hey! i made a dress!

in case you haven’t noticed, i’ve been on a  kid-sewing, pant-sewing, shirt-sewing bender lately. i decided to take a small diversion and actually sew up a dress. for me. it’s been practically forever (almost five months!) since i made myself a new dress, so it’s about time!

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as ya’ll know, colette patterns released the hawthorn recently (and they have a little contest happening…) and i decided to have a go at it. now i’ve never been an over the top fan of the flat collar (i.e. no stand). peter pan collars… meh. not that i begrudge them, they just don’t flutter my heart like 99.999% of the sewing bloggers out there. but i really like the shape of this dress, and the squared off collar makes it unique and i dig it. however the notched neckline, for some reason i’m just not feeling. no doubt by now ya’ll are either making obscene gestures at your computer screens, shouting at me (i can’t hear you!), or abandoning my blog altogether. i know. basically i’m a horrible person for not loving these details. i don’t know what’s wrong with me!

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i kept the collar as drafted, though i did make attempts to draft a different collar with a stand. it could be done, but it was going to require much more work than i was willing to put in at the time. but that’s okay, i’m happy with it as is. i did straighten out the neckline though. i haven’t done a colette pattern for a while because they are drafting for a much different body type than my own, so i have to really be willing to put in some quality muslin time. basically i have to take their patterns and turn them into a rectangle because i have no shape from the waist up. wah-wah. so, serious SBA, forward shoulder adjustment, pinching out some room above the bust, taking in some width on the back, and on and on… i was expecting this, so that’s nothing against the pattern, it’s just what i have to do to wear their designs.

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the fabric i choose is a stretch linen. i underestimated the amount of stretch this fabric has, so even though i fit my muslin closer than i normally would, it’s still a little roomy. i could have taken in the sides a little more, but ultimately i’m okay with a dress that i can wear all day and not feel constrained in. the dart tips were a little problematic and wouldn’t press well (probably because of the lycra content) so i just have to live with that. i think i should have done a little more SBA-ing to compensate for the stretch factor and that would have helped them lay nicer. oh well, live and learn!

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my only beef with the pattern is all the shoulder seams piled on top of each other. the collar pieces at the shoulder as does the facing. so between the top and under collar layers, the bodice, and the facing, you end up with 8 layers sitting at the shoulder. if i make this pattern again (really wanting a fall plaid version!) i’ll have to reconfigure that somehow. also, the neckline and facing has only a 1/4″ SA. now, i’m all about varying SA’s, but with a thicker fabric, it’s impossible to grade those layers. it may require more stitching to keep everything in place, but that’s just something to watch out for.

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i did a little extra topstitching around the button area for stability and to keep the facing in place, and at the waist. i serged all my insides and finished the armholes and hem with pink bias tape, and even though i’ve been sewing all my buttons on by machine lately, it just felt right to actually attach these by hand. it’s easier to properly shank them that way.

IMG_1088by the way, a bias tape finish on the hem is the easiest way to handle a rounded hem. instead of needing to ease the extra fabric in, the bias tape accommodates all that for you! you could hand stitch it in place or, since there was topstitching all over the dress, machine stitch as i did.

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overall i’m super happy with how my dress came out! the fitting was fairly easy, but that’s just because i’m more in-tune with the alterations i require. it’s pretty satisfying to be able to take a pattern drafted for a shape so unlike my own and still be able to make it work for me. [pats self on back]

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so what about you… have you gone for the hawthorn?

—lisa g.

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shorts and wrap top | mccalls 6689

a while ago i placed and received an order from fashionfabricsclub.com and had ordered a smokey black with white polka dot cotton lawn. pretty sure i would classify it as a stretch poplin. not sure who is categorizing their inventory, but i think a lesson in fabric identification is in order. after getting it i wasn’t sure what to do with it. i only had a narrow yard, so it was destined to be a kid something. i did know that some khaki twill i had ordered was going to be shorts for my oldest daughter. i had mccalls 6689 on hand which includes a super cute wrap top/dress, a pair of slim pants, and a mini skirt. that, my friends, is a lot of pattern for one pattern envelope.

