Work Wardrobe: Style Arc Madeleine

On Wednesday, I posted about my work wardrobe plans for my new(ish) job. For me, the Style Arc Madeleine was the perfect work top.

Pattern: Style Arc's Madeleine Ponte Top
Fabric: crepe double knit
Cost: remnant from bridesmaids dresses (originally $4/yd)

I love that this pattern is interesting, with its tucks and waistband. It also makes it flattering, bringing in the fabric around the waist and releasing toward the bust. I also love that it is defined for comfy knit fabrics, and as a sleeveless top it fits easily under my blazer for meetings.

I didn't love the construction. I know Style Arc can be vague on instructions, and on a more complicated pattern it would have been nice to have a little more clarity. It also has you fold under the raw edge of the various pieces on the front, which to me seems like could have benefitted from at least some topstitching to fold it all in place. In fact, if you look closely you'll notice that I threw most of their construction ideas to the wind, leaving off an extraneous triangle piece and attaching the band as I saw fit. I'm not totally happy with the final details, as there seems to be some unnecessary bulk right there on the front of the shirt.

As a finished garment, though, I am quite happy. I have already worn it to a long day worth of meetings and was very comfortable and felt put together the whole time. First fall outfit - success!

Work Wardrobe Plans

After neglecting the rest of my wardrobe for the past eight months to sew my wedding dress, I was itching to sew up some simple, easy pieces for work. I started a new job at the beginning of this year that's mostly remote, so I needed some casual, comfortable pieces to make getting dressed in the morning more fun.

Before I could get started, though, I needed to organize my thoughts and match things up with what's in my stash. I had seen a lot of people sketching things online, so one night I sat down and had fun working up a croquis and tracing my ideas on top. Here's what's up next in my sewing queue:

Reversible Dress: My mom gave me this beautiful plaid double gauze that's sat on my shelf for a while now. At first, I wasn't feeling the plaid, but one day I turned it over and realized the other side was a beautiful blue and white stripe. I was going to feature that fabric but then I thought, why not make something reversible? Figuring out the back zip and the seam finishes will be the most challenging part of this simple dress

Style Arc Madeleine: I love the shaping of this Style Arc Ponte Top, which gives a bit of interest to an otherwise simple shirt. I would love to tuck it under a blazer for a work meeting or wear it as-is on a warm day. I may also make one up in white.

Style Arc Dimity: This idea started with the fabric, and I've been trying to find something interesting to do with it. I like that this Style Arc Top, which is a simple boxy tee but with some interesting neck gathers. Made up in a stable knit, I think it will be comfy and easy to wear.

Ruffle Top: I was wearing a loose-fitting white t-shirt the other day and wondering why I didn't have more. To dress it up a little, I'm going to try the sleeve ruffles trend. I'll make it up in a free fabric I got at a swap in case I don't end up liking it.

Pants: Finally, I bought loads of stretch bottom-weight fabric at Stone Mountain and really need some more pants in my wardrobe. I'm going to start with these blue ones. With the right details, they should work equally well in a client meeting as hopping on my bike to ride to the office.

Oh and I almost forgot! I also have plans to sew up the SBCC Rickey Blazer in a navy fabric in my stash. Even though the pattern is drafted for petites, I love the collar and shape so much I'll un-petite it just so I can sew it up.

Actually that reminds me, I've also ordered the Victory Patterns Ulysses Trench to pair with a wool I have in stash. I was really inspired by this coat and am determined to use the trench pattern for a similar effect. I won't sew this one up though until after the fall though, when we usually have our warmest weather lasting through early November. And of course since writing the first part of this paragraph, I have also purchased another coat fabric on sale at Stonemountain and Daughter.

Ok, well I think that's plenty to keep me busy for quite some time! Do you have any cool patterns or ideas you're working on?

Fall Sweater

I'd like to tell you that I carefully planned this fall sweater, that it effortlessly slid off my needles just in time for the weather to turn in late September. The reality is that I've been knitting this in fits and starts for at least two years now and any relationship with the seasons is purely coincidental. That said, this really is the perfect fall sweater.  

Pattern: adapted from Brooklyn Tweed's Hugo Cabled Pullover
Yarn: Knit Pick's CotLin in Linen and remnant yarn in mustard
Cost: $50

The color blocking, too, is a matter of coincidence. I had several skeins of a cotton yarn in a beautiful mustard color gifted to me from my knitting aunt. I loved the color but struggled with figuring out how to use it. There wasn't enough for a full sweater, and I don't have a good track record for wearing knit tops or shrugs. So I concocted the idea of making a color-blocked version using KnitPick's CotLin, a cotton-linen blend, in a similar weight. Originally I toyed with the idea of using three colors in total, but the third one that I ordered ended up being too lemony and didn't look good with the other two. So a two-toned pattern it was.

Rather than a clean transition between the two colors, I interwove them for a good ten rows, increasing the density of the color the more I went. It's a nice little touch. Ideally, the color transition would have matched across the sleeves and chest, but I'm embracing the quirkiness.

