The Sandra Dress

Sewing others stylish is just as much fun as sewing myself stylish! That’s why I’m so excited to feature my beautiful friend, Sandra, as a guest model in this post. For Fresh Make #7, I have made a versatile shift dress.
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The pattern I used is Burda 7031. I purchased on sale at JoAnn’s for $2.49. A few months ago, I posted it to my Facebook page as a pattern that I thought would be flattering on all figure types. “Who would like to make it?”, I posed. And Sandra said, “I would!” Sandra’s machine and sewing skills were a bit rusty, so I offered to make the dress for her and feature it in my blog.
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Now here’s the super fun part about sewing for friends – the shopping trip to buy the fabric! We went to Mood on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles and had a blast imagining ourselves as designers on Project Runway.

Sandra is captivated by all the luscious fabrics.

Sandra is captivated by all the luscious fabrics.


We spent at least 90 minutes wondering up and down the aisles, drooling and touching fabrics. Sandra finally choose this luxurious knit wool jersey. The pattern requires 2 5/8 yards. I think the fabric was $18 per yard. And did Sandra care? No, it was gorgeous!

Fabric bought, time for lunch! We walked up four blocks on La Brea to Sycamore Kitchen and both had salads were to die for. The Sycamore Kitchen is also directly across the street from recent Austrialian transplant, The Fabric Store. What a great day!

Here’s the results of our efforts:
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LET’S BE HONEST:
1. I when sew for others, the size I make is confidential, even to my client! I want having a garment custom made to be a wonderful, feel-good experience.

2. Sandra wanted the sleeve to become narrower towards the hem instead of the slight bell shaped of the pattern. I took about 4″ total off the bottom of the sleeve width.

3. I thought an interesting element to this otherwise very basic pattern was the bust dart. Sandra loved the shape that it created, too.

This dart may look unusual, but it creates a great shape.

This dart may look unusual, but it creates a great shape.

4. I found a big surprise as I began cutting and sorting through the pattern pieces. There was a dart at the top of the sleeve.

I don't think I've ever encountered a sleeve with a dart at the top before.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a sleeve with a dart at the top before.

I considered manipulating the pattern to remove the dart because I was concerned that the sleeve might be a bit pointy where the dart ended. But then I decided I would go with it. It was part of the design vision for this pattern. To my delight, the sleeve actually turned out beautiful. This amazing wool jersey fabric molds itself like cake fondant when a steam iron is gently used on it. The dart is not even noticable.

5. I added 2″ to the hem when cutting the fabric to be sure I had enough length to create a hem that hit slightly past the midpoint of the knee. This is a flattering spot for a hem as it accentuates the narrower part of your upper calf without showing your whole knee.
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Sandra and I were giddy with excitement when I brought her the finished dress. We were thrilled with the perfect, flattering fit. For Sandra, wearing it is as comfortable as a nightgown, and no shape wear required!

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. As always, I welcome your comments.

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The Festival Skirt

I’m going to wear lots of skirts this spring and summer. Enough of those jeans shorts. I’m adding a second skirt to my stylish handmade collection for Fresh Make #5.
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The pattern I choose was Simplicity 2416. I purchased this pattern at JoAnn’s Fabrics for $1.00 during their 5 Simplicity patterns for $5.00 sale. I like this pattern because it has a retro 70’s vibe and it seemed like it would be a fun, feel good skirt to wear. I named the pattern The Festival Skirt because I could imagine a groovy gal frolicking around in a swirl skirt like this a summer music festival.

I made view B.

I made view B.

I am in love with the fabrics I choose. They are from Amy Butler’s Hapi Voile collection, purchased from my favorite online fabric store, Hawthorne Threads. This cotton voile is amazing. It’s smooth and lightweight with a beautiful drape – a delight to sew with. The cost for this fabric, including shipping was $58.50 and worth every penny.
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There's a simple elastic casing at the waist.

There’s a simple elastic casing at the waist.

 

I overlocked all the edges together and did a rolled hem.

I overlocked all the edges together and did a rolled hem.


LET’S BE HONEST:
1. The pattern pieces, all seven, are just a series of swirls (or flounces as they are referred to in the directions), it is viturally impossible to measure the pattern pieces for fit before cutting out the fabric. So with my new updated knowledge about my measurements, I simply cut a size 16. Always error to the larger size – you can always trim off fabric, but you can’t add on. Right? It turns out it fit fine. I probably could have gotten away with a 14, but for me, there’s nothing worse than fabric pulling across the tummy.

