petrol green knit dress

Here is the sibling of the midnight blue ponte dress!

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Fabric: A fine cotton stretch rib from Stoff&Stil, in a heathered petrol green color.
Pattern: Dress #23099 from Stoff&Stil, bought in size 36 but probably closer to size 34 now after all the alterations.
Techniques: Sewing with knits, overlocking, twin needle stitching.

Same pattern as last time, with a few changes. For some (now forgotten) reason I thought the sleeves were too long on the midnight blue version, so I shortened the sleeves on this. I actually like the longer version better, now that I’ve used these dresses for a while. I skipped the zippered pockets, but added a back zip to the bodice since I felt like the fabric was maybe less stretchy. I can still pull the dress on without using the zipper, so it really isn’t needed! Most noticeably I added a front seam and a v-shaped neckline, modelled on a favorite RTW knit dress.

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Since there were seams both on the front and the back, I decided to shape the center front and center back by curving in 3/8″ or so, to avoid gaping.  In a sense that works the same way as adding a dart, I just built it into the seam instead. So in the front the fabric curves in over the bust, and in the back the top of the zipper lays flat against my back. Our bodies are curved there – we don’t have to look like Quasimodo to benefit from a back shoulder dart! The fit adjustments from the previous dress have worked out quite beautifully. I’ve made no alterations on this one – it is just cut and sewn. I’ve already trimmed off an additional 1/2″ of the pattern on the bodice back length, but looking at the dress now, that extra half inch of length could be from the zipper stretching debacle more than a pattern alteration need. The waist seam does sit a little lower in the back than the front, but the skirt length is totally even. Which means, future self, if you make this dress again you need to add length to the top of the skirt back pattern piece. Yes.

Oh, and the zipper debacle? Yeah. I did not hand baste or even pin the zipper to the back bodice before sewing. You might be able to guess where this is heading. I stretched the shit out of the back bodice, and after sewing the zipper to both back pieces, it looked like I had a dinosaur back – like Stegosaurus-type. Not a good look. I unpicked and repinned and did it again and it looked weird flat, but worked out beautifully in the end, and the lesson is this – measure the zipper against the *pattern piece*, and pin to the fabric based on that.

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Look how nice and neat the narrow facing for the neckline looks on the inside! Yey. I cut  a 1 1/8″ strip in the shape of the necklines, and serged the exposed outer edge before sewing the facing to the dress. On the previous dress I serged the two layers together, but I thought it got a little bulky so I did a regular seam here. I also understitched the facing before topstitching it down, because… well, it looks pretty! My overlocker had black thread in it from the previous dress, and I was really contemplating just leaving it in there, but in the end I spent the 5 minutes rethreading and I’m very glad I did. See how beautiful the matching thread is! Just lovely!

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The back of the armhole looks a little wonky to me, like there is too much fabric there. I think I might take out a wedge from the armhole edge to the center back line, to reduce some length (or height?) in the armhole. The sleevecap would then need to be reduced, and it does look a little tall to me anyways. Oh, and I made a silly user error with the pleats. Having sewn something twice in two weeks you get a little cocky maybe, and I  misinterpreted the notches, and made single pleats instead of double pleats in the skirt. I don’t mind too much – it just makes the dresses a little less identical, but in the back the single pleat is a little boxy and slightly unflattering. Not a big enough thing to bother fixing though.

I am seriously looking to buy lots of similar weight courtelle jersey, ponte-knit, double knit wool, whatever I can find, and just make a ton of dresses based on this pattern. I might not do anymore of this cotton rib, since it’s less weighty than the ponte, and more “sticky”. I could just use a slip, but I do like simple fabrics that just… work. I would like to do a plain skirt next, maybe with a slit in the back for walking ease. There are just so many variations I could make now that I have the basic fit nailed! Feel free to offer some suggestions – what variation of this dress would you make?

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midnight blue ponte dress a.k.a my new uniform

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Alrighty, I’m back – more pictures from the same photoshoot as the Belcarra blouse and my watercolor Hemlock tee! I was productive that day. Anyways – Happy New Year and all that! My school semester has started again, so I’m back to full-time-student living. I recently made two knit dresses from the same pattern, and I’ve used them tons already – I’m seriously (in a capsule-wardrobe kind of way) thinking of making them my uniform and make a couple more in different colors with a few different detailings, and just wear that all semester. How easy would that be!

Fabric: Navy blue viscose+poly ponte/courtelle jersey from Stoff&Stil.
Pattern: Dress #23099 from Stoff&Stil, bought in size 36 but probably closer to size 34 now after all the alterations.
Techniques: Sewing with knits, overlocking, twin needle stitching, neckline binding.

