Tuesday, August 9, 2022

StyleArc Doreen Knit Dress

Okay, I was not even going to address the length of time I've been silent and haven't written a post. For far too long my urge to sew has been lost behind what needed to be done both during the pandemic and as I slowly reopened the studio to sew for others. Writing about any of it was simply not what my life needed. I'm back, and I've made up a pattern, I need to share my thoughts about it with you.


I took some time out from my busy bridal alterations schedule to make myself a new summer dress. I had purchased this beautiful French viscose knit print during Elliott Berman's sale this past March, along with several other knits, without having a particular dress pattern in mind. StyleArc had a sale on dress patterns around the same time, and this one found its way into my cart. They seemed a pretty good match, though I worried a bit that the fabric would be a bit soft and drapey for the style. It worked out better than I'd hoped!


Having some experience with StyleArc tops and jackets I know that for me, they run big through the neck and shoulders - but I wasn't sure about the lower body. My weight is up again, and I need more room through the waist and abdomen, so after downloading their size chart and checking my measurements against them, this is what I came up with:


10 shoulders and neck
14-16 Bust
20 Waist  (add 4" to size 16)
16 Hip

I used the 10 for the shoulders and neck. Too often when I've made a new pattern, I am uncomfortable with the loose fit and low neck of the size I chose - I may be on the heavy side, but my shoulders and the breadth of my back are pretty small. This was definitely the right choice for me.

Because I want to have a bit more coverage on my upper arms, and I usually need a full bust adjustment, I extended the end of the shoulder to the size 14 point and blended out to the 16 at the underarm. When finished, I feel I could have used the 14 at the underarm and been fine.

I blended out to the 20 at the waist, and back to the 16 through the hip to the hem. I cut the side seams of the bodice front and back with 1" seam allowances, in case I needed a bit more for that full bust - there are no darts in this design. 

Tracing the pattern pieces and cutting were a slower process than I'm used to, as both front and back bodice are full pieces that need to be cut as a single layer due to the asymmetrical seam at the hip. Once cut, I knew the assembly would go pretty quickly. 

I wanted to check the fit before getting all the parts serged together. So I basted the shoulders and sides of the bodice front and back to try it on. I didn't get a photo of me wearing it that point, but wish I had. Surprisingly, it felt pretty good as a top - my husband liked it so much on me, he urged me to make one out of this pattern. I may do that, but would soften the angle of the asymmetry to make the high side longer and low side shorter. I couldn't tell how loose it would be through the waist and hip, without the weight of the skirt attached, so I sewed the sides seams on the adjusted seamlines I'd chosen for my measurements - leaving the extra seam allowance I'd added in case of later adjustment. 


There are some errors in the limited instructions for the pattern, and I will be writing to the company to make them aware of my concerns. Some of it is due to a difference in terminology, I assume, that is used in Australia versus what we use here in the US. 'Flat stitch' is mentioned where I'd expect 'understitch', for instance. That's easy enough to learn to identify. Most importantly, the drawing and text for the sleeve bands tell you to sew them together with 2 seams, one at each end. The band is cut as a pair, one pair for each side, with one seam at the underarm to form a single band for front and back - the second band is a facing. If a novice sewer followed the instructions, they would make a band twice as long as required, and use up both pair of bands as they worked through the instructions. To further muddy the waters, the pattern is layered with all sizes, and the double notch for the back portion of the sleeve band is marked at a distance that makes the second notch of most sizes line up with the first notch of another size - I missed the double notch completely when cutting, and thought they'd left it off. Also, the notch for the shoulder point isn't labeled as such, and the instructions don't refer to it because they show a seam at that point that doesn't exist. 


Although the cutting instructions say to cut 2 pair of the bands in 'fuse' as well as fabric, I made my sleeve bands with one layer of fusible interfacing, using Pro-Tricot Deluxe from Fashion Sewing Supply. I felt this was enough for the soft viscose knit. I'm happy with the result.

The real confusion for me was in the instructions for the neck binding - 'bind' is how the Australian company refers to this piece. I read the instructions several times without realizing the resulting band would be turned to the inside and topstitched, rather than standing up in the neck opening. It was only in reading the instructions aloud that I caught the disjointedness of it having been translated from some other language. In the end, I decided that with the exception of telling you to staystitch the raw edges of the folded binding, then stretch to fit the neckline (isn't the purpose of staystitching to prevent stretching?) along with repeating two of the steps in different words, the instructions were accurate but difficult to understand. I put the band on using my own method, but I feel badly for a less experience sewist trying to follow the steps here. 

