In which I finally get around to the Tiramisu

As discussed previously, I seem to have the attention span of a golden retriever. So when I first hear about something I want-it-now! but if I can’t have-it-now, when I do finally get it I let it get buried by all the other want-it-now!s I’ve seen in the interim. Such was the case with the Tiramisu dress pattern from Cake Patterns. When it was introduced slash taking over the blogosphere, I wanted nothing more than to have one of the stripey prettys all of my own. I even pre-ordered the pattern, way back in November. Then it came, and I was flummoxed by the sizing, and I didn’t have enough of the striped fabric I wanted to use for it, and other things happened instead. A lot of other things. But, finally, when my time freed up somewhat a week or so ago and I was casting about for things to make, spurred on by the curious kiwi‘s Indie Pattern Month, I pulled the pattern out again and just did it. There, was that so hard?

Cake Patterns Tiramisu

Of course, it helped that I had found the perfect fabric for a Tira the time before last in LA at Michael Levine Loft. It’s a super-soft, probably-rayon knit and I love the variegated stripe with the white pinstripe in between. In a happy coincidence, the stripes happen to be the same width as the finished neckline binding, making square mosaic-tile-like stripes along the neck and sleeves. I do wish my stripe matching skills had risen to the occasion of this fabric, but sadly they did not and about 80% of my seams have ever-so-slightly mismatched stripes. But I’m so not the kind of person who rips out perfectly good, so I left it, choosing the better matched of the two center skirt seams to be my front skirt. Luckily the fullness of the skirt and my hair somewhat hides my laziness.

Tiramisu back

But let’s get right down to it: the pattern. I’m honestly torn. There are a lot of things I really like about this pattern – the general style, the height of the midriff, the play with stripes it allows, the shape and drape of the skirt (I tend toward full gathered skirts, but this might make me a circle skirt convert), the overall feeling of the instructions and design of the packaging (font choice is a bigger deal to me than I should admit, and Cake nails it). But I’m just not sold on the bodice drafting. I knew this going in – for every ten glowing reviews of the sizing and fit of the bodice from a full-(or normal)-busted gal, there was one small-chested lady saying “this doesn’t work”. And I’m another one.

The Cake sizing is unconventional, and I totally see what she’s trying to do here, but I think it’s solving a full bust problem while creating a small bust problem. I know I have an unusual body type (hey, that’s why I sew!), but I really fall through the cracks here. My high bust measurement is 34 and my full bust is 35, or 35 and a half with a padded bra. That puts me right between the Cake sizes. Measurements alone indicate that I should make a 30D, which is clearly crazy. But I worried that the 35A would be huge in the shoulders and side seams. Steph actually very kindly gave me advice on her website back in January that I should try the 35A and take it in if necessary, but I was still dubious. After reading a bunch of reviews and thinking about it and comparing pattern pieces, what I ended up doing was frankensizing the bodice. Starting with the size 30 bodice, I traced (really, I traced! I never do that!) an A along the neckline and bottom, a C at the shoulders and a B at the side seams to give me more torso room. I then cut a size 35 in the back bodice piece, as a cheater’s forward shoulder adjustment and to allow for my bigger ribcage measurement. And, well, it sort of worked. But even the A proved too big for my tiny bust, and at the baste-the-bodice-for-fit stage I took off about an inch more of bodice at the center front. Then after putting the whole front together I took the midriff-bodice seam in another 1/4 inch. Here’s my traced piece, as I cut it, with a pencil line along the bottom to approximate how much I took off (and I should have taken it as more of a straight line, since I still have some fabric pooching below the bust points along the midriff):

