Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In Process: Simplicity 1233 - Elsa dress from Frozen

As I think I've mentioned about a half dozen times over the past month, my daughter adores the movie Frozen, and like many, many other little girls wanted to be one of the characters from the movie for Halloween. The funny thing is that every time I asked her, she'd change her mind as to whether she wanted to be Elsa or Anna, so I made the executive decision to make her an Elsa costume, figuring that would have the greater "wow" factor to a 2-year old.

Both Simplicity and McCall's have released their own versions of patterns for the already-iconic dress that Elsa's coronation gown transforms into during her performance of "Let it Go". From comparing the line drawings, the only difference that I can see between the two versions is that the Simplicity version has decorative trim at the waist seam and yoke seam. Even though the "real" version of the dress lacks this trim as far as I can tell, I went with the Simplicity version because, hey, it was the "officially licensed" version.
Elsa from Disney's "Frozen"
I started working on Eva's version of this dress about a week ago. I have to say that I'm quite impressed with the Simplicity pattern so far. Whereas I've seen complaints about the McCall's version running very large, when I pin-fit the bodice to Eva for the Simplicity version, it appears to be slightly on the roomy side of being true-to-size. The skirt is quite long, but obviously, hemming a skirt is much easier than having to take in 5-6" of excess ease throughout the dress (as some reviews have mentioned doing with the McCall's pattern).

Here's what my version looked like before I attached the cape:

Elsa dress in-progress, pre-cape attachment
And close up to get a better view:
Close up of the Elsa bodice
Because I can't leave well enough alone, I am making a few changes to the pattern:
  • I'm lining the bodice because the wrong side of the sequined fabric I'm using seemed like it could be scratchy. Actually, what I did is a hybrid between lining and underlining. I stitched the side seams of the bodice on both the sequin and lining fabric, then basted the lining to the sequin fabric. I would have love to have done a traditional lining with everything clean-finished, but because I hadn't completely walked through the construction in my head, I'd already constructed the cape at that point and would have had to rip out French seams from the cape side seams in poly organza. Yeah, that wasn't going to happen.

    "Guts" shot of the Elsa dress
  • While most of kids' costumes you see show a solid satin skirt on this dress, the "real" dress's skirt has something sparkly going on. I found an iridescent organza at JoAnn's and overlayed that on the satin skirt. While this doesn't have the ombre look of the "real" dress, I prefer this look to a solid skirt.
  • Rather than applique'ing snowflakes onto the cape, I found a fabulous glitter snowflake organza on Etsy that I'm using. (It appears to be sold out now.) Yes, my house is now covered in glitter.
  • I'm using a narrow hem on my serger on the cape, yoke, and sleeves.
  • I'm undecided on what to make the yoke and sleeves out of. I have the pieces cut both from the glitter organza and a white chiffon. I'd love to just use the glitter organza, but I'm a little concerned that it might be a little stiff and uncomfortable for Eva, even though it would look fantastic. I'm currently leaning towards lining/underlining the organza with the chiffon.
The pattern is well-drafted in that so far, all of the seams and notches have lined up perfectly. The construction methods are pretty sound, as well; they have you use French seams on the sheer portions of the costume. 

Here are two shots of the dress after I attached the cape:

Elsa dress with cape
Close-up of the Elsa dress with cape
I may swing by Hancock on my way home from work in another attempt to find a light-blue chiffon for this dress, in which case I will likely underline the snowflake organza for the yoke with the chiffon, and just do the sleeves in the chiffon. I feel like just going with the white chiffon is too much contrast. Plus, I don't want to use just chiffon in that yoke--with all of that fabric between the lined bodice, lined skirt, and cape, the dress is starting to feel a bit heavy.

How is everyone else's Halloween sewing going? What costumes are you making for yourself and/or your kids?

Friday, October 17, 2014

This week in patterns (17-Oct-2014)

It's Friday again, so it's time for a rundown of the week's pattern releases! We've got a mix of indie patterns and a new release from one (two?) of the Big 4 in this week's post.

Note that as of right now, the New Look and Simplicity releases aren't up on the Simplicity website yet; they're only visible on the Simplicity app and on Pattern Review. Because of this, the links for these patterns in this post go to the appropriate pages for these patterns on Pattern Review.

Muse - Gillian Wrap Dress

The Gillian Wrap Dress is the second offering from new New Zealand pattern company Muse. (The Jenna Cardigan was their first pattern, released about a month or so ago.)  Just when I thought that I'd seen just about every design variation possible for wrap dresses, along comes this retro-inspired version. The Gillian Wrap dress has the same shoulder ruching detail that several views of the Jenna Cardigan has. I like that they included an option to sew this as a top and an option for long sleeves. So far, I'm really liking what I've been seeing from this new company; both of their patterns have had quite a few options, so that you're getting a lot of bang for your buck per pattern.

