Say Yes part two (in which I demonstrate my indecisiveness)

I am aware of how indecisive I am, and I’m aware it’s not a good thing. I’m so indecisive that I usually shop (fabric, fashion, shoes) alone, because I know how annoying my deliberations can be to others. I thought I had settled on Butterick 5485 for my floral poplin, but now I’m thinking of Burdastyle 07/2011 #110. It’s an edgier pattern, I think…

Bstyle 07/2011 #110 sans constrast panels
Bstyle 07/2011 #110. 

The fabric:


The other contender:


B5485 (above) is more classically pretty dress, and I do like it, even though I need to figure out how to to halve that midriff band. I haven’t worked it out yet because the narrowest part of the waist is at the bottom of the band. Do I take the extra length off the top, and lengthen the bodice piece accordingly? Or take it off the bottom, and re-draw the side seams so that they hit their narrowest point an inch or so higher?

The advantage of the Burdastyle pattern, beyond its more obvious edginess is that i have it pegged for an autumn wool crepe dress. It’d be nice to get any pattern issues out of the way on a less expensive fabric (and one that I don’t love as much) before making the wool crepe version. This is also one of the Burda patterns where they show you how to make it. And use complete, grammatically correct sentences. (unlike that last one.)

Of course, it’s just a piece of fabric and I know I should just make a decision and cut it already. After I finish the two jackets I’m working on…

(In my defense, there are some things I’m not indecisive about. Linings, for instance. Bemberg or nothing. My god I love that stuff!)

Unrelatedly, I am so lucky – I may seldom win things, but it seems that when I do, I win pretty big. I am the lucky winner of a copy of Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture – a book I have been coveting for some time. Hugest thanks to Elle. Elle’s giveaway was a paying-it-forward giveaway, so at some point in the future, I will host a giveaway. While there is no way I can match or top this incredible win,  I’ll put my thinking cap on.


Say Yes to the Dress Pattern

I was out shoe shopping today, and I always feel badly for the clerks in the shoe stores I go to. I shop for shoes like some women shop for wedding dresses. I’m picky – mainly because I can only afford a couple of pairs of decent shoes. I’ll try on every last pair in the city before finally making a decision.

I realized that I’m much the same way when putting fabric and patterns together. For instance, I was at my local Fabricland a couple of weeks ago to take advantage of a notions sale, and picked up 1.6 m (1 3/4 yards) of this light-medium weight floral poplin:

Portrait of a fabric. The floral bunches range between 4 and 6″ long.


I like it. I love the colours – particularly the coral elements set against the black background. I prefer this graphic floral to the pretty, dainty florals in soft colours that I usually find. But when it comes to making something with this print – most prints – I hesitate to commit. Much like buying shoes, or a wedding dress.

I had a few ideas. I was first thinking of doing a 2nd colette peony dress (I have a first in wool crepe that I never blogged), but I’m unsure of having so much print all over the bodice. I considered a 2nd colette macaron, using a black dotted swiss as a contrast. However, when I paired them together, I wasn’t sure if it looked fashion or crafty.

I was excited about making it into the popular twist-dress from Burdastyle’s 03/2012 issue, until I realized that one takes 2.1 or 2.2 metres of fabric. Looking at the pieces, I just can’t squeeze it out of 1.6 m (and I hesitate to buy more).

BurdaStyle 03/2012 #108
BurdaStyle 03/2012 #108

(but it would be so perfect, wouldn’t it. sadly, the pieces are so large, I’d have to get an extra 1.something metres – not just the difference between what the pattern calls for and what i have).

Then I remembered, I have this now out-of-print near-gem in my pattern stash – Butterick 5485. It’s been wonderfully reviewed over on PR. View C (the longest) is, I think, perfect for a summer dress.





Am I ready to say yes? wellllll yes, but the midriff piece. Doesn’t it look big? I measured it. 3.5 inches. That’s a wide midriff.

I think I’m going to go with the pattern, but I have to deal with that midriff band. I think I’ll narrow it by an inch or 1 1/4 inches, but given how it narrows from the underbust to the waist, I think I might have to muslin it to get the fit right.

Two New BC Pattern Companies!

I was so thrilled this past week to discover two brand new sewing pattern companies from my home province of British Columbia! Thread Theory, out of Victoria, focuses exclusively on patterns for menswear. YES! Fine Motor Skills offers (genuinely) fashionable, casual separates for women.

