maybe i’ll say something interesting

no doubt you’ve seen the blog hop going around talking about why we bother with this whole writing and blogging thing. Heather from Handmade by Heather B passed the baton along to moi and so, like a good sport, i joined in! i don’t remember exactly when i came across Heather’s blog, but i’ve been thoroughly entertained ever since. she regales us with funny stories and frog adventures all the while claiming that the writing is often a struggle. however, i think she’s just saying that to make the rest of us feel better about our own inadequacies… yeah? oh, and let’s not forget her mad sewing skills. this fine lady is single handedly raising the style bar for moms everywhere. i think the world would definitely be a better place if more of us wore tiki dresses to the grocery store, doncha think?

why do i write?

i think it’s true for a lot of sewists that our overwhelming need to chat about the nitty gritty of sewing is not shared by most of the adults encountered in daily life. finding the right fabric, how should i apply this binding, should i machine hem or hand stitch, what sort of interfacing should i use, and how the hell do i insert this zip?!?! are not typical conversations when chatting up the cashier at the grocery store or the moms in the waiting room of the dance studio. but you guys—you get it! after reading sewing blogs for a while i found myself wanting to get into the conversation and add my own (meager) knowledge to the pool instead of just correcting people in the comment section… ahem.

as a side benefit, this blog helps me keep up the practice of writing. i graduated from college with english and history degrees, so yeah. i spent a LOT of time writing research papers and poetry analysis. then, after college, i never embarked on a “real” career and ended up being a stay at home mom. that wasn’t exactly my intention, it’s just how life panned out. now i don’t expect my blog writing will ever land me a job in the future, but simply the practice of writing gives me the confidence that i can write. like any skill—if you don’t use it, you loose it.

how does my writing process work?

so you might come away from the “why” question thinking that this whole writing thing comes naturally to me. not exactly. just because i have a lot to say in my head, doesn’t always mean those thoughts translate into coherent sentences. i’m not a chatty person by nature, so it takes me a long time, hours even, to put together a simple post. if i’m really having trouble, i make a simple list of everything i want to say, then expand on each individual idea (kind of like those topic outlines you probably hated making in high school). my initial rough drafts are indeed rough, peppered with cute phrases like SAY SOMETHING INTERESTING HERE. eventually i smooth out the edges and hit “publish” when i’m about 75% happy. then, i pray that no one makes fun of me and hope that maybe i said something  interesting.

how does it differ from others of it’s genre?

this is a tough one for me… i think what i do, or what i strive to do, is pick out the technical aspects of sewing that can take your sewing from eh to what… you made that?! i don’t have any formal training, but i do spend a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to construct garments to get professional, long-lasting results. my attitude is that if i can do this, so can you. broadly speaking, my goal is to build an interesting, long wearing, and wearable wardrobe and if i figure out a great technique, i try to pass it on to you guys. i can’t really claim any of that sets me apart from other sewing bloggers, there are just so many talented people out there! the fact that anyone reads this blog is a constant source of surprise, to be honest. (thanks guys, you’re the best!)

what am i working on?

i don’t have a WIP at the moment, but i just finished up a new archer (SHOCKING). also if you check out my IG feed you’ll discover that i have a serious backlog of unblogged projects… really trying to fix that. oh wait, i have one WIP… it’s sitting around half finished, and i have every intention of getting back to it soon! ugh i seriously hate WIPs… i was stalled in the spring by zip ordering complications, making design changes, etc. whatever. i’m determined to finish it!

nominate

ah, on to the fun part… so with greatest humility, i would like to nominate Morgan from crab & bee, and Melanie from poppykettle. both of these ladies you are, no doubt, familiar with. Morgan always inspires me with her ability to make everyday wearable clothes interesting, and her focus on sustainable fibers is truly the way of the future. and Melanie… her impeccable sewing, tailoring, and incorporation of couture techniques is nothing short of awe-inspiring. i mean, THAT WEDDING DRESS. truly, it belongs in a museum. swoon… (and ladies, if you don’t have time to write up a post, please don’t feel obliged!)

thanks again for the nod, Heather—it was fun to explore and really think about my own writing process!