2. 54″ vs. 6o” I ran across this same issue with The Instead Top. The pattern envelope gave yardage amounts for 45″ and 60″, but this Amy Butler fabric is 54″ wide. Again, I thought it would be fine to buy the specified amount for 60″, but I ended up having to do some “creative” manipulations of the patterns pieces to fit them all on the fabric. I would definitely buy at least an 1/8 of a yard more of each fabric if I were to repeat this project.

3. Interesting hem. The directions instruct you to hem the second to last flouce before sewing on the last flounce. (The hem is split between the two contrasting fabrics.) This resulted in curve that I’m not sure I care for.
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This flouce (the flower print one) also dipped more in one spot, creating a bit of an uneven hem. But, hey, maybe I shouldn’t let that bother me. The photo on the pattern envelope kind of looked that way too.

4. I did “raise” the skirt a bit. I anticipated that the skirt would probably be too long, but also knew it would be tedious and risky to mess with the swirl pattern pieces to shorten the length. After completing the hem but before doing the elastic casing, I tried it on and determined that I would cut off 2″ from the waist to shorten it. This adjustment was minor enough that it didn’t affect the fit or look of the skirt.

Overall, I am completely enamored with the skirt! And I highly recommend the Amy Butler cotton voiles if you choose to make a Festival skirt.

Again, whether you are a sewer or non-sewer, I sincerely appreciate you for taking the time to read this post. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback. Lori

The Carol Dress

I haven’t had a shirtdress in recent memory, and definitely not one in a slinky knit. Since this is my year for trying new things, Fresh Make #3 is a knit shirtdress.DSC_0030 I used McCalls 6520. I purchased it at JoAnn’s Fabrics as part of my recent bunch of 5 McCalls patterns for $7. I have named this pattern The Carol Dress in honor of TV’s favorite 70’s mom, Carol Brady. I know her collars were more exaggerated and her hems were shorter, but this shirtdress style definitely hints back to that era.DSC_0050 I bought the fabric at Michael Levine’s in downtown L.A. on the same trip that I bought fabric for The Tina Jacket. The total cost for this project is truly something to brag about. I bought two yards of 60″ fabric for $5.00 per yard for this project. $10 for fabric + $1.40 for the pattern + $1.60 for buttons + $4.00 for interfacing + $1.95 for thread < $20! I don’t focus too much on cost for my projects because I sew for many other reasons, but the low cost for this project was worth mentioning.
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DSC_0028I can’t remember the last time I did a collar with a band. But it’s like riding a bike, you never forget how.
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LET’S BE HONEST:

1. This McCalls pattern is rated EASY. While this may be a simple version of a shirtdress, NO shirtdress pattern is recommended for beginners, especially one that is designed for knits only. Features such as collars, plackets and buttonholes are best practiced on woven fabrics first.

2. A word about working with this knit fabric. This synthetic knit is very stretchy and requires some slow and patient sewing. I found that I needed to hand-base about 3/8″ from the edge first before I topstitched around the collar to prevent the fabric from stretching on the top layer.

3. Numbers rear their ugly head again! Like with The Jean Skirt, the size that matched my measurements sounded way too large for me. I cut a size 14 on top and at the waist transitioned to a size 16! Wow! Just numbers, right? Last week I bought a pair of size 8 jeans at Ann Taylor. Oh pattern companys, why can’t you flatter us like Ann?

4. I’m not always the expert I think I am. I pride myself in taking the time adjust the pattern pieces to my measurements before I cut the fabric and also fit as I sew. I took 3/4″ off the length of the sleeve pattern and thought that would be fine. Well maybe the fabric stretched with the weight of the cuff, or I have really short arms – but the sleeves came out about 2″ too long. They bunched at the wrist and I knew I would not wear the dress like that. So I decided the best solution was say good-bye to an hour or so of hard work and simply cut them off!
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5. Shh! Big secret. I’m wearing a slip and shape wear in these photos. You got to hide the bumps and bulges when wearing a slinky knit!

Overall, I am very happy with my Carol Dress, and I am pleasantly surprised at it’s flattering fit.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I welcome your comments and questions.