Category Archives: summer dress series

Sewn // Contrado fabrics and Lekala #4552 // post 2 of 2

Poppy dress with Contrado fabrics

So there I was with gorgeous fabric in one hand and pattern in the other, and the two didn’t match up (in case you missed my last post: I had accidentally ordered the wrong type of fabric and it was too stiff for my original project idea). I was pretty upset at myself, so I moped for about 24 hours until the idea popped into my head to hack Lekala #4552. I won it from Saturday Night Stitch’s giveaway a couple months ago and wanted to make a version without sleeves.

Poppy dress with Contrado fabrics

Below is my first rendition of Lekala #4552. It did not turn out well. I had originally made it in a black suiting from Joann Fabrics, but it looked like a very short nun’s habit or choir robe. I took these pictures, threw up my hands, and then threw the dress in my UFO pile:

The thing was, the body of the dress fit well, and I could see the pattern working without the sleeves. It was worth a second try. I omitted the sleeves, lengthened the skirt, sketched a new neckline on the black dress, and finally traced it back to the pattern. From there it was simple to cut and sew the dress in my Contrado fabric, do a little bit of fitting at the princess seams around the bust, and then add spaghetti straps.

Poppy dress with Contrado fabrics

Then came the pockets.

Pockets are easy to add when you’re just slapping it in the side seam, but which seam do you put it in when you have 4 seams to choose from?! I put them  on the side panels, between the front and side seams:

This fabric and the pattern are a match made in heaven!  I’m so pleased with how it turned out, and I know I will wear this dress so much this summer. I really only want to wear dresses in the summer, and this one has PoCKEtsES. Lookit what I can put in my pocket:

I’m a proud pocket mama.

I anti-pattern matched so the dress would look as busy as possible. I think I did a pretty good job of having no seams line up! (Dead serious. Promise.) The insides are serged and finished with bias tape (from da stash) and the hem is a rolled hem from my serger.

Again, thank you to Contrado fabrics for printing my design. They have a huge selection of high quality fabric. I definitely recommend them for fabric printing.  You can read my other post about Contrado and this project here.

Poppy dress with Contrado fabrics
Pretending like it’s summer in my kitchen

 

*I was provided this fabric free of charge by Contrado UK. All opinions are my own.*

Sewn // Maya Dress II

 

Maya dress

Oh look I sewed something! It’s been a while- I think the last thing I made was the Cabernet Cardigan I sewed before I moved out of Richmond last year. My sewing machine has been active mainly mending and altering things I already own. But then winter abruptly turned into spring and I thought it would be nice to have another loose dress to throw on. Katie’s version of Maya reminded me of how much I wore the first Maya dress I made. I found this lightweight woven rayon (I think I added it to my last order- for the free shipping- from Fashion Fabrics Club or Girl Charlee. It’s been a while). 2 yards of 45″ rayon was ample fabric for this dress. Compared to my last Maya, the construction was very different.

Lots of pictures after these construction details:

  1. I cut a size 2 of the bodice (down from a size 4 on the last dress) and did a full bust adjustment using this tutorial. Picture below.
  2. Then I added a 3/4″ seam allowance to the bottom of both the front and back pattern pieces
  3. I cut a rectangle for the front of the skirt that was 32 x 26″ and one for the back that was 34 x 26″ (big booty adjustment).
  4. I sewed french seams on the shoulders and sides of the bodice, and on the sides of the skirt
  5. Then I used bias tape to finish the neck and armholes (instead of the facings provided in the pattern)
  6. The skirt was shirred until it was the size of the bodice waist and attached using a 3/4″ seam allowance
  7. The seam allowance was overlocked and then pressed up toward the bodice. It was sewn down as close to the edge as possible, leaving space for 1/2″ elastic to be inserted (this video was helpful)
  8. I inserted a piece of elastic the size of my waist, sewed the ends together and then finished the waistband.
  9. I made a 2″ hem at the bottom of the skirt for some extra weight.

Here you can see the difference between the original front bodice pattern (right) and the adjusted piece (left- the original is traced on it in blue)

full bust adjustment

Here are the pretty bias tape/french seam finished insides and the hem:

Maya dress detail

I might add some patch pockets on later this summer if having a dress sans pockets proves to be impractical (it probably will be…)

Maya dress

 

Maya Dress

Anatomy of an upcycle

upcycled maxi dress

When I first dipped my toes into making clothes, upcycling- that is turning a piece of clothing you don’t want to wear into something you do want to wear- was an easy, nonthreatening way to start. Through reading sites like New Dress A Day and Paris Ciel, and with practice, I got better at recognizing pieces with potential and transforming them. My most-worn pieces to date include this blue sundress and this red button down .

