What I did and didn't wear this year


First off let me apologize for disappearing right in the middle of the Christmas dress series.  The germs found me and I had to let go of all my grand December blogging plans. Life does like to mess up your plans, doesn't it? The good news is that the Christmas dress did get finished on time and I promise to continue the series in January.

Today I wanted to do a year in round up of sorts. My original plan was to do Gillian's top 5 lists, but with all the germs and visiting relatives the time got away from me.  Instead I'm going to do a variation on that theme and give you some lists of my own. So grab some refreshments and find out what I really wore this year,

Patterns/Garments I was excited about and then never wore.
1. By Hand London - Flora Dress
I looooved sewing this dress. I love the fabric and looking at photos I still think it's a flattering garment. However it was never worn during the summer.  Last week I put it on to wear with tights and sweater and immediately took to back off again. The problem is the skirt length. Above the knee just isn't for me. I like plenty of length for bending over and to have my knees covered.

I had high hopes for this hack and instead sewed up a dress that didn't appeal to me at all. Oops. I'm starting to think that while I love piping details on other people, it might be something that doesn't work on me.

I have no idea why this dress never got worn.  "Maybe" the full skirt seemed less flattering than my other wardrobe choices?  Who knows! There were other garments that didn't get worn, but most of them I would chalk up to my changing taste in clothing.

Patterns/Garments I thought weren't my style but then got worn to death
If you had told me last year that I'd happy wear a bodysuit in 2014 I would have laughed in your face. Full out cackling with maybe some pointing in your general direction.  "HAA HAA HAA! You don't know me at all." Well the joke is on me because Nettie turned out to be one of my TNT's for the year. I'm wearing one right now while typing this blog post. It turns out that if a body suit doesn't give you a constant wedgie, like the ones in the 80's did, then they are really comfortable to wear.  I also found them to coordinate well with all the skirts in my closet. 

I've never been a big fan of skirts with gathers at the waist, because more bulk in the area always seemed unflattering.  However when I won a copy of the Emery pattern from Jennifer there was no reason not to try it out.  On Emery the amount of fabric that gets gathered at the waist is significantly less than vintage patterns. For me this worked out great and I found myself wearing these skirts often during the summer.

As I stated back in the original review, maxi dresses aren't my thing and I only bought this pattern long after the fact for the bodice. Then I went and made this pattern out of one of my "precious" Etsy purchases and fell in the love with it.  The dress is a "having a good hair day" sort of garment since it screams for attention. HELLOOO, I'm red and dramatic!   However I did wear it many times during the summer and was sad to pack it away when the cold temps set in.  (Side note - the origin story for the Tiki Goddess was probably the most fun I had writing this year.)

Patterns/Garments that I knew were gonna be awesome and were. ;)
Pencil skirts and I go together like peas and carrots.  I love both the silhouette and find then comfortable to wear when made up in stretch wovens.  So it's no surprise that the Betsy pencil skirt is my other big TNT of the year.  At this time I've made 5 of them and still have plans for more. This denim version with the pleated kick pleat is my favorite out of the bunch.

I fell in love with this pattern at first sight and knew exactly what fabric to use. Lucky for me the finished dress turned out just how I'd imagined.  It's pretty, comfortable and rates as one of my top makes for the year. I put it away for the summer, but missed it so much that it go dug back out and wore it with sweaters and tights. Never leave me again Lea dress. 

How could it not be in the year in wrap up? It is the dress to end all dresses! OK, I'm a little biased since the fabric will always be amazing and because the dress did win me some Dolly Clackett swag. Thanks Roisin!
This dress was one of those projects where the fabric tells you what to do and you just follow instructions. At the end of it you've had some fun but are some what amazed that you had anything to do with the dress. "Did I just make this....Sweet!"
I don't wear this dress as much as the other things in my list.  It's on the fancy side and the I don't have lower shoes that match as well as the 4" grape heels. (I love me a pretty shoe, but I'm not grocery shopping in 4" heels)  Despite that this dress will always be a favorite because it was made for a great reason, the Dolly Clackett sew-a-long to celebrate Roisin's wedding. 

Hope you enjoyed my little year end wrap up. Personally I like to find out what things really get worn after the initial, "I made this!!" feeling wears off. It's also a good reminder for me that trying patterns that that I initially wrote off sometimes yields great results.

In closing I still feel very blessed to have met so many like minded people through sewing and blogging. If if wasn't for this blog and social media I wouldn't have anyone to discuss patterns, fabric hoarding, fitting and the like. Thank you for reading and commenting through out the year. I hope that all of you a happy and productive 2015. 

Operation Xmas Dress Part 2 - Grading


When last we "talked" I'd stumbled across the perfect vintage pattern for my Xmas dress only to find it was several sizes too small. It's times like these that I wish that my genetic stock was a little more "willowy" than "sturdy."  But what are you gonna do, not eat cake? Perish the thought!

Anyway the obvious solution was to grade the pattern, but I balked at this at first.  To be honest grading is one of those things that I don't really understand  Once you get beyond, "increasing the size of the pattern by increments" my brain just zones out thinking about when it can eat cookies. Cookies are much more interesting than mathematical problems.  This is why I have to bribe my brain with cookies to do mathematical problems.  

