From June 2015

McCall’s 6952

My sister from another mother came to visit yesterday, and spent the night. She needed a comfortable dress for an event this weekend, and it had to be purple. We went shopping, and struck out completely. The only purple dresses were more of a dark fuchsia, which doesn’t work for her colouring.

McCall's 6952
McCall’s 6952

I offered to make her a dress, knowing what her style is and that it wouldn’t take long, so we gave up on the mall and went to the fabric store. She picked out McCall’s 6952.

My sister isn’t always a big fan of long dresses, but she’s also not big on full skirts either, so we did view C (shown in dark blue) but in the view A/B length.

While I’m at it, I have to give kudos to McCall’s for using diverse models – it’s so important for people of colour to be represented, and it’s great to see that McCall’s uses models from many different cultural groups. My sister is Chinese, so she was particularly happy to see an Asian model on the pattern envelope, given how underrepresented Asians are in the West.

One of the nice things about this pattern is the fabric options. Basically, so long as your fabric has a nice soft drape to it, you can sew this dress. The envelope suggests crepe, crepe de Chine, jersey & interlock. It says “designed for medium weight woven and stable knits”. Options are good! We found some nice, soft polyester that was purple, but this weekend is supposed to be really hot, so we kept looking, and found this really great cotton blend knit fabric with purple and blue circles on it… bonus is, the fabric was 50% off, so the fabric cost was only $10. I ended up getting extra fabric to make a dress for myself.

McCalls 6952, view C, length is the view A/B version.
McCalls 6952, view C, length is the view A/B version.

The dress, as usual, took me longer than I anticipated, but I didn’t mind. I am notorious for underestimating how long a sewing project will take. I thought “oh, I should be able to whip that up in about an hour and a half” but it ended up being closer to three hours. At the end of the day, my sister is happy with her dress, and it’s something she’ll be able to wear again and again.

I am probably going to make the long version of this dress for myself. Fortunately, we’re pretty close to the same size, so I can use the same pattern. I tried the dress on, and I don’t have to do an FBA, due to the slight stretch of the knitted fabric.

This knit wasn’t too fussy to work with, fortunately. It doesn’t have a lot of stretch, and while it is a bit slippery, it wasn’t too bad to work with. The bolt said it was a cotton blend, but didn’t specify what it was blended with – I suspect rayon, which makes it a great summer fabric.

Of course, we can’t just go to the fabric store and buy what we need… so I walked out of the store with four meters of this adorable quilting cotton, which will likely become a Cambie dress for myself. It’s a nice cream colour, not white (which I generally never wear). I’d have been happier if they’d had this print on the olive green background like some of the others in this collection, but I like it on the cream too.

Unfortunately, both dresses have to wait, because I have another dress to sew for Louise! I’m off to iron fabric to prepare it for cutting now!

Louise’s Blue Dress – Completed

Vogue 2903
Vogue 2903

I am finished with the blue dress for Louise! Here it is on my dress form, with a petticoat underneath. I didn’t take photographs without a petticoat, since Louise will be wearing it with one.

Again, this dress was made with quilting cotton, which suits it well due to the fact that it is cooler than synthetic fabrics and has enough body that she can get away with wearing it without the petticoat. The fabric is soft, but has wonderful drape for this dress. Keeping cool is important, since Louise wears her vintage reproduction dresses to perform.

bodice detail on Vogue 2903
bodice detail on Vogue 2903

The bodice of this dress isn’t challenging as the pattern is written, but because we omitted the sleeves, it does lead to some degree of challenge when sewing the inside yoke to the dress.

The bottoms of the underarms are finished with bias tape, rather than a facing, because I always find that armhole facings tend to poke out while you’re wearing the garment. The way the dress is constructed, the bodice is finished completely, then the yoke is placed inside the dress, basted to the facing, and the sleeves are sewn to the yoke. Because I’m making these dresses without sleeves, there are some issues with the armholes. Firstly, the yoke pokes out of the sides just a little. They’re supposed to, because there’s a 5/8″ seam allowance on them, since you’re expected to sew a sleeve to the yoke. I had to trim the seam allowance off. Also, getting the yoke to sit properly inside of the bodice can be a bit challenging. My dress form really came in handy for this step. You’re supposed to just line it up with the princess seams and sew everything together, but this left a bit of gaping between the yoke and the bodice.

inseam pockets added to Vogue 2903
inseam pockets added to Vogue 2903

As I mentioned in a previous post, we added pockets at Louise’s request, so that she doesn’t need to carry a purse if she doesn’t want to. I used the pocket piece from the Sewaholic Cambie dress, since it is a nice, roomy pocket. Tasia has a tutorial on how insert an inseam pocket here, and as you can see, if it weren’t for my hand in the pocket, it would be invisible in this dress.

