I was wondering if I would manage to finish a single set of day and night dresses for the Day and Night Dress Challenge, but I ultimately finished two!
This is my second set of Day and Night dresses and my second challenge entry.
I managed to sneak in my “night” dress for the “Day and Night Dress Challenge” just under the radar!
The day part of this challenge was easy — pretty much anything went for that one. But night was a little more challenging. I don’t have many occasions to wear fancy dresses, date nights tend to be pretty cas, and when I do want a night dress, I typically don’t wear black (a random, in my opinion, requirement for the “night” dress).
My goodness, it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything substantive in this poor neglected space that I hardly know where to begin.
I guess I’ll dust out the cobwebs and just dive right in with MY handmade dress that I wore to my baby brother’s wedding.
The wedding was in Bradenton, FL (outside Sarasota) and while fall has arrived in the Midwest, Florida was still decidedly warm and muggy. Since we would have someone to stay with the kiddos after bedtime, Albert and I were able to go back to the reception and boogie the night away, so I knew that I needed something that could move and breathe.
Initially I planned to make a 2-piece set for the wedding, using the Named Vanamo 2-Piece Cocktail Dress. But I just wasn’t feeling it, and I certainly wasn’t feeling the heavier, stiffer fabrics that it would have required. So about a month before the wedding, I totally shifted gears, sourced some ah-mazing silk crepe from Stevie Saint Fabrics‘ etsy shop and broke out the By Hand London Anna Dress.
Anyone who follows me on Instagram can probably figure out that we just got back from a weeklong family trip to California.
Traveling with three kids can best be described as a “circus,” but it was nice to get out of town for a few days. As I was packing my own bag, I was pleased to realize that most of what I was throwing in my suitcase was made by my own two hands! My pants and shorts were all storebought (summer project!), but I only brought 2 RTW tops for daily wear and they were both simple little tanks that I use for layering. I plan to replace all of those with handmades this summer too!
I actually wore this dress a few times during the week we were gone. It is super comfy, and the deep scoop neckline made it really easy for nursing. It worked perfectly as a beach coverup or just for running around town when we were staying with family inland.
This fabric is a cotton rayon blend jersey from Girl Charlee. I originally ordered it with fun leggings in mind, but when it arrived, the print was MUCH larger than I expected. I still loved the colors, though, and the hand is lovely and flowy and so comfy to wear!
I didn’t do much in the way of alterations to make this sleeveless. I just omitted the sleeve pieces and bound the openings with the same fabric as my neckband. Easy peasy!
I wore this dress over my swimsuit the first evening that we arrived in Encinitas, CA. Here are a few other photos from that first evening playing in the surf:
Wow, looking back at my posts, I see that I haven’t done a proper post with a garment and a pattern review since October 17! Unmotivated much? And I have a whole slew of garments and patterns to review, and a couple with posts written just waiting for pictures.
Anywhoo, I have one for you now! This is my contribution to the Sewing Cake Red Velvet Sewalong (which, by the way, wrapped up on November 25 and I just finished mine a couple of weeks ago. Oops).
This is my first time sewing with a Cake pattern and I ended up mashing together the two that I own. I really like the Red Velvet knit dress, particularly the shape and pleating of the skirt but I knew that since I’m nursing I wouldn’t be able to wear the bodice as drafted for a long time.
However, the Tiramisu dress bodice is perfect for nursing. Thus, the mash- up was born!
Cake patterns are sized a little differently than most patterns which made mixing these two a piece of cake! To pick a size in Cake patterns , you pick an overall size range based on your upper bust measurement. The Tiramisu also has additional customization based on cup size. Waist sizing is based on your actual waist measurement, down to the half inch.
For this dress, I cut the bodice and binding pieces from Tiramisu and the midriff and skirt pieces from Red Velvet. Since the sizing at the upper waist was the same on both patterns, the pieces fit seamlessly!
And I like the result. It’s a super comfy dress. I think the current size of my boobs gives the bodice a rather matronly look but it is great for nursing. I used the scissor pleats on both front and back, which are my favorite from the pattern. The skirt has such a great shape and is really swishy! I think that the pleats take it up a notch from a comfy, casual knit dress and make it something that I will feel equally comfortable wearing to work or for a date night.
