Blah Black Knit Dress

I don’t know what I was expecting, but this dress just turned out . . . blah. It’s McCall’s 7349, which I have made and loved before. The differences from the last one are:

  • Short sleeves
  • High-low skirt (my attempt at making it less blah)
  • Lower neckline w/ band instead of facing

Maybe it needs to be shorter? (But here’s the thing–I dislike exposing the skin in my legs to the subway seats, so I tend to only wear shorter skirts in cold weather, when I’ll be wearing tights anyway.) Maybe it needs a more interesting neckline? Fabric with less drape? More flare in the skirt? Exciting accessories??

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(Kitty cameo!)

I don’t know, but I think I’m done messing with it. The fabric is some bouncy, spandex-y stuff that came in a kit for a skirt. I discovered after cutting out half the skirt pieces that there wasn’t enough fabric (grr!!!), so turned it into this instead.

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To be fair, the dress is really comfortable and cool, and will protect my skin from the subway while not flying up in a stiff breeze. Plus, it’ll be easy to add layers to it (such as the jacket/cardigan I’m knitting!). So I may end up wearing it a lot this summer despite my current lack of enthusiasm. We’ll see.

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Speaking of knitting, I’m joining this year’s Outfit Along! I confess, I’m using a knitting project already in progress rather than starting a new one, but my excuse is that I’m a beginner and was already well into my first top when the OAL was announced. I’m afraid I’d lose my momentum if I set is aside for a couple of months. So the garments I’ll be making are:

  • Evening Spencer Jacket in red cotton
  • Quarter-circle maxi skirt (self-drafted) in a black linen/cotton blend (hopefully with some embroidery if I still feel inspired when I get to that stage)

Regency Dance Weekend 2017

I’m combining these two dresses in one post since they’re essentially the same dress in different fabrics. Both were worn at this year’s Regency Dance Weekend in Salem, MA.

The pattern is Laughing Moon #126, and both dresses have the View A bodice front with the skirts cut on the short side for dancing. (Possibly too short–but, speaking from experience, I much prefer that to tripping over my hem all evening.)

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The first dress is my wearable muslin, made out of an old duvet cover. I was so pleased with the fit that I decided it was useable as a dress for the first night and for the daytime tea on Sunday. It has View B puff sleeves with detachable long undersleeves (as in, they’re attached by whipstitching). For daywear, I also added a chemisette, spencer, cap, bonnet, and shawl.

The second dress was made from a sheer chiffon sari (a gift from a former colleague) and white cotton lawn, and uses the View C puff sleeves. The sleeves are unlined, the bodice is both flatlined and lined (this made sewing that shifty chiffon much, much easier!), and the skirt is a lawn underskirt with a shorter split overskirt made from the sari. I loved using the sari–it’s just instantly more impressive with all that nice embroidery! Plus, it has built-in matching trim (that trim at the neckline and sleeve bands is cut off a different part of the sari). I wasn’t going to attempt to make self-fabric ties from chiffon, so the ties are a coordinating ribbon, which I’m pleased to say was a simple substitute (and I’d be tempted to do the same for future dresses just to avoid the extra work of making the ties).

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I’m also wearing a high-waisted petticoat under the purple dress, but I don’t have any photos of that because it’s the type that’s held up with just straps instead of a full bodice (like this one). I used the skirt from the dress pattern, but didn’t cut the front slashes, left an opening in the center back, and threaded a drawstring through a waistband. It’s got a couple of rows of cording and tucks at the hem to help it stand out a bit. The straps are just wide twill tape.

All in all, I really like this drop-front dress design. It’s kind of a wrap dress, with all the easy, flattering fitting that entails, plus you can get in and out of it yourself (though it’s always nice to have another pair of hands to make a neat bow in the back).

Springtime Goth Dress

Okay, it’s not anywhere near spring yet, but that title describes this dress pretty well! I had to snatch up this fabric when it went on sale over the holidays since it’s a cotton/spandex jersey with a fun print that you usually only see in quilting cottons. Then I was a little disappointed when it arrived since I’d thought the background was gray, but it’s actually a grayish pink/lavender (I even emailed Michael Levine to make sure I’d gotten the right fabric, and they’ve now updated the page to reflect the actual colors–very much appreciated!). However, on further reflection, I’ve become fond of it as kind of a “stealth goth” print: at first glance, you see the pink and the large sprays of flowers…but then at second glance, you notice it’s also full of bats and cobwebs. Perfect for spring! (It’s also very soft and cozy–I could definitely see making PJs out of it.)

