Friday, January 16, 2015

New Look 6648, Butterfly Wing Knit Top

NL6648 Thumbnail

New Look 6648 has been a perennial favorite at PR, but for some reason very few people have made this butterfly wing view, perhaps because it is an insane fabric hog.

This was one of my quickie makes before my trip to Italy in October.  We were going to have cool but not cold and probably wet weather, so I was looking for transitional tops.  This is probably too much fabric to wear in the heat of summer, but for early fall it was perfect.  I also wanted tops that could go with leggings.  Though this isn't long (I seriously cannot find any long tops that will work for my wide-hipped, belly-pooched self), the volume up top is a nice contrast to a fitted bottom.

Shorten Crossover for SBA

The top is very simple and only required a little bit of alteration.  As usual, I shortened the crossover for a small bust adjustment.

This is still quite drapey and I ended up tacking the two sides together at center front.  This is always a defeat for me--sewing should mean never having to tack a wrap style into place!  But at least I didn't have to resort to the safety pin of shame.



Shape Band

The lower band is drafted as a straight rectangle.  I altered it to have a tiny bit of waist shaping--you can see the bulge about 2/3 of the way down.  The bulge is the bottom of the band; only the top layer is gathered so the bulge is not in the center.  The top and bottom edges are the waist and are a little bit smaller than the bulge fold/hip.





Gather Single Layer



The instructions have you gather the side edges of the band, then stitch.  I find it harder to do that than to sew the seam, then put in the gathering stitches on either side of it.





Walking Foot to Stitch Down Ruching








Once I pulled on the threads to gather the upper ruched band to the fit the under non-ruched band, I used my walking foot to zigzag the gathers in place.









Dart at CB










The small amount of waist shaping I did at the cutting/sewing stage on the band was definitely not enough to deal with my swayback.  Before attaching the band to the bodice I took a large dart at the upper edge of the band at center back. Next time I will just cut it with a CB seam pieces and integrate the dart into the seam.









CB Dart, Outside



I gathered the outer layer of the band before stitching the dart, so there is ruching in the dart.  It made for a very thick dart, which I cut open and trimmed before attaching the bodice to reduce the bulk.  Taking out this width in the band required slightly gathering the bodice before attaching it to the band, but this is in line with the style.

I finished the neckline by serging clear elastic to the inside at the raw edge, then turning under and twin needling.




Hiking





I wore this for our beautiful day of psuedo-hiking in Bergamo, Italy (we were mostly on a road, so it wasn't much like hiking).  Admittedly, it looks a little weird with my athletic skants here.

Front














However, it does look good with skinny jeans, which was the whole point!




Closeup

The lighting in my new photo spot in the house is still quite challenging, but I'm sort of getting there.

With this closeup you can notice that the crossover is tacked if you think about it, but I don't think it's *too* obvious.

All in all, this fabric hog is worth the fabric in my opinion.  It's a fun look that hides a multitude of pasta!

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Butterick 5490, Triple Pleated Bodice Dress

Butterick 5490 Thumbnail

Sorry for my long disappearance!  I didn't mean to leave with no warning.  We had a series of deaths in the family, then went on vacation to get away from things, then the holiday season began...  Also, and this is so silly, but I *still* can't figure out how to get good pictures in my new place.  I tried a new location that might work.  I have been sewing a fair amount--especially right before my trip!--and hope to blog more regularly, at least once the holidays are over.  Thank  you to all who checked in on me; I really appreciate hearing from my sewing friends even when I appear to have dropped off the face of the earth!  I miss everyone.

And due to my long absence, I am way off schedule for the seasons.  I made this during the pattern contest, which was in July.  It's not getting much wear now!


Butterick 5490 has been on my list for a while now.  If you remember the Banana Republic Mad Men collection from a couple of years ago, the Betty Dress was quite similar in terms of the triple pleat in the bodice and the full, center pleated skirt (there's a front view here).

I knew those triple pleats would pose a small bust problem even more than usual, as all the reviewers observed that the pattern would not be flattering to a small bust as drafted.