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clearly the top/dress is the star of the show here, and the mini might be okay, but the pants are most definitely a throwaway pattern. the drafting is beyond terrible—there’s no way anyone tested it! so let’s talk about the pants first. i decided it would be cute to make the pants as slim knee-length shorts. she measured exactly the waist/hip for a size 7 so i went with it. these have an at-waist waistband, so i chopped off 1″ all the way around the top and adjusted the waistband to match.

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i made them up and holy smokes are they poorly drafted! the front rise is way too long, and the back is way too short. a simple moving of the crotch seam forward would solve all this, and had anyone actually made them, this would be so very obvious. a size 6 would have been a much better fit, but it just doesn’t feel right sewing up a size 6 for a nine year old. i know we all love to hate on the big 4—and this is why. yeah, i’ll probably re-draft and adjust the pattern because i really like the idea of this pant, but jeez louise. test your flippin’ patterns. don’t just throw them out there thinking no one will actually try to make it!

somehow, all the fit issues aren’t readily obvious in these pics, and as it stands, she loves the shorts and sees nothing wrong with them. they will be worn (and have been worn many times already) but they could be so much better. final verdict: unless you plan on doing a muslin for those pants and know how to make crotch adjustments, STAY AWAY. just walk away. that pattern sucks.

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on to the top… when i went to cut out the shorts it dawned on me that the cotton lawn stretch poplin would be a perfect match for the cute wrap top. of course after the debacle with the pants, i was hesitant to attempt the top. but, like i said before, clearly the pants were a throwaway pattern never intended to be made up, so i decided to give it a try. p.s. this top has a billion pieces! i had just enough fabric to squeeze it out of the one yard i had. i strayed from the pattern’s directions quite a bit though. it has the top fully lined (bodice, peplum/skirt, and sleeves!), and honestly i think that is just a lazy way out of  writing alternate directions for finishing a non-eyelet fabric. so instead of the lining, i used bias tape to finish the wrap edge and around the neck, and used the inside waistband piece to neatly finish the bodice and skirt seams.

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while the pants were quite large, the same size top is a great fit. maybe too good, i probably could have made the size 8, never minding that the last time i made her a size 8 of something it was practically falling off of her…. you never can tell how crazy the fit is going to be on kid patterns!

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anyways, this top is super duper cute! and the girl loves the whole outfit. i may even do the dress version at some point because who doesn’t love a little DVF-inspired wrap?

—lisa g.

perfect corners on waistbands? yes you can!

for a long time i struggled with getting my waistband corners to turn out well. it seemed that nothing i tried would produce anything even close to a neatly squared off corner. i tried everything—trimming, pressing, taking a diagonal stitch, jabbing with anything sharp i could get my hands on… but finally, finally i came upon a fool-proof technique. no, really. you’re skeptical, and i understand, but trust me: this one actually works.

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begin by sewing your waistband and waistband facing together at the top edge. sew all the way across, then press, grade, and under stitch all the way across.

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attach the waistband to your pants/skirt. give it a good press, and double check that your fronts line up nicely at the waistband seam. if all looks good, grade the SA.

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now we’ll sew up the short sides of the waistband. from the front, fold the waistband facing over the waistband (RST), making sure you grab the whole upper seam allowance. it has been under stitched, so just make sure everything is nicely lined up.

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stitch up the short side, making sure that your stitching hits right next to the pant/skirt opening without catching it in your stitching.

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trim the SA down to 3/8″—no smaller. no smaller you hear? the only bulk i remove is that little snip you see there.

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get ready, here’s the cool part: fold the SA back and pinch it with your fingers right at at the corner. while pinching, pull the waistband right side out. then kind of take the seam and rub it in between your fingers to work that seam out.

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if it doesn’t quite lay square yet, take your point turner and don’t just start poking willy nilly!!! place it between the layers of fabric to finish squaring out the corner.IMG_0909

here’s the finished corner before pressing. the whole key to this working is allowing the layers to be neatly folded up inside. keeping the SA’s strengthens the corner and encourages it to keep it’s shape. when you trim close to the corner as we’re all told, you weaken the seam and lose all that interior structure. then when you jab and jab to get that point out, you stretch out the fabric and just end up with a wad of fabric jammed into the corner. it will never lay nice and square that way.