Muse - Gillian Wrap Dress

Grainline Studios - Linden Sweatshirt

Jen from Grainline Studios, who brought you the popular Archer blouse, Alder shirtdress, and Scout woven tee released a new pattern on Sunday--the Linden Sweatshirt.
Grainline - Linden Sweatshirt

The Linden has raglan sleeves and can be sewn either as a long sleeved traditional sweatshirt or as a short sleeved crop top. Personally, I'd probably go for one of the lower-priced alternatives from the Big 4, such as Simplicity 1317  or McCall's 6992, which are both raglan-sleeve sweatshirt patterns that could be used to create the same look as the Linden and have larger size ranges.

Paprika Patterns - Jade Skirt

Paprika Patterns is a new pattern company (another one!) started by a Dutch woman living in France. The Jade skirt is a knit pencil skirt with a really cool pleated detail on the front. It's available in two lengths--mini or knee-length. For now, it's only available in sizes up to a 41.5" (106cm) hip, but they say that they'll be expanding the size range into three more sizes at the upper end of the size range soon. Going off their size chart, that should put the upper hip size in the mid-40's in inches.  They're offering the pattern as a pay-what-you-want PDF download, at least for the time being.

Paprika Patterns - Jade Skirt

I'm not planning to blog every new pattern from every new pattern company, since it seems like every time you sneeze, there's a new pattern company. However, I thought that this skirt was unique and really cute and wanted to share it. The funny thing is that I don't even recall how I originally learned about this company; I think that someone blogged about testing a pattern, which lead me down the rabbit hole of checking out the company and signing up for their email newsletter, and then I forgot about them. In any case, I really like the skirt and may give it a try when they release their expanded size range.

New Look - Holiday release

Related companies Simplicity and New Look both had new holiday releases this week. A few patterns jumped out at me for various reasons.

New Look 6338 and 6339

This collection includes two new tweens patterns a top/skirt outfit and a maxi-skirt. My daughter isn't at this age yet, but I know that there is a serious dearth of patterns for kids of both genders in this age range. Neither are frumpy and both patterns appear to be age-appropriate for pre-teen girls:

New Look 6338

New Look 6339
New Look 6325

The only women's pattern that grabbed me was this coat pattern with options for an asymmetrical hem and asymmetrical zipper. Two views even include that rare option in women's patterns: a hood.

New Look 6325
The more that I think about this one, the more I like it. Sure, it's boxy and has no shaping, but that's an easy enough fix if it bothers you. 

Simplicity - Holiday release

Love it or hate it, this new mini-release from Simplicity was anything but boring. How many of us complain that the Big 4 offer slight variations on the same patterns with each release? This release felt like a big "F- You!" to that complaint.

Simplicity 1256, 1257, 1258, 1259

First up, Simplicity introduced a new line of modular garments under the label "Multi Taskers", and each pattern envelope includes 3-5 knit pieces that can be mixed and matched as part of a capsule wardrobe. In each of these wardrobes, there's 1-2 pieces that can double as a second type of garment, for example, a wrap piece that can be worn either as a shrug or as a sarong-style skirt. Although this group of patterns aren't exactly my style, I think it's an interesting concept. I'm sure that we'll see others in the sewing community make some creative outfits with these patterns.

Simplicity 1258

Simplicity 1258
Simplicity 1251

If you're looking for a new twist on a hoodie, Simplicity 1251 features a pointed hood and tattoo-style applique. This one had me scratching my head a bit, but I'm going to guess that it's knocking off a designer look of some sort that I'm not familiar with--it's too distinctive of a garment for that not to be the case. It's not my cup of tea, but I think that the applique is an interesting design element.

Simplicity 1251
Simplicity 1261

As much as I sometimes enjoy sewing Eva and myself tops or dresses out of the same fabric, I don't think I'll ever have a need to sew the whole family matching animal ear hoodies:
Simplicity 1261
Simplicity 1246

If you're a Game of Thrones fan who has really procrastinated on getting started on your Halloween costume or just want to get a head start on next year's Comic Con, there's a new (unofficial) Daenerys Targaryen costume pattern:

Simplicity 1246
Simplicity 1254

Finally, my absolute favorite, favorite pattern out of this collection (and out of just about any recent collection that I can think of) is this coat pattern by former Project Runway winner Leanne Marshall:

Simplicity 1254
What's not to love about this? That big hood looks so cozy whether up or down, a zipper instead of buttons, and princess seams with in-seam pockets.
Simplicity 1254 - Line drawing
I had planned to get started on a new winter coat for myself and was planning to use another pattern, but I may very well switch gears and go with this pattern--I think it's a little more practical for our weather and will be a bit more flattering than the pattern I had originally chosen.