Pocket placement was determined at her last fitting, at 6″ below her waistline… incidentally, the pattern has a notch at the top of the pocket, which made sewing them easy, as I did not require additional markings on the pattern to indicate where the pockets should go.

I’m hoping to get photographs of Louise in her dresses this time around, but will have to ask her. Unfortunately, my dress form isn’t actually meant for sewing (I really should have put my money toward an adjustable form). It’s hard plastic, with canvas over top, and it was abused by its previous owner. It is also not adjustable, and rather useless for fitting, because it is more petite than I am (or in this case, more petite than Louise is). That’s why the dress doesn’t hang as nicely on the dress form than it would on a person – the dress form is too small at the bust, waist and hips, so this dress hangs on the form very loosely. It’ll look much better on Louise!

I’ll make a separate post about dress forms at a later date. Right now, there’s some beautiful pink floral Michael Miller fabric that needs to be pressed in preparation for the second dress!

 

Galleries

I’ve added galleries to my blog, so that you can see my projects easily. If you go to the “sewing” or “knitting” pages on the menu bar, you’ll see drop-down menus to the relevant galleries.

I will likely also add a gallery for photography, as it is becoming a fun hobby for me.

I’ll also be adding a page for services at some point down the road. Several people have told me that I should teach sewing, or offer my skills to those not interested in learning to sew themselves.

Blogger fail

Apparently, I’m not able to import my old blog into my new one, because Blogger doesn’t support it anymore. This is a hassle, but I’ll live. I’m spending some time today, moving all of my posts manually to this new blog. WordPress is easier to use, even if Blogger refuses to play nicely with it. So far, I’ve gotten as far as this past April. I’m only going to transfer the 2015 posts to WordPress, since it is time consuming and I didn’t really write much prior to this year.

Last night, we spent some time with my husband’s brother and his wife. She is retired, and has a home-based long arm quilting business. We ended up setting up a WordPress blog for her while I was there. She’d been using a Facebook page previously, but that leaves her a bit limited as to content and visibility, so the blog will be a good addition to her marketing. It’s still a work in progress, so when there’s actually some content to see, I’ll post about it here.

Reversible box tote

I’m not a big fan of gigantic purses, so sometimes my purse is just too small for my knitting project… I do have a large drawstring project bag, but I don’t really like it because it’s just too big to carry around.

I did some poking around for a quick, easy, fun tote that didn’t have fussy handles or other details, and found the Reversible Box Tote from Very Shannon. It’s a free pattern, which is awfully nice.

IMG_20150620_154808
Getting ready to sew, since the dog has crashed and the rest of the family isn’t in my hair.

After I finished basting Louise’s blue dress, I decided to sew up my tote. I had bought some nice, acid green Michael Miller fabric that has charcoal grey luna moths on it some time ago, and had absolutely no idea what to make with it. I also had enough of a coordinating fabric that is destined for our quilt (which I have not started cutting yet), which I used for the lining.

As you can see, it was a lazy Saturday in our home. My husband wore the dog out, then went to have a nap himself. My daughter is creating art in her bedroom, and my son is hanging out with a friend, enjoying the sunshine… so what better time to sew up a knitting bag? After all, my machine was already set up, and nobody needed me.

Reversible box tote in Michael Miller fabrics. Tutorial from Very Shannon.
Reversible box tote in Michael Miller fabrics. Tutorial from Very Shannon.

Here’s the finished knitting bag, in all it’s bright green glory! I like how the lining is a perfect match for the exterior of the bag, even though they’re not from the same fabric collection.

