Dresses of a year

Before you have children, everyone tells you that once you do your time will disappear. And you think, ok, sure, but you really have no concept of how things will change in your life. How much longer everything takes with a small person in tow. How your own time pretty much condenses to the few hours between dinner and bed, plus the unknown length of nap time. But that time can add up into some pretty serious chunks of sewing (as long as you adjust your tolerance to mess and don’t mind the only time the dining table gets cleared is when you want to cut out fabric…).

Herewith projects sewn, photographed but unblogged in 2016 because some things have to give. In roughly chronological order.

170107dresses7Three Seamwork Kennedy dresses. (Yes, there are only photos of two.) I quite like this pattern, although it is a tad short. I was really unsure about the sack-like trapeze silhouette, but this pattern convinced me as long as it’s fitted around the bust and shoulders, it’s ok. These were in my nursing stage so I added the exposed zippers, which worked well but now I no longer need access are of an awkward length (almost to the natural waist where they’d probably look better ending just below the bust). The first was made in a polyester textured navy and white stripe stretch fabric from Spotlight, inspired by this Karen Walker dress. I raised the back neckline so it doesn’t have the V and ties. I’d wear it more if I hadn’t used a gold bias binding around the neck and sleeves which is very scratchy. The purple tropical print was the second and most successful. This is a silk/cotton blend with a seersuckerish texture bought at The Fabric Store years ago. Made for the Canberra Sewing Crew’s autumnal high tea and worn heaps, even to work with tights and a blazer. For the third version, I lengthened it into a maxi dress for my birthday picnic. I love the look of this but the feather fabric (“peachskin” from Girl Charlee) is a) slightly sheer and b) quite sweaty so it really needs a slip underneath and since I don’t have one, has hardly been worn.

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One Acton dress pattern testing for In The Folds. In the few years I’ve been regularly reading sewing blogs, there have been two or three kerfuffles about pattern testing so I signed up for this as much to see what was involved as for the pattern (although I do like the silhouette and wouldn’t have volunteered for something I wouldn’t wear). I thought Emily wrote a good blog post about her process (after the fact) and I was impressed with how she ran it – especially having a closed Facebook group for all the testers so we could see each other’s progress and get quick feedback from Emily on muslins, fitting and the like. The top of this is a cotton-spandex knit from Spotlight, originally bought to make leggings, and the skirt is silk from that same long-ago trip to The Fabric Store as the purple tropical print above. I also modified this slightly for nursing, extending the straps at the front to the waistline and attaching them to the top of the bodice with press studs (I think I’ll go back and sew them on now to make them more secure). I sewed this right before winter and it promptly got too cold to wear a floaty silk skirt so it hasn’t been out of the wardrobe much. I’d like to make another version, View A this time with the plain A-line skirt.

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One chameleon two-piece ball gown. The problem with all the ball gowns made so far is they get worn once or twice then never again, not being especially practical dresses. This year’s was going to be totally different. I used the short version of Vogue V8921, which hits about knee-length, and used the pattern to draft a maxi skirt, gathered at the waist instead of pleated, that buttons at each side seam behind those crossover panels. The dress is made of silk jersey (from Mood, more on that in a moment) and the skirt of polyester chiffon with a burnout floral pattern from Spotlight that I dyed blue. I was thrilled with the execution, which came out as a whole how I imagined, but I was displeased with my fitting skills. It was these photos that made me realise my post-baby body needs an FBA on patterns not a larger size. The dress on its own is too large in the back, so the crossover panels droop badly and pull the side seams to the front. It’s sitting on my sewing desk waiting for some large darts to be put in back in the hope that will fix many of its problems.

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One glorious emerald Anna dressThis was a pretty quick, I-need-something-glam-fast dress to wear to Fashfest and it’s turned out to be one of my two favourite makes of the year. I just feel fabulous every time I wear it! It’s the tried-and-true Anna bodice with a scooped out back plus a self-drafted pleated skirt (if by self-drafted you mean “lie fabric next to ruler and pleat until it’s the right width”). But the thing that really makes it is the fabric: more of that silk jersey from Mood. I’ve wanted to sew with this for years but it’s always been prohibitively expensive – until one late night browsing the Mood website for something else entirely I stumbled across it at 15 per cent of its usual price (A$11 a yard!) and, well, the only question was which colour to buy. I got 3.5 yards each of three colours (I still have a bright red/orange to sew) quick smart. But the next morning when I thought to share this bounty with instagram, lo it was changed to 15 per cent OFF the regular price, per haps alerted by my order? This stuff is an absolute dream to sew and it feels like wearing a waterfall. I’ve worn this dress so much. (Yes, it does need some bra-strap-holding thread chains in the shoulders; I know this but haven’t bothered.)

