Saturday, August 23, 2014

Grainline Studio - the Alder Shirtdress!

Alert, Grainline Studio fans - a dress! And it comes in two beautiful sleeveless versions - one with unadorned shirt styling, and one (which caught my eye) with a partially gathered skirt.

Both have classic shirtdress styling: a button-band front, yoked upper back with a dropped front shoulder, front bodice pockets, and shirt-tail hemlines. And yes, bust darts.

I love the gathered skirt. It just adds so much comfort and ease to the dress. 

And it's so good-looking!

You might notice that my dress does not have a collar...I just don't do collars :-) So here are the changes and adjustments I made to the pattern:

  • I drafted from a size 14.
  • Once the shoulder seams were sewn, I reshaped the front to a V-Neck and dropped the center back neckline about 1/2".  And drafted a facing for the neckline.
Fabric: Cotton calico from Holly Lobby

  • The right bodice front has an attached button band, while the left front is has a cut-on facing. I used the left front pattern for both sides, eliminating the attached band. Topstitching gives the appearance of a banded edge.
  • I used broadcloth interlining in both front facings, instead of fusible interfacing. Often I find that fusible interfacing locks and stiffens a facing too much - I wanted to be sure that the front bands were fluid given their length.
  • I added side seam pockets 3.5" below the waistline.
  • I also redrafted the front skirt to be same length and shape as the back skirt. And flattened and lengthened the curve at the side seam so it would be a bit more forgiving to hem! My reasoning for changing the front length - well, I'm 66 and just don't wear mini's anymore! 

  • The pattern calls for faced armholes. I trimmed the armholes instead and used self-fabric bias binding to finish them. This is a comfort thing for me.
  • The bust dart is placed as expected with a Big 5 pattern - I moved it down 1.5".
  • Another adjustment I typically make, I narrowed the side seam at the armhole by 5/8" and cured it down to the waist.
  • The bodice length was spot on! And I'm 5'7". 
  • I added 5/8" to the hem allowance, just so I could be more generous in my hem turn. 
Seems like a lot! But it really wasn't. I generally spend a lot of time with a pattern before I draft my tissue, it's part of what I enjoy most about sewing.

A few more views on Emile...

About the pattern: Beautifully drafted and includes 1/2" seam allowances, my favorite since I like to cut/serge my seam allowances. The instruction booklet is so well done, it should make this dress approachable for many levels of sewists. I've seen a couple versions of this dress on Kollabora and in the blogosphere. I'm smitten.

Ciao! Coco

Friday, August 8, 2014

DixieDIY Patterns - Ballet Dress

Well, I have to admit that I've taken note of all the Lady Skater and Moneta knit dresses running around out there. With elbow or 3/4 length sleeves, natural waists, gathered skirts - it's a great look. But the pattern that really caught my eye is the Ballet Dress by DixieDIY.  

It's not a new pattern by any means. Dixie first released it in 2011. And she revised it in 2013, to address suggestions from fellow sewists: she lengthened the bodice and skirt, and narrowed the sleeves.

I think the reason I like the look of this pattern best is the neckline. It's a little higher and rounder than the others, and it balances the longer sleeves and bodice really nicely.

Ok, it also balances my longer skirt nicely...

I'm not planning to wear a short circle skirt any time soon :-) but doing a change-up on the skirt was easy. The skirt is simply two 27" x 44" rectangles! 

The hard part was matching these crazy thin stripes. I found that the only sensible - if kind of tedious - way to do it was by basting my fabric selvages together before laying out the pattern. I was working with 3 yards of fabric! so I did cut out lengths approximate to the bodice and skirt requirements first.

Not bad!

My fabric is a lightweight cotton/lycra jersey from With 50% stretch across the width, it was a little tricky to sew. Some sewing notes:

  • I drafted my tissue from the size Medium, but took the curve out of the bodice side seam - I simply dropped the side straight down from armhole edge to the bottom of the bodice. This increased the waist width to 34" and added just a little ease to the bust.
  • I also added 2 1/2" to the length of the bodice, front and back.
  • And lowered the back neckline by 1/2".
  • At 14", the sleeves are by no means 3/4 length on me, but I decided not to lengthen them. If you want a true 3/4 sleeve, you might want to check this measurement.
  • To keep those stripes lined up, I hand-basted all my seams before sewing them on the machine. Then I used an elastic (lightning) stitch for the seams, followed by a serged finish for the seam allowances.

