The Teacher Dress

I found myself unexpectedly with a new “day” job at the end of the summer. I’m now teaching middle school math at a small private school. Even though it’s only for three hours each morning, I still want to look the part. So I made myself a simple, day dress appropriate for teaching for Fresh Make #19.DSC_0584DSC_0587DSC_0605 The pattern I choose is Vogue 8764. I already had the fabric and when I spotted this pattern, I knew it was the one. I waited a few weeks for the $4.99 Vogue pattern sale at JoAnn’s to purchase it. I have named it The Teacher Dress because it is an updated version of those full gathered dresses and jumpers of the early 90’s that my peers and I referred to as “teacher dresses.”

I made view A.

I made view A.

The fabric which I purchased online at Hawthorne Threads is a woven quilting weight cotton from the “Serafina” collection by Alice Kennedy. I got one yard of the red and two yards of the grey, both a $9.95 per yard. I had purchased the fabric a few months ago, in the middle of summer, with the intention of making another Sunshine Jumper. But summer escaped me without sewing it up, and I decided a short sleeved dress would serve me better in the fall.

I did a 1 1/4" hand hem.

I did a 1 1/4″ hand hem.

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I just put a regular ol’ zipper in.

The pattern actually gives instructions for a fully lined dress. I did not want the added weight of a lining with my cotton dress. So I just put a facing on the neckline, and for this, I had to make my own front and back facing pattern pieces.DSC_0587DSC_0579
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LET’S BE HONEST:
1. This pattern is labeled as “very easy” and for a Vogue pattern, it probably is. There really nothing beyond basic techniques such as darts, a zipper, set-in sleeves, and, in my case, a facing. I would not, however, recommend this pattern for a beginning seamstress who is working independently.

2. I cut a size 14 on the top and graded to a 16 on the bottom. In all honesty, the bodice is still a bit big, and I could still use a tad room through belly and hips. I guess I just have to face the fact that with a semi-fitted dress, I am at least two sizes different on top and bottom. I actually do know this, but I think I’m trying to keep the original proportions of the design as illustrated. But, hey, if it’s not right for your body, don’t buy the pattern, or be happy with a change in silhouette. Right?

3. Unlike the instructions, I did a hand hem on both the bottom and sleeve. I added about 1″ to the bottom before cutting the pattern pieces to make sure I would have enough length to hit me mid-knee with a 1 1/4″ hem.

Overall, I am very happy with my new teacher dress. I wore it to school yesterday, got a compliment from one of my fashion forward 5th graders! I just love it when young people compliment someone who is even older than their mom!

Thanks for reading this post. I your welcome your comment and questions. Cheers! Lori

The Jennifer Dress

As soon as I saw this pattern while shopping a Butterick pattern sale at JoAnn’s several months ago, I knew I wanted to make this for my sister-in-law who loves that 50’s retro vibe. So I am once again sewing someone else stylish for Fresh Make #18.DSC_0551DSC_0546DSC_0554
The pattern I used is Butterick 5982. I basically made a sleeveless version of view C. As mentioned above, I bought the pattern on sale at JoAnn’s for $1.40. I named it the Jennifer Dress after my sister-in-law.DSC_0574
The fabric is a soft, smooth lawn cotton we purchased at The Fabric Store on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles. My photos unfortunately do not do this fabric justice. It’s a calico like print of rich blue colored flowers set on a creamy white background, and it’s looks beautiful against Jennifer’s sun kissed skin.

One of the design details I really like about this pattern, along with that adorable bow, is the flat center skirt front. The gathers go up to an inverted pleat on both sides and then it’s flat for about 6″ in the middle. A flattering element for those of us whose waists and bellies aren’t what they used to be. (No, Jennifer, I’m not talking about you! I’m sure you would look good with gathers around the whole waist. I’m just speaking in general.)

Please excuse the coloring in this photos. I took it in the early morning and then went to Jennifer's house and gave the dress to her. So no retakes.

Please excuse the coloring in this photos. I took it in the early morning and then went to Jennifer’s house and gave the dress to her. So no retakes.