I also liked how the Tiramisu bodice is designed. Rather than using darts, the bodice is designed with small gathers under each breast. This is a good, easy way to add a little extra fullness in the bust area for the well-endowed along us (including me right now). The result gives plenty of room in the bust without the need for an FBA and with no stretching.
It’s also the best bodice design I’ve seen for nursing. I’m not a big fan of the “nursing panel” (my loathing for this style will actually be discussed in a yet-to-be-published post), which limits me to button-up, cross-bodice and draped-neck styles. The Tiramisu bodice pulls easily to the side giving great nursing access but still has enough coverage to completely cover my nursing bra. Having made a couple of dresses in this style now, I think that midriff piece included in both the Red Velvet and Tiramisu designs really aids the nursing access. Since the bodice pieces are attached in the middle of the midriff, rather than at the side seams, there’s less stretching when you pull the bodice aside to nurse. And my super-stretchy fabric probably helps too 🙂
The construction was different from most dresses I’ve made but it worked really nicely. The side seams were the last thing sewn up (other than the hem), which made it really easy to do mid-construction fits. Just baste the side seams to see if you need to add or remove ease and voila! A nice-fitting dress that doesn’t need major tweaks once it’s all put together. I actually didn’t need any alterations in my mid-construction fit checks. This pattern fit me perfectly. Choosing a customized size based on my actual waist and bust measurements really helped that I think. The other plus with this method of construction is that it should be pretty easy to alter as my body slowly returns to its pre-pregnancy size. I can just take in the side seams as I get thinner.
Now for the fabric. I L-O-V-E love this fabric! It is a super-soft, super-drapey bamboo jersey knit from the Michael Levine online store, lowpricefabric.com. I love their bamboo jersey and stocked up a bit before going on my “fabric fast.” Once I use up my stash of it I will get more when I want to use it for another project. This stuff is so amazingly soft and wonderful that I don’t consider much else to be an acceptable substitute 🙂 It also has a wonderful 4-way stretch and is surprisingly beefy and opaque, making it absolutely perfect for a dress like this. This one is in hot pink. I’ll have to make sure N doesn’t try to steal it!
I, along with much of the rest of the online sewing community, tend to use Girl Charlee for my main source of knits. While I like Girl Charlee and their prices really can’t be beat, this bamboo jersey is definitely a cut above. It’s also more than twice as expensive at $14 per yard. Still, totally worth the extra money IMO. I notice such a difference in my finished product when I use high-quality fabric, so I’m going to start using this bamboo jersey as my go-to solid and striped knit whenever possible.
Size: 35 with D cup, and 33.5″ waist. My bra size is actually an F cup right now (!!) but the gathers under the bust and the stretchy fabric give me plenty of room with the D cup sizing.
Fabric: Bamboo jersey in Bright Pink from lowpricefabric.com.
Fit: Perfect. For someone whose body is currently rather funny-shaped, the sizing on Cake Patterns was great. I was able to customize the fit on this dress based on my upper bust (to get a great fit across the shoulders), cup size (to accommodate my rather large nursing bosom), and waist size (to account for my still-thick postpartum waist).
Modifications: Other than mashing up the Tiramisu bodice with the Red Velvet midriff and skirt, I made no modifications.
Physical Pattern: Very nice. Cake offers its patterns in both PDF and printed format. Given my general annoyance with PDF patterns, I naturally forked over the extra $$ for the printed pattern. (Yes, with these patterns, as with almost all my patterns, I paid for them just like you). Actually I got both of these patterns on preorder, at a pretty significant discount. Cake patterns also sport my favorite quality about Megan Nielsen patterns — they are printed on heavier, nice-quality white paper rather than that flimsy tissue! The instructions aren’t as nice as Megan Nielsen or Colette patterns, which are printed in a pretty booklet, but at least they’re not on that awful newsprint like the Big 4 patterns. These are more like Sewaholic patterns — folded but printed on a sturdy white paper with ink that doesn’t rub off on your hands every time you touch it.
Overall Grade: A solid B+. The Tiramisu bodice is a bit matronly, I think, but the dress is uber comfy which makes up for it. The style of Cake patterns may not be for everyone, but these are two good, basic knit dresses that really could form the base of a wardrobe. They’re comfy, easy to put together, and easy to fit. No complaints from me.
So we’re back! Arizona was good. The Ironman went great. The trip was long, and we were all happy to get home!
