I suppose it’s odd to find oneself finally having some time to breathe in the second week of December, but that is how it’s fallen out for me. The pre-Christmas frenzy seems somewhat calm in comparison to the preceding weeks, which for me included: an extremely challenging period at work during which I frantically sewed unseasonable summer clothes for my Hawaii trip, consisting of three dresses, three tank tops, two swimsuits and two cover-ups for me, and a dress, skirt, and coverup for my mother (which I will share in a huge Christmastime summer clothes roundup post soon); said trip to Hawaii (which was amazing); working in Los Angeles for the three weeks leading up to Thanksgiving (which happily featured hanging out with Det Houndstooth and Ms McCall and buying an obscene amount of glorious fabric, of course); hosting said Thanksgiving at my house (which is such fun but a lot of work); and all the while frantically trying to make sellable items for my first-ever craft market last weekend.

Yes, I actually sold my handmade goods! It’s one of those things I’ve always half-considered and dismissed for various reasons, but I finally took the plunge when a friend conceived of and organized a sort of neighborhood pop-up market made up mostly of crafty friends who are at that point in our chosen craft that we’ve made enough stuff for ourselves but we want to keep making things… It was a great opportunity to experiment with selling in a somewhat safe environment of newbies, as opposed to trying to jump into an established professional craft market.

craft market booth

This was my “booth” – a table dressed with a length of poplin from my stash and laid with my wares: several zipper pouches, some foldover clutches, a couple tote bags, and a selection of silver charm and bike chain necklaces and earrings. It was so interesting to see what people liked and what they weren’t really that interested in. As I suspected, the graphic pattern bags sold well, though it seemed that people were more interested in the color than the cool prints. The foldover clutches with straps sold right away but the ones without didn’t sell at all, so clearly more straps needed in future. Also, smaller zipper pouches were more popular than larger ones, which makes sense in retrospect.

The jewelry was less popular, which was disappointing but not totally surprising. I know I’ve never been “on trend” in my jewelry taste, and it would seem that the reason I can never find pieces I like in stores is not because there’s a market niche that needs to be filled, but rather because I’m the only one who likes that kind of thing. I also realized about halfway through the market that people weren’t understanding that I had made the silver pendants myself (having never heard of silver clay until last year myself, that makes sense), and interest picked up when I started telling people that the pendants were handmade and pure silver.

craft market jewelry

I actually had a really good time selling my wares, even though it was rather nerve-wracking. I would absolutely consider doing another market, and possibly even selling on etsy if I ever found myself with a ton of free time to make things. I could say I “made money” at this market in the sense that I sold the items for more than they cost to make in materials, but the primary problem for me with buying supplies is the “one for me” syndrome – buying extra of a fabric or notion because I like it and I want to keep it for myself. So in that sense perhaps crafting for money is a terrible trap. But it was fun to buy a bunch of great quilting cottons again – I’d forgotten how pretty that fabric can be. And I also enjoyed sewing things that don’t have to fit a body!

But after all of that I was way, way behind on seasonally appropriate selfish clothes sewing. With the weather finally turning toward real (California) winter, I’ve found myself wishing that I already had all the lovely winter garments I’m planning on making (why yes, 30% off merino from The Fabric Store that I bought last month, I’m looking at you). So in a bout of determination that I would have the perfect outfit for today’s activities of visiting the farmers’ market, doing a matinée at work, and the evening’s trip to the tree farm for our Christmas tree followed by our annual post-tree-decorating traditional watching of Love Actually, I stayed up til 1 last night making a dress with deer on it.

Butterick 5246 deer

(And yes, I absolutely acknowledge and am thankful for the fact that I live in a place where I can buy fresh local tomatoes(!) and a Christmas tree on the same day while just wearing leggings and a three-quarters sleeved dress. I love California.)

This fabric is from, obviously, Girl Charlee, and although it broke my rule of thumb for online fabric purchases (9oz and above only), well, it had deer on it. I shamelessly copied this Boden deer dress, and to that end I pulled out Butterick 5246, which has a similar empire line and I’ve made twice before. My last version was in the super stretchiest knit ever, which hid some of the fit problems that this version, made in just about the un-stretchiest knit ever, reveals – strange armpit wrinkles (which Nhi advised me how to fix but I didn’t bother to this time), terrible low back pooling, weird off-grain looking sleeves. But whatever, it has deer on it.

