Mar 25, 2012

Bust Rotation for New and Improved Burdastyle Cap Sleeve Dress

I'm not afraid to admit this dress has issues. I was pretty happy to use the remaining lining from my Minoru jacket in this blue dress here, made with Burdastyle's Cap Sleeve Dress With Gathered Skirt pattern. But unless I stand with perfect posture, shoulders drawn back, lungs fully inflated, it's a little loose around the neckline. 
To be perfectly honest, it gapes:

This is the family friendly photo. In case you can't tell, I can see clear to my naval down the front of Burdastyle's Cap Sleeve Dress With Gathered Skirt
But I like this look, and wanted to try it again. So to figure out how to adjust the bodice pattern to better fit my chest, I began pinching and pinning the fabric until I found a dart on the neckline about 2 inches from center front took up enough ease to make it fit better through the bust.

But, of course, a dart placed like that would look odd. Luckily there's a super easy way to transfer that excess to the existing dart. 

To make that change on the paper pattern, I first marked the point on the neckline where I wanted to take out the excess. I measured 2 1/4 inches from center front and marked a point. Then I used my ruler to mark a straight line from that point to the apex of the dart (that's my red line):

The next step is to cut along the inside dart leg, up to the apex. Then fold the neckline excess (I had about 1/2-inch to take out) and tape it down. That will take the excess out of the bust and transfer it into the dart, which becomes wider as a result:

Then all you need to do is reshape your neckline and waistline slightly using a French curve, and re-trace the whole bodice pattern piece onto a new piece of paper, making sure to transfer all your markings.

I should note that having a single bust dart that is TOO BIG can result in torpedo boobs. If you find that you're increasing your dart by a lot, you should consider adding a second dart, which could open into the armhole. My alteration resulted in a slightly pointed bust, but I still really like the results.

I sewed my second version of this dress using a remnant of printed cotton I got at Metro Textile for $5, plus some orange denim (leftover from my Minoru jacket) for the waistband, and really lovely black cotton for the kurt (leftover from my sailor shorts I made last summer). That's some serious stash-busting. The skirt is an A-line pattern I drafted myself. As I was sewing, I thought the black and white print with the bright orange was a little Mondo-ish. (I was totally Team Mondo.)

I centered my print perfectly this time:

Of course, Mondo would have added another color. Or another print. Or both. I was only bold enough to add this orange waistband. 

But I'm happy with it. See how happy? Even my hair was happy.

Does this dress remind you of something? Is it a little '80s Lady Footlocker? I can't quite put my finger on it.

There you have it. Burdastyle's Dress with Gathered Skirt A-Line Skirt With Cap Sleeves adjusted to fit the concave chest of a weakling petite-busted pear-shaped lady. No more gape, and if I need to check the status of my belly button, I guess I'll have to pull up my skirt like every one else.

Mar 24, 2012

 You know I love Cowichan sweaters. And I love the CBC (and its logo). So who is the genius that combined both of these Canadian icons into one great package? Granted clothing, a Vancouver-based company, which makes all sorts of awesome chunky knit sweaters with intarsia-knit pictures (their website stresses these sweaters are not "Cowichan" sweaters because they are not, in fact, knit by members of the Cowichan band.) some of the designs are really unique, including the Suzuki sweater:

So if you're wondering what to get me for my birthday next week, look no further.

Mar 19, 2012

Blogger jealousy and making up for missed opportunities

I don't consider myself a jealous person but now and then my magnanimous appreciation for the superior work of others is tested.

Take the other day when Cynthia at DapperDuds posted on my blog to say she had made a dress from the same Marc Jacobs bow print cotton I had sadly wasted on a poorly designed Misses Vogue pattern that constricted my upper body movements (and I like moving my upper body, so that was a problem).

So like a sucker, I follow the link to her blog only to discover that her dress (sewn from Simplicity 2444) is 10 times cuter than the hack job I eventually cobbled together from that same fabric last summer.

