Monday, 30 December 2013

Top Five of 2013: hits for the kids

Hello and belated Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/etc! I hope you've all had a good one and are now safely recovered from overeating or whatever other seasonal excesses you may have indulged in (your extended family?)  We're in the middle of a 10-day stay at my parents', which is wonderful but busy - between us all there are 9 adults and 4 children, in a house designed for significantly fewer people. We all need our tactics to escape the mayhem every now and again, and I'm having my moment to do a little blog catch-up. Sewing as refuge, even when I'm not doing it :-)

Anyway, on with the Top Fives! I've been considering not doing a Top Five Kid Hits after all, but it makes up such a big and enjoyable part of my sewing life that it'd be remiss of me not to include them. However, I'll be moving on quickly tomorrow to the year's Top Five Fails, which as far as I'm concerned are among the most interesting of everyone's lists - it's fascinating to see what didn't work, when so much of our blogs' focus tends to be on things that did work, or the process of getting them to turn out well.  So, here we go! If you want to see the original posts, click on the photos...


1) Skater dresses


This one's my favourite of the Kitschycoo skater dresses I made my daughter this spring. They've both been worn almost to death (demonstrating in the process why the serger should be used for finishing seams, not necessarily attaching them) and she's now much taller than she was - time for some winter versions in the new year!


2) Popover sundress hacks


The free popover sundress pattern by Oliver & S is a hit on it's own, but this summer I had great fun messing around with it too. The big twirly maxi version above is fantastic on very hot days, and I've seen quite a few other versions crop up both online and in real life, which is extremely gratifying :-)  (If you'd like your own, the picture links to a tutorial).  The pompom trimmed dress below has a crossover back, and is still in heavy wardrobe rotation despite now being on the small side.



3) The Primus tee


I have to include this because it's just so cool. It's made using the sleeveless kid skater bodice, upcycled out of a promotional t-shirt from one of Belgium's biggest breweries. I've lost track of the number of times people have commented that they didn't know they made children's t-shirts too, and asked where I got it.  If only I had more of the original tees, I could go into production.  Plus, look at my little rock star :-)


4) Birthday crowns


Pretty self-explanatory! This year I upped my game from the quick and dirty felt versions I used to do, and very pleasing it was too.


5) Sandwich wrappers


And finally, a hit for the kids that I suspect I appreciate much more than they do (though who am I kidding, that probably applies to all of them). It gives me a small but important sense of satisfaction to wrap their packed lunches up in these every schoolday - and those little impacts are, for me, just what home sewing should be about. Unfortunately, on the very last day of term T forgot his school bag on the bus, meaning that a replacement is due before next week - I might just make an upgrade for my old one while I'm at it. Kicking off 2014 in style!

And there you have it, 2013's hits for the kids. See you tomorrow with 2013's misses!


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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The sewcialists do Green December and all I make is this (un)wearable muslin




So I was hoping this would be a wearable muslin, and it nearly was, and actually I thought it was, but then in the end it isn't.  But I don't really care because I have STRETCH VELVET for my next version. And if I'm very lucky/organised/neglectful of my children, said next version might even get done by Christmas*, which would be great because after that and New Year there aren't that many opportunities to wear all-over velvet.  Or are there? Yes, maybe there are.  Party dresses All The Time!

* at time of writing Christmas is still 3 whole days away. By the time you're reading this, I will know whether or not I've managed it. Can you stand the suspense??!




The pattern is the Lady Skater by Kitschycoo, made with 2 metres of bottle green shimmer jersey from Minerva Fabrics. The shimmer is subtle and got a lot more so after washing, and the fabric's actually pretty thin.  I wouldn't be able to wear this without an underlayer. None of this is a complaint - it's not exactly bad for £2.99 a metre! This just wasn't the right project for the fabric (a Renfrew would have been good, now I think of it. Oh well).

I cut a size 4 on the shoulders, with a 'fake FBA' by extending to size 5 at the underarm. Then I graded out to a 6 at the waist. (Basically, all changes I ever make to patterns involve turning the waist curves into rectangles or something). And it's testimony to a great pattern that when I first put it on, I was immediately, overwhelmingly gobsmacked by how darn good it looked. This despite the above fabric issues, and a couple of stupid mistakes which became clear once the fabulousness fell from my eyes and I was able to actually see what I'd sewn.