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(Please disregard my so-so pattern matching on the center front bodice–it’s hard to do with fabric that doesn’t press well!)

The pattern is McCall’s 7160 (a Christmas present–thanks, Dad!), view C without the overlay. Note the pattern comes with pockets! And they’re the kind that are attached to the waistband–this makes them much more stable (great for knits), but means you can’t do up the side seams last, which is what I prefer to do to make fitting easy.

As a consequence, I see some fitting issues to fix, but honestly, they’re probably not enough to make me actually unpick that waistband (I serged 1/4-inch elastic directly into it–ugh, no way I’m unpicking that). The only changes I made to this pattern were to shorten the skirt a little, give it a slight high-low hem, and to not actually hem it, just serge the bottom of the skirt. (I hate hemming circle skirts, though I love the way they look.) I also put elastic into the shoulder seams like any knit top, but I don’t remember whether the instructions say to do that or not (admittedly, I didn’t really check).

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Still, I’m generally very pleased with this look and fit, and I could definitely see doing this with a lace overlay as a special-occasion dress. (I’m really into making ballgowns out of stretch fabric at the moment!)

Quilted, Princess-seamed Dress

Hello, 2017. I have been sewing in the last few months, but the shorter days mean it’s really difficult to get good photos. Luckily, I got my sister to snap a couple photos of this dress while we were visiting our parents in New Mexico over the holidays.

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(We were at Black Mesa Winery. I went home with some Santa Fest.)

The pattern is McCall’s 7349 and I looove it. I love that it’s a fit-and-flare shape with no waist seam, no closures, and princess seams on both the front and back. Raglan sleeves and no waist seam means fitting is super easy–though I actually did only minor adjustments (nipping in the waist a bit, letting out over the hips). Comfy, flattering, easy to make…what’s not to love? I did try to extend the sleeves to full length, but it wasn’t entirely successful since, um, I ran out of fabric. Oh well! (Is this what’s called “bracelet-length”? Let’s pretend that was what I was going for.)

I also left off the neckband and faced the neckline with some fun quilting cotton to finish it:

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Speaking of quilting, the main fabric is a quilted-look knit (rayon/poly/spandex). I picked it because it has a lot of body and structure, and it worked perfectly for this dress. It’s also quite cozy.

That said, I’m definitely considering making this pattern again–sleeveless, floor-length, lower neckline–in a shimmery spandex for a ball gown that can be easily packed for the two dance camps I’ll be attending this year. No more hauling around a bulky garment bag!

Nahant Victorian Dance Weekend 2016

Hey, it’s my second dance getaway in one summer! This was three days in Nahant, MA, and costuming events included an evening party with informal dancing on Friday, a Belle Epoque ball on Saturday, and a concert/tea on Sunday. (That was followed by a promenade, but we had to scurry off early so I could catch a train back to New York that evening.)

Since we decided to go to this rather late, I concentrated on the two evening events and used some items I already had on hand…but since I’d been dying for an excuse to make late-Victorian evening dresses, I still couldn’t resist doing most of two new ensembles. (Fortunately, my Regency chemises worked fine under the gowns; when I have more time I’ll have to do up proper undergarments! And I just stuck with the same late-Victorian corset all three days.)

Friday evening I did 1880s bustle!

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(Why are my eyes closed in this otherwise lovely photo?!) The bodice is the TV464 Cuirass Bodice, with a hook-and-eye front closure instead of buttons. The overskirt is the Wash Overskirt, and everything else I fortunately already had (TV101 bustle, TV170 petticoat, TV261-R underskirt).

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Had to attempt the awkward corset lean:

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For the Belle Epoque ball, I moved forward in time to the 1890s.

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Sadly, this is the ONLY photo I have of me wearing the finished dress! I’m still hoping one of the many people taking photos at the ball posts them sometime….

For this ensemble, I made the 1890s petticoat from TV170, the Laughing Moon #103 1890s Waist (and stuffed those giant sleeves with tulle!), and Past Patterns #208 Circular Skirt. Here’s a photo of the back that I posted on Instagram while it was a work in progress, since that’s where all the action is in the skirt.

