Sunday, December 22, 2013

Double Knit Sheath Dress...With Pockets

The spirit is finally moving me to post this dress, which has been complete for two or three months now. I'm wearing the dress as I write this post, but the photos are from a much brighter day earlier this fall.

I've made Vogue 8699 several times before (and at least once since)--it's a wonderful pattern for a princess seamed, cowl neck top and tunic. And, as you can see, it can easily be lengthened to make a dress.

Even though it's not particularly photogenic, I am crazy about this fabric, a knitted-in digital animal design from FabricMart. I knew from the start that this polyester double knit couldn't possibly be warm on its own, but layered with a silk tank and fleece-lined tights, it makes a great piece for cold or sloppy weather.

Though it's subtle, the design does have horizontal and vertical repeats, so I worked hard to mirror the pattern symmetrically on both sides and to cut the pockets so that the pattern would flow continuously across the upper side panel into the lower side panel. On the back, I centered the largest vertical element and mirrored the pattern on both side panels.

The big change to the pattern is the addition of the pockets. I wanted to do these the "right" way, so I pulled out another pattern with princess-seam pockets (or whatever we should call these), Simplicity 2798.

I must admit that I didn't document my steps exactly, so I can't describe them in detail, but it involved matching up the upper and lower side pieces from the Simplicity pattern with the Vogue pattern to determine where the upper side panel and the lower side panel should start and stop, and how the seamline should be modified to most smoothly incorporate the pocket. Then I used the pocket piece from the Simplicity pattern directly.

This afternoon I went to a party with a friend. Her first question was "Did you make your dress?" and her second was "Can you make me one? I want those pockets!".

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Burda 6990: Raglan Funnel Neck Top

Thank me for the headless photos: this color palette looks horrible on me! But not on my lovely mother, for whom this top will be a Christmas present. It's funny: the older I get, the more I do resemble her, but for all that we are similar, the details are very different. Although we wear much the same clothing size, she is a bit taller than me, has a longer neck, broader shoulders and generally different proportions. She has delicate coloring (brown hair, hazel eyes, fair skin), but wears brighter colors and higher levels of contrast much better than I.

Burda 6990 is a newer envelope pattern, but I think it must be based on the popular Burda magazine 9-2010-121 funnel neck top pattern that was so popular on the blogs a couple of years back (a quick search turned up this post on Miss Celie's Pants, for example).

My mom does like some softness around her nicely-long neck, but she doesn't like to feel constricted. So I thought this pattern might fit both requirements. I made it to go under a black wool knit tunic (McCall's 6607) which I simply can't bring myself to show on me. It is so unflattering on my shape, but I certainly hope it works well on hers!

Anyway, Burda 6990: I think this pattern is really nice. See how it doesn't have excess fabric under the arms, despite the raglan construction? Nice.

I made a combination of size 10 through the bust, tapering to 12 through the lower torso and hem. I removed 1/2" of length at the upper length adjustment line, which runs mid-chest (5'2" me really needs this, but I think it will also be appropriate for my 5'4" mom), and shortened the very long sleeves by 3".

The fabric is a poly ITY knit from FabricMart.

That's about all there is to say about this top, but since the pattern hasn't been widely reviewed in its envelope incarnation, I thought I'd mention that I had a good experience with it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blouse with Embellished Collar: Because Separates

There's a downside to everything, even such a nice thing as loving to wear and make dresses. It's hard to make separates, even when I know I need, want and will wear them. Making a blouse like this is exactly as much work as making a dress and at the end of it, only half of my body is covered!

But: pants. In the winter I do like to wear them. Even for dancing. And mixing things up with jeans from time to time helps me feel just a little less matronly. So. I should do this. I should make more separates.

Vogue 1573 had its second outing here, this time as a variation on view B (version 1, the black lace dress, here). See the spread collar with facing? I wanted that. See the shoulder gathers? I didn't want those.

Below is the altered front pattern piece showing four things:
  1. Shortened the bodice 1".
  2. Based on my previous making of this pattern, added a smallish FBA to increase the length at the center front only (not at the side, where I had removed it) and also width.
  3. Narrowed the front shoulder 1 1/4" to remove gathers. I determined this amount by comparing the unaltered front shoulder width to the back (which did not have gathers); the difference was the amount to remove.
  4. Narrowed the front shoulder an additional 5/8" based on previous make of this pattern.

 My point here (yes, there is one) is to say that I was nervous about reducing the shoulder width so much (1 7/8" on the front). The back shoulder width was narrowed to match. Wonder of wonders, it all worked out. I feel very empowered to know that I can make both fitting and style adjustments with success.

This rayon challis from FabricMart appealed to me for the combination of a color that works well for me (rust) with one that doesn't (black). I thought that the two together, plus the geometric design, would be useful for pairing with black separates. But then as I was envisioning this top, it seemed rather dark and gloomy. I admire vintage blouses and dresses with white collars, which play such a good trick of directing the eye to the wearer's face.