B5246 deer detail

I actually had to cut the bodice out twice, because of an ill-advised decision to attempt an exposed neckline binding. It turned out terribly, but luckily I had enough deer left to cut another bodice (I was not unpicking that binding at midnight). I also scooped out the front neckline by about an inch, which I prefer to the original can’t-decide-if-it’s-a-boat-or-scoop-neckline of the pattern. This pattern has a single back piece, but when I redid the bodice I had to cut the skirt off the old one and make a back waist seam to attach the new back bodice piece, so now it has a back waist seam. Oh well. Deer.

I have a ton of gift sewing to accomplish in the next week (because I so cleverly decided to make everyone’s presents this year…), as well as some actual cold-weather items for myself to wear in actually-has-winter Northern Nevada over Christmas, so back to the sewing machine for me for now. But hopefully I’ll get around to sharing all my (seasonally-appropriate or non) previous projects over my holiday break. ‘Til then… deer!

B5246 deer 2

So here’s the thing.

I know that it’s technically fall now. I know that all of you fellow northern-hemisphere types are eagerly drinking pumpkin lattes and chopping up butternut squash and pinning fall wardrobe inspiration.

But I’m never one to follow a crowd.

So here I am in Southern California, where October is our summer, enjoying our 75-90 degree weather and still making summer clothes. Yep. Because in addition to it being much more shorts-and-tanks weather in October here than it ever is in July, I am also taking a trip to Hawaii in the last week of the month. Which means, with apologies to my fall-leaning friends, I will be posting tank tops for a few more weeks. (And also bathing suits! I have completed two of a possible four suits for my trip, to be blogged after they have been photographed in suitable environs, i.e., not in my backyard.)

pneuma tank

Here then is the first of my seasonally unsuitable tops, the Papercut Pneuma Tank – which, to be fair, I did make in August, a slightly more reasonable month for tank-topping. I was going to visit a friend who was working at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, Utah (a really good company, by the way – if you have theatre leanings and find yourself in the vicinity of southern Utah, check it out) and realized the likelihood of me going hiking on said trip was high, and I had no suitable wardrobe. My workout gear is exclusively of the bike variety, and padded shorts and a jersey are not ideal hiking wear. I had also been thinking about the Pneuma since I found this beautiful, soft, flowy, lululemon-type jersey at FIDM on the great LA meetup trip. So I printed the sucker out and got to work.

pneuma side

The one thing I knew I wanted to change was the depth of the armholes on the tank – I for some reason have been very against the kind of tanks that show side skin below the bra. Not sure why, but there it is. So I extended the side seams up 3 inches. This actually worked out really well. I cut a small in the bra and top of the tank, grading to a medium at the waist/hip of the outer tank.

pneuma mod

I do have some serious pooling in back above the butt, but I’m fairly sure you can’t do a swayback adjustment on a flowy tank top, so I guess that’s just going to have to be okay. (I also have some serious bike jersey tan lines… nothing to do about that either, I’m afraid.)

pneuma tank backI didn’t have the recommended bra strapping for the straps (curse my lack of foresight when I was in the giant elastic superstore in the LA fashion district), but I did have a ton of foldover elastic in a lovely shade of gray, so I folded it and stitched it shut and used it like strapping. Now, I don’t have literally any need for bust support (seriously), so this worked for me, but probably only for me. I also made the bra part out of regular ol’ cotton/lycra jersey, which, again, is plenty of support for me but basically everyone else would probably want their sports bra made from something a bit more springy.

I like the style of this tank quite a bit (I’m a sucker for strappy tops), although for a real workout tank I should have used a natural fabric – on my hike I found that the nice flowy fabric didn’t actually breathe at all. Such are the breaks with mystery yardage from super-discount stores. Still, I felt very stylish… Here I am at the end of the trail in Cedar Breaks (attempting a fake yoga pose, sorry. Boy, I am not a yogi). Those rock formations are amazing!