The stitch pattern is based on Brooklyn Tweed's Hugo Cabled Pullover, which I knit in full for my husband several years ago. With the different colors and neckline, however, no one would ever guess that we have matching sweaters.

My biggest challenge, the reason the colors don't quite match up across the chest and sleeves, and probably what caused the most delay in knitting, were the sleeves. I always struggle with this part. Always. At first I knit them too tight, and then I knit the cap too long. And it was especially arduous to undo all that colorwork.

The main problem comes in that I am perfectly happy to knit up a rectangular body for my sweaters in whatever gauge looks good. I then have to struggle to find instructions that match my project when it's time to make the cap of the sleeves. I'm sure expert knitters have some sort of formula or resources for this, but I'm purely experimental. For this project, I loosely followed the Brooklyn Tweed instructions since I was already borrowing their stitch pattern, and then made some modifications with trial and error to fit my yarn. The sleeves might now be a bit too wide now, but I'm calling them good enough.

Speaking of wide, I am pleased with the ease of this sweater. In addition to being bad at sleeves, I am always knitting my sweaters to be very fitted. See my last sweaters here, here, and here. For this one, I definitely wanted a more relaxed sweater that fit easily over my clothes as a layering piece. This one turned out much more like a sweater I would want to wear in my everyday life. And in the cotton and linen yarn, it is comfortable to wear and breathable.

I took it out for its first wear today and it really is the perfect sweater for fall. It kept me warm in the mornings and evenings but let enough air pass through so I didn't get too hot. I also got a few compliments, which is always nice. 

Next up, I've started to undo my fitted Kollabora sweater to knit up a Georgetown Sweater. Believe it or not, this will be my first cardigan. At my knitting speed, you'll probably see it appear on this space circa 2020 ;)

Wedding Dress Sewing: The final dress!

Ok, I can't hold off sharing any longer. You've been following me for months on this wedding dress project of mine. So here she is, all done and ready to walk down the aisle.

Before I dive into the dress details, I want to start off by saying that we had a total blast at our wedding. It was incredible! Our family and friends were there, the weather was perfect, the speeches had me laughing and crying (sometimes at the same time), and our friends' band had everyone on the dance floor. We finished out the night with a beach bonfire before retreating to a luxurious little honeymoon suite. And while the excitement and wedding nerves made it hard to fall asleep (did you see your dad trying to dance with your mom? can you believe they hid pirate's booty in the sand? do you think the photographer captured the kazoos?), we woke up the next day as a blissfully happy couple.

It appears it will take us some time to get our photos back, so I wanted to share a few shots I have of the final dress, so as not to keep you all in suspense.

First up, the dress form shot:

Ms. Dolly the dress form doesn't quite have the hips I do, but otherwise she shows off the dress quite nicely. I love the dramatic sweep of the skirt and the way the sheer, beaded bodice shows off the sweetheart neckline. I added a little, beaded belt at the waist for the transition.

Here is the skirt from the back, un-bustled on the left and bustled on the right. The back skirt has got to be one of my favorite features. I love that it looks just as elegant and intentional both ways. All that beaded tulle was definitely fun to play with.

I also have a few candid iPhone shots that my relatives have sent me from the day of. Here I am walking down the aisle with my parents.

And don't forget the Mr. with his parents, too. (Doesn't his mom just look so happy?!)

And we made it to the alter on a surprisingly clear beach day in July.

I'll update you all in a few months when I have the professional shots, but for now this saga is coming to a close and I'm getting on with some every day sewing!

For now, I'll leave you with a moment that still has me grinning from ear to ear: our kazoo processional!

Bridesmaids Dresses: My Anna Dress Hack

Date: May, 3 months until the wedding

I admit I am absolutely nuts to want to sew my own wedding dress and then turn around and make five more bridesmaids dresses. I don't recommend it for the faint of heart. But honestly, with the amount of sewing I do anyway, all I had to do was give up some of my other sewing time that would have gone to making everyday clothes. And by choosing an easy fabric and design, it really was a nice palette cleanser after working with nothing but silk satin and beaded mesh for three months. So as I waited for the very last piece of trim for my wedding dress to arrive, I dove into making bridesmaid dresses.

If you are considering the same ridiculous task, I have some tips for making it easier:
  1. Make all the dresses the same style. While it is trendy right now to let each girl pick her own dress, if that's the case then I would just let them buy their dresses themselves. Things will be much simpler if you can sew everything assembly-line style and figure out your techniques just once.
  2. Use a pattern service that drafts to exact measurements like Lekala or Bootstrap Fashion. Then all you have to do is enter each bridesmaids measurements and you will have a custom-fitted pattern. This worked especially well for me as most of my bridesmaids do not live close enough to do regular fittings. 
  3. Work with a stretch fabric. I hunted for months for the perfect double knit crinkle fabric for the project and I am so glad that I did. Knit dresses are comfy, drape well, and are forgiving to fit and to sew, which really made the whole process a lot easier. If that feels too informal for you, try a stretch woven like a cotton sateen. Even when you have a pattern drafted to measurement, it's nice to have that bit of wiggle room if things don't fit perfect.