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I actually came across this pattern while helping my students in the sewing class pick out their own patterns – to make it easy on everyone (slash me) all the fabric and patterns came from this one fabric store chain, so the girls could fairly easily pick out fabrics and patterns from one place through the catalogue or website (which has been down a lot lately – sorry if the links don’t work!). I thought the dress looked cute, and like it would be easy to wear – how can you not love being fully dressed with just one garment, which is comfortable as well? I also liked the exposed zippered pockets – dresses with pockets, yey! I already had a length of what Stoff&Stil calls courtelle jersey, which I assume and suspect is pretty much the same as ponte or double knit fabric. It’s a stable, moderately stretchy knit, it’s kind of heavy, and it drapes well.

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 To make the zipper opening one piece of the pocket bag is sewn on with a rectangle, which is slashed and turned inside out with the zipper edgestitched on. Being the wise-ass I am, I thought the opening would be too small for the zipper, even though I bought the recommended zipper length. I made the opening longer only to find it stretched out during sewing and was too long! So – either interface to make it more stable, or trust the pattern and it will all work out. I also ended up basting in the zipper before edgestitching to make it easier on myself (not without attempting to sew it on with just using pins first! Whoa, no good.) The pocket is constructed by sewing the second pocket bag piece to the first – quite easy if we disregard my zipper blunder.

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This was the first time in many many years I’ve used a pattern from Stoff&Stil. They are sort of retro in their usage actually! There is only one size per envelope, and they are precut with seam allowance included in a non-fusible interfacing type material. There are no printed markings, so notches are cut into the seam allowance, and drillholes indicate grainline and other markings. It’s a bit of a puzzle, but a cutting diagram and numbered list of pattern pieces show you what you’re dealing with. I would find it extremely frustrating as a beginner to attempt this though! Being able to identify different pattern pieces (say, a skirt from a sleeve) is an advantage in working with these patterns.

According to their size chart (I started with the EU36 size) I needed to add a few centimetres to the bust and the waist. I dutifully added them and then cut and constructed the dress. I barely even tried the dress on during construction since I had checked my measurements and eyeballed the non-interfacing patternpieces against my body, which looked fine. When the dress was done, it fit mostly ok, and I was really thrilled I was able to just quickly construct and have a wearable dress. Dressmaking made easy! The waist was a bit roomier than I prefer, so I ended up basically shaving off all the width I had added in during the measuring stage. Then I went to a friends surprise party, and revelled in all the lovely attention I got for wearing a handmade dress that looked like something storebought (yes, I totally eat those compliments up!). But it irritated me that the waist was still too wide and also too low. I finally unpicked the overlocked seams and took off a good 1″ from the front length, and 1,5″ from the back, and took in the sides by maybe 4″ total.

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After that I was much happier with the fit – the dress now sits at my natural waist, it is fitted but not tight, so it’s perfectly comfortable. Oh, and there is supposed to be a zipper down the front, but I didn’t feel like having it there, so I didn’t bother. While I took quite a bit of length off the back bodice, it still looks like it is maybe too long. Look at all these wrinkles!

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It definitely doesn’t feel like my backside is all wrinkly while I wear the dress (hah….), but I suspect that the wrinkles on the skirt is due to some static cling that could be solved with a slip, and that the wrinkles in the bodice is from some excess length, and maybe width? There is a swayback situation going on, but like I mentioned in making the muslin for my plaid shirtdress (which is just missing the buttons and the buttonholes, but I’ve totally stalled since I don’t think I will really wear the finished dress!) my back is quite narrow at the waist, and I think adjusting the pattern accordingly would be good. How informative taking back view pictures is!

I actually have another dress from this pattern, so I’ll be posting about that one soon. In the meanwhile, I leave you with this lovely outtake of what most of my pictures looked like, trying to get the wireless remote to work properly:

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change of lace plans

Thanks for your feedback on which color lining to use with my lace skirt! It was a pretty clear vote for the purple, which is probably the color combination most in line with my style as well, so purple it is!

Lace skirt in progress, purple lining

The process and comments I got from you guys threw me for a loop though. You see, I was planning on using Sewaholic’s newest skirt pattern Rae, which is an easy panelled a-line skirt. I was a pattern-tester for this one, and after making  the test-skirt I thought it would make for a fun skirt in lace. My thought was that a fancier fabric like lace paired with an easy-going silhouette like the Rae skirt and a colorful lining, would dress it down and make for a fun but more casual skirt. I still think I’m right, but what I didn’t fully take into consideration were my own preferences for dressing! The truth is, I don’t really wear that style of skirts. I feel better in straight and fitted silhouettes, and the fuller skirts that I have are panelled and flared rather than gathered.