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you can even see the folding action from the outside. go grab one of your RTW pants and you’ll see the same thing.

moral of the story: fold, don’t jam. and finally enjoy those perfect corners you’ve always dreamed of.

—lisa g.

the scout tee

after making my anthro-inspired scoop top (which i love and wear all the time) i knew i needed to make a woven version. aaaaand since the scout has been calling my name for quite some time, it was time i heeded it’s siren call. i made a size 4/6 with a 1/4″ forward shoulder adjustment on the sleeve. for that, i took my sleeve piece and removed 1/4″ from the front seam (the part under your arm) and added that 1/4″ to the back seam. this rotates the sleeve head forward, placing the fullness in line with the point of my shoulder. i didn’t mess with the shoulder seam because it is already more forward than typical, though i can see that the seam isn’t exactly parallel with that imaginary line from the base of my neck to the point of my shoulder. the fit seems fine so i probably won’t bother messing with it. i would like to take out some room in the bust area, but since there are no darts to fiddle with, i’m not really sure how… thoughts anyone?

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get used to seeing these shorts a lot. i wasn’t kidding when i said they match everything in my closet!

i decided to give this top the swoopy back feature. if you look at jen’s post on it, i simply kept that top part as a yoke, and added the swoop and a little room at CB to pleat where it joins the yoke. this top is super comfortable and i completely get why everyone is head over heels for this pattern! it’s just… perfect. i want a whole closet full of them now. oh, and i frenched every single seam, so points for neatness and not having to change thread on my serger… ahem.

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let’s talk about my fabric choices for a minute. i finished this top a week ago but was a bit mad at it as i came into the home stretch. i loved these fabric prints together—the polka dot keeps the granny floral from looking too… granny. but when i ordered them, they were billed as 100% cotton. and i assumed this was the case, but by the end i finally realized that the floral print no way no how could possibly be 100% cotton.

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now, i’m not a poly snob. we hang out on occasion. but i don’t like her sneaking into the party when i’m expecting someone else! my concern is how the two fabrics will wash and wear together. cottons tend to fade and perhaps shrink (i’ve pre-washed) while polys don’t do any of that. over time, i suspect the two fabrics won’t look so grand together, but what can ya do. the good news is, i have quite a bit of each of these fabrics left over. i really love the floral print, so hopefully it will show up in a skirt at some point; and the polka dot… well i may or may not have already cut out an archer from, the sewing of which will have to wait because i have other projects to get to, and it’s like a billion degrees outside. so. hot. i’ve completely lost my midwest heat-enduring toughness.

someone hand me an iced coffee…

—lisa g.

how to sew a pant fly like a pro

this post is all about de-mystifiying a zippered fly front. if you examine a RTW fly, it’s not inherently obvious how it is constructed. while there are numerous fly tutorials out there (this is the one  most frequently referenced) i feel they are lacking in one way or another. hopefully this post will be enlightening!

a few thoughts first…

this tutorial will be most helpful for anyone sewing the sewaholic thurlow, because it already has all the extra pieces included. i will show in another post how to draft these pieces if they aren’t included in your pattern.

unfortunately, the fabric i am using here is extremely difficult to photograph. many of the pictures are clear, but a good handful are slightly fuzzy. also, my top stitching thread is dark and doesn’t show up that great. when i do another project with a fly (and i have at least two more in my que) i’ll update the pictures.

lastly, my fly facing is narrower than it should be, i won’t bother you with why. again, when i do another fly i’ll update this post.

