Monthly Archives: August 2012

I love bold geometric prints (this is probably not a surprise to anyone who has been to this blog before), and ever since zig-zags started showing up in earnest in RTW clothes I’ve been on the hunt for some zig-zag fabric. I’ve scoured the internets to no avail – nothing out there but quilting cottons and home dec fabric. Oh, and Missoni knits. You know, those variegated rainbow chevron patterns that make whatever they’re made into cost a million dollars and have spawned countless rip-offs. (Okay, I hadn’t heard of Missoni before the Target debacle either. I am not trendy.) Anyway, I couldn’t really get excited about all the earth-tone Missoni knock off fabric that I was seeing around, but when I encountered a yellow-gray-black colorway at JoAnn, I gave in to the trend couldn’t resist. (Sidebar here: I generally do not buy fabric at JoAnn. It is pretty much all terrible staticy ravelly cheap-feeling junk, and also the JoAnns near me hardly carry any garment fabric anyway. But I figured I was safe with this poly knit. And indeed it behaved itself, though I can imagine it would be terribly clingy in a shorter, less gathered style.)

So out from the vault came Simplicity 2219, a pattern I scooped up last summer when it came out and that I (surprise!) never got around to making. But to be fair, I hadn’t found a fabric that screamed its name the way this zig-zag did. I opted to make the front neck bands in plain black ITY to mitigate the craziness of the print, and I really like the way it turned out:

I made this dress immediately after completing my Simplicity 1804, and I realised looking at the line drawings that I was going to have the same problem with inappropriate fabric pooling in back, since as far as I could tell they had exactly the same back skirt pattern piece. Maybe it wouldn’t have been as bad in the maxi length with the weight of the fabric to pull it down, but I wasn’t taking any chances. So I pulled out my Vogue 8571, which has an empire line and a fitted-through-the-waist flared skirt, and which I knew from making a (very, as it’s turned out) wearable muslin in the spring (never blogged, sorry!), fit me fantastically in the bottom region. I laid it over the Simplicity back skirt piece, matching waistlines, and cut the Vogue skirt shape from the hip up. And what do you know, it worked! I’ll be hanging on to that Vogue skirt back for all future Simplicity “we didn’t know what to do in back so we used center gathers” patterns.

Other than the skirt back, I made no adjustments. This is a very nice pattern that goes together surprisingly easily considering the number of oddly shaped pieces in the bodice. Many other folks have mentioned that the sides of the bodice are rather low, and I suppose they might be on someone with regular armpits, but since we’ve already established that my arms attach lower than they should I had no problems, and I actually really like having the extra space so my deodorant doesn’t get all over the dress. The neckline is fairly plungy, I suppose, but having no cleavage to speak of makes that not a big deal either, and I think the amount of skin up top helps balance the full coverage skirt.

The pattern may run a bit large, but cutting my usual 10-top-12-bottom worked out fine. Yes, I took in the sides a smidge, and I could have done more, but with a knit this stretchy I could have kept taking it in until I had a sock instead of a dress, so I let it be. I did add the elastic to the empire seam as advised in the pattern to help hold up the weight of the skirt, and I think it helps? I just zigzagged clear elastic to the seam allowance. I also did as they suggested and stitched-in-the-ditch between the contrast neck pieces and the side bodice, since all the understitching in the world wasn’t going to keep the lining from rolling to the outside along the neckline. It also makes the bodice feel sturdier and less slippery.

My pattern review is here.

Overall I’m pretty pleased with my first knit maxi dress. I wore it all day in San Francisco (with a jacket for most of the day, of course) and found that it did actually transition successfully from day to evening with just a shoe change, something that Michael Kors assures me is vital for a good design. However, my voracious appetite for zig-zags has still not been sated, so if you see any non-Missoni style zig-zag knits out there anywhere do let me know!


I think this might be the most flattering dress I’ve ever sewn. No, really. Well, from the front anyway… more on that in a minute.