Anyways, I stood in front of the mirror and lamented how little the purple would be visible if it was hanging freely like I had planned. As I smoothed the fabrics taut across my legs to see how close the lining would need to be to show through, it made a pencil skirt shape, and bam! I should be making a pencil skirt instead! I might have smacked my head at this point, since duh – I wear a whole lot more pencil-shapes in skirts and dresses than I do gathered waists, and it makes sense to make what I would actually buy. So, new plan is to make a pencil skirt instead, and I am far more excited about that, so that’s a good sign.

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Since I’ve already cut the panels, I’ll stick with those – there are six of them; four side pieces, one front, and one back. I’ll need to take the sewn skirt apart though, since I’ll be underlining with the purple polyester, and I’m thinking a wide facing on the inside to work as a waistband. I’m not putting an invisible zipper into lace fabric, so I’m thinking either a lapped zipper on one side or an exposed zipper in the back.

Anyone else change their tactics in the middle of a project? Sometimes I keep going, even though something feels a bit amiss, but it usually results in a garment I end up not wearing much!

hemlock tee

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Fabric: The same rayon jersey from Stoff og Stil as the t-shirt I just made, this time in the color called grey-brown. I think it’s more of a grey-warm-purple, but ok.
Pattern: Hemlock Tee from Jen at Grainline studio.
Techniques: jersey fabric, neck binding, serged seams.

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I’m on a knit fabric sewing binge at the moment, with the t-shirt I just made and this t-shirt, in addition to the two knit hoodies and a ponte dress at the top of my sewing list.

John took pictures for me, and we got some funny shots – like the one above, with a non-existent wind machine and camouflage jeans! Anyways, Hemlock Tee! I made one, like a bunch of other people have. And I’m happy with it, like it seems everyone who makes it also is. It’s a slouchy, relaxed fit, and super easy to make. I think if I make another one I will narrow the neckline opening a little to make it slightly less hyper-casual. I really like what Andrea at four square walls did with her Hemlock Tees, so I might take a cue from those and lower the front neckline and narrow the sleeves.

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I overlocked all the seams on my serger, and finished the hems with a twin needle seam. I’m thinking of getting a coverlock machine this year, which would make these t-shirts even quicker and easier to make, and more professional looking, but for now I’m doing ok with the twin needle. Once you figure out the tension so it doesn’t pull or stretch out the seam, it works well. I tried a slightly different touch on the neckband, which was to straddle the two lines of stitches on either side of the seam, instead of having them both on one side. I’ve seen this on factory-made knitwear, so I wanted to give it a go. Looks good I think!

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Look how smug I am! Is it the t-shirt? Is it the awesome view? Is it the fact that my Easter holiday has begun? In any case, sewing knits is so quick – which makes it so satisfying!

quest for the perfect t-shirt

Lately I’ve been working on a lot of things for other people (ipad case! costumes! John’s socks! A dino-hood!), so my face hasn’t been around here much. I’ll still be sewing for other people a good while longer, since I have a costuming gig at the end of April, and two little nephew-boys I’m making hooded jackets for (tracing Ottobre patterns tomorrow!)

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But now for myself, I’ve made the first of what will be a slew of t-shirts – in the quest for the perfect t-shirt! I already had the perfect t-shirt of course, but after years of faithful use, it was falling apart. I finally took a seamripper to it, and used the pieces to trace off  new master pattern pieces. I traced off both left and right sides, averaging out the two.

Fabric: rayon jersey from Stoff og Stil, in a heathered blue.
Pattern: Self-drafted from a beloved old H&M t-shirt.
Techniques: jersey fabric, neck binding, serged seams.

This was quite a quick make! It took me 10 minutes to cut the fabric last night, and since I worked a later shift today I actually managed to sew it up in the morning and wear it to work, yey! How’s that for a productive start to the day? The fabric is a lovely heathered bluish grey, and very soft and drapey. It’s a little more substantial than the original t-shirt, which was almost a whisper thin cotton jersey, so I was a little worried it would drape differently. It’s not too far off though!

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And of course, as a first try, there are things to be changed for future versions, which I was anticipating. I’ll be adding a couple of inches to the hem, since the slightly too narrow fit at the hips means the t-shirt rides up a little. The sleeves jut out a little more than I’d like, so I’m thinking of taking out a wedge from the center of the sleeve to narrow it. Ooo, I came across the most wonderful explanation of sleeve cap shapes on a blog, I really recommend this post in particular, and her blog in general if you have any interest in patternmaking and/or fitting. Anyways, that post shows the mechanics behind why I don’t want to narrow the sleeve too much, since the sleeve cap would get taller, and therefore more difficult to sew in flat to the armscye before sewing the side seams in one fell swoop.

perfect_t-shirt1Never mind the scratch – kittens are vicious things! No, not really, just very sharp-clawed.