Small Bust Adjustment Bodice and Lining

I folded out width from each of the pleats, as well as shortening the neckline between the bust and the shoulder.  The pattern has a separate front bodice lining piece, a luxe touch I appreciate in these designer patterns (this one is a Suzi Chin/Maggy Boutique), and so the lining needed to be separately altered.  The triple-pleat fashion-fabric bodice is on the left, and the double-darted lining is on the right.

Having worn the dress for a day, I realized I need to scoop some width out from the front armscye as it is digging into my arm.  This is likely to do with my forward shoulders/bad posture.

Broad Back Adjustment

On the back, I did my usual broad back and swayback adjustments as well as my fairly standard addition of a dart in the back neckline to prevent gaping from my forward head/bad posture.

This fabric was $1.99/yd from Fabric Mart, the special when I made the order.  I love the huge print and the colors, especially the little touches of orange.  I'm pretty sure it's a quilting cotton, though a good quality one.  As such, it is only 45" wide and I couldn't cut the front skirt the full width it was intended.  I cut the skirt as wide as I possibly could, but lost a pleat and about 10 inches of width.  The skirt is still plenty wide!



Interface Neckline of Fashion Fabric

Having learned my lesson on past projects that ended up with stretched out necks, I interfaced the fashion fabric and the lining at the neckline and armscyes.  The neckline feels firm and like it will stay in shape.

To make my quilting cotton a bit firmer I also interfaced the entire midriff.  This turned out to be a good decision.  Although I have totally adequate ease in the midriff (nearly 2 inches), the midriff has arrows radiating from the side seam toward the center.  When I lift up the neckline the arrows disappear, so I think they are due to the weight of the skirt on the midriff rather than the fit (good thing I didn't cut the front skirt in two pieces at the full width and make it even heavier!).  I imagine it would look even worse without the interfacing.  I'm not sure how to solve this problem in the future, except for just using lighter weight fabric so the skirt is not so heavy.

Assembled Front and Back Separately

Because I'm a little out of practice in sewing the Big 4, I wasn't sure how this would fit.  To give myself maximum possible adjustability, I assembled the front and back as separate units (the front and back bodice need to be separate anyway to do an all-machine clean-finish lining) so I could adjust along the side seam on the bodice, midriff, and skirt as needed.  As it happens, apparently the sizing hasn't changed at Butterick, because it was perfect with the seam allowances as drafted (I cut an 8 at the shoulders/bust and a generous 10 at the waist).




Front Bodice Closeup





The final bodice fit is very good.  The bust fits well (though it definitely has ease) and is flattering.  I should have taken a tiny bit more length out of the front neckline, which sits away from the body a little bit.  The neckline is also surprisingly low, lower than conveyed on the model I think.  I might raise it up 1/2 inch next time.

With Hat



All in all, a fun sundress for our cool summer!  I had a little fun with pulling out one of my hats for a vintage style look.  With the width of the shoulder this would be easy enough to pop sleeves on for a Fall/Winter look, though I'd probably go with a less voluminous skirt rather than the wide pleated sundress look.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Peekaboo Midriff 40th Birthday Dress


Peekaboo_Midriff_Dress_Thumbnail

I have been a little obsessed with cutouts lately, I'm not sure why.  I put together a Pinterest board and the one that really struck my fancy was this (at right).  And of *course* it had to be just a hosted image, with no link, information, back view, or front view without her hair covering the shoulders.  But I got the gist.

I decided to make my birthday dress out of some gorgeous green silk I picked up at Paron in New York in August.  The color is that of the famous Atonement dress, but having neither Keira Knightley's willowy body type nor the Gatsby existence calling for full-length green silk gowns (nor enough fabric either--I just barely eked this out with nothing to spare once I made my self bias tape), this dress it was.

Pattern Concept Drawing
The first step was drafting the bodice.  I drew up what the pattern should look like (sadly, I do not have a future career in fashion illustration!) and went from there.