As you can see, I wasn't paying attention when I put the neckband on (because that's just the place to stop concentrating) and as a consequence it is uneven as sh*t. Plus I stretched the neckline wildly and it gapes.  Then, I made a very misguided attempt to 'fix' the gape:
 

 
 
Yes that's some darts. The kind of darts like, oh I'll just sew this here and see what happens. I doubt those ever work out well, do they?
 


 
Pre-darts, this dress hung in the wearable-unwearble balance, but they finally sealed its fate. However , it prettys up my dress form, so I'll take that and call it a win.

Also, in a coincidental (or not?) random act of idiocy, I managed while sewing this to machine stitch into my finger. I've always wondered how people did that, and to be honest I still don't know.  It hurt, but disappointingly it hardly bled and therefore even my children didn't appreciate the injury. In an interesting twist, I have yet to find the remaining third of the needle that broke. Where did it go? Could it still be in my finger??

Anyway, that's my underwhelming go at Green December sewing. But: velvet!! Coming up soon...

 
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Friday, 20 December 2013

Top Five Hits of 2013: me me me!

Are you ready?? Yep, I had so much fun reading everyone's Top Five posts last year that this year I am totally in!




I'll be doing 2013's sewing Hits (me), Hits (the kids/others), Misses, Reflections and Goals. You want my inspirations? They're basically this: sewing bloggers, sewing bloggers, sewing bloggers, Pinterest (usually a sewing blogger), and H&M (as in: hey, that looks like something I saw on a sewing blog! Now I get it!)

So, with no further ado (and because this is by far the easiest post to write), let's start with the hits I made for myself. If you want to see the original post, just click on the pictures! In strictly chronological order, we have...


1) Polka dot New Look 6000

http://jo-sews-etc.blogspot.be/2013/02/my-february-polka-dot-frock.html

I made this for February's Polka Dot Frock Fest hosted by Scruffy Badger. It was a lot of firsts: first sheath dress, first underlining, first back vent, and the first time I have ever worn polka dots (before or since). I loved it when I finished it and, although the fit issues annoy me just slightly more every time I wear it, I have NEVER had so many compliments on my clothes as I have when wearing this (which I do regularly). Hit!


2) Floral voile Scout dress

http://jo-sews-etc.blogspot.be/2013/06/floral-grainline-scout.html


This is Grainline's Scout tee, lengthened. The fabric is some gorgeously swishy voile I had in my stash just waiting for the perfect project, which this pretty much was. It got a lot of wear with leggings in the summer, as it works brilliantly both at and out of work. And the fabric is just so SOFT. I sort of feel like I've kind of gone off tunic-style dresses in the meantime, but I'm pretty sure this is nonetheless going to come into it's own again next spring & summer. Hit!


3) Knit Tania culottes

http://jo-sews-etc.blogspot.be/2013/08/the-culottes-of-holy-crap-amazingness.html


I can't say much more about these than I said in the original post, except that the knit version got a hell of a lot more wear while it was still warm enough than my woven version did. Make them in something drapey and swish around for the utmost comfort and style in summer casualwear. Hit! (But, I haven't got on at all wearing them with tights. I just don't like it).


4) Darling Ranges dress

 http://jo-sews-etc.blogspot.be/2013/10/darling-ranges-shanghai-nostalgia.html

Marathon fitting issues aside, I LOVE this dress. It is so comfortable and so flattering, and I wear it at least once a week, at work and for play. I can't wait to have another go in the new year - this time hopefully getting those final bodice issues sorted once and for all. Which would be a Hit! x2.


2) Colette Zinnia skirt and Sewaholic Renfrew

http://jo-sews-etc.blogspot.be/2013/10/zinnia-in-red-with-black.html


OK I'm cheating here, because this is three hits in one.  But it was the making of the outfit as a whole (Hit!) that won me over to both patterns (Hit! Hit!). I wear these together All. The. Time.  Which has been a slight surprise to me, because I've never before been quite so in love with wearing something on my natural waist, I've always been a hipster kinda girl. It's just the way those pleats skim the stomach, and the cropped top sits so perfectly above them. Both the top and the skirt are in really nice-to-wear fabrics too, and I'm so glad I bothered to do the skirt zip so well because it makes me feel all pleased with myself every time I think about it. I'm going to be making both these patterns up again (in fact, I've already made another Renfrew, but you'll be seeing that one with my list of fails...). I have one more of each planned for asap after Christmas, and they're both great staple patterns to have on hand. Hit, Hit and Hit!!

