Category Archives: Dresses

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.

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.

I gotta have faith: fitting and the vogue 1174 foundation

pit sniff?

Vogue 1174 is impeccably drafted – probably the best I’ve sewn. The bodice has *three* layers, each with completely different pattern pieces – and yet they all go together beautifully.While the fashion fabric bodice has the horizontal layers, with the piping, the foundation has princess seams. After this project, I definitely appreciate how the foundation is what the dress is well and truly made of, while the fashion fabric layer rests prettily on top. In fact, I’m keen to make more dresses with foundations!

However, as virtually everyone who has made this dress has noted, the bodice runs big. (and I’m talking Notorious B-I-G big). I added and subtracted so many times that I no longer know how much I took out – at least an inch on top, and closer to two at the waist.

Biggie's got nothing on Vogue 1174's bodice!

I also added 3/4″ length to the upper bodice so that it fits higher on the chest (overall, I added length to the top, and took away about an inch from the skirt bottom). There are no shorten/lengthen lines on the bodice, so I simply slashed the upper bodice pattern pieces near the top, and spread them 3/4″. True confession – I was going to do a half inch, but my Burda gridded pattern paper is metric. Spreading 2 cm (3/4″) = two squares was just going to be that much easier.

The challenge is making sure that you repeat all of the adjustments on each layer – lining, and foundation.

When fitting this dress, I worked hard on getting a nice snug fit with the fashion fabric. After sewing it up, though, I was freaking out a bit that the added bulk from the foundation would strain the fashion fabric seams – not to mention me. I was going to be wearing this dress in the company of VIP’s – namely, Mr. Muslinette’s extended family (some of whom sew). I wanted this dress to be as close to perfection as possible.

I was worried because, before adding the lining or foundation, I was already seeing the fashion fabric straining at the seams – which I now know is because it’s loosely woven and ravels when you look at it sideways. In any case, I let out the seams about 3/4″ on the upper bodice and re-attached my zipper to buy myself a little space there (letting my hitherto invisible zipper tape show a little bit).

The lining pieces went in just fine, even with the added room in the bodice pieces, but the foundation pieces turned out to be… too narrow. And it sucks because the foundation – with the facing, the boning channels and the piping (I was less concerned about absolute perfection on the outside) – is one of the most beautiful parts of the dress. Basically, I wasn’t able to sew the foundation directly to the zipper, and hiding the lining. It works in practice, but mars the inside a little.

The dress turned out to be perfectly roomy, and I probably didn’t need that extra space that I gave myself – I should have had a little more faith in my fitting abilities (hence George Michael making an appearance above). More to the point, what I really learned – in retrospect – is that I should have done all of my fitting on the foundation, and then applied the changes to the lining/fashion fabric pieces.

Could’ve been so beautiful… could’ve been so right (Vogue 1174 ‘piping’)

One of the more popular features of the Vogue 1174 dress pattern is the piping along the bodice seamlines. As others have noted, it’s not piping proper, but rather a faux piping that Vogue has you make out of either charmeuse or broadcloth, cut on the bias.  I’ll just say it straight up: Skip what Vogue wants you to do, unless you love the challenge of sewing satin on the bias, and just buy an appropriate piping or trim. It will be cheaper, it will be easier and it will probably look better.

For the faux piping, Vogue/Cynthia Steffe have you make a kind of contiuous bias tape in either charmeuse or broadcloth. However, instead of putting it through a bias tape maker, you press the l-o-n-g bias strip in half (lengthwise, wrong sides together) and baste it. Then you apply this faux piping bias strip to the seams as you would any piping. Vogue helpfully provides a rather large pattern piece for this that uses more fabric than a continuous bias tape made from a 10×10 square, but results in fewer seams.

I used a fairly lightweight crepe-back satin, because it was the closest blue I could get to the blue in the dress, and I wasn’t going to use a broadcloth when the rest of the dress is a satin jacquard. The weight wasn’t an issue. The fact that it was on the bias *was*. Oh WHY didn’t I use my spray stabilizer!? (Oh I know why.. I thought that not being able to wash it out would be an issue. But in hindsight, I don’t think so – it’s piping. Fluidity isn’t the goal.)

To look good, the faux piping has to be dead even the whole way around. And I’m just not the seamstress that I need to be to be able to baste/sew bias satin dead even – especially a 2 metre (6 foot) long strip. After sewing part of the strip into one of the bodice seams, I noticed that it was a bit thicker in some places, and a bit thinner in others. I thought my eye was being a little over-critical until I showed the Mr, and he definitely thought it was an issue. (tbh, it was a bit of a Michael Kors on Project Runway eugh moment.) So I picked it out.