I was very excited when this pattern, Simplicity 1804, came out – like, 8 months ago – but it took me forever to get around to cutting it out. That may have been as far back as May, I can’t remember (I think the humidity we’ve had lately is frying my brain), but I do know that the neatly stacked cut-out pieces sat untouched for about two months while I made a bunch of other things instead. But just before my most recent trip, thinking I wanted something cute and comfortable to wear on the airplane, I dusted off the pieces of this dress and put it together in just about a day.

I may have been dreading the neckline finish, I suppose. The pattern has a neckline facing piece, but then it instructs you to topstitch the neckline anyway. I’ll never use a facing if I don’t have to, so instead I zigzagged clear elastic to the wrong side of the front neckline edges, then turned it to the inside and twin needled over it (all before I sewed the front center bodice seam, I might add). I only used the elastic on the front, I just turned and twin needled the back neckline (though the elastic wouldn’t have hurt, since the back neck gapes a little – perhaps I’ll make the effort next time. Wow I’m lazy). Then I matched the finished edges at front center and the shoulders and sewed the bodice together. I was worried about the elastic finish with the slightly curved neckline, but it turned out better than I anticipated and I think it may be my best neckline finish yet. Hooray!

The skirt and the front drape went together quickly and without incident, then I stitched up the sides and tried it on. Success in front! But oh boy, the back was kind of terrible. One of the reviews on PatternReview mentioned in passing that because the back skirt was gathered in the center, the fabric pooled a little above the butt. I didn’t really think anything of it, but… yeah.

Okay, I know I have a bit of swayback (or really, just “full butt”, if that’s a thing) that I should be altering for, but this is a little excessive. I considered just leaving it, since only other people have to look at the back of my dress, but then I remembered that other people would be looking at the back of my dress. It occurred to me that I don’t have this problem with center-back-gathered skirts on dresses with a midriff, since that lowers the gathers to where they can do their work (going around my bottom), so what the back of this dress really needed was a back belt or something to lower the gathers to my waistline.

Luckily I had cut out two of the front drape pieces way back when – I was worried that the wrong side of the fabric would show in the twist and I briefly considered doubling the twist piece rather than just narrow hemming it as the pattern instructed. But the twist pulls tightly enough to hide the wrong side totally, so I had an extra square of fabric the same size as the front drape. I gathered the sides and sewed it into the side seams opposite the front drape. Ta-da! A fabric pooling reduction drape that kind of looks like it’s supposed to be there!

Having the drape across the back too also helps balance the pull of the front drape, which is a little snug since apparently I cut it on the crossgrain for some reason (was that on purpose or an accident? I’ll never know), and it makes the side seams fall straight down my side rather than pulling toward the front where the drape is. Whoo-hoo, my first real after-the-fact fitting save!

The fabric is a modal knit from Girl Charlee eons ago. It’s very soft and not too stretchy, has an okay drape, and presses marvelously (something that cannot be said of almost any other knits). It does tend to wrinkle, but then the wrinkles just go away after it hangs for a little while. It’s very nice. I don’t know that I’ll come across any more modal fabric in the future, but if I do I’d be happy to work with it again. But don’t ask me what the heck modal is, because I have no idea.

Overall, this pattern taught me some things about my figure and what I should be wearing. The dress has an empire line, which emphasizes my small bust to the best of its ability, but then the drape pulls the skirt in on the sides through the waist before letting it flare out at the hips, giving me the illusion of a regular-person-with-a-waist shape. I should clearly be making more dresses with midriffs. And never again one with center gathers in back at the empire line. Lesson learned (and applied to my next project, actually – stay tuned)!

Full pattern review is here.

Growing up in Northern Nevada, San Francisco was always my “big city”  – where we would road trip to for art, food, culture and shopping. It’s always has a special place in my heart, but this last weekend’s trip to the bay with my mom really pushed its awesomeness level off the charts for me.