pneuma in action

By-the-by, I did not make these shorts – gasp! Having spent the little time I had before this trip making this tank, in desperation I ran to the REI and happened upon this pair of shorts on the sale rack. And they fit amazingly. They have basically the same fit as my Thurlow shorts, which is awesome. (The brand is Lole, which I had never heard of until I bought these shorts, but they seem to be an up-and-coming lulu-competitor.) I haven’t bought RTW in so long, it felt weird, like cheating. But also so easy and convenient… Now, I know that a great find like this almost never happens, which I why I started sewing in the first place. But I’ve been outright dismissive of buying RTW in the past couple years, and now I’m thinking of giving it another shot now and then, to fill holes in my wardrobe that I don’t have time to fill myself. On the other hand, as I’ve made some limited forays into shopping for clothes again, I’m reminded with every sizing chart I see that I don’t fit into a straight size anywhere. I’ve gotten so used to grading between sizes that I’m miffed when I remember that I’ll have to choose just one size to buy. So, sewing for the win, eh?

I’ve found myself lately reaching for separates rather than dresses when I get dressed in the morning. Crazy, I know. I will always love a knit dress, and come “winter” (the slightly cooler season defined more by me working than by the weather) I will almost certainly return to my standard jersey-dress-and-leggings wardrobe, but for daily summer life I’ve been really digging shorts and tops.

I’ve also found myself wearing the same tops over and over again all summer. One of the tees I reach for most often I made from a very, very out of print Simplicity pattern, 2934 (it was maybe the first pattern I ever bought, and it was on sale because it was going out of print even then) that by rights should still be available since it is awesome. I made the first shirt a couple summers ago and immediately thought I should make another one, which of course means that it took me until now to actually do that.

simplicity 2934 v2This top is a perfect example of my Plan Less Sew More mantra. I didn’t know I was going to make it until the other day when I wanted to wear my original but it was dirty, and I had one of those immense “duh” moments: MAKE ANOTHER ONE DUMMY! I went right to my stash, grabbed a piece of drapey rayon knit from my last Loft visit that honestly I don’t even remember consciously buying (but there it is in the top corner of my haul picture, huh), and pulled out this pattern. I think I cut and sewed the thing in less than an hour and a half. It fits just the same as the old one (the fabrics are basically identical, right up to and including a predilection to pilling, sigh) but this one is a slightly dressier/more versatile color. Why did it take me so long to do this? Answer: too much planning, not enough sewing.

My only complaint about the pattern last time was that the neckband was a little too wide to lay flat in a drapey fabric (which you kind of need to make the rest of the pattern work). So this time I cut the neckband a 1/2 inch narrower, which worked much better. It looks basically the same but behaves better.  I feel like I learn more about knit neckbands every time I use one, but I still don’t ever feel confidant that they will turn out okay. It always seems like somewhat of a miracle when my knit neckband behaves itself and looks good.

thurlow jean shorts

The other staple piece I made this summer is a pair of jean shorts. I actually conceived, cut, and sewed them in the first week of July as the first item in my hypothetical Mini Wardrobe for the PR contest that subsequently tanked my mojo and turned me off to planning entirely. But they are a useful item regardless and I’m glad I made them.

I used the remains of the nice stretch denim from my skinny Thurlow jeans. I literally had just. enough. to make these shorts. It took much layout ninja-ing and cutting in a single layer (ugh) to eke them out (and while I usually use self fabric for the waistband lining, I in no way had enough left for that so I had to line the waistband in some stretch poplin from the scrap bin). I even had to cut the back pockets in two pieces because there were no scraps large enough to make two full pockets. (I pieced them horizontally and topstitched the seam and called it a design choice.)

thurlow jean shorts back

Fitting wise, I started with my skinny Thurlow mod (which I knew would fit identically to my jeans because it was the same fabric!). The only thing I changed was to take a half inch off the front rise, starting at the center front and tapering to nothing by the pocket. It worked out well – these shorts have a much more reasonable front rise than my jeans, and the back was not affected. I might even do 3/4 inch next time.

For length, I cut the legs off at, well, as long as my fabric would allow, which was about shorts length but maybe slightly shorter than I’d wanted. See, my desire was to cuff them. But what absolutely did not occur to me until I had totally finished the shorts, put them on, and rolled them up was this: a tapering skinny pants pattern does not make for cuffable shorts. The taper of the skinny pants means that the circumference of the hem of the shorts is smaller than it is a few inches above, so when I rolled them up 1) they cut off the circulation in my thighs and 2) the cuffs, which didn’t have as much fabric available to them as I’d wanted, tended to shrink as I moved and ended up as tiny, unflattering half-inch cuffs that rode up my thighs in an indecent manner. Moral: when planning on cuffs, make sure the pattern stops tapering starting where you want the top of your cuff to be. After two or three frustrating wears dealing with migrating cuffs, I finally surged off an inch or so and just plain ol’ hemmed them.

thurlow jean shorts sideSo there you have it, two boring basics that I’m so glad I have now. I’m really enjoying making basics, actually, especially things like these based on items I know I wear a lot. I might go rifle through my closet right now looking for more awesome separates to re-make. Why it’s taken me this long to apply common sense to my sewing, I will never know.