Once the skirt was attached (and all seams serged, naturally!), I decided the fit was really a lot looser than I wanted. I removed a full 4" at the waist level, taking an addition 1" out of each seam there - essentially reducing the waist and upper hip to a size 12 - but tapering back to the size 16 at the underarm, and starting a taper back out to the size 16 from the level of the low side of the skirt seam to the hem to preserve the fullness there. I would take that underarm to a 14 or smaller, if I make this again - but with the bands attached I really didn't want to mess with it on this one.

This will be a really wonderful addition to my summer wardrobe - light and cool, it feels like I'm wearing a nightdress! 

Forgive the sad (barefoot!) photo - I haven't had a chance to get someone to take some pictures for me!


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

No new clothes this year??

So I did it. I took the plunge - I'm not planning to buy any new clothing in 2018. The idea is to sew my own wardrobe - buying only underwear, shoes and accessories like belts and purses. I can buy fabric and patterns, plus I've got a substantial stash of both to work with. The issue for me is going to be finding - making - the time to sew for myself, in between clients' work and family needs (there is going to be new grandchild born this month, and that little one is going to need lots of stuff made by nanna.

We'll see how it goes - I'll keep you posted.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Last new garment of the year

I've been among the missing for months, I know. I was swept up by a tidal wave of bridal alterations and custom work for so many clients that the summer and fall flew by, and anything I sewed for myself or family members went quickly from the cutting table to being worn without any blogging being done. I've got a couple of projects to catch up on: a custom wedding gown (it's blue!); a winter coat for my pregnant daughter; and a boiled wool jacket - for me! The jacket is what I'm going to concentrate on today, while I'm excited about having successfully finished it - it's been quite a while since a project for myself has turned out pretty much exactly as I had envisioned it.

The fabric was a gift a year ago, from my friend and colleague Denise, when I was reeling from the sudden loss of my big brother. She decided I needed a little something to remind me of warmth and loving comfort, and this piece of beautiful printed boiled wool sure fit that bill. She'd won it from Elliott Berman's FabricLove giveaway, and had described it to me - I don't really remember that, but she felt it suited me more than it did her. I have to admit, it was love at first sight! 

A very close view - it's a print with lace and floral motifs, in soft aqua and ivory on gray.
I really wanted to make a jacket, and my vision was of a cascade-type, draped, open cardigan. I bought one pattern locally (Kwik Sew 3977) and ordered Style Arc's Harper jacket as well, so I'd have a choice of design.

Style Arc Harper Jacket
The Style Arc was what I really wanted to do. I made a muslin and had my sewing buddy Donna fit me - last December! - and her suggested adjustments to size and design were pinned in place. Then I put it aside when business picked up early in the year, and it's been stewing in my head ever since. See, the issue was whether or not I'd be able to cut this jacket out of the yardage I had - it's nearly 60" wide, but I had barely 1 1/8 yards, and the edges weren't cut straight. I looked at Elliott Berman's site to see if I could get any more, but it's only available in a different colorway - and it's pretty pricey, to boot. Now, if you've followed my blog a while, you'll remember I have quite a bit of experience at making short yardage work - it's something I've done frequently, especially while I worked for Sawyer Brook. I had a habit of delaying my purchases until there were only small cuts remaining of the fabric I wanted, so creative layouts and occasional piecing have become a way of make-it-work sewing for me. This one was going to tax my skills, though - the pattern calls for at least 1 3/4 yards.

Yesterday I decided it was time to bite the bullet and make it happen. I started by tracing off the original pattern pieces used for the muslin, making the changes Donna had pinned for me. To better suit my proportions, she wanted the front hem shorter and front edges less wide - closer to the center - removing between 1 1/2 and 2 1/4 inches from those pieces. The only other change was to shorten the back length in the armhole, so I made a cut from just about the midpoint of the armhole up to the neck edge and overlapped at the armhole to reduce the length of it. I didn't make a corresponding alteration to the sleeve and wondered if it would ease in okay, but decided not to worry about it yet.