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One Cotton + Steel + Chalk fab floral dress. Like most of the rest of the sewing sphere, when I saw the Rifle Paper Co. collaboration with Cotton+Steel I had to get some. 2016 has been the year I discovered rayon properly – its drape! its feel against the skin! – so for me there was no question about the substrate and Miss Matatabi only had red left by the time I finally went to buy some. Lucky I love red! I wanted to try out the Cotton+Chalk Rosie dress pattern that came with a Simply Sewing magazine and am happy with the pairing of fabric and pattern. I also love the piping I added at the waist panel. I’m not happy, however, with the fit – I just couldn’t work out the sizing properly and even though I took the side seams in heaps the neckline gapes something shocking plus the zipper bulges. I think part of the problem is the bodice is too long – I’m working on a new sloper so I can try to adjust these things before I get sewing. But these issues haven’t stopped me wearing this a whole lot as a casual dress. (Psst… I can’t remember how I discovered this but Rifle Paper Co is doing another fabric collection, this time inspired by Alice in Wonderland. I think it’s out a bit later this year.)

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Two Cynthia Rowley rayon sundresses. These are a really wearable muslin and the actual planned dress, and I’ve worn them both heaps. The spotty one (at right) is the other of my two favourite makes for the year, but I’ve failed to get photos apart from a windy, footless impromptu few at MONA in Hobart. The pattern is Simplicity 1873, which I’ve had for years and made up once before, in a perfectly pattern-matched plaid taffeta that was much too short – a problem exacerbated by a flighty skirt. This time I lengthened the skirt (or maybe used the pieces from view A instead of C?), scooped the neckline out ever so slightly and added pockets (and colour blocked the skirt on the spotty version). There was a bit of faffing around with the seam allowance in the side seam but I’m really happy with the fit. I also love how full the skirt is – the front has three panels, with the seams hidden in the pleats. The orange/purple zebra-esque fabric is rayon from Spotlight, bought originally to make a Sewaholic Cambie with to imitate this dress from an episode of Awkward:

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but I couldn’t face fitting that pattern properly (again), so used it as a muslin for this one. I cut it on the crossgrain for the direction of the orange zig-zags and then didn’t have quite enough for the skirt so one of the back two panels is pieced. I was worried about the weight of the extra seam (it’s about two-thirds of the way down) but it turns out to be a total non-issue. The red spotted fabric is a rayon crepe from Tessuti and seen all over Instagram. I took both dresses on a recent work trip to LA and was secretly thrilled when another of the reporters asked if the spotty one was Gorman (how good is it to be able to reply, “No, I made it”?).

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Miscellaneous un-selfish sewing. First birthday Oliver+S field trip cargo pants (minus the cargo pockets and adding adjustable elastic) made from a worn-out pair of my jeans. Christmas and first birthday Oliver+S Pinwheel tunics and dress. Seamwork Almada using vintage kimono silk for trim.

Not pictured: Tote bags from a Japanese bag book for all the women I give Christmas gifts to. A dopp kit from the Grainline Portside set for my brother. Two True Bias Sutton blouses (and fabrics bought for a third, which totally counts, right?). Metres and metres of birthday bunting. Three MadeIt Patterns Groove dresses. Second birthday Brindille and Twig Pocket Raglan Dress and Big Butt Pants matching set. Two balloon ball covers traced from one a cousin gave us. Bandana bibs for a dribbly teether.

Yaletown frolic

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This is not the dress I wore to a friend’s wedding in December. Nor is it the dress I planned to wear, or not quite.

The wedding in question was held in a cave in the middle of Kosciusko National Park and the dress code was “vintage finery”. I was initially inspired by a purple chiffon with blush roses found when the local Lincraft branch was moving and having half price off everything. I picked up five metres, thinking of something floaty with a very full skirt. That gave nursing access. That I could sew with a newborn around. (Tell her she’s dreaming!)