In the recent spirit of my “Plan Less Sew More” pledge, I basically on a whim decided to make a dress that’s been floating around in my head for a year or more. In the spirit of The Quirky Peach’s summer stashbusting pledge, I finally cut into some lovely fabric from Michael Levine (the real store, not the Loft, gasp! from back when I thought I had to pay more than $2.50 a pound for fabric) that has been languishing in my stash for more than two years because I was afraid I would make it into something unworthy. And in the spirit of using whatever pattern has caught my fancy in the last few weeks (read: has not been put away yet), I decided to use as my base the indomitable Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono tee (previously hacked here, here, and here).

But this would be my greatest hack yet! I would make it into a cowl neck dress. Inspired perhaps by all the Myrtles showing up everywhere, I suddenly wanted a cowl dress with an elastic waist. I was reminded of this (no longer available) dress from Boden that has been in my inspiration file for a while, which has a contrast color wide elastic waist (and yes, basically an unaltered Kirsten for the bodice, but dammit I wanted a cowl neck), and I dug out the lovely striped fabric I’d been hoarding. I found the perfect contrast color in a beautiful merino knit I got at The Fabric Store in January, which I’ve been saving for cooler weather to make into a long sleeved cowl top (I decided I wouldn’t miss a few inches off one end of the piece). And chanting my “plan less” mantra for courage, I hacked away. And it worked!

kirsten cowl dress

First, the cowl. I knew it must be possible to convert a normal neck into a cowl neck, and indeed a casual googling turned up this diagram, originally from pattern-making.com, but now available on every sewing alteration pinterest board ever:

cowl neck alteration

Okay, seems straightforward enough. I traced the top of the Kirsten and made the cuts for the double drape cowl. It wasn’t at all clear to me if I was supposed to make a cut at the bust as in the diagram, but it turned out that I had to make a cut there (and a big one) to get everything to lay flat.

tee-to-cowl alteration

I then traced my slashed piece and added a facing to the top (it’s a straight line on the pattern piece, but when I cut out the fabric I curved it out about an inch more at center to give the facing more incentive to stay flipped to the inside). Sure looks like a cowl pattern to me:

kirsten cowl pattern piece

Just to make sure, I (gasp!) made a quickie muslin from some random knit and, yep, it was a cowl! The one thing that is not addressed in the diagram that I realized with the muslin is that using this method your shoulder seam ends up an inch shorter than on the original pattern, which means the front shoulder doesn’t match up with the back shoulder anymore. I wasn’t sure how to address this, so I just kinda futzed it in the cutting, adding a little to the sleeve of the front and shaving a little off the back sleeve. Knits aren’t fussy. But I don’t know what you should do in a woven fabric, or if you happen to have any desire for precision at all (I don’t, in case you couldn’t tell). At any rate, the resulting cowl is the perfect depth for me. Many of my commercial cowl patterns are of a slightly scandalous depth, but this one is modest without being choking.

kirsten cowl dress 2

For the skirt I wanted something with a little flare, not just a straight gathered skirt like from Vogue 1224 (which I’ve pirated before). I ransacked the pattern stash and came up with Simplicity 1810, a wardrobe pattern that I’m pretty sure I bought during my it’s-got-a-yellow-sample-picture-and-it’s-only-a-dollar pattern buying phase. The shape and fullness of the skirt looked just right. Of course, the pattern piece is an all-in-one bodice/skirt affair, so I traced the bottom half, freehanded a slightly curved line at the marked waist, and added a seam allowance to the top.

For the waistband, I measured the bottom of the bodice (19 inches) and the top of the skirt (23 inches) and split the difference, cutting two waistbands (front and back) that measured 21 inches long. I was using inch and a half elastic, so I made the waistband 2 1/2 inches tall (1/2 inch seam allowances). I didn’t want to use more merino than necessary, and I wanted to make the waistband a bit sturdier, so I cut waistband lining pieces from the main striped knit.