And finally ...


5) Knitting

http://jo-sews-etc.blogspot.be/2013/09/rocks-water-wool.html

I can hardly believe that this project is almost complete (yes really!) After a couple of littler knits with cheap yarn earlier in the year, this is my first ever 'serious' attempt at knitting something (it's a cardigan, if you can't be bothered to click through). And I really love it. This is the project that's made me feel like a real knitter, and I don't think I'll ever again be without a portable project on the go. It's a great counterweight to the whole sewing process of tracing-cutting-sitting at a machine - I love how it just sort of grows organically in your hands.  Obviously the whole matter of matching yarn to pattern, and pattern to fit and wearing style is something pretty much unknown to me at the moment. But right now I don't care that much whether my cardigan turns out wearable or not. If not, I'll just keep it next to the sofa for whenever I need to cuddle something and think, I made this myself and learned a whole new skill while doing so.So yes, knitting is definitely a Hit.

And that wraps up my Top Five Hits for me me me! I'm now into my last 5 minutes in the office (yes, it's a slow day), and our home internet connection has just gone on the blink so I'm not sure when I'll get to post next. I hope it won't be long, because as of this afternoon I'm officially on holiday, and very glad of it too. I'm very much looking forward to reading your Top Fives - or whatever, or not at all because you're busy doing other things.

For now, and with great enthusiasm, I'm outta here :-)


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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Spendy superior Sewaholic PJs

 

Extra long pattern pieces, five yards of piping and Anna Maria Horner flannel: it can only mean one thing... it's the most expensive item of clothing I've ever made*!!
 
Would you use your most spendy fabric on something you'd only wear in bed? No? I totally recommend it. After all, one wears one's sleep-clothes a LOT, and let's face it, who honestly treats themselves on their nightwear? Wearing the luxury softness (or slinkiness, or just plain prettiness) instead of an old t-shirt is basically like giving yourself a big sewing cuddle every night (no? yes!), and as you probably won't wear them out of the house much (will you?) there's great scope for print madness that you might not otherwise feel you can allow.
 
As for the pattern, well with all that piping it could only be the Sewaholic Tofino. I actually didn't see the appeal much at first, when there are so many free PJ pants patterns out there which will do, y'know. Obviously, my eyes have now been opened to how much more fabulous the PJs are when they do more than just do. I bought the pattern on a sudden summer whim because I was grabbed by the idea of joining in Karen's Pyjama Party. Then other things happened, and that idea departed as swiftly as it had arrived, and I felt spendy pattern guilt about not doing it. But hey, it all turned out right in the end! Because if I had made the pyjamas then, maybe I wouldn't have made them now, considering the pattern done and not sewing myself some warm wintery flannel.
 
And that would have been a terrible, horrible shame. Because these PJs are absolutely, utterly superior. No going back. All the pyjamas from now on will be Tofinos, and they will all be in fabulous fabrics. Spendy sleepwear, I don't care!




I do like to hang out drinking tea in my pyjamas. And reading books (more John Irving).


 
 
 
And I guess I like doing acrobatics in them too.
 
 
 

 
But I think it goes without saying that I wouldn't mind doing quite a lot more of this.
 
 


Ha. Like that's going to happen.


* yes really. I am that cheap.

:: :: ::


What's the most expensive thing you've ever made? Did you luxuriate in the extravagance of it while sewing, or berate yourself for risking to cut into the precious fabric in the first place? Were you immediately converted to spendy fabric once and for all, or was it a one-off?

As for me - I've already ordered more not-cheap flannel to make holiday nightgowns for the kids. I'm telling myself that once I've done those, I'm done and back to the bargain bin.  But then again, maybe I'll just put off that line of thought until after the January sales. Yes.