Enough technical talk! I have a lovely weekend planned with what’s looking like beautiful weather, a pub quiz with colleagues, a school reunion, and a Sunday hike. Anyone else have a nice weekend planned?

a wardrobe peek

I was folding and putting away my clothes the other night, and I was reminded of calling purple a preferred color in my post on the Minoru jacket I just finished (using a purple color, of course). Seeing my clothes all (fairly) neatly hung and piled, I found it funny to see my clothing color preferences so clearly!

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A huge part grey and dusty blues, a fair presence of mustard yellow and yellowy green, and a dash of hot pink. It’s interesting to see that I clearly favor warm purples in the tops that I wear (top left), but I have no sweaters or skirts in that color. Similarly, most greens are found just in the sweater pile (top right), and not much anywhere else.

Anyone else have recurring colors in their wardrobes?

wardrobe thoughts

I came across a wonderful blog last week, and it’s prompted so many thoughts for me on the concept of “wardrobe”, so this is my attempt to put it in writing.

Making our own clothes (whether sewing, re-fashioning, knitting or elsewise) is, I think, partly about the joy of creating something and executing a handcraft, and partly about the freedom to make whatever you want – whichever size or combination thereof, whatever color or pattern you can find (or make, as sallieoh does so well!), whatever silhouette and fit we want. At least for me, the combination of these two factors is why I make (some of) my own clothes.

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My first years of sewing or refashioning was based a lot on what I could find of fabrics and clothes to take apart, and very little buying fabric and patterns specifically for an envisioned project – so that has long been my standard mode of operation. I don’t think I really sewed according to any sort of plan. After one of the Me-made-May or Self-Stitched-September’s I’ve participated in, I saw a conversation going on in the blogosphere. People were noticing that the things they had made for themselves didn’t necessarily fit their lifestyle or their style period. I noticed it too. After the first round, I decided that just because “I’ve made something myself doesn’t automatically mean it’s my style. Or, it might no longer fit into my current style.” After the second round, I realized I actually have multiple styles going on: “When I’m going to work, I want to look sharp and polished and put together, with pencil skirts and structured tops, or fitted dresses. When I’m not at work, I gravitate towards flowey, casual, faded, slightly off kilter things. Which is totally fine, except for the days I dressed really casually and picnicy going to work and felt awkward and uncomfortable. I think I just have to accept that work-me wants to dress differently than leisure-me!”

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I usually devour any posts on wardrobe and style since find the topic fascinating and mystifying, and I’m not sure I have a full grasp of what my style is. Which isn’t a big deal! But I would love to feel like my wardrobe is a better curated collection of clothes. I am completely enamoured with Anuschka’s blog – the streamlined imagery, clean look, and of course… the content. Unlike most other posts and blogs I’ve read on wardrobe-how-tos or wardrobe-must-haves, she doesn’t provide rules like that. Instead, she offers tasks and exercises to figure out what your own must-haves are, based on your own preferences and lifestyle. And, she outlines different approaches to putting together outfits, and describes how to use that as a guide to what pieces and how many you’d need in your wardrobe. I love it! It’s an approach that revolves completely around figuring out what works for you, not set formulas or pieces. It’s actually liberating, in a way!

I’m tempted to toss all the contents of my current wardrobe on the floor and only put back a carefully selected collection of garments that of course all go perfectly together. But a wardrobe is always a work in progress, so besides the fact that I don’t own all the things that would be in my dream wardrobe, I’m aiming for an easy-does-it approach – mindful replacing of worn out/ill-fitting/damaged clothes, with a sort of core wardrobe each season and complete permission to also have things in my wardrobe that is for special occasions and rare uses (if I love it, it’s allowed!).

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Intersecting here between wardrobe planning and the ability to make one own’s clothes is of course that you can make the pieces that are missing! I’m now making a dark grey cabled hat as part of getting my winter outerwear wardrobe to a place I’m happy with – which to me means not having a myriad of colorful hats and scarves and mittens that clashes totally with my warm jackets. It doesn’t necessarily mean making big changes to feel put together! Looking through my wardrobe to identify gaps between what I want to dress in and what I have, has made my sewing-to-do-list longer – I’m thinking several pencils skirts, a couple of miniskirts, and definitely some longer sleeve shift-dresses in the next few months. And I have a portrait neckline blouse already cut out, along with another Tiny Pocket Tank. Wait, do I need more of those? Hmm, always!

Anyone else having thoughts about they wardrobe and style? What are your sewing plans for the rest of the year (and into next year!)?

Resources: Wardrobe Building for Beginners: a starter kit from into-mind.com & alreadypretty.com

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