It started early Friday morning with a trip to the deYoung museum to see the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit. I’m glad the deYoung seems interested in showcasing the work of fashion designers – last year’s Balenciaga exhibit was pretty incredible, but Gaultier really turns it up to 11. It’s so cool to see the garments up close; I think I’d appreciate fashion design more if I got to always examine the construction in person rather than on TV or in full body runway stills. Not only does Gaultier have some smart and interesting views on gender and style (he’s fairly miffed that women seem to be able to have our cake and eat it too; i.e., we get to wear dresses or pants while poor men only get to wear boring suits – an excellent point), but he’s a masterful creator of complex and beautiful garments. Here’s a couple iphone snaps of my favorites (click to enlarge):


On the left is the first sweater dress I’ve ever seen that I’ve really liked. Seriously, it kind of makes me want to get more serious about knitting… On the right is a pleated dress with rows of pearl buttons sewn just on the inside of the fold of each pleat. Beautiful! (The full houndstooth bodysuit in the background, though? Very cool, but I can’t imagine a model ever actually wearing that on the runway… well, maybe one did – it was by far not the strangest thing in the exhibit.) The show only runs through this weekend, but if you happen to be conveniently located in the bay area, I highly recommend you check it out!

After a delicious lunch at Magnolia, a fantastic brewpub in the Haight, we headed over to the Legion of Honor for the special exhibition on surrealists Man Ray and Lee Miller. Surrealism is my favorite art movement by far (huge Magritte fan), so it was nice to learn more about these two artists and their take on and contributions to the movement.

Having gorged on the city’s art and fashion offerings, we decided to pop into a funny little discount fabric store in the Richmond called Fabrix that I’d stumbled upon the last time I visited the city. After browsing for longer than we had fed the meter for (oops), I was having my fabric cut when I noticed that the girl standing next to me looked familiar… it was none other than Cindy of the brilliant Cation Designs! Yes, I actually ran into a sewing blogger in a fabric store. What further proof do you need that SF is magical? This was my first internet-life-meets-real-life encounter, and I’m so glad it was with Cindy. She writes one of my favorite blogs and creates such amazing garments, not to mention has an awesome cat. After the initial is-this-really-happening exclamations, we managed to snap some phone pictures, of course (Cindy’s picture is better – posting procrastinator that I am she beat me to the punch):

She’s wearing her not-a-Renfrew, and I’m wearing my Simplicity 2219, which is obviously completed but yet to be blogged. Hey, I was busy meeting awesome people in awesome fabric stores, so sue me. Cindy, it was super cool to meet you, and hopefully we can meet up again sometime closer to one of the cities we actually live in!

Still aflutter from my chance encounter, I dashed across the street to Satin Moon, a beautiful fine fabric shop, where sadly I found no additional sewing bloggers lurking in the stacks, but I did fondle some lovely Liberty lawns:

Ultimately, though, I couldn’t bring myself to pay $50 a yard for fabric, no matter how nice it is. I’ve been ruined by 99 cent mystery fabric, I guess.

Luckily, the next day, driving through Berkeley to Oakland, we literally stumbled on a delightful place called Discount Fabrics. Clearly the SF magic extends across the bay, since we weren’t even looking for another fabric store, let alone a huge discount fabric warehouse. (More magic: at this store I ran into a former student who I hadn’t seen over a year. Seriously.) FInally, finishing out the astounding weekend, we went for tastings and a tour of the St. George Distillery in Alameda, and then met some good friends for delicious pizza and cocktails at Boot and Shoe Service in Oakland.

Coolest. Weekend. Ever.

So, right, the spoils. Here’s what I came home with to feed the ravenous Stash Monster:

On the top right, my two finds from Fabrix in SF: a lovely soft turquoise print cotton poplin and a heavyweight brown geometric print lycra knit. The poplin I think will be an Alma blouse with tie belt (must place that pattern order soon!), and the knit is for some kind of practical work dress. Along the bottom, my haul from Discount Fabrics in Berkeley: gray polka dot ITY knit, a really nice gray cotton twill (my mom got more of this to make a Minoru, but since I already have one I just got a yard for a pencil skirt), and two stretch denims of different weights to …gasp! make pants. Yes, I’m going to attempt a couple pants patterns this fall. Finally, on the top left, two remnant pieces of Marimekko cotton from the Crate and Barrel outlet in Berkeley (for bags or something? I don’t know, they’re just pretty and were only 50 cents).

