Not the Wedding Dress

Well hello there! I have been sewing away lately with not much that's ready to share yet. Wedding preparation sewing is in full swing, with the wedding dress complete (!), five bridesmaids dresses in progress, and a whole slew of other projects and ideas in various stages of production. I have a bit of time before the big date at the end of the July, but definitely need to keep things moving.

Of course, when you're sewing obsessed you somehow end up getting some sewing done between your sewing (and, you know, going to work). So I managed to squeeze this dress into my sewing schedule in time for our dear friends' wedding this weekend.

Pattern: Modified McCall's 7320
Fabric: 2 yds forest green ponte knit from Mood
Cost: $30

What's super special about this dress is that it's actually cut from the same pattern as my wedding dress, but looks totally different. After all the muslins and fitting I had put into creating a pattern for my wedding dress, I of course wanted to play with it some more. So I chopped the length off the pattern, made the dress up in a knit instead of a finicky silk woven, added some off the shoulder sleeves, and generally just had fun with it. 

The other advantage to using my wedding dress pattern is that I was actually able to use the bodice structure from one of my muslins for this dress. I ripped out the bust pads to add in here, and also used the boning (made from zip ties) for this dress, which were conveniently already cut to length.

The sleeves were the biggest challenge on this dress. Not having pattern pieces to work off of, I draped the fabric around until I got something I liked. But then I let Mr. Made critique it and ended up ripping it out... four more times. I finally got a shape that I was happy with. Up close there are some wrinkles, but from afar I think I got the shape I was after. I have never worn an off-the-shoulder dress before and the final design was really kind of constricting. I definitely couldn't raise my hands above my hands for dancing and had to drape my coat over my shoulders rather than put my arms through the sleeves. Not to mention I deeply regretted the side zipper - what was I thinking? But it's all worth it in the name of fashion, right? A fancy wedding is definitely the opportunity to wear something a little impractical.

The rest of the dress was pretty comfortable. It is a thick ponte knit in the perfect color from Mood, which I spent quite a bit of time looking for. As I mentioned above, it also has excellent internal structure, with bust pads and fifteen pieces of boning all supported at the waist with a waist stay. This keeps everything up and in place, and the shoulder straps really just hang there as decoration. Unlike my actual wedding dress, on this version I used a bra closure for the waist stay so that I could set it on the smallest setting in the morning and adjust it to the largest one after dinner. Waist stays aren't the most comfortable thing, but I love the security of a fully-boned and supported dress!

I also used the wedding as an opportunity to try out some accessories ahead of my big day. The necklace is from Rent the Runway and gave me the chance to use the service in a low-pressure situation (I loved it!). I also wore my new shorts underneath, which create a nice silhouette with no panty line.

All in all it was a beautiful wedding and a great chance to try some things out before the big day. Now I will just be looking for more opportunities to wear this dress out again!

High-Waisted Jeans, Inari Crop Top, and a Note about Lengthen/Shorten Lines

I once heard that for something to be truly high-waisted, it actually needs to be above your natural waist-line. So does that make these pants just waisted?

Pattern: my Mambo No. 5 pants block & Named Inari Tee Dress
Fabric: 2 yds stretch denim for jeans, remnant t-shirt knit for the tee
Cost: ~$15

I have wanted to try out high-waisted jeans forever, just for funsies. I have a long torso, so the only way to get jeans to sit at my natural waist is to make them myself. As you can see below, my process was a bit experimental, but I basically just lengthened the rise on my regular pants block. I may have lengthened them too much as there are some front crotch wrinkles, but I am having fun with them nonetheless.

To go with my new high-waisted pants I of course then also needed a crop top. I decided to try out the Inari tee after seeing a ton of examples I liked on Instagram. The pattern worked really well for me. Following others' advice, I raised the armhole for more coverage by cutting the smallest armscye and sleeve, which worked like a charm.

On the subject of high pants and crop tops, I wanted to talk a bit about something I've been seeing a lot lately - people using lengthen shorten lines incorrectly. It is driving me crazy! So below are my two cents on when to use lengthen shorten lines, and when not to.

Lengthen/shorten lines are for making pattern adjustments to fit your body. For example, I am long waisted, so I often need to change where the waist sits on a pattern. In the example below, the pattern waist is much too high for the model's waist. To fix this, I would cut at the lengthen/shorten line of the bodice and spread the pieces to lower the waistline. A petite or short-waisted person would do the opposite, overlapping the pieces to raise the waistline. Similarly, pants and skirts can be lengthened or shortened for people with longer or shorter legs. This ensures that the knee of the pattern hits where it's supposed to, that it preserves the appropriate shaping at the ankle, etc.