  • I used the same approach on the waist seam, gathering the skirt and basting it to the bodice before going to the machine. The result is very elastic, but sturdy enough to support the skirt without additional stabilization. I know that some patterns suggest using elastane tape on the waist seam, but I'm allergic to it. I'm glad this worked without it.

  • Also glad I remembered to cut the sleeve hem allowance on an angle to mirror the sleeve. It always amazes me when a pattern doesn't incorporate this simple detail.

  • Speaking of hems...for this fabric, I serged the edge, turned up a 1 1/4" hem, and topstitched just inside the serging with a straight stitch. 
  • Instead of using an attached band 'collar', I applied binding to the neckline. This is just a piece of cotton/rayon jersey from the stash, cut across the stretch of the fabric.


I love this dress. It fits really well and feels wonderful!

Suddenly it's Friday - wishing everyone a safe and enjoyable weekend. Ciao! Coco

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

August Garment of the Month - Playsuit plan...

August, and time to think about my Garment of the Month. Since it is so wet and hot and buggy and generally awful outside, I think I'll just stretch my already bent mind and sew something really challenging! A playsuit jumpsuit...

Got to stay on trend, right? More than that, I really like jumpsuits. They remind me of the 80's, when I wore them a lot. Well, as much as my budget allowed - the long ones, with buckles and cargo pockets and zippers, done in cottons and khakis, could be expensive! 

In the last two years I've managed to collect four jumpsuit patterns, and I've even put a few on my Pinterest board. I just haven't sewn one.


I finally settled on this pattern from Salme. I really like the off-shoulder 'cap' sleeve, pockets, and belted waist. It also looks a little more finished than many of the patterns coming out from the Big 4 this summer.

And I found this cute calico fabric, Domestic Bliss, from eQuilter. It's about as close as I'll come to sewing a 'sewing theme' fabric - something I've always wanted to do, but this is the first print I've liked.

In case you're wondering, no, I won't be doing shorts! I like long jumpsuits, so I'll be doing my usual redrafting thing. But I think it's going to be a fun project.

Bye for now! Coco

Friday, August 1, 2014

Still celebrating - my Fourth of July dress!

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - with Alexander Henry lovelies! What a way to celebrate. This dress was meant to be my July garment of the month, but I was out of commission until mid-month. No problem - it'll be great for any of our patriotic holidays.

Obviously I love Butterick 5881, the Katherine Tilton layered dress. This is my third dress version (one and two), and I've done a tunic from the top layer as well.

Waiting in the loft is another version for fall, done in a knit. It's already sewn and is really different.

None of mine look quite like the original pattern! I've never done one with the pieced top layer. I spent hours redrafting a one-piece top layer when I first got the pattern - I just like it better.

The trick with this version was figuring out where to put the print. Ummm. I think I did pretty well!

Little details: I've not used the placket on the front or shirring on the back. To replace the latter, I've centered a contrast patch with 3 lines of inserted elastic.

The underdress is white poly/cotton broadcloth, with the attached skirt in contrast fabric. I'm so sorry I don't have a pic of the underdress, but it's cut just like the leopard spot dress (version two referenced above). These opposing hems are so interesting and kind of sassy.

This pattern really is such fun to wear!

Hoping everyone enjoys a nice weekend - Bye for now! Coco

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kwik Sew 4015 - A Kaylee Chinese brocade jacket for Cosplay!

So pretty - Ashley's brocade jacket for her Kaylee Firefly costume. And my first experience with Chinese brocade fabric. Interesting to say the least!

 Kaylee, of Serenity and Firefly fame, wears a Chinese brocade jacket over her mechanics overalls. Don't we all?

Finding a pattern with just the right collar and attitude was not easy! It seemed like all the patterns I found had frog closures and were either very boxy or very fitted. Aargh.

I finally came across Kwik Sew 4015. It's not perfect, but at least it has the basic elements - a buttoned closure, reasonable seamlines, and a kind-of mandarin collar.

Yes, I made a muslin! And fortunately, I have Lizzy, Ashley's dressform, in my sewing loft.