My husband was walking by the computer and he said, "Is that you? I don't remember taking that picture." To which I replied, "NO, that's NOT me. She's younger and cuter and has better legs and more blog followers, and she made better use of that precious bow print fabric than I did....and she lives in Portland!! $%&$!!!"

And that's when I ripped our iMac out of the wall and hurled it across the room. Then I went and ate an entire bag of Mini Eggs to get myself together.

Following that heated incident, I decided to give myself a challenge. No, not to outdo Ms. Cynthia. That would be petty. My challenge was to make good use of the remaining yard and a half I had of this printed cotton I had used to line my Minoru jacket. Like that Marc Jacobs bow-print cotton, I bought it at Metro Textiles Corp. on 37th St. for just $5/yard. I quite like the geometric gray and blue design. I think they look a little like pencils, neatly arranged:

I thought the pattern Cynthia chose for her dress was a smart one because it was simple enough to showcase the lovely print. So I opted for something similar: Burdastyle's Dress with Gathered Skirt and Cap Sleeves.  I didn't have a huge amount of fabric left, so I knew sleeves were out of the question (hence, no need to buy Simplicity 2444) and the dirndl skirt would be a good way to make what I had work.

I made a muslin and made one adjustment to the front bodice pattern piece, but after sewing I realize I need to do a bust dart rotation to take out the ease that unfortunately lets me check on the status of my cleavage just by glancing downward. You can see from the photos, it fits beautifully through the waist and bust but my upper chest and shoulders aren't really filling this out so well:

Where's the anti-wrinkle filter in PhotoShop?

The fit issues won't be enough to keep me from wearing this dress, though when I make this pattern again, I will manipulate the dart to remove excess from the gaping neckline. And when I do, I will share it with you, because it's an important trick to have in your arsenal if you want to make well-fitting clothes (and are a lady with a bosom). I am most proud of how I laid the pattern pieces on this print. (The way the pencil/spears come together I feared that with the wrong placement I could end up accentuating my nipples in an egregious way. But look at how beautifully symmetrical it is! Suck it, Cynthia! (Only kidding).

Mar 10, 2012

Designer patterns

Dear readers, I just finished hemming a secret project I undertook at the behest of a new website that has yet to launch. Actually, I'm not sure if it's super secret — they never expressly told me not to discuss it with my legion of readers — but if I pretend it is, it makes me feel a little special. Anyway, this latest project was sewn from this Cynthia Rowley pattern, which has me thinking about "designer" patterns. 

Cute, right?

 The concept of designer patterns is nothing new. Ladies like me who love fashion but can't afford Fifth Avenue pricetags have been making their own versions of designer's at least since the '60s:

Why yes, this IS Dior. Now leave me alone.
Today some of those patterns are a hot ticket item on eBay et al. Like Diane Von Fursternberg's wrap dress. A more contemporary version of this dress pattern is on eBay with a "buy it now" price of $150! Of course, there are no bids, so $150 could be the sucker price. You can buy a vintage DVF wrap dress for only a little more than that on

Over at Vogue patterns, I do think some of the designer patterns are among the nicest the company offers. Like this DKNY dress, V1287. The details are sort of lost in this print they used for the sample, but it has very pretty pleating and draping through the front:

This Badgley Mischka for Vogue pattern is unusual and chic. Comparing this dress to the designer's line on sale at, a Badgley Mischka dress like this would probably cost in the neighborhood of $500. Sequined fabric like that usually isn't cheap either, but the pattern calls for less than two yards of fabric (if cut from a 60-inch bolt), so even at, let's say, $25/yard, you're still looking at a price way less than you would pay at Century 21 in three years (and for a size XL).

Back to Cynthia Rowley. I still can't forgive her for how rude she was to Whitney, the "plus-sized contestant" on Top Model from Cycle 10, for being too big for any of her samples. But her patterns for Simplicity are cute and very wearable.

I LOVE this one, even though I don't get what the elbow slits are for. Are we lactating out of our elbows now? 