The luna moth fabric (the whole flora fauna collection, in fact) is discontinued, which is a shame, because I’d love to get some in raspberry, which would actually be very wearable. I have enough of the fabric for a blouse, but I think it would be a bit… loud.

The bag is large enough for a shawl, or a smaller sweater, which is perfect. I don’t usually take sweater projects anywhere, and if I do, it’s usually in the early stages, before it becomes too unwieldy to travel with.

The best part? I’ll never lose my knitting bag, because it would be impossible to miss!

WordPress

I decided to move my blog over to WordPress, and I’m still in the process of setting things up… I’m having some trouble importing my blog, unfortunately, so if you want access to my past posts, you can see them here. Thanks for your patience!

Louise’s blue dress

Fabrics for Louise's dresses.
Fabrics for Louise’s dresses.

Just a quick update on the dress progress.

Louise came over to try the new muslin, and we have a game plan. The only adjustment I need to make is to take the dress in at the side seams. There was a little bit of extra fullness above the bust, but the weight of the dress will take care of that, so I don’t need to adjust for that.

Louise decided to use the view A yoke, since the view B yoke comes up too high.

What we decided to do is to cut the blue dress first, since the fabric was less expensive. I will baste all of the seams, and we can tweak them if needed when she comes to try it on. Why am I basting? Because Louise didn’t want to come back for a third fitting, and I can’t blame her. She’s busy with her own schedule, just like I am, and it’s a bit of a trek for her to come out here.

I’m really hoping to get at least the blue dress finished by the end of the month. I usually sew faster than this, but this past week has been very busy, and I haven’t been home much.

Louise’s second muslin

I decided to try a different approach on the second muslin for Louise.

Rather than redraft the armholes and bust completely, I decided to start from square one, with the unmodified pattern. On the first muslin, I took 1 1/2″ off the top of the shoulders, which caused the fullness of the bust to be in the wrong place. To avoid this problem (and skip redrafting the bust), I did a petite adjustment of 1 1/2″, which is the same amount I had originally taken off the straps.

I had originally graded from a size 12 in the bodice to a 16 in the hip, and I suspect that the snug bust in the original dress can be addressed by making the bodice a little bigger. Rather than grading the bodice, I’ve cut a size 16. If it is too large, I can pin out the excess at the side seams, sew where I’ve marked it, and have her try it on again, rather than having her come back for a third muslin fitting.

Vogue 2903
Vogue 2903

On the new muslin, I’ve also included the inside yoke, to give an idea of how the dress neckline will sit on Louise when the dress is complete. I did not do this on the first muslin. I sewed the muslin with yoke B (the black version), which is a bit less revealing, but can easily switch it out to yoke A (shown in green).

The reason I did this is because shortening the shoulders on the original dress brought the neckline up, and I was concerned that yoke A would be too revealing. I slipped the new muslin over top of the dress though, and yoke B comes up much higher than yoke A, so we’ll likely either stick to yoke A, or drop the neckline on yoke B a bit, so we end up somewhere in the middle.

All of this pattern tracing reminds me that I really need pattern weights. I had to raid the cupboard for tuna cans to hold everything still while I traced the pattern, but proper pattern weights would be so much better than tuna cans! Pattern weights can be expensive though, so the next time I’m at the hardware store, I’ll pick up some large washers and use them as pattern weights.

Louise’s First Fitting

Have I ever mentioned how important dress fittings are? If not, I’m doing it now. Fitting garments using a muslin is crucial if you want a garment that fits properly and is flattering. This is especially true if it is a fitted garment that will be less forgiving than something with more ease, or if you have made changes to the pattern.

I last sewed for Louise a year ago, and this is the same pattern, so you’d think it would fit exactly the same way that it did last year, wouldn’t you?

Apparently not. Bodies change over time, and the assumptions we make about body shape are not always correct.

Bodice muslin for Louise.
Bodice muslin for Louise.

Here is the bodice muslin, after marking everything that I need to fix. It doesn’t look very nice in this photograph, because I didn’t press the seams since, after all, it’s just a fitting muslin. Also, my dress form is smaller than Louise, so don’t use it as a reference for fit. One of these days, my dress form will get her makeover, but not yet.

