Pretty Blue Dress

This fabric and pattern were a perfect pair! I have had my eye on the Hazel sundress pattern from Colette Patterns since it came out last spring and when I finally bought the pattern I waited quite awhile to find just the right fabric for it. I knew I didn’t want a fabric with a pattern that would compete with the unique bodice design, but I also didn’t want a flat solid colored fabric. This turquoise chambray was the perfect middle ground. It is woven with royal blue and turquoise threads, which gives the color a lot of depth and interest. It was very hard to capture this in a photograph so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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I don’t often make a muslin when I sew. If I am concerned about the fit I will often just baste the pieces together and adjust from there. One time when I think it’s worth the time and effort of making a muslin is when the design has a very fitted bodice. So, since this pattern has unique bodice seams and is close-fitting, I decided that making a muslin of the bodice was a good idea. The decision led to some other good decisions in making this dress fit me.

First of all, the darts in the bodice give the dress a more retro silhouette, which might work better for someone who wears vintage style undergarments. I do not, so I needed to make changes that would get rid of the dart point. The easiest solution? Change the dart into gathers. (Instead of sewing the dart, sew two or three rows of basting stitches in the front bodice seam allowance. Pull up the stitches to form gathers where the dart would be centered. Sew the bodice front to the bodice sides as usual.) I think this design change worked well as a fitting solution and as a bonus the bodice gathers echo the gathered skirt. Win win!

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Design/Pattern: Colette Patterns Hazel

Materials: 100% cotton turquoise chambray, small bit of white cotton voile for bodice lining, thread, 22 inch invisible zipper (any zipper at least 14 inches long would be sufficient though)

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Techniques:

  • serged seam allowances on skirt and pockets
  • gathered bodice and skirt
  • quick-lined bodice
  • slip stitched hem and bodice lining

Alterations/Changes: As I described above, to fit the bodice, I changed the darts to gathers. I also decided to line the bodice for a cleaner finish. I used this method to create a quick bodice lining. One more thing about the bodice: the upper edge doesn’t gape. I’m pretty sure this is due to great pattern design rather than my sewing skills!

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This is a great summer dress! It’s made of cool, comfy cotton. It’s a unique design. And it can be dressed up or down. I am super pleased with this new addition to my summer wardrobe. I would definitely recommend this pattern to anyone who is looking for something a little different, yet still very wearable, to add to their closet.

Gray Floral Laurel

I’ve talked about the Laurel pattern from Colette Patterns before, a couple of times, so I won’t go on and on talking about it. I am completely pleased with this dress, except that I didn’t finish it in time to wear for my sister’s wedding rehearsal dinner and haven’t had anywhere to wear it yet. I got up early the morning we needed to leave for the wedding and sewed as quickly as I could, but it just didn’t happen. This fabric was pricey, so I didn’t want to risk making a mistake I couldn’t fix. Now that I am done with this project, I can say that was a wise decision.

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Let me talk a little bit about how this dress is different than my first Laurel and how I would do things differently for a third version. First of all, since the blouse doesn’t have a closure and the dress has a zipper, I decided to go down a size. The extra ease wasn’t necessary because I don’t have to pull it on over my head. I made the version with front patch pockets, and I really like how they look, but they aren’t really functional. Next time, if I wanted functional pockets I would add them to the side seams.

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Design/Pattern: Colette Patterns, Laurel, version 2

Materials: Amy Butler cotton sateen, Alchemy Studio Collection, zinc, Victoriana, 22″ invisible zipper, bias tape

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Techniques:

  • matched “stripes” along side seams, sleeves and pockets
  • stitched & serged seams
  • darts
  • set in sleeves
  • patch pockets
  • invisible zipper
  • hems & neckline finished with bias tape & hand stitching

Alterations/Changes: I didn’t make any alterations.

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Even though I haven’t had a chance to wear this dress yet, I’m sure I will use it frequently. It’s not too fancy to wear to work (I’m on summer break right now so I’m not working), but it’s also nice enough to wear for more special occasions. I hope I have a reason to wear it soon!

Black Shift for Easter

I know that black probably isn’t the first color that comes to mind when thinking of what to wear for Easter, but sometimes you just work with what’s around. That’s what I did at least. After playing around with some design ideas for turning a year-old muslin into something wearable, this is what I came up with.

