hanging on to summer with a mint-colored dress

mint_ruched_dress (6)I look a little sullen (which I wasn’t!), but I get a sort of cinematic vibe from the whole “big sky, posing on the balcony, framed by the doorway”, so I’m posting it anyways. Let’s just call it my serious look.

Yes, yes – I am hanging on to summer even though it’s October. I’m going to Barcelona this week – a trip with a couple of friends from school last year, and a trip we planned in February. You see, I therefore expect to get just a little bit of summer in before submitting myself fully to fall (which is totally here, leaves dropping and everything)! I finished this dress last week, and it’s a copy of a RTW dress I tried on in the beginning of summer and loved, but for several reasons didn’t buy. First of all, it was made in a soft t-shirt material that draped beautifully, but almost exaggerated any little lump and bump on my body. Second, it was so sheer I could see through the dress that my underwear was striped that day! I figured it was an easy enough dress to copy, so off to the fabric store I went.

Fabric: 1,5 meters (roughly – I didn’t measure) of aqua courtelle jersey from Stoff & Stil.
Pattern: Self-drafted, based on this dress pattern from (yet again) Stoff & Stil.
Techniques: Overlocking, binding, twin-needle hemming and ruched side seams with elastic.

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Not wanting a super sheer fabric, I ended up with this ponte-like courtelle jersey. The basis for the bodice is a pattern I’ve had success with before; this navy knit dress with zippers, and the emerald-green one with a v-neck. From there I raised the neckline and extended the skirt from the waist, to allow for the gathers. I also lengthened the front part of the bodice only across the bust – the gathers at the side seam gives more length over the bust, so they end up having the same function as a bust dart would have, more or less.

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I could turn this into a massive list of all the stupid mistakes I made trying to make this dress (I mean, it took me two months from RTW-inspiration to finishing this!), but that might get a bit boring. So, let’s look at the things I learned instead! (keeping it positive, folks.)

  • Use a pattern that is suited for the type of fabric you’re working with. A positive ease, slouchy t-shirt pattern will make a ponte knit dress look ridiculously frumpy. Fitted thicker knit garments like negative ease.
  • Thicker fabrics can handle less gathering before getting lumpy. The inspiration garment was a thin t-shirt fabric, with tight-looking ruching that skimmed quite flatteringly over the body. I re-learned that ruching creates volume, so now I have some unintentional and unnecessary volume especially across the stomach. I get why maternity clothes use this design element!
  • Knit fabrics need different techniques than woven. Elastic fabrics need elastic constructions, which is why I finally ended up ruching the side seam by serging the two layers of fabric together along with a length of elastic pulled taut. The elastic is added to the seam only from about the waist and down.
  • Peg the skirt and attatch the elastic all the way to the bottom edge of the skirt – or else the bottom part of the dress will flip outwards in an unflattering way.
  • Ruching the layers together instead of separately and then joined together, makes for a more even result (um, duh!).
  • Wow, quality of elastic makes a huge difference. Use elastic with good retention that doesn’t stay stretched out after zig-zagging. It was a total trial and error which ones of my elastics held up and which ones didn’t – which explains why there are three different ones used here, and two layers of elastic. Yep.

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I like this image above for showing all the ruching at the side. Also, I was sort of inspired by Gillian and her Better Pictures Project to find natural lighting and an outdoor space. My little balcony overlooking the local soccer field might be stretching the definition of “outdoor” a bit far, but I’m quite pleased, and I might make this a regular spot. Yey for the natural light at least, and my goodness – using the Portrait mode certainly helped!

Finally… this last year. It’s been a crazy one. I’ve written about going back to school to get my teachers certification, which was demanding in terms of work load, and challenging in terms of getting to learn and practice just a small part of what it means to be a teacher (such a huge, and important job – and so much consideration goes into it!). In this past year there was also the end of a long-term relationship (you might have seen John’s face here on the blog – he’s been the recipient of a number of things I’ve made over the years). Bookended between my 30th and my (this past week) 31st birthday, it also saw me move 6 times, hold down a new part-time job teaching sewing (mentioned here in my post about the kimono I made), and now (happily sort of successfully!) a new job market. I have been doing temp teaching through an agency, and I have loved it – teaching among other things swimming (!) and geography to 7th graders, math and science to 9th graders, and English to 10th graders. The latest work-developement is that I am doing a 2-3 month part-time gig at a high school, teaching “Design and architecture”, and I can’t wait! The thought of just having a string of temporary jobs would at one time have terrified me, but right now I’m excited about the different experiences I am getting to have, and I believe fully that a more permanent position will come along at some point.

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Until then, I am really enjoying the fact that my current (more permanent) living situation offers me not only a balcony with a view to soccer practice (my favorite. Not really. But I don’t mind them too much – and I really love the openness of the space!), but also a decent amount of table-space for my sewing machines. Having lived quite temporarily in this past year has taken a toll on my sewing time, but lately I have been able to sew more and even finish some old projects, and it feels very good! And now I will pack my bags and go on my mini-holiday tomorrow – of course bringing my summery aqua-colored dress with me. Vayamos!

hemlock jaquard dress

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What better way to treat myself after another exam finished than to make an easy dress? By the way, I sometimes talk to my fabrics, asking it what it wants to become. This jaquard greek-ish ikat-ish jersey wanted to be a dress. Not any kind of dress, but a dropped shoulder shift-style dress.  A Hemlock dress!

Fabric: Jaquard jersey from Stoff & Stil.
Pattern: Hemlock tee by Grainline, lengthened.
Techniques: Overlocking, binding, and understitching.

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I put it on as soon as finished on, and I’ve barely taken it off. Well, to sleep and clean off the tomato sauce I got on myself making pizza sauce. Anyways, with the navy tights and mustard cardigan and brown oxfords I get a distinct 60s vibe, helped by the jaquard-like pattern and the silhouette of course. I wanted a bauteu neckline so I just cut the back piece twice. I also made the front piece shorter to improve the fit, and then I took the sides in a couple of inches to go from roomy to flattering.

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I’m very pleased with the neckline finish. With the bauteu neckline I didn’t want a visible band, so I did a Sewaholic-technique with a band folded double and understitched and topstitched. I love the way it looks – very clean! The wine-colored ribbon is to help me put the dress on the right way. Like I mentioned, the front is slightly shorter than the back. I once showed up to school with my dress inside out – the least I can do in making my own clothes is to try to wear them the right way!

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Also, I can dress it up! With summer approaching and days just getting longer and longer I’m craving lighter colors in my wardrobe. This fits the bill very nicely. Did I mention I am so very pleased with this dress? What do you guys think – should I make more Hemlock dresses?

petrol green knit dress

Here is the sibling of the midnight blue ponte dress!


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.



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.


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!


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?


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


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.


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.


 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.


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.


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!


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:


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.

portrait_blouse1  Ireland-dress_crop  Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail  Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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!)


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!


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?

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