Sunday, September 14, 2014

One Week, One Pattern - aka the Week of Bathroom Selfies

Happy Sunday, all!  I just recently completed my first blog challenge, hosted by Handmade Jane (check out the link to see her week in action).  The challenge, in short, was to wear an item of clothing every day for 7 days from the same pattern.  Some people chose blouses, skirts, or pants/shorts - I, in my infinite wisdom, chose a dress.  Cause I'm smart like that.

Originally, I decided on the Anna pattern from By Hand London.  My decision was based solely on the fact that I adore the pattern and felt it would motivate me to crank out a few more.  Um.  Yeah.  Not so much.

Having only made 3 Annas at that point, I felt that I'd get funny looks around the office, even if I got incredibly creative with layering.  "Nice skirt, Kelli, but why the cable knit sweater?  It's 82 degrees out today"...  So I went back to Jane and switched up to Simplicity 2444.  I already had a few straight up ones made, and a couple of hacked versions, so over the course of the week I finished up a couple more and was off and running.  So without further ado, here's my week:

Day 1 - Saturday

I was in the throes of an awful flu, but managed to drag myself out of bed around 11am and get prettied up to spend a couple of hours at ManetteFest (a local neighborhood festival).  The weather was gorgeous, but I still only managed a brief stroll before I parked myself at the local watering hole and waited for John to finish visiting.  This is a hacked version of 2444 - my first Frankendress. After the festival I proceeded to spend the next 12+ hours in bed.

My "please hurry up and take the picture" face

Day 2 - Sunday

Sunday was a complete wash.  I was too sick and spent the day in pjs - here's a pic of the dress that I would have worn.  It's my first 2444 and is straight from the pattern, down to the skirt.
Accessorized with my comfy quilt

Day 3 - Monday

Monday I was still feeling poorly, but made it to work looking at least somewhat alive.  This is 2444 with an a-line skirt; I was experimenting with mixing fabrics.  The skirt is lined because the polka dot quilting cotton was pretty cheap and too see through to go without. I was working on finishing this up the week before the challenge (I had it most of the way done weeks ago and got bored).

Lots of filtering on this one so I look less frightening

Day 4 - Tuesday

Tuesday and feeling more human.  This is my second 2444 and some of my favorite fabric.  I love the colors and the Chinese parasols; it's a bright and cheery dress and I've worn it quite a bit.
Bathroom selfie - adds an extra touch of class to any photo

Day 5 - Wednesday

I waited until I got home to get a pic of Wednesday.  By mid-week I started to feel too blah again from the flu to really put much effort into the photo, but I love the dress.  This is a modified 2444 (I lowered the neckline quite a bit at this point) made with a gathered skirt.  It's Michael Miller Eiffel Tower fabric in the bright red color.  The shoes are adorable and I got them in a screaming good sale from Miss L Fire - I'll take better pics of them at some point.

Yeah, whatever, this shot's fine.
Day 6 - Thursday

Thursday was hair cut day - hooray!  I recycled the Frankendress and mixed it up with a different cardigan.  I also was up to wearing heels at this point in the week - these are also from Miss L Fire.

Post styling photo at the salon

Giggle fit
Day 7 - Friday

I managed to get a new, unblogged dress finished up for the end of the challenge.  I'll do a write up after I get back from my work conference (and get better pics), but this is my Red Riding Hood themed dress, made up in my 2444 based Frankenpattern.

Bonus dress - Friday evening

I donned the Monster Mash dress for Friday night.  Lesson learned, kiddos.  PREWASH YOUR FABRIC. In my zeal to sew up this fabric, I did not prewash, and it's now incredibly tight.  Not unwearable, but I certainly notice that 1/4" I lost in shrinkage.

There's a weird smudge on the mirror, hence the Vaseline-esque filter

And there we have it!  Thanks to Jane for hosting - this was a blast to participate in.  I'm looking forward to reading through everyone's successes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Love Potion #9 Dress

We interrupt One Week One Pattern (OWOP) to bring you an unholy experiment in trying to get the Elisalex pattern to work for me...