Construction-wise, because of the elastic waistband channel, I couldn’t leave the side seams ’til last like usual. I constructed the bodice (finishing the back neckline with a strip of merino turned to the inside and topstitched, because I like the pop of color at the back neck on the inside for just me to enjoy), sewed up the sides of the skirt, then attached bodice and skirt to the waistbands. I first sewed the side seams of both the waistband and the waistband lining (using a basting stitch for one of the lining seams, which I pulled out later to insert the elastic then sewed shut by hand), then placed the lining circle into the outer circle and stitched both as one first to the bodice and then to the skirt. The inserted elastic gathered the whole shebang up just the right amount.

kirsten cowl dress back

Now, as usual there are some sloppy hacking errors. The back bodice blouses out more that I might have liked, and the front is a bit too crumply too – I would probably have benefited from shortening the front and back bodices some, or figuring out how to make the cowl alteration work without adding that huge wedge at the bust. The skirt seems slightly higher in the back than the front, because I used the same pattern piece for both and my rear is quite a bit larger than my front, plus the waistband sits higher in back than in front. But overall I’m gonna call it a success. I feel strangely accomplished for kinda-sorta venturing into pattern making. I never cease to be amazed at the ways you can move ease around a plain ol’ bodice to make something that looks so different. I’m gonna want to cowl-ify all my bodices now.

This sort of dress is my bread-and-butter: appropriate for a variety of activities from work to evening out to vacation. The fabric is a heavy, very drapey knit with a super smooth hand and great recovery; I’m gonna guess viscose? (Ha, even though I bought it in a real fabric store I still have no idea what it is.) Whatever its provenance, it feels great to wear and I’m gonna wear the heck out of it. Thanks, random capricious whim, for making me make this dress so now it’s in my closet instead of my head!

I tend to be a planner. Some of this stems from the fact that I basically plan things for a living, and some from the fact that I have more time to daydream about sewing than I have time to actually sew. So I generally plan out pretty precisely what I’m going to make next. However, I’ve realized that the things I like best and tend to wear more are the things I made on the spur of the moment, right when the inspiration struck. So.

Last month I was planning on entering the PR Mini Wardrobe contest. I like this contest. I had a lot of fun with it when I entered it a couple years ago. I even had an awesome plan for an old school throwback wardrobe based around jean shorts and a bomber jacket, and I went so far as to make the shorts right at the beginning of the month to wear on the 4th of July. But then I didn’t make anything else. For weeks. I dinked around, read like 5 books, went to work, did not sew. I knew what I was going to make but I couldn’t get excited about any of it. And then, with the end of the month in sight and no realistic way I was going to squeeze in four garments including a bomber jacket, I thought, screw it. And I made the dress I actually wanted to make, instead of the things I thought I wanted to make.

knit lonsdale

This is a jersey knit Sewaholic Lonsdale. I’ve been wanting to try the Lonsdale in a knit for a while (knitify all the things!) and wanted to make it in this specific lovely striped bamboo jersey ever since the green colorway arrived on my front porch (upon which I went back to Girl Charlee and ordered it in yellow). The only thing keeping me from making it as soon as the fabric arrived and was washed was my grand plan to make other things. I can be very foolish.

I feel like the Lonsdale is calling out to be made in a knit. It’s got a casual summer vibe that I don’t think plays as easily with a nice woven fabric like a voile; i.e., I think this knit Lonsdale will be appropriate for more occasions than the lawn version I made a few years ago. Case in point: I wore this dress to a friend’s bridal shower and it felt totally appropriate for that event, but so would the woven version. Then after the bridal shower we went out to a pizza joint, and later in the day I wore it to a movie, both places the knit dress felt right for where the woven dress would have felt too fancy. Knit dresses for the win!

