Seeing Red!! An embellished version of Simplicity 3833

IMG_1136s This This Fall, there’s a new kid in town, the Little Red Dress. While the Little Black Dress and the Little White Dress have always been favorites of mine, there’s something fierce and unexpected about a red dress. For one thing, you can’t be a shrinking violet if you’re wearing red at a party. You will be noticed. You might feel a bit powerful, too.

I decided to make this dress from red because when I looked at my Fall wardrobe, only one word came to mind – Somber! Everything I saw was gray or black.  Eeek! Is there anything worse? I decided it was time to find a new favorite color. Then, I met this fabric. True love! It was the most perfect shade of red; not too orange or pink, but a true, cardinal red.

My lovely cardinal fabric became the back drop for embellishment, courtesy of the second round of the Pattern Review Sewing Bee. We were asked to make the fabric our own by using surface embellishments. It took me a few days to get my head around that one (clock ticking, ticking, ticking). But once I got used to the idea, the embellishments used by Italian designers, like Dolce and Gabbana came to mind. Inspired by their swoops and swirls, I decided to try my hand at it.

IMG_1438Because I suspected the trim and appliqué would be heavy, I decided to make my dress from a medium weight rayon (woven) with some body and weight. I’m glad I did that, because the finished dress is surprisingly heavy.  Just think what the royals have to deal with, given the size of their medals and jewels!
Dress Pattern: I used Simplicity 3833 for the bodice but added self drafted sleeves because I wanted them to be bell-shaped to match the a-line shape of the dress’s lower bodice. The embellishments on the sleeves are meant to match the themes on the dress bodice. I highly recommend this pattern. It’s really fun and easy to sew. The curved seam between the upper and lower bodice gives it a unique look, I think. I chose an a -line style because the skirt is wide, a nice blank slate for embellishments.

IMG_0928The embellishments:
  • Before constructing the dress, I made a template of the swirled pattern, so that the design would be consistent on both sides of the upper and lower bodice which I knew would be tricky.
  • Then, I transferred the finished designs to the right side of the fabric with basting stitches. Nightmare. I could have used one of those lovely invisible ink marking pens, but I discovered with a test swatch, that the ink didn’t disappear on this fabric. Since I knew I’d make mistakes, I didn’t dare use one.
  •  Following those markings, I laid the trim onto the fabric pieces, adjusting the curves as I went so that the swirls wouldn’t look forced.  This took forever as it had to be done in stages – – so that the curves of the swirls would be remain perfect and symmetrical. I hand basted each trim to the fabric to keep it from shifting, before using my machine to secure it with a appliqué stitch.
  •  I created the appliqué flowers and trim from lace, then appliquéd those embellishments to the center of the swirls.
The best part of this project, was deciding where to put the embellishments so that my figure would be (ahem) enhanced by the design.  I created the swirl design templates with the a-line shape of the dress in mind. The largest swirls were put at the center of the upper and lower bodice to create a focal point for the eye. The secondary swirls were placed at the side of the a-line skirt to draw attention to that shape, while also (hopefully) adding a slimming line to the design. The design of the front embellishments are carried through to the back of the dress in a continuous line.
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Part of the fun of this project was creating the design templates, then applying the design to the fabric in stages. This was a long process, but it was fun to do this in layers. Each time I added a new line of embellishment, the dress took on a new look, so the design sort of ‘evolved’.
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One challenge I didn’t expect was locating the right trim for the embellishments. To make the design have a bit of energy, the trims needed to be of varying weights and styles. I drove all over Portland, looking for trim and bought everything I saw. So, Portland-ites – – there’s nothing left for you!   If I had to do it again (with more time), I’d probably have ordered some interesting trims from other sources for more variety.
 Ultimately, this was a fun challenge and because of it, I now have a new special occassion dress. And sewing with a color as vibrant as Cardinal was definitely inspiring. I’m determined to add some color to my fall wardrobe, maybe some jade, a bit of gold, a touch of fuchsia? Lots of warm, vibrant colors.  I’m excited to start sewing with some lovely prints too!
How is your fall closet? Happy sewing and thanks for stopping by.

A Manly Shirt that you can sew in a day

IMG_4632The last thing I sewed for my son was a vampire cape, black satin (of course) with a stand-up collar and red lining. That was awhile back. So when he said he would like a new shirt, I jumped at the chance to sew for My Only.

Of course, once committed, I worried. The fabric…the pattern…what to choose…how to choose. After all, we do want to please, right? But then, one day while traveling through the lovely town of Sisters, Oregon, he agreed to wander through a fabric store with me. That’s when I knew things were going to be OKAY. In his usual decisive fashion, he found a fabric he liked in record time. One store. Five minutes of browsing. Choice Made!! (If only I could shop like that.)

