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Thursday, 19 May 2016

bias dress progress

Okay so I'm all gung-ho about the bias dress so last week I whipped up a muslin of Vera Venus' Little Bias Dress. With less-than wonderful results..


As I feared, this cut and silhouette don't work for me! Maybe I could have played around with the fit to make the proportions more flattering but I just have the feeling that this is not the right look for a small-chested woman. I also have kind of, like, low hips, I guess? Anyway the high waist is just making my middle look suuuuuuuper long. Not what I'm going for!

Making this muslin also made me realize that I have to work with the streatch of the bias instead of against it. With all of my experience cutting garments on the straight grain, I had the mindset that I had to limit the stretching of the garment until sewn. I sandwiched the fabric in paper to cut out and even stay-stitched and sewed it up with the paper on. What a waste of paper! Since sewing it up and reading more, I've learned my lesson. I'll loosely baste the seams and let it hang before sewing the final dress.

So with the design of the dress up in the air I turned to pinterest for more style ideas. Specifically looking for dresses that hit at the true waist (almost always a good look for me).

McCall 8521. 1930's Vintage Sewing Pattern.  Keyhole back with loose top and figure skimming skirt.  Belted.  #vinsinn  #1930svintage

Yummy! I love the drape-y, Grecian vibe!

30s evening gown stripe plaid? blue bias cut draping long dress low back color illustration vintage fashion McCall 7892 | ca. 1934 Ladies' & Misses' Evening Dress:

Another one of my favorites. Look at that glamorous back neckline! I'm also going to try to steal the bow idea. Hopefully, the trailing tails of the bow will cover any weirdness from having a side zipper.

Not too sure how the shoulders of this one stay on, with the cowl in front and the low V in back. Maybe there is some inner structure or underpinning keeping it in place?

I've started drafting the bodice much like this second pic. It's also been a little tricky trying to figure out how to finish the edges on the bodice. Then I realized that with a cowl I can self/face the entire thing! Right? And the back will be cut on grain, so I can use the usual facings and it will be a bit more secure and hopefully stay on!

More to come as I get closer!

Thursday, 12 May 2016


Hey, guys, can we talk about bias cut garments? I must have one and it's really taking me outside of my comfort zone!

I play in a big band (it's a 19-piece jazz orchestra that plays classic swing tunes of the big-band era). Every few months we put on a show with some swing dancers and other local groups (vintage societies, etc). It's SO much fun to have people lindy hop to our music. It's what the music was written for, after all!

I really love that so many of the dancers make the effort to dress up in sweet, period-appropriate outfits. Everyone looks so good in their pearls and little white gloves! So far I've gotten by on cobbling together looks using clothes that I already had but it's been a dream of mine to make something specific to wear for these events.

How much would I slay in this?

The guys in the band all wear tuxes and I want to wear something equally as formal, as well as era-appropriate. For months I've thought about trying to make a classic 50s era frock. I love this look and it's a flattering shape on me. I think one of the reasons that I never pulled the trigger, though, was that I knew that it wouldn't really be the right look for the time-period of the music.

I could so rock this.

Oh, and I also tend to spend most of my free time leading up to a show practicing, which doesn't leave much time for sewing! This show I'm in better shape, playing-wise, so I can dedicate time to making a dress.

I combed through Pinterest, vintage sewing blogs and Google image and finally faced that fact that the only real option is to make a bias cut gown. I guess I had never really thought about bias cut garments but now the thought of making one has sunk it's teeth into my imagination and won't let go!

So glamorous!

I'm dreaming of gorgeous drape, luscious satins and flowing godets. Meanwhile, my sewing skills have been left in the dust! I've spent a lot of time working on tailoring and shirtmaking techniques and I'm starting to feel like these skills are really developing for me! I was less intimidated by these techniques but couture dressmaking just seems much more out of reach. Working with delicate, difficult fabrics and techniques that take decades to master, if you can even find instructions.

So I've reserved some books out of my public library: Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer and Bias-cut Dressmaking by Gillian Holman. Hopefully I can cobble together enough knowledge to make something wearable!

Oh, and then we'll come to the issue of whether or not it's flattering on me. But that's a whole other kettle of fish.

Seriously, though, what did ladies wear in the 30s if they had a bad figure? Bias cut shows no mercy.

...And what underwear did they wear? I need to know, people!

Friday, 22 April 2016

Style ease life


Friends, here are my photos of the giant oversized Chambray shirt-dress! I'm wearing it as a shirt because it's still chilly and it might actually be a bit short to wear as a dress. I'll have to see how I feel once the weather heats up!

This week I attended the Alan Baker Memorial Lecture "From Dinos to DNA" at the ROM. Very interesting stuff, though some of it was over my head. And of course there was a reception afterward! The ROM really is an exceptional building, on top of being a great and engaging museum. So glad we were able to snap some pics there!