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These musings led me to the Sewaholic Yaletown dress, the pattern for which I had in my stash after winning it in a Monthly Stitch competition, um, the June before last. I was inspired by its vaguely 1940s sensibility (at least, it has what I think of as a 40s vibe but I could be completely off point). Plus many of the blog posts I’d read from others who had made it mentioned how gapey the front is, which I figured was actually what I wanted if I was going to insist on making a woven rather than a stretch dress. Sensibly, for once, I decided to toile the pattern before cutting into my (admittedly very cheap) chiffon.

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This is a cotton (probably) voile from Spotlight that was in fact not as cheap as my chiffon and only slightly less sheer. It’s a pretty loose weave and hasn’t held up all that well — pilling after one wear in the area where my bag bangs on my side, and a few threads have pulled in the wash. Mostly I liked it because it was cheerful and drapey. But I then went and underlined it in a plain blue voile, thus taking away all its draping qualities. Oh well.

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Yes, you read that right: I underlined this. For the first time on anything. And sewed French seams. On a toile. I hand-basted the two layers of each pattern piece together, which was a bit of a pain at the time but definitely worth it in the end. You can see the difference at the sleeves, which I left unlined. Because of the way the pattern is designed with the gathered, elastic waist I couldn’t work out how to check this fit without basically sewing the whole thing together. So I cut a straight size 16, sewed up the bodice and skirt, threaded through the elastic and tried it on a couple of weeks before the wedding. And decided I hated it.

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We shall meander briefly: A few years ago when we went to USA, I was excited about clothes shopping stateside (I had not learned about fabric districts then). The first time I managed to hit the shops in San Francisco I very quickly discovered *the* shape of that summer was not one that suited me at all. What was that shape? Dresses with loose, blousey bodices and elastic waists. I imagine it has not escaped your attention, dear reader, that fitted bodices are my jam. I like to emphasise my waist rather than swamp it in material. I’ve known this for years. I knew it when I was somewhat underwhelmed by the Southport dress I made (the pattern itself is lovely, it’s just not for me). So why I thought this would be any different with the Yaletown is beyond me.

Thus I cast aside the unfinished dress and panicked. You know when you’ve left buying a present until the very last minute and you’re absolutely out of ideas and you wander the shops in desperation? That was me, but with patterns. I decided to use the aforementioned purple, rose-covered chiffon to make a full, probably gathered skirt, figuring the vibe of the fabric would be vintage-ish enough, and sew a top that opened in the front to go with it. Here I am at the wedding:

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See all the roses? My eventual solution was to make the bodice of the Butterick 5521, a woven dress, out of scuba knit with a zip in the centre front seam and an added peplum (hidden under the skirt here). Let’s just say there were fitting issues and I wasn’t terribly happy with the result. And I didn’t have time to make a skirt so I did that panic shopping thing and miraculously found something that matched colours perfectly. And the whole vintage vibe I was going for disappeared. But the wedding was great fun.

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Fast forward a few months and I picked up the unfinished Yaletown to see if it could be salvaged (and declutter my sewing table). All that was left to do was the sleeves and hem! I put it on again and went and stood back in front of the mirror and decided it wasn’t all that bad after all. I must have just been having an off day back in December. Since it was so almost finished, it took hardly any time and voila, a whole new summery frock.

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So, the verdict: I’ve worn this quite a number of times. Yes, the neckline gapes (like, a lot — I was sure to pat it into place for these photos) but it is functional for breastfeeding. I am always a fan of pockets, so that’s a positive, and I really like the fluttery sleeves. I’m still not completely sold on this silhouette, though suspect shortening the bodice would help somewhat (must make a new bodice sloper). I also think sizing down and sewing it in a knit could work too. But I do think it’s worth giving another shot some time in the future.

Double trouble: sewing for feeding mothers

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Here is what happens when a sewing plan gets all derailed but you end up loving the result.

I had intended to make another false-front McCall’s 6886 dress with this pixelated floral Art Gallery fabric. However, lately I’ve been thinking about what distinguishes RTW garments from home sewing and one of the things I’ve noticed is clothes in shops often make more judicious use of colour-blocking than what I think to do. While turning this idea over I made the previously mentioned nursing bra from the EYMM everyday essentials set. I liked the fit of it so much I decided to throw the previous plans for this fabric out and turn it into a colour-blocked dress using that pattern.