—lisa g.

grainline studio | alder dress

i’m sure it’s no surprise that i pounced on the Alder Shirtdress about the second it was released. i love the ease, the button up style, and the knowledge that i’m getting some top notch drafting. and thank goodness Jen put this one in print, because the pdf would have been pretty cumbersome to assemble! not that that would have stopped me though.

note: if my dress looks a little wrinkly, or seams puckery, it’s because i washed it right after i finished sewing, but didn’t bother pressing :)

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i went with the shift version because i really like the swingy hemline and lack of frills. so many times in the past month i’ve stood in my closet deciding what to wear thinking man, an alder dress would be perfect for today… so if that’s not a good omen, i don’t know what is. fabric hunting was a little tricky, and i had a hard time finding something that would be opaque enough to not require a slip. (note to self: make a slip damnit!) i checked out the Robert Kaufman denim for some quality chambray and fell in love with the chambray dot in black.

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since i have that pear shape going on, i muslined the dress first. i went with a 6 on top, grading to an 8 at the waist, then a 10 at the hip. the size 6 was still 1″ bigger than my bust measurement, so i did a 1″ SBA. the dart is pretty small to begin with, so i may have been able to get away without fussing with it. however, i’m always annoyed when i end up with excess fabric in front. i also raised the bust dart by 3/4″, and raised the armhole by the same amount. these fall in my normal list of pattern alterations, so no surprise there.

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as anticipated, i had excess fabric in the back so i added some fisheye darts. each dart only took out 1/2″ (1″ total) because i wanted to stay in keeping with the original design. this isn’t a fitted dress, and i wasn’t about to change that! the darts worked great, but i would also be interested in trying out princess seams in the back. i think it could be a nice design feature and allow for more controlled shaping. plus it’s another seam that could be topstitched. ya know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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the last thing i did was lengthen the dress by 1/2″. i was pretty happy with the unhemmed length of my muslin, and given that i’m 5’8″ (and especially long from waist to knee) i decided a tiny bit of length would be a good thing. it’s still pretty short, but i think it would start to look frumpy on me if lengthened any more.

this guy decided to join me

this guy decided to join me…

after mostly constructing the dress, it occurred to me that snaps would look really great instead of buttons. i sent out a little plea on IG about whether i should go with the berry color i had on hand or order some white snaps. IG overwhelmingly voted berry… being the contrarian i am, i went with white. i have a hunch that white will be my long-term preference, even if it meant another $10 and waiting three days. ultimately i want to be able to layer this dress with sweaters and tights, and white snaps would give me the most options.

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…and then offered to take my picture. not too bad for a 5-yr old

so yeah. i really, really, really love how this dress came out, and i can imagine several versions of it in my wardrobe. a silk ruffled version is definitely calling my name. wouldn’t that be heavenly to swish around in? hopefully that happens sooner rather than later!

—lisa g.

sleeveless archer in silk

it was only a matter of time before i made the ubiquitous grainline studio archer in a fabulous silk print. i prefer not to waste my precious fabrics on untested patterns, and since i’ve made the archer so. many. times. i felt no hesitation slicing into this beautiful yardage of silk crepe de chine. i love a good polka dot, but i ADORE an irregular polka dot. throw in the squiggly lines around those dots and i was a gonner. oh, and i got it for $10/yd at my local sewfisticated. their selection can be hit or miss, but it’s rare that i walk out of that place without at least one unique gem of a fabric at a stellar price.

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paired with my always in rotation moss skirt

i knew immediately that i wanted a sleeveless archer, having recently made one with good results (sadly, pilling beyond all rationality so it mostly stays home—sob!). since i was dealing with a floaty semi-sheer silk, i made sure to pick up some fine sewing thread (they carry it at joanns, chances are you just haven’t noticed). i recall from David Coffin’s Shirtmaking book that he suggests using a finer thread than your regular all purpose coats & clark.