Tira bodice adjustmentsYeah, not the perfect bodice pattern for me. I wonder, though, if all the unusual sizing just had me way overthinking the process. With a Big 5 crossover bodice, I just pinch out a wedge along the neckline as an SBA. I think if I’d just done that here, with the original 30A pattern piece, it would have worked better. Taking it in over and over at the midriff resulted in funny gathers at center front, where it’s clear the angle of the neckline hitting the midriff is wrong. That could also be from the fact that I changed the crossover quite a bit – when I basted it together the first time, with the center front as marked, it was possibly the most modest neckline ever. So I spread out my pieces until I felt like I had a more regular neckline. Probably if I had cleavage the crossover would have been fine as drafted, but I don’t, so the crossover came up higher than a regular t-shirt neckline! The last oddity, noted by several other reviewers and corrected by Steph on an update of the pattern, is that I didn’t need to gather really at all to match the bodice to the midriff. Because I decreased the crossover amount, I needed to ease the bodice in a little to make it fit, but no gathering stitches were necessary.

And then, with all that worry and care about making sure it was big enough, I ended up taking it in at the side seams like an additional half inch on each side. The pattern is drafted with zero ease, but this fabric is so stretchy that negative ease was necessary. I clearly didn’t need to cut the bigger back piece, though I like where the shoulder seam falls, so it worked out. The sleeves also ended up much longer than I had anticipated (I was thinking more of a wide sleeveless look would happen), so in future I’ll trim the sleeves down a lot (or add long sleeves, since realistically I won’t get around to this again in the current season).

Tiramisu pockets

I took about 2 inches off the length of the skirt (but I think I accidentally cut one size larger at the hem in the first place), and I haven’t hemmed it yet because the thought of hemming a circle skirt made of flimsy rayon knit makes me shudder, and I’m hoping no one will notice if I don’t. I might like it a little shorter, though.

So, conclusion? I don’t know. I like this dress. I will probably want to make another at some point, but should I use this bodice piece? Draft a new one? Use a different dress’s bodice? I really like the idea of this pattern, and the pattern line in general, but it’s just clearly not drafted with my shape in mind. Which is fine! I love the idea of independent pattern companies solving issues the designer has had to deal with their whole lives – I just wish there was someone out there shaped more like me drafting patterns! Frankly, so far I feel like the Big 5 pattern block fits me better than most of the independent companies’ blocks, and I know generally what adjustments I consistently need to make to those patterns. But I want to support my fellow sewists! So, any small-busted-big-waisted folks out there with an itch to pattern draft? You’ve got one customer already!

My full pattern review can be found here.

Addendum: I just had to share this. I love WordPress, it’s terrific in almost every way… but the spell check leaves something to be desired. I grabbed a screenshot of what came up when it didn’t recognise “Tiramisu”:

Tiramisu spell check

So, yeah, I get why a blogging platform might not have a traditional Italian dessert in its dictionary – but why on earth would it think what I really wanted was “bigamist”?! Too funny.

  1. I sympathise with you a lot. I’m a small thin person and lots of indies seem to draft with a different build in mind, ie much curvier than me. I think they are filling a niche and I’m clearly not in it. That’s ok. I have found Maria Denmark, Sewaholic & By Hand London work beautifully for me. I find Big 4s are good too, I just use the finished measurements on the paper patterns instead of the envelope.
    Regardless, I like this on you!

  2. lisa g said:

    well to start off, i really love this dress on you! the striped fabric is very cute and a perfect match for the pattern. who cares if the stripe matching isn’t 100% perfect (actually, i can’t even tell that it’s off like you say!). i don’t want to come off as pattern bashing, because clearly Cake fills a niche, it’s just not our niche. that i’m fine with! i guess the infinite sizing options filled me with certain expectations that didn’t really pan out for our end of the scale. i’ll definitely make another at some point–strangely enough, i think the biggest godsend when i made the tira was that the pattern printed significantly off-scale which made it fit pretty well off the bat! mixed feelings, indeed! but with some tweaking, a great dress in the end. (bigamist? hahahaha!!!!)

