That’s a Wrap! – SOI Ultimate Wrap Dress

That’s a Wrap! – SOI Ultimate Wrap Dress

Since I graduated, I’ve started a new job! The training however has left me exhausted every evening. I barely have enough energy to motivate myself to do yoga and make dinner, not even considering picking up a new sewing project. Luckily, I’ve been settling in rather quickly and chose something that wasn’t particularly challenging, but I had been on my list for quite some time.

This fabric has been in my stash since our wedding in 2015. It sat in the sun for a year waiting for me to remember it, and as it sat picked up quite a few bleached out sun spots. The burn out floral pattern also meant that it would have to be doubled up to not expose myself, so I’d need a more structured knit pattern. I had picked up the Sew Over It Ultimate Wrap Dress pattern during a sale many months ago, and thought I’d give it a go!

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I stitched all my seams with a narrow zigzag (stretch setting on my machine is my favorite, it’s like a little lightning bolt) so that the seams would stretch with my movement.

Overall, this was a nice, easy make for me to pick up a half hour at a time after work. I doubled up the fabric for the body pieces, and stayed with only a single layer for the sleeves. I like how the wrap works and how long the belting pieces are. However, I found a bit of gaping at the bust and felt a little boobalicious. It kept feeling like I had too much gaping fabric across the front of my chest, and I’d want to pull the belt even tighter. Next time, I’ll adjust this distance by removing about 1 inch from the faced front section.

Because of the thinness of the knit, the facing also wasn’t very structurally stable and has a tendency to roll out of the garment. I have to be super careful to place it properly when wearing this dress! Once it’s in place though, it stays pretty well.

I really do enjoy this dress. It feels like wearing PJs all the time, and I’m still looking like I have my shit together. That’s a win for me!

Summery Linen M6696

Summery Linen M6696

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Out of all of my dresses, my olive green M6696 has the most wear. It’s versatile to wear through multiple seasons, looks put together without being stuffy, and it’s super comfortable from the full skirt and pockets.

I wanted another version of it with a more breathable summer fabric. I found this beautiful textured black-and-white linen on Fabric.com, and bought enough of it to make myself this dress and my husband a shirt out of it. It is truly a lovely fabric, has a good weight, and takes to the iron very well.

I decided to add a full collar onto this one (my prior had only the collar band), and the collar feels a bit large. However, I’ll never wear it fully buttoned so this doesn’t bother me. It does make me wonder why the neckline is so large compared to the rest of the garment?

I’ve run into an issue with easing the pleats into the waist band on both my renditions of this dress. It makes me wonder if I traced my pattern pieces poorly, or if it was an error in the drafting. Considering other bloggers haven’t commented about this, I assume it’s a personal problem. I resolved this by adding a slight extra pleat over each of the side seams, where the extra fabric is easily concealed.

I can see myself getting a lot of wear out of this piece this summer. The linen is soft, breathable, and the fit allows for me to not feel like I’m drowning in the Iowa heat and humidity.

Miss Frizzle Costume

Miss Frizzle Costume

In this family, Halloween is a big deal. There’s always a big party and we stay up into the wee hours of the night drinking beer and chatting around a bon fire. Being in Minnesota, it’s generally pretty cold at night and I keep this in mind when choosing my costume for the year. This year, my husband and I decided to be TV scientists. I fulfilled my childhood dream of being a bad ass magical scientist, and he went with Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty.

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I had been planning out this costume for a long time, because a Miss Frizzle costume had been a dream of mine for years. When we settled on this for our costumes, I was pumped and went straight to looking for the perfect microbiology fabric. Alas, the best microbiology fabrics were on Spoonflower and that’s simply outside my budget. So I settled for this amazing geology themed fabric from Fabric.com.

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In order to fulfill my Miss Frizzle dreams, the pattern was heavily altered, with a base of McCalls 6696 changed to be a half shirt dress, hacked together with the sleeves from McCalls 6989. I added the sleeves by tracing the sleeve cap from the three quarter sleeve view of 6696, slicing it to be the two piece sleeve like 6989, then tracing the sleeve portion from 6989.

