surprise! it’s a jersey dress with zippered pockets.

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I usually have some sort of name for the projects I work on – what I refer to the garment in my head as I’m sewing it, or even what I plan for the blog post title to be, once it’s finished. For this project, I’ve drawn a complete blank. It’s a grey jersey shift dress and it has zippered pockets (same one seen in my UFO-round-up). And that’s it! But that is ok – I feel strongly that this is one my current, quite basic uniform dresses. During college in Chicago I wore alot of skirts+cardigans+belts-combos, and the first few years back in Bergen it was tweaked to dress+cardigans+belts. Cardigans are still very present in my wardrobe, but the dress-style has shifted (ha!) to a straighter shift silhouette with none of the waist definition I’ve done for years. Subtle changes I guess!

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I currently have four jersey dresses I wear a lot, three of them I made, and the last is a store-bought dress very similar to this one. I have the mint ruched dress from last fall, the Ikat Hemlock dress from last spring, this grey one that is the point of this post, and for good measure I’ll mention this first midnight blue jersey fitted dress since it was the one to start this streak of jersey dresses, and because it also has the zippered pockets.

Fabric: 1,5 meters-ish of heathered grey courtelle jersey from Stoff & Stil.
Pattern: Hacked, based on this dress pattern from (yet again) Stoff & Stil.
Techniques: Overlocking, binding, gusset, zippered welt pockets.

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This dress pattern is really one that keeps giving! I think this is my first tried-and-true pattern, since I don’t usually make multiples. But since I’ve now really tweaked the fit to suit my body and the fabrics I like using, it’s reliable and quick to use. You know, except when I decide to change stuff, and totally make a mess of it all – like with this dress. My intention was a looser shift style dress without a waistseam, so I butted the skirt and bodice pattern pieces next to eachother, and then added what seemed to me an appropriate amount of ease. I really missed the mark there – I tried it on after sewing up the side seams and it was sausage casing tight! To make the addition of a gusset in each side seam look a little more intentional I cut it on the crossgrain.

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Having learned from the midnight blue ponte dress, I didn’t even attempt sewing in the zippers by machine, but topstitched around the opening and handsewed in the zipper using backstitch to securely attach it. The pocketing is a nice woven viscose I’ve also used for a pair of pants I recently finished, and I like that it’s matches in color, but is patterned. I’ve noticed that the pockets pull down a bit when I fill them with stuff, which doesn’t happen with the other dress. I’m thinking the waistseam anchors and supports the weight in a way that is less noticeable – you know, it wasn’t a mistake, it is a design feature! 😉

grey_jersey_zippered_pockets (8)Pocketing fabric in a watercolor-like printed viscose. Also, disappointingly, a little pilling despite not having been worn that many times!

So yeah, I don’t have much more to say about the dress. Despite not gushing about it, I do like it very much – I’ve used it at least once a week since finishing it! (I also love the proper summer weather we’ve been granted here in Bergen, and the awesome park that is a stone throw from my apartment. <3 Expect to see more corners from the park in future posts!)

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i have plans… OAL-plans

I’m chipping away at my ufo-pile that I posted about last month… um, two months ago (how in the world did that happen?) – I’ve finished the Grainline Portside travel set and just need to stuff it with pillows and photograph it, tackled a few easy repairs, and gotten back into muslin making for the Robson coat. I’ve been telling myself to knock out these unfinished projects before starting anything new, but then Lauren and Andi’s Outfit Along shows up and disturbs all my plans! In the best way, of course.

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Lots of pops of pink on my sewing table! Really my family inherited dining table, but… um, covered in planned and potential sewing projects now. A lovely little corner of my lovely new apartment!

The Outfit Along is a challenge to, between June 1st and July 31st, knit one garment and sew one garment to create a complete outfit. Technically you’re meant to start from scratch, but reading Lauren’s post got me so very inspired to build an outfit around a half-finished cardigan (another Bayview Street Cardigan) that I’ve lacked the drive to finish, so I’m bending the rules as I see fit. :) It took me about ten seconds to decide on a pair of shorts, another ten to realize I had a pattern in my stash that would work well (Simplicity/Built by Wendy 3850 pants), a minute to dig out a fine-waled grey corduroy I think will be perfect, and (I will admit it) a whole day to land on a magenta crinkly chiffon underlined in dark brown-grey chiffon for a sleeveless Pattern Runway Pussy Bow Blouse.

Going through my UFO-pile made me realize I tend to abandon projects when I deviate too much from the pattern or instructions, and run into fitting issues or problems that require a bit of effort to work through. I want to finish these garments that I’m planning, not add to my pile of stuff – so I’ve decided to really hold back on alterations I make to these patterns. For the shorts I’ll raise the center front though, as I’ve seen that is a recurring comment from others who have made it, and for the blouse I want merge the ties and the collar stand instead of having a separate tie. I’ll probably also raise the underarm slightly since the blouse isn’t drafted to be sleeveless.