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first, get a feel for what you are going to do. grab a pair of pants and look at the zipper. basically, the fly is nothing more than a lapped zipper. one side of the zipper tape is sewn to the underlap, and the other is sewn to the overlap. the overlap is topstitched through the facing securing it to the front. the fly shield is back there as a layer of protection from the zipper. that’s not so complicated, right?

now that we’ve made peace with the fly, let’s get to work. for this tutorial, i will be referring to left and right sides as the “overlap” and “underlap” sides. most patterns are drafted so that you zip with the left hand, even though all the RTW i own zips from the right. i suppose it doesn’t really matter, but i can assure you it would bug me tremendously to have the fly zip from the left! moving on…

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the over and underlap sides are different only in that the underlap has an extra 1/4″ or so along the edge. this will be where the zipper attaches, and the reason it’s there is to ensure that the zipper is fully lapped by the overlap and not exposed in any way.

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note that most patterns will have two markings for the fly. the upper one is where the zipper stop goes, and the other is about 1/2″ lower and marks where the CF stitching ends. i find that too many markings tend to become confusing or get lost, so i only mark where the zipper stop goes, either with chalk or a little snip in the SA. this marking goes on the underlap, the fly facing and the fly shield. they’re all the same distance from the top. also, at the waist, mark where CF is on the underlap side.

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finish the edges however you prefer, zig zag or serge. i highly recommend doing this now because as construction proceeds, it will be difficult to get back in there to finish those edges. also, i recommend reducing the front crotch curve SA to 3/8″. i left it at 5/8″ for this tutorial, but 3/8″ is definitely better.

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grab your fly facing and sew it to the overlap, stopping at the mark. grade, press and under stitch, then turn in and press again.

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now take the other front side and sew them together at the front crotch curve, stopping 1/2″ below the mark (where my pin is pointing). you will need to make sure you keep the facing out of the way.

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clip the underlap SA so the crotch curve SA can lay to the overlap side, and press.

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if you are making a dress pant, you can leave it as is. if you are making a more casual pant, clip the crotch curve then top stitch from the waist all the way down along the edge of the overlap. a more casual pant typically sits closer to the wearer, so top stitching the SA flat along the curve will make it more comfortable.

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fold the overlap side down and out of the way and line the zipper face down on the front edge of the underlap. the zipper stop should be lined up with the marking.

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with the zipper foot, sew close to the zipper teeth all the way down the tape.

now take the fly shield (which should be folded in half and one edge finished with a zig zag or serger) and baste it on top of the zipper, sandwiching the zip between the front and the shield. sorry, didn’t get a pic! grr….

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now turn it all to the inside and topstitch along the edge of the zipper, stopping at the zipper stop.

at this point, you should be able to tell if everything is positioned correctly, your zipper is going the right direction, etc.

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pin the fly shield back and out of the way.

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turn your work over, and from the front, line up the edge of the fly facing with the center marking on the underlap side.

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hold that in place with one hand, then flip up the front and pin through the fly facing and the edge of the zipper tape.

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staying free of the front, sew two rows of stitching on the zipper tape to secure it to the facing.

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looking at the front, mark 1″ or 1 1/4″ away from the CF curving down 1/2″ below the zipper stop—this should be in line with where you began sewing the front crotch curve. once you are happy with your markings, pin through the pant front and the fly facing, and topstitch (the fly shield is still pinned out of the way). once you get to the curved part of your topstitching, put your needle down, raise your presser foot, reach under and flip up the bottom edge of the fly shield so you don’t catch it in the top stitching, then continue topstitching to CF.

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unpin the fly shield and, through all layers, bar tack where your topstitching meets CF (which is the bottom of the fly opening), as well as somewhere along the upper part of the curve. if you are sewing a dress pant, make the second bar tack only on the inside, tacking the fly shield to the fly facing. again, referring to any RTW pants you have will help you determine the position.

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you will have to pull out the zipper teeth that are in the SA and move the zipper stops down (here’s a diy link). then all you have left to do is pat yourself on the back and admire what a great lookin’ fly you have!

—lisa g.

mama’s first re-fashion (and more shorts)

refashioning is not something i’ve gotten into. there are lovely peeps out there who do it almost exclusively—and i think they are amazing!—but i just haven’t gone there myself. however, in an effort to use some of my old clothes that i no longer wear but just can’t give away, i decided to give it a try. and ya know… it wasn’t half bad!