Using stills from the Magic School Bus TV show as reference, I saw that a feature of all of her wild dresses include the contrasting white collar, placket, and cuffs. For the placket, I went for a close second, by making it  a contrasting half shirt dress. I followed these instructions for converting it to a half shirt dress, which worked quite well. I selectively chose the sleeve pattern for 6989 because they included cuffs, so this was simple to do.

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I removed a total of 6″ from the skirt front and back due to the width of my fabric, and attached them with gathers rather than pleats as is used in the original 6696 pattern. The amount of extra fabric in the back was also reduced by 4 inches, though it could have used further adjustment as it still felt poofy.  In order to be able to carry my phone throughout the Halloween party, I added a pocket on the side without the zipper. I followed this tutorial on a Male Pattern Boldness’s method of attaching a collar, which worked absolutely beautifully. I had never used this method before, and frankly I’m glad I didn’t start with it because it makes me appreciate the ease and simplicity so much more.

All in all, I love the dress and am so happy that I fulfilled my scientist teacher dreams this Halloween!

Moneta Frenzy

Moneta Frenzy

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Before I started consistently sewing for myself, my wardrobe of dresses was largely composed of knit dresses. They’re easy to throw on, comfortable, and have ease in the fabric for when you eat too much at the summer BBQ. Not to mention they wash up super easily and there’s so many different design directions you can go with them.

After a few years of dabbling with the big four patterns, I fell in love with indie sewing pattern companies. One of my favorite companies is Colette, who not only produce wonderful sewing patterns but also release tutorials, sew alongs, and one of my favorite things ever, Seamwork Magazine. The Moneta pattern was released with Seamwork Magazine, and has since become a standby for many seamstresses. It is a beautiful knit dress with a fitted top and gathered skirt at the natural waist. It even has pockets! The dress comes with three sleeve length variations and a free kit with a variety of necklines. It’s an all around winner. 

I had a lovely time sewing up my first Moneta. I used a purple, floral knit from the Joann Fabrics red tag clearance section. I used size S on the top, and size M on the bottom, grading between the sizes for the bodice. The instructions were very clear, and there’s even a sew along online if you have any questions about the construction! The neckline, armband, and hem were all finished with a twin needle. I had some issues of it not laying flat, despite lowering the bobbin tension. I thought that a steamy ironing would fix it but after it went through the wash, it bubbled up again. I eventually fixed this on my next Moneta, by decreasing the bobbin tension all the way down to 1. It might have also been a fabric issue.

Sewing the clear elastic in the waist can be a challenge. My machine is pretty strong and can handle the tension needed to stretch the elastic while feeding it into the machine, but I pined it twice as much as the pattern recommends (1/8ths rather than 1/4ths) which definitely helped the even gathering.

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My second Moneta was made up with a rayon blend from Joanns, with the three quarter sleeve and tie neck variations. I found this fabric to be a challenge because despite being so thin, it has a heavy drape. Also it didn’t take ironing the knit interfacing very well and has some iron marks on the neckline now (noo!). Because of the thinness of the fabric, I’ll likely wear a slip or shapewear underneath to cover all my lovely lumps and bumps.

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I really like this version for fall, and can see it being worn with a variety of tights and boots already in my closet. I have fabric in my stash for one more Moneta, this time it’ll have a peter pan collar though. So look forward to more variations of this pattern!

Grey Twill Shirtdress

Grey Twill Shirtdress

So often when it comes to sewing, you dream up beautiful ideas of flouncy dresses that have no place in your normal, day-to-day life. And that’s fine! It’s fun to dream big and play dress up with your sewing machine once in a while. But there’s only so many pretty dresses you can make before they overwhelm your closet. I’ve been making more of an effort to make pieces that are versatile and good for daily wear in my wardrobe. For me, this means dress shirts and shirt dresses that can be layered throughout the year.

I made this garment as a test for shirt dress construction, as I have had no previous experience with it. This was made with the McCall’s 6885, which has one of the most dreadful photos on the front. I don’t know what they were thinking with the floral dress and matching hat! It looks awful. If they had featured the chambray illustration it would be much more appealing. I made the short sleeve variation, out of a fabric that has been in my stash for many years. I don’t remember why I had bought this fabric originally, but it’s a thick grey twill from the S.R. Harris fabric depot in Minnesota.