I basically didn’t modify the pattern at all for the jersey fabric. I omitted the zipper, obviously, but I kept the back seams in the bodice and skirt for shaping. Rather than the waistband that goes all the way around, though, I cut two waistbands, front and back, constructed the whole front and then back of the dress and sewed the side seams last for fitting, like I usually do for knit dresses. I made the waistband a bit taller than the pattern, but that’s just a personal preference. I also omitted the pockets, sadly, because that style of pocket is hard to make work in a knit. Oh, and I chopped 4 inches off the length (really! why is it so long?).

knit lonsdale back

I self-lined the bodice, and while I didn’t feel that stay tape or elastic was necessary in the front bodice, I did sew clear elastic to the seam allowance along the top of the back bodice for a little extra support. I maintained the loop-and-tie strap design of the pattern, although in the jersey the bow is a bit heavy and floppy. It would probably have been neater to just sew the straps into the back bodice and dispense with the tying, but I like the adjustability that provides to the front.

Size-wise, I suspect you’d want to go down a size from what you would make in a woven. I can’t be sure, though, because the woven version I made sadly doesn’t fit me anymore. I ended up cutting about a size larger than I made last time (just in the waist and hips, though, not the bust), because I thought I might have to go up almost two sizes to get it to fit in a woven again. I also shortened the bodice almost an inch because I remembered thinking the bodice was too long for me in the other version, and it turns out I could have shortened even a little more on the sides. I think this is less to do with the length of my torso (which is very average as far as I can tell) and more to do with the fact that Sewaholic’s patterns are drafted for higher armpits than mine. Putting the top bodice line where I want it under my arms puts the waistband too low, which makes the bodice blouse and wrinkle on the sides. This will likely not be a problem for you if the Renfrew top as drafted doesn’t cut off circulation to your arms the way it does to me.

knit lonsdale 2

Overall I like this dress. Some minor regrets: I wish I had played with the stripes a little, because I feel like this dress could use some chevron action. However, that would have required a lot more fabric and been more wasteful because of the shape of the bodice pieces with those looooong straps. Also, the skirt is an A-line rather than a full 1/2 circle, but I kind of wish I’d gone with a 1/2 circle, which I feel is more flattering on me. But if I’d taken the time to think about and make those changes, it wouldn’t have been the instant gratification project I wanted.

sew more

Which leads me to my new goal (for summer, at least): Plan Less, Sew More. I’ve been letting myself get bogged down in obsessive thinking and planning, at the cost of my mojo. At this point, I’d rather make whatever tickles my fancy than what is required for this or that contest or sewalong. That said, I don’t object when, by happy coincidence, I can have my cake and eat it too. I have almost unknowingly created a dress for Heather B’s Summer Sundress Sewalong. If this isn’t a sundress, I don’t know what is. Which is probably why it makes me so happy, and why it called me to make. it. now. (Even though our version of summer here is overcast with temps in the high 60s… sigh. I know, I know, but I’d trade any of you with regular ol’ 100 degree summer weather right now.)

And then, to further solidify my pledge to not plan anything, at 10pm the night before the bridal shower I decided this dress required a new purse. Something casual but not informal, sort of like the dress. Into my quilting cotton stash I went, pulling out an ancient Echino camera print fat quarter which I decided needed to be a foldover-style clutch/purse. It took me a bit of thinking to make a fold over style work with a directional print, but once I realized I could just turn it on its side the thing came together in about an hour. I used a blue zipper, because why not?

foldover clutch purse

And I lined it in orange, because again, why not?

foldover purse open

And I love it.

It’s basically a big zipper pouch, which there are a bajillion tutorials for online if you’ve never made one. My pieces were about 14 inches tall by 9.5 inches wide (that’s what worked with the fat quarter in the orientation I needed). I added little tabs with D-rings to each side at about 9 inches from the bottom to hold the strap and encourage folding over at that line. For the strap I doubled up a piece of ribbon I had and edgestitched it, attaching a small dog clip at one end so I can convert it from a shoulder strap to a wrist strap. Instant gratification again!

So here’s to sewing what you want, when you want. Now I’m off to stare at my stash and see what else is begging to be made!

I can’t even remember the last time I made a dress from just one pattern. I’ve always liked frankenpatterning, but lately I’ve really been treating my pattern stash as more of an ingredient list than a recipe book, with individual elements to be extracted and combined to make the item I have in my head. Here are a couple of my recent concoctions.