I’m all for indie pattern companies, though I don’t sew from them exclusively. If they release something that I really like, and that I think I’ll sew soon, then I’ll definitely grab their pattern. But I also sew from Burda as well as the Big 4.

Thread Theory and Fine Motor Skills are both releasing patterns that fill major holes in my pattern collection – patterns I’ve been looking for for ages.

Thread Theory's Goldstream Peacoat
Thread Theory’s Goldstream Peacoat

I cannot tell you how happy I am about this pattern (to be released in June 2013). Ever since I started sewing three years ago, my wonderful bf has wanted me to make him a peacoat. I have hunted everywhere for a man’s peacoat pattern. Contemporary, Vintage… no luck. It’s amazing to me how ubiquitous peacoats are in men’s ready to wear, and how uncommon they are in sewing patterns. Thank you, Thread Theory!

Same thing with breezy fashion forward knit tops.

Screen shot 2013-05-01 at 12.30.53 PM

I expect that there are a few tops kind of similar to this in back issues of Burdastyle, but I’ve had too much on my plate to hunt through their archive. I suppose you can sometimes find something similar in Big 4 ‘coordinates’ pattern collections, but not really. They’re more fitted. This looks like something I’d buy (and own) from Aritzia, and is perfect for a loose gauzy just-the-right-shade-of-turquoise knit I’ve got stashed away. I’m looking forward to giving this a quick sew – plus it’s free! woo! Thank you Thank you Fine Motor Skills!

And as a last word – the women starting these companies have both gone through fashion school, which we can’t say for all indie pattern company designers. It gives me a lot of confidence that their patterns are well drafted.

1968: The Year the Shifts Lost Shape


I’ve been into fashion for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been into fashion history for just about as long. While I’ve always thought of fashion history as being about the influential design houses, I’m hugely enjoying looking at changes in fashion trends through the lens of vintage sewing patterns. I’ve been going through them year by year on the Vintage Pattern Wiki, which is an amazingly comprehensive resource.

I’ve loved 1965-1967, and I was expecting to love 1968, which I went through last night. While I didn’t love ’68, it’s amazing to see the change between ’67 and ’68 through sewing patterns. 1967 was still fairly trim and proper: Jackie Kennedy meets Mod. 1968 is immediately groovier. I was surprised to see bellbottoms, but I guess  the hippie influence was already at work.

One of the biggest changes is found in the shift dress patterns. In my post from a week or so ago, I was noticing that the ’65-67 shift dress patterns consistently featured long french darts. By ’68, the french darts are, for the most part, gone. In many cases, they’ve been replaced by bust darts coming from the armhole (see above).  The shifts are far less shapely – even sack like. The example at the top of this post is typical of the ’68 shifts in depicting a (tie) belt. The raglan sleeves are atypical. A number of examples feature the patch pockets.

Here’s another Simplicity from 1968. Belted View? Check. Patch Pockets? Check. No French Dart? Check. Instead, we have a Dior Dart from a side panel.


I thought this one looked particularly tenty, but then I noticed it’s a Maternity pattern. Still, I think it counts as a shift, and it has the armhole darts.
ImageMcCall’s 9571, still 1968. More armhole darts, patch pockets (here on a jaunty slant), and a belted view. I do quite like the  gap between the collar, which I often see on 60s patterns.  One of my favourite looks ever.

McCall 9571

McCall’s 9327 is reasonably shapely with its princess seams:

McCall 9327

The “Quickie” 9792 isn’t (again, belts…)McCall 9297

I wonder how McCall’s 9385’s stark a-line reads on a body, rather than a fashion drawing. Screen shot 2013-04-24 at 9.19.44 PM

And saving the worst for last:

Screen shot 2013-04-24 at 8.47.00 PM

Do I like shopping more than sewing?

I’m at home, I have a half hour to kill while waiting for some pizza dough to rise, I have some seams in Gertie’s Portrait blouse to let out, and I’m not hopping onto the machine to get it done.

Is it possible that I like shopping for patterns and fabric more than I like sewing them up?

Or is this just a sewing funk?

I spend ages of time browsing online for fabrics and patterns – even if, IRL, I don’t even have the urge to buy because I have too much waiting in the stash. I’m trying to just love the ones I’m with. Yet, I find myself dragging my butt to the machine. I’m more interested in vacuuming at the moment. What’s that about?