The plain white collar, though, was too stark against the fashion fabric. It put me a bit in mind of a bowling shirt or a waitress uniform. I started playing around with this vintage black cotton trim and loved the way it related the collar to the rest of the garment and especially the buttons.

And then I decided it needed rhinestones, which I have never, never used or even considered using before. Off to Hancock's, which didn't have what I wanted, and then to A.C. Moore, which did.

Since neither store I visited had a heat set tool that looked sturdy, I simply applied these stones with adhesive. If they come loose during washing, I'll just glue them back on. I have lots more. A heat set tool might be in my future, though--let me know if you have any suggestions!

Paired with a beloved Ann Taylor black rayon cardigan. Yes, I did make a matching skirt, but I don't like either the skirt or any of the pictures of the two pieces together. After the holidays, I hope to make the skirt work better (mostly, it's just too big).

This dress pattern, made as a blouse, combines two things that I need in a top: a collar and a defined waist. I'd like to think I will make a bunch more, but it isn't a quickie garment. We'll see.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Vogue 1573 DKNY Dress in Black Lace

Looking back in time, I believe I remember buying this pattern, probably about 1998, from a bin of discounted Vogues at Winmill Fabrics at the edge of Boston's Chinatown. I have never been anything less than in love with it since, but it intimidated me with its "Advanced" rating.

And now, at least 15 years after this pattern went out of print, I am kind of scratching my head over that difficulty rating, because Vogue 1573, at least version A, turned out to be quite straightforward to fit and sew.

Because view A is designed for sheer fabrics, it includes instructions for using small pieces of silk organza to interface the front placket and the side zipper. The collar is simply a folded piece of the self fabric (with no interfacing). The pattern instructs the sewer to create narrow seams (I first sewed each seam and then serged it with a three-thread overlock), and to finish the lower hem with 1/2" scalloped lace. The sleeve was to be finished with a turned up hem, but I didn't like how that looked, so I used the same lace there. If you can believe it, I bought three yards of lace (rather than the 2 3/8 yards specified in the pattern) and ended up with the right amount to the 1/2". Seriously. An inch less and it wouldn't have been enough.

This particular nylon lace came to me, as so many fabrics do, as the result of a great FabricMart sale. I ordered 2 1/2 yards for around $15. The lace trim was $3 a yard, for a total of $9, while the buttons were $1.25 from a 50% off sale at Hancock's. And of course a black invisible zipper for about $1.50. Not counting the black thread and small amount of silk organza which I had on hand (or the cost of the pattern, which I have long since depreciated!), the total cost of the garment was well under $30. I'm not hung up on low or high cost, but I think the resulting dress really does look expensive!

Although I made adjustments, the dress didn't pull any punches in terms of fit. I made my usual changes and I think they worked out pretty much perfectly. I used the size 8 at the neck and shoulders, through the armhole notches. At that point I transitioned to size 10, and then to size 12 by the bottom of the bodice pieces. I shortened the bodice by 1" at the printed lengthen/shorten line, and then shortened the waistband pieces by 1/2". From the waist through the hem I used the size 12 pieces. The shoulders were narrowed by a good bit, probably 1/2" to 5/8" when all was said and done (against my better judgement, I waited to do this until after basting the sleeves in place to check for fit; that was the safest approach, but it did take me more time). I ended up shortening the sleeves about 1".

The skirt section I did not shorten at all. It finishes out two to three inches below my knee, which I would usually find too long and dowdy. But with the openness and lightness of the lace, that length seemed rather elegant and more appropriate to the 1940s style than my usual at-the-knee length.

At the side zipper (very necessary to pulling this non-stretch lace dress on), I chose to keep the full width of the seam allowances all the way down the side seam. I might have been able to reduce them somewhat, but I felt that doing so might make the zipper area more fragile. As it is, I do need to be careful when zipping the dress. The zipper application is fine, but it is still easy to snag the lace and to catch it in the zipper. Other than that, this delicate-looking dress should be quite sturdy and washable. It's completely comfortable.

This pattern makes use of three different grainlines. The bodice, collar and sleeves are cut on the straight of grain, the waistband is cut on the length of grain and the skirt sections are cut on the bias. The pattern photo shows a striped lace, which really highlights these variations of the grain. On my dress it is more subtle, but I think it's a nice touch.

I plan to make or buy another slip to wear with the dress. The one I have on here is a fairly standard-issue beige vintage nylon full slip. It doesn't cover my bra straps in back and it ought to be longer. The pattern includes a slip, but I have other pattern options as well. On someone else, I think a red slip would be rather gorgeous under this dress, but it's too much for my coloring. Black would also be nice, but I believe that I prefer the lightness of the beige. It keeps the black from being too harsh for me. A little black dress that is more flattering than a solid--I like that!

When will this dress get its first outing? I'm not sure yet. I will have a swing dancing holiday party, my husband's office party and then lots of dressy evenings at Lindy Focus, a week-long swing dance camp happening the week after Christmas. I can't wait!

Oh, and by the way--I'm already working on the next version of this pattern, this time a blouse length version. I'll look forward to showing it soon.