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before: too much sleeve, too much boob

The brown maxi dress pictured here is my latest success. When I was still living in Philly, post Philly-blogger-meetupAndrea and I went thrifting (sorry for all that name dropping). She spied this beauty at Philly AIDS Thrift, and despite my reluctance at the $15 price tag convinced me to buy it.

The first thing I focus on when choosing a piece of clothing to upcycle is the fit. If the part of the dress I want to keep fits- I keep it. It is easy to change the hem length, but can be much harder to change the shoulders or waist. On this dress the bodice fit perfectly. No changes needed there. The first thing I did was cut about 7″ off of the skirt length and used my serger to sew an easy rolled hem. Be careful while hemming knits- removing fabric (and weight that stretches the fabric out) allows the hem to spring up. The hem can end up shorter than you intend, so it’s best to cut fabric off a little at a time.

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Next I had to address the matter of boobage. You can see my bra in the before picture- the neckline plunges waaay too low. I sewed the sides of the neckline together with a blind stitch to add a couple inches of coverage. You can see in the above picture what a difference a couple inches make to the neckline.

After that, I chopped the sleeves off, leaving some space below the arm. The original sleeves attached to the band at the bottom of the bodice, so I needed to leave fabric there so I could raise the armhole. I pinched the fabric together and sewed it in a straight line, creating a new side seam. You can see the line down the middle of the V under the arm  hole that this created:

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The last thing I needed to do was finish the straps and neckline. I used tailors chalk to draw the neckline I wanted on the front and back of the dress. Sometimes I make a paper pattern to ensure that both sides are even, but I eyeballed it on this dress since I wasn’t making a super drastic change. I widened the front neckline by about an inch, narrowed the straps, and lowered the back of the dress by 2 inches.

Before
Before
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After

The neckline and straps were intimidating but not very difficult. I used bias tape to finish the edges, first pinning and stitching the bias tape along the chalk lines, then trimming off the extra fabric, and finally turning the bias tape under and topstitching it in place. The dress was originally finished with facings, and I wanted to keep this feature. I made sure to catch the facings as I sewed the bias tape.

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And then I was done. Another great dress added to my closet. Have you had any upcycling successes recently? What techniques do you use to complete an upcycle?

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More maternity wear!

maternity dress

Another friend in the lineup of my friends who are having babies asked me to make her a maternity dress. I found a yellow trapeze dress I made years ago (but never wore) that sorta fit her, but figured I owed her something actually her size that she could wear after pregnancy too. (side note- I don’t expect to get around to having kids till my 30’s, by which time I will have made so much maternity wear that I won’t actually have to make any for myself- I’ll just ask for my friends to loan it back to me!)

It was a quick project. Denver put up with me spread out on the floor for a morning (that girl should win a gold medal for all the jumping over pins and fabric on the living room floor I put her through). The top half is Nettie size 14, and the bottom is two rectangles (~40 x 22) gathered and attached to the top. I added 1/4″ elastic at the waistline for support.  I left the bottom edge raw and serged the armholes to finish them. Fabric is 2 yds of some polyester/lycra knit from JoAnns.

It’s big on me (she is significantly taller than I), so fingers crossed that it fits her. I sent it off Friday. No more squeezing into your old summer dresses! Claire to the rescue!

Maternity dress

 

Maya dress

Maya Shift Dress

I’ll have to say- I wasn’t sure about shift dresses. I tend to steer toward more hourglass-y things and shift dresses had me running in the opposite direction. But then Marilla released the Maya dress.

I first met Marilla Walker through a nametag swap in 2014. Since then, we’ve kept in touch, and formed a pretty nice trans-atlantic blogger friendship. Mostly she posts and I read. When she published her first pattern, she was generous enough to send me a free copy (since I’d been oohing and aahing over all her makes’ simple silhouettes and lush fabrics). I finally found the right fabric for my Maya in January, then took a deep breath and dove into a new kind of dress.