And did you know Leanne Marshal, Project Runway Season 5 winner, has a small line of patterns for Simplicity? They're much less wearable than Cynthia Rowley's separates, but let you try out a few of the design details that are her signature. 

Those ruffles could be hard to pull off for a pear-shaped lady like myself, but that printed dress in the middle is cute, right?
Alas, this is very Tinkerbell-goes-to-prom. Also, it requires about four yards of fabric, a lot for a misses dress that will only be puked on once.

So readers, what do you think? Are "designer" dress patterns overrated? Do you have any favorites in your collection? 

Mar 1, 2012

Sewing Clothes You Actually Wear

Dear readers, like so many of you sewers/seamtresses/sewists/sewasaurus rexes, my closet is stuffed with things I painstakingly sewed only to wear once or twice. It pains me to no end, because like all thin-skinned sewing bloggers, I live for the "You MADE that?!"s.  But I work from home and spend most of my time with this kid here:

So I can't spend my days dressed like this:

Or this:

Plus I sadly have numerous items that I just don't wear because for whatever reason they don't feel right, or ride up, or otherwise annoy me. And there there are the errors in judgement...I won't link to those for fear of forcing you to question why you're even reading this blog.

Of course separates are key to creating a wardrobe of every day clothes for layabout hacks like myself. And I'm like every irritating biddy on "What Not to Wear" whining about wanting to be comfortable. Yet I don't go to the gym or otherwise exercise (are those of us who hate working out finally allowed to admit it? I'm 33. I also hate flossing and washing my face before bed. There. I said it), so I don't typically wear yoga pants and sneakers like so many of the moms I see in my 'hood. 

I do, however wear jeans like everyone else on the planet. SO something I want to do this year is learn to make a great pair (that hopefully fit better than my first attempt at jeans, which had front rise issues that I turned into back rise issue by trying to fix them. I bravely tried to wear them a few times, but after spending the day tugging up the rear, and pulling down my shirt, I tossed them). So I'm looking for some feedback on the Jean-ius Reverse Engineer Your Favorite Fit class at If you haven't already seen this, it looks brilliant. Without even taking them apart, Kenneth D. King shows you how to use your best-fitting jeans as the blueprint for a pattern to make any number of fabulous jeans, trousers, shorts, capris, whatever you like. We don't judge (OK, we judge the capris, just a little). You also learn how to construct jeans, which is not easy peasy lemon squeazy. Flys are no joke. 

So jeans cover the bottom half. But what of the top?  

Luckily I have a serger. I see a lot of people admitting they don't know how to use their serger, or are scared of it (which you kinda should be: IT HAS A KNIFE! And everybody knows you don't mess with knives). 

But look around any store in which you regularly shop (ladies, that is) and you'll see many, if not most, of the separates are sewn from stretch fabrics: jersey, knits, leopard-print spandex...

So one of my goals for this year is to sew mostly garments I will actually put into rotation. So that means no dresses sewn from another seamstresses castoffs just because I want something to do. No Halloween costumes for ungrateful children. And no lace, ruffles, anything itchy...I could go on and on.

All I'm trying to say is, check out my new favorite tanks I sewed from a self-drafted pattern using printed jerseys from Hart's Fabric. I wear one of these two tops every other day. (If you're wondering how I can wear something so summery mid-winter in NYC, you should know our pre-War apartments are pretty much always overheated. When we visit friends in their houses elsewhere, we freeze. Seriously, don't even get me started on basements. If you make me sleep in your basement, I will surely catch my death of a cold.)

My friend Penny once said to me, "Why don't you ever wear anything tight?" And I was like, "Don't I?" But I guess it's true. I do belt, however:

Or not:

These two top were sewn from the same pattern though the Ikat jersey top is longer and more mini-dress-like. Also, it had a touch more stretch to it, so it's a little different in the end.

And now, since I've been carrying on in recent days about Sewaholic's great Minoru pattern, I should note Tasia's new Renfrew Top pattern is exactly the kind of everyday clothing I'm talking about. You don't need to use a serger, though you really should if you have one! Lift the knife if you're really scared.


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