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!

Pattern Testing: The Sandpoint Top!

I got to test a brand new pattern a few weeks ago — before it was officially released! Pretty thrilling stuff, huh?

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This is the Sandpoint Top from Gray Day Patterns. Gray Day Patterns is a new pattern company run by Helena of the sewing blog GrayAllDay.com.

Helena put out the call for pattern testers about a month ago, and I volunteered. I liked the sophisticated-yet-wearable look of the pattern, and I thought pattern testing sounded fun. If you’re unfamiliar with the pattern testing process, here’s how it usually works (with indie pattern companies, anyway). People who sign up to test the pattern are given a draft copy of the pattern for free and are expected to sew it up and send feedback to the pattern designer, which is then incorporated into the finished version of the pattern. Testers are not paid, but they are given a copy of the finished pattern when it’s released. I’ve tried to be unbiased in my review of this pattern; Helena did not specifically ask us to blog about our creations, but I really liked how mine turned out and wanted to share it. :)

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From the front, the Sandpoint looks like any other scoop neck, kimono sleeve knit top, but from the back…

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Bam! Surprise cowl action! (…Let’s just pretend my shirt ISN’T awkwardly tucked into the waistband of my pants in this picture, ok? This is the best shot of the back I got, so we’ll just have to deal with its shortcomings. :P) The cowl is secured by a band that is sewn across the shoulders of the top. This keeps everything in place so nothing falls off your shoulders. Clever!

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The only modification I made was to add a hem band at the bottom–I got the idea from one of the other testers. Helena actually added an optional hem band to the finished pattern, which I think is great. It helps give the top a little extra shaping and definition. (Plus, it means you don’t have to deal with hemming drapey knit fabric.)

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I had no complaints about the pattern. The armholes were a tiny bit tight, but Helena says she fixed this in the final version. The pdf was easy to print out and assemble (and the final version of the pdf is layered, so you have the option of only printing the size(s) you need, which is pretty nifty). The sewing process went smoothly. The instructions in the final version also look very detailed and clear. This pattern gets my stamp of approval. :)

Fancy making a Sandpoint for yourself? You can snag a copy here. Helena has a 20% sale going until 10/26 with the sale code “firstweek”, so act now if you want it (and you know you do)!

Yet Another Scout

I’m back with another Scout Tee! A utilitarian-but-still-pretty black one this time.

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I made my usual size 6. I initially put petal sleeves on it, but afterwards (after I had already attached them with French seams…ugh) decided I didn’t like how they looked. It took me a few weeks to work up the gumption to rip them out and put on new, normal sleeves. Sigh. But now that I’ve fixed it, I’m pretty happy with this shirt!

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The one adjustment I made to the pattern was to shave just a smidgen off the top of the sleeve pattern piece, to reduce the ease in the sleeve cap. This made the sleeves way easier to set in (no gathering stitches required!), and makes the sleeves less prone to wrinkling where the sleeve meets the armhole. I like the results, and haven’t noticed any downsides to the reduced sleeve cap ease. (BTW, the debate about whether sleeve cap ease is actually necessary is pretty fascinating, if you’re a sewing nerd.)

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Excuse the underarm wrinkles — I’d been wearing the shirt all day before taking these photos!

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The fabric is black viscose (aka rayon) from Stone Mountain and Daughter. It’s lovely and soft and drapey, although it wrinkles like nobody’s business.

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P.S. Why yes, that is a sewing machine necklace. (It’s from ModCloth, in case you’re curious and/or need one in your life.)

A Coral Scout

See, I told you I’d make more Scout Tees eventually. :)

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I loved my owl print Scout so much that I knew I had to make some more. I also knew, from my Wardrobe Architect-inspired musings, that I needed more solid-colored woven blouses. So, on a recent afternoon, I found myself browsing the solid-colored rayons at Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics. This coral caught my eye, and ended up coming home with me. (I got some black viscose too, which was also ear-marked for a Scout. I actually finished it a few days ago, but have decided that my modifications to the pattern on that version were not terribly successful, so it needs to be re-worked a bit. Ah well. It was a learning experience.)

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This one turned out just fine, though. :) It’s actually one of my favorite things I’ve sewn lately.

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Just look at that beautiful top-stitching on the front neckline.

I fall more in love with Grainline Studio patterns every time I sew one. The patterns fit me well with almost no adjustments, they’re beautifully drafted (all the notches line up, etc.), and the styles are perfect — modern, minimalist, not fussy, but still pretty.