No piping. Insert Tiffany sad face.

Of course, as this pic shows (usual apologies for wrinklage), there is a little bit of faux piping on this dress – on the bodice foundation (and I LOVE this foundation. It may not be perfect, but I think it’s so beautiful! I adore the deep blue grosgrain waist stay). The piping acts as the seam finish on the facings, and so substituting in something else was going to be trickier and more time-consuming. And not as pretty. I mean, it is pretty. Even if the boning channels are slightly unparallel.

And wouldn’t you know that a couple days after sewing the bodice up, I was in the trim section of Dressew and noticed that they have beautiful deep blue satin piping. Of course, I considered buying some, unpicking the bodice and re-sewing it back up. But the logical, smart part of me said no upon realizing that (a) my chosen fabric frays like a b*#@h and (b) I already serged all of my seam allowances. And (c), I was working on deadline.

Lesson learned: with Vogue 1174’s faux piping, if you get it exactly right, it looks sensational. And if you’re wrestling with it, and it shows, it instantly downgrades this dress from handmade to homemade. So I ripped it out and lived with this dress being not quite as spectacular as it could’ve been. And pledged in future to read my patterns carefully before buying my fabric/notions and to anticipate when I can just buy a notion/trim that can do the job quicker, easier and better.

p.s. It’s totally this piping that takes this dress from easy, if time consuming, to average. Well, that and attaching the foundation to the bodice + lining. Which I’ll write about in my next post.

Can I Make it Better?: Thakoon Assymetrical Yellow Silk Dress

(source: Net -a-Porter)

This morning, I went up to the Bay’s “The Room” – upscale RTW – department to do a little snoop shopping, and to get a little inspiration. There’s some good stuff, and not as intimidating as Holt’s. I was drawn to this yellow silk Thakoon dress, with this nice seaming detail across the front.

However, if you’re wondering if that’s puckering, it totally is. The one I was looking at wasn’t really puckered – the seams were just *really* loose. Surprisingly so. On both dresses (at Net-a-Porter and at the Bay), there is some fierce puckering around the hem. It’s shocking, frankly.

In a lot of ways, this Thakoon dress reminds me of Vogue 1208:

1208 hasn’t got the seaming – which looks to be pretty hard for *Thakoon’s* sewers… nevermind me with my entry-level Janome. But 1180 (also Tom and Linda Platt) does…

Neither of the patterns have the Thakoon dress’ draping, but could the patterns be altered to include a bit?

In short, I love yellow, and I’m wondering… Can I take the Thakoon inspiration… and make it better?

Vogue 1174… done!

ok, maybe i need to add those two hanger straps and to put the hook and eye on the waist stay. what can i say… i got this finished about 3 hours before the wedding.

On a body:

First off – sorry for the not-so-awesome headless shot – but I don’t have any photos from this weekend’s wedding! I’m seriously hoping to get some sent (because my shoes were… awesome!!!…). This photo I grabbed with my macbook to send to Mr Muslinette and the bestie to ask if they could see the flaw that was driving me crazy.

Can you spot the flaw?

If you can… I know, right? ahhhhhhh why can’t I be a professional level seamstress a year after learning to sew?

And if you can’t… there no way I’m revealing my mistake 😉

I scheduled 5 days to sew up the final version…

  1. Monday: fashion fabric bodice
  2. Tuesday: fashion fabric skirt
  3. Wednesday: lining
  4. Thursday: foundation (boning etc)
  5. Friday: finishing (hemming, hooks and eyes, thread snipping etc)

Honestly, this dress is not that hard. It’s just laborious. And it’s extraordinarily well drafted.

Nevertheless, two things held me up (next two posts…): the piping, which I didn’t end up using, and installing the bodice foundation (the hair canvas/boning). Not sewing the foundation – that was a joy… rather, sewing it to the fashion fabric bodie and the lining

Oh yeah, and one other thing held me up. I spent all of my Wednesday sewing time shopping for a pattern/fabric for a matching deep blue capelet. I did this because I was seriously worried about the etiquette of wearing anything with white on it to a wedding. Although every etiquette guide I could find says that a white print like mine is fine, the bride and I don’t exactly get along, and she’s the type who might get upset over my daring to wear any white. Although the capelet’s cute, I barely wore it. It’s a little… demure. Which I’m mos def not.