Final Thoughts

I have to say that although this was a small holiday collection, kudos to Simplicity for having some  unique designs in this release, even if they're not for everyone. On my "must have" list from this week are the Muse Ginny dress (actually, I already purchased it to get the new release discount after Debbie hinted at giving it an endorsement), and the Leanne Marshall coat (Simplicity 1254). I suspect that I'll also probably pick up New Look 6325 the next time that I'm in JoAnn's or Hancock because when you live in Seattle, you can never own too many things with a hood.

What are your picks from this week?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Finished Project: StyleArc - Slip-on Suzie

Yes, I changed the template for this blog. I wasn't feeling the old template any more but haven't had time to mess around in the CSS, so I'm using this template for now. It might very well change (either a big change or subtle changes) again in the near future.

*sigh*  When am I ever going to learn to listen to my gut when it comes to sewing projects? Once again, I rushed through a making a garment because I wanted to be done with it so that I could sew something else, and once again, I made boatloads of errors with an easy pattern that resulted in a garment that I'm probably not going to wear very much.

Back when it was first announced, I was super excited to participate in the Curvy Sewing Collective's first sewalong--a "wrapalong" for wrap dresses. I pulled candidate patterns out of my stash and pre-washed fabric. I envisioned not just one, but several wrap dresses to be made for the sewalong. The sewalong officially started on September 29th, when my mom was in town, and when my mom left a few days later, I realized "Oh shit, it's October!" "October" meant that I really needed to get cracking on my daughter's Halloween costume, which was important enough to me that I didn't want to leave it up to the last minute. This project loomed over my head the entire time that I worked on my wrap dress. Like many, many other little girls this year, Eva is going to be "Elsa" from Frozen for Halloween, and Elsa's dress is a bit more complicated than my typical knit top or dress projects. I was both nervous about this and really wanting to dig in to my Elsa dress project.

Stressing out over both needing to and wanting to work on Eva's Elsa dress, I elected to go with the simplest (faux) wrap dress pattern that I had in my stash: StyleArc's Slip-on Suzie. In StyleArc's words, "This is a fantastic fake wrap dress, it is easy to make and wear, just slip it on. You have the choice of a cap sleeve or a long sleeve, so it’s suitable for all seasons and occasions." The description is accurate, you couldn't ask for a much easier knit dress than this.

StyleArc Slip-on Suzie
Let me walk you through the comedy of errors that I experienced while I made this dress:
  • After I'd already had my heart set on using this pattern, I pulled the pattern out and discovered that the pattern was a size 20, when my measurements currently put me in a StyleArc size 22. I'd apparently ordered it about a year and a half ago during the 5 minute window when I'd lost some weight but before I'd regained it. Lesson learned: On a single size pattern, check the size before you get your heart set on making it if you're in a rush.
  • I figured that it wasn't a big deal to grade up one size, but when I went to grab my pattern tracing paper, I'd discovered that it had been toddler'ed and that I didn't have anything suitable to do my alterations with. Lesson learned: Make the trip to JoAnn's or Hancock and pick up some replacement paper while waiting for your replacement roll or paper to arrive.
  • When cutting out my fabric, I decided to fudge my upsizing by cutting out an extra large seam allowance. Unfortunately, when I went to sew the side seams, I discovered that my eyeballing effort wasn't very accurate and one front side seam was several inches shorter than its corresponding back side seam. To fix, I had to shorten the entire dress by another 2".  Lesson learned: Don't eyeball adding to the side seams.
  • The 2" of extra shortening probably wouldn't have been an issue if I hadn't already shortened the dress by 4" via altering the paper pattern. You see, I'd had it in my head that reviews of this pattern said that it ran really long, so I decided to shorten the skirt by 4" right off the bat. If I'd actually had the patience to read through the reviews again, I would have found that I'd mixed up the length issues of another StyleArc wrap dress--the Kate dress, with the Slip-on Suzie. Most Suzie reviewers made minimal adjustments to the length, whereas the Kate was the dress that ran really long. Lesson learned: Re-check any pattern reviews before cutting your fabric.
  • Because I hadn't made/worn one in a while, I'd also forgotten how set cross-over styles like this bisect right across my boob, rather than going under it because of how large my bust is. Yes, I know that this avoidable with a large FBA, but I'm not convinced that the neckline going under the boob is any better of a look when you're my size. Other surplice style necklines are a much better look on me.
The end result of all of this is that I ended up with a dress that's too short and too tight, and this all was completely preventable if I hadn't acted like I was in some sort of sewing race to complete it. 

Here's the line drawing for the pattern:

StyleArc Slip-on Suzie line drawing


The fabric that I used is an ITY jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics. I bought this cut to use specifically with this dress because I wanted a dress with a larger scale print, and I knew that this simple pattern would show off the print well.