As I said in my last post, I used the BurdaStyle Boyfriend Shirt. I don't know about you but I always wish BurdaStyle would provide more information and pics of their patterns! So I'm going to try to include in this post some of the information at I would want to know if I was shopping this pattern.

I used size 40, which was the middle of the size range available for this pattern. My measurements are 34-26-39 with a height of 5'4". According to the size chart the size 40 is drafted for someone with measurements: 36-29-38 and the garment's finished measurements are 49-46.5-51.5. So much ease! These measurements are pretty rough, though. It's hard to accurately measure such a gigantic garment!

Feeling my little booties!

Oh, I should also mention that once the shirt was finished I just sewed down two tucks - one on each side seam to take in about 5 inches. I found that when I wore it with a belt the bottom hem would kinda flare and these tucks fixed that. The shirt is so big the tucks just get lost amongst all that fabric! See on the side there?

This pattern also includes the BurdaStyle Safari Jacket, so I used the longer pattern pieces to make the dress (I shaped the hem like the shirt but used the length from the jacket). I didn't make any other changes to the pattern and it sewed up quick and easy. I follow almost all the techniques in DPC's Shirtmaking, so I was thrilled that the arm-body seam matched up perfectly for a flat construction. It drives me crazy how many shirt patterns have sleeves that are meant to be set in.

I did make a little mistake in that I cut the collar and collar stand too short. I measured before I cut out, but when I went to sew it together, it was all wrong. I ended up just re-cutting the whole thing.

And, of course, what's a trip to the ROM without a nightcap at the Museum Tavern? This place is so gorgeous and they have delicious cocktails. The style really knocks my socks off! The whole bar top was copper (it matched the copper cups).

As always, credit for the great pics goes to the fantastic Brian Chambers. Thank you Brian!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Shirt dress obsessed

Oh hai there!

It's spring, you guys! And for some reason a couple of weeks ago I suddenly got obsessed with oversized chambray shirt dresses. So obsessed that I finally caved and joined Pinterest so I could keep track of all the pictures I was pouring over.

Pics like this:


So pretty, right?

I don't normally go for volume and I don't normally go for short but I'm so feeling this look.

I've already put a lot of work into about 5 different shirt patterns but I realized that I wanted something that was pretty different from the patterns I had used in the past.

So I created another Pinterest account to keep track of all the patterns I was thinking about using!

I mostly looked at BurdaStyle. Partly because I love that I don't have to wait for shipping but also because they always have so much wearing ease. Have you noticed this, too? It was actually one of the things that made me start drafting my own patterns. It was just so frustrating that I was swimming in even their smallest sizes. Every time I got a new pattern I had to spend hours altering patterns just to get them small enough, and I'm pretty average-sized! 

Anyway, I ended up going with the Boyfriend Shirt because I wanted a shirt with traditional details and that was drafted for traditional construction techniques - things like a flat constructed sleeve and a yoke. 

I really love making shirts! I love that all the raw edges are enclosed. I love that they're versatile (Work, Weekend. So sharp.). I love that they can just go in the washing machine! 

So many of the dresses that I've made have to be dry cleaned and clothing guards only do so much.

Anyway, I was really pleased because I managed to whip up my shirt dress in a weekend! I've noticed lately that I've gotten a lot faster at sewing. Wheeeeeeeeee.

I've been wearing my new shirt all week even though it's a little cold. I just wear it with jeans! This week I wore it to a lecture at the ROM and snapped some photos at the reception afterward. I love being a ROM member!

I can't wait to show you guys the photos!

Monday, 28 March 2016

Inner Beauty - Lining a dress with sleeves

I love making a dress that's as pretty
 on the inside as it is on the outside!

Way back when I started this blog, one of my goals was to make the insides of my garments as pretty and finished as the outsides. I've definitely come a long way! Mostly because I'm getting a lot better at wrangling slippery lining fabrics and partly because I've gotten good at predicting and avoiding situations where a finished inside would be beyond my skills.

Trying to show off how nice the lining is but damn
it's hard to photograph something that's all white! 

I've also started using more tried and true patterns, which I've cut out of card stock. This lets me trace the pattern more easily for cutting out the pieces.I just trace around it! As opposed to putting the tracing paper over a paper pattern and tracing over the lines, you know? All this to say that tracing, cutting and assembling a lining used to seem like such a huge task that I always tried to avoid it. Now I've gotten quicker at sewing and found ways to make it less of a chore. Trying to work smarter not harder!

Using a pattern piece made of card
stock to trace the pattern in seconds!

Another trick that I love is to enclose the raw hem edge of the lining within the folded hem of the garment. It makes it so the lining doesn't hang free and ride up or get twisted when you wear it. Best of all, none of the dicking around required to hem the lining. I always found that to be the biggest pain in the ass and it never turned out as clean looking as I wanted to. Learned tthis from Cabrera and it was totally game-changing for me.