(Maybe it’s about my pride not wanting to let seams out. The blouse is just a smidgen too tight for comfort. And maybe it’s also about me hating to re-do things).

Shout out for the awesome Portrait blouse pattern, which you can download for free here on Makezine. I’ve made one up in what I think is a silk/cotton blend, and am putting the finishing the finishing touches (er, letting the seams out) on a second version in cotton voile. Because I take ages pressing things, the whole garment, cut to finish, is taking about 5.5 hours. Faster seamstresses could get this done in a short afternoon.

As for the PDF download, the one hitch, which could be a big one depending on what computer programs you have and use, is that the PDF doesn’t come tiled. The pattern shows up and prints as one big sheet.

You could have the pattern printed on one big sheet at a copy shop, but I think it’d be large format printing (which is $$$, at least here in Vancouver). If you have Adobe Acrobat Pro or Adobe Illustrator, you can also “tile” the page for printing, which turns it into 10 or 12 sheets that you can then tape together. I can’t remember exactly how I did it in Illustrator, but it’s not very difficult to do. You just have to find an online tutorial, which you can find through googling something like  “Illustrator tiled printing.”

Bust Darts in Vintage-60s Shifts

Right around the time of the Laurel pattern’s release, I started spending some time exploring Vintage Patterns Wiki. I love to explore the patterns year by year. It’s remarkable to really see what was trendy – and when.

I couldn’t help but look at the shift dress patterns. In the years I’ve browsed through, 1965 through 1967, there are plenty of shifts. In general, I’m really surprised by how much repetition there was in pattern offerings (my vintage pattern pinterest board has a wealth of jacket w/dress patterns).  New Look’s current wealth of shift dress patterns pales in comparison.

I was also really struck by the dart placement. While the bust darts on contemporary patterns often come in horizontally from the side seam, in the examples below, you’ll see that the bust darts are French darts, coming up diagonally from nearer the waist. According to Gertie, French darts are a little trickier to sew. I wonder if they are more flattering, as they would seem to take volume out from the waist.

What I really wonder is why and when we see this change from French to horizontal bust dart.

McCall 8193 from 1965
McCall 8204 from 1966. I adore the contrast bands and pockets on the blue view.
Simplicity 6437 – notice the two sets of French darts
Simplicity 6372 from 1965. Does the pink dress qualify as a shift – or as a two piece dress? Not sure, but it definitely has french darts.
Simplicity 6438 from 1966; I’m guessing this and 6437 were from the same pattern release.
Simplicity 6509 from 1966 – though this one has long double ended darts, coupled with a short horizontal bust dart

what is this shift?

(unpopular opinion alert…)

With Lilly Pulitzer’s recent passing, and all of the hubbub around the release of Colette’s Laurel pattern, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about shifts.

I’ll admit I was a bit consternated when Laurel, a shift dress, was released. Colette built up so much anticipation in the days prior to the release, and it turned out to be the simplest design imaginable. A step up from a sloper. I thought to myself, uh, not buying it for $18 and moved along.

Someone else (on pattern review) said it looks like a night shirt.
Someone else (on pattern review) said it looks like a night shirt.

The comments both on Colette’s site, and around the blogosphere brought me back in. I read a lot of them as enthusiastic to the point of hyperbole. How many times did I read ‘this is the pattern I’ve been waiting for?’ (I’m not keen to negatively draw attention to anyone’s particular comment… read the comments on Colette’s blog posts on Laurel to see what I mean).

I wish I could say I was introspective a la Carrie Bradshaw (what a now fabulously old reference…), and not help but wonder, how come I just don’t see it? But no, I indignantly thought, what do you mean, the pattern you’ve been waiting for? Have you not seen New Look’s entire catalogue!?

Let’s get to the nitty gritty – by which I mean the line drawings. Here’s Colette’s:

I do really appreciate that they use line drawings as the cover image.

Here’s a small selection from New Look. I don’t recall much enthusiasm around these releases – though it would seem shifts sell for them, given that they release so many!


Compare View A with Laurel body; View B's sleeves look pretty identical - it has more shaping through the front, though
Compare View A with Laurel body; View B’s sleeves look pretty identical – however, it has more shaping through the front.
New Look 6095. And surprisingly similar to the last one!
New Look 6095. And surprisingly similar to 6049!