IMG_4641The fabric that caught his eye was a nice white cotton, decorated with colorful bicycles. Since he’s heading to Washington D.C this fall to be a congressional intern, he was all over this fabric. Bicycles to him meant – – Bicycle Commuters! Alternative Transportation Policies!

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The fabric choice was easy. Finding a pattern? Not so much.
 Did you know there are zillions of men’s shirt patterns out there? Perhaps, I’m the only clueless one, but I just have to say, I was shocked at how many choices there were. The Big Four offered many, which is great and (almost) to be expected, but many Indie pattern designers are in on this too, which means there are so many possibilities, you can’t help but find something that works. Honestly, when it comes to sewing pattern options, the choices are endless. Isn’t it a great time to sew?
IMG_4637 Back shot of the yoke
At first glance, many of the versions looked similar. On closer examination though, you find there are subtle differences in the cut of the bodice, the collars, even the sleeve cuffs!! Then, when you try to pair the patterns to the needs of the man you are sewing for, things can get rather….mmmm….complicated. If you quiz that man, you might be as surprised (as I was) to discover that, although they seem to be fashion novices, they are VERY interested in shirt design. They have very specific needs. It can’t be too boxy, but not too fitted either, or too baggy because then you can’t tuck it in if you want to. And don’t make it too long, or all that fabric will be in the way, but don’t make it too short either. The pressure!
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After looking at a million and one patterns, and reading the many helpful opinions posted on Pattern Review.com (thanks to all!), I finally settled on McCalls 6044. This shirt has a back yoke, which gave it a bit of interest. Also, the pattern received High Marks from those who were sewing for guys who liked a slim fit, but also had an athletic build (This seems to be the key to success – -whether or not your guy likes a slim fit or a loose fit).
Bullseye! The pattern was perfect. The only variations I made was to take the curve out of the yoke seam and to add collar buttons. Also, I added french seams so that the shirt would survive through many, many washings.
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This pattern is a winner!  The shirt is cut so well, it works alone, or under a jacket. And the pattern is very straightforward and easy to sew. The only modification needed was to take in the side seams a little. This I can do!!  And the best news of all, from cut-out to final press, it was only about six hours (much less if you don’t have fitting issues, or if you just finish with an overcast stitch instead of french seams).
When all was said and done, the shirt fit, the fabric passed muster, and I believe this shirt will actually be worn on Labor Day to a barbecue. The shirt is a versatile style that looks good all by itself, or under a jacket. How great is that?
Thanks for stopping by. And Happy Labor Day weekend – –  I hope you find time for a bit of sewing!

Not Your Mother’s Peplum

During one of my recent jaunts into the enticing, instantly gratifying world of ready-to-wear, I heard a discussion through a thin dressing room wall (which is not really eavesdropping, right?). “You absolutely cannot wear that,” one woman said to another. “It’s a peplum and they are a fashion NO!”

It was an interesting statement, one that begged for debate, or at least, extensive internet research. So, I perused the designer collections for Spring, and discovered that there could be a bit of truth to that. The old, more extreme peplum look does seem to be gone.
But now, there’s a new peplum in town. It’s less of a waist defining shape. It seems lower, a bit looser, and a little less (dare I say), prissy than the ones that came before.
Here’s one from Marni that I fell hard for.
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Another from Thakoon that could live in my closet if it wanted to.
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Cute shorts too.
After all that research, I had to make one of my own. The pattern I used is Vogue 8815, a fitted top with a raised wast, long front darts for shaping, and a narrow hem. I chose view C because it had an interesting, less traditional look.
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I used a lightweight cotton purchased from Fabric Depot that is a dusty denim blue (I hope to some day get over my denim obsession). Not only did I buy it because it’s Blue, but because it has a dot pattern imprinted on the fabric that I love. I used a similar solid cotton for the sleeves.
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The pattern was easy to put together. Although view C is a pullover, I added a zipper in the back, just because it felt more finished that way.  I cut the smallest size (8) and adjusted the side seams for fit, since I’m usually a 6 through the back.
The peplum fit onto the bodice perfectly. On view C, it doesn’t extend to the back which makes the whole process easy and fast. The neck is finished with seam binding, also easy and fast. The hemline is lower in the back than the front, which gives it a bit of an edge. Cool, but it’s something to keep in mind when you choose the fabric though, as the wrong side shows.
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 I think I like the look of a looser peplum as it feels fresh and different. This is an easy top to wear, so comfortable you could eat Thanksgiving dinner and still be able to breathe! I’ll probably have to make another, soon.
How do you feel about peplums? Has it been done to death, or do they still have a place in your heart?