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Friday, 6 December 2013

A new project: Seamstress sans frontières

Friends, I think it's time to tell you about a new little thing I've got going on. And I do mean little - this is strictly a cottage-industry-style venture, which in no way should impinge on my important business of selfish and child-related garment sewing :-)

But, it was time to move beyond the end of my own nose. And I therefore present (drum roll please!) the founding of...




The seamstress sans frontières!  Who is to be found on Facebook here, with a linked JustGiving page here.

So, what's it all about?




Well, you may remember that I recently made a number of baby/child gifts, and I mentioned in that post that it'd got me thinking about how much I like to make these little things for other people. It was the germination of a whole thought process which included things like:
  • Why aren't there more babies to sew for?
  • And on the other hand, isn't it a bit pointless to sew things for the same friends and friends' children over and over again?
  • And actually, can I even know if these things are really wanted and welcomed?? (Because my friends are all truly lovely and polite, and would never actually tell me they didn't really use that 500th bib I gave them).
  • And while I'm at it, if I want to do more unselfish sewing, isn't there a way to be even more unselfish about it than that?


 


And thus was born the idea of custom sewing orders for charity. I'll 'sell' in exchange for a donation, matching the cost of materials, to the Charlotte Wilson Memorial Fund via JustGiving.  Hey presto - I get sewing variety, making things that I know are wanted, all along with a great feeling of virtuousness, while customers get their goods made to order at a reasonable price.Win win!




I wanted to fundraise for a charity supporting small projects in Africa - for a variety of personal reasons, but most importantly because I think it's the small organisations who most often need the help. Also, I have to admit, I really don't intend this to be a big thing - maybe family and friends, and perhaps colleagues or other locals - think global, act local, right? And I still need to fit in the rest of my life. I just kind of wanted to support something that matched the scale of what I'm able to do, too. I hope that makes sense :-)

Of course, when I decided to start small, I hadn't reckoned with my friend Toby's big plans. Plans not only to be the biggest fundraiser for Movember Belgium, but also to win Best Mo in a Costume at the Gala even last week.

Sadly, he came second for the fourth year in a row on the fundraising. But the costume - no competition!




Toby does a fantastic job raising money every Movember, as well as heroically encouraging others. Not only that, but he managed to push me well beyond my sewing boundaries with that costume! I'm already finding that taking on other people's ideas instead of my own is opening up whole new worlds of sewing fun...




And tremendous fun it is. I honestly never thought I'd see myself either costume making or quilting, but here I am and enjoying both enormously.  Sewists of the world, break out of your boxes - you have nothing to lose but your ingrained habits! (To send Karl Marx spinning in his grave).

:: :: ::

Well anyway, in my little time away from this blog (only two weeks, but I missed it!) I've read plenty of other northern-hemisphere bloggers complain about the dark days that allow for so few photos - and pretty much all of us, everywhere are heading into the pre-holiday rush. Yep, me too (but I'm not going to add my apologies :-). But I also realised that I so like dropping in here, and so enjoy that exchange of ideas and makes and, y'know, goodwill and stuff, and, well, I dunno. I suppose I'm trying to say: I'm gonna blog more! and better!

But without actually making any rash promises :-)

Till soon my lovelies...

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Friday, 22 November 2013

My disappointing slice of Cake

Dear, oh dear. Does this look like a happy dress to you?




Poor thing, just hanging there all limp and lonely.  Behold the sad little pleats - scissor and bust - just waiting for some curves to come and fill them.




Alas, those curves shall not be mine.  This dress does nothing for me. See my face? The dress ain't happy, the face ain't happy.




Now I suspect there may be several reactions going on at this point. Perhaps you're thinking, hey, don't blame the dress! And you're completely right. I am not blaming the dress per se - or at least, not the pattern (which I'll come back to below), or the lovely viscose fabric, or the execution which for once is rather tidily done. It's just that it doesn't work on me. Let's try smiling:



No, sorry. Not working. 

Now the other thing you may be thinking is, hey! It's not that bad! To which I answer, no it's not! But unfortunately, I don't feel comfortable in it at all.  Even G, who is normally quite tactful, took one look at it and said, wow that doesn't flatter your bust!  So let's backtrack a bit, and get down to some details, shall we?