Here's the hem, with a Hong Kong finish on the raw edge of the fabric
and the lining edge enclosed in the hem. Gorgeous!

Anyway, I was thinking about all this stuff because the Iznik dress that I made was my first time lining a dress with sleeves. Crazy, right? I've been sewing for like 5 years. I still have no idea that the right way to do it is. I tried looking it up in my books and online and what I ended up doing was basically what I do for lining a jacket. I sewed the sleeve lining to the sleeve hem before attaching the sleeve to the rest of the dress, then I attached the sleeve, then I hand stitched the sleeve lining to the dress lining at the armscye. I even used the jacket lining instructions to cut the sleeve lining for the dress (basically adding a little extra fabric at the top of the sleeve, especially in the underarm area). Seems to have worked out fine so far! Is there a better way to do this?

Here's the sleeve seam, The sleeve really, really
didn't want to turn inside out to get photographed!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Iznik Style

Hi friends! How has your winter been? 

I've been slow in both sewing and updating the ol' blog but I really wanted to do this dress justice with great photos! Getting professional photos is the best! I'm so lucky to have a friend who's so talented and is a great hang. Thanks Brian!

Last year I started going to the gym and did a "cut" to drop 15 pounds. I can't believe what a difference it has made to how I feel and how I feel about the way I look, if that makes sense. The one downside is that not only are my clothes too big, but my patterns are too! I'm still wearing much of my old wardrobe, because it's not such a big difference, but I know my old clothes don't fit the way I want them to.

With this dress I finally took the time to re-fit my pattern. It's still not 100% perfect but it's getting there!

I'd been planning this dress since last summer when I bought this fabric from I'm pretty shy of pattern matching. This pattern has a waistline seam and a centre back seam and I was a little worried how the fabric would look. I had seen this version on Diary of a Sewing Fanatic but the pattern she used was more of a shift dress, without the waist seam. Luckily, the pattern is so busy and bold that you can hardly see the seams.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Construction Details for Vogue V8626 Coat

Now that is a dry title! In reality, making this coat was a roller coaster. Mostly it was fun and interesting and I learned a lot but there where a couple of times when I was just like

... ! >:(((

You know?

One was when I sewed up my side seams a tried on the coat for the first time.

Super weird ugly silhouette! I nearly shit a brick. It took an extra couple of hours but I was able to fix it by taking 6" from the width at the hem, tapering to just below the waist and eliminating the unflattering hip bump...thing.

...Anyway, the other thing that tripped me up needed some serious surgery.

I had constructed the lining with the lambswool interlining (all in one day. I was seriously on a mission!!!!) and attached it.

I was all ready to hem it when I realized the problem:

My pleat goes right to the hem, so for me to enclose the raw edge of the lining in the hem of the coat, the lining has to be, like, folded into the pleat. but because the coat and lining were separate, the coat pleat and the lining pleat are stacked on top of each other. I needed to treat the lining and the coat back as one. How the hell is that supposed to work???!?!

I scoured the internet but couldn't find anything that was helpful. The instructions that came with the pattern just said to hem the lining and the coat separately. Which is totally gross. Seriously. Ugh.

It took about 15 hours of stewing on it but I came up with a plan that I thought would work.

So on the off-chance that someone else encounters that same issue, here's what I did:

(Side note: Everyone else should stop reading right now because this is boring unless you're actually making the pattern. Thanks for stopping by!)

Okay, so for those of you (are there any of you?) who are making V8628 and want to enclose the lining in the hem of the coat, read on.

I you haven't sewed the coat yet, listen up: BASTE THE BACK WAIST SEAM when you sew across the back pleat. Coat and lining. Okay? Okay.

If you're reading this, chances are you're way beyond that. Don't worry though - everything is going to be okay. Your first step will be to undo the gorgeous feather stitching you did when you put together the lining.

While you have your stitch ripper out, open the back waist seam in both the coat and the lining to release the back pleat. (You might want to baste the back bodice pleat first but if it's been pressed you're probably fine.)

Once the lower back pleats are released, treat the back lower lining and the back lower coat as one. According to the pattern instructions, you would have made the lining pleat and the coat pleat as mirror images of each other. You might want to re-press the creases in the lining so that they match the creases in the coat but I didn't and everything turned out fine. I just gave it a nice steam after I was all finished.

So at this point you've refolded the lower-back pleat, treating the lining and coat fabric as one. Baste, and then and sew it to the back coat bodice. Leave the back bodice lining free for now. Press the seam upwards.

Re-sew your feather stitches to tack down some of the bulk of the back pleats. Fold the back bodice lining hem allowance over the back waist seam. Slip stitch or fell stitch the bodice lining to the lower-back lining.

Boom. Done.

...Well, hem it and then you're done.