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The pattern includes mix-and-match pieces that mean you can make a bra, top, short dress, midi-length dress, or two lengths of half slip (or, I guess, skirts). This is a hacked version of the short dress pattern. The bodice is a straight XL, medium-cup from the pattern, although I created a front lining piece without the under-bust gathering. It’s attached on the inside with openings in the side seam so that if I don’t want to wear a bra I can have the option of adding some padding, like in a sports bra or swimsuit. Attaching the neckband to the bodice and lining so all the seams were hidden on the inside took more thinking and unpicking (and swearing) that it probably should have, but I got there in the end. If you want to attempt something similar, the key is to sew the neckband on before attaching the lining at the shoulders.

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The skirt part has many more modifications. Firstly, I added two or three inches of length to the short skirt (it was done on the fly and I can’t remember exactly how much now). From the highly technical “hold the pattern piece under your bust and see where it reaches” fitting method I decided I wanted a length in between the two offered. The shorter one is more intended as a slip or nightie, I think. Then I segmented off a waistband from the top of the skirt.

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Thirdly, I slashed and spread it from approximately the hip to give a bit more of an A-line shape. In doing this I don’t think I shaped the hem properly because it dips down at the sides (not particularly obvious in these photos) – next time I’ll make sure to actually measure the centre and side seam to check they’re the same length. The whole thing is sewn on the overlocker and I left the hem raw, though may yet sew it up.

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The construction of the dress is really neat because the pattern has you still attach the negatively eased bra band inside the top of the skirt at the waist seam, so you get a bit of extra support under the bust. It also suggests you could add thick elastic inside the bra band if you need even more support but I figured I’ll mostly wear this with a proper bra underneath so that’s not needed. The only downside is it’s extremely low cut (you can make it more modest by leaving out the gathering and instead overlapping the front pieces further). That mostly doesn’t worry me but after a few times tugging the bodice down to feed it can sag and show the top of my bra a bit. In the above photo I’m wearing it with a nursing singlet, which is a more workable fix as the weather turn colder.

That aside, I was so pleased with this dress that the next night after making it I carved out some time and made another!

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The floral fabric is a cotton jersey with pretty decent two-way stretch (or is it four-way? I’m never sure. It’s rather stretchy) and I used a watermelon ponte scrap I’ve had hanging round forever for the waistband. This black and white one is made entirely from ponte, apart from the neckband, so it’s a firmer fit. I didn’t have quite enough of the stripes to do the skirt as flared as the floral version so I (pattern drafters, avert your eyes) folded the side of the pattern piece at a slightly flatter angle as I cut it out. There’s some pretty boss stripe matching going on at the side seams; I’m proud of that. I used a thinner black jersey for the neckband because the ponte didn’t have the required 50 per cent stretch and left off the bra band. The hem is folded over twice and straight stitched. And… I didn’t change the thread on my overlocker so the whole thing is finished in pale green (the shop had no white), which annoys only me because I can see it down the neckline but nobody else can. I hope.

These are a great pair of summer dresses. Since they’re stretchy, they don’t really need ironing so are excellent for travelling (like, to Melbourne and Winchelsea/Dungatar) or throwing on in case of baby-related clothes malfunction. Perfect!

 

Alder (or, A-line shirt dress with gathered skirt and snap closures)

Collar and placket and yoke, oh my! Yes, I sewed a shirtdress and I liked it. And so, coincidentally, did the judge of my local country show’s handicrafts section!

One of the things that’s been tricky in the search for nursing-friendly clothes is finding the right silhouette for me. I’m not sure quite why this has been so hard; with a (pre-baby) wardrobe full of fit-and-flare and fitted sheath dresses I obviously know what I like. But translating this into sewing patterns that open at the front without too much faffing around to adjust has proven difficult.

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If you’re looking for something that opens easily, a shirtdress is the obvious answer. I’ve admired the Grainline Alder for some time but never been quite sure the loose-fitting A-line shape is for me. I’m still not completely convinced by the shape but it sure makes a lovely breezy summer dress.