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i have to say that it made a world of difference. in previous silk makes it was very difficult to sew without the seams puckering up, even if only slightly. the fine thread i used here did well gliding through the fabric without snagging or puckering. see, it’s not only necessary to use the proper needle, but the proper thread as well! it also made my topstitching look excellent, if i do say so myself. and ya’ll know how much i love my topstitching. ;-)

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speaking of topstitching, typically you want to increase the stitch length. however, in shirtmaking, especially with dressier shirts, you actually decrease the stitch length (2-2.5 setting on my machine). go pull out one of your hubby/significant other’s business shirts and you’ll see what i mean. a shorter stitch length and a finer sewing thread will give you a most professional finish.

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i messed around with the button position in order to add one extra button down the front. from the original pattern, i’ve lengthened the shirt by about 1″ and that always left a weird space at the bottom. my second button ends up a little higher than i’d really prefer, but eh, no biggie.

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i had to be extra careful about my seam trimming since you can see the seam allowances through the semi-sheer fabric. i took my time and kept them at about 1/4″. the yoke is fully encased, and the side seams are frenched. no exposed seam allowances means it looks nice and tidy on the inside. honestly, this is one of my best finished shirts and i’m quite proud of it.

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despite taking my time i was still able to sew it completely in about 3 sittings. without those pesky sleeves to deal with, it sews up pretty fast. also, silk crepe de chine is a good silk to work with. it has a nice grip which makes sewing pretty painless, really. the bias binding is a different story, but you could always sub a cotton voile for those bits. plus, silk blouses are just heaven to wear! i plan to get loads of use out of this top.

—lisa g.

oonapalooza to the max-i dress

a while back when my husband and i were in NYC for a day, i had every intention of hitting up several shops in the garment district. however, we ended up only going to mood fabrics. our time was short and i decided not to torture my husband by taking him into every shop on my list. it’s hard to believe how jam packed that place is until you’re standing there in person! once i got my bearings, i kept coming back to this amazing cotton jersey (this link is to a different colorway, there are several prints on this fabric but looks like they’re going fast). the colors are fantastic and the fabric is soft and beefy. this fabric gets my highest recommendation! it doesn’t have a ton of stretch, but it would be great for anything from tee shirts to dresses.

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initially i had planned to make a simple tank style maxi dress, but i kept having visions of something more dramatic with gathers and a crossover neckline… i pulled out Simplicity 2692, which i made once several years ago and decided it would be perfect. the pattern is for a woven, but my fabric is pretty stable and only required minor adjustments. i omitted the zip and cut the back in a V-shape. i thought it would look cool to cut the bodice on the bias to take advantage of the striping going on in the fabric print.

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the bodice and midriff is fully lined (sans gathers) and i cut my lining pieces on the regular grain line to keep the bodice from stretching out too much. i cut the midriff out of a solid cotton/lycra i had on hand, which just so happened to match my fabric perfectly. WINNING. i also really love the cut of the skirt in this pattern. the hem has a nice full sweep but it gathers only at CF and CB, avoiding unnecessary bulk.

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making this dress happened to coincide with the sewcialists oonaballona-themed july, and as i was finishing up the dress, i realized it was definitely oona-esque (i totally envy her spunk and technicolor wardrobe!). this dress is much louder than my usual makes, but for a summer dress it’s pretty much perfect. i would consider myself more of the wallflower variety, so it’s fun to step outside of my comfort zone. let’s face it—this dress does not blend in.

—lisa g.

cropped zippy top and linen skirt

hey ya’ll! i had every intention of blogging my backlog of projects before we went on our summer vacation, but alas. it wasn’t meant to be. probably because i was sewing like a madwoman up until the last day, as one does… MUST SEW ALL THE THINGS. i have several makes older than this combo, but i really like this particular outfit so i thought i’d start there.

