The Mid-Summer Dress

I always sew for the season that we are actually in. I like the instant gratification of wearing my new make the next day. Here in inland So Cal, the weather will be warm until October, so I am still in the market for easy wearing summer dresses. I am sharing with you my new Fresh Make that will help get me through the dog days of summer.DSC_0187
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The pattern I used is Butterick 5456. I purchased this pattern at least a year ago at JoAnn’s during a pattern sale which means I paid less than $2 for it. The year on the envelope is 2010. I hope it’s still in print because I think it is a timeless, wearable pattern.

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The fabric I used was purchased online at Fabricworm originally for a Marianne Dress for Round Two of the Super Online Sewing Match. (I was eliminated after that round, but it but it was great fun while it lasted!) I ended up using some other fabric for the contest, so I still had this fabric on hand screaming at me to sew it up. The blue and white print is an organic cotton interlock knit by Charley Harper for Birch Fabrics. It was $13 per yard and 45″ wide. Honesty time: I don’t think I will purchase from this collection again. While the weight of the interlock was substantial and as expected, the blue ink stiffens the fabric and does not soften with a machine wash and dry. Also the ink application is a slightly uneven and blotchy in places. Fortunately, the green Birch Organic, Mod Basic Solid, is a completely different story. It is super soft and dreamy, and the touch of Lycra is genius for an interlock, a weave that can stretch out easily. It was $12.80 per yard and 60″ wide. This collection will definitely become a “go to” solid for me.

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The bodice is fully lined. It would have been optimal to use a thinner knit for the lining instead of the green interlock, but there was enough and I wanted to use what I had on hand. I used the method for a clean, machine armhole finish from the Moneta Dress by Colette.

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I think the keyhole back and tie add an interesting detail to a simple dress. And I really like that the opening is high enough that you can still wear a regular bra.

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I shirred the skirt with clear elastic, also a method from the Moneta Dress by Colette.

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After attaching the bottom band, I decided I didn’t like the way it hung as a single layer and futhermore did not want machine stitching at the bottom since there was no machine top stitching anywhere else. I went ahead and folded the band and “stitched-in-the-ditch.”

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LETS BE HONEST:

1. The pattern is labeled “Fast & Easy.” That it is. However, there is no differentiated instruction for knits which could cause frustration for someone who has not sewn on knits before. I basically glanced at the illustrations and used my own knit techniques as well as the two from the Moneta Dress mentioned above.

2. I cut out exactly between size 12 and 14, taking into consideration that knit ease should be less. I still misjudged and the bodice turned out a little big. The armholes are particularly large. Don’t get me wrong, I am still going to wear it! If I were to make it again, however, I would probably cut a size 10.

3. I like the double thickness of the bottom band, but proportionally I think the original width of the band looks better. So if I were to make the dress again I would cut a band of double width, fold and stitch-in-the-ditch again.

I really do like this dress. It was simple, no hassle sewing. And it is as comfortable as can be.

What about you? Do you sew a season ahead or squeeze in a few end-of-the-season makes?
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The Marianne, tie-dye and a Peter Pan collar

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Hey, it’s Round Two of the Super Online Sewing Match II! Again, I want to thank Sew Mama Sew for this opportunity. My enthusiasism went up a few more notches when I learned this challenge would be the Marianne Dress by Christine Haynes. I actually had purchased the printed version of this pattern a few months ago. So, yay, no PDF tiling for me! But that’s where any possible advantage stoppped, as I had not sewn it up or even purchased any fabric for it. It was just sitting in my pattern queue.

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When I first laid eyes on the Marianne Dress, I was drawn to View B, the one with the cuffed, 3/4 length sleeves. The youthful, retro inspired style of View A was not for me, a woman of 50+ years.

I know….this photo doesn’t match what I just said! Read on and I’ll share with you how my Marianne Dress came to be.DSC_0167

HERE’S MY STORY OF ROUND TWO

Unlike the first challenge, I had the gift of time (a true summer vacation week), but no apparent inspiration. The reason this pattern was still sitting in the stack was the fact that I was having a hard time imagining fabric combinations that would create a fun yet age appropriate garment for me. But NOW I was forced to make some decisions. The same day that we received the challenge, I went ahead and took advantage of the fabric offer from Fabricworm, and placed an order after much deliberating. But I couldn’t stop there. I also placed an order for some white cotton knit jersey at Dharma Trading Co. I thought perhaps I would like to dye some fabric for this project.

