the two part blog posts here:

Altering the Alder: Part 1, Adding Darts

Altering the Alder: Part 2, Adding Sleeves

But if you really just want the eye-candy, here’s some awesome photos of the dress I created. You can also read my review of this pattern here: Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress ★★★★

Here are three photos that show the stages of alterations I worked with. The first is the shirt directly following the pattern. The second photo shows the difference some added darts can make. And the final dress has drafted petal sleeves.

I frequently wish I could see the INSIDES of dresses that inspire me. So in the future I’m also going to try to include construction photos, and inside out photos of garments I’m really proud of.

Monet’s Water Lilies

A few months ago I saw a random image on pinterest of a model posing in an artist’s studio, and I absolutely fell in love with the dress she was wearing. After searching the internet for awhile, I could find nothing about the dress in question. Even with no information to go on, I wanted to recreate it, so I did.

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Artist Marc Chagall posed model Ivy Nicholson in his studio.

There weren’t many higher quality versions of the photo, so I couldn’t get a whole lot of details about the design on the fabric. I chose to make my version out of a print of Monet’s water lilies. Its not exactly right, but I love the effect it creates.

Finding the right pattern was tough too. I eventually settled on heavily modifying the Vogue 8997 dress. It closed with a zipper in the back, instead of buttons down the front. But the neckline was close enough, and it had the fitted bodice with wider skirt I was looking for. I reviewed this pattern here: Vogue Dress V8997 ★★★★★

Since I was going to be changing this dress’s structure in a fairly dramatic way, I did what I so rarely do and actually made a muslin first. Madness, I know! I didn’t actually use muslin fabric for my muslin, haha. Since I have spoonflower, I created a “graph paper” design that I really thought would help me layout the pieces, check that everything is on grain, measure it right on the fabric. It helped a lot, and its an idea I think I’ll keep using in the future when I effectively want to draft a dress from scratch, or modify a given pattern.

Please forgive the horrible lighting in the next few photographs. I was trying to get this dress ready to wear to a friend’s wedding, and didn’t actually take the time to take good pictures while making the dress.
First I laid the stupid tissue pieces out on my mock up fabric (I’m so spoiled by Sprout Patterns at this point). I traced my modifications in permanent marker, and then cut out the pieces.

Then I basted all the pieces together, and played with the fit until I liked out how my button band modifications worked out. Then I used the mockup pieces to cut out my real fabric.

I am well and truly pleased with this dress. Its not perfect, it has some sloppy places that I wish I’d been able to take my time to do right. But it is gorgeous on its own, and I like how close I was able to get to my inspiration dress.

Sprout Hacks with the Alder Shirtdress

So the one big fear everyone has with Sprout Patterns is that since the pattern is directly printed on the fabric, you feel like you can’t make alterations, can’t fit it exactly, can’t sew “outside the lines” as it were. Dramatic alterations? Maybe not, but you can definitely get good sizing, and make modest alterations with sprout patterns. These dresses prove it!

Both of these dresses are made with Grainline Studio’s Alter Shirtdress patterns through sprout patterns. Now, the Alder Shirtdress is a very straight silhouette, almost smock-like. I, however, have lovely wide hips, and without a little definition around the waist, a dress like that would look like a tent on me. But I still loved the concept of the shirt dress, light and summery, and I thought it would be amazing in the poly crepe de chine. So I when I ordered in through sprout patterns, I ordered a size larger than my hips would normally dictate. After constructing the dress, I added four vertical darts in the bodice, two in the front and two in the back.

This added just enough definition around the waist that the dress curves with my curves that instead of hanging awkwardly and making me look wide, it looks like a lightly fitted shirt dress. Just what I wanted! The contrast fabric in the collar is perfect and adds that little detail that makes this feel like a custom made dress, not something I’d find in a store. And check out those buttons I found! (Fabric design byrochelle_new)

“Just added darts” you say?! That sounds hard! They’re not even in the pattern! How did you draft them? I didn’t. Does that sound wild? Its really not that crazy. I learned this method from a friend, and it is truly so obvious and easy. Want to add darts in any garment ever? Simply put it on inside out. Find where you feel like the dress has extra fabric, isn’t fitting right, or could do with some structure. Pinch that extra fabric between your fingers, move it around, shift until I feels right and then pin it together. (Sometimes its easier to do this WITH a friend, especially if you’re trying to add back darts.)

Once you’ve gotten enough pins in place, you’ve got effectively folds of fabric sticking away from the dress, but its not too tight and moves well, puts some basting stitches along those pins. Pull out the pins, and put the dress on right side out. Does it look like what you wanted? Excellent, sew along the basting stitches, you’ve now draped your own darts! Does it not look quite right? Back to inside out and shift-y pinching, draping fabric. Do it until you feel good.

“But how do you make both the darts exactly the same?!” I don’t. My body is not exactly symmetrical, why should my darts be? It takes a little practice to be sure, and sometimes my first try ends up with weird puckering, or a skewed dart. But in general, this method works GREAT for me for minor alterations, fitting well, and good structure.

This method worked so well for the first dress I made (the purple one) I had to have a second Alder dress. The first dress was out of poly crepe de chine, its flowy, its light, its a dramatic piece. But I felt like this dress could also be completely different. A different fabric, with a little more structure, a different design style, this could be a completely different dress. So I ordered it again, out of the cotton lawn, with an adorable design I’ve had my eye on for awhile with a crumpled paper texture and cute line-drawings of cities. (Fabric design by leighr)

I used the same method as the first time with adding darts to the front and back of the dress, and I liked it, but the dress was just missing that something different. I wanted this dress to have a bit more, structure than the first. With the fabric design, I almost wanted architecture. I decided, what I wanted was sleeves. Wait, the Alder Shirtdress pattern doesn’t come with sleeves! So? The armsyces are pretty basic normal armsyces. I’ve got a basic short sleeve pattern piece around here, yep, it looks like it’d work. Yep, there’s definitely enough printed scrap fabric included with the Sprout Patterns fabric, I can fit two short sleeve pieces out of the extra. Will it work? Let’s find out!