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a few months back, i suddenly decided that i needed a navy linen skirt. and then couldn’t find any navy linen at my usual fabric haunts. then one day i ran into joanns for a zip/thread/pattern sale, and their linen was 50% off and they had the exact shade of navy i was looking for. this particular linen is blended with rayon, which gives it a nice soft hand. it also has a subtle woven pattern to it, which is a nice touch. having recently acquired the lonsdale dress pattern, i decided to use the skirt pieces and shorten them by 4″ or so.

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i top stitched every seam to add a little detail, and bar tacked at the top and bottom of the pocket openings. i wish the skirt had a little more flare, but overall i really like it and it fits in nicely with my wardrobe. i’m really itching to pair it with a nettie (preferably in a mint green…) definitely on my to do list!

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after making this skirt i made see kate sew’s zippy top. i really intended to alter my scout tee to have a kimono cap sleeve, but when Kate put up a sale on all her patterns a while back i decided to try it out.

initially i cut this top to full length. when i realized that it would be a perfect match to my navy skirt i tried them on together and just loved the look. i wasn’t super excited about tucking the shirt in, as this fabric—though lightweight and gauze-y—has some body to it that made tucking a little fussy and unflattering. then i flipped up the hem to a cropped length and had a definite “ah-ha” moment. suddenly the crop top trend made sense! it helped that Sonja at gingermakes had just that day posted a crop top/skirt combo of her own, which nudged me in that direction. the crop does considerably narrow my options of what i can pair with this top, but i’m okay with that. i was nervous of over-cropping, so i went with a length in the front that is 1″ lower than the crop line in the pattern, and 2″ lower in the back. i think this worked out great, and i love the subtle sweep of the back hem.

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i actually didn’t plan on putting in the back zip, but as it happened i had a red zip on hand that kinda looked cool with the blue floral, so in it went. my fabric is a smidge see-through, so instead of the facing i did a bias facing at the neckline, and used a scrap to cut out the zip opening in the back.

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i’m really pleased with this outfit. it’s great for summer, and the whole not tucking in my shirt thing is pretty awesome, especially on the extra hot sticky days. our summer vacation was spent in Texas visiting my husband’s side of the family where it is most definitely hot and sticky (though we lucked out on weather for most of the trip!). since we were spending a couple days in Austin, i reached out to Susan of moonthirty to see if she would be available for a little fabric shopping one afternoon. she rounded up her IRL friends, sewing buddies, and bloggers Dixie of dixie diy and Susan a.k.a “Miss Lulu” to join us. i had a great time visiting the local indie shops and getting to know these gals a little better. i think it’s awesome that they all hang out as part of a sewing group, and it has me itching to find some local sewists here at home! anyways, the point is that i wore this outfit for that little excursion, so you may have spied it on IG. haha how’s that for a smooth transition…

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thoughts on the zippy top:

it’s a nice simple pattern to have around, and i plan on hacking it to make a simple pull over dress at some point. the actual pdf file gave me a bit of a head scratching when the file didn’t have any margin lines. i thought that was just a random printer error on my end so i asked about it on IG. kate did offer to send me a new copy, but i had already gone with my gut and worked it out on my own. being a pattern with so few pieces (and easily verifiable finished measures) i’m not terribly bothered. also, i didn’t see a test square anywhere. i can’t always assume that 100% scale actually prints the right size. our current (new) printer has been pretty accurate, but with the older printer we had a few months ago, i usually had to print at 106% to get the right scale. so, i guess what i’m saying is, i like the insurance that i am, indeed, printing the right scale.

pdf issues aside, i found the drafting to be great. often on tops like this the front and back pieces are the same aside for the neckline. that’s not the case here, so i was pleased to see that. i found that it fit as expected, and next time i’ll do a SBA to remove some excess from the front, and maybe a FSA if i can be bothered. even though this is a very simple top, i’m okay letting someone else do the drafting work. it comes together super fast and would be easy to change up for color blocking, neckline changes, etc. i also find kimono sleeves ideal for layering with a cardigan—it’s far less fussy than trying to stuff a regular sleeve into a sweater.

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so that’s kind of a long post for two really simple garments, but i guess that’s just how i roll. ;-)

—lisa g.