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back view

back view

The bodice is fully lined in a white cotton. I did some “slow sewing” as I attached the lining by hand along the zipper and waist. I also did a hand hem after machine sewing hem tape on the bottom edge.
You might notice some picking at the neckline. You can read about that below if you're interested.

You might notice some puckering at the neckline. You can read about that below if you’re interested.

Jennifer is on the front porch of her newly purchased home!

Jennifer is on the front porch of her newly purchased home!

LET’S BE HONEST:
1. It is always a joy for me to sew for others. The drawback is coordinating fittings or sacrificing a few when that person does not live that close to me. On the first fitting, before I applied the lining or did any finish work, the neckline layed flat on Jennifer. On the second fitting, it pooched out as if the fabric was stretched when I attached the lining at the neckline. I was flummoxed and the truth is it didn’t matter how it happened, I needed to find way to fix it. I was not up for ripping out the lining and re-doing the whole bodice. I had not yet attached the lining at the waist, I decided to run some rows of basing stitches on the lining layer only, close to the neck edge and ease in the extra width. You can see this in the photo of the dress inside. It’s not a proud sewing moment for me, but a reasonable solution. Jennifer was fine with it.

2. It’s a bit confusing as to how the bodice is supposed to fit on this pattern. Of course, the beauty of sewing is you can make it fit however you want. I just want to point out that the photo of the orange dress on the envelope front has a semi-fitted bodice, and the illustrations look close-fitted. Additionally the description on the back of the pattern says “close-fitting.” Jennifer’s bodice fits like the photo, which is a good thing because she doesn’t care for form-fitting clothes.

3. The pattern is labeled EASY. It might be easy for this style of dress, but would say it does required some intermediate sewing skills. At least some experience with gathers, zippers, facings and linings.

4. Jennifer wanted the dress to hit below her knees, so I added 5″ to the skirt bottom when cutting out the fabric. It was just enough for a 2″ hem.

I think Jennifer loves her new dress. When she put the finished dress on for our photo shoot, she didn’t want to take it off. But she did because she wanted to keep it nice to wear on the first day of school. She’s a third grade teacher.

Thanks again for reading my blog. I welcome your comments about this dress or your experiences sewing for others. Cheers, Lori

Happy Folk Skirt

I’ve only made two skirts since starting this blog, and my go-to Jean Skirt now has a rip in it from being caught on a metal edge and is out of commission. I thought it was time to sift through my ever growing pattern stash and find a fun skirt to make for Fresh Make #17.DSC_0485DSC_0498DSC_0501 The pattern I chose is Simplicity 1888. I bought it several months ago during a pattern sale at JoAnn’s, most likely for $1.00 but possibly $1.40. (JoAnn’s 5 for $5.00 recently have become 5 for $7.00. Hey, you can still count me in!) I was drawn to this pattern because it looked like a good balance between fitted and flared, and the gathers were where I like them – at the bottom, not the waist! I named it the Happy Folk Skirt because, depending on the fabric, this skirt can either have a hippy folk feeling or ethnic folk feeling.

I made view C.

I made view C.

I purchased the fabric at Mood on La Brea in Los Angeles. I was excited to stop by there on my way home from seeing my sometimes model and always daughter off at LAX for her second year of college. I hadn’t been to Mood in six months, and as it usual it was overwhelming. I forced myself to focus in the task at hand. This is a cotton woven fabric with lycra. It’s actually stretchy! I bought the indicated amount of 3 1/4 yards at $12.00. I managed, however, to have quite a bit leftover and probably could have gotten away with 2 3/4 yards.

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The skirt has a wide, curved waistband that sits best a few inches below the natural waistline.

I top-stitched the seams and waistband with quilting weight thread.

I top-stitched the seams and waistband with quilting weight thread.

There is a 7" ruffle at the bottom.

There is a 7″ ruffle at the bottom.

Inside peek. I serged all the seam edges and the waistband edge.

Inside peek. I serged all the seam edges and the waistband edge.