Pattern Sizing

Considering that the dress I made was a size too small, I'd say that the pattern fits true to size. One size up, had I actually graded properly, would have been perfect.

Pattern Instructions

This dress has minimal instructions, as is often the case with StyleArc patterns. However, it's such an easy dress that a fairly beginning sewist could probably successfully tackle this pattern. Here are a few notes about the instructions:
  • There's no binding or facing for the neckline. (In some reviews, I see that some people drafted their own binding.) You just stabilize, then flip and stitch. 
  • The instructions have you sew the side seams then set the sleeves in in the round. I ignored this and did my usual order of construction for knits where I set the sleeves in flat and the sewed the side seams/sleeve seams all-in-one. I was a bit surprised to see this from StyleArc because while their instructions are usually minimal, they also usually follow standard practices.
So, that's about it for this project. I've already mentally moved on and have started sewing my daughter's Halloween costume. I'm using an organza with glitter snowflakes for the cape portion, and now our entire upstairs is covered in glitter. I think that's still far, far better than manually appliqueing snowflakes onto the cape.

Friday, October 10, 2014

This week in patterns (10-Oct-2014)

So, we've got lots and lots of patterns to recap this week!

I debated whether to include Big 4 patterns in my weekly recap. Other people have been doing Big 4 recaps much longer, but I felt that to ignore a new Vogue release would be like ignoring the elephant in the room.  I've already read several other roundups of this particular collection on other blogs even though the collection was just released on Monday, and while I'm probably not saying anything new in my rundown, I still felt that I should include it in this week's post.

Pull up a chair and grab a cup of coffee. We had a LOT of patterns released this week, so this is a bit of a LONNNNNNG post.

Bluegingerdoll - Bonnie knit top

The Bonnie is the first knit pattern offering from Bluegingerdoll and is now available for instant download for PDF format or pre-order for the printed version. The pattern includes three views with interchangeable sleeve and bodice options.
  • View A: Banded hem crop top with crew neck and flutter sleeves. (The pattern announcement mentions that this view was inspired by 1940's-era sweaters.)
  • View B: Banded hem crop top with scoop neckline and 3/4 length sleeves
  • View C: Hip-length top with a boat neckline and long sleeves
Bluegingerdoll Bonnie
You might (justifiably) be wondering if the world really needs another basic knit top pattern offering from another indie pattern company. However, given that Bluegingerdoll drafts for a D-cup, hourglass figure, I'd put it in the "drafting niche" category along with tops like the Sewaholic Pendrell or SBCC Tonic Tee, which are drafted for certain figure types. If you were a new-ish sewist who didn't already have a full pattern stash with a figure similar to the Bluegingerdoll block, this pattern could be a good choice for you.

Winter Wear Designs - Women's Aviator Pants

If you've been eyeing the True Bias Hudson trackpant but feeling discouraged because the Hudson's size range stops at a 46" hip, you might want to check out Winter Wear Design's take on the trackpant trend with the Women's Aviator Pant, which was released earlier this week:

Winter Wear Designs - Women's Aviator Pants
The Women's Aviator goes up to a 51" hip and also includes cargo pockets and a yoga waistband. I'll admit that these caught my eye because I have a similar pair of pants that I bought from Old Navy several years ago that I have pretty much worn to death.  With the yoga waist on my pants, I was able to wear them well, well into my pregnancy in 2012, and now they're my go-to dog walking pants with those cargo pockets. I haven't sewn anything from Winter Wear, so I can't comment on their drafting or instructions, but I wanted to call these out for both their size range and comfortable and utilitarian design.

Blank Slate - Marigold Dress, Blouse, and Skirt

If you follow my blog, then you know that I love Blank Slate's children's patterns--they're practical, cute, have great instructions, and most importantly, actually fit true-to-size (unlike most of the Big 4 kids' patterns I've tried). Melissa, who is the owner and designer for Blank Slate, has been expanding their women's pattern offerings in recent months. She's got a few women's designs that I've been eyeing, but I haven't taken the plunge yet. I think that might be about to change.

The Marigold dress, blouse, and skirt were originally offered as part of the Pattern Anthology collective's 8 Days a Week collection that was released a few weeks ago. Starting on Tuesday of this week, the patterns became available for individual sale.

The Marigold is so "me", it's not even funny. There are blouse and dress options, cap and long sleeve options, and the dress has pockets. On top of that, Melissa says that it's drafted for a D- or DD- cup bust, so many women will be able to skip the FBA or just have a minimal one.

Blank Slate - Marigold dress, blouse, and skirt
While I'm kind of over peplums at this point, in this style, in the sample photos, the blouse doesn't scream PEPLUM! like on some knit designs. I like the banded collar, and the shirring at the shoulders will make an FBA on this pattern very easy to do. I like so many of the views/options for this pattern, I'm truly not sure which I'd tackle first.