For both the bodices, I pretty much ignored the bodice construction instructions and instead followed all those tutorials at HistoricalSewing.com that I listed before. So the insides ended up looking like this.

Neat. Just for completeness, here’s Day 3’s outfit:

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The only things I made in this photo are the underpinnings. (I did swap out the grosgrain ribbon on the hat, but I don’t think that “counts.”) The skirt is an antique walking skirt that was given to me (yes, I’m very lucky!) and the shirt is just a modern button up.

I left the weekend inspired to get to work on even more Victorian costumes, but I’ve got a lot of other stuff on my plate before another Victorian event comes around!

Pinewoods 2016

A few weeks ago I attended Pinewoods Scottish Session II; it was my first time at Pinewoods and I had lots of fun! In addition to some practice clothes, I made two special-occasion outfits especially for camp. The first is this dress, which I wore to the Highland ball.

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(Please ignore the sneakers.) Okay, it’s not very ball-gown-y, but since it was made of embroidered cotton lawn it was very comfortable in the extremely humid weather. And it has a surprise on the back:

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What you can’t tell from these photos is that the skirt is also delightfully swirly (I’m wearing a ruffly petticoat underneath).

The dress began with the bodice block that was fitted to me during the Workroom Social Dressmaking Intensive, which I modified by moving the zipper to to the side, adding ribbon loops to the back side seams for lacing (there’s also a bit of elastic at the waist in the back panel to keep the skirt from sagging there), lowering the neckline, and replacing the sleeves with flutter sleeves. The skirt is a long half-circle skirt, gathered at the waist.

The second special-occasion outfit was for the themed ball–the theme this year was “Under the Big Top.” Naturally, I just shoehorned this into my interest in Victorian costuming and dressed as a steampunk circus performer (ring leader?).

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(Ugh, this is the best front photo I have, sorry!) I already had the mini top hat and shirt, so I made the bloomers (from this YouTube tutorial), bustle (just the back part, shortened, of Truly Victorian’s Wash Overskirt), and corset (the long view of TV’s Victorian Corselets, but constructed following regular corset methods, including adding a front busk).

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The hair falls are just yarn looped over hairbands (in what is apparently called a lark’s head knot), which are then slipped around buns.

So there you have it: two very different looks for Pinewoods 2016!

Simplicity 1080

Everybody calls Simplicity 1080 “granny chic.” I decided, therefore, to attempt “goth granny chic.” Okay, I totally fell in love with this quilting cotton line and decided to say screw it to everyone who tells you not to sew clothes with quilting cotton. So this is made with Beacon Hall line of quilting cotton.

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I mostly followed the instructions pretty closely for finishing the seams. The main departure, as you can see, was binding the neckline rather than folding it under. The neck was already a bit wide and I liked how this echoed the binding on the pockets anyway.

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Other changes I made were to lower the pleats and add black eyelet lace trim to the bottom.

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I really agonized over what size to make this–I was firmly in the medium range based on my bust size, but so often these patterns end up huge on me (pattern has too much ease + I have narrow shoulders). Most reviews said the straight size was good, but a few mentioned that the dress ended up tentlike. So I bit the bullet and made a small. I’m happy with it! I think definitely the shoulders would’ve been too wide on the medium.

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Making good progress on my spring/summer capsule wardrobe plans!

Spring/Summer Capsule Wardrobe

Dresses

  1. Gray floral Lady Skater
  2. Green dress (purchased)
  3. Cream floral Lady Skater
  4. Calico Giselle
  5. Black/gray calico Simplicity 1080 View A

Skirts

  1. Jersey maxi skirt (McCall’s 6608 View D) in black
  2. Black gauze petticoat skirt with ruffle
  3. White petticoat skirt
  4. Brown midi petticoat skirt
  5. Jean Hollyburn
  6. Nevermore skirt

Tops

  1. Wrap top (Butterick 6285)
  2. Cropped black T-shirt
  3. Gray rose peasant top
  4. Black Weekender tunic

Outerwear

  1. Jean jacket (Simplicity 8020 View A)
  2. Army green jacket (purchased)
  3. Green spencer
  4. Gray jersey cardigan (purchased)
  5. Aurelia cardigan?