In the end I decided to buy the pattern and give grading a shot for two reasons.  The first was that I'd done a 4" grade on the Brasilia dress and that turned out fine.  Secondly McCall's 9572 is a fairly simple garment and there weren't more than 4 pieces to worry about. Surely even a grading nob can manage 4 pieces. At least that's what I told myself while pressing purchase.

So hopes were running high when my pattern arrived and I gleefully traced out the bodice pieces. It was then that it struck me, A - the bodice is on the bias and B - now which way do I grade this? There was also the added question of what to do with the kimono sleeve.  How much grading did it need and were would one put that grading? I decided to just grade the bust and waist area and hope that kimono sleeve was wide enough without changes.
After staring at the pattern piece a bit, I decided to put the grading parallel to the CF. Spoiler - This Was Incorrect.  But hey I do stupid things so you can learn from my mistakes. Yeah that's it. 
Here's my pattern piece with the grading lines running through the neckline. You'll see why this was a bad idea in a minute.  But first let's talk about a 4" grade for those that may know nothing about this.  

OK, so my pattern needs 4" of width added to it. I want to take the total amount of extra ease needed and divide it by 4, because each pattern piece is a quarter of the total width of the garment. Luckily for me this is elementary math and even my brain can spit out "add one 1 inch to pattern" without strain.   To add the inch to the pattern, 3 lines are drawn on as cutting guide lines. The pattern is cut apart on these line and then taped back together with the extra ease added between them. The inch is broken down to 3/8" added to the outer line, 1/2" to the middle line and 3/8" to the other outer line. This process is repeated on the back and in the end you have 4 extra inches added to the pattern.  And that my friends is minimum explanation of a 4" grade.

Now I have blurry muslin pics. Hooray? Here's muslin #1 with a petticoat underneath.
OK, so the reason you don't want to add an inch to your neckline is that you get a gappy neckline. No shit, Sherlock.  But as you can see this didn't occur to me until after I'd gone and done it.  Other fitting issues I noticed were that the skirt is too long for my 5' 6" height, the bust dart is in the wrong place and the cuff area of the kimono sleeve is too tight.  On the plus side the waist area fit perfectly and I could see the torso length was almost right.  

With all that information it was time to go back to the drawing board and regrade my bodice. This time I put the grading lines parallel with the grain line.  On the back I had to skew them off grain slightly to get 3 to fit into the waist area.
I also dropped the bust dart 1.5" and added just a bit more width down at the cuff of the kimono sleeve.

With those changes I decided to sew muslin #2 to make sure my grading change was successful. Here's the pictures of that version.
A non gappy neckline is a plus and my waist area is still fitting nicely.  Of course the dress still needs my personal fitting tweaks to look really good and we'll talk about those in part 3. Ooooohhhhh, more muslin photos just waiting in the wings. I bet you can hardly wait.

Operation Xmas Dress, Part 1 - The Pattern


Last December I wanted to make a Christmas dress.  There was no exact pattern in mind, just hazy thoughts of something with a V neck, sleeves and a full skirt.  Oh and it had to be green, soft forest green.  Crazy right? You'd think little miss "red is a neutral" would be all over a bright red dress. Seems my subconscious wanted something a little different.

The dress didn't happen last year because the whole house got some sort of horrible chest cold right at the beginning of December. Merry Christmas! Hope you didn't need that lung. I spent most of December in a zombie state of sickness until finally going to the doctor to beg antibiotics.  (Side Note - Middle aged male doctors who act like you're being dramatic about a "slight chest cold" can suck it.) Annnnyway, once the drugs kicked in there was only time to whip together a quick knit dress for the 25th. Any disappointment I might have felt was negated by finally being able to lay down horizontally without going into a 10 minute coughing spasm. Thank you modern medicine.

I thought the green Christmas dress was one of those passing sewing fancies that would dissipate after the hard deadline had passed. Don't know about you, but that sort of thing happens all the time around here. Must be some weird deadline induced creatively left over from college.  However the green Christmas dress did not go away. It danced around my brain on a regular basis, a riddle that had to be solved.  The basic bones of what I wanted in the garment were still the same, V neck, sleeves, full skirt.  But nailing down an actual pattern continued to be difficult. Several options and hacks were considered, but they all felt wrong. In fact I had that annoying sensation that I'd "know the pattern when I saw it." That's great intuition, but where the heck is a girl supposed to look after tossing the stash and surfing the web?   Then late November I was browsing vintage patterns on Etsy and I SAW IT!
Christmas dress pattern also showed up a day early. Gonna have to grade that sucker up. #OperationXmasDress
BAM - McCall's 9572. V-neck? Check.  Sleeve? Check. Full Skirt? Check.  Add simple looking to sew, but still elegant. Check, check, CHECK! I was also lucky this pattern wasn't one of those wildly popular vintage designs and thus had the very affordable price tag 15 bucks. Heck I buy new patterns more expensive then that. So everything was coming up Heather except for one slight snag, the pattern wasn't my size.

Yes my sewing friends, this particular pattern was a size 14.  My vintage size hovers in the 18-20 range, depending on the manufacturer. The body measurements for the dress are  Bust - 32, Waist 26.5, Hip - 35, a full 4 inches smaller than any of my measurements. A quick search of the pattern number showed that this was the largest size available for purchase. If I was going to make this dress than I was gonna have to grade it up. So I bought the pattern and graded it up, but that is a story for another day.

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