Choosing the right colors/fabric was definitely a challenge. In most cases, showing up to a party in the same dress as someone else is a serious fashion faux pas, so designing five matching dresses was decidedly new territory for me! For example, I love the look of floral dresses but kept seeing flashes of horrible 80s gowns. It looks like the poor bride is hiding in a sea of camouflage.

Color was tricky as well. I personally have a very neutral palette, and we had a range of light, beachy colors rather than a single accent color for our wedding. So I decided to embrace my instinct and dress the bridesmaids in white for the wedding. I'm pretty sure my mother-in-law hated the idea at first, but I loved the look of crisp white dresses flowing in the wind at a beach wedding. Of course, I still had moments of panic. At various points, I worried that the dresses looked like big white muumuus or cult garments. The murky middle all over again, right?

In the end, though, I trusted in my design and they came out beautifully. So what pattern did I choose? Well, I have always loved the look of the By Hand London Anna Dress, which is already a popular choice for bridesmaids dresses. However, if you've been reading my blog for a few years you'll remember my somewhat scathing review of the actual pattern. While I love the IDEA of the dress, I felt the actual pattern was poorly drafted with slanting side seams, a poorly fitted bust, and angular seams on the skirt. I was not willing to spend another three days making fitting adjustments to get it right, especially when each of my bridesmaids lives in a different city in the US.

So instead, as per my advice above, I found the similar Lekala #4481 (a nearly identical pattern to Vogue #8685), which has a lot of the same bodice details as the Anna Dress. While it may not seem like it at first, it was actually fairly easy to change it into an Anna bodice, with the added benefits of using custom-fitted measurements for each bridesmaid. Here's what I did.

Changing Lekala #4481/Vogue #8685 into an Anna Dress:

First, I sent out a questionnaire to each of my bridesmaids to get their measurements. I did this well in advance of when I actually needed them so that by the time I was ready to get started they had had about a month to send everything over (many of them still waited until the last minute - ha!). I printed the pattern without seam allowances so that I could make easy adjustments. Then I made the following modifications:

1. The first step is to attach the front raglan sleeve to the front bodice. I did this to preserve the original cut-on sleeve look of the Anna Dress and simplify the sewing process (fewer seams to sew!). Repeat for the back raglan sleeve and bodice.

2. The main difference between the Anna Dress and Lekala #4481/Vogue 8685 is that the Lekala/Vogue version has a waistband with pleats while the Anna Dress has longer release tucks that extend all the way down to the waist seam. To change the bodice + waistband into a bodice with release tucks, I first measured the length of the waistband and added that length to the bodice.

3. This new piece will need new tucks added in. I measured the width of the bottom of the waistband and compared that to the width of the piece I had added on to the bodice. Then I drew my release tucks wide enough so that, after they are sewn, the new, longer bodice will be the same width as the original bodice and waistband. I also reduced the number of tucks from three to two to better mimic the Anna Dress, making sure to widen each tuck so the bodice would stay the same width. 

4. Repeat this process with the back of the bodice, extending the length of the bodice and the tuck to eliminate the waistband. 

5. Finally, I redrew the neckline to be more of a boatneck shape and extended the sleeve from the raglan shape to a cut-on kimono sleeve shape. I repeated this for the back, making sure to true the side seams afterward. 

6. After that, I used the skirt from the By Hand London Dress and cut skirts to match each bodice. I had already modified my skirt patterns last time I made the Anna Dress so that the seams match up at the hem and aren't angular. You can read more about how and why I did that here

The result is an Anna look-alike bodice with custom Lekala measurements. 

All of this may seem a bit silly since I already owned the Anna Dress pattern. However, by using the Lekala pattern, as I mentioned, I was able to tailor the bodice to the exact size of each of my bridesmaids. I also found it much easier to change the style lines in the Lekala Pattern than make all the fitting adjustments that the Anna Dress requires. Plus, if you don't own either dress, the Lekala Pattern is only $2.99 compared to $13 for the Anna Dress and $25 if you buy the Vogue Dress not on sale (but you should always buy Vogue on sale!). The bodice took me one evening after work to modify and sew up, compared to the two nights I spent just correcting the fit issues on the Anna Dress. Plus I'm a sucker for a little pattern manipulation. 

After the pattern adjustments, it was smooth sailing to sew up the dresses. I cut extra wide seam allowances just in case adjustments were needed later, and sewed each seam with a zig-zag or lightning bolt stitch. For the neckline, sleeves, and hem, I simply turned the fabric under once and stitched, since knit fabric doesn't unravel. The whole dress could be sewn up in a day, and I packed them all up for my bachelorette party to do some final fitting.

At this point in the post I was hoping to show you some beautiful professional shots of the bridesmaid dresses, but our photographer just informed us the photos take 4-5 months (WTF?!) to get back (seriously WTF?!). So you'll have to make do with this candid shot of my 16-year-old sister-in-law thoroughly unimpressed with the other bridesmaids' antics.

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