This dress is made with Cake's latest pattern, the Red Velvet. I think it's a really lovely design. It's casual without being sloppy or slouchy, and it's just a little bit different from what else is out there - in a good way. Put this together with Cake's innovative approach to sizing (draw your own! Full busts welcome!), and I took a risk and bought it. A risk, because although I like the style, it's not one that I ever wear. So yes, I knew, before, during and after making this, that there was a high likelihood of putting it on and going "euh, meh". And unfortunately, this time, the meh won out. Even though the sizing IS that great, and the sewing that well-explained and straightforward.

Plus, I didn't help myself with my fabric choice At. All. The feel of this is lovely: a bit solid but a bit slinky, super soft and stable to sew. And I sort of got carried away when I saw those big mustard/grey/white flowers. But they're just not something I can wear like this. I fatefully ignored the voice in my head that goes "no big prints on top no big prints on top no big prints on top". As if I didn't know: whether or not you might be thinking it looks good - I don't like to wear big prints on my boobs. Especially when they're literally right on my boobs (good one, Jo).




So, also, the fit could do with some tiny tweaks if I'm going to do this again. I was right on the edge of sizes 30 and 35, so my first muslin was a 35 and it was too big: my final dress is a 30D. But looking at the pictures, I think I need the size 35 shoulders. I also definitely need a deep bust adjustment. I added some bodice length already, but maybe you can see that the upper midriff seam stretches up under my bosoms. Even if you can't, it does and I feel the constant need to pull it down, so there's that.

The other thing with the midriff piece is I can't work out exactly where I want it to hit. It just feels kind of not in the right place. Maybe I should make it narrower, so the skirt hits higher? Or just lengthen the bodice/bust length a bit more and skip the midriff piece altogether. I actually think getting the under-bust and waist lines to fall right is the key to deciding whether this dress can work for me or not. What do you think?

And finally, I need to change the sleeves. Again, I knew this in advance but sort of had a sewing casual clothes mental block (yeah, this thing again). I never wear sleeves this length, because I don't think they flatter me. Really, I'd like to lengthen them - 3 quarter or even full-length. Would I need to add an underarm gusset?? Because if so, I think I might just throw in the towel...

After all that, I hope you can see that my problems with this pattern are exactly that: MY problems, not the pattern's.  I must admit, being used to traditional patterns, I had an idiot moment when I first opened the envelope. Then I got on with it, and it works GREAT! I think Steph's innovative approach to her designs, sizing and instructions is spot on in dealing with knit clothes for real people.

The only thing I remain unsure about really is this: is it worth me futzing around spending money on more fabric to try and make this design work for me? Or should I just put it behind me and try a Lady Skater?

Well, I feel like this post has been one long moan - and an unfair one, because this is a really good pattern! I guess I'm actually just pretty disappointed that this version/vision of mine didn't work.

So how about I leave you with a picture of the hem?




Ooh I do love me a nice smooth hem. Double needles all the way, baby!

OK, it's Friday, I'm off to the Chinese supermarket to get exotic ingredients, and soon - very soon! - it's good food and weekend!! Enough wallowing in my-comfy-dress-didn't-work-out. Besides, I have a quilt to be getting on with. And a Mr Pringles costume...

Any plans for your weekend? I hope it's a good one!


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Friday, 15 November 2013

The wearability learning curve

So I have been doing a lot of successful baking recently, and of this I am bl**dy glad because the sewing has turned out a whole string of FAILS.

Now, I'm not here to moan. It is frustrating to have made a garment that I'm not actually going to wear, but it occurred to me this morning that I don't actually mind that much. I've been here before and I know what it is. It's a Wearability Learning Curve.


source


I think most of us who sew recognise the stages of this chart - well, probably everyone does, but as far as I'm concerned sewing is the area of my life where this plays out most obviously and concretely. And I sorta feel like I've been through it all once, and now I'm doing it again.