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Designing and sewing this dress was a fun process and very different from my usual. Normally, I start with a pattern and then choose fabric to fit the design. This is how I was taught to sew and it’s become my habit. (It also reduces the chance that I will develop a case of enormous-fabric-stash-that-I’ll-never-be-able-to-use guilt.) With this project I was starting with a basic shape that I couldn’t really alter and had to decide how to finish it. Once I landed on my idea, it was pretty easy to execute. I decided to add to pintucks to the center front to frame three square buttons and use simple fabric bands to finish the neckline and arm holes.

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Design/Pattern: Muslin from the front and back of the Licorice dress pattern from the Colette Patterns Book

Materials: black Sophia double knit (I think I may have mentioned my love for this fabric.)

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Techniques:

  • serged seams
  • darts
  • pintucks
  • fabric bands to finish the neck and arm holes (cut two inch wide fabric strips, folded in half lengthwise, stretched as I sewed/serged them to the neck and arm holes)
  • decorative buttons

Alterations/Changes: My finished dress looks very different from the original Licorice dress pattern because I had limited fabric to work with. I had to come up with a different idea for the collar and sleeves, which I’ve described above. I also decided to take out the vertical darts on the dress front so that the silhouette would be a shift rather than a sheath.

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When I started this dress I had no specific plans for wearing it on Easter, but as my spring break started I had this dress waiting in the wings. The day before Easter Sunday, I spent an hour or so working on my dress and didn’t have it finished. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal; I had other pretty things in my closet that I could wear. Easter morning arrived and my first thought as I lay in bed halfway awake was about finishing this dress. I just had to get up and spent another hour on it so that I could wear it that day. I’m so glad I did. It turns out that wearing a black dress for Easter isn’t such a bad idea.

Blue Collar Dress

At the beginning of 2013, I made a resolution to sew a little bit every week. With the exception of two weeks, I have kept my resolution and finished one dress. The progress isn’t fast, but it’s better than if I didn’t promise myself I would make time for sewing each week. My first finished project of 2013 is a knit dress that’s perfect for throwing on with tights and boots and heading out the door. I’ve definitely chosen a good project to start the year with because I want to reach for it as soon as it’s out of the dryer.

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This project feels like it came together pretty easily even though it took a few weeks to get it all done. I cut it out one week, put the bodice together the next, then pleated and sewed up the sides of the skirt, after that I sewed the bodice to the skirt, and finally hemmed the skirt and sleeves. It was very enjoyable and relaxing to do the construction because it took basically no fiddling to complete it. Sometimes I just need a “hole in one” type of project, and this was a very satisfying one.

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Design/Pattern: Butterick B5523

Materials: blue Sophia double knit (in my top three for favorite fabrics–I have used this fabric in different colors here and here), matching thread(and not-so matching-I’m still too intimidated by my serger to rethread it with a different color for every project) 

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Techniques:

  • serged seams
  • pleated skirt and sleeve caps
  • draped/cowl collar (Instead of following the pattern directions, I folded the collar in half lengthwise, sewed both layers to the neckline, and edge-stitched the seam allowances down.)

Alterations/Changes: As I mentioned, I followed my own instincts for how to attach the collar. I also had to shorten the sleeves to 3/4 length because they were about 1 inch too short before hemming them. If I had paid more attention to the pattern envelope, I might have noticed this on the model too. She has the sleeves pushed up in one picture and a chunky bracelet on in the other, but they are too short on her too.

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Other than the shorter sleeve length, this dress turned out exactly as I had envisioned. I love when that happens! It’s a great winter dress and a great work dress, although I do need to a wear a scarf or camisole with it for modesty’s sake. The neckline is cut rather low under the cowl and if I move just so it reveals more than I think is professional. I’m really happy with this dress and would recommend this pattern if you like easy to wear knit dresses that still look polished.

Trendy Color-blocked Sundress

This is probably the last summer sundress I will make in 2012. But I think it turned out beautifully, so I’m not terribly sad. (The only sad part is that I know my sewing pace slows down once back-to-school hits.) This dress immediately made my to-sew list when I saw this pattern come out last spring. And I knew it would be my chance to try some color-blocking. It also has a high-low hem, so it’s extra trendy, especially for me.