Vogue Patterns - Holiday 2014 Collection

Like many other bloggers who have already reviewed this collection, I found the Vogue Holiday collection to be a mixed bag. The formal and semi-formal dresses have some gorgeous and unique patterns, while I found the rest of the collection to be kind of "meh".

"Interesting" is the go-to word for me for the cocktail and holiday dresses in this collection. As much as it would be fun to dress up, I have zero need for a cocktail dress in my wardrobe (my company's holiday party is held at a football stadium, and we likely wouldn't go anyway due to a lack of a sitter).

Badgley Mischka V1426

The Angelina's leg pose aside, I think that this is a stunning dress. I love the cascading ruffle and contrast. If I had any occasion to sew or wear this (and access to a longline bra in my size), I'd be all over this Badgely Mischka dress in a heartbeat.

Vogue 1426
Belville Sassoon 1423

This Belville Sassoon dress would probably look awful on my figure, but I think that the cutouts are quite interesting in a showing-hints-of-skin-but-not-trashy way:

Vogue 1423
Claire Shaeffer 9046

This Claire Shaeffer dress-of-a-million-pintucks is interesting and would probably look fantastic on someone long-waisted with an hourglass figure. This is another dress, like the Belville Sassoon one, that I like the idea of, even if it wouldn't work for me or my lifestyle.

Vogue 9046

For the non-holiday dresses, though, the collection largely seems like a rehash of what we've seen the past few years--more peplums (still)!, more seamed sheaths that can be used for color blocking, and more semi-fitted raglan tops. The two vintage designs are nice--one is a coat and the other is a jacket/dress combo.

Vintage Vogue 9052

Here's one of the vintage offerings--the dress and jacket combination. The dress is pretty basic with the exception of the neckline cutout. I could see the jacket actually blending in really well with a modern wardrobe--to me the only thing that screams "vintage" about it is the styling for the photo shoot.
Vintage Vogue 9052
Vogue 9067 - Five easy pieces

Looking at some of the regular offerings, there's the "Five Easy Pieces" wardrobe pattern. This is more of that "art teacher chic", which is totally not my thing:

Vogue 9067
Vogue 9062

The one "custom fit" pattern (i.e. with cup sizes from A-D) is a dead ringer for one of the views of the Colette Laurel dress:

Vogue 9062

BurdaStyle Plus Collection

I won't be reviewing every single BurdaStyle collection in these weekly posts, but since I and many of my readers fall into Burda's plus size range, I will be including the monthly plus size patttern collections in my posts. On Wednesday of this week, BurdaStyle published the October 2014 Plus collection to its website. As is often the case, there are a few really cute garments and a few headscratchers. Let's take a look at the highlights and the lowlights.

First up is my favorite piece of the collection, the #139 seamed shift dress with a keyhole neckline:

BurdaStyle Plus 10-2014 #139
There's darts, seaming, and an interesting neckline. Oh and pockets. You know that I'm a sucker for pockets. Plus, it's a winter pattern with actual long sleeves!

Continuing with the positives, this blouse with a pleated neckline appears in three different variations in this collection. My favorite view is #136, which looks like raglan sweatshirt with a cute bow detail at the neckline:
BurdaStyle Plus 10-2014 #136
And if you don't already have a bomber jacket pattern, Burda has offered a plus version in this issue. Unlike a lot of boxier bomber jackets, #133 has bust and waist darts:

BurdaStyle Plus 10-2014 #133
I didn't care for this oversized jacket with an attached chiffon scarf. I guess that attaching the scarf helps prevent you from losing it?

BurdaStyle Plus 10-2014 #134
And then there's this layered tank set. By themselves, the tanks are fairly inoffensive. But seeing them layered/styled like this, they're screaming trend-that-should-have-been-left-in-1987 to me. I'm surprised that they didn't style them with a pair of zippered-ankle Guess? jeans and an Esprit bag.

BurdaStyle Plus 10-2014 #141

HotPatterns - Metropolitan Rothko Faux-Wrap Skirt

And finally, we have our last pattern for the week. This morning, HotPatterns released their Metropolitan Rothko Faux-Wrap Skirt pattern:

HP Rothko Wrap Skirt

I like this skirt a lot. First of all, it's a faux wrap, so if you live in a windy city like Seattle or San Francisco, you don't have to worry about your skirt blowing open when you step off the bus. Second, the piecing opens up a lot of design possibilities. You could color-block, print-match, or just do a solid version with top-stitching. In fact, I'm picturing a denim version with jeans-colored top-stitching on either side of the seams.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

5 Intermediate sewing books I wish existed

Ooh, you get a bonus post from me this week! I've got my weekly pattern roundup post almost ready to go, but I'm all amped up to talk about a different subject right now: Books.

