Monday, July 23, 2012

A Delicious Collaboration

My illustration for StephC (aka The Consulting Dressmaker)'s "Sisters of Edwardia" digital download pattern

I've been a little quiet lately, but it's not for lack of sewing or sewing-related projects—as you may have read over at 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World, my husband Masheka and I have been working behind the scenes on design and illustration for the launch of Steph's fabulous new line of independent printed sewing pattern deliciousness, Cake Patterns.

I can't spill all the exciting details, but trust me—these patterns are smart, saucy, vintage-inspired (yet modern) and just generally delicious, with fun details and a unique approach to sizing and construction.

Up top you can see some art I did for one of her pre-Cake digital download patterns—the style will be quite a bit different (more graphic and bold) but it's a little taste of what's to come.

Sign up for the Cake newsletter (and the pattern pre-sale update) here!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Polka Dot Ombré Dress Overload (McCall's 6070)

McCall's 6070 polka dot dress

True dress love: black & white polka dots of all sizes in a quick and easy surplice-bodice knit dress.

So do you ever pick up a pattern, grab some fabric from your stash, and just get cutting and sewing—without any detailed planning, sketching, agonizing, muslining, pattern matching or bust-adjustmenting?

Because I like, NEVER do that. Except, with this dress I did—and it totally worked.

Inspiration: When Lee offered up a copy of McCall's 6070 at a recent Brooklyn BurdaStyle Sewing Club get-together, a giant lightbulb of happiness materialized over my head... because with its wide gathered shoulders, surplice neckline and midriff band it was almost a dead ringer for my favorite RTW dress, the "Marisa" dress by Karina, shown here in December:

Mommy & Z

Now, Karina dresses are AWESOME: they're stretchy, comfy, sexy, well-made available in a wide variety of awesome styles and patterns—AND best of all, made by seamstresses sewing for a living wage in Brooklyn! So they're definitely well worth the $160 price tag... BUT I couldn't pass up the chance to make my own version with some stash fabric I had on hand.

The pattern: Easy McCall's 6070 (now out-of-print).

Pattern Description: Simple knit dress with gathers at shoulders and under the bust, surplice front and back bodice, back ties, midriff waistband and gathered dirndl-style skirt.

Pattern Sizing: You know, the usual. Since I was using a stretchy poly knit, I made the back bodice in a size 10... and tried to cheat my way out of a full bust adjustment by cutting the front bodice as a size 14 (except for the shoulders—I cut those in a 10).

This mostly worked, except the front wrap edges are gapping like no-body's business despite my best clear elastic application efforts—because I need extra length over the girls, but not over the breastbone.

I didn't use the midriff pattern or the skirt pattern—I just cut some 4" wide rectangles for the midriff, and drafted a half-circle skirt using Patty the Snug Bug's handy calculator.


Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Sure-ish.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Easy enough. But I didn't bother with putting elastic in the waistband (due to the high recovery power of my knit) or hemming the bottom edge.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? It's such a flattering style—it really emphasizes the waist (and bust?)!

Fabric: 2 yards of very soft mystery polyester ombré-effect jersey from the stash, purchased at Sew-Fisticated Discount Fabrics in Boston for $3/yard.

B&W polka dot ombre matte jersey

The really awesome thing about this fabric was the ombré pattern—tiny dots in the middle growing to giant dots at the edge. I cut the skirt from the tiny dots bit, and the bodice from the bigger dots, and the waistband from some medium dots.

But as much as I would like to pat myself on the back for thrifty sewing from the stash... half-way through the making of this dress I did some serious reading and research about textiles and the global fashion industry and the environment and human rights and toxic waste and... well, more on that later, but I'm generally pretty bummed out about cheap polyester (and conventional cotton, and... a lot of other stuff... sigh... I'm even wearing organic lipstick made out of hemp and beeswax in this photo).


Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: See sizing notes above. The main thing was I drafted my own half-circle skirt, as I was worried the gathered skirt would add too much bulk to the waist area.

Construction notes: I should have done most of this on my serger, but it's currently a bit hard to get to... so I did it all with a zigzag stitch with mixed results. Especially since I sewed it in a series of late evenings a few weeks ago while not quite awake, and had to repeatedly pick out miles of zig-zagged mistakes.

The worst bit is the narrow-hemming on the front and back bodice crossovers—it's just a total ripply mess, despite the clear elastic I stuck in there. Luckily the dots are a major visual distraction. I MAY unpick the waist seam and tighten up the front crossover edges... especially since the gapping/rippling got a lot worse after pulling the overlaps aside to nurse the toddler.



  • A quick, lovely, versatile knit dress that fits me just perfectly.
  • And it's NOT a costume!
  • Playing with patterns without tons of planning.
  • I want to wear it all the time.
Room for improvement?:

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I definitely highly recommend, though it may be a while before I sew another myself. BUT I most definitely plan to use the half-circle skirt pattern by itself again soon—maybe in a seriously crunchy organic hemp version or something.

Wear for: Work, date with husband, parties and twirling toddlers around in circles:

McCall's 6070 polka dot dress

Oh... and I have a lot of various ideas and projects cooking that I'll be sharing soon, some of which you may have heard about elsewhere. But for now, I just had to share that I sewed something that wasn't a costume.

So: do you ever seek out fabrics with environmental considerations in mind? (I never have before—but that's about to change!)


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