I own three By Hand London patterns, and as you may know, I am firmly attached to both the Anna and Flora designs.  Bolstered by all the lovely dresses gracing the information superhighway, I ran off and ordered Elisalex.  How could I go wrong with a princess seamed bodice that featured a lovely scooped back and deeply rounded neckline?  The drafting wizards at BHL had not disappointed me yet - take my money!

And then I mocked up the pattern.  Oh dear lord.  Usually if pattern needs tweaking from me, it's because the front is snug and there's excess fabric in the back.  I knew that the Elisalex was drafted to have very little ease, so I cut my normal size 10, figuring that meant I wouldn't have to take it in at the CB and all the waist seams.  Yeah, not so much.

The back was SO tight I could barely get the muslin zipped.  But wait, you might say.  The front is probably too snug.  Nope.  The front was huge.  I mean, huge.  There was so much extra fabric that I was at a loss as to a way to fix it.  So with much fanfare and salty language, the pattern was folded, put back in the envelope, and stuck back in my pattern box, prominently displayed for proper glaring.

A fair few weeks later, and I decided to try out another princess pattern (I will spare you my rant over New Look that missing an entire sheet of pieces).  Enter Butterick 4443 - ignore the model's bland photo - I picked this one up because it's a straight forward princess dress (why is the trend a princess front and darted back all of a sudden?), and I liked the strapless and V-neck variations.  I mocked it up, and, though it was nothing worth photographing, it at least fit moderately well.

I was still haunted (yep, haunted) by the ill fit to my BHL dress.  It was stubborn obsession, to be fair.  So, I took the bodice pieces from it, and overlaid the pieces from the Butterick pattern, and there was my answer.  Elisalex's back pieces for a 10 lined up with Butterick's pieces for a 6, while the front pieces were a good 1" bigger.  Well, hell.  I really really really wanted the neckline of BHL, since Butterick was a bit on the frumpy/boring side.

Well, you know what that meant.

Here's where you can envision a montage of me in a frenzy of inspiration and subsequent pattern hacking and sewing a la Pretty in Pink.  All to a pop-y 80's soundtrack, of course.
Cue the Psychedelic Furs

Basically, this was the most half-assed hack ever.  All I did was fold the neckline of the Butterick pattern out of the way, so I could trace the BHL pattern's shape onto my fabric.
If you look closely, you can all the extra in the BHL piece in the front (white) and how much is missing from it on the back

Yep.  Science.

Maybe a little Adam Ant at this phase

It wasn't a horrid first go, either.  The armscye's of both patterns are in completely different places, as are the shoulder seams.  After the test dress was sewn up, I did have to take in the side and SB seams a bit (I REALLY either need to start making full bust adjustments or by multi-cup sized patterns and start making size 8 with a C or D cup), and I think I could use a regular 5/8" seam allowance over the bust instead of 3/4"; the shoulder seams needed to come up 1/2" as well.  I also want to dip the front neckline a bit more, but all in all, I think it's pretty cute.  Especially made up in the obnoxious glory that is my clearanced Valentine fabric.

I don't know what I like more -- the tiny little perfume bottles with Eiffel Towers, or the fact that this fabric has freaking GLITTER in it.  I think it's glitter for the win.
shine on you crazy diamond
I have since taken the mishmash abomination and transferred it to its own pattern, thus allowing BHL and Butterick to go their separate ways.  I used sew-in interfacing as my pattern material, so I'm interested to see how it holds up.

And now, a display of my enviable modeling skills.  Don't hate.

Just a girl and her bike.  Totally natural.

Ya hate to see me go, but'cha love to watch me leave

On the next go, I'm definitely taking another 1/2" out of the neckline and the armscye.  But other than that, I chalk this up as a success.

Well, that's it for now, dear readers.  I'm hoping to fit lots of sewing time into my schedule, as I have many projects queuing up (including unselfish sewing - yuck).  However, I just snapped up the most amazing, fucking fantastic length of fabric from  It was sold out for a month, and when I check on it today, it was already down to 67 yards left in stock.  I didn't even stop to consider, I just hit the "buy" button.  I am actually quite proud of myself for only buying 3 1/2 yards...