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LET’S BE HONEST:

1. I had a hard time on sizing with this one. My waist and hip measurements put me between a 16 and 18. I usually measure the actual pattern pieces and adjust accordingly. With this pattern, there was no information about where the waistband/yoke should sit – at the waist, slightly below the waist? According to the photos on the pattern envelope, it looked like the skirt sat a few inches below the natural waist. I just decided to cut a straight 18 and let the skirt fall where it may. The skirt panels turned out too big through the waist and hips, so I trimmed off 3/4″ from the side side seams (3″ total) and 1/4″ (1″ total) from the sides of the waistband. (Totally embarrassing update: literally 5 minutes ago, I discovered on the back of the pattern envelope, in the yardage chart “Skirt C – worn 1″ below the waist.” Now wouldn’t that have saved a lot of aggravation if I had read that!)

2. I love the styling on this pattern. The panels create the perfect amount of flair for a flattering fit and the ruffle is a fun touch. I love the fabric, too. I do feel however, that the fabric is not optimal for this pattern. This fabric had the folksy feel I wanted for this pattern so I ended up overlooking the fact that it was a bit heavy and stiff for this skirt. I think it would be perfect for a pair of shorts or capris.

3. I should have cut 2″ off the bottom before attaching the ruffle. I already shorten the skirt panel pattern pieces 2″ before cutting the fabric, but it still turned out a bit long. I think am getting lazy or impatient, because I tried it on several times before adding the ruffle but just didn’t carefully evaluate how much length a 7″ ruffle would add. Oh well. It looks fine with my 3″+ platform sandals that I love. 

4. I made the t-shirt that I’m wearing also. It is Butterick 5215. More on this pattern another day. This wide ribbed knit fabric is also from Mood. I love the lilac color with the red and white print. I think it actually acts as a neutral against the bold red.

Overall, I do like my Happy Folk Skirt and I know I’ll be wearing it plenty this fall. Have you got any fun skirts in your sewing queue? Cheers, Lori

The Escalante Top

This is always my story. After I do one thing for I while, I get the urge to do something else. I have many creative loves. In addition to sewing, I love dyeing fabrics. Since January, I have been focusing my creative time on sewing for this blog, so recently I’ve had an itch to do some dyeing. So for Fresh Make #16, I have done both, and made a billowy, tie dyed blouse.DSC_0468DSC_0474DSC_0480The pattern I choose is McCall’s 6962 which I purchased recently at JoAnn’s on sale for $1.99. Since starting this blog, I have become a collector of big 4 patterns. When I stumble upon a sale at JoAnn’s, I sit down and leaf through the books. I challenge myself to consider patterns that aren’t necessarily my “style.” Kind of like agreeing to try on ready mades that you would not normally pull off the rack because you’ve taken to heart the advise of Clinton and Stacy of “What Not To Wear.” M6962 is one of those patterns. I was curious to see what I could do with it. I have named it the Escalante Top because I relate the organic feel of the top to the beautiful nature I experienced on our family vacation to Utah’s Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument this month.

I made view A.

I made view A.

I had some white, cotton, lawn fabric from Dharma Trading Co on hand. So I satisfied my dyeing fix by using it for this project. I used also Dharma Trading’s procion dyes in Chartruse and Steel Grey. (Please feel free to ask me about my dyeing process if you wish. That’s another topic for another day!) My fabric was 60″ wide, and view A required 1 1/2 yards.DSC_0466DSC_0475
A few decades ago, I was obsessed with using covering buttons in all my makes (actually, "projects," that's what we called them back then) I thought it would look cute to do a contrasting hand dyed covered button.

A few decades ago, I was obsessed with using covering buttons in all my makes (actually, “projects,” that’s what we called them back then) I thought it would look cute to do a contrasting hand dyed covered button.

I contemplated elastic or not. After a few try-ons, I decided to go for it. I'm happy I did.

I contemplated elastic or not. After a few try-ons, I decided to go for it. I’m happy I did.

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LET BE HONEST: 
1. This pattern is labeled EASY. For an experienced sewist, it is. I think a beginner would require some assistance on some parts, especially attaching the gathered part to the bib and doing the biased tape neckline.