I was also quite happy to be reunited with Sally, my beloved Singer, who went for her yearly maintenance while we were away. She’s back and humming along better than ever!
But now down to business — Washi!
I finally sewed together my very first Washi dress (the pieces have been cut and sitting on the floor of my sewing room for about 2 months — bad Katie!), and I can say with absolutely confidence that it will not be my last.
Get ready for some gushing (apologies in advance). I love, love, LOVE this pattern. Seriously, this may be the best pattern I’ve worked with, both in styling and construction.
I’ll go through my pros and cons on the pattern below, but one thing I just have to mention — bust darts! These bust darts are perfect. I love the dresses I’ve made myself so far, but I’ve never been completely happy with the bust darts until this dress. These darts hit me in exactly the right place and look so seamless. They add a ton to the professional “storebought” look. I remember Rae posting when she was drafting the Washi dress pattern about her agonizing and rewriting of the bust darts. Well, all that work paid off because they are perfect!
I also love the way the bust darts are drafted in the pattern. I’ve never seen them done this way before. Rather than just having you trace the dart on to the fabric and fold it, trying to line up your lines, etc., the Washi Dress pattern actually has a cut-out where the bust dart goes. This may not seem like much, but it makes for absolute idiot-proof bust darts. No way to place these wrong because the fabric is cut out where the dart goes! Love this. I sometimes have issues with lining up my dart lines (particularly if the fabric and my fabric pen are too close to the same color), or the fabric slipping as I sew, etc. I’m going to start doing this on my bust darts from now on so I can’t screw them up!
I also love the styling. I’m usually not a huge fan of empire-waist dresses. I generally think they make me look pregnant — probably because I wore a lot of them when I was pregnant. But this one is really flattering and actually makes my belly look flatter rather than pregnant. I think that may be because it’s not a true empire-waist dress. The bodice extends a couple of inches below the breasts, which gives nice chest definition and hits at one of the narrowest spots on most women’s bodies. The whole silhouette is really nice.
Pattern: Made by Rae Washi Dress
Fabric: A nice, drapey printed medium-weight linen from Joann’s.
Size: Small (For anyone who may wonder, my bust size is 35.5″, and the bust measurement is by far the most important measurement in this pattern).
Physical Pattern: It’s a PDF, which isn’t my favorite but all that was available when I bought the pattern. I hate cutting out all the pieces of paper. Washi is now available in a paper pattern, which is probably what I would have bought if it had been available at the time. I think the extra $ for a paper pattern is generally worth it.
*Tip for those with top drop-in bobbins: Most tutorials on shirring (including Rae’s) will tell you not to stretch your elastic thread as you wind the bobbin. But, if your machine is like mine (a Singer 7470), that won’t work. You won’t get any tension in your thread and you’ll just end up with a wonky stitch that doesn’t gather up. Instead, you need to pull the elastic thread as tight as you can as you wind the bobbin. That way, the elastic thread will be nice and tight as you sew and will shir up nicely.
Overall grade: A+. Rae hit this one out of the park. It has me really hoping for more women’s patterns from her.
Now my dilemma is whether to make a second Washi right away (I have seriously awesome fabric for it!), or try out another probably-awesome and yet-to-be-sewn pattern in my stash. Decisions!
This is the second Colette pattern I’ve sewn now (my stripey Hazel was the other), and I may officially be in love with Colette patterns. The styling is good, the instructions are straightforward and clear, and the best part — the patterns fit me straight out of the envelope with no alterations!
Seriously, none. When that happens, it’s obviously a match made in heaven and you just have to run with it. Colette, you are my man. Or woman. Whatever.
I really, really like the Macaron. This dress is a perfect work dress for me. It’s professional and stylish but very comfortable. I love the sweetheart neckline — I think it gives the dress a lot of interest and takes what could be a basic sheath and turns it into something really special. I love that the dress is really fitted through the waist. I think that makes it really flattering and feminine. But the pleats in the skirt make it uber-comfy — something that I’ll definitely be able to wear all day at work.
This pattern has fantastic details — the sweetheart neckline, the hidden pleat pockets, and the tulip sleeves, to name a few.
I love the fit of it. This Macaron isn’t as go-anywhere as my Darling Ranges dress (I’m not likely to wear this dress in the evening or on weekends when I’m chasing after kids), but it is absolutely perfect for the office. I also love that the cut and styling of this dress make it a perfect way to use a bolder print, like this ikat, and still make it office-appropriate.