I've been seeing a lot of discussion online recently about the gap in sewing resources between beginning sewists and advanced or couture level sewists. The conversations have struck a chord with me because I think of myself as a very intermediate-level sewist. Like the hypothetical intermediate sewist in these online conversations, I also have no desire to attempt couture techniques at this point in my sewing journey. (Someday I will want to try them, I'm sure, but not with a full-time job where I commute for 1.5+ hours every day and have 2-year-old.) I would, however, love to refine my techniques and add to my repertoire of techniques.

But how?

As a busy mom who is largely self-taught, the obvious answer is through books. Unfortunately, most current sewing books are geared either towards beginning sewists and offer mostly basic projects or target couture techniques and tailoring. The beginner-targeted books can be fun and pretty, but I'm probably not going to learn much from them that I don't already know. And, as I previously mentioned, I don't have much interest in couture methods or in-depth tailoring right now. La Sewista recently wrote a really useful post on books for intermediate sewists, and I actually have a few of the reference books on the list, but that's what they are--reference books. I turn to them if I need to sew a placket or something. (Side note: I am going to try to track down some of those Adele Margolis books that she mentions; they sound wonderful.)  Don't those of us who are intermediate sewists deserve some fun books, too? Books with fun projects and pretty pictures and current techniques?

If you make the argument that there isn't the market for intermediate-level books, I disagree. We've seen a huge influx in the number of people who have started sewing in the past few years. At some point, some of those sewists are going to want to move past basic beginner projects and onto more advanced projects.

I've put together of list of five sewing and fitting books that I wish someone would write and publish.  Some are project-based and some are more reference-oriented, but I think that all of these would help fill that "resource gap" that a lot of us mid-level sewists feel.

Project-based book for intermediate sewists

Yeah, so I essentially want something like the Colette Sewing Handbook, but for intermediate sewists. Instead of books with A-line skirt patterns and pull-over blouses, how about a project-based book that features patterns for a pair of fly-front pants, a button-down blouse with sleeve plackets, a lined dress, and a lined jacket with welt pockets?

Colette Sewing Handbook
In my mind, this book would start out at the advanced beginner/intermediate level and progress a reader through to the upper range of intermediate. Yes, I can certainly buy patterns that do this, but I want a book with pretty (color) photos and that flesh out the required techniques more than pattern instructions do.

Sewing a coat

Why doesn't this book exist? Seriously, Jenny from Cashmerette is in the process of sewing a coat right now and lamented that helpful resources are all over the internet, but there's no central repository for this stuff. She did, however, do an admirable job of compiling a bunch of coat-making tips, herself.  Plus, coat sewing tutorials might tell you what to do, but there's nothing that really tells you what NOT to do, which is often just as helpful. I'm planning to sew a coat (bound buttonholes, interlining, and the whole shebang), and I'd feel a lot less apprehensive about this project if I had a book to walk me through the process from start to finish on a linear path. I want this book to cover the things that my pattern instructions will leave out, including things like back stays, interlining, sewing notched collars. It should explain the pro's and con's about various decisions, such as whether or not to interface the whole coat, bagging a lining vs. hand-stitching, etc.

Troubleshooting book for techniques

Reference books and tutorials show you one way to complete a technique. What they don't usually help you with is figuring out what went wrong if the thing you just sewed doesn't look like the pretty picture in the book. For each "problem", the book would have a photo and then describe what went "wrong" for that particular case and then give advice on how to fix it. For example, it might show a picture of a gaping, flappy notched lapel, describe how the sewist failed to stitch to the point and pivot correctly, and then show the right way to do it. You could cover all kinds of technique issues like this. And if someone who's a more advanced sewist than I am wants to tackle this, email me for a list. ;)

The wonkiness of my first notched lapel collar

Secrets that home sewers don't know because no one tells them

I am ripping off this hypothetical book from this thread on Pattern Review (go to page 6, and scroll down to unfinished project's post in the middle of the page). The idea for this is to point out where most pattern instructions don't usually produce a RTW result. I want a book that tells me how to put a zipper in a lined garment without handstitching. I want a book that incorporates fly shield instructions in with how to sew the zipper fly itself, not as an add-on, "by-the-way" option at the end. My understanding is that Janet Pray's Craftsy class covers a lot of this sort of thing for her denim jacket pattern, but I want a reference that I can read and refer back to when I want to tackle a particular technique.