2. To a degree, one’s measurements are not too important when determining what size to make on this pattern because there is so much design ease. I choose to make a Small (8-10) mainly because my biggest concern was that the neckline not be too big. It turned out that I am very happy with the fit and the way the neckline lies.

3. I waivered between elastic and no elastic at the bottom. Even though this fabric is fairly lightweight, it is a bit stiff, so I felt it needed to be corraled at the bottom so it wouldn’t be tent like. If I used a fabric that had a softer hand and a nice drape, I might have done no elastic.

4. This blouse is not my typical style. But, hey, I like it! I’m going to wear it!

Thanks for visiting me again! Have you sewn something recently that’s out of your style wheelhouse?

The Traveler Dress

Since starting this blog, I have rediscovered the joy of wearing dresses, I mean everyday, grab-n-go dresses, especially for hot summer weather. Even though we’re in the dog days of summer here in inland So Cal, I’ve started to turn my sewing thoughts to fall. So for Fresh Make #15 I have made a transition dress, one take will take me from end of summer onto fall.

I asked my filmmaker son to take photos of me and he told me to stand in the dirt in the field across the street from our house.

I asked my filmmaker son to take photos of me and he told me to stand in the dirt in the field across the street from our house.

DSC_0443DSC_0462 The pattern I chose is Simplicity 2246. This is part of the “lisette” collection, which I think is Simplicity’s attempt to appeal to the young, hip, indie sewist. Like all the indie patterns, they have even given it a name, Traveler Dress. (I didn’t have to make one up this time.) It’s an adorable shirt dress with lots of options to “make it your own.” I purchased my pattern at JoAnn’s Fabrics for $1 several months ago during one of their 5 for $5 Simplicity pattern sales.

I made View A, leaving off the hips pockets (I do not need to bring emphasis to that area of my body!). I also made the cap sleeve in View C because just looking at longer sleeves in the middle of summer makes me sweat.2246 The fabric I used is from an awesome chambray collection by Andover Fabrics. I purchased 2  1/2 yards of Chambray in Bluegrass and 1/2 yards of Chambray in Tailor at $9.25 per yard from Hawthorne Threads, my favorite online fabric store.DSC_0440 You can’t go wrong with a basic shirtdress but I couldn’t resist putting my own little twist by using a different color for the sleeve. I had seen some denim blouses and dresses that had different shades of denims on the sleeves on Pinterest, so I was hoping to be a little trendy. Maybe not. Oh, who cares, I really like it. DSC_0448

I am a big proponent of blind hme on dresses and skirts, regardless of what is shown in the directions. I'm not opposed to a machine blind hem when possible like here.

I am a big advocate of blind hems on dresses and skirts, regardless of what is shown in the directions. I am not opposed to a machine blind hem when possible, like here.

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LET’S BE HONEST;
1. This pattern, unlike most, does not have a difficulty rating. A shirt dress is never an appropriate project for a novice, but I have to say for a shirt dress, this pattern is “easy.” The collar does not have a separate neckband which simplifies construction, however it does sacrifice a more tailored look. Maybe you care, maybe you don’t. The instructions are typical of a big 4 pattern, only additionally there are “lisette tips” which I actually thought could be helpful for a new sewist.

2. I graded between a size 12 at the bodice to a size 14 on the bottom. As I always do, I measured the actually pattern pieces at key spots with a tape measure and then put the tape measure around me at the same spot. Then, I decide if I like that amount of wearing ease, and determine what size (or sizes) I cut from there. If you spend time doing this you should get fairly good fitting results. I’m saying this because I have to get something off my chest…I have noticed with the online sewing community, it seems to have become standard practice to make “muslins” for regular garments. That seems unappealing and time consuming to me. I just think careful measuring of the paper pattern can allow you to skip this step. To each her own, if you like making muslins, don’t let me stop you.

3. I am very happy with the cut and fit of this pattern. The slight A-line makes it possible to flatter those of us with a bit of a pear shape. The only change I would make is to the circumference of the sleeve band. I measured my upper arm and added an 1″ to the band, but I would actually add yet another 1″. It’s comfortable when my arms are at my side, but the range of motion is limited because there is no “give” in the fabric.