"Dysfunctional Family" by Michael Miller
Mom says things like "you're such a wuss" "Benji!  Don't pee in the pool" and "I love these pills...I feel so calm and relaxed".  MINE MINE MINE.  Thank goodness it's reorderable, because I feel that several different dresses are in my future.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Inspiration not Duplication - Wise on the Prize Dress from Modcloth

So this week's inspiration piece is brought your way courtesy of, you guessed it, Modcloth.  Oh, I just can't stay away, darling.  No matter how I try, you continue to entice me.  I woke up today hit with an awful cold, and if I'm totally honest, I just picked the first oddly printed dress that I scrolled past.  Behold!

Wise on the Prize Dress

And the back view.  Just cause. 

I feel quite on trend, having already made an owl-themed project in my Whoo Dat? dress

That being said,  I really do not like this particular dress.  The fabric is incredibly busy in an almost anxiety-attack inducing way, and I'm not a fan of either the color combination or the artwork.  It's a weird mishmash of folksy and hippy, and the colors on the dress are just too faded for a black background.  Not for me. 

And while I'm on a rant about what I DON'T like, what the hell is up the inset waistband trend?  I despise inset waistbands (I'm currently trying to draft it out my Cambie pattern).  Just like decorative seaming, I feel that the gratuitous addition of pattern pieces detracts from novelty fabric, discourages beginning home sewers, and frustrates even experienced sewers (crooked waistlines at the zipper, anyone?).  I don't like them in RTW either, because you're either stuck with perma-sash like this dress, or they cut my torso in an unflattering manner.

Ah, nothing like a good, therapeutic rant!  Now, onto the positives.

I love the idea of the owl novelty print.  I also find the basic shape of the dress appealing (go figure), since fit-n-flare is my go to silhouette.  And that's the other nice thing about home sewing over RTW - not only does it save you money, but you're not locked into the vision of the designer.  So here we go...

For the bodice, I have to go with BHL's Anna dress.  It's got the kimono sleeves, the double pleats at the waist would substitute that attached sash for shaping, and if you use the V-neck version I don't see why you couldn't round it out to match Modcloth's dress.  If you're totally not into reshaping a neckline, and aren't hopelessly in love with kimono sleeves, then reach for Simplicity 2444.  You can't really go wrong with either choice, and they're both pretty simple to put together.

Now the skirt.  Sigh.  I wish I had a handle on math, because I think a self drafted pleated skirt would be the bees knees.  I am not, however, so I would either use the gathered skirt from Simplicity 1803, or the skirt from 2444. 

One day, I will master pleats!  Sonsabitches!

Ok, now the fun part.  I've already stated, in my subtle manner, that I don't like the stock fabric of the Modcloth dress.  In fact, as I have recently made an owl dress, I would be inclined to go with this choice, from

I know, right?!
It has the same idea in the print, but the colors are nice and vibrant, as opposed to the washed out look above.  Blech.  And how can you not be smitten with the most smug foxes you've ever seen?

Ok, ok.  This is an OWL dress.  Well, has several choices for owl prints, from folksy to cutesy to sophisticated:

Badass metallic owls with serious "what are YOU looking at" expressions

Folk art owls that are FAR better than our inspiration piece.  I mean, seriously.

Who are cutest little owls in all of Owlville?  YOU are!

This is so classy it doesn't even look "novelty" to me.  You're welcome.

Bam.  Choices galore.  All will give you the same read as the inspiration dress, but are much more suited to individual style instead of being trapped with a generic novelty print.  Of course, in researching this I have now become obsessed with that fox fabric.  Go figure.

That's all for now, kids!  I'm off to do wait out the remainder of the work day feeling icky and pathetic.  At least I have a webinar that will last until it's almost time to leave.  It's the little things.