Additionally, with the time I had on this first day, I ran to JoAnn’s to get some fabric to make a muslin. Now I know I bragged in Round One that I never make muslins. But I did have concerns about a flattering fit on this pattern, so I figured why not sew up a trial; I had the time. I cut a size 10, and added a little flair to make sure that circumference throughout the body of the dress comfortably cleared my pear shaped bulges. I also added about 6 inches of length beyond the size 10. Just above my knee cap is as far as I go these days.

By Sunday, I was done with my muslin. I was very pleased with it. I got a “bonus” dress out of the deal. Now I just had to wait for both my fabric orders to arrive. I was expecting the Fabricworm shipment on Wednesday, and possibly the Dharma Trading Co. on that day also. With this “extra” time, I started to feel antsy, and began to develop a case of FOMO (fear of missing out). Maybe I should go into Los Angeles tomorrow (Tuesday), maybe the perfect fabric for my Marianne dress is waiting for me there.

Just as I was conjuring up this plan, my husband came to me and told me he thought something was wrong with our beloved dog, Pixel. She seem to have suddenly lost her sense of balance. She was leaning to one side and kind of staggering around. Tuesday morning it was clear we needed to bring her to the vet. This situation cured me of my fabric shopping desires. I needed to be there help my husband with the dog. We had to do a drop-off, since the vet had no same day appointments. They would examine her when they could. By mid-morning, we were back home sans dog, and my fabric from Dharma Trading Co. had arrived! Whether I used the fabric or not for this project, I decided to dye the it right then, as a way to stay busy and keep my mind off the dog. I did two dye baths, gold and then blue. I tied and re-tied two smaller pieces, resulting in a multicolored pattern. The piece that I intended for the body of the dress, I kept solid.

The vet was unable to diagnose the dog, and sent her home with some meds. It would be a waiting game. So Wednesday morning I decide to go ahead and cut out my hand-dyed fabric. I just wanted to keep busy, rather than wait for my Fabricworm shipment. As I laid out my pattern pieces to cut View B, I realized I hadn’t dyed enough solid fabric for the sleeves. And I really wanted my sleeves to be solid. I decided I would leave them off.  EXCEPT, my dress would then be too SIMPLE. In the spirit of the competition, I took a big gulp, and cut out the Peter Pan collar that I was 100% certain I would never use. And this is how my dress came to be. My Fabricworm fabric came later that day. I liked it, by this time I was all in with my tie-dyed fabric and my Peter Pan collar.DSC_0160

To my surprise, I LIKED my Peter Pan collar. The collar was an interesting element in an otherwise simple dress, and the tie-dyed fabric took away the “sweetness” I was concerned about.

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This was my first time sewing up a pattern by Christine Haynes.  I found her instructions clear and easy to follow. She offers techniques for both conventional machines and sergers. For those new to sewing on knits, you would need to find some additional resources detailing the hemming of knits as the instructions say to “Hem using the stitch of your choice.”

I have to admit I was leary of the ribbing/collar combination at the neckline. I had never seen that before. But because this was competition, I felt it was important to stay true the this unique feature and not “do my own thing.” When I first attached the ribbing, I wasn’t happy. I thought it looked awkward, and I had an “Oh no!” moment. Still, I felt I shouldn’t do away with the ribbing. I decided to narrow it by 1/8″. I found this little adjustment made enough difference for me to live with it and even LIKE it.

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I have a three thread serger from the 80’s. (It still works great, by the way.) I don’t sew seams with it. I just use it for finishing.

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I did not include the clear elastic on the shoulder seam because this was a low stretch knit. I didn’t think that extra reinforcement was necessary, and the elastic would only add more bulk. I did use the elastic in my muslin which was a very stretchy knit, and found it to be a great feature.

I used a zig zag stitch for the hem on the sleeve cap. I thought the look integrated better than a straight double needle stitch with the tie dye pattern.

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For the bottom hem, I used a machine blind hem stitch. I prefer a bit of width on my dress and skirt hems. After serging the edge, I turned it up 1 1/8″. With some carefully steam ironing, I was able to reduce the additional bottom circumference so it all laid nice and flat. (After making the muslin, I determined I only needed to add 3″ to the length instead of 6″.)

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During Round Two of the Super Online Sewing Match, I have: sewn up a pattern that was sitting in my stack for a while, made a nice wearable muslin, included a style of collar that I never would have chosen, and used creative practice as therapy.

You can see what the other talented competitors have made and keep up to date with the contest at Sew Mama Sew.

Her name is Pixel because she has dots on her snout. We are giving her the gift of time and hoping for the very best.

Her name is Pixel because she has dots on her snout. We are giving her the gift of time and hoping for the very best.