This one has front pockets like Laurel does - but its darts are longer and come up from the side waist. More intake = more shaping.
This one has front pockets like Laurel does – but its darts are longer and come up from the side waist. More intake = more shaping.


So the silhouette is changing a little - this one and the next are considerably wider through the hips to the hem
So the silhouette is changing a little – this one and the next are considerably wider through the hips to the hem
A neckline variation
A neckline variation

Simplicity’s also releasing shifts – though not as many as NL.

S 1726 - Amazingly close to Laurel.
S 1726 – Amazingly close to Laurel.

Simplicity 1609 is a retro re-issue of a 1960s Jiffy pattern. Note the darts – there is ample intake for shaping.


1609 - a re-release from a 1960s "Jiffy" pattern. I've seen a bit more excitement around this pattern due to it's being a retro re-issue.

Simplicity 1665
I expect that much of 1665’s shaping comes from the yoke piece.

Burda (patterns – not magazine) also has a few similar patterns…

B 2943 - Veering further away from Laurel's silhouette, but still a very simple shift.
B 2943 – Veering further away from Laurel’s silhouette, but still a very simple shift.
Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 10.21.21 PM
I like the welt pockets on this one
Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 10.23.08 PM
Burda 7154 – another shift, but with the darts coming up from the waist.

Of course, much of the reason for the overwhelming excitement around Colette is that it’s Colette. Newbies find her patterns exceptionally easy to follow; yes, the technical writing is as awesome as Big4’s is terrible.

That I totally get. If a beginner wanted to make a shift dress, and asked me for advice, I’d probably steer them to Laurel (and, if i’m being honest, advise them to throw a belt on it).

From looking at the pattern reviews of Colette patterns, it seems that total beginners make up a huge part of her core audience. Her last two releases – Juniper and Anise, both more difficult patterns – haven’t been reviewed nearly as many times as her “beginner” releases (peony, hazel).  That I get too.

But the “omg this pattern is amazeballs” stuff? That, I feel, is uncritical indielove – in this case, love of a particular indie brand – and I find it as irksome as I find any brandlove.


A word on my hiatus…

I’ve been away for several months, and haven’t intended to be away for any. I’m thinking hard about what’s preventing me from blogging my progress and finished objects…

1) My camera’s crappy (and lost…) and I have sporadic access to my boyfriend’s.

2) My apartment’s usually too messy for decent looking pics. Plus, my sewing table is beige. It’s arborite, which I love, and my late grandma’s, which I also love, but it’s not a photogenic backdrop for works in progress.

3) I don’t like my blog theme. I’m learning to code so that i can design/create my own theme, and hopefully my design will be up and running sooner than later. It’s not fun to write content for a site you don’t like the look of. (I’m not super keen on other WP (free) themes either. And I’m so not paying for a theme when I’m so close to coding my own).

I’m looking towards resolving these things, because I do like sharing my work with others and contributing to the global dialogue. Plus, I gain so much from others’ blogs, and it’s nice to pay it forward.

At long, long last… my Colette Macaron

Oh man, I blogged about this when in it was in progress… a year ago! At that time, it still had sleeves, and I was wondering whether I should rip them off. I was also agonizing over the midriff. It looked weird in the plaid, so I subbed it out for a black shantung. Much better!

I’m smiling like my 5 year old niece.

As you can see, the dress has been finished. It’s been done, and well loved, for almost a year now; I’ve simply finally got a pic of it! The photograph comes courtesy Colette patterns themselves! They snapped the pic at the recent Colette release party at Vancouver’s Spool of Thread sewing lounge, and posted it to their facebook page. Thanks, Colette!

This is the first pic of myself I’ve seen in a good long while, and the first in this dress. And I gotta say, I’m a little concerned about the fit. Maybe it’s not the best angle, but it’s true that I’m squeezing into this just a little. I might have a half inch ease at the waist. There was a little more ease when I first made it – I’m packing an extra ten pounds or so of craft beer and associated food. And I’m suddenly wanting to head down to my building’s gym and work on those arms.

Letting out the seams isn’t an option, I’m afraid; I never muslined this, and cut a size too small. My s.a.’s are already tiny. My invisible zipper isn’t invisible… in order to buy myself some more space.