So that was my magical weekend in San Francisco. I can only hope that I managed to bring some of the magic home with me, and I can use it to successfully blog the four(!) projects that I have finished in the last month as well as, you know, sew some more stuff before work and autumn hit me like a ton of bricks in just a couple weeks. If you’ve got some time left in your summer vacation, might I humbly suggest a trip to the city in the fog? (Which, may I add, was delightfully warm and sunny for much of the weekend. Need I say more?)

Hey, this might be my first Sewaholic pattern that I haven’t made in a simple print (dots, stripes, checks, spots). But I did make it from fabric that’d been in my stash for at least a summer and a half, so I’ll forgive it not fitting the theme. Anyway, here is my sucessfully-completed-in-time-for-the-cousin’s-wedding Cambie dress:


I’ll start by noting that I did just jump right in and make this without muslining the bodice first (thanks for the encouragement, all you fellow muslin scofflaws!) After some hemming and hawing over the finished garment measurement chart (thanks, Tasia, for including that on the back of the envelope – what a concept! I’m looking at you, Butterick-McCall’s-Vogue), I ultimately cut out the following frankensizing: 6 at the top of the bodice grading to a 10 at the waist (sewed the size 8 darts), 10 waistband, 8 skirt, 8 in bodice length, 8 in sleeve length, 6 in sleeve width. Yeah, I’m not really the shape Sewaholics are drafted for. But you know what, it totally worked. I got a very close fit in the bodice, including a mercifully close-enough fit across the sweetheart neckline without an SBA (provided I wear a padded bra). I probably should have shortened the bodice a smidgen, ’cause I think that’s where those horizantal wrinkles are coming from, but this bodice is much closer to the right length for me than the Lonsdale bodice. Of course, grading from a 6 to a 10 in the bodice means eliminating basically all waist shaping and proving just how rectangular I really am. I’m starting to think that fitted-bodice-full-skirt dresses are not the best shape for me – I actually think empire dresses with some waist shaping are my bread and butter (proof to come). Poufy skirt dresses with a fitted waist do require no swayback adjusting though!


The dress came together well with really no adjustments after the size decisions, though. I started the dress on the Sunday before the wedding, and we left for Tahoe on Wednesday, so I effectively got it done in three days. I decided to underline the bodice, since my cotton lawn was quite sheer and I would have been able to see the darts and the seams through the fabric if I hadn’t underlined. (I omitted the pockets for this reason too, as much as it pained me.) Unfortunately, I only had enough random white lawn to underline but not to line, so I had to rush out to the local fine fabric store to get some white batiste for lining. Luckily the owner was there on Monday, a day the store is technically closed, and she was kind enough to let me come in and buy it so I didn’t have to, you know, make the whole dress on Tuesday. (I did end up hand hemming the skirt in the car on Wednesday, but only because my machine blind hem foot really hated this light fabric and I couldn’t get it to work, not because I totally ran out of time. No, really.) The construction is pretty straightforward, but the instructions have you construct the whole outer dress, then the whole lining, then sew them together at the neckline and zipper. This is pretty ingenious, actually (check out Tasia’s post on this step for more info), and totally solves the invisible-zipper-skirt-lining dilemma I keep having (if the bodice and lining are sewn to the zipper as one, how do you separate the skirt from the lining at the bottom of the zipper in an elegant way?). The only problem, though, is that you have to stitch in the ditch under the waistband to enclose the bodice and keep everything aligned, but since I do not have the technical precision of an android (or, apparently, of Tasia, who makes it look so easy), my lining came out slightly shorter than my outer shell and the ditch-stitching goes right through the middle of my lining waistband. Oh well, it’s just on the inside. I may try this lining technique on other dresses in the future, or I may not. I’m still undecided about it.