4. Overall, there were no surprises or oddities with pattern and I would definitely recommend it to an intermediate sewist.

Thanks for reading this post. What will you make to help you comfortably transition into fall?

Anima Pants

I’m not back to selfish sewing yet. I stumbled upon a competition using New Zealand indie company, Papercut Patterns “Anima Pant.” So Hanna wins out again with this modern, sport pant for Fresh Make #14.

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This is my second indie pattern (I made the Moneta dress on my previous post.) I was convinced to purchase Papercut’s Anima Pant when they were offering 20% off the $25 price, plus free shipping (all the way from New Zealand!). And I have to say it arrived sooner than I expected. It comes packaged in a nifty cardboard, hanging envelope.
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The pattern comes with different length options.

The pattern comes with different length options.

The competition is co-sponsored by The Fabric Store. Their only U.S. location is only La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles. Lucky us! A great excuse for Hanna and I to go into the city, and also stop in for a delicious drink and yummy goodie directly across the street at The Sycamore Kitchen. Hanna had free reign in the fabric selection. I always like to see what my art student daughter will choose. The fabric is a beautiful, drapey, single knit jersey. I regret to say that I’m not sure of the fiber content. It looks and feels like a cotton/rayon blend. I pre-shrunk it in the washer and dryer, and it came out beautifully. We bought 1 1/2 yards at $12 per yard. Hanna also chose a waffle ribbed knit for a contrasting waistband.

Fabric in hand in La Brea Avenue.

Fabric in hand on La Brea Avenue.

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The waistband is made with 2″ wide elastic and a drawstring. My buttonholes did not end up in the middle of the waistband, so I put an extra row of shirring at the top, different from the pattern instructions.

I sewed the seams with my regular machine and then serged them together.

I sewed the seams with my regular machine and then serged them together.

The pants have 4" cuffs at the leg bottom.

The pants have 4″ cuffs at the leg bottom.

Back side.

Back side.

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LET’S BE HONEST:
1. The pattern comes in sizes XXS to XL. For Hanna, I cut between a XS and S, and it fit perfectly. Her hips are about 37 1/2″. The rise on the waist/crotch was also perfect for her, not too low, not too high. (I have to say that it is definitely styled to flatter a young, fit gal. And there’s nothing wrong with that. At this point in my life, the most effective way, even more so than watching what I eat, to avoid a “muffin top”, is to wear my pants at my waist!)

2. Besides cutting in-between sizes, the only adjustment I made to the pattern was on the leg length. Hanna’s legs are on the shorter side, so I took off 2″ with a pattern adjustment before cutting out the fabric, and another inch at the bottom once she tried them on before attaching the cuffs.

3. I wrote quite a bit about pattern instructions on my last post about the Moneta Dress, so I won’t repeat a lot of my comments here, except that I feel the same way about this pattern’s instructions. It has a fun graphic presentation printed on brown paper bag like paper. But again, just like on the Colette pattern, and many of the big 4 patterns, the details just aren’t there for the novice sewist.

4. The waffle knit ribbing that Hanna chose for the waistband actually did not end up being a practical choice when it came to sewing with the elastic. The fabric was super stretchy and was difficult to attach the 2″ elastic to it without getting a lot of puckers on the back side. (I finally told myself – Who cares? – no one will see the inside. And it certainly doesn’t matter to Hanna.)

5. I have to say again that this a fabulous, modern, fresh, knit pant pattern. It drapes perfectly on Hanna. The leg width is perfect too. I know for a fact that Hanna will be wearing these pants a lot when she returns to her college campus this fall.

