oh my darlin’… ranges!

guys, i’ve been dying to share this dress with you! i have for ages drooled over the darling range dresses you all have made, but i’m cheap and it’s hard for me to buy an expensive pattern and then still have to go buy fabric. i start adding up the costs in my head: pattern… fabric… lining… thread… buttons… then i go buy a simplicity pattern on the cheap and complain about how sucky it is. i really need to be convinced that a $20 pattern will get substantial use before i buy it. since i have so many different versions of this dress floating around in my head, i think it’s worth the expense.

that said, a while back julie over at fabric mart contacted me about doing a guest post on their blog—fabric mart fabricistas—if they sent me some fabric. sign me up! she pointed me toward some new rayon fabrics and the darling ranges instantly came to mind. it was a match made in heaven if i do say so myself.

so here she is… new favorite dress! head on over to the fabric mart blog to see my write up there, then come back and see how i made the bodice adjustments!

much discussed over here is how wonky i am proportioned. i’m 5’8″ which is certainly taller than average. in fact i have four sisters who are all 2-5″ shorter than me. however, most of my height is in my legs making it so that i’m rather petite on top. i have a high bust, spindly arms, and have always had trouble finding necklines that aren’t indecent and armholes that don’t gape wide open. side boob is just not a classy look for me. i’ve finally come to the conclusion that, more often than not, i need to do a petite adjustment above the bust, then re-add the length under the bust. if you happen to need a similar adjustment, it’s very easy to do. here’s how…

pick a point above the bust (about 1/3 the way up the armscye) and fold out the amount you need to shorten by all the way around (i took out 3/4″).

obviously this is a not-to-scale drawing

then, smooth out the armscye curve and you’re good to go!

once i pinned out the room and tried the bodice back on it just fit and felt right; the neckline hit in a good place, the darts were in the right place, the arm hole wasn’t gaping. success! a few tweaks here and there, okay a lot of tweaks… and i had a bodice i was happy with. i decided to leave this fitted but still everyday comfortable. i left off the back ties and added darts, and i lengthened the bodice to hit my high waist. mostly i’ll wear the dress belted so i left about 2″ of ease at the waist. i did add lining to the skirt portion; since the fabric has a white background i didn’t think i could get away without it on a sunny day.

i am loving how this dress came out and i have ideas for a few more… sleeveless, short sleeved, scoop-necked… i really need to get more megan nielson patterns!

—lisa g.

collar stay channel tutorial

one thing my husband likes on his dress shirts are channels for collar stays. it’s pretty easy to figure out by looking at a dress shirt that already has this feature, but here you go anyways!

[sorry for the following pictures to be of such poor quality. not enough sunlight, having a difficult to photograph fabric, and this ungodly orange table that i sew on are all on my list of excuses. actually, i really love the orange table. in fact i painted it that color long before i ever knew it might serve as a background for photographs.]

first cut two under collar pieces. if you don’t have enough fabric to cut the second one in one piece, just cut out two halves; you really only need the outer thirds of this piece. take one of your under collar pieces and mark a line from the collar point angling up the direction you want the channel. then mark 1/4″ on each side to give you a 1/2″ wide channel. fold down the corner of the collar that attaches to the stand. as you do all this, make sure you check where the seam allowances will fall so that you keep the entire channel opening free from the collar stand once it is all sewn together. once you are confident you have this all worked out, trim away all but 1/2″ of the folded under bit.

now you need to fill in the gap that you just folded over, so take the second under collar piece and position it under the first so that it fills in the gap. if you are not using an entire under collar and had to piece it, check the position against your pattern piece to make sure it all lines up correctly.

pin it all in place then edge stitch turning when you get to the stay channel. do this on both sides of the channel. you can trim away what you don’t need of the back layer so it only covers the channel, or you can leave the entire piece attached. if you do this, i would suggest trimming off the seam allowance to reduce bulk. depending on what you like to use for stabilizing the collar this under piece could take the place or add to whatever stabilization method you prefer. i didn’t trim much at this point, but later i did trim some bulk out of the point. just something to watch for. after all that is done proceed as normal to construct your collar.

i also wanted to show you what a difference it made in my collar construction by cutting the under collar smaller and stretching it as i sewed. the collar naturally curves and ultimately gives you a smoother line. had i trimmed as much width from the under collar as i was supposed to, the curve would be even more pronounced.

i was impressed anyways.

—lisa g.

rayon bias facing: the "no swearing necessary" method

okay, you asked so i’ll share…

if you’ve ever tried to use rayon bias tape for a facing, you’ll know how tricky it is. it shifts, it frays, it’s generally uncooperative. before my portrait blouse, i had done it twice: the first time was a bloody mess, the second time took for-ev-er! and still didn’t look that great. so i was searching my pile of scraps for a lightweight cotton or basically anything that would work as bias facing. nothing. okay, fine. [deep breath] i’ll use self fabric.

i didn’t take pics when i constructed the blouse, but i used scraps to show you my method.

leave the full 5/8″ seam allowance on the neckline of the blouse and stay stitch at 1/2″ (or just inside the SA) directionally from the shoulder down to center front, then shoulder to center back. make sure you overlap those last few stitches at CF and CB. stay stitching makes a world of difference, trust me!

cut your bias tape to 1 1/4″ in width, then serge one edge with 1/4″ wide serging. if you are living in a cave and don’t have a serger, take your bias tape and press one side in by 1/4″.

line up the edge of the blouse with the edge of the non-serged (or pressed) edge of bias tape and sew at 5/8″. don’t bother pinning the bias tape all the way around first, just go slow and keep adjusting the bias tape as you go around curves. don’t stretch the bias tape or you will end up with a puckered seam.

once it is attached, trim the seam allowances down to 1/4″.

press the seam flat first in order to shrink back any stretching that may have occurred and to eliminate any wavy-ness at the seam.

now lift the bias tape out flat and press the seam open from both sides. this will give you an good clean edge.

press in the serged edge of the bias tape using the serging as a guide, or re-press the 1/4″. seriously though, get a serger.

now turn the bias facing into place and press. pin as little as possible perpendicular to the bias tape. excessive pinning or pinning parallel to the bias tape can distort the seam and if you have adequately pressed along the way, you won’t need many pins.

finally, topstitch at a scant 1/4″. i find that if i move my needle to the left position i can get 1/4″ by lining up the right edge with the edge of the opening on my presser foot. i tried using my 1/4″ piecing foot as a guide, but it was just a smidge too wide.

now you have a perfectly bias-faced edge!

this may seem like a lot of little steps that take too long, but in reality it goes very fast. if you half-ass or skip any of the pressing steps, it will take much longer and not look as nice. true story.

—lisa g.