Sewing for a full bust

So here's a book that I could actually contribute to significantly, if not actually write myself. Fitting the bust is given a chapter, at most, in even the best fitting books. I argue that there's a heck of a lot more to know about fitting the bust and FBAs than can be contained in a 10-15 page chapter. Here's why I'd like to see and think I could fill an entire book on this subject:
  • Most fitting books and tutorials only show a small-ish FBA--usually 1". If you're making a large FBA of 2" or more, your pattern pieces will look significantly different than the example shown in the book or tutorial. If you haven't done a ton of FBA's, you'll probably wonder, "Am I doing this right? My pattern piece looks so weird." This book would show the FBA examples for 1" and 3" for every type of FBA.
  • Even the best fitting books usually only show FBAs for a darted bodice, one type of princess seam (either shoulder or armhole, but not both), and maybe a raglan or dolman sleeve top. Beyond that, you're basically told to do a darted bodice and rotate the dart somewhere. This can be intimidating if rotating darts isn't old hat to you.
  • I'd want a whole chapter on dart rotation--Discussion of the "Big Honkin Dart" problem, how to rotate darts, different location options, and photographs of what those different options look like. Maybe I'd even give some suggestions on which location to use for certain bodice types.
  • How to convert darts to princess seams--actually walking through the whole process, step-by-step.
  • Finally, there would be a chapter on troubleshooting your FBA. My thoughts on this are similar to the Troubleshooting book I proposed--many times we think that something doesn't look quite right, but we don't know what we did wrong or how to fix it.

Final thoughts

What do you think about these hypothetical books? Would you find any of them useful? Are there any sewing or fitting related books that you wish existed, but don't? 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Finished project: Blank Slate - Zippy Jacket

Don't you love it when you finish a pattern and think, "That was so much fun, I want to make it again!" That's how I feel about the track jacket that I just completed for Eva, using Blank Slate's Zippy Jacket pattern. I know that I'm not the only one super happy with this jacket; Eva has been wanting to wear it nearly constantly since I finished it.

I managed to get a few "action" shots of her wearing it after soccer practice the other day. (Yes, she's only 2. Yes, we already have her enrolled in a toddler soccer program. We start 'em early in the PNW!)

Blank Slate Zippy Jacket contemplating the slide

On the big girl swing!

PDF and pattern drafting notes

The pattern printed out just fine. One thing that I love about Blank Slate patterns is how nicely the pages always tape together and are clearly keyed so that you don't feel like you're putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The pattern pieces are also tiled so that they don't use more paper than necessary.

I did run into one slight drafting issue (I've never had any drafting issues before with any of the other Blank Slate patterns I've made). The sleeve cap didn't have quite enough ease, and I had to ease the armscye onto the sleeve, rather than the other way around, like how it should be. This is an easy enough problem to fix (just had a touch of height to the sleeve cap), but I had already cut my fabric when I found out and didn't have enough to cut new sleeves. Just to make sure that there wasn't user error somewhere on my part, if you make this pattern, walk the stitching line on the sleeve cap and armscye pattern pieces to make sure that there's enough ease in that cap.


The fabric for this dress is a cotton jersey blend from Girl Charlee. The ribbing is a rayon rib knit, also from Girl Charlee. The size 3T/4T jacket took a little over 1/2 yard of the main fabric and remnants of the ribbing.

Pattern sizing

Eva is on the cusp of the 2T/3T size break on the Blank Slate size chart, so I sewed this jacket in the 3T/4T size. (The sizes are grouped together as 18m/2T, 3T/4T, 5/6, and 7/8.) The fit is comparable to children's RTW such as Carter's or Circa (from Target) in this size. As you can see, it's a little big, so that she'll be able to wear it into the spring.

Pattern instructions

Yes, as I've found with every Blank Slate pattern that I've sewn, the instructions were clearly written and well-photographed. I'm surprised that Blank Slate doesn't get more internet love for their well-written instructions. Check out this near-perfect bound circle pocket--one of my favorite details of this pattern:
Zippy Jacket ribbing-bound pocket
The instructions will give you a nicely finished garment on the inside, too, although I forgot to take photos of that. If you're apprehensive about doing a zipper/collar combo like this jacket has, the instructions will clearly walk you through the process.

Finally, here's a shot of the jacket laid flat:

Blank Slate Zippy Jacket - flat
If you can't tell, I'm super happy with how this turned out and will definitely be making more of these for Eva. Next time around, I'll likely make a warmer version using either sweatshirting or fleece.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Finished project: Peek-a-Boo Patterns - Poppy Polo Dress / Versatile Blogger Award

So, I finished a new dress for Eva two weeks ago. After several wears and many attempts to get Eva to stand still enough to get decent photos for this blog, I gave up. These are the best that I got:

Peek-a-Boo Patterns Poppy Polo dress
Here's a flat view of the dress, so you can see what it looks like when it's actually not in motion:

Poppy Polo dress - not in motion

For this dress, I used Peek-a-Boo Pattern's Poppy Polo pattern, which includes both a top and a dress option. Amy from PAB originally drafted this pattern with the intention that it could be used for a school uniform or dress code, where needed.