I considered starting with McCall 5880, which has the right shape at the armscye as well as the look I wanted for the back.  But it has an empire line, which I didn't want and I decided it would be more work than starting from scratch.

Then I remembered that I had turned my woven tee into a raglan version using the same method as for my knit tee.  Perfect place to start!

Pattern Drafting


I first created a full width front pattern (rather than cut-on-fold).  I narrowed the front neckline 1/2 inch on each side.  I marked 2 1/2 inches on each side of center front at the lower edge for my cutout.  Then I made a diagonal marking from the corner of the neckline to my 2 1/2" mark.

I mocked up a quick muslin of the bodice front, using hair clips and pins to attach it to my raglan blouse and tried it on.  Whoa.  The opening was a bit much.  You can't really tell from the top laying flat, but we were definitely in bra-flaunting territory.

So for muslin #2, I narrowed the width from center front to about 2 inches on each side, and rather than cut a straight diagonal line I curved it a bit to give more coverage.  This muslin was what I was looking for, so I moved on to the drapey part.

Adding Volume to Front Bodice
To get volume in the front, I first folded out three large pleats in my tissue paper to build in volume, then traced my pattern (the original pattern became the lining).  I didn't have any particular measurement of volume in mind, so I wasn't too scientific about my pleats.  Each pleat was probably about two inches wide (so, encompassing four inches of tissue because of the folds).  I also rotated the bust dart to the neckline.

For the back, I made a diagonal cut from the neckline to the hem and added a wedge of tissue paper, as I didn't want additional volume at the back waist.

Second/Final Muslin


I cut out muslins of the front and back overlays and made a quick mockup of the full bodice--pretty much exactly what I wanted!  The pattern drafting process ended up being much simpler than I expected.

Final Bodice and Lining Pattern






I cut the bodice and bodice lining from the fashion fabric because I didn't want the lining to roll over and show anywhere.  Here you can see what the final pattern pieces looked like for the bodice.

I used the skirt from Simplicity 1796 and I cut the skirt lining from Butterick 5315.  For the skirt lining, I made a facing for the center front at the opening, so there wouldn't be any lining show through.



Sew Bodice and Lining at Armscye, Center Front, and Upper Center Back

Construction was pretty simple.  I started by sewing the side seams of the outer and lining pieces.

Next, I sewed the outer pieces and lining together at the armscye, diagonal center front, and upper center back, and turned and pressed.

Gather Bodice and Baste to Lining






Then I put in the basting stitches for gathering on the outer pieces and pulled the gathering threads to match the outer piece with the bodice lining, basting the outer fabric to the lining fabric at the neckline and the lower edge.  I left the lower edges separate about 2 inches from center back.

Match Centers Front








Once basted, I matched up the centers front at the neckline and pinned the left and right halves of the bodice together.

Bias Binding to Wrong Side



To finish the neckline, I used self bias tape.  Because the entire weight of the dress hangs from the bias tape at the shoulders, I reinforced the shoulder areas with interfacing.

I first sewed the bias tape to the wrong side of the bodice.  At the corners of the front neckline, you need to sew the bias tape to the very lower edge of the corner so that the raw edge will be fully enclosed.

Turn Bias Binding Over to Right Side



I then turned the bias strip to the right side and used the hair clips to hold the bias tape in place so I wouldn't leave pinholes in my gorgeous silk.



The skirt and lining were constructed separately with french seams at the side seams. The center back seams were left open in order to sew in the zipper.

Sandwich Bodice between Skirt and Lining

I gathered the outer skirt at the waist. The skirt lining is an A line fitted at the waist to reduce bulk.

To join the bodice and skirt, I sandwiched the bodice between the skirt and the lining and sewed together at the waistline, leaving the last two inches before center back open--this was for later doing a neat finish at the zipper.

I separately sewed the outer skirt to the bodice all the way to center back, leaving the lining free.  Then I sewed the skirt lining to the bodice lining all the way to the center back.

After reinforcing my fabric with strips of interfacing, I installed an invisible zipper below my finished center back neckline opening.