Then I made an attempt at laying out the pattern for cutting. Did I mention that the ends were cut crooked? The fabric is a knit, with the boiled wool print on one side, and with the selvedges lined up there was so much single-layer fabric at each end I couldn't see cutting anything out double. Plus, I could not find a way to lay it out and be able to get even one sleeve out of the yardage, let alone two. I really didn't want a vest. I was open to piecing at least the sleeves, but in order to get to that point I really needed to lay out both fronts and both backs (there is is center back seam - one of the features I like most about this pattern - you can get such a nice fit with a center back seam.) So that meant I needed to trace each pattern piece to have its mirror image. Once I had two fronts and two backs, it was clear that I couldn't get even half a sleeve cut lengthwise, so I also created two sleeve patterns split into an upper and lower portion - the horizontal seam would hit somewhere below the elbow, and in a different spot on each arm. (This is a huge leap design-wise for me! I'm pretty anal about symmetry and balance, so deciding to throw caution to the winds and make those two sleeves fit WHEREVER they could is a great stride forward, in my opinion!)

I failed to take a photo of the layout, because when I got it all to fit I was stoked to get it cut out. While I played with the puzzle of the pieces, my husband came in to see what I was up to. I showed him what remained to be placed on the single-layer of fabric, and where my challenges were, and he offered what he obviously felt was a helpful suggestion: "Can't you just slant that piece a little there?" Oh man, I wish some of my sewing students had been there to learn from THAT teachable moment! I explained grainline and what happens when you don't observe it - the description of jeans legs that twist around your legs convinced him that I knew what I was doing!

The pieces all got cut last night, and I left the studio happy - knowing I had today to get in there and stitch this jacket together.
All that's left of my fabric - this is almost a zero-waste project!

I mentioned that the fabric is reversible - but it wasn't until I started assembling and got ready to press and finish the first stitched seam that it occurred to me the jacket could also be made reversible. The seams are stitched with the printed sides together, then topstitched. I left the seam allowances unfinished, pressed them open, then to one side.

Before I topstitched from the printed side, I trimmed 1/8" from the seam allowance that would be underneath, effectively creating a mock flat-felled seam.
Pressed seam with one allowance trimmed

Pressing wider allowance over narrower

Seam ready to topstitch flat
 All the edges - sleeve hems, hem, fronts, and collar - are finished with a flat 3-thread serged edge (Style Arc calls this a 'babylock' edge) and no hem.

There are two large hooks/eyes included with the pattern, designed to be attached at the points of the front opening and the shoulder seams. Since I took a couple of inches off both the front and hem edges, I fell the jacket becomes too short if I hook it at those points, so I've left them off for now. I may use them if I make this again in a softer, drapier fabric. Even without a closure, I am really delighted with the way this came out.

Here are photos on my form - I'll get some of me wearing it, hopefully in the next few days.

Reverse side. That funky seam allowance on the right shoulder is where I removed the loop of the hook & eye. I've since gone back in and finished the topstitching there.

Till later!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Those who can....

My first young student is a precocious little girl who was 7 when she started lessons. I had worked  pretty much exclusively with adults before I started classes with her, and I knew there would be different challenges in teaching a child the basics of sewing, along with the required safety precautions and some fun detours to keep her interest. I've had guidance from other sewing teachers

Friday, February 10, 2017

Embracing Hand Sewing with Sore Fingertips

It's finally winter here in Eastern Massachusetts, after a long spell of barely cold, non-snowy weather, and my hands are showing it. After just a few days of below freezing weather, my fingertips begin to crack and my cuticles get ragged, the remnants of a horrible battle with eczema that I went through as a teen and young adult. It's gets to the point where I could end up with bandages on more than half of my fingers.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Adding a new hat to the business wardrobe -

I hope all my US readers had a Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been a while since I've posted a blog entry and I apologize for the long silence. This year has been one of transition for me, since I've been able to devote my full attention to my business. Now that a year has passed since I stopped working for Sawyer Brook, I can see real growth in my alterations and custom sewing business, and the volume of work that has been flowing through the studio since the late winter/early spring is really astounding - I've barely been able to keep up with all the necessary tasks to keep the business running smoothly, besides the sewing itself. But along the way I've added another facet: I've started teaching!

Friday, June 10, 2016

A week full of good stuff

My inbox contained some wonderful goodies this week! 

First up, a nice thank you from one of my recent bridal clients. I restyled the gown worn by both her grandmother and mother, removing the high neck, collar and sleeves along with taking out some of the fullness in the skirt (I'm working on a post all about this process, hope to have it ready to publish soon.) The wonderful words of gratitude from this bride filled my heart: