denim dress

a while back i got the idea in my head that i needed a denim dress. it seemed like a nice casual and potentially versatile garment to have in my wardrobe, so i picked up some denim at sewfisticated. these people always have a table of $2.99/yd denim remnants and i check out that table almost every time i visit. this one is probably around a 6.5 oz denim—lightweight, but still substantial.

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i planned to revisit mccalls 5927, which i made last year in plaid. my intent with making that dress was to fit a bodice i could go back to as a TNT. upon re-trying on that dress the multiple fit issues were very apparent—shoulder seam needed to move out, the back neck needs darts or re-shaping, etc. i had a pretty long list of changes i didn’t feel like dealing with. instead i went back to the hawthorn bodice, which i had fit recently, and fit well. i redrafted bits to eliminate the front button closure, added a back seam for a zipper, and replaced the v-neck with a scooped neckline.

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then i wanted to have some cap sleeves so it would easily fit under a cardigan or sweater. the sleeves proved quite an ordeal. i went back to the cap sleeve on the mccalls pattern and tried those, but they ended up a little too “strong shouldered” for my tastes. i mulled over it, then just fidgeted with them until i liked what i saw. so i cut off most of the cap with the pleating and just set it in with incidental gathers. obviously, it’s not perfect and there is either too much or too little ease in the cap, but it really doesn’t bother me. overall, the shape is very nice and i’m quite happy with it!

for the skirt, i pulled out NL 6776 (used perviously here and here) because it has a nice a-line shape and doesn’t take up a crap-ton of fabric. i pleated it to my heart’s content… which. took. forever. to get right. love pleats, but geeze they can be annoying. as you can see, i added a little swoop front pocket. inseam pockets are great, but i’m always annoyed about how the pocket bags flop about. i went back to the mccalls pattern as a guide and went from there.

since this is a denim dress, i took the opportunity to topstitch in white. i considered the more traditional gold, but i also like the look of white on denim. i even used white when stitching the zip down the back, and i did a pretty good job of keeping it straight! while i intended to wear a belt with this dress, the topstitching at the waist gives just enough definition that i don’t feel super inclined to bother with one.

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i had anticipated finding loads of things in my closet to layer with this dress, but came up pretty much empty-handed. that’s the problem with an at-waist dress: all my sweaters hit at my high hip, which looks terrible! then i grabbed this cardigan i made a year and a half ago (jalie 2919, unblogged but much loved! p.s. i nixed the ridiculous stitched pleats for gathers at the shoulder). it’s very very long, so i frequently just tie it around my waist. it works okay, but now i think i need a few papercut coppelia  wraps in my closet to pair with this dress for the colder months.

i hope you followed my merry adventures through all those patterns to get to this dress… i thought it was apropos to publish a real frankenpattern mash up on halloween, so happy halloween all!

—lisa g.

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fall jacket | simplicity 2534

i have a terrible backlog of projects, but i wanted to get this one on the blog because i’m super in love with how it came out! making my kids’ outerwear has accidentally become a thing around these parts, and my poor daughter anastasia has been wearing one of my a smidge too small for me zip hoodies in lieu of an actual jacket. while she loves wearing it (and i’m pretty sure i’ll never get it back), she needs a “real” jacket. i had a hard time deciding what kind of jacket to make her, but finally went with simplicity 2534.

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i’ve always liked this pattern. it has options: long or short, double or single breasted, mandarin or regular collar, etc—as much as i tend to eschew franchise branded stuff, those project runway patterns really are the best. i decided to go for a trench jacket type look so i picked up a dark purple cotton sateen and a fun animal print lining. after washing the sateen i was concerned that it would end up being too thin and drape-y, and almost changed patterns. but, i stuck with my original plan, and it seems to be just fine. to help increase the structure, i decided to double topstitch my seams. this definitely helped, and i love the look. but you know how i am… TOPSTITCH ALL THE THINGS.

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the pattern doesn’t include separate lining pieces so i used jen’s tutorial to make sure there would be enough ease in the back and at the armholes (a jacket is one of those garments where the lining is slightly larger than the shell). i didn’t draft a paper pattern for the lining, instead i just laid the shell pieces on top of my lining fabric and eyeballed the extra. not my typical modus operandi, but this is one of those cases where it’s okay.

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now for the nitty gritty

sizing: she actually measures around a size 6 in width, but an 8 in height. i considered cutting a 7 and adding length, but i really didn’t have time to fiddle with the pattern so i cut a straight size 8. it is a jacket, and there will be layers underneath, so there was no need to fit it closely.

pattern quirks: the lining. i totally get if they don’t bother with separate lining pieces, i paid $1 for this pattern so i have no reason to be picky. but, like i mentioned above, i went ahead and added the extra ease to the lining to make sure it would be comfortable.

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this jacket has a free-hanging lining. i knew the lining would have to be shorter than the shell pieces, but i couldn’t for the life of me find where the directions said by how much. i searched the directions, and finally i found it listed along with the cutting layout—it says to press the shell pattern pieces up 1″ when you cut the lining. now, i totally did not see that until i searched for it. i read the directions probably 10 times before i finally located the information, and i could easily see someone blowing by that little detail. and, if you’ve never made a jacket before, you may not know to look for it. if you missed that detail, when you go to attach the lining to the facing pieces you would run into trouble and have to go back, unpick your lining hem, and redo. so, just a little PSA if you’re making this jacket.

i added bar tacks at the pocket openings for extra sturdiness.