 

mccalls 6833 | pattern review

our little excursion to NYC has come and gone already… what a whirlwind! capped by a long drive home, stuck in friday must get out of the city!!! east coast traffic. i had planned to give a mid-construction update on mccalls 6833, but the end of the school year busyness totally got in the way. anyways, here’s the deets!

(p.s. navy is really hard to photograph)

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after my initial muslin i took all the lady curves out of the bodice so it better resembled a rectangle, and ended up with a decent fit. my waist measurement puts me in a size 14-16 (whut??) while my bust is more like an 8. so i traced off a 10 bodice, but added 4″ all around to the waist. this pattern doesn’t seem to have as much ease as i’m used to in big 4 (could it be that they’ve heard our complaints?) so i paid close attention to the finished garment measurements. after a second muslin, i ended up going back and tracing off the upper bodice in a size 8 and doing another SBA, plus a forward shoulder adjustment and some lower armhole fiddling. i was reasonably confident that would work out so i was off to cut my fabric.

i did have to scrap some of my initial plans of making the bustier underneath the fuller coverage bodice. that was me high on ALL THE IDEAS!!! and low on the thinking it through part. no worries, i’m perfectly happy with what i ended up with. the only thing i changed from the pattern was to create a V shape in the back. the pattern has the back piece coming all the way up to the base of the neck, and that was feeling a little too covered up. plus, i’m all about the lower back necklines these days.

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i decided that even though this is a limited use dress, i would take the time to do some hand stitching. on the bodice, i hand-basted my underlining, catch stitched the bodice SA’s, etc. it was time well spent as i could work on the dress while thinking through how i wanted to construct certain things. i did leave my side and shoulder SA’s free in case i needed to make any adjustments once i was farther along. i ended up bringing up the shoulders a bit and taking in the waist by an inch, so thank goodness for that! nothing is worse than needing to rip out your hand stitching.

for the skirt, i cut the size 12 and adjusted the pleats to fit the bodice. i changed up the construction order by sewing the skirt front and back to the bodice separately so i could easier adjust the side seam. it’s pretty difficult to predict exactly how the bodice will sit before the weight of the skirt is there to pull it down.

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i fully lined the dress with rayon bemberg. that stuff is such a pain in the ass to cut and nearly impossible to keep on grain! it does tear from selvedge to selvedge, so i did that to true up the edges and then i taped it down to my table to give me the best chance of getting a good cut. unfortunately… i failed to triple check that my selvedges were completely lined up and had a little mishap with one of the skirt lining pieces. at that point there was no point in getting upset over it, so in a very zen fashion (a-typical of me, don’t be fooled) i cut a strip of lining, patched it on, and called it a day. the skirt lining now has a huge “scar” running down the back, but eh… that’s the charm of handmade, right?

i hand stitched the hem in place (did i mention i lengthened the skirt by 1″? cuz i did), and hemmed the lining with horsehair braid—a technique gertie had just posted about. i should mention that the lining is actually a separate pattern piece. it’s cut as a circle skirt, so if you aren’t keen on the pleats, you could use the lining for a different look. anyways, the pattern has you sew a wide length of gathered tulle part way up the lining to give the dress some oomph. i was short on time at this point and didn’t feel like messing with tulle, which is why i opted for the horsehair. i’m just so/so on the result. the horsehair is really too stiff for the bemberg and it flops awkwardly. if i have occasion to pull this dress out again, i may re-do this per the pattern directions.