I went through a massive learning curve with fitting and sewing wovens, making skirts, dresses and woven blouses or tees, and finally I think I've pretty much conquered it. I know fairly instinctively what style of pattern will (or won't) suit me, which patterns to take a risk on, which fabrics to pair with them, how to execute the vague design idea in my head, which inspirational urges to follow and which ones to judiciously ignore. As a result, I have a good lot of homemade smart-casual clothes that I wear to work almost every day. Clothes that I feel flatter me, and that express who I am in a way I feel good about. Clothes that fit and are comfortable. To me, this is the very definition of wearability.

But, since somewhere this spring, it's become not quite enough. I want to make my off duty clothes too. And there, I'm a lot less successful. I hardly wear my Briar dress. Attempts to add to my sweatshirt and slouchy dress collection fell flat. Recent makes include a Red Velvet dress and another Renfrew that just don't quite work for me, even though there's nothing really wrong with them. It's because wearability for what I like to wear on a weekend involves a whole lot of sewing things I haven't mastered yet.

My false sense of security came and went earlier this year when, thanks to having acquired a serger, I finally felt able to sew with knits. They no longer scare me, and I thought - hey! Now I can make whatever I want!!! But, um, choosing a pattern? Matching that with the right fabric, in terms of both drape and print? Fitting stretch stuff? Hahahaaaa!! I have a LOT to learn. Oh man, a lot.

I'll be showing you my recent 'failed' makes; they're not that bad. With each one I get closer to the elusive day when my instincts get it right, not wrong. I can live with the frustration of not having that self-stitched comfy knit dress immediately. But still.

Phew, that curve is looking steep from here!

What about you? Where are you on your sewing learning curve at the moment?

Are there kinds of sewing you feel you've mastered, while still being scared of others?

And finally, how do your home-made clothes fare on the wearability test? Are you confident in your wearable sewing skills, or not?

Please tell!



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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Simple and good: banana cake

It's not always sewing round here.




Sometimes, there's baking. A good, simple banana cake, for example: ideal for feeding to (or indeed making with) children, and perfect alongside a cup of coffee, too.




This particular cake has no added frills. No chocolate chips, no nuts, no vanilla or cinnamon. it's just soft and gentle and full of banana. I don't know where the recipe originally came from; my much-loved, much-splashed, handwritten version was copied from my mum.




Banana cake

Pre-heat your oven to 150° C, and get out your Magimix.

Ingredients:
  • 115 g butter or margarine, softened
  • 140 g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 - 4 ripe bananas (about 300 g or slightly more), mashed
  • 200 g self-raising flour
  • half teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon milk




Now, bananas. Of course, the beginning of many banana cakes is the need to use up overripe specimens that would otherwise go to waste. But in my house, the wasting away of bananas rarely coincides with the time and inclination to make cake. And we would waste many: my picky kids refuse to eat a banana, once a black spot has appeared. So what do we do? We freeze them.

They go entirely black, and they look fairly revolting once defrosted. But, what you scoop out of the skins is ideal for immediate baking, no mashing required.




With your bananas appropriately prepared, now mix your batter:
  • Cream together the butter/margarine and sugar
  • Add the egg
  • Add the (mashed) bananas
  • Add the flour, baking soda and milk




Line a loaf tin, pour in and level the batter, then cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes.




Remove from the oven and cool in the tin. Cut, and eat.



 Sometimes, the good things really are that simple.



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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Darling Ranges: bodice fitting notes & queries

I mentioned when I posted my Darling Ranges dress that I would be back with details on fitting the bodice. I personally love to see how other people approach their fitting and muslining, and, well, this is a post for my fellow process geeks :-)  It's also partly to remember my own notes, partly to share them in case others are reading up on fitting this pattern (something I found really helpful), and partly - but very far from least importantly - a plea for your help. As you'll see, I still have not satisfactorily fit this bodice, and I am a bit stuck for where to go next. 

Behold the rose tinted picture whence I began...