Happy Wen-Thursday!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Marie Laveau Dress

Sometimes, there's a project that comes along that is determined to test all the patience you wish you had.  No matter how enthusiastically it is approached, how carefully you proceed through the steps; even if you've made it a thousand times before, success will elude you at every turn.  You will swear it's been cursed by some gypsy or voodoo queen as you grab the seam ripper yet again, stabbing yourself in the process (I had a dress once where I sewed the right sleeve into the left armscye FOUR times).  This dress has been one of those projects.  I've had the damn thing on the sewing table for weeks, but everything from stupid sewing/cutting mistakes to everyday life has made this a long and winding road on the path to dress glory.

Ah, one day my dream of independent wealth will come true, and I will finally be able to immerse myself in a hermitage of sewing bliss...  Begone, friends and family!  There's a new pattern to try!  And I have recently obtained a length of fabulous fabric that cries out to fulfill its destiny!  No, not for you, foolish mortal, the fabric is mine, all mine! Now fetch me a vodka and soda!  Mhuahahahahaha!

Well a girl can dream.

First, the pattern. It's another BHL Anna dress (oh Anna. You sexy thang.).  This time, mainly spurred on by the gorgeous version over at Dolly Clackett, I decided to dive in and try the maxi version.  The only fabric I was interested in busting out for this was a lovely, heavy weight linen blend I've had for close to 15 years.  It was originally earmarked to be a summer weight 14th century dress, back when I still hung out in the SCA.  It's a gorgeous shade of navy with deep purple tones - so I thought it would be the perfect dress for late summer, since we'd had an amazing run of 80+ degree days.

Oh, the best laid plans of mice and seamstresses...

The beginning of the project was set spinning off course pretty much as I was cutting the fabric.  Big person life got in the way around the Stitchery and kept me from my machine for the better part of that week, and I only sporadically (and distractedly) got back to the dress for short stints.  My only long sewing session was interrupted by the thrill of seeing how culottes make my ass look gigantic; fun as that was, it was an entire afternoon away from dressmaking.  THEN  I hurt my back getting out of bed (because getting older is that amazing) and couldn't sit at my machine for several more days.  The most interaction I've had with my sweet Janome has been longing looks on my way out the door, and the occasional loving caress.  But I digress.

As soon as I could, I forced out some time to begin assembly.  Then, the mistakes started.  The bodice went together as smoothly as ever (once I got to it), but the skirt.  Oh, the skirt.  Cursed.

I really should have listened to, oh, EVERYONE in the bloggersphere who said "make sure you mark the skirt pieces, they look pretty similar".  Oh, stuff and nonesense, thought I.  Surely keeping the pattern pieces with the skirt pieces until pinning is sufficient, as this has worked for me in the past, and I am awesome.  Cthulhu tried to be helpful by offering me a marking pencil, and helpful suggestions like "hey, maybe you should cut the notches on this bad boy?".  After a haughty scoff by yours truly, he just shrugged and went back to designing cities with non-Euclidian geometry and driving cultists insane.  Yeah, I should have known.  Always trust the advice of the house demi-god.  Just saying.

Didn't mark the skirt, huh?  Hand me the seam ripper...

Not only are the skirt pieces similar, I'm hard pressed to find much difference AT ALL.  Really, I'm not sure why they don't just have a CF and CB, then just one other piece you cut 4 panels of for the SF and SB sections.  It would save a lot of swearing.  Especially when you realize that you forgot to cut the CB section, and scramble in a panic for the remnants you've lovingly stored.  Then, you find that said remnant is a good 3 inches shorter, and now the skirt will need trimmed (and only brush the tops of your feet instead of majestically floating just above the ground).  Then you decide to start assembling the ^&%*'ing skirt after a cocktail break, and discover that you have flipped the SB and CB pieces, and the only hope of correction is to rip it apart and resew.  After you pinked the seams.  On a linen blend.  Yeah, fuck that.  I'll deal with the skirt as is.  Lucky for me, Cthulhu has the good grace to refrain from "I told you so".  At least out loud.

In the interests of full disclosure, I did rip it apart.  Then I pinned it together and after resewing realized half the pieces were inside out. Yeah.  Fortunately there was not a lighter handy or this would have burned.

And did I mention that in a whirlwind frenzy of pinking, I also finished the CB seam, before the skirt was attached to the bodice and had to rip THAT open?  Yeah.  Have I mentioned this was a cursed project?

