Tag Archives: summer

The Ashland Dress

I made this dress a solid month or so ago, and it’s been waiting to be photographed along with a million other things (at least three), but it wasn’t until the light was starting to go this evening that I had the brilliant idea of tying my camera to my bike basket in lieu of a tripod. I have been really eager to talk about this pattern, because apparently, I would be one of the first sewing bloggers to do so. When I first began to admire this pattern from afar, I went looking for reviews, and I only found one, at Cotton Creek Sewing. I didn’t understand why the entire sewing blogosphere wasn’t full of Ashlands, it seemed such a simple, everyday dress.

Being poor, I didn’t buy it, but Mother did, and when she didn’t like it, she gave it to me. I was more than happy to take it off her hands, and made grand plans for the dozens of versions I would whip up in happy afternoons. In the end, I only made one, and I don’t have plans for another right now (though I still have the pattern, so you never know), because ultimately I found it a little disappointing.

ashland

Don’t get me wrong, it’s cute and wearable and an easy summer dress, it’s just not quite the paragon of pattern-drafting that I had hoped it would be. To begin with, the multitude of options is a bit baffling. Do you want the sleeveless bodice, or the one with sleeves, because they’re different pieces with different amounts of ease. Do I wear a C cup with sleeves, but a D cup without? Or D cups all round? Or C cups all round? Should I cut a size 4, C cup, or a size 2, D cup? Or a size 2, C cup? The amount of muslins required just to get the right size would be staggering. I did several tissue fittings and ended up cutting a size 2, D cup, and by this time I was frustrated enough that I didn’t even care if the finished dress fit, so I skipped a muslin and plunged on ahead.

ashland

Luckily, it fits. Well enough, anyway. The saga of fit is long and arduous, I’m always agonizing about it, and sometimes it’s nice to accept that the fit on a dress is not perfect and doesn’t need to be, and I can wear it anyway.

ashland dress back

I did a tiny dart tuck in the back to accommodate the roll of my shoulders, and called it good. Also, I accidentally cut both back skirt pieces facing the same direction. I was cutting this dress out of the salvaged remains of last summer’s princess-seamed dress, which I wore all fall and winter and which ultimately, tragically, shrunk in the wash. This meant that I didn’t have nearly enough to re-cut a skirt piece, but I trimmed the back pieces down and sewed them without darts, and somehow it all worked out.

The Ashland dress has you do a lot of hand-sewing, and most of it before you’ve sewn up the side seams. This was nice because it forced me to take me time, and led to a nice clean finish, but I was terrified that the dress wasn’t even going to fit and it would all be a waste of time. I compounded issues by handpicking the zipper, since I didn’t have an invisible zip or brown thread, and didn’t want my stitching to show.

inside front

Inside front, self-faced and tidy.

inside back

Inside back. I also didn’t have a brown zipper, so I used a grey one. It’s all neutral, right?
armhole

Armhole binding. I didn’t have enough brown sprig for bias binding, so I used muslin. I tacked it down at various point along the armhole, but didn’t bother sewing it down all around.

handpicked zipper

This was the first time I handpicked a zipper properly, and it’s magical. It’s like it’s floating there without any stitching at all! I was so enchanted with prick-stitching, I went on to prick-stitch the entire hem.

ashland hem

The hem is nice and deep, and the skirt is very short. It felt like the most flattering length at the time. I’m not sure now that it wouldn’t benefit from an extra inch, and it would certainly make water fountains easier, but oh well.

buttons

The pattern calls for five buttons, but I only had three matching brown ones, and I didn’t want to make buttonholes anyway, so I sewed the front closed and stitched the buttons through both layers. My new zigzag machine may do buttonholes, but I haven’t figured out how quite yet.