However, I have seen SO MANY misunderstandings of the lengthen/shorten line lately. This line is intended for fitting, not changing the style of a garment. For example, if you want to change a top into a tunic, DO NOT spread at the lengthen/shorten line. This will throw off where the waist or other shaping is, and it won't fit you right, as in the example below:

Assuming the top fits you as is, what you want to do is extend the hem longer. Same goes for shortening/lengthening other garments like a knee-length dress into a midi dress, or a short coat into a long coat. So if the garment fits you as is but you want to change the length, make those changes from the hem:

In the case of my high-waisted jeans, I didn't slash and spread at the lengthen/shorten line. That would have made the waistband much too wide, as it is drafted to fit above my hips and not at my waist. Instead, I added length and tapered toward the waist to match my measurements. Similarly, the Inari tee fits me fine as a crop top, so I will simply extend the hem (and perhaps taper out toward the hips) if I want to make it into a normal-length tee.

Perth Top and My Menswear Obsession

I have determined that this is the year I return to sewing things with interesting details. I'm a fairly standard size and I sometimes wonder, what's the point of making things yourself if you aren't getting something unique in the process?

Pattern: Carolyn and Cassie's Perth Dress and Blouse
Fabric: 1 1/2 yds rayon blend
Cost: $16.50

But before I tell you about this blouse, I have to tell you about the menswear top obsession that led me here. You see, for the past year or so I've been drooling over these crazy top-with-tie blouses. I wasn't sure for what occasion I'd wear them, but I loved the pattern magic of creating a tie from nothing at the front of a blouse.

Source: Pattern Magic Book 2Moldes Edicas ModaVisie ClothingDP Studio

The original pattern pictured at left is from Pattern Magic Book 2, with the middle two shirts drafted from that or using a similar method. I love those middle ones because, unlike the one from the book, they don't use a seam line to create the tie. However, I never took the time to really work all that folding out for myself (though if you are so inclined you might be able to work out some instructions from this page or this one).

After staring at the first three designs for some time, I was really excited to find the DP Studio blouse on the right. With its collar and center pleat, it mimics the look of a tie without really being one. However, there are several aspects of the pattern that kept me from pulling the trigger. For one, I didn't like the gathering at the waist. And I wasn't sure about all those other pleats at the neckline. Or maybe I would like them?

Anyway, I stalled enough thinking about this design to finally come across the release of blogger Carloyn's Perth Dress and Top. After thinking about it for a few days, I went for it! It is much more simple than my inspiration pictures, but that also meant it would take less time and be much more wearable. Finally, I had my menswear top!

To make it as menswear and business-y as possible, I made this up in a white shirting. It is a rayon blend so it has a bit more drape than a standard shirt, and I think that works well for this design. Carolyn has mentioned that getting the drape right can be a big part of making this shirt.

I also lengthened just about everything on the blouse part. It is full length instead of cropped, and I hemmed the sleeves with a narrow hem so they are longer than drafted. The longer sleeves are a bit out of my norm, but I'm really loving the whole thing! It hangs nicely off the body and feels like it is the right size. Plus, look at that lovely shirt-style back.

I wore this out for the first time to facilitate a meeting with some company bigwigs and felt comfortable and myself the whole time. For me, it is just the right amount of detail to be interesting but not distracting in a semi-casual business setting like San Francisco.

Would you wear the Perth blouse to a meeting, or is it too out there?

New Pattern and a Plaid Shirt

Like me, my mom sews a lot. She makes tops and dresses, but what she is most interested in sewing right now are button-front shirts. She makes them for my dad, my brother, and even gorgeous ones for herself using beautiful repurposed scarves and elegant details. Unlike me, she is much more detail-oriented and her shirts are just perfect. Hand-stitched cuffs and collars, perfectly matched button plackets across the front, and beautiful technique throughout. They are a thing of envy. 

As someone who also loves sewing a good shirt, it is fun to pick her brain for tips on sewing. Did she attach that collar stand by hand? Were the plackets cut on the bias? We could talk about this for hours, leaving everyone else in the house scratching their heads (or rolling their eyes).

Pattern: Victoria Jones's Waimea Ranch Shirt
Fabric: 2 yds cotton flannel
Cost: free from fabric swap

But today's pattern provided me with a completely different source of knowledge and inspiration for shirt sewing. The Waimea Ranch Shirt from Victoria Jones patterns, which you may have seen featured on Pattern Review, is so full of amazing shirt-making techniques and knowledge that I even brought it home to show mom.  

Victoria herself sent it over to me to try out and I am just now getting back into regular sewing and had the chance to make it up. While I have sewn many shirt patterns, what made this one special was the beautifully written instructions. In many indie patterns this means that they hold your hands through all the "omg so hard" bits, but in this case you can really tell that Victoria has thought through each technique to give you the best finish possible. My absolute favorite detail were the instructions for partially machine stitching the last step when attaching the collar and stand. It took a little practice to get right, but the results are beautiful and much more professional looking. I have even used it on a few shirt since!