(The love affair with my Janome, however, is still going strong.  Oh Janome, you understand me, don't you?  Of course you do.  The 7 piece feed dogs on the Superior Feed System are no joke.  I may even risk sewing up some rayon I've been too afraid to touch but would make lovely culottes.  Maybe.)

I also tried a new technique for zip insertion.  It's not too disimilar from what I usually do, but there are some extra steps in the tutorial that turned on a fair few light bulbs for me.  There's also a fantastic tutorial on using a walking foot that I'm going to try for stitching down bias facing.  Craftsy is a lifesaver.


Bias facing action shot

So after all the frustrations and annoyances, I managed to power through and finally get the dress done.

Oh the suffering I endure for my art

Yes, there's vodka in that cup

But it was worth it in the end

It's even elegant from the back

And I did pick up an adorable new purse from the RockIt Roost - the brick and mortar store is here in town and my friend Holly presented me with this saying "it would be so cute with your style of dresses!".  Sigh, isn't the kiss lock sweet?  I was smitten, and as it was on sale for $20, how could I say no?  Nothing takes the sting off a project from hell like fabulous accessories.

Cute new purse, you understand me.

And that's it for this edition of Watch My Projects Turn Me Into An Alcoholic.  Stay tuned for more adventures!

And one triumphant pose for the road

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Sushi Dress - Butterick 5748

Here's a quick and dirty post on a dress I made at the beginning of the summer.  It's actually one of my favorites, because I absolutely adore the fabric.  It's made from a quilting cotton I bought at JoAnn's sometime last year, and the pattern was my second attempt at Butterick 5748.

On this dress, I omitted the lining, used bias binding for the neckline and arms, and scooped the neckline another 5/8".  The hem is serged and left alone (don't you love my couture techniques?), and I have continued with my use of railroad zips over invisible ones.

My sweet "no flash" photo.  Take that, Ansel Adams.

And the back, showcasing the best feature of the pattern; the lovely deep back.

Chicken Dance pose

The hem's even, I promise.  Not only did I have a run of forgetting the flash, but I was also taking photos of my dresses after wearing them all day.  Cotton tends to get a bit flat after sitting for hours.  However, I'm not a fashion blogger (or really any kind of blogger) so my goal is to get pics as fast as possible and get them posted. 

At some point I'll have to get a close up of just the fabric, because it's stunning.  I centered the bodice to get as much of one complete dragon across the front as possible.  Damn, that's pretty fabric.

Boom.  Sewing post.  I had another name for this dress, but then I started to have a hankering for sushi, and that's that.  These dresses name themselves.  Mmmmm.  Sushi.

Happy Hump Day!

Inspiration not Duplication - Cath Kidston's London Buses Dress

Greetings, sports fans! 
This week's installment of "Oooh I love that!  Here, take my money!  Wait... it's HOW much?  For COTTON?!   Yeah, fuck that." is brought to you by my avoidance of anything productive.

It's been far easier to crawl the interwebs lately rather than sit at the sewing table (my fabric stash is glaring evilly in my direction), which brought me to this darling piece by across-the-pond designer, Cath Kidston.


Oh yes, this is love.  Or at least moderate infatuation.  Cath Kidston is known for rather quirky prints (dreamy sigh) on fairly simple designs, and not inconsiderable price tags.  I am totally smitten with the double decker buses, because I shamelessly adore most things British (thank you Netflix and BBC America, for shows like Coupling, The IT Crowd and Spaced, not to mention Dr. Who, Red Dwarf, the Sharpe series, I could go on for paragraphs).  However, I neither want to shell out for international shipping nor pay 65 pounds (and try to convert that to dollars in my head) for this dress.

So, you know what comes next.... has quite a few prints with a London theme.  My favorite is this print:

I like the blue background, as well as the not-to-scale motifs (giant teacups and mini Big Ben, anyone?).  So this would be my fabric of choice - however, if I were inclined to stay as true to the feel of the original as possible, I would go with this print :

The people on the bus go up and down, up and down, up and down...