So, I’m going to finish a longstanding UFO, make two pieces of clothing I’ve been wanting in my wardrobe, using fabrics and patterns from the stash. Win, win, win, win, huh? I’m excited! Anyone else participating in the Outfit Along?

winter woolens

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… or “Loki mittens and the third watch-cap”. It’s winter! I made wooly stuff I can wear! Let’s have a look.

Mittens
Yarn:
 Random scraps of yarn – most of it gifted balls of Icelandic yarn from the stash of a friend who’d been there.
Pattern: Made up, based on Loki sweater pattern. (my ravelry project page)
Techniques: Stranded colorwork, ribbing.

Cabled hat
Yarn:
 Merino wool from a frogged sweater.
Pattern: Cabled watch-cap by Kristen Orme
Techniques: Ribbing, cables.

So, the mittens are a figment of my imagination. Not in the sense that they aren’t real (they must be – the keep my hands warm every day!), but the pattern is made up. I came across the Loki kid sweater on Ravelry a really long time ago, and immediately thought they would make cool Icelandic-inspired mittens with some Icelandic coarse wool I’d just been given by a friend. It took several years to make this happen, but here! Finally!

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I used the repeat pattern from the original kid sweater and repeated it eight times, following the decreases from the chart exactly. It made a sort of funny cone-like shape that isn’t the best for.. you know, hand-shapes. I’m on to the second pair (this time for a friend), and making improvements to get a proper hand shape instead. Meanwhile, I washed, blocked and stretched this pair, and it works just fine. It is very rustic looking – both in yarn and stitch quality! In my defense I will claim that the gorgeously colored green yarn (which a burn test revealed to be some sort of acrylic I think, though oddly stiff) was really hard to work with. I didn’t make it easier on myself either by choosing to combine three different weights of yarn! Especially in the middle section where all three colors are in play at once – it got thick and dense real fast. Surprisingly though, for being a stranded pattern *and* real sticky Icelandic wool, these mittens are not very warm. On their own they are barely good for a crisp fall day, which doesn’t quite describe the season we’re in. I wonder if the gauge might be too loose to get a real dense fabric? Regardless – a pair of thin gloves underneath and it’s all ok. Plus, I love how well these mittens match my woolen hats, and my winter jacket, and generally the rest of my wardrobe. I’ve decided they are kind of charming in their rustic-ness!

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I had a lot of fun knitting these mittens – I’ve forgotten how much I love doing colorwork! It is a fairly small project, and with changes to pretty much every row it is excellent entertainment… Just one more row! I have two more of this type planned out/started, and another fingering weight colorwork pair of mittens  at the top of my ravelry queue (this one). I’m thinking of using my Barcelona souvenir yarn and some thin brown alpacca yarn. It will be sumptuous!

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Ok, and now the hat. It might look familiar. It’s the third time I’ve knit the exact same hat in the exact same yarn. I posted about the first time I knit this hat here (it ended up being to big and I gave it to a friend), and here is the post for the second one (which apparently I’ve lost).

I’m not quite sure what to say about this hat other than 1. I obviously love it since I’ve knit it three times, 2. I actually finally almost used up the rest of this merino wool! It came from a thrifted sweater and the yarn is so fine I’ve been knitting with four strands, 3. I like the wider ribbing of the second version the best, and 4. I’m particularly pleased with how I did the increases between the ribbing and the cabled pattern in such a way that the pattern grows naturally from the rib pattern.

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Oh, I wanted to talk a little about photo editing! That was a topic on Katie’s blog in connection with her Better Pictures post on indoor photography, as well as Gillian’s post on using Lightroom. Personally I use a combination of Bridge and Photoshop, which I have since I got a really great deal on the Adobe CS-package while still a student at an art college. Sidenote – there at school I took a digital photography class where we used Lightroom, and I thought it was really good, and easy to use. When my current set-up is outdated beyond repair, Lightroom would be my dream choice for blog photo editing.

The set-up I’ve got going now is pretty much a substitute to the Lightroom setup in many ways. I use a Nikon D600, and I have it set up to save in both RAW and jpeg formats. I got used to working with RAW-files in the digital photography class, and I’m just not going back if I can help it! There is so much information in the unprocessed files, which in many ways makes photo editing much easier, since there is more you can do before your photos look… you know, really edited. Anyways, I open my photoshoot folder in Bridge, and look through what I have. As I go along I label the pictures I like (you can use a star rating, or different colors). Then I filter to show only labeled photos, and start comparing and deselecting the good but not great ones. Once I have my selection I mark them all and open with Photoshop, which will go straight into RAW-editing mode. From there I can play with temperature, exposure, black level, brightness, recovery and fill light (the last two are great for overexposed white areas, and those times when the light source is behind me or not strong enough). Those are the things I pretty consistently adjust. I have set up an action to save my photos, so a keyboard shortcut will resize the photo optimized for web, into a folder I’ve specified, and close out the photo from Photoshop so I know I’m done with it. It works really well. I’m very in favor of actions – once you’ve taken the trouble of setting them up!