This is a size 18 based on my bust measurement (while the pattern lists waist and hip measurements, the huge ease in the shape means you can basically ignore them). The only alteration I made was to add three inches to the length since most of the Alders I’ve seen have been a bit on the short side and my life is about to involve a whole lot of crawling on the floor.

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Tip for new players: if you add length to the dress front, skirt front and skirt back, don’t forget to add it to the placket too even though there’s no shorten/lengthen line. Preferably before you cut it out (I caught my mistake *just* in time…).

I like where this hits the knee at the front with the added length. The shirttail hem in the back is a bit longer than I’m used to wearing and it feels a little odd when it brushes against my leg. But that’s something I’m sure you get used to.

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Oh, and I added in-seam pockets too because a dress without pockets just isn’t worth making – although I did I omit the breast pockets for a less fussy front and to not draw attention to the chest more than necessary.

160208alder9 The pocket bags are a floral cotton lawn I used for a Colette Crepe dress shortly after I started sewing that I eventually decided just wasn’t for me. I went looking for scraps of the fabric and found the whole dress in my stash cupboard so I unpicked the pockets and used them instead of having to cut and sew new ones. It was interesting to see how far my sewing’s advanced since then – there was some dodgy work there!

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The main dress fabric is a tencel chambray from Spotlight. It drapes nicely and is fantastically soft to wear but was a bit of a shifty bugger to cut. And I forgot that I should have been thinking about pattern matching (or at least patterns being in a straight line) until after cutting out half the pieces. Nevertheless I’m pleased with how it turned out. For the contrast placket and collar the reverse of the fabric is used.

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Construction-wise I have little to add to the many other blogs I’ve read. Along with the rest of the world (it seems) I used Jen’s burrito method for the yoke (which always confuses me when I read descriptions but somehow just works in reality) and Andrea’s collar construction order. Doing the topstitching convinced me I should get an edge-stitching foot (birthday fairy?) but it turned out ok by going very slowly. I used pearl snaps instead of buttons because 1) easy access, 2) excessive consumption of Nashville and 3) buttonholes still make me nervous.

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So, first item from my sewing plan completed and I think it’s one that will get a lot of wear. I found it interesting when sewing this up that having less time to get in front of the machine actually made me take more care with each part of the dress, instead of rushing to get things done. That patience has paid off with a dress I’m really proud of.

** Adding to the pattern resources for nursing mothers, I have discovered Jalie has a few patterns, including this crossover top which I think I’ll try, and 5 Out Of 4 have a knot-front top or dress with a nursing modification included.

Planning day

In the interests of keeping my sewing brain from skit-skatting around and actually shopping the stash this year (never mind that many of these fabrics were bought in the past month…) I’ve been thinking ahead about what to make and what to make it in. Herewith my plans as they stand right now; perhaps making them public will keep me accountable. Or perhaps not. 

  

Already on the cutting table is a Grainline Alder shirtdress in this tencel chambray. I’m going to make view B and am contemplating whether to use the wrong side of the fabric as accents in the button band, collar and possibly pockets. Having held the pattern pieces up against me, I also think I’ll add a couple of inches in length. 


I couldn’t resist this fleece at Spotlight the other day and bought a couple of metres (and nearly-matching green ribbing) with the intention of making a zip-up hoodie. I could modify the Thread Theory one I’ve made a bunch of times but the shape of the Jamie Christina Sol is exactly what I’m after without any extra work.

  
I bought the True Bias Sutton blouse as part of a pattern bundle (I think) and have been intending to give it a go for ages. Hopefully this orange/blue/cream peach skin polyester fabric from Girl Charlee won’t prove as scary to sew as I’ve been fearing. 

  
I bought this metallic polka dot French terry from Miss Matatabi with the intention of turning it into a relaxed Grainline Morris blazer to wear with jeans. Then it got hot and those plans got put on ice. So here’s to getting it done by autumn!

   
  
 These two I want to turn into more nursing dresses using my hack of McCall’s 6886. The floral is an Art Gallery knit from Addicted to Fabric and the brown/mustard is a double knit from Girl Charlee that was a birthday present last year. I’m intending to show off bothsides of the latter with a further, colour blocking modification to the pattern. Still trying to decide whether the stripes or teeny dots should make up the majority of the dress. 

  
Of course, the Cashmerette Appleton wrap dress. Still need to actually order the pattern, but I bought this polka dot jersey from Addicted to Fabric with it in mind. 

