Bonnell Dress in Blue

I’d been eyeing the Bonnell Dress from Dixie DIY ever since it was announced. What can I say? Those side cut-outs called to me. Plus it’d been ages since I made a straight-up quilting cotton sundress in a novelty print.

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So I made one!

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I made a straight size 6 (and no muslin, because I like to live on the edge). The only modification I made was to lower the front neckline slightly.

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The fit is pretty good, although I think I might go down to a size 4 next time for a snugger fit. I’ll probably lower the front neckline even more next time, too–as it is, it sits very high, even for a jewel neckline.

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I was really pleased with how the side cut-outs turned out. To me, it was absolutely worth it to buy this pattern just to get the instructions for how to neatly finish those cut-outs (definitely an exercise in sewing origami). I can picture myself adding cut-outs to the sides of all kinds of things now, haha.

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I really like this fabric, too. It’s a Cotton and Steel print that I found at Stonemountain and Daughter. It is a quilting cotton, but it is quite light and drapey as quilting cottons go. Perfect for a sundress.

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I lined the bodice and skirt with gray cotton batiste. Here’s a close-up of the zipper and the nifty tag:

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Thanks for reading!

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A basic black maxi

I didn’t exactly mean to take a 6 month vacation from blogging, but, what can I say — life got busy and other things (like starting a new job) overtook blogging on my to-do list. But I have been sewing (a little).

This is my most recent project: a basic black maxi dress from New Look 6282 made up in yummy black rayon batiste.

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I like this pattern! I appreciate that it includes pattern pieces and instructions for a skirt lining (basically a built-in slip) and a bodice lining. The order of construction makes sense and the dress went together pretty easily.

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The only alteration I made was to shorten the straps slightly (not unusual for me), and to completely disregard the elastic length guides for the waist and the top back of the bodice.

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I also disregarded the instructions for attaching the straps to the back of the bodice. The instructions tell you to sandwich the straps between the bodice and bodice lining, which results in a clean finish but makes it impossible (due to how the rest of the dress is constructed) to change the placement of the straps once you’ve finished the dress and tried it on. I just left the straps loose in the back until the rest of the dress was finished so I could try the dress on and pin them exactly where I wanted them. Then I tacked them down by hand. A little extra work and not as clean-looking on the inside, but worth it for a better fit I think.

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A warning: tall ladies may want to lengthen the skirt! I’m 5’5″ and the skirt length is just right for me if I’m wearing flats.

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It’s good to be back in the blogosphere. See you again soon, I hope!

A Floral Flora

I’m pretty excited about this dress. :)

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This is the Flora Dress by By Hand London. It’s a combo of the wrap bodice from version 1 and the high-low skirt from version 2.

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It’s for a very special occasion, too — I made this dress specifically to wear to the upcoming wedding of a friend I’ve known since kindergarten. :) Yay weddings!

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For the most part, I liked the pattern and would recommend it. The high-low skirt, in particular, is great; the pleats are arranged in just the right way to make the most lovely cascading folds of fabric around in the hem. (Eventually I’d really like to make a Flora skirt!)

However, fitting the wrap bodice gave me quite a bit of trouble; it took 3 muslins to get it right! The main problem was that the vertical bust darts did not point to my bust apex at all, which made the bodice look simultaneously (and weirdly) too big in some places and too small in others. In the end I moved the vertical bodice darts about 1″ towards the center front, which seemed to pretty much solve the problem. (To do this, I literally cut a rectangle around the entire dart on my traced pattern piece, moved it over, taped it down, and filled in the gap with extra tissue.) So, if you too are having trouble fitting this bodice, my advice is to check whether the darts are in the right place for you!

Here’s a quickie sketch of the bodice modifications I made (not to scale at all). See how the vertical dart is closer to center front in the altered version?

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In addition to moving the vertical darts and lengthening the horizontal darts accordingly, I straightened out the bottom edge of the bodice a tiny bit. This pretty much had the effect of shortening the front edge of each half of the bodice. This pulls the bodice pieces in closer to the body and helps eliminate gaping.

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I added about 1.5″ of length to the center front of the skirt (tapering to nothing at the side seams), since I had seen other people mention that the high-low hem was, uh, pretty high in the front. I think the length turned out just about right!

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The construction went fairly smoothly. I used the tutorial from the Flora sewalong for stabilizing the wrap bodice edges with twill tape, which really helped eliminate the dreaded gape. I definitely recommend taking the time to do this step, if you make this dress!