PDF and pattern drafting notes

The pattern printed out just fine.
Two things to note about Peek-a-Boo patterns:
  • There's no key or cues to taping the pieces together. Now, this is a kids' garment, and there aren't a lot of pages, so it's pretty easy to figure out what goes where. However, if you like having matching circles or letters to help you tape, be aware that this pattern line doesn't use them.
  • The pattern lines for the different sizes are color coded, but do not use things like dotted or dashed lines. This makes it a little harder to tell pattern sizes apart if you print out your PDFs in black and white.
The PDF uses very little paper. You cut things like sleeves and the collar on the fold. The top front and back use the same pattern piece with different necklines. The two ruffle tiers for the dress are rectangles that you're given dimensions for and draft yourself.


The fabric for this dress is a cotton/rayon/spandex blend from Girl Charlee. The ribbing is a rayon rib knit, also from Girl Charlee. The size 3T dress took one yard of the main fabric and remnants of the ribbing. The main fabric is fairly lightweight, has some vertical stretch, and is very, very soft.

Pattern sizing

Eva is on the cusp of the 2T/3T size break on the Peek-a-Boo size chart, so I sewed her a size 3T. As you can see, the dress version ran a bit long, which isn't something that I've seen in other Peek-a-Boo patterns before. Granted, my fabric did have vertical stretch, which I'm sure doesn't help. Seeing the hem cut-off for the top version, I do think that the top will run a bit more true-to-size, length-wise. Obviously, if/when I sew the dress version again, the length will be an easy enough fix.

Pattern instructions

I found the instructions to be a bit of a mixed bag. Is it possible for instructions to be too detailed towards beginners?

To elaborate, I've never made a contrast knit polo placket before, so I'm answering this question from that perspective: I found the instructions for the placket to be confusing. I had to rip out the placket and re-do it three times before I got to a point where I was satisified-for-a-first-try with it. I think that it will go a lot smoother the next time, and I definitely will use this pattern again. What tripped me up is that I thought that the instructions were both too directed at a real beginner but not simple enough. They rely very heavily on the color photos in the PDF, which is fine if you're reading them from a computer screen, but I'd printed them out in black-and-white to have them right next to me as I pinned and sewed. (Full disclosure: I don't normally print out PDF instructions unless there's a new technique that I want to be hand-held through. The polo placket fit the bill for wanting some hand-holding from me.) Given that the photos show light thread on a light-colored placket, I had trouble telling what was stitched vs. pressed seam allowance on some photos, which led to some of my frustration. Additionally, there are times when the whole thing could have been made easier to understand by simply saying, "Stitch with a 1/4 seam allowance," rather than trying to describe that without saying it. Once I feel more confident in the placket technique, I'm thinking that I might put up a tutorial on my blog because the instructions for this drove me so nuts! Outside of the placket instructions, I thought that the rest of the instructions were fine. The order of construction made sense and techniques used were appropriate for the garment.

Here are photos of my good-enough polo placket:
Poppy polo placket - closed

Poppy polo placket - open

And just for kicks, here's one of my outtake photos of Eva showing off The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Showing off her caterpillar!
Overall, I think it's a cute dress and a good, versatile pattern. I suspect that the contrast polo placket will be much easier the next time around. If I feel like I've really got the technique nailed, I'll post a tutorial here, since I couldn't find much online to help me with this particular variation on a polo placket.

Versatile Blogger Award

A couple of weeks ago, I was nominated by the lovely and funny Rox at Brand New Old-Fashioned for the Versatile Blogger Award. I responded to her that I'd write my post later in the week, but I was just about to post my "around the world" blog hop post and wanted to space out my ramblings about myself a bit. So, I'm writing my post now--I didn't forget!

The rules for this blog award are simple: Share 7 things about yourself and nominate up to 15 other bloggers. Here are 7 things that you might not know about me:
  1. You probably know that I have cats (and a dog). But did you know that my oldest cat is 17 years old and that I've had him since he was just a few weeks old? I actually helped bottle-raise him and consider him my "furry first-born".
  2. I played clarinet in my high school marching band. I'm still friends with many of my fellow band geeks.
  3. I've been to Japan, France, and Italy twice, and have been to England and Scotland, but have never been to New York City outside of a layover at the airport.
  4. My next selfish sewing project (after I complete Eva's Halloween costume) will be a winter coat. Interlined with thinsulate, bound buttonholes, and everything.
  5. Outside of my very early childhood, I had never experienced a real "fall" until we moved to Seattle last year. Same goes for snow that didn't require a drive to the mountains.
  6. One of my biggest thrills as a teenager was seeing Depeche Mode from the 6th row on their World Violation tour.
  7. Meltdowns aside, being the mother of a 2-year-old is way, way more fun that I possibly could have imagined.
To keep the chain going, I'm nominating L at You Sew, Girl!Naskisha at Sew Crafty Chemist, and Gillian at Crafting a Rainbow.