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I indicated all of the pattern markings using tailor’s tacks, which helped as the placket attachment can become quite a hassle. Reflecting back on this, I should have started with the Grainline’s Alder shirt dress as that pattern has much more clear instructions. Overall, the placket went on quite nicely. I had some issues with the collar stay being longer than the neckline/placket, likely due to imprecise sewing. I also used the straight hem variation rather than the curved hem, as I had read from other bloggers that the curve comes up quite high on the thigh.

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After completing the garment, I found that the shoulders and short sleeves felt tight. This, with the heaviness of the fabric, makes me feel super claustrophobic when I wear it and since it’s been completed, it’s never been worn. I can’t move my arms back or forwards without it pulling on the front or back and being uncomfortable. I believe that I may try a rescue operation on the dress, removing the short sleeves and finishing the armhole with bias binding. Into the UFO pile it goes… Next time, I’ll make it sleeveless and/or consider a lighter cotton or flannel eventually and maybe put a yoke in the back with some gathers underneath to allow for arm movement.

Despite being unwearable, I consider it a learning experience, which I was glad to have on a fabric that has been in my stash for ages!

Olive Sleeveless Shirtdress, or the Damn I Feel Good Dress

Olive Sleeveless Shirtdress, or the Damn I Feel Good Dress

DSC05020After having moved to Des Moines from the twin cities, I had the entire summer free and I knew that I would have to keep myself busy. So I started the summer with a goal in mind: make it through my enormous stash.

Granted, I have seen some other bloggers fabric stashes. Gigantic! As sewers, we often pick a pattern then go shopping for the fabric for it. So our fabric deals and impulse purchases sit in our cabinet, or cubbies, until we make a referendum that they have to go.

This olive polyester was one such fabric. It had been sitting in my stash unused for about 2-3 years. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, I was just uninspired. It has pretty good drape, and I was shying away from anything with a lot of precise sewing and detail. Until I realized that with the magic of spray starch, I could whip out a button up dress.

DSC05021For this dress, I used enigmatic McCall’s M6696. It’s a wonderful shirt dress pattern (with pockets!) that includes three sleeve and two skirt variations. This version is collarless, using the collar stand as a mandarin collar. I often gravitate towards this neckline in my day to day wear, so it felt right at home in my wardrobe. I used the guide provided by Grainline for the mandarin collar variation. I have some puckers at the very front of the collar stand, next to the edge of the dress, because I top stitched the collar stand prior to attaching it. Whoops! Thankfully it isn’t super obvious, but it’s one of those mistakes that only the maker would see. Next time I know to top stitch after it has been attached to the dress.

The skirt of this dress has a total of 24 pleats. Surprisingly, they’re not bad to do! My advice is to ensure that all markings are on the right side of the fabric to make the pleating easier. I first ironed the pleats down using the markings, then machine basted them in place, which worked out quite well. When I went to attach the skirt to the waistband, I ended up having a significant amount of excess fabric to ease into the waistband. The excess fabric was easily hidden behind the various pleats, so you can’t tell from the outside.

To finish the dress, I made quick work of the buttons by using my sewing machine’s automatic button holer and attaching the buttons with a zig zag stitch. I could also see this dress being done with snaps, which would be fun. I finished all of my seams with serging to prevent fraying from within. This makes it feel much more professional. I’ve always been interested in finishing seams with the Hong Kong finish (bias binding on the raw edges), and this would be a good pattern to test it out on in the future.

This is a pattern that I absolutely enjoyed making, and see myself making it again. I already have a plan to make my Ms. Frizzle costume for Halloween out of this pattern. So look forward to repeats of this bad boy!

The Wedding Dress

The Wedding Dress

 

When Ian and I decided to tie the knot, there was no big wedding planning excitement. But I immediately knew I wanted to sew my wedding dress. It didn’t seem like too big of a task, as I had made my prom dress. Nonetheless, I was more experienced, more knowledgeable and hence more nervous.

Weeks and weeks of compiling wedding dress inspiration and one day full of trying on gowns that were nothing like I wanted, I decided to dive into a tester. I knew I wanted a fit and flare gown, with a fitted bodice and waist that flared around my thighs. I made a muslin of a strapless, princess seamed gown that I had pieced together from a million patterns (sorry I don’t have their names/numbers!). The pictures are pretty awful, but so is the dress. It reminds me of an old 90’s dress.