The Goddess Dress

I was super excited to make, and then blog about this dress. But when all was said and done, my vision of how it would look on me was far from what I saw in the mirror. So in the closet it went. Maybe to never be worn and/or blogged about. But I’ve had a change of heart. I thought a lot lately about what blogging is all about. What I want my blog to be. Is it just to show off a perfectly crafted project? Or is it to share a story and maybe some imperfect truths. I think the later is far more interesting. So here is my Fresh Make #28, a drapey, rayon maxi dress.

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The pattern I used is McCalls 6074, purchased on sale at JoAnn’s for $1.40. I bought it several months ago thinking it would be a great pattern to add to my summer dress stash. I was attracted to the gathering under the bust which adds a bit of fullness to the body of the dress. I thought this would lessen the possibility of showing bumps and lumps under a stretchy jersey knit.

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I love to dye fabric as much as I love to sew. For this dress, I began with a beautiful, white rayon jersey from Dharma Trading Co. I have used this fabric for other projects and actually had several yards left in my stash. This fabric is a nice weight, drapes beautifully and looks like new after every washing. I lay it flat to dry, and the wrinkles disappear while it dries! I dyed it twice with procion dyes, again from Dharma Trading Co. I won’t go into the dyeing techniques on this post. But if you’re interested, just ask!

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I finished the neckline, sleeves caps, armholes, and hem with a double needle. I sewed the dress with 100% cotton thread so it would dye also. You can see the polyester thread in my serger does not take the dye.
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I first dyed the fabric “Tangerine” while it was tied with marbles and rubber bands. Then I dyed it in “Deep Yellow.”
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LET’S BE HONEST:
1. This pattern is labeled Easy, which it is if you are experienced with sewing on knits. There is no differentiated instructions for sewing with knits in this pattern. Generally, there never is with big 4 patterns. You, as a sewist, would just need to know what techniques would be appropriate for the knit you choose.

2. I cut a size 14. The only change I made was adding 5/8″ around the neckline. I did this on a hunch that it might be too low for me, and I’m glad I did.

3. I choose to make version with the sleeve cap just for a little variety. But I not sure I’m a big fan of the actual result. At least on me. I would like them to lay flatter on my arm. This fabric is extremely stretchy, and it stretched at the edge when I hemmed it with the double needle. I steamed it back to shape as best I could, but there is still some extra fullness.

4. The sewing of the elastic casing and attaching the elastic on the design feature under the bust is not my proudest sewing moment. Sewing a little stretchy casing on an equally stretchy larger piece is not easy. Even though I wasn’t satisfied with how the stitching looked, I didn’t want to take it out for fear I would poke holes in the fabric.

5. So here’s why I don’t like this dress, it shows all of my curves, good and BAD. The dress is not too small. The problem is the fabric is very stretchy and smooth, and with the weight that is created by the maxi length, it clings to every curve and bump of my body, and every ridge or line, no matter how small, of the undergarments I’m wearing. Previously, I have used this fabric for loose fitting tops, and it is perfect. The finished garment is lightweight enough, that it floats freely around my body. I would like to make this dress again. I will give up the elegance, and use a cotton knit with less stretch. I still think this would make a great, versatile, summer dress.

I offered this dress to my young adult daughter who has no “bad” curves. She responded very politely that she was not the maxi dress type. Oh, I don’t know. I still might wear it somewhere at night where the lights are low. How about you? Have you made something that seems to be the right size, but the fabric choice makes it unflattering?

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Japanese Dress Y

I have now become a big fan of Japanese pattern books. I bought my first book, Simple Modern Sewing, on sale, with a gift card, and as a skeptic. After two big wins from that book, I was compelled to buy another one, Stylish Dress Book, Wear with Freedom by Yoshiko Tsukiori. For Fresh Make #27 I chose a loose fitting, easy wear dress. Perfect for the hot summer that’s just around the corner.
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While the decision wasn’t easy from the 26 patterns, I chose Dress Y. Mainly because I wanted a pattern that combined two fabrics, and also the construction didn’t look to fussy.

This book has 26 adorable patterns to choose from.

This book has 26 adorable patterns to choose from.

Here's Dress Y. Those are the complete instructions! More on that later.

Here’s Dress Y. Those are the complete instructions! More on that later.

The fabrics I used are from Amy Butler’s Glow Collection, Maze Voile in Grass and Jolie Voile in Grass. I purchased them online at Hawthorne Threads for $13.50 per yard. I needed a total of three yards. I have been coveting the cotton voiles that have recently become a part of designer collections that traditionally have only included quilting weight fabrics. There’s no turning back once you start making blouses and dress with voiles and lawn cottons – so light weight and luxurious.
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The neck trim is attached by sewing right and wrong side together at the neck edge so the seam allowances are tucked inside, and there is no need for a facing.