 

This dress is so comfortable, as well as being pretty smart-looking. It is a loosely fitted dress and the rayon challis fabric is so soft and drapey. I like that it reminds me of the shift dresses that were popular in the 1920s and 1930s, probably my favorite style-era. I don’t know if I’ll make this dress again, just because it is such a distinct look, but I am very glad I tried it out.

 

Design/Pattern: Simplicity 1892, view C

Materials: pink & red rayon challis, matching thread

 

Techniques:

  • bust darts
  • french seams
  • bias tape faced arm and neck line
  • curved hem (the trickiest part of the pattern)

Alterations/Changes: None, and I probably wouldn’t make any if I made it again, as long as I was working with a fabric of similar weight and drape.

 

Like I said, this dress is comfortable, trendy, easy to make and fits great. I don’t think I could give it a grade lower than an A. The only real improvement I could have made is the construction on the arm and neck lines. The stitching isn’t perfect; it’s a little wavy. But it’s certainly nothing to worry about. I’m extremely happy with the project and I’m sorry it took me a couple weeks to share it here.

Red & White Medallions Dress

Summer break is here, which means a few things. First, I’ll have more time to sew and post projects and thoughts here. Second, it’s hot out. And third, it’s time for some new summer dresses! This one was a breeze to make up and to wear to a little shindig that kicked off the start of summer break.

There is very little shaping with this dress design. There are a few gathers at the neckline, but other than that it’s very straight and simple until you get to the flounce at the bottom. This shape is somewhat new for me. I tend to make dresses with some sort of shaping at the waist. However, I love this new dress and plan on making other dresses with a similar silhouette.

Design/Pattern: Simplicity 1879, view A (minus the sleeves and back yoke pieces)

Materials:

  • red & white medallion printed cotton voile from JoAnn’s, part of the Lissette line
  • white cotton voile for lining
  • white double fold bias tape
  • matching thread

Techniques:

  • French seams
  • finished upper edges & made shoulder straps with double fold bias tape
  • machine rolled narrow hem

Alterations/Changes:

  • omit sleeves and back yoke from Simplicity 1879 pattern, view A
  • add a lining, for opacity

This is a grade A dress, I think. It fits nicely, is comfortable and is a unique new style for me. At first, I was afraid I had made it a size too small, but I think it was just the extreme heat we’re having that makes all clothing feel too tight. I’m sure I’ll wear it often throughout the summer. In my opinion, it’s perfect for everyday wear or for a fun summer date.

Red Licorice (or What Happened to the Month of March?)

Hi there! Remember me? March included some unexpected surprises that caused me to need to put sewing on a back burner. Spring break starts today though, which I’m hoping will mean one thing–lots of time with my sewing machine and serger! I do have one pretty treat to show off before I start my spring sewing marathon. This is the dress that took all of March to make!

Worth the wait, huh? I think so. First of all, this pattern is a gem. I think the style is so classy, yet unique. The shape of the collar is great, in my opinion. It’s not a very commonly used collar shape, which makes it really stand out on the boat-neckline of this dress. I was afraid that the sleeves would be too voluminous for my taste, but if I arrange them just right by pushing the elastic up over my elbow and then letting the sleeve fall below it, it creates a really nice shape.  

Design/Pattern: Licorice, from the Colette Sewing Handbook

Materials: Red poly/rayon/lycra knit (often called Sophia knit). The pattern calls for woven fabrics, but I really had my heart set on making this style in a red stable knit, so I went with my heart rather than the pattern instructions. Luckily, my heart knew what it was talking about.

Techniques:

  • Sewed seams with a long, straight stitch, then serged the seam allowances close to the stitching line. (I am not yet confident sewing straight seams on the serger.)
  • Set-in sleeves
  • Casing for elastic made with bias tape
  • Finished neckline with bias tape

Alterations/Changes:

  • Made a petite adjustment at the waistline
  • Adjusted dart placement and size on the dress front
  • Omitted the lining and zipper because I didn’t think it was necessary for a knit dress. Because of this, I had to invent a way to finish the neckline. I created a very neat finish using bias tape. If there is any interest in seeing a tutorial for my technique, please speak up in the comments.

As a teacher and as a seamstress I am rather stingy about giving out A+ grades, but I think this dress deserves it. I think the style and fit are spot on. And I was really needing a great red dress! Besides that, I was patient with myself as I was sewing because I wanted the end result to be worthy of the wonderful design and the red fabric. I love it so much that I plan on wearing it twice during its first week.