Stitch Bodice Lining and Skirt Lining



I had not been quite sure how I was going to finish the lining at the center back, but luckily it all worked out well!  Remember that I had left the lining and the outer pieces free for the last two inches before center back.

Hand Stitch Lining to Zipper






folded the edges of the lining in and then hand stitched with tiny stitches to the zipper tape.

Invisible Hand Stitch Lining to Zipper




The finish is very neat on the inside, and the hand stitching is only barely visible.

Blogger Pose

I was thinking this style was a departure for me, but then I remembered I made a knockoff very similar to this in 2007 (though apparently never blogged or PR reviewed).  The seven years later version shows less skin, though.  Still, I guess that shows my taste is pretty consistent!

Side

I love the way the dress came out.  It is not perfect--it is a little loose at the armscye (which I really don't understand, because the top with sleeves is more on the too-snug side than the too-loose side); the front drapes slightly askew/agape; and I'm honestly not sure what's going on with the back waist--the pattern I started from had a swayback adjustment built in yet somehow it needs another 2 inches taken out.  A full muslin and another round of pattern adjustment probably would have fixed those things.  But I've always considered it paradoxical to put so much careful effort into special occasion dresses that will be lucky to see five wears rather than wardrobe workhorses that will be worn a couple times a month in season for five years.   Not perfect is fine with me.

It was fun to do a drafting project that worked out and actually matched my inspiration!  Alas, I haven't actually had the chance to wear the dress.  It was pouring on my birthday and I didn't want to ruin it!  I just need to plan fancy cocktails soon...

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Review: The End of Fashion by Teri Agins

I read "The End of Fashion" so you don't have to.  If you have it on your to-read you should probably take it off.  I found it mildly interesting as a piece of fashion history, but it was hard to get through.  Agins covers, among other things, Paris as the center of the fashion universe, the story of designer/movie star synergy, and the (temporary) reprieve Marshall Field's bought itself as a strictly high-end merchandiser.


I had to google "Hilfiger Vintage" to find this.
Writing in 1998 or so (the book was published in 1999), Agins argues that fashion is dead.  Forever.  When you read the book you remember why this would be easy to believe:  this was the height of Tommy Hilfiger Hegemony, as covered in a chapter of the book.  Those hideous oversized color-blocked sweatshirts were all over the damn place.  Less facetiously, there was also the perpetual issue of couture being a huge money-loser, and fashion people making very bad business people (the chapter on Donna Karan is a great illustration of this principle).

However, the title has more to do with timing than absolute truth.  This quote encapsulates the era Agins recounts:  "Glamorous as they are, fashion shows are fairly low-voltage to the general public, who will probably never see a tape of an Armani runway show." (p 152).  Thank you for that prediction, Professor Trelawney.


Ad Copy:  Gives Even Svelte Teen Sensations Tummy Pooches!
Agins was writing in the dead zone between the easing of American economic protectionism that began to allow cheap clothes from Asia to flood the market (the Multi-Fiber Arrangement was phased out by 2005) and the rise of the fashion blogger.  In those dead zone years, fashion was pretty grim.  Think of those heinous jeans the 90210 crowd wore(and don't miss this horrendous pair on Shannen Doherty).
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With the rise of the Internet, the top-down model Agins writes about no longer became the only paradigm.  Designers, department stores, and fashion magazines have by no means lost their influence on fashion (as evidenced by the awesome "cerulean" monologue in The Devil Wears Prada).  But what used to be "street fashion," which certainly had some influence in the past--though mainly as it was coopted by movie costume designers and the fashion industry--became fashion blogging, and far surpassed the IRL version in terms of influence.

As fashion became democratized, couture became no longer the stuffy province of the ultra-rich old money and ordinary people could get excited about and participate in fashion in a way that has not been possible at any other time in history.  Someone with a strong point of view could go from being a random teenager in the midwest to seated in the front row at a runway show (or so we like to imagine).