This was about when my obsession with 1930’s fashion ramped up. Bias cut gowns, silky luxury, I wanted it all for my wedding. And there was nothing of the sort on the rack at bridal shops. Everything was grecian, ballgowns, or lace mermaid gowns. Then, I came across a stunning silk $3000 embroidered bias gown at a wedding shop. Off the rack it fit like a glove, and I wanted to try and make my own spin on it. I immediately asked the saleswoman what the fabrics were that they used, and set off with a goal in mind.

I knew that sewing on the bias was a tricky challenge, but after reading basically every guide on the internet, I dove into a test. I found Seamwork’s guide to be quite helpful and felt that I could handle it. I pieced together the top of Vogue V1428 and the skirt of Butterick B5710. I found a slinky cheap polyester with about the same weight as silk to give the fit a test. A quick chop and test, and I was sold. I knew this was my dress.

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I sourced my silk from Mood, and used silk charmeuse for the lining and silk crepe de chine for the outer shell. To ensure success with the bias, I cut all the bias pieces at my mother’s house, using her gigantic dining room table to make sure that I wouldn’t be moving any fabric while cutting the pieces. I also used tailor’s tacks to mark the seam allowances, and cut with a brand new rotary cutter. When it came to the sewing, I basted together all my seams before machine stitching. For the seaming, I stretched my fabric while stitching. There is much debate on the internet whether or not to stretch, to sew with tissue paper, or to not wiggle it at all. I found that the seams worked best with stretching, but if you’re sewing bias test it out on your fabric first to feel what works best for you.

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One of the scariest challenges of sewing this dress was attaching the skirt to the bodice. I had weird diagonal ripples along the abdomen of my muslin, and was scared that it would happen again. To prevent this, I draped both pieces on my mannequin and hand basted it prior to machine stitching. Time constraining and a bit challenging, but it is a wedding dress after all!

I installed the zipper by draping the zipper into the garment, then hand basting again. Despite this, I still had puckers at the bottom of the gown and the zipper was basically sticking out horizontally. My fabric was too fragile to rip it out, so I improvised. Upon my mother’s wonderful suggestion, I made a bustle across my bum to completely cover the bottom of the zipper. It happened to be some people’s favorite feature of the dress!

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To hem the dress, I tried the Ban-roll method and was immediately sold. It worked beautifully! I was sending pictures of my teeny tiny beautiful hem to everyone when I had completed it. I also understitched the bodice and criss crossed my straps on the mannequin.

One of my goals when starting this gown was to have an overlaying bodice of lace that would mimmick the dress I had tried on. However, I didn’t start this until a week before the wedding and had underestimated the difficulty of getting a lace bodice to fit well. After many attempted drapings and frantic trips to numerous fabric stores, I gave up on it. I had a beautiful, scalloped lace that I had picked up for a steep discount and took my soon-to-be husband’s advice to follow my gut. I scrapped the bodice idea, and made a cape.

Now, a cape was never in the plan. I just knew I needed something to cover my shoulders, and when else could I pull of a lace cape?! I drafted a quick cape with a radius of 19 inches, graded up the front of the cape by 2 inches, attached a white lace trim around the edge of the cape, and slapped a hook and eye in there to close it. Done! Not quite.

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I was worried that it wasn’t quite enough. Between a simple silk gown and a lace cape, something didn’t say wedding. I talked to my husband and he had an idea. We couldn’t let the beautiful scallop go to waste. I carefully cut the scallop from the pattern and hand stitched it along the waistband of my gown. You can’t see it very well in the actual wedding photos, but it was one of my favorite parts of the wedding gown. Not only because it worked so well, but because it only happened because my husband suggested it.

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This has been my proudest sewing accomplishment thus far. I am not only overjoyed with the product, but the process was so enjoyable due to all the family support and help I had in making it. If you’re considering sewing your own wedding gown, give it a try with some cheap fabrics. Use all the resources available, and be flexible. Not everything will turn out how you envision it, but that’s because it’s made from your imperfect hands. And that makes it so much more personal.