Body dysmorphia aside, here’s my belated review of the pattern…

This is hands down my favourite dress I’ve made, and I wear it very often. My inspiration was a Versus S11 dress, modeled by Emily Browning in the April 2011 Vogue, that mixed a prominent plaid and small floral together:

Not sure what to add to all of the existing reviews… The pattern is awesome. The sweetheart bodice is super easy to put together, thanks to Colette’s awesome instructions.

My fabrics:

Main fabric: Poly shantung. I try to avoid poly, but you know, sometimes it’s the only thing you can get your print in. That was the case with this dress. In any case, it’s a non-gross poly, and I love that I can wad this dress up, pull it out of a bag, and wear it. Not that I do that, of course…

Contrast 1: Poly crinkle. You know – those crinkle fabrics the Elaine Benes broomstick skirts are made from? One of those. I hand basted stay tape to each seamline to avoid it stretching out during stitching.

Constrast 2 (midriff): Poly shantung. I used a soft satin on the inside of the midriff.

My changes – simply for style – are:

  • I took the sleeves off, and I gently gathered the shoulders to bring them in by a half inch or so. Unfortch, it’s hidden by my hair and bag strap. I secured the gathered shoulders with some twill tape.
  • I finished the armscye with (hand-made) bias tape.
  • I lowered the neckline by a good inch and a half or so.
  • I tapered the skirt in ever so slightly towards the hem-by about an inch on each side.
  • I added a second contrast fabric for the midriff – the black shantung.

My likes:

  • I love the ease of construction. I was definitely a bit daunted by that sweetheart neckline, but it turned out so well.
  • The sweetheart neckline is so on trend right now.

What I’d do differently next time:

  • Uh, cut a size up. I cut a 6.
  • I’d lengthen the bodice. The midriff is definitely sitting above my natural waist.
  • My neck facing is a bit problematic. I think that maybe my fusible interfacing shrunk, and it wants to pop up sometimes. I just gotta redo that. Sometime.

Cost: probably $60 or so, including the $20 pattern.

Make it: Kate Middleton’s drawstring dress

Truth be told, I sometimes peruse the celeb weeklies online, and this morning I happened on a People story about how Prince Charles pays for his daughter in law’s wardrobe.

(Yes, I am rather embarrassed that I know much more about such things than about, say, the Turkey/Syrian conflict.)

That aside, I’ve always felt indifferent about the royals to somewhat annoyed with the press that they receive, particularly around W&K’s marriage, and the Diamond Jubilee.

Fans of the royals tend to be fans of Will and Kate, I think, in part because they seem so darn respectable. I have to say, I tend to like my royals scandalous (though not necessarily in the Harry-in-Nazi-costume way). If they’re going to be needlessly prominent, at least let them be amusing. I have high hopes for Fergie’s children, based on headwear alone.

I will finally admit, though, I am in many ways a fan of Kate’s clothing (minus the wedding dress. unpopular opinion, I know). And in the above-mentioned People article, I couldn’t help but notice that the drawstring dress she’s wearing is very much like a couple of sewing patterns I’ve looked at lately, Burdastyle’s Anda Dress, and Salme Patterns’ Kimono Dress.

Of course, K.Mid’s has a different arm treatment – you can see that it is gently scalloped, not unlike the Colette Macaron’s sleeve.

I had never thought much of the Burdastyle Anda dress before making the connection to K.Mid’s drawstring dream. Perhaps the difference is in the fabric. Quite rarely for Burdastyle’s own creations (which typically make their patterns look incredibly chic), the copper dress they use for Anda looks quite home ec. I’m guessing that K.Mid’s dress is a knit – likely a silk jersey – although I think it could also be a gorgeous drapey silk crepe.

A word about Salme Patterns… there are a lot of small independent pattern companies popping up and while I want to love their clothes, I often, well, don’t. I’m just not that into vintage 50s style (the wasp waist/full skirt) that I understand to be a major indie inspiration. Out of the independents, Style Arc is a major exception, and Salme, out of London (UK, not Ontario!) is too. ‘Cept Salme is soooo unsung, as far as I can tell.

What I love about Salme – they don’t look  homesewn, vintage-ey, or even close to costumey. They just look like beautiful, simple garments in exquisite fabrics – they look like the garments I covet at Aritzia and don’t want to pay for – and I’m stoked to order some patterns, grab some beautiful silks, and sew them up.