I took this dress to the country fair, and it was comfy and cool, so I say it’s a win. I probably won’t be making dozens of Ashlands, though. Maybe another one, with a few modifications, if the right fabric comes along. I’m feeling more kindly disposed to it than I was before I started writing. Give me a year or so, and I might be really kindly disposed! In the meantime, I think it’s time for a new princess-seamed dress…

Also, you may notice that this is no longer the beautiful college campus, but in fact a pinkish house with hydrangeas! This is my new house, where I will live, hopefully, for the next couple of years! I still get to see the beautiful college every day, but now I have a patio, an herb garden, a kitchen that I only share with four other people, a sewing room, and I don’t have to shuffle in and out every couple of months and listen to people rapping upstairs every night. Hooray!

drafting a dress

I want to make this 50s halter dress from BurdaStyle.

I have a green and black gingham seersucker, and black broderie anglaise for the straps. Or something. I’m still a bit hazy on the details. Maybe I’ll make my own piping, if I’m feeling really ambitious. The fabric, being seersucker, has really subtle stripes, and I have some idea of chevrons in the skirt, if I have enough fabric. Can you make chevrons in a circle skirt?

But, I don’t really want to buy it, print it out, tape it together, trace it onto pattern paper, do an FBA, and then realize that it doesn’t fit me right anyway (I’m facing the terrible fate of having to grade all of my patterns, ever). So, I decided, why not draft it myself? It has two darts, how hard can it be? (Ha ha.) I would never knock off a pattern from an indie pattern company, but this is Burda and vintage and, well, I don’t feel bad.

I am using a piece of muslin, a tape measure, the Burda line drawing, and a giant roll of paper towel to draw my pattern pieces on (I couldn’t find a newspaper). The pieces themselves are coming along all right, but I feel that the construction may prove difficult. Burda seems to have made the X across the bodice out of one piece, but surely that is not an economical use of fabric…

Almost a Violet, or, The Tale of the Unremarkable Sundress

Well, this weekend was the last one with my beloved sewing machine until September! I’m off to go work on a lavender farm for a month, and then I’m rushing about thither and yon and though I will have a few days at home at some point, I’d better be packing, not sewing. Anyway, I’m out of fabric! I will update occasionally with outfits, probably, and I’m going to be making a Stripe Study Shawl, which will hopefully be finished by the time it’s cold enough to wear a shawl and academic enough to study (i.e., finals). Can I finish a shawl before December? We’ll see.

Anyway, my last sewing weekend this summer. I spent most of it making a blouse, which is almost but not exactly a Colette Violet. By which I mean that I had the pattern booklet, kindly loaned me by my mother/Shannon, and, actually the pattern pieces as well, but I didn’t really feel like ironing the paper and tracing them out onto paper bags and then having to fold the paper back up, so I made up my own.

blouse

The booklet kindly advised me to “Measure twice, cut once” and Mother is always telling me to do a paper fitting, so I tried, I really did. But it’s no easy feat to fit patterns to your own back, especially when they’re made out of paper bags instead of tissue, so after a while I just gave up and decided to fit the fabric instead of the paper. I’m afraid I forgot to take into account what bust darts would do to the grain of the fabric, so it wrinkles in sort of a weird way under the bust.

blouse

Also, the collar is asymmetrical, despite my careful pinning. Oops. I’m still not sure how upset I am about that. I do like the sleeves though–I’d never made up my own sleeves before and it was surprisingly easy! And I did all seven buttonholes by hand–I’ve done all my buttonholes by hand and I really dislike it but somehow I keep making things with buttons. My shipment of 62 vintage zippers arrived though, so maybe I’ll avoid buttonholes for a while.

blouse back

Here is a picture of the back of the blouse. The fabric is cute, but it photographs absolutely terribly because it’s so busy. It hides darts pretty well though, which is nice. The collar was all wavy, probably because I didn’t use staystitch like the booklet said to do, so I darted it in a couple of places to make it lie flat.

It’s definitely not a perfect blouse. I learned an important thing making it: the people who make and sell patterns have years of experience, which is why they can make a living selling patterns, and I could learn a thing or two by actually following the instructions. I could probably make another of these blouses without a pattern now, but it would have turned out better if I had used one here, especially since I actually had one to hand. Oh well.

Next up–a high-waisted skirt in a mint green or pink to match this blouse that I have created.

Oh, but wait. I wouldn’t take two days to only sew one thing, would I? How silly! And I still had a piece of fabric!