Thanks again for reading my post! Happy sewing! Lori

The Moneta Dress

Having my daughter home for the summer gives me an excuse to try some fun projects that are more suited to the younger crowd. For Fresh Make #13, I decided to make Hanna a Moneta which is an indie design by Colette Patterns that is wildly popular with the online sewing community. DSC_0354 DSC_0348 DSC_0346 The Moneta is available online as printed paper pattern for $18, or as a PDF for $14. I splurged for the printed pattern plus an additional $5.50 for shipping because I’m not fond of PDFs, and I was curious to see the hip graphic design and packaging. Now, $23.50 is a lot for me to spend on pattern, but I felt I needed to try an indie pattern to keep up with the online community. I have to say, the dress is adorable and a smartly designed pattern. I will save my knit picky comments to the end of my post.
cp1028-moneta-cover-med-37a80b85ae73088a6d790a6771162577 The fabric I chose is from the online store, Girl Charlee. I have to be honest that I hesitantly ordered from them as I have been disappointed in their fabrics more than once. I was swayed by the claim that the fabric was made in Los Angeles, and I like to buy American made if possible. Unfortunately, this fabric was no improvement over my past purchases. Basically there is very litte stretch in this single knit jersey and the design is printed significantly off grain. Previously I thought it wouldn’t be cool to bad mouth a resource, but I recently read a post in another blog in which the author chose to be honest about her disappointment in Girl Charlee, and then several readers commented that they felt the same way about the site’s products. Shouldn’t we be truthful in a blog?

The bodice calls for lining. I always like to find something in my stash for linings and such. I used a recycled t-shirt. I also used a hand-dyed recycled t-shirt for the constrasting collar fabric.

The back neckline is slightly lower than the front. Cool design detail, huh?

The back neckline is slightly lower than the front. Cool design detail, huh?

The collar is cleverly sewn with the seam on the outside, but remains hidden when the collar folds over.

The collar is cleverly sewn with the seam on the outside, but remains hidden when the collar folds over.

The bodice is fully lined, and the instructions provide a technique that was new to me for completely machine finishing the armholes.
DSC_0364 The skirt waist was “shirred” (gathered) with an new version of an old technique of stretching the elastic evenly around the opening and sewing it directly on the fabric. I have done this countless times for elastic waistbands on knits, but never for the purpose of gathering a skirt which attaches to a bodice.

The skirt is shirred with clear, lightweight elastic. This techique enables the waist stretch when pulling the dress on and off.

The skirt, shirred with elastic, enables the waist stretch when pulling the dress on and off.

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LET’S BE HONEST:
1. This pattern is a hip, modern and fresh design for knits. I now understand why everyone loves their Monetas.

2. Although Hanna’s measurements more closely corresponded to a SMALL, and the pattern provided an explanation about “negative ease” with knits, I cut a MEDIUM because the fabric had little stretch and the recycled t-shirt I used for the lining was of a thicker fabric. It fit her perfectly for the type of fabric used. I could see though, that if it was made with a stretchy fabric like a rib knit, a smaller size would be appropriate.

3. Please allow me to go on record as staying that I don’t think it necessary or a good technique to serge your 2 collar pieces when it is being flipped right-side out and the bulky serged seam will lie around the inside edge of the collar. This was done on a sewalong I followed, and I’ve seen it done other places online. With knits, even if they curl a bit, I still grade the seam allowances for a smooth outside finish when I am encasing them. A gentle pressing with the iron does wonders too for a nice quality finish.

4. Thoughts on instructions: I know the instructions on the big four pattern companies are ugly and hard to follow. Nobody likes to read them. The Moneta pattern comes with a thread-bound 32 page instruction booklet with simple illustrations on uncluttered, spacious layouts. While I was captured by the novelty of the instructions being visually different, when I really dove into them taking the perceptive of someone with little background experience/knowledge, they were just as hard to follow as traditional patterns instructions. I am not knocking people who write sewing instructions for any company. I know it must be hard; I wouldn’t want to do it. These instructions also contain some shaded boxes that direct you to websites with videos that contain further instruction details on some of the main techniques. This is a good thing, but I’m going to say that I’m glad that I could rely my own knowledge rather than go watch a video.

To conclude, Hanna did not pick out the fabric and did not ask me to this make this dress. I wanted to make it and I think it’s adorable, but I am not of the age or have the figure to wear it. I think she likes it; I hope she wears it. Whatever the case, it is still is joy to sew for her as I have done since she was very young.

Again, thanks for reading this post. I welcome your comments. Cheers, Lori