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The only fit adjustment I made for this Scout was to lengthen it by 1/2″ by slashing and spreading at the lengthen/shorten line. I also added the tiny pocket from the Tiny Pocket Tank, just to break up that expanse of coral a little bit.

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One more note: if you’re making a smallish size (I made a size 6), you can get away with using significantly less fabric than the pattern calls for. Just cut your fabric as a single layer and put the front and back pieces next to each other instead of cutting both on the fold. Works like a charm.

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I’m so pleased with how this turned out! This pattern is fast becoming one of my favorites. :D

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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!

Me Made May! (And a Portrait Blouse)

It’s May 1st! That means it’s time for Me Made May!

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If you’re not familiar with Me Made May, head over here and read all about it. Basically, it’s a month-long challenge to wear your handmade clothes more often! There are no specific rules (each participant decides on their own pledge), and no winners or losers. The point is to challenge yourself to actually use the garments you create. (And to have fun admiring everybody’s awesome handmade outfits, and show off your own!)

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I signed up at the very last minute (last night!). This is the first time I’ve participated in one of these challenges, so I’m pretty excited. Here’s my pledge:

I, Katie of UmbellulariaDesigns.wordpress.com, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I endeavour to wear at least one garment sewn by me (including re-fashioned garments) at least 3 days per week for the duration of May 2014.

So, without further ado, here’s today’s outfit — including a brand new make. This is the Portrait Blouse, from Gertie’s book.

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I’m quite pleased with how this turned out. I made no alterations except to lengthen it by 3″. I also ended up omitting the zipper (after I’d already basted it in…). I found that I could actually just pull the blouse over my head, and the zipper was making one side hang weirdly (probably because the fabric is quite flimsy).

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Here’s a blurry back shot:

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I especially love this fabric. It’s a rayon challis from Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics. It’s incredibly soft, and very lightweight (great for summer!). I still have a little less than a yard left — what should I make with it?

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Get ready for lots of outfit photos for Me Made May. I’ll probably try to do weekly updates — we’ll see how it goes. I’ll also be posting photos to the Me Made May ’14 Flickr group — come check it out and admire all the beautiful handmade clothes! :)

Owl Print Scout Tee

I made a Grainline Studio Scout Tee!

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And it has adorable owls on it. LOOK:

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Is that not the cutest print you’ve ever seen?

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I really, really like this pattern. It has only four pattern pieces (three, if you don’t count the neckline binding), so cutting it out is super quick. It goes together really easily too. It took me a couple evenings to put together, but that’s only because I decided to be fancy and do French seams everywhere. If you didn’t do that you could totally make it up in one session.

See? Fancy insides.

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I also really like this rayon fabric (from Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics). It feels very light and flowy. It does wrinkle pretty easily, but I can put up with that.

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And a back shot:

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This is definitely a winner–I’ve worn it several times already, and I only finished it a few days ago! The only change I made to the pattern was to lengthen it by 1/2″; otherwise it fit perfectly as drafted.

There will definitely by more Scouts in my life soon. :) (First I have to finish my current work in progress, the Portrait Blouse from Gertie’s book, and then I have to make a dress to wear to a friend’s wedding in June… But after that, more Scouts!)

Tropical Sorbetto

Remember when I said I was working on a quick and simple project for myself, as a “sewing palate cleanser” after working so hard on the button-up shirt? Well, I finished it!

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This is the Sorbetto blouse pattern from Colette Patterns. It’s a quick and easy pattern to put together, is a great wardrobe staple, and you can download it for free from the Colette Patterns website! YES! I love free patterns!

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The fabric might look familiar if you’ve been reading my blog for a while. I made this with the scraps from the Tropical Cascade skirt I made earlier in the summer. I wasn’t sure I had enough fabric left to cut this out, but with some creative piecing I found I had more than enough to cut out all the pattern pieces for this top AND make some matching bias tape to finish the neck and armholes. Yay!

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You can see that I had to add a seam down the back–I didn’t have a scrap big enough to cut the entire back pattern piece. I don’t think it’s terribly noticeable, though.

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And here’s a shot showing how I had to piece the front. In this photo I’m lifting up the edge of the pleat that runs down the front of the blouse. The front is supposed to be cut as one piece, but I ended up cutting it in three pieces to fit on my available fabric. Luckily I could piece it right under the pleat, so no one need know (except you guys)!

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I actually really enjoyed making the bias tape to finish the edges. I followed the continuous bias tape tutorial from Colette (they include a link to this in the pattern instructions). I’m now looking forward to finding excuses to make more bias tape using this technique–it’s seriously like magic. I don’t think I can describe it well enough to do it justice, but you should check it out if you ever need custom bias tape.