Along the lines of my actual-weather-appropriate sewing epiphany, I wanted to make a doubleknit dress with cap sleeves. I love my two sweatshirt dresses (doubleknit with tall midriff and short full-ish skirt), and wanted another one. I immediately thought of Vogue 8685, which I made in the pencil skirt version years ago (and is sadly too small now). That pattern does have a full-skirted version, but I didn’t want the weird skirt yoke or a circle skirt. I grabbed the skirt from Burda 7739 instead. I considered using the trusty midriff from Simplicity 2281, which I have used several times for various frankenpatterns, but I went with the one from the Vogue for matchings-sake. I created my own pleats in the skirt, both because I didn’t want two dresses with the same pleats and so I could make the skirt match up to the midriff.

vogue 8685 frank

And, well, it kind of worked. As sometimes happens with me on center-pleated or -gathered skirts, the skirt pulls funny to the sides, like I need the fullness distributed more towards the edges rather than all in the middle. This seems to be exacerbated by the presence of side seam pockets (which I couldn’t bring myself to take out because I really like pockets when the fabric is heavy enough to hold my phone). I think I need to cut a bigger size in the hips? Or a steeper curve in the skirt from waist to hips? Or to just abandon center-weighted fullness? For now I’ll just keep my hands in the pockets to mask the problem.

vogue 8586 frank 2

Because I made it in a solid fabric, I wanted to add some detail so I topstitched on either side of all the shoulder/raglan sleeve seams and on the top and bottom of the midriff. In an attempt to make a clean and easy neckline finish, I zigzagged skinny clear elastic to the wrong side of the neckline before I turned and topstitched it, but I could’ve done without – it’s a little gathery because I didn’t get the elastic tension quite right.

vogue 8685 frank back

The fabric is a nice very slightly variegated ponte I found on a bolt at the Michael Levine Loft earlier this year. I’m hopeful that because it’s not one of the usual pontes I see everywhere (Sophia Double Knit, I’m looking at you), it won’t have a big rayon content and so ideally will be more impervious to pilling. Just in case, I’ll try to mostly dry this dress flat rather than in the dryer, which I like to think helps delay ponte’s inevitable decline into a textured pilly mess.

Frankendress number two started, as they usually do, with a dress I saw at Boden a while ago. I liked the idea of a striped tank top dress with a chevron circle skirt. So off I went into the pattern stash. My trusty half circle skirt is from the Tiramisu pattern, and for the tank bodice I pulled out McCall’s 6109, which I made in the cowl variation a couple years ago and I absolutely love and wear all the time. I sort of used the midriff pattern to make the waistband, cutting it the same width but about half the height to get the narrower waistband of the inspiration.

mccall 6109 frank

The bodice I made as drafted, in the same size as my other version, but the tank view seems a bit shorter in the bodice than the cowl view. I also found the neckline too high and small. This was probably because the pattern instructs you to just fold over and stitch the neckline – I wanted a neckband, but I stupidly didn’t cut the neckline down at all to accommodate one. I ended up cutting off my first neckband and sewing on a fresh one, which brought the end result back to what was drafted (which I still find a little high and small). It’s also one of those deep scoop necklines that is really hard to get a flat neckband on. I should always remember to make neckbands with steep curves narrower than I’d like, so they’ll maybe actually lay flat.

mccall 6109 frank back

I hadn’t intended to make the bodice have vertical stripes, but when I went to lay out my fabric (a rare JoAnn purchase, which of course means that it’s already pilling and has taken on color from everything I’ve washed it with), I realized that it’s a vertically striped fabric with just two-way stretch, so vertical striped bodice it was. Luckily the direction of stretch doesn’t really matter in a circle skirt, so I still got my chevron front seam.

mccall 6109 frank skirt

As with most of my Frankencreations, I mostly am happy with the outcome but they’re not perfect. (Wait, that might be how I feel about all of my finished garments… but somehow it’s more personal with a pattern I assembled from assorted pieces.) The waistline on both dresses is slightly higher than I’d like it to be. Such is the danger with sticking a bunch of random pattern pieces together. I’m lucky in that I seem to be neither long- or short-waisted, and the big 5 patterns generally hit my waistline just right without adjustment. But something about the lazy mix-and-match I do throws that off slightly. I suppose I should make the effort to actually measure and check those things, eh?