The neck trim is attached by sewing right and wrong side together at the neck edge so the seam allowances are enclosed inside when you fold the trim over to the front, and there is no need for a facing.

The pattern called for a single layer yoke with a bias tape trim at the top. I  made a double layer for a facing instead.

Here’s the inside. The pattern called for a single layer yoke with a bias tape trim at the top. I made a double layer for a facing instead.

The hem band is a single layer. I did a 1 1/4

The hem band is a single layer. I did a 1 1/4″ machine blind hem.

LET’S BE HONEST:
1. The pattern size range is from 6 to 16. Obiviously this is a very loose fitting design and the bust is the main measurement needed to gage your size. I cut a 12 with no alterations.

2. The width throughout the bodice and where it meets the skirt is wider than it appears in the photograph on the very skinny model in the book. It almost A-lines from the armhole. I am considering this a surprise design feature (I didn’t study the pattern pieces), rather than a misfit, because the shoulders and neckline are perfect. I feel it might not be the most flattering thing, especially from a side view, for me to have all that width floating around me.

3. Ok, after making three Japanese patterns, there is no denying they are well drafted. And also fit well, at least for a relatively narrow size range. BUT, the instructions are inadequate. (Enlarge the photo of the book above.) Beginner beware! Stay away. I because of my sewing experience, I can make a basic dress without instructions, but I try to look at what is presented from a beginner standpoint. I definitely would not attempt one of these patterns without a body of sewing knowledge.

4. I would like to question one method in the instructions. They show laying the garment out flat and sewing the sleeve in before the side seams. I usually save this technique for knits and/or sleeve caps with a straighter curve. The sleeve cap in Dress Y has a fairly high curve and I think would ease in better insetting it after the side seams are sewn. At least that’s what I did, and it work well.

Overall, despite the slightly tent-like sillouette, I love this dress. The fabric is soft, smooth and lighter than air. Dress Y like a pair of shoes that are super comfortable the first time you try them on – I know I’ll reach for it over and over again.

Have you tried any Japanese patterns? Which ones? Are you a skeptic or fan?
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Japanese Wraparound Dress

This is my one year anniversary of Sewing Myself Stylish. Have I sewn myself stylish yet? I would say not, but I’ve learned many things and had a lot of fun. Bit by bit, I will share my insights of sewing for myself again as well as my observations of the online sewing community and social media from the perspective of an “older” gal. But for now, I would just like to share with you Fresh Make #22, a comfy, versatile dress that I could wear a number places.DSC_0519DSC_0523DSC_0541 I did my occasional veer of the Big Four path for this one and used a pattern from the book “Simple Modern Sewing” by Shufu To Seikatsu Sha ($24.95). I am normally not compelled to buy these kinds of books because I am leery of the actual pattern drafting and fit of an unproven designer or company. BUT, my husband gave me a gift card for Interweave, so I took the opportunity to purchase this book which had not made it’s way to the 75% off section yet.

DSC_0546 I was immediately attracted to the Wraparound Dress with Three-Quarter-Length Sleeves. It looks like a dress I might have worn in college in the 80’s, or wear now, as a teacher dress.

DSC_0552The directions in the book are minimal. I wouldn’t recommend sewing patterns from this book unless you had basic knowledge of dress construction and/or weren’t planning to rely solely on what was provided in the book.

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The fabric I chose is kind of a textured chambray cotton from Michael Levine’s in DTLA. It’s about 58″ wide, and I purchased 3 yards at $15.00 per yard. It appeared to be a high quality cotton and was lovely to sew with. I like this fabric because it’s a basic with a bit of a twist.

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LET’S BE HONEST:
1. Obviously for this pattern, the most crucial measurement for determining your size is the bust. I am spot on for the Medium with a bust measurement of 35 1/2″. I cut the Medium and the dress fit me very well. So, here’s a word of warning to larger busted gals- Large is the biggest size with a bust measurement of 37″.

2. On me, the point of the dart is about an 1″ too high. If I make this again, I will reposition it. Fortunately the style is such that it’s not that noticeable. Also the texture and pattern in the fabric help mask this as well.

3. I am pleased with the accuracy of this pattern. It sewed up just like it was portrayed in the photo. I realize this is a classic Japanese pattern, and obviously the author of this book had access to a well drafted one. I am planning to try other patterns in the book. I already have a fabulous linen fabric for a skirt.

4. When tracing off this pattern from the master sheet, you need to be up for figuring out which lines go to which pieces as several pieces are overlaid on each other.DSC_0554

I love this dress, my first project of the new year. It couldn’t be more comfortable. I intend to wear it with different tank tops or t-shirts underneath for a pop of color. Thanks for reading this post. I welcome your comments. Cheers! Lori

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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