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I’m especially proud of the insides. I used French seams, so there are no raw edges to be seen! Here it is inside out to prove it:

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So neat! So tidy!

And here’s the neckline, showing the bias tape, the front pleat, and the French seam down the back:

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And here’s the inside of one of the shoulders…

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…And the outside for comparison. Equally attractive!

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I think it came out quite nicely! If I make this pattern again, I might add just a touch of extra length–maybe 3/4″ or something (I like my tops on the long side, plus I think I have a relatively long torso to begin with). But other than that I’m really pleased.

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I thought about putting some buttons or something down the front, but I eventually concluded it was best to just let this fabric speak for itself.

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Of course it’s just starting to get cold here, so I probably won’t get to wear this much until next summer… Ah well. I have a few more autumn-appropriate projects in the works. Hopefully I can finish them before spring!

P.S. Do you like the new blog layout? I decided I needed a theme with sidebars, so as to make the archives and such more accessible. I think I like it (especially now that I’ve figured out how to use the same color scheme I was using before…)!

Tropical Cascade Skirt

I finished my first sewing project of the summer last week!

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This is the Cascade Skirt pattern by Meagan Nielsen. Over the past few months I’d seen several beautiful versions of this skirt pop up around the blogosphere, but I hadn’t really thought seriously about buying the pattern–it just didn’t seem like the kind of thing I was likely to wear, you know? But then I found this amazing tropical floral rayon at Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics a few weeks ago, and I knew immediately that it had to be made up into a Cascade. Aren’t they just a perfect match?

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This skirt came together really quickly and easily–it took me three or four evenings, from cutting to sewing on the buttons (and most of that time was spent doing the rolled hems on the outer fabric and the lining). Definitely an instant gratification project (which is great)! Here’s a close-up of the inside of the rolled hem, and a French seam:

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I only made a few minor adjustments to the pattern. First, I added a back seam. The cutting layout included in the pattern has you cut the back piece on the fold, but to do that you have to fold the fabric perpendicular to the selvedge, which means that if the print on the fabric is directional at all, it will be sideways on your skirt. Most of the time this wouldn’t matter at all, but the flowers on my fabric all face one direction, and I really wanted them to be facing up instead of sideways. So I just added 5/8″ seam allowance, cut 2 back pieces, and sewed them together with a French seam. I don’t think it’s noticeable at all–and if it is, that’s okay, because those French seams are pretty gorgeous, if I do say so myself. Here’s a close-up of the inside of the skirt back seam:

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I also added a lining, because I wasn’t sure whether this rayon would wind up being slightly see-through or not. In hindsight it probably wasn’t necessary, but it wasn’t too difficult to do and it sure feels nice and silky on my skin. Here’s the inside of the finished skirt (all wrinkly from being worn all day–forgive me):

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The pattern includes instructions for a lining, but it instructs you to use the same pattern pieces for both the outer fabric and the lining, which means that the lining fabric will be very visible due to the high-low hem. I didn’t want my lining to show (I didn’t want to cover up that fantastic print!), so I just shortened the pattern pieces enough that I was confident the back lining would be shorter than the front of the skirt. I also made the lining a little shorter around the waist, so the lining fabric would be less likely to peak out from the front of the skirt. I think it worked pretty well. (The lining fabric is rayon bemberg lining ordered online from Mood Fabrics–specifically, I think it’s this one.)

Other than that, I pretty much followed the directions exactly. I’ve seen several versions of this skirt that were shortened in the back a little bit, but I like the extra long back–it’s dramatic, certainly, but in a good way!

The pattern includes three waistband options (tie-in-the-front, tie-in-the-back, and button-up), and I chose the option with buttons. I also added a snap for some extra security.

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The buttons are purple plastic, inherited from my grandmother in her enormous stash of sewing supplies. They’re definitely vintage, although I’m not sure what decade they’re from. In real life they’re a beautiful rich purple, although for some reason they look more blue-ish in these photos. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

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Here are some terrible self-timer photos I took right after I finished it, just to give you an idea of what it looks like close up…

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And here’s some more artsy photos of the skirt in action in the rose garden this afternoon.

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The back is kind of wrinkly from sitting on a bench in the rose garden right before this…oh well.

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It’s very twirly and billows beautifully when you walk!

This is a great, simple pattern, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I ended up making it again. My only complaint is that it really isn’t suitable for windy conditions, unless you wear bike shorts underneath or something. :P That being said, I love my new skirt, and I’m sure I’ll get a lot of wear out it. Definitely a successful project!

And just for fun, here’s a pretty photo I took in the rose garden this afternoon:

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