First pattern change:  the collar. On the original pattern, the collar ends at the front edge. For Ashley's jacket, I cut the collar shorter and reshaped it to be like Kaylee's.

Covered buttons!

Next change: no side slits or lining. The original pattern has curved sides, is fully lined, and is finished with bias binding. It's actually reversible. But Chinese brocade is heavy. I don't want the girl to expire inside her costume!

Cutting the body without slits was easy. To replace the lining, I drafted facings for the back neckline and fronts. I also faced the cuffs, to reduce wear on the fabric. The facing is poly/cotton Symphony broadcloth from JoAnns.

Isn't the inside of the brocade beautiful? About this fabric - it ravels if you look at it. Honestly, you can lose 1/4" of an edge just by picking it up. The first thing I did was serge every single edge of the cut fabric pieces. I did this with my cutter up, just skimming the edge so that any existing ravels were cut off, not bound inside the serging.

Other than the ravels, the fabric was nice to sew. Topstitiching would have been a lot easier if I had remembered to take my walking foot with me to Ashley's house!

Pressing - I practice ironing fabric the same way I practice sewing it, using scraps. This polyester brocade is a little picky. I used light steam, but with a pressing cloth, and I only pressed. Any movement of the iron tended to warp the fabric. It doesn't take a hard crease, but it also doesn't really wrinkle.

The jacket is beautiful - but I must give some credit to Callisto, who helped me so much with the pattern layout process...

Well done. Ciao! Coco

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Another Lucie dress...and a new machine!

First - thank you for all the messages for feeling better. I am! Better every day, and the sun is out. Much appreciated, my dear friends.

A new sewing machine! And hopefully the last for a while :-)  My Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 has not worked out well for me. It's such a nice machine in so many ways, but so were my Janome Magnolia and my Project Runway machine. None of which hit the level of performance I really wanted. The fault was mine - the expense was holding me back.

The awful obvious - look how much I've spent avoiding the expense!

I thought long and hard about it. Truth is, I love sewing, it's what I do now that I'm retired, and I really want that great performer.                  

Research, research, and I got a Juki HZL-F600. Oh my goodness. It has everything, and it does everything (it's not an embroidery machine), and the features and performance are incredible. The ergonomics are thoughtful and impressive - I'm really pleased with my choice.

After much shopping around, I ordered from Ken's Sewing Center, and I received great bonus items as well: a wheeled tote, 100 Organ needles, a complete quilting feet kit, and 10 extra bobbins. Cannot think of another thing I need.

With the extension table attached

Everything actually fits in the front of the hard case!

Bonus wheeled tote!

Nice, large, and well-illustrated manual, with an additional  instruction CD! 

Bonus quilting presser feet kit

One of the first garments sewn on Mr.Machine was another Republique du Chiffon Robe Lucie for Ashley! I saw this lovely fabric at and had to make her one more for her summer wardrobe.

Fabric: Wild Flower Geranium by Newcastle Novelties

As with her first Lucie, this is unhemmed pending a fitting this week. I'm heading across Alligator Alley to house-sit and visit with the kitties while she and D. are in San Diego for ComicCon. I love going over - it's a nice break for me, the kitties are great company, and I get to cruise Holly Lobby and her JoAnns superstore.

This is a very nice, soft cotton, not at all wrinkly. It's a bit lighter than a calico, so I made a full underdress with Symphony poly/cotton broadcloth from JoAnns. Love this back neckline...

This is such a fun pattern to sew, and it's really very basic - a bodice and an attached gathered skirt. The suggested closing of the shoulder seam is a little different, but is also very clever. I like it!

Here are the instructions, which have great illustrations. It's like putting two pants legs together to do the crotch seam.

The lined front piece is inside out. The lined back piece is turned right side out and is inserted inside the front lining and main fabric, right side to right side. 

Now the shoulder 'tube' is opened and hand-sewn all the way round. Pull the pieces away from each other and voila! finished shoulder seams on both the main fabric and lining sides. 

A little different approach but it works great! 

One other tip: This is a PDF pattern, but unlike most PDFs, the different sizes are not differentiated by line style. They are different colors! So be sure to print the pattern in color, not in black and white (lesson learned...).

And that is all for now from chez Coco! A bientot!