In the end, yes, I love it. The short sleeves add that just extra bit that makes this dress feel very different than the first. The cotton lawn has more body and the dress stands out and holds its own shape while still being soft and comfortable.

These dresses prove to me that you can still modify Sprout Patterns dresses and make them your own. You’re not stuck “sewing within the lines.” You can take a basic pattern and modify it in crazy different ways. It doesn’t take much to change the “attitude” of a dress.

I also wrote a review of this pattern here: Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress ★★★★

Sprout Spring Birthday Dress

So every year I sew a birthday dress for myself. The weather starts turning warm, spring flowers bloom, my favorite daffodils turn their faces to the sunshine, and I have a new fun dress!

This year I decided to take advantage of an awesome Sprout Patterns promotion, and try out the Colette Monetta at a discount! (They’re running this discount for the full month of march! Go get it!)

This dress was so fun and so easy to sew! With the fancy sprout product, I was able to take this dress from un cut fabric, to a fully finished garment in just two hours and six minutes. Slice slice with a rotary cutter, zoom zoom with my serger, out pops a dress!

I wrote a review of this pattern here: https://dressinsouciantly.com/2016/03/25/colette-moneta-dress-pattern-review/

Happy birthday to me!

I also spent some time playing with chalk art to create a cute sign for the kegs we got for the party. Mm, local beer!

Sprout Patterns Blouse

This blouse was another excellent project I completed from Sprout Patterns.

The biscanye blouse is a simple and elegant pattern. The collar and placket add a touch of interest and detail, without too much complication. The instructions were very simple to follow, and easy to get a clean nice result. I left out the welt pocket this time around, but I love the option to add it in.

I reviewed this pattern here: Hey June Handmade Biscayne Blouse ★★★★

The fabric is spoonflower’s poly crepe de chine, which is always one of my favorites. It has such a light flowy drape, but still a crisp hand. The fabric was designed by scrummy things, and is unique and colorful without being quite as far “weird” as I frequently like to go.

This blouse is comfortable and flattering, and perfect for the office, or can be dressed up for a night out. It turned out great, and I’m definitely a fan!

The Cat’s Pajamas

The moment I saw the tulip-like construction on the back of these pajamas, I knew I had to make them. They’re another offering from Sprout Patterns, which I know I’ve written about before. Then I found the perfect collection of designs, and I couldn’t resist.

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Want to see what this project looked like at Sprout Patterns? Check this out! You can see all the designs, and the 3D model, and if you click “customize this project” over on the right you can even spin it around, see the back, play with the designs and even change it yourself. Its so much fun to play with.

The pattern was super easy and fun to sew, once I got finished making the miles of matching bias tape. The construction of the back is just as fun and interesting and flattering as I knew it would be. The shorts are comfy, and shorter than anything I’d normally wear to the gym, but not unreasonable for most people.

A big thank you to Caroline Okun, who took the photos for the Sprout Patterns website, and Paula who was kind enough to model!

 

When Life Gives You Lemon Fabric

…Make pajamas?

Especially if you know you’re going to get snowed in for a couple of days and wont need real clothes! After finishing off these pajamas a couple of weeks ago, I definitely put them to the test this weekend. They are comfortable, flexible, warm, excellent.

I created these pajamas for the release of a new fabric at spoonflower. This is a first in spoonflower’s fabric history, a cotton spandex blend in a jersey knit. It is an excellent fabric, comfortable, soft, lightly stretchy with a good recovery, but also with enough body to be stable and hold a seam well.

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The pattern is one from a maker I’ve never used before, but it was a great pattern. For the fabric release, the product team chose a selection of projects and fabric designs to show the full breadth of the fabric’s capabilities. I’d definitely use Closet Case patterns again after this project. She walks you through the complicated structure of the split collar with clear instructions. The fit is very nice and works with my body shape. And the result itself is comfy and classy all at once.

I’d say the only problem I really had was that I’ve been working on so many sprout patterns projects, I’d forgotten how truly endlessly irritatingworking from a print out pattern is… First you have to give up a ream of paper just to print it out. Then, if you’re like me, you have that awesome moment where you forgot to print only the first page first to check that it printed right:

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Yep. Then, if you’re like me, and you already feel guilty about the trees you’re killing, you decide to try to reuse the first paper and reprint the pattern on the backside. And then, you realize how THAT was a bad idea, and get extraordinarily paranoid about which side is the “right” side. And then you spend and eternity taping it together. And then you have to cut it out.

I decided to lengthen the shorts for this pattern. I have long legs and just generally find longer shorts more comfortable, so I added two inches to the length of the shorts. This pattern maker made it super easy, providing the classic “add length here” lines that so many people don’t bother to include. And it worked perfectly, and did not distort the end result at all. Professional and perfect pattern.

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And only THEN do you finally even get to touch the fabric. It definitely reminded me of why I love Sprout Patterns so much for removing all of the worst parts of working with indy patterns. Its so hard to get up the energy to use a new pattern when I think about all those steps that aren’t even the fun bits of sewing.

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In the end, I think it was totally worth the angst though. These pjs are comfy and fun and unlike anything else I own or would normally make for myself. I was a little sloppy around the collar, I think if I were to re-do this project I would actually leave off the piping. I absolutely love the visual effect it creates, but the fabric was just a touch too bulky in some places, and it definitely created difficulties around the split collar area, and the pocket.

I reviewed the pattern used in this project here: Closet Case Carolyn Pajamas ★★★★