In addition, business people started to take over the business end of fashion.  Whether LVMH's ownership of a huge swathe of the luxury fashion brands is a good or a bad thing, it has meant that fashion houses have managed to stay afloat and continue to offer couture eye candy.

Of course, nothing is static.  The new fashion hegemony seems to be that fashion bloggers are sponsored and branded and all strive to be sponsored by (and feature) the same clothes, so there is less of a richness of fashion point-of-view and the designers/marketers are back on top in deciding the Next Big Thing.  However, I'm not going to go as far as Teri Agins and predict the end of fashion.  Humans will always have a keen interest in adorning themselves, regardless of how low the trough seems to have dipped.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Burda 08-2014-116, Open-Back High-Low Dress

Burda_08-2014-116_Thumbnail

I have been enjoying the cutout trend and so when I saw Burda 08-2014-116 I instantly fell in love and had to make it.

I just happened to have a trip to New York planned, so finding the perfect fabric for it was on my list.  This lightweight rayon was exactly what I was looking for--I love all the colors in the print, I like that it's a dot and not a floral (I love floral, but have a LOT of it), and it has the perfect floaty factor.

Back Alterations-BBA and Neckline
For the back bodice, I did a Broad Back Adjustment and also took a HUGE tuck out of the back neckline, which was really, really wide.

The bust dart on the front bodice is actually pretty small as drafted so I did not do any alteration for SBA.  I think if you are larger than an A cup, you'll want to do a FBA even if you don't normally need to.  The front neckline is a wee bit wide; I wish I had taken a little bit of width out of it at the pattern alteration stage.

The pattern is drafted as a boatneck, which is difficult for me to wear given that I am short.  I lowered the front neckline 2 1/2 inches (!) from where it was drafted, and it is still reasonably high.  So keep that in mind if you are at all chokey from high necks as I am.

Shorten Skirt



For once, I didn't need to do a swayback adjustment to the pattern because the cutout is basically at the swayback.

The skirt was too long as drafted, so I folded out 1 1/2 inches on each piece before cutting.

The pattern as drafted is lined in the bodice, but not in the skirt.  This fabric was too sheer not to line the skirt.  I'm *not* into the trend of having a short lining under a long sheer skirt (the 20somethings in DC are ALL OVER this look--like 50% of them on a Saturday night will be wearing this), so I thought a contrast lining was the way to go.  I immediately thought of the gorgeous green silk/cotton I got during Martha Pullen's epic silk/cotton sale, but didn't want to waste the vast expanse of it needed to fully line the skirt.  After agonizing over it way too much, I finally realized that duh, I could use cheap ordinary lining for most of the skirt and then add the silk/cotton at the bottom where it would show.

Lining Contrast Hem Extension

I lined up the center front and back skirt patterns and marked where the center front hit the center back.  I later realized that the back skirt dips down below the front skirt at the waist, but luckily I gave myself a good 2 1/2 inch cushion and only the decorative lining shows.  I then drew in the line for the decorative lining, making it about 2 1/2" wide in the front.

Contrast Lining

Lining Extension





It all worked according to plan.  I got my pretty contrast lining without "wasting" an acreage of lovely fabric.




Because there is no front or back center seam I couldn't do my usual all-machine clean finish.  I would normally use this method in that instance, but I was intrigued in reading Burda's instructions for finishing; yes, the Wooden Spoon Method.




I have seen the Wooden Spoon illustration many times.  I imagine that every month someone walks into Dagmar Bily's office and is like, "Disaster!  There is too much white space on the instruction sheet!"  and she pulls her best Miranda Priestly and is like, "Have you used the Wooden Spoon yet?  Seriously, do I have to think of everything myself?"  and they're like, "Of course!  The Wooden Spoon!  The Wooden Spoon will save us!"  Seriously, I think it's in every issue.  But the illustration has always made zero sense to me.  Until now.

The Wooden Spoon Method:

As with my normal clean finish technique, I started by trimming 1/8" inch off the neckline and armscye edges of the lining.