The one major change I made was to add a full lining for the skirt, since my skirt fabric wasn’t quite opaque enough for my tastes. This was fairly easy, although figuring out how to deal with the lining at the center back, where the zipper is inserted, took a bit of thought. I eventually opted to sew the zipper only to the outer skirt fabric, and to hand-stitch the center back edges of the lining to the zipper tape, to give a clean finish.

The one mistake I made, which I didn’t even notice until the dress was finished, was to overlap the two halves of the bodice the “wrong” way–it’s supposed to be right-over-left, and I did left-over-right. Oh well! I don’t think anyone else will notice or care.

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I freaking love both of the fabrics I used. The bodice is a white cotton eyelet, underlined with white cotton voile and lined with white mystery cotton from my stash (which may or may not have started life as a bed sheet, I honestly don’t remember). The skirt is a lovely, floaty rayon challis lined with white cotton voile. Everything except the bodice lining was from Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics.

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Overall, I’m extremely pleased with how this turned out! It even goes with this awesome purple belt that I already owned, haha. I’m very much looking forward to wearing it to my friend’s wedding in few weeks!

Blue Cotton Cambie

I’m a bit late to this party, since it seems everyone in the sewing blogosphere has already made the Cambie Dress from Sewaholic Patterns… But better late than never!

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This dress has been in my sewing queue since June, when I found this lovely yarn-dyed blue-and-brown cotton in a fabric shop while on vacation in Oregon.

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Isn’t it pretty? The two colors of thread it’s woven from almost make it look iridescent.

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I knew I wanted to make a fairly simple dress with it–I wanted something versatile, and I wanted to let this fabric be the star of the show. I’d also been wanting to try out the Cambie, since everyone else who’d tried it seemed to love it. It seemed like a perfect match! I settled on view A, with the a-line skirt.

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Since Sewaholic patterns are designed for pear-shaped women, and I am decidedly not pear-shaped, I knew I would have to take in the hips quite a bit. I did this by simply grading from a size 10 at the waist to a size 6 at the hips. Adjusting the pockets to account for this required a bit of thought, but wasn’t too hard.

After tracing the pattern and adjusting the hips, I made a full muslin (something I almost never do — sshhh, don’t tell!). This turned out to be a very good thing, because I definitely needed to do some tweaking. I took in the shoulder seams by a good 5/8 inch. I also curved the shoulder seams a little bit more so they would lie flat over my somewhat-rounded shoulders.

The actual sewing went quite smoothly. Tasia’s instructions are great! The only tricky part was putting in the invisible zipper, as I discovered that I don’t actually have an invisible zipper foot for my machine. I ended up inserting it very slowly and carefully with a regular zipper foot. It mostly worked, but it isn’t perfectly invisible.

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Ah well. I’m over it. If anybody else is bothered by the less-than-perfect zipper, that is their problem. (I did ask for a proper invisible zipper foot for Christmas, though, so hopefully I will never have this issue again!)

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Once the dress was mostly constructed, though, I tried it on and found that the top of the bodice was gaping a bit. I hadn’t noticed this on the muslin at all, likely because I didn’t put a lining in the muslin bodice and so it was difficult to tell how it was going to behave in the finished dress.

I debated the possible solutions to this issue, and finally decided to just take in the side seams of the bodice a little bit and hope for the best–by that point, doing anything else would have required more backtracking than I was willing to do. I ended up taking in the front bodice piece by about 1/2″ at the top of the side seam, tapering to nothing at the waistband. I only took in the front bodice piece, not the back, if that makes sense, so the total loss of circumference was just 1″. I think it helped, although it was not the most elegant solution.

I have to say that I’m puzzled about how others have avoided the “gaping bodice” problem with this pattern, since there’s no horizontal bust dart to bring the top of the bodice (above the bust) inwards. Maybe this is less of an issue for those with smaller busts? Thoughts?

If I make another Cambie (and I very well might–it’s a very nice pattern over all!), I think I will convert the bodice to have princess seams instead of darts, like this version from Crafting a Rainbow (found via Pinterest). That will make it much easier to shape the bust to eliminate gaping.

Here’s some inside shots. One thing I really like about this pattern is that the inside turns out just as clean and neat as the outside!

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The bodice is lined with cotton batiste and the skirt is lined with rayon bemberg lining–I wanted the bodice to be nice and breathable, but I wanted to make sure the skirt wouldn’t stick to tights. I also added a self-fabric facing on the bodice, just in case the lining peaked out a little bit (I borrowed that idea from Gertie’s cambie dress).