This was my first, freshly-traced front bodice piece. But before we get down to the adjustmental nitty gritty, how about some vital statistics? Here they are, with the corresponding pattern size each one falls under (see the pattern envelope here):

  • High bust 86 cm (XS)
  • Full bust 96 cm (M)
  • Waist 81 cm (L)
  • Hips 99 cm (S-M)

As you can see, I span quite a range. Usually, I pick my dress/top size based on my high bust and then do an FBA to add ease in the full bust. This generally results in a bodice that fits fine across the shoulders and back, with enough room for the bosoms too. However, in this case I strongly doubted that beginning with the XS would be a good idea - for a start, I am way out of the other measurements for that size, and I had read that the shoulders in this case are narrow to begin with. So I plumped for the S, graded out to an L at the waist, and did an FBA:



Now I had seen many, many comments about the placement/size/shape of this bust dart and the difficulties of fitting it. As I have rarely come across a bust dart I actually liked, I had decided a long time ago to deal with this by rotating it to a french dart instead, which is supposedly more flattering on fuller busts in any case. (Megan has good tutorials on her blog on how to do this). I'm now not so sure that doing so immediately was a good idea, but we'll get to that later.  So, my first bodice front pattern piece then looked like this:


And here is the resulting bodice muslin (almost stomach flashing on the internet, oh my goodness!):


I'm not sure how obvious it is, but this was basically so tight I could hardly move - despite being too big at the waist (it falls above the natural waist which I suspect accounts for that in my case. I am what you could politely call "thick" in the stomach area). You can see some excess fabric gaping at the neckline at my right shoulder, so that already jumped out as a thing, and from the back you could see bra lines. For a dress made in woven fabric, that closeness of fit is definitely not what I call wearing ease.

Thus, on to the next size up. Here I faced an unusual situation: the pattern's bust measurement for the M is 1cm larger than my full bust measurement.  I don't think I've ever made a straight up bodice without an FBA, at least not in non-stretch material. As I had decided to go down a size at the waist from my first muslin, the only change I made to bodice pattern piece #2 was therefore to rotate the dart again:


Here's the result. Clearly already a much better fit, and it felt more comfortable too.


However, do you see those bubbles at the end of the darts, just sort of sitting there on my boobs? That's no good! (Please ignore the drawn-on nipples where I had been experimenting with the location of bust points). Again, there was some gaping at the top right of the neckline, and also some armhole gape, which you can see pinned out on the right armhole above. I pinched out a small armhole dart and rotated it into the main dart:


But it didn't help. No pictures of muslin #4, it was late and I was fed up. At this point I gave up muslining and spent some considerable time Googling things like "bust dart fabric pooling". I'm not sure how conclusive this was, but my conclusion was that the large size of the dart probably had something to do with it, and splitting it in two might work. My next pattern piece was the M again, with no FBA, the bust point lowered 3cm, and the dart split equally between the waist and the side:


And that, oh persistent readers for making it this far! That is the pattern piece I used to make my dress. I did do another muslin, decided it was the best so far, and that I was going to get on with the thing I actually wanted to be making, instead of obsessing about making it fit.  And yes, I do truly believe that it's OK for things to not fit that well, as long as you don't mind wearing them - after all, that's how I wore shop-bought clothes for years. I mentioned before that I can live with this one. But, I want more of these dresses, and I want them in plain fabric - which doesn't camouflage like this print does.  So, please, cast your expert eyes over these pictures and tell me what needs to change!

First and most importantly: that fabric pulling towards the armhole over my bust:


Do I need to add some ease with an FBA after all? Or should I just have left the bust dart where it was originally (maybe shortened slightly?), with the fullness therefore at the high bosom level instead of nearer the waist?


A side view of the same thing - but here you can also see, on the right, that the neckline doesn't actually lay flat at my shoulders. Do you think I could just shorten the neckline a very little bit at the shoulder seams? (Does anyone know what I mean??)


And then there's this weird bubble of fabric between the darts. I guess this is like my boob-placed bubbles from muslin #2, but moved, and moved to a location I can live with in fact. I just sort of wonder about it, and whether/how this 'excess' can be moved to somewhere I want it rather than somewhere I don't.


I don't want to fall into the trap of overfitting, but at least that pulling from centre front to armhole must go. I don't really want to convert the dart to princess seams as I like the lines of the pattern as it is. Any other ideas, from those with full busts or none? A dart cluster like this? Or do I just give up? Can you tell that I'm really quite determined not to?

Any and all suggestions will be welcomed and very likely acted on. I will happily document my next series of muslins if that's any encouragement to you!

And THANK YOU fellow sewists and sewcialists - at time of writing I may be stuck, but I'd never have made it this far without you :-)

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