I appreciated that the sleeve/straps were the last things sewn (here’s a post on that process), since to get a close fit on the back neckline I ended up pulling the straps through almost an inch past the seam line. I may have gone a bit overboard, though, since it’s now pretty impossible to raise my arms above my head in the dress. I should have just taken in the back more at the top of the zipper.

The only real change I ended up making was to reduce the width of the skirt lining by 8 inches total (2 inches off each side seam) to make the lining less bulky. With my shape, though, I should have been trying to get the skirt more poufy, not less! I think the contrast between giant skirt and fitted bodice is the whole point. Crinoline time?


In the end, it was the perfect dress to wear to a fairly casual outdoor wedding at the lake, and I got a ton of compliments on it from the various family members in attendance (though that may have been because my mom was wandering around telling everyone that I’d made it… thanks, mom). I like the pattern, but I’m not sure I’ll make another one. The Lonsdale is a more flattering shape on me, and frankly this is just the sort of dress that I’ll wear to weddings but not anywhere else. I guess I’m just more of a jersey dress girl… lots of evidence of that coming soon!


Okay, I know I said this last month, and very likely the month before that, but seriously this time – where did this month go? How is it suddenly 3 minutes until August? Ugh. Well, this month (oh, I mean last month now I guess) was the Pattern Stash contest on Pattern Review. Oh, I had grand plans for this last month. At the end of June I even pulled out 5 or 6 old patterns that I intended to sew up for the contest. And how many of those patterns did I end up making, you ask? How about a grand total of… one, sewed on the last day of the month, but not reviewed in time to enter the contest. (Stupid east coast time. If PR was on the west coast, I’d… still not be posting it in time. But it’d have been closer!) So although this shirt was late to the PR party, I’m still counting it as my T-shirt of the month for the E Made This T-shirt Project. Take that, lofty goals!

This is Simplicity 2934, a practically ancient tee pattern that I believe may have been the first pattern I ever bought (and I think it was even out of print then). I got it because it was then, and still is, a design that looks like something I would buy at Old Navy. Gathered center scoop neck tee with cap sleeves? Yes please. Funny then that it’s sat uncut in my pattern box until now. I grabbed this mystery drapey (rayon?) knit at the crazy fabric store last time I visited with nothing in mind for it, but when I realised that I would still have two days left in the month once I returned from my cousin’s wedding (Cambie dress completed in the nick of time, details to come) and I might, maybe, be able to squeeze something in for the PR contest/shirt of the month, the fabric went into the wash and out came this pattern. I cut it out yesterday and sewed it today in just over an hour (not counting the 25 minutes it took me to run to the craft store for thread – how do I not have regular green thread?), but as fate would have it I had tickets to a play tonight so I was unable to post the review until after midnight (eastern). Oh well. At least I have a shirt!

I must say that it’s ridiculous that I didn’t make this pattern earlier. It’s really great, actually. I cut a 10 on top grading to a 12 on bottom and made literally no other adjustments. It fits great on top and I actually really like the funny little cap sleeves (they’re folded over so they’re double layer but you don’t have to hem them – in a heavier fabric I imagine they’d stick out in an unflattering wing-like fashion, but in this light rayon they’re just right). The neck band doesn’t lay as flat as I might like, but to be fair it looks like this in the envelope picture too, so at least I didn’t do anything wrong, and it’s good enough. It’s also quite long, which is something I like in a t-shirt. There’s not much else to say, really. Cute, easy top that came together fast. I’d like to say I’ll make lots more of these, but the way I’ve been going I don’t know that I’ll be making lots of anything. Suffice it to say that this pattern is worthy of making again, certainly. (Full non-contest-entry pattern review here.)

So hello, August. I can’t believe you’re here already, but hopefully you’ll have more sewing and blogging in you than speedy July. I have a funny feeling that you won’t include a lined jacket, though… let’s hear it for some more realistic goals this month!