The main ikat fabric is a quilting cotton by a designer whose name totally escapes me. Tina Givens maybe? I can’t remember. Anyway, it worked like a dream. This pattern definitely works well with quilting cotton. The yoke is a fairly drapey off-white linen that I had in my stash. I originally made the dress with facings, as directed in pattern. After I got the bodice constructed though, I noticed that the linen was just translucent enough that the facings showed through. I ended up chopping them off and finishing the neckline with bias tape.
The Macaron is designated an “intermediate” pattern, but the construction was pretty easy. I didn’t have problems with any step of this dress, which either means I’m getting better and more confident at sewing or it’s a testament to the great Colette instructions. Even hand-sewing the hem didn’t bother me — I really like the professional finish it gives.
The rundown on Macaron:
Pattern: Colette Macaron
Difficulty: Designated Intermediate, and I would agree with that. The pattern includes hidden pleat pockets, a sweetheart neckline that needs some fairly precise topstitching, set-in sleeves, and a side invisible zipper. Definitely one where you’d be best having a fair number of projects under your belt.
Pattern booklet: I give the physical pattern itself a B-. That’s mostly because I hate tissue paper patterns. I mean seriously, who actually enjoys working with flimsy tissue paper when you’re trying to trace and cut a pattern? It never lays right, it’s hard to see the lines, and I’m always worried I’m going to accidentally tear the thing apart. I actually love the pattern book part of the pattern. It’s really pretty and vintage-looking, and I love how the booklet it integrated into the envelope. That darn tissue paper brings its marks down considerably though.
Alterations: None! Love it.
Fit: The fit is perfect, absolutely perfect, on me. I apparently have an hourglass figure with some good padding up top (who would have known — certainly not me!). The dress fits perfectly across the shoulders and bust — the bust darts hit me exactly right. I have no gaping in the neckline, and the sleeves are perfectly tailored without being tight. The Macaron fits snugly through the waist, making it very flattering, and the shape of the skirts and the pleats make it comfortable and slimming.
Process/Technique: The instructions are great. I was a little unclear on how the bodice pieces attached to the yoke when I made my muslin, but I re-read the instructions when I got down to sewing, and then it made sense. Colette does not include instructions to install an invisible zipper in their pattern booklets, but there is a great tutorial on their blog. (And a video tutorial here).
Overall, I giving Macaron a solid A.
I have quite a few projects in my sewing queue right now, but I definitely want to give Macaron another go. I have no doubt this could become a go-to work dress pattern for me.
I’m already envisioning one in a light gray poplin that currently resides in my stash with a pale pink polka dot yoke. Mmm, that sounds nice.
(And aren’t you glad to get pictures of me not looking like I just rolled out of bed? Amazing the difference a simple hair dryer can make!)
Finally, a finished Darling Ranges dress! **
Okay, so there is a reason why it took me so long (3+ months actually) to get a finished Darling Ranges dress. You see, I started sewing my first Darling Ranges back in April when Megan Nielsen, the designer, hosted a Darling Ranges sewalong on her blog.
After I had the dress almost completely sewn together, I realized that I had cut the bodice a size too small. My measurements put me at the very top of size S, and since it’s supposedly designed to be a loose-fitting dress, I went ahead and cut a size S thinking that it would be okay since I knew I wanted the bodice a little more fitted anyway.
And it is okay, but just okay. It’s a little snug up top which makes the bust darts do kind of funky things (and you don’t want bust darts doing funky things), so I never finished it.
Flash forward to mid-July when I had a few days down time while waiting for my invisible zipper foot to complete my Hazel dress.
I had already traced the size M pattern pieces for the Darling Ranges bodice and even cut the fabric for a new dress out of a nice lightweight black chambray. I was in a sewing mode so rather than twiddling my thumbs for three days while I waited for my invisible zipper foot, I broke into my new Darling Ranges!
Since this was actually the second time I’d sewn this pattern, I barely looked at the instructions, and the dress went together in nothing flat! It was seriously so easy.
I again eliminated the sleeves and finished the sleeve openings with single-fold bias binding, same as the neckline. I did make a couple modifications to the sewing process in this version.