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There are several other things about this pattern that I really like too! The sleeves/straps are genius: they give the impression of a sleeveless dress, but offer enough coverage that you don’t have to worry about your bra straps showing. The skirt portion is also really flattering, and I love the pocket construction method Tasia uses. I may well be adapting that method for adding pockets to other patterns in the future.

Despite it’s imperfections, I’m still pretty pleased with how this turned out and hope to get a lot of wear out of it. :)

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P.S. I impulse-bought a couple yards of this beautiful wool about a month ago at Stone Mountain and Daughter–what should I do with it? I’m thinking pencil skirt, but I am open to suggestions. Relatedly, what’s your absolute favorite pencil skirt pattern?

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Pre-Blog Projects: Post #2

I think it’s high time I showed you guys some more of my finished projects from before I started this blog! Just like last time, I’m limiting this to garments I still actually wear at least occasionally. I have some dresses and a top to show you today! Let’s get right to it.

1. Orange Paisley Dress

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I made this with quilting cotton that my mom had originally purchased to make a chair cushion out of. (Yes, I did ask her first if I could steal it to make a dress.) The bodice and skirt are both lined with some plain white cotton I had in my stash.

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The pattern is Simplicity 5112, which is out of print now–here’s the Pattern Review page. I remember having to take in the back and side seams of this dress quite a bit, and I added the ruffle at the bottom to make it just a tad longer–originally it was just a couple inches shorter than I generally find is practical for everyday wear. :P I also added piping around the edges of the bodice and above the ruffle, to break up the busy print a little.

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I actually still really like this dress, and wear it a lot–it’s super comfy, and cool on hot summer days since it’s all cotton. I also really appreciate that I can wear it pretty comfortably without a bra since the bodice is fully lined–no need to keep rearranging things throughout the day to make sure my bra isn’t showing!

2. Purple Knit Dress

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This is Simplicity 3503, which you’ll be happy to know is still in print. The fabric is a remnant of jersey knit I found at Britex in San Francisco a couple years ago.

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The only adjustment I made to the pattern was to raise the front and back neckline quite a bit (like, 1.5 inches). I was aiming to be able to wear this dress comfortably without a camisole underneath, but, as you can see, I didn’t quite achieve that goal. Next time I make this I’ll raise the neckline another inch or so, I think. Still, I think it turned out pretty well! (Also, I notice that the hem is doing a wear flip-to-the-outside thing in these photos–probably should have ironed the hem before taking pictures. Ah well. Forgive me.)

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Also, you get two different photo backgrounds today–I’m still experimenting and trying to figure out the best set up for taking pictures of myself in my apartment!

3. Jeans Dress

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I made this dress on a whim several years ago, out of three pairs of old jeans and some quilting cotton from my stash. I think I was inspired by something I saw on So, Zo…What Do You Know?, though I can’t find the exact post again to show you.

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I used a Simplicity pattern for a basic strapless dress with princess seams as a guide for cutting out the panels (although I did a lot of adjusting to account for the fact that the flatfelled seam running down the center front, which is from the original pair of jeans the panel is cut from, is actually curved rather than perfectly straight, and slightly asymmetrical…), and made up the rest as I went along. I like the concept of this dress, but the construction is a little shoddy, and it turned out a bit too tight at the top of the bodice. One of these days I should see if I can let it out a little bit so it’s more wearable.

4. Parasol Top

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This is Simplicity 0661, which is out of print–here’s the pattern envelope:

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I don’t think I adjusted the pattern much at all, except to make the straps cross in the back so they would stay up on my shoulders more reliably.

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Also, you get to see some of my hats in this photoshoot. Because, I like hats, and I am the boss lady around here. :P

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And here are some detail shots of the trim I used, which was from my grandmother’s stash (so, definitely vintage–I have no idea how old it is, though). Isn’t it darling? I was so excited when I found it, because I think it goes perfectly with the parasol print on the fabric–don’t the little circles on the trim look just like the tops of little parasols?!

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Oh, and lastly…look what came in the mail a few days ago!

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Yay! This seems to be widely regarded as the bible of shirtmaking, and is certainly living up to its reputation so far. I’m about halfway through, and can’t wait to finish reading it and then actually start using my newfound shirtmaking knowledge. I’ll keep you posted on how that all goes.

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It has detailed instructions for draping your own custom shirt pattern, which is awesome.

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And it includes patterns for details like collars, cuffs, plackets, etc. Sweet.

Okay, that’s it for now! Catch you later.