Which is where the unremarkable sundress comes in.

sundress

There’s not that much to say about it. It’s been really hot the last few days, and I have a tendency to melt in weather above 75 degrees, so I wanted another low-effort sundress. I patterned it off of a green one that I frequently wear to ceilis, thinking hey, I could use another ceili dress too. Of course the green dress is made from drapey rayon and this dress is made from quilting cotton, so all the boringness of the pattern came through. It’s pretty much what I expected so I’m not all that disappointed. I think it’ll soften up with a few washes, and the fabric is pretty. I doubt I’ll be wearing it ceili-ing any time soon, as its stiffness sort of accentuates how short the hemline is (also what a terrible job I did hemming it straight…ugh), but it is actually pleasantly crisp in hot weather.

I am leaving on the train in a few hours and should go finish packing. I hope to see some spectacular outfits on the train that I can photograph, but I’m not counting on it.

I made a dress!

I think I have become a compulsive sewer.

It being the 4th of July, I had the day off, and yesterday I was so excited about it that I decided I would make a dress! I had a few yards of light brown sprigged quilting cotton, and it seemed the perfect stuff for a vintage-inspired summer dress, something with a fitted bodice and a full skirt. So I sat down to make one, because why not, really?

My dad bought me 62 vintage zippers on eBay, but they probably won’t arrive before next weekend, so I had to come up with a fitted bodice that didn’t have any zippers. Luckily for me (I thought), I have a lovely blue dress that not only buttons in the front, but also doesn’t have any darts, so I would just take a pattern off that–no adjustment required, since it fits me perfectly, etc. etc.

dresses on the line

(Sad side note about the blue dress: I’ve had it for a couple years and never washed it, and decided it was high time it was washed. I handwashed, but it still bled blue and red and purple all over the place and it is looking a bit faded and blotchy in spots. Not in a super noticeable way, but how do you wash things like that that bleed like mad?)

Of course the reason it doesn’t have any darts yet still fits perfectly is because it has armscye princess seams. I blithely traced it onto brown paper, cut out the pieces, and prepared to sew them . . . and then realized the edges of the pieces were curved. In opposite directions. I have no idea how it took me so long to realize that this might be problematic or confusing, but by the time I had noticed it was far too late to go back, and I definitely had no better plan, so I forged on ahead, found some video tutorials, and sewed the dress.

dress

dress back

It was a learning experience, for sure. I had no way of knowing how much seam allowance I would need, and tried using washable markers to denote where my pieces should match up, but in the end I was more preoccupied just trying to keep the pieces matching up at all while I curved them in directions none of them wanted to go, so the bodice didn’t fit perfectly. The dress being sleeveless, the armholes pooched out in unfortunate, boxy ways. In the end I ditched my armhole interfacing and added darts–even though it seemed silly to have darts and princess seams at the same time.

The internet cautioned me against french seams on armscye princess seams, but I don’t have a serger or zigzag or anything of that ilk, so I tried to finish my seams by turning them under and sewing along the edges, adding some decorative topstitching while I was at it. I can’t say that it worked splendidly, I’m afraid, but luckily no one is looking at the inside of my bodice and I can just handwash the dress from now on.

I stayed up until 2 AM sewing and finished the skirt this morning. I had to teach myself how to make a placket!

I cannibalized buttons from a cardigan that I’ve never worn and wouldn’t wear buttoned anyway…

buttons

…And a hook-and-eye from a blue cut-up evening-gown that I subsequently decided didn’t fit very well anyway and deprived of its zipper as well.

I also made a sash, not because it’s at all helpful or necessary but mostly because I still have lots of fabric and I like sashes. It’s good practice for sewing long, straight seams, anyway.

dress with sash

Yay! Overall I’m really pleased–it’s not perfect, by any means, and it definitely falls short of my imagination, but on the other hand it is way better than what I expected last night at 1 AM. It is something I will wear, and happily, and the next thing I make will be even better! I am not giving up on this bodice pattern, either; it’s lying scattered around my floor with scraps of fabric at the moment but sometime I might play around with the neckline and figuring out how to work with seam allowance.