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i’ve had this button up shirt since college, and i loved it and wore it a lot. nowadays the fit bothered me: sleeves too wide, main body too wide, shirt too short… hasn’t been worn in years. so i cut it up, made it small and gave it to anastasia. she’s very much not a girly girl so it was a risk giving her a ruffled collar, but it’s small and subtle enough that she’s okay with it.

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i had plenty of fabric to work with, so i cut the collar stand on the bias to break up the plaid a bit. for the ruffle, i went with a scant 2:1 ratio and used my serger to finish the upper edge. even though i had plenty of fabric, i made the inner collar stand out of a contrast fabric that just happened to go well with the plaid. i really like this feature on shirts, though i’ve never used it for myself. that may change.

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and hey, check out those cute shorts! i used mccalls 6391 again with all the same pattern mods as before. the fabric is a lightweight denim (6-6.5 oz) that was leftover from an older project. actually, this is the second thing i’ve made with the leftovers now that i think of it… i wanted to keep a trouser look so i used black topstitching thread, but to keep it casual i simply hemmed the legs and rolled them up twice, strategically tacking the side seams so they stay put. as you can see, in a size 7 they’re quite roomy. however i expect that she’ll get two summers out of these—our summers are fairly short so that’s a good thing. i also put an adjustable waist on the inside so she wouldn’t have to bother with a belt.

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as i constructed the shorts i took many pictures of my fly construction method, but writing up a good tutorial is very time consuming. i should have it up in a day or two (or four…) so watch this space!

—lisa g.

tiny pocket tank

given my infatuation with all things grainline studio, i thought it was time i corrected the wrong of not yet having made a tiny pocket tank (or scout tee, for that matter… will get to that soon also!). i have a handful of cotton voile sorbettos and while that is a nice little free pattern, it took a bit of hacking to get the shape and length i needed. so i decided to try the TPT. i like the swingy silhouette, and a woven tank feels like the grown up version of the knit old navy tanks i used to live in during the summers. thankfully, they don’t much make it past pj tops anymore because they’re worn to bits… i recently ordered a whole load of fabrics from fashionfabricsclub.com when they had one of their massive sales so i picked out this solid emerald green cotton voile (love this color!) and sewed it up yesterday. after all the kid sewing (and several makes i haven’t yet blogged…) i needed a quick something for myself.

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[long side note: i took a nasty fall on my morning run two weeks ago. don’t know how, but i managed to tear up the heel of my right hand, bruise and scrape up my right knee, my left shoulder, elbow and left side of my face, and my husband is pretty sure i had a mild concussion… i was able to finish the last mile and a half of my run despite the spotty vision, which i now recognize was a rather stupid thing to do. i totally didn’t realize how much damage i had done! while i’ve mostly healed up, i’ve started to wonder if i didn’t fracture my cheekbone or tear some muscle. it still hurts a little to the touch and my smile looks so weird now! my cheek is sore just from smiling for these pics. ugh! i’m sure nobody would notice but me, but there you have it. if i look funny, that’s why.]

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overall this top is a win, and definitely wearable. there are a few things i need to modify to get a better fit though. first off, the dart placement is too low. i have a high bust so that dart needs to head north at least 1/2″. also, i think i need to lessen the dart intake by about 1/2″ for a SBA. i think this would be less noticeable if the dart were positioned correctly for my body, but it’s pretty clear that my dart is only partially filled. oh yeah, and i need a good inch added to the neckline. i’ll probably have to layer this with a cami, because as is there’s too much wardrobe malfunction potential.

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the dart on this top seems different than most. it hinges the top part instead of the bottom (or some combination of the two), so the side seam above the dart ends up on the bias. sure, a bust dart is a bust dart, but if you need to alter the dart it’s important to know how the pattern works. i’ve seen a few reviews mention tightness above the bust and under the arm and i think how the dart hinges and/or the dart position, is behind all that.

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hopefully i’ll make a few more TPT’s so i can verify my pattern changes, because it’s a great pattern to have in the arsenal!

—lisa g.