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I thought about all of this because while editing the photos I hit the auto-option for color temperature and general exposure (like I always do – at the very least I want to see what the program thinks I should do!), and it made the colors really warm, and it made for a nice-looking photo. My first thought however was “This is all wrong! It was a really cold day, with the sun setting early in the afternoon and I had a pale, low sun as the source of light. It should look cold!”. So I left the pictures looking a little cold. I’m not entirely sure what my point is, other than maybe that I edit the pictures to reflect how I think it looked or felt that day. Which this day was pretty damn chilly. I think maybe my frosty breath is visible in some of the pictures!

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Anyone else have a system or agenda with their photo editing? Or, use the “I’m just adjusting my hat/scarf/hair-pose to avoid awkward idle hands in photos? Or, have knitted some warm wintry goodness lately? It’s the season! (Or maybe… it’s the season for having them finished already so they can be put to use!)

cozy raglan sweater, sort of, finally

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Happy new year! A little belated, but I’m wearing my new (store-bought) sparkly skirt in honor of 2016! I think it will be a good one. I hope you all had a lovely holiday celebration, and rest and good company and good food. But don’t be distracted by the sparkles – it’s actually the black sweater we’re here to look at!

Fabric: 1 m black wool terry
Pattern: Raglan t-shirt, Design #4 in Ottobre magazine 5/2013. I cut a size 38.
Techniques: bias binding, understitching, overlocking.

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First off, pictures of this project is inspired (again) by Gillian’s newest post for better pictures, on taking indoor pictures. It is cold outside, even on my veranda, so getting good indoor pictures until it warms up would be nice! The main tip I took from this post was to find a spot perpendicular to the light source. This means however that my stuff is all visible in the background. Paired with the fact that even at two pm the light is fading here, I opted to use the aperture priority setting with a small aperture (f 1.8) that would let in the most light, and blur out the background the most. I don’t know if this affected the autofocus, of if it was where in the frame I was standing, or my sweater being black, but I’ve never had to delete so many totally out of focus pictures! This was a hard one for my camera, poor thing.

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This fabric is crazy cosy. I got a metre of this stuff at a school where I taught sewing as a substitute teacher this spring, and it’s from a local factory that produces wool clothing. I really like the slight horizontal striations, it gives what is really just black jersey a little bit of texture. The fiber is pure wool, and I would call it a terry – it has all those little loops on the backside,  so it’s super toasty! I knew right away that it would turn into a casual Grainline Linden-like sweater. (Or, as I like to put it, the fabric told me what kind of garment it wanted to be!)

I like to be able to use patterns from my stash when possible, so while I don’t have a huge stash, but I did find a raglan top in an Ottobre magazine that I chose to use. The pattern, #4 in the autumn/winter 5/2013 issue, is really a t-shirt pattern, so I knew I needed to make a couple of changes to get the casual sweater fit I wanted. For one, I had to add my own cuffs, hem and neckline bands, and I decided to size up to get a roomier fit than the t-shirt was intended for. Also, the pattern had a dart at the shoulder for shaping, which I didn’t want, so I slashed and spread. I messed this bit up. I ended up adding length at the front between the armpit and shoulder – length that wasn’t appropriate to add, and got a funnelneck thing going on! Not good. I unpicked, overlapped, and trimmed the neckline down, and that helped. I could not get the neckband to look decent though, so I finally just attached it as a binding instead. I eased the shoulders in especially during this step, which also helped, but I can see the binding makes the neckline a little bulky, and it still wants to stick up a little bit. I have the same thing happening on my ikat Hemlock dress – I’m thinking binding in a lighter weight jersey like on my recent Bettine dress is a good solution. Oh, and also note the little piece of ribbon I put in. It’s mainly meant to help me quickly tell the front from the back, but I also think it’s a nice little touch!

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Take notice of my face in the picture above – it’s my “seriously camera, will you focus and take a picture now, if I move a little to the left?”-look. But it also shows the back raglan sleeve, which I think has a nice line (nicer than the front, but that’s mainly my fault). While I was making this I was not really pleased with how the sweater was looking. I thought the sleeves were too slim, the neckline and shoulder fit was a mess, and the sleeves were really long after adding cuffs rather than folding and hemming them. And don’t I actually look better in dropped shoulder styles rather than raglan? The width of the hem band was due to how much fabric I had left, and it doesn’t look entirely proportionate in my eyes. The fabric isn’t the stretchiest, so cutting the cuffs and hem band from a narrower width of self fabric is only partly successful. I mean, it works, but not super well. For example – I can’t pull the sleeves up more than 2 inches above my wrist – the cuff is then stretched to its maximum! Oh well.

For all my hesitations and second-rate solutions I have ended up with a perfectly wearable and undeniably cozy sweater. I actually like slim sleeves; the extra length is something I really love in sweaters; and the neckline would probably look a little constricting with the added band, as was the original plan. It’s not perfect, and this post certainly contains a fair amount of what Karen cleverly dubs ablogogising (oh how I enjoy Karen’s writing!) – pointing out the errors in my make. But, it is cozy and warm. And I’ve worn it for three straight days. Let’s call it reluctantly, eventually, finally a success, shall we?

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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!

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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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