Rather than sewing up the shoulder seams before attaching my sleeve facings, I attached the first side of my single-fold bias tape to my sleeve openings before sewing the shoulder seams. I then ironed the seam flat against the bias tape and understitched the seam to the bias tape. Then I sewed the shoulder seam, sewing all the way to the end of the bias tape. After the seam was sewn and pressed, I ironed the bias tape under to the wrong side of the dress and sewed down the sleeve facing.
This is a technique I learned while sewing the Rose Shirt from Melly Sews, and I find it really, really convenient. I hate having to take absolutely precise measurements of my sleeve facings and risk having them be slightly too long or slightly too short. This way, they are exactly right every time!
I also added back darts rather than ties to cinch in the waist. I know that I will be more likely to wear this dress with a belt and cardigan, and I just generally am not a huge fan of ties. Adding darts was really easy. I just measured the finished width, compared it to my waist measurements and decided that I needed 2 1-inch back darts. I measured out my darts equidistant from the center back bodice and sewed them down. Easy peasy, and the bodice is now a lot more fitted!
The other variation I made was using snaps instead of buttons. I hate sewing buttonholes so rather than sewing 12 of them, I ordered some pretty snaps off Etsy, broke out my snap pliers and went to town. Much easier, and I really like how they look. I think they make the dress look professional and just a tad more dressed-up than it otherwise would. After all, this dress will get lots of office wear!
In short, I L-O-V-E this dress! Comfy, cute and easily dressed either up or down. I’m already planning another–this time with short puffed sleeves 🙂 In fact, as soon as this one was finished I started ironing the next fabric!
I did it! I finished my Colette Hazel dress, and I am thrilled with the result!
I used a blue and white striped cotton chambray (I think) that I picked up at this fabulous little store in Overland Park called Fabric Recycles. It’s a newer store fairly close to my house that’s essentially aimed for people trying to clean out their stash — bring in the fabric you don’t want anymore and they’ll make you an offer for it and then resell it. I ventured in there for the first time over the Fourth of July holiday and came out with this 2-yard piece of chambray for $10 and a dozen vintage women’s dress patterns for which I paid $0.99 each!
Sometimes I think the fabric looks a little jailbird, but I still love it!
This was a great pattern to work with. It was straightforward and went together really easily. I started it last week and probably would have finished it by the end of the weekend, except that I didn’t realize that you need an invisible zipper presser foot to install an invisible zipper! I ordered the foot off Amazon and it arrived Wednesday, so I finished the dress on Wednesday night 🙂
I admit that I pretty much copied the picture on the pattern as far as the direction of the stripes. With the bias-cut side panels, it was just too perfect not to play around with the stripes.
The best thing about this dress, besides being really comfortable, is that it’s really flattering. The inverted triangle front panel and the bias-cut side panels are really slimming. The waist hits at the natural waist, which is the narrowest part of most women’s bodies. And the skirt is full but not so full that it makes me look like a cupcake. In fact, it’s straight enough that it gives the illusion that I have less in the hips and thighs than I actually do — I’ll take that!
I finally got the motivation to order and make this dress after I stumbled across the Sew Colette 2.0 Sewalong at the blog Rhinestones and Telephones. Prior to this Hazel, the only Colette pattern I had ever used was the free Sorbetto top, which is a great pattern, but much simpler since it’s a free pattern. Making this Hazel has me sold on Colette patterns — the designs are good, the instructions are straightforward, and I learned a lot while putting this dress together.
This Hazel marks a couple of firsts for me, and also knocks at least two items off my 2012 goals/bucket list. First, this was the first dress I’ve ever sewn for myself rather than Lil Sis. Second, it was the first time I’d ever installed a zipper.
Speaking of the zipper — oh my gosh, it was so easy! Now that I’ve successfully put in a zipper, I don’t know what I was so afraid of — this went in with no problems at all. It was slick, I’m telling you! Now it may be that I won’t have nearly as easy a time putting in an exposed or lapped zipper, but this invisible zipper was easy peasy!
Okay, I think I’m done gushing. While I was waiting for my invisible zipper foot earlier this week, I started a Darling Ranges dress in a nice, lightweight black chambray. Hopefully I’ll be able to share that next week!
And then next month, of course, is the Macaron dress for the Sew Colette 2.0 sew along. I’m very excited about that — love the Macaron!