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aditions: i added a hanging loop because, well duh. i also added stays between the lining and shell (see two thirds of the way down this post for what i’m talking about). the jacket has inseam side pockets and i regret not adding inseam welt pockets at the front panel seaming. oh well…

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everything was easy breezy construction-wise and i managed to sew it up over two days. i did myself a huge favor and, before cutting my fabric, i trimmed down the SA on the pattern to 3/8″. folks. if you’ve never known the singular joy that is sewing with small SA’s, do yourself a favor and try it sometime. i knew i wouldn’t need to make size adjustments, so i was able to just plow through. serious time saver!

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quick note on the topstitching… there were a few places where i wasn’t sure about whether, or how i should go about topstitching, namely the front panel. i ended up topstitching that edge and going up to meet the topstitching at the collar. then i had no interest in hand stitching the hem, so i topstitched that as well, but not across the front because the lining would have been in the way and it didn’t seem right since that part didn’t need hemming. imo, the topstitching gives the jacket a great finish and adds structure to the light-ish weight fabric. all in all i am very pleased with this jacket, and natch she’s in love with it!

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now, off to work on some halloween sewing… the days are ticking by!

—lisa g.

colette patterns | zinnia

thanks for all the responses on my last post, it was interesting to hear the wide and varied opinions! after making this skirt, my own opinion is rather torn, but i’ll get to that in a bit.

first of all, i’m very pleased with how this skirt came out. it is just as i imagined and will be great for fall-wearing. the fabric is rayon and perfectly opaque enough to not require a lining. it’s ever so slightly heavier than some other rayons i’ve worked with and has a twill weave on the right side. that twill weave caused a nightmare for hemming! oy. didn’t think i would ever get that hem evened out! i let it hang for two days and it stretched anywhere from 1/2″ up to almost 2″. usually the growth will happen at least symmetrically, but… no. this one was cray cray. add to that the fact that the stitched pleats made it so i couldn’t fan the skirt out and just measure. i ended up putting it on my dress form, measuring from the waist and just hacking away until it looked even. it’s not perfect, but i’m not in the mood to keep futzing with it!

IMG_1707 so what are my final thoughts on this pattern? first the good:

i think the pleated version is nicely drafted. many people are concerned about full skirts and having excess fabric at the waist. to overcome this, the skirt pieces have an a-line shape, and pleats that fan out. this skirt has a 90″+ hem, so really it’s the best of both worlds: full skirt, sleek tummy.

i love the belt loops for being able to add a skinny belt, but they also blend in if i choose to go sans belt.

the waistband is a perfect width—not too skinny, not too fat. i chose not to interface the waistband, but instead underline it with muslin. i can’t seem to get good results fusing onto rayon, it always ends up puckering after a wash or two. underlining gives the waistband plenty of structure while not being stiff.

the sizing seems accurate. and since you only have one measurement, it really should be. that said, i finally got smart and went up a size from what i measured for. i have a fairly high waist, and prefer that my skirts sit an inch or two lower. so, i measured where i wanted the skirt to sit and cut my size accordingly. revolutionary, i know, but with as little ease as this is designed for, i didn’t want to fight with it every time i wore it. plus, being a fall skirt, i may have bulkier shirts to tuck in. plus, plus… i can cinch it in with a belt. i should have raised the pockets though, because now they sit pretty low. oops.

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alright, now the less-than-good:

the directions and construction methods on colette patterns continue to confound me. they call for so much hand stitching, basting and frankly, techniques that don’t provide professional clean results. on the pleats, you are supposed to baste them, press them, edgestitch them, then remove the basting. why? because my rayon was kinda funky to work with, i basted them by hand on the front piece (i was afraid that bringing the skirt to and from the machine so much might cause the waist to stretch out). there are 16 pleats altogether, so this is not for the faint of heart! on the back pieces i basted by machine, and everything was fine. however, removing the basting was quite a chore. and i can’t see a good reason for removing the basting, so i’ll definitely skip that next time. or just not stitch down the pleats at all. i think in a nice drapey fabric, stitching the pleats wouldn’t be super necessary if you are disinclined.

and then the waistband directions were a bit strange. you are instructed to sew the edges of the waistband before sewing the waistband to the skirt. however, it is so much easier to sew the waistband to the skirt first, then finish the ends. i opted to skip basting the inner waistband before topstitching, and just pinned and went for it, as is my custom.

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also, if you plan to make the belt loops, do yourself a favor and don’t use the pattern piece. it is way too small. i cut mine 1/4″ wider, and a couple inches longer. you sew the belt loop piece lengthwise, turn the tube right side out, then cut into six belt loops. i always find that the ends get a bit beat up in the tube turning process, and then you only have 1/8″ to turn under on each end of the belt loop when you sew it on. that, my friends, is just not enough. after struggling with the original piece for about 5 seconds, i recut a piece so i would have 1/4″ to turn under on each side and that was perfect. you’d think such a simple thing as belt loops they’d get right… weird.

lastly, i bought the .pdf version and there is something wrong in the printing. when scaled at 100% my test square was larger by more than 1/8″. i adjusted the scale until i got the test square right, but then the margins were off. the pattern indicates that the margin is  6″ x 10″ and when the test square was the right size, the margins were not. so… i guess i’m not sure which is faulty: the test square or the margins. i noticed that a few other people had issues with the skirt pieces being too small, so i wonder if the .pdf is faulty. my pieces matched up fine, so… this is kind of a question mark.

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i realize this is a lot to say over a skirt, so yippie if you made it to the end of the post! overall, i like the skirt and the pattern a lot. not thrilled about the construction techniques, but i tend to go my own way so this doesn’t make much difference to me, though it may to you, which is why i’m putting it out there. this is billed as a beginner pattern, and the gathered skirt i imagine would be beginner friendly. the pleated version… maybe not so much. with sixteen pleats to manage, a lot could go wrong.

okay, i’m done!

links: zinnia by colette patterns | chambray archer by grainline

—lisa g.