  
I can’t remember what I thought I was going to do with metres and metres of this eucalyptus-ish jersey (it’s more green in real life than the grey of this photo) but now I’m going to use a tiny bit to make either a bralette or top from the EYMM everyday essentials pattern. 

  
Finally, there’s this remnant of stripey jersey from Addicted to Fabric. If the EYMM pattern turns out well, I’ll use this to make the top, otherwise there’s a Lekala nursing crossover top I’ve got my eye on.

I don’t think this counts as a “capsule wardrobe” since nothing really goes together and, um, there are no bottom-half coverings. There are one or two other ideas knocking round in my brain too, such as a couple of cardigans in some lovely merino jerseys, but fabric and pattern haven’t quite come together for those yet. Hopefully these plans aren’t bigger than my sewing appetite! 

Have you had success in planning out your sewing? Or do good intentions get flung out the window when you *need* another party dress?

Pretty (hungry) in pink: sewing for feeding mothers

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This may come as a shock, dear reader, so brace yourself: I like wearing dresses. Like, I *really* like wearing dresses. However, dress-wearing is not especially compatible with nursing a baby. Oddly enough, my criteria for making or buying clothes hasn’t previously included “how accessible are my boobs?” as a consideration. My Kielo, for instance, is a great dress that gave me much enjoyment to wear in the last stages of my pregnancy. But if I were to try and feed in it, I’d have to get entirely undressed. Not ideal. Unfortunately I realised all this quite late in my pregnancy and didn’t have the time or energy to resolve the problem ahead of it occurring.

So I’ve been coping through wearing lots of separates plus a couple of special nursing dresses, and I discovered that two of the three maternity frocks I bought are also feeding friendly. Plus test-yanking the necklines of everything I own to see what else works. Clearly the answer to a long-term solution that doesn’t involve buying a whole new wardrobe lay in sewing.

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Thus my first post-baby foray into dress sewing. I examined one of the dresses I’d bought from Milk Nursingwear and figured it would be fairly easy to replicate. It’s a basic t-shirt dress with two front bodices – the outside one is the regular bodice cut off about halfway between bust and waist, and the inside one has cutaways that you can pull aside for feeding bub. The inside front bodice is all one piece, while the back has an elasticated waist seam.

The Milk Nursingwear dress, inside out
The Milk Nursingwear dress, inside out

I’d been tossing up how easy it would be to trace off this dress when I saw someone on instagram recommend McCall’s M6886 as a good stretchy dress pattern (thank you, grammer whose identity has slipped my mind). They were suggesting it to replicate a sequinned party frock, but on looking it up I realised it was perfect for what I wanted to do. And the local Lincraft even had it in stock!

I always have trouble with measurements in the Big Four patterns and the amount of ease they include, so this time I chose a size based partly on my measurements compared to the finished garment measurements on the packet, and partly on holding the RTW dress against the front bodice pattern piece and guessing. Of course, the knit fabric I had in the stash was slightly thicker and less stretchy than whatever the stripy dress was made from, so the first version I sewed in a straight size 16 was a bit tight. I added 2cm to the side seams of the front bodice and left the back untouched, which seems to have worked out ok in the second (pictured) attempt. The fit is still a touch tight in this fabric, but I’ve sewn a third version in a slightly more stable knit and that looks better.

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Instead of making separate pattern pieces for the outside and inside bodices I cut them both from this one but you may find it easier to have two.

So, modifications. I traced the inside bodice cut-out edge from the RTW dress and used a French curve to make it a sensible shape (the black line inside the armhole on the pattern piece above). For me, it starts about halfway along the shoulder seam (closer to the neck than the armhole by about 0.5cm) and ends 7cm (2.75″) below the armhole. The curve cuts around the bust about a third of the way over its dome.

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For the outside bodice, the length was a bit of trial and error. The first one was too short and wound up looking like the kind of underboob-flashing crop top Paris Hilton might wear. the second version (that’s this pink dress) is maybe a touch long, which just makes it a little more awkward to pull up. The third (unphotographed) is just right, Goldilocks-like. I ended up with it being 17cm (6.5″) below the armhole. The hem is simply a straight line at right angles to the grain/centre front.

I also lowered the neckline from the original pattern, but that had nothing to do with breastfeeding and everything to do with personal preference.