The fit of the shirt is designed as loose, easy to wear camp or gardening shirt. For those that love the Grainline Archer shirt, this is a similar fit. However, unlike the Archer, this shirt has some built-in shaping, such as a rotated dart disguised by the front of the yoke and some fish-eye darts in the back. The result is a relaxed shirt without drag lines or other fitting problems. For those who prefer a closer fit shirt, many of the techniques I learned here can be applied to other patterns. 

The not-so-fun part of the shirt was my fabric. It was horribly off grain, which is just a disaster when you are trying to match buffalo plaid. Luckily, the print hides the utter wonkiness, but the yoke is much higher on one side than the other in the front and I had to hem it a bit too short for my taste (the pattern as drafted is actually a bit longer). Luckily the shirt pattern was forgiving, or else all this learning may have been for naught. 

I also got to add in some contrasting blue double gauze bits, which make me happy when I wear it :)

They say it is spring now but we have had (much needed) rain for weeks and I have a cold, so I will continue to snuggle up in my plaid flannel until we get some sun!

Mexican-Inspired Embroidered Dress

If you've read my blog for a while (or maybe even my previous blog, Megxico), you know I have a deep love and appreciation for Mexico. Back in 2009, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Mexico City and to travel all over and get to know so many amazing people. I also have a love for Mexican embroidered dresses and bought quite a few while I was there.

So when my cousin announced he was getting married in Sayulita, just north of Puerto Vallarta, this winter, I knew I wanted to make something special to pay homage to this beautiful country. While not as bright as a traditional dress, this was a fun way to combine a Mexican influence with my aesthetic.

Pattern: Simplicity's Cynthia Rowley #1104
Fabric: 2 yds upholstery cotton + 1/2 yard quilting cotton for lining
Cost: $25

First off, this fit and flare pattern from Cynthia Rowley is amazing! The front and back are just one piece each, with darts and tucks folded in to create the shaping. It is slightly fuller in the front than the back, giving a very flattering shape all around. After grading the pattern out at the hips and then nipping the sides in just a tad at the waist, the fit was stellar. No weird wonky bits, dart manipulation, or other adjustments needed. It stayed on and felt great all night.

To give it some body, I made the whole thing out of an upholstery weight fabric. You might think it would be too bulky or too scratchy, but a fabric of this weight is great for holding its shape. It really gave the skirt its full flare without the need for a crinoline or horse-hair braid or other stabilization. The effect is very dramatic without much work. I'm sure you could make it out of a beautiful silk with some body as well, but this version was much more cost effective ;)

I did make a few changes to suit my taste. First, I added pockets, naturally. The dress is full enough to hide the pockets well, and they came in very handy for stashing my phone and other items.

I also switched up the neckline a bit. In the original pattern, the V at the front is flattened out at the bottom. For a more dramatic plunge, I made it into a true V shape which shows off a bit more cleavage. The back as drafted was very high, so I slashed a V in that as well. It comes to just above my bra strap for an easy fit. While a deep V in the front and the back could cause some problems with the shoulders slipping off, the sturdy upholstery fabric held everything in place. Another win for stiff fabric. Also, a win for push-up bras.

I'm sure you're also curious about the embroidery. It was all done by hand over a period of a month or so. If you give yourself enough time, it can be a very relaxing TV-watching activity. I rather liken it to adult coloring.

While the traditional approach would be to embroider the fabric before cutting it out and sewing up the dress, I decided to wait until the very end (just before the lining was tacked down), to do the embroidery. I knew it would make it more difficult to handle, but I wanted to have full control over where the pattern was placed on the bodice, and give myself room to make adjustments if the dress didn't fit very well.

The fabric was so stiff that I didn't use an embroidery hoop, and I was very careful not to send the stitches through the lining as well. In order to see the pattern I was following, I fused a tear-away stabilizer on top of the fabric. This allowed me to draw the pattern right on it in pen. However, the stabilizer was old and tended to separate a bit from the fabric, and it made it hard to precisely place my stitches. Not to mention that tearing it out is a pain and required that I pull some stitches back into place from the wrong side of the fabric. With some tenacity though, it all worked out well. The design is an amalgamation of a few things I liked from the internet, and I hope echoes the beautiful Mexican embroidery that inspired it.

The wedding itself was beautiful, and we had an amazing time relaxing with family and friends. Sayulita is very catered toward American tourists, which was both very comfortable and a little odd.

Here is the dress on location:

A pic with the fam:

With my fiance:

Being obnoxious after a few margaritas:

And the beautiful bride and groom:

Oh, and did I mention the place my aunt rented? Yeah, it was amazing and surprisingly affordable for two families.

To keep the good times rolling, I also wore my dress this past weekend to a meetup of the Bay Area Sewists for Frocktails - an idea we stole from the Aussies to have a night of frocks and cocktails. It was so much fun to be able to discuss the design with other people who sew, and also get inspired for new dresses by seeing what they wore!

This dress also has one more planned outing this year - another wedding on Cinco de Mayo so I can celebrate the battle of Puebla in style. 
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