My only hesitation in this fabric choice is I am clumsy as hell and try to avoid white as much as possible.  However, I think this is adorable.  And it might be worth a dye bath test run to get a blue background.

Next, the pattern.  This is a basic skater dress, and there are a wealth of options as far as patterns.  I would stick to darts over princess seams, just to preserve as much of the motif as possible.  McCall's just released a pattern that would be perfect, M6955.  Butterick 5748 would be acceptable, but I would rather keep the neckline scooped in the front and high in the back, which is the exact opposite bodice treatment.

The flared skirt is pictured, but it also comes with a gathered option, as well as a nifty cut-out back.

 It's a very simple pattern, looks to be every bit of its "easy" rating, and would be my solid pattern of choice for this dress.  I did buy this on sale for $1.99, and would only need about 2 3/4 yards of the fabric at $9.48 per yard - that's noticeably more thrifty than the RTW option.  And that means more money in the budget for accessories!  I mean, things for the house.  Yeah.  That's what I meant...

And there you have it, yet another pleasant distraction from yours truly at the Stitchery.  Happy sewing!


I did purchase this fabric:

OMG squee

With a mind to this Eva Franco dress:

Sold out on Modcloth, worn in New Girl and much coveted by the bloggersphere

Stay tuned!  I may get this done by my 50th birthday.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Inspiration not Duplication - Modcloth Guest of Honor Dress in Balloon

It's no secret I love Modcloth.  And even though I stopped emptying my wallet buying RTW from them faster than you can say "charge it!", I still crawl the pages when I need a creative kick in the ass.  Or to buy accessories.  Accessories.......drool....
So today as I was window shopping the site, I found this dress from Effie's Heart.  Ok, let's get real.  This dress is adorable.  Super adorable.  I want.  I need.  I check the price and hit the brakes.  As lovely as this dress is, I am not excited in the slightest at the $95 price tag. 

So using this as inspiration, this is how I would make my version of the dress.

Inspiration piece from Effie's Heart

First things first -- this dress is a knit.  I love to wear knit, but I don't sew with knit because my sanity is precarious enough as it is.  So my personal take would be to use this quilting cotton, available on

I have this in the pink color and it's freaking fabulous

What I like so much about the Guest of Honor dress is the wide straps and slightly squared off neckline.  I also like the flared skirt, but that's easy enough to swap out with another pattern, so here's the pattern I would use to tackle the bodice.

Personally, I would use view C (the one with the notch), because it has the squared shape I'm after.  The other views are more of a sweetheart neckline, but if you like the attached straps, that's easy enough to change (or leave, whatever trips your trigger).  I've made up view C and cut the CF on the fold to eliminate the seam, and it's worked just fine.  So for the bodice, I would take view C, cut it on the fold to remove the CF seam and remove the notch, squaring up the neckline even more.  I would also leave off the cap sleeves (seen on the model in the hot pink dress).  The original dress has a yoke and separate straps, but I try to use as few seams as possible.  I prefer a cleaner line, especially when the goal is to showcase the fabric, and I am far too lazy to do a shit ton of pattern matching.

If I wanted to up the cost and keep the flared skirt of the Modcloth dress, I'd make the 5 gore skirt from Butterick 5882 (the cotton isn't wide enough for a 2 piece full or half circle skirt) otherwise I'd just use the gathered skirt here.  After all, it's an inspiration piece, not a copy :)  And to be perfectly honest, I'd be inclined to use the highly fabric conservative skirt from 1418, cause I <3 it.  I would also keep the cost down by not making the sash.  I'm short waisted and I don't like them anyway. 

Projected cost:
Pattern $0 (I own it but if you buy it it will run anywhere from 99 cents to $14 depending on if you can wait for a Joann's sale), fabric $23.70 (2 1/2 yards @ $9.48/yard), notions $0 - $4 (thread, bias tape, zipper if the stash is lacking) for a total of well under $30 for a new dress.  Compared to $95 to purchase a similar dress via retail, this is well worth making up at home.  Even if you up the yardage and add the cost of lining (I typically use remnants for my lining), you're still coming in well under half the cost. 

Now go forth and be inspired!