  3. I think despite your issues the dress turned out really cute. πŸ™‚ I know how you feel about patterns not necessarily being drafted for “you”…no one drafts for me either, though I think that Cake patterns might not be too bad for my shape (I haven’t tried one yet). And I LOL’ed when you said that you had the attention span of a sewing golden retriever. πŸ™‚

  4. Your Tiramisu looks lovely and I absolutely LOVE that fabric! And while I find a perfectly matching pattern across seams to be pleasing, I think that ever-so-slightly off pattern matching is just fine.

    I really like the Tiramisu pattern (and all of Steph’s patterns) but, as you say, they are not drafted for those of us with small busts. I am virtually flat chested and am confident that this pattern would be a good ‘fit’ for me (style-wise and fit-wise).

  5. Angela said:

    Cute… love the fabric and definitely didn’t notice the mis-matched stripes! Spell check is too funny!

  6. I love it, and think it looks great on you! Sure, you had to adjust a lot of things to make that happen, but hey…now that you have, would you really change anything besides the shoulder/sleeves? You did all of that work to fix the bust, and I think it looks good and you should re-use it for your next Tira-incarnation, but it doesn’t really matter what I think…only what you do. πŸ™‚

    Also, if you hadn’t told me the stripe matching was off, I would’ve never known. Looks pretty damn perfect/awesome to me!

  7. Gillian said:

    Did you try to newly rereleased bodice, or the original one as printed? I know Steph tried to address some of the fit issues for the smaller sizes. I think it’s available as a PDF from I’d love to hear if the drafting changes were enough to make it easier to fit!

  8. I have the same attention span. Every time I sit there like on hot coals desperately wanting the newest pattern or a pattern someone else made, because it would look oh so wonderful, but then it arrives and unless I cut right then and there, it gets put in a pile. For example I sit here with my brand new Hummingbird pattern and I am debating about the Colette Hawthorn pattern, even though judging by my current plans it’ll be well after Christmas before I could even contemplate it πŸ™‚

    On another note, Tanit-Isis is also small busted and did the Tiramisu a while back. She actually went with the 30D option and it worked for her.

  9. Ha! That’ll teach you for thinking that there’s no fitting needed in knits – you might as well have made a 50’s style fitted woven bodice! I kid, I kid, I don’t wish fitting craziness on anyone, but it looks like it turned out very well in the end. I don’t know what you’re talking about your pattern matching not being perfect – I can’t see anywhere it doesn’t match up!

    • aleah said:

      I seem to have lucked out in that none of my bad-stripe-matching is visible in the pictures. If you saw it in person you would be appalled at the midriff side seams, at the very least…

  10. Amy said:

    This pattern is up next on my sewing table, so thank you so much for all of the insight you provided. I will definitely be looking at the updates Steph released and keeping in mind the trouble that you had. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  11. Fantastic fabric choice! I totally can’t tell you weren’t able to match the stripes. The bottom of the skirt also looks fine without hemming to me.

    I would say “yay” that another small-busted person had the same issues I did, but of course, I wouldn’t wish fitting issues on anyone, even if it meant that I had a commiserator. My modified bodice piece looks a lot like yours, with the curve totally cut down at the bottom, and changing the center line and not gathering and all that. I even had the funky bunching due to the multiple changes! I agree with you that this pattern line seems to work really well for some people, but us small-busters are not usually those people. Which is why I have my three-pattern line (but that’s drafted for me, i.e. reeeeally wide shoulders to go with the small bust :)).

    That list of options for the Tiramisu spell check is hilarious!

  12. I think it looks good on you, and I cannot tell that your stripes don’t line up.

  13. StephC said:

    I love the fabric you used here, it looks great!

    I hear you about the sizing for thinner/petite ladies, and spent some time refining 30-35’s for the Tiramisu 2nd Edition and for the upcoming dress release so that the patterns work with a wider range of shapes. πŸ™‚

    • Eric Poppy said:

      Ma’am, that is a nice outfit. Pretty picture too. I am trying to find Steph. Hi Steph, I see you posted here.

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