Front Right Side Out, Back Inside Out

Sew the bodice pieces together with their respective linings along the neckline and armscyes to within about an inch of the shoulder.  Finish/trim the seam allowances (I do it in one with the serger).  Finish the unsewn shoulder edges by serging, zigzagging, or your choice.

Turn the front bodice right side out.  (I actually turned both bodices right side out and did the required pressing, since I figured it would be easier to do with the pieces separate than together.  Then I turned the back bodice inside out again.)

Front Pulled Inside Back


Slide the front bodice inside the back bodice/lining, with the fashion fabric right sides together and the lining right sides together.  Match up the shoulders of the fashion and lining fabrics, and then pin.  You now have four shoulder seams to sew: fashion fabric right, lining right, fashion fabric left, and lining left.

Sew the shoulder seams.

Insert Wooden Spoon

Now for the famous Wooden Spoon:  Pull the front, which is inside the back, further through the back more toward the outside so the shoulder seams are no longer at the edge.  Slide the wooden spoon into the holes where you did not sew all the way up to the shoulder at the armscye and neckline.

The Infamous Wooden Spoon

Position the shoulder seam over the wooden spoon, and use it as a "ham" to press open the seam.  Frankly, I was pretty disappointed in the wooden spoon, which did not really make it easy to press open the seam.  I should have grabbed my wooden spoon that has a flat handle, but now that I live in a two story house such frivolous trips back and forth to the kitchen are more carefully considered.

Pull Front Through To Complete Seam

Once your shoulder seams are pressed, keep the front pulled through, match up shoulder seams of the fashion fabric and lining (which are right sides together), and pin the little hole you left through which the wooden spoon was threaded.  Again, you have four shoulder edges to do. Sew. 

Pull the front out the bottom to turn right side out.

I have to say, I am impressed with this method.  My alternate method requires a few inches of hand sewing, but this method is all machine.  Well done, Burda and your Wooden Spoon.

Interface Drawstring Opening

I sewed the side seams of the fashion fabric and lining of the skirt separately so they would hang free, and then basted them together at the waistline to be treated as one.  I interfaced both pieces where the buttonholes for the drawstring would go, and then did the buttonholes through both layers as one.



Stitch Skirt to Bodice at Front




The dress is pretty straightforward to put together.  Once the bodice is completely lined, the bodice and lining are treated as one at the waist.  I basted the two layers together to avoid shifting.  Sew the bodice to the skirt up to where the back skirt dips into its hole.

Thread Elastic in Front Casing





Use the seam allowance to make a casing and thread elastic in.  Burda has a misprint in the instructions, which tell you to "sew the ends together."  Unless you have a 17" waist and are looking for a figure 8 in the back, you want to sew the ends into each end of the casing.  The join of the skirt/bodice/casing is a little ugly, but it gets covered up by your finishing--I used bias tape as described below.

Turn Under Bias Tape for Casing

Burda has you make a facing for the back cutout.  I really don't know why you'd use a big unwieldy fabric-hoggy facing instead of bias tape.  I used self bias tape, stitching it right sides together all the way around the hole then turning it to the inside to form a casing.  Make your ties and join them with elastic in the middle, then thread through the casing.

Front




Love this dress!  It was also pretty simple--it might be a fun 3rd or 4th project for a dedicated beginner.  I may someday straighten out the hem, but the high-low thing is still going on and my other iteration, last year's birthday dress, was totally disappointing due to the poorly drafted pattern.

Back

The cutout is just perfect, and I like the cut of the bodice with the wider shoulders.  I'm considering drafting the cutout right out of it for a simple summer dress pattern--I feel like I'm seeing a lot of the simple dress with elastic waist (like this and this) this year and this one has well-balanced building blocks.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.  I'm still working on a photo location.  Standing at the top of the stairs has more even lighting from the skylight--directly overhead instead of over one shoulder--than standing along the side wall, but then you get the gaping maw of the downstairs look, which is a little weird.  Also, I'm afraid of accidentally getting too close to the stairs and falling backward down them.