Louise asked for more room at the bust, so I did a 3/4″ FBA at the fullest part of the bust (remember what I said about assumptions about body shape?) Unfortunately, this isn’t where she needed the fullness, so I marked with chalk on the muslin where the fullness needs to be (the three horizontal lines). The FBA put the fullness above her bust, which simply isn’t going to work, as it made the seams above the bust “tent”. This tenting is marked with chalk above the bust. The tightness at the bust also led to the bottom of the bodice pulling upward, which interrupts the nice, smooth lines of the bodice over the tummy. Of course, the weight of the skirt will help keep this area smooth, but we don’t want tightness or pulling in the finished dresses!

Also, I thought I’d redrawn the armscye on the pattern tissue, but perhaps I didn’t, as I need to drop the armscye about 1 1/4″. This is marked on the back of the muslin, which is why it is not visible in this photograph.

None of this is a really big deal, and I expect to be finished the second muslin tomorrow so that Louise can come back for another fitting whenever she’s got time this week… but can you imagine what a disaster it would have been if I’d just cut into the fabric she bought without doing fittings first? She’d have ended up with two poorly fitted dresses, and I’d feel terrible!

Always do muslins. Always. Especially if you’re sewing something fitted. You won’t be sorry if you spend the time to do a fitting and everything is perfect, but you will be if you skip this step and there’s something wrong, because you can’t always fix it after the fabric has been cut.

Vogue 2903

Vogue 2903
Vogue 2903

Louise’s dress is view A of Vogue 2903 (the green version). This pattern is a vintage reproduction of a Vogue dress pattern from 1957.

The dress has princess seams, sleeves in two lengths, and an inside yoke with two neckline variations. The skirt has inverted pleats and is mid to lower calf length. This dress has a back zipper… In fact, the only notions required for this dress are thread and the zipper!

The pattern envelope suggests using cotton broadcloth, shantung, faille and piqué. When selecting fabrics for this dress, keep in mind that it is unsuitable for obvious diagonals, plaids or stripes.

Also very important when selecting fabrics is to keep in mind that the dress does not have a waist seam, therefore the pattern pieces are the entire length of the dress. Make sure to buy enough fabric – you will not be able to wiggle the pieces into a smaller yardage of fabric than the envelope calls for, and if you don’t have enough, you can’t just go back to the store and buy another half meter of fabric… In fact,we made a point of buying extra fabric for this dress because I didn’t have enough fabric for the red tulip dress and had to buy more.

Here’s a reference photo of the red tulip dress, which we’re further modifying for the new dresses.

Louise's tulip dress.
Louise’s tulip dress.

Previous Modifications

These are the modifications we made to the original dress. Louise has a petite frame, but doing a standard shortened waist didn’t work with this dress, as her torso isn’t where the adjustment needed to be. We needed to take up the shoulders of her dress. This involved shortening the shoulders by 1.5″. Unfortunately, this led to shallow armscyes, so we had to drop the armscye by 3/4″. We graded the pattern to allow for her measurements at her bust and hip.

Because the sleeves on this dress are very slim fitting, Louise and I decided to make the dress sleeveless, so that she can move better while performing. Leaving her arms uncovered also keeps her cooler while on stage.

The Full Bust Adjustment

Louise found the bust on the tulip dress just a touch snug, so we’re doing an FBA on future versions of the dress. I never do adjustments on the original pattern pieces, since making future changes is more challenging if you use the original pieces. I traced the bodice sections of the front pattern pieces. This dress does not have a waist seam, so the pattern pieces are the full length of the dress.

An FBA on princess seams isn’t much different than a darted FBA. The biggest difference is that you close up the dart you create and rotate the fullness elsewhere, which means drawing a new cutting line. This tutorial from Craftsy is an excellent lesson in doing an FBA on princess seams.

For Louise’s dress, I did a 3/4″ FBA. Since the FBA is done on 1/2 of the pattern, the adjustment was 3/8″. Louise is coming over today for a fitting.

Other Modifications

The last modification will be to add pockets to the dress. I have a pocket template that will allow for pockets roomy enough that Louise will not need to carry a purse, but will not add unwanted bulk. I added pockets to my wedding dress because I did not want to carry a purse.

I’ll be posting about the construction of this dress as I go, so please check back for more!