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For construction, the first thing is to overlock the cut-out edge of the inside bodice, attaching some clear elastic. There’s been some discussion about clear elastic over on my instagram because the one I used is very sticky and does tend to stretch out while sewing, thus creating un-needed gathers. For this reason I didn’t use it on the shoulder seams as well, although ideally you’d stabilise them too.

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Secondly, hem the bottom edge of the outside bodice. I found it worked best to stay-stitch 1cm (3/8″) from the edge, fold the hem up along this line and zig-zag stitch, then fold a second time and straight stitch it from the outside 0.5cm (1/4″) from the edge.

After that, it’s fairly straightforward dress construction as per the instructions, except with two front bodice pieces. Stitch the shoulder seams right sides together with the outer bodice piece sandwiched between the back and inside bodice. Line up the side seam notches on all three pieces and stitch the side seams. Attach the neckband. Hem the sleeves then attach them. Hem the bottom of the dress. Voila!

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I road-tested (meal-tested?) the dress shortly after taking these photos and it definitely works. It would be easy enough to draft something similar from any basic stretch dress pattern or a lengthened t-shirt pattern (maybe my beloved Kirsten kimono tee). What pattern would you recommend?

Finding Named shapes

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I’ve been making a concerted effort to churn through some of the many half-finished projects taking up space on my sewing table (if only because at some point I guess the sewing machine should return from the dining table to its rightful place…). One of the makes that should have been a simple, super-quick sew was this Named Kielo wrap dress. Should have, but it’s sat there for about three months with just the shoulders and half a side seam sewn up.

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This was nothing to do with the pattern or instructions, which are fairly straight forward, and everything to do with my having a tantrum at the overlocker unthreading itself about six times within 10cm of sewing. I just had to put the whole dress aside and come back when we were both, the overlocker and I, in a better mood. Took a while, as it turned out. But really, this is very easy – a couple of darts, two ties, shoulder seams, two side seams and hems.

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I was initially hesitant about the Kielo because I wasn’t sure how its shape would suit me. I love the interesting styling and silhouettes of Named’s patterns but so often they feel a bit too fashion-cool for me; not quite my aesthetic. But a bit of blog searching turned up a few versions which pretty much convinced me it would be ok. And the forgivingly adaptable shape does make it a good option for maternity wear.

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Instead of the traditional, DVF-style flat wrap-dress shape, Kielo is basically a diamond sack and you wrap the points around to the front or back depending on what you like the look of best. It kind of reminds me of when I’d change my doona cover as a child by climbing right inside it and pretending I was Alfred the water bottle. You can sew this in either a stretch or woven fabric, which makes sense because all the shaping happens in the wrapping (though there are bust darts and back fisheye darts) without needing to stretch things to fit.

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This fabric is a cotton jersey knit (*possibly* a Cloud 9 design) from – where else? – Spotlight. I liked the watercolour effect and it’s pretty soft to wear. Definitely a secret pyjamas feel going on here. (You can see above where I used the selvedge when cutting the ties to make them long enough and it’s not holding up well, but I intend to unpick the seam where they’re attached and take them in a little bit.)

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There are only two things that annoyed me about this pattern (separately from the overlocker issues). One is having to add seam allowances when tracing. I ordered a printed pattern and it comes with the pieces all printed on a single sheet of paper. Because the front and back are just a single piece each (no waist seam) they’re quite large and Named saves paper by breaking them in half so you have to trace to join the parts together. It’ll make sense when you do it. I usually trace patterns anyway so didn’t mind that, but find it annoying having to remember the seam allowance. The second thing was turning the straps. Those things are long! In fact, if you don’t have quite enough fabric to make the recommended length I wouldn’t be too worried about lopping off as much as 10cm.

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This was in fact the second Kielo I made, having sewn one in a much stretchier fabric as a Christmas present for my (then-pregnant) sister-in-law last year. For me, I cut a straight size 46 (based on finished measurements) and made no adjustments other than shortening it substantially to be knee- instead of ankle-length. It doesn’t play terribly nicely with bra straps though, and could benefit from having a couple of bits of ribbon and press studs sewn in at the shoulder seams to hold them in place. Overall I’m glad I gave this shape a go – and came back to it instead of abandoning yet another unfinished object.