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overall, i think this pattern is pretty great! there are a whole range of options for mixing and matching. however, getting a good fit for a small-busted gal like myself was more challenging that i had anticipated. the dart intake at the bust is in the ballpark of 2 1/2″, whereas i need closer to 1 1/2″. you almost have to drape it on yourself to figure out the shape for that piece… however that’s pretty hard to do on your body! i’ve since gone back and fiddled with the bust dart and upper bodice length because i’ve started working on the strap-y version with a gathered skirt for heather b’s #sewsundress sew-a-long! more on that later, since i have a few dresses planned…

as you can see above, i made a last minute clutch following a tutorial by skirt as top… who happened to post about it the day before the event i needed it for. it was super easy, and even though i’ve never made a zippered bag before, it only took about 45 minutes. win!

last thing, this pattern is rated EASY on the front. i whole-heartedly disagree. getting the front bodice pieces sewn accurately so everything lines up as it should was definitely challenging, and i can only imagine a newbie trying to work that out! and fitting… unless you tend to fit straight out of the envelope, it’s not for the faint of heart (or short on time).

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i have to say, it was fun to set aside the t-shirts and basics sewing to make this dress. and it actually does fill a hole in my wardrobe, since i didn’t have a special occasion dress prior to this! now let’s just hope a few more special occasions come up so i can wear it again. ;-)

—lisa g.

calli faye | wednesday dress

here is the calli faye wednesday dress made up as intended. since i was bummed about not having enough fabric to make this dress for my daughter’s birthday, i picked up more fabric right after finishing her blouse version. this is a cotton batik with a fine weave and soft hand. perfect for summer dresses!

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as i mentioned before, i was a little thrown by the sizing chart because it put my 50th percentile 10 yr old in a size 6. i ended up tracing the size 7 width, but extending the side seam all the way out to a size 10 length. then i used the bodice length of the size 8 to mark the waistband casing. i probably could have gone with the 8 in length as well, but i really like the modest hemline. in a sea of super short kid dress and skirt options, it’s kind of nice to have something a little more covered.

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plus it nicely balances the generous cutout on the back. i used the size 7 cutout, but i would probably reshape it a little smaller next time. it’s very open, and i’m not sure i’d send her to school in it. however it’s great for the casual summer dress it is. the only thing i altered other than sizing was to lower the neckline by 1″.

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sneaky appearance of oliver in a pair of unblogged pants…

this pattern has you partially line the dress. there aren’t separate pattern pieces for the skirt portion, so the liner is  just on the bodice and it very neatly finishes all the openings and creates the casing for the drawstring. since i had some metal eyelets on hand in exactly the right color (they came with my snap/eyelet tool) i used those instead of making buttonholes. the drawstring is simply self-bias tape made into spaghetti straps. then i attached the straps to a 10″ piece of 1/4″ elastic, which ends up at the back of the dress. that way the bow can be tied with a pretty drawstring, but the waist still stretches in the back. i hope that makes sense! basically, the middle third of the drawstring is elastic, while the ends are made from the bias tape.

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final thoughts:

i think this is a really nice pattern. i appreciate the simple shape to showcase great fabrics, plus it’s perfectly casual for everyday wear.  it is quick to sew up and, in this size, took less than two yards of a rather narrow fabric. the pdf itself felt a little clunky to put together. there was a lot of paper waste where a pattern piece just crossed over to a new page. part of this is because instead of tiling the entire pattern, certain pages are used for each pattern piece. i see this in a lot of the kid pdf patterns, and sometimes it works out great. it’s just that here (probably because i was using the larger end of the size spectrum) it felt like i wasted a several sheets of paper.

the armholes with the lining were a little tricky to navigate. i had to sew the arm opening, starting and stoping exactly where the side seam starts. then, i folded the armhole opening out of the way to sew the lining and outer side seams. i couldn’t do it in one continuous seam without major puckering under the arm, so i sewed the lining side seam, then stopped, repositioned, and sewed the shell side seam… not a big deal, but this could have been handled better in the directions. lastly, i may have mis-measured, but double check the opening placement for the drawstring before making holes. the spot i had marked would have been too low… again, that could have been my error!

all in all i’m pleased with how this came out. i’m happy i made the sizing choices i did (following the measurements, not RTW size) otherwise there would have been tons of excess fabric in the bodice. and naturally, her sisters are begging for their own. this pattern comes in 12mo-girls size 10 US, so it’s a great buy.

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all my monkeys bid you a happy summer!

—lisa g.