Even imperfect as they are, I have a special place in my heart for all my Frankenbabies. I’ve already worn both these dresses a ton. I also made the bonus discovery that a circle skirt is fun to bounce in, when I wore the striped dress to a friend’s birthday party that had a bouncy house (yes, my friend is an adult, no, there were no children at this party, and yes, bouncy houses are absolutely for grown-ups too. So. much. fun.) BOUNCE!

frankendress in bouncy house

I realized recently that I don’t sew for the actual weather where I live. This could be because I’m simply in denial (“hey, I live in Southern California, summer should be hot!”) or I’ve fallen into the Seasonless Region Trap (“well, it’s technically summer on the calendar, even if it’s 60 degrees and not sunny”), but I am sewing for seasons we just don’t have here. I have in my closet a number of long sleeve dresses and tops, and a number of sleeveless dresses and tops, but I have relatively few dresses and tops with, for instance, some shoulder coverage – i.e., that are actually functional in the weather we have here most of the time. While all you other North Americans are having summer right now, we on the coast have Gloom. It’s not cold, but it’s not hot. The sun isn’t out when I get up, but is hidden above a thick layer of… something or other that is not rain clouds, not regular clouds, not fog, but is a depressing shade of gray that makes me sad, until it finally breaks anywhere between 11am and 5pm. In other words, not sundress weather. We get that in October. Or January. Coastal climates are weird.

So this year I’m trying to be more realistic. Luckily, I discovered the magic that is the Kirsten Kimono Tee. Not sleeveless, but not sleeved either. Warmer than a tank but still with a casual summery vibe. Let the hacking continue!

kirsten dress

This dress is based off a dress I spotted at Boden, of course. I’m realizing that waistbands are my friends in the figure flattery department, so I’m gravitating more toward waistbanded styles rather than the bags-tied-with-sashes or gathered-skirts-joined-directly-to-bodices that I’ve favored in the past. I knew this would be an easy hack. Waistband just a rectangle (in this case, about 3 inches tall). Skirt again borrowed from New Look 6122. But then I had to figure out how to make a gathered bodice…

I started with the Kirsten tee pattern, shortened to waist length (by the simple expedient of trying one of my existing tees on and measuring from the center neckline to my waist). Then I stared at it for a while. I wasn’t quite sure how to actually add gathers along the front waistline. In the end, I did what amounted to a Full Bust Adjustment. I never thought I’d say that on this blog! I knew what to do because I generally have to do the opposite. I slashed and spread, trying to concentrate my spreading at the bottom of the bodice rather than at the bust. Here is a terrible iPhone picture of what I did. I evened out the bottom hem by sort of splitting the difference.

kirsten gathered bodice

And, well, it basically worked… in the sense that if I had a full bust, there would be room for it now. If I stand up straight it looks okay, but if I slouch there’s a pretty big fabric puddle above the waistband. Any ideas out there about how to add gathers to the bottom of a bodice without making room for two or three additional busts? I’m fairly sure it’s not possible, since that is the point of gathers, but perhaps some of you are magical.

I didn’t adjust the back at all, and I still had to gather it a little to fit it to the waistband.

kirsten dress back

But all in all, I still like it. Kind of a lot. It’s basically just what I wanted. A casual but not too casual summery-feeling dress that isn’t so skimpy that I need a cardigan on a Gloomy morning.

The fabric is from Girl Charlee (ordered using my 9oz-or-more/designer-overstock rule). It’s a more vibrant turquoise and gray check than is evident in these pictures, taken as they were indoors on a typical Gloom-struck morning. I bought it because the bold graphic appealed to me, though I didn’t quite know what to make with it. I pulled it out when I thought of making this dress hack, and I think the simplicity of the dress helps tame the bold fabric. I will say that this is the second GC printed fabric I’ve bought that the color rubs off on everything. My hands were green by the time I finished this dress, and my white bike seat was smeared green when I arrived at work the first day I wore it. It doesn’t bleed, exactly, just rubs off like the dye on new denim. It doesn’t affect the look of the fabric, and in my experience stops after a few washes. The fabric is nicely stretchy and was super easy to work with (other than the green hands), and there’s a ton of it left in stock (and on sale!)

kirsten dress 2

So as we near the end of June, my eternal hope that the Gloom will lift springs, and my mind is drifting from practical weather-appropriate garments to shorts and tanks again. I managed to make one other shoulder-covered dress, but I’m afraid my resolve is crumbling and real sundresses are calling me… So I’m sure this odd little dress will get a lot of wear. Because I’ve lived here long enough to know that Gloom lasts until September, no matter how many sundresses I make.


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