Maya Shift Dress

My version of Maya is made from a cotton tapestry that my sister brought back from her travels in Spain. All the little blue and white flowers were why I chose the fabric for this dress, but nearly a third of the pattern was not on grain! While cutting, I had to divide the front of the dress into 4 parts to get the flowers to line up. The pattern lines up horizontally at the expense of the center front seam.  I made a combined View C and D- the top half of the dress is View D (with snaps rather than buttons) and the bottom half is view C. The back is all one piece. The insides are finished with french seams or facings. I only needed to subtract a few inches from the hem  and one inch widthwise to make the dress pattern petite.

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Marilla certainly knows how to make a pattern! Maya is drafted exceedingly well and the dress is easy to fit. I especially like that the instructions walk you through some simple finishes to make the inside of the dress as pretty as the outside, eg french seams and facings. I would have liked to see a few more diagrams, but an advanced beginner wouldn’t have any trouble making this dress.  Since Maya, Marilla has published a number of other patterns including a skirt, leggings, and a coat. You can find her patterns in her Etsy shop here.

All this winter I wore my Maya with leggings, boots and a long sweater. I had intended to add elastic or a belt to the waist, but I found that I really liked wearing the simple shift shape and decided to omit the belt. Now that the weather is warmer the loose shape is a welcome alternative to tight clothing (and the warm weather is making it easier to photograph my winter sewing backlog).

Maya dress

Fit and Flare tutorial

Fit and flare dress tutorial

Well, friends, we’re nearing the end of my summer dress series, and I have this dress tutorial to share with you!  I might have one more after this, but the weather is starting to turn cold and I’ve come up with some other cool tutorials to share. We will see. In other news, I’m happy to announce that I’ve become a contributor to the Sew Mama Sew website! My first contribution is a tutorial for this fit-and-flare dress.

I wanted to come up with a simple knit dress that would introduce beginner sewists to the wonderful world of drafting patterns. I also wanted to make a dress that would look polished and feel cool in the hot summer months. Thus, this fit and flare dress was born- a dress with a fitted bodice, pleated skirt, and pockets!

Head over to their website to check out the full tutorial and make a dress for yourself!

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A Vera Aveline to beat the heat

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It’s been a while since I’ve shared projects, but I’m back!

So I jumped on the bandwagon and made myself a Vera Aveline dress. In defense of bandwagon jumping, I made it during one of this summer’s heat waves when I was aching for something airy and cool to wear.

This certainly does the trick.

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I wore it to a fancy dinner with my grandma and some of her friends (they’re museum docents so they appreciate fashion)- they liked it. I also wore it to a BBQ, where no one got it. But I was cool and comfortable and thought I looked fly so I didn’t care what they thought and laughed at all those people in their stuffy overheated clothing.

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Summer heat, I DEFY YOU in this Vera Aveline dress!!

If you want to make your own Vera Aveline you can find the tutorial here and you can see other versions of the dress here.

I ended up cutting 5 inches off of them hem to accommodate my short stature (5 ft 2 in) but made no other modifications. I added a lining in a silky brown polyester that ends just above my knees. The materials in total cost me about $25- a bargain for this great dress. I had a minor issue with the fabric mysteriously gathering along the side seams (seen in 2nd picture) but mostly remedied it with some pulling and pressing. Excuse the bra straps, but I kind of like how they look- they sort of match the dress straps, and I am too busty to deal with strapless bras.

Merci beaucoup to my wonderful friend and amazing photographer Bree Frisch for taking these pictures. See more of her work here. Seriously. This girl is an amazing photographer. If you live in NY or eastern PA, look her up.

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Summer Dress Series:: A Maxi To Wear To A Wedding

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One of my best friends from college got married this weekend. “Fun” only begins to describe the whole weekend. The wedding was at a swanky hotel outside of NYC, and it was big. Over the past four years I’ve gotten to know a lot of the groom’s friends and family, so I knew many of the guests, which made for extra-fun partying. The reception was on Saturday, and then there was a brunch on Sunday so the festivities could continue! Dan and Martha, if you’re reading this- Mazel tov!

I made this dress to wear- someone at the wedding described it as “chic and a little bit hippie- just like you!”

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Until a couple weeks ago I had planned on wearing an entirely different dress, but when I tried it on I didn’t like it anymore, so back to the drawing board I went. Here’s my original doodle:

doodle

In the interest of time I deconstructed my aunt’s old prom dress and used the bodice:

before

I took in the shoulder seams and shortened the sleeves, then used a long gathered rectangle of sheer fabric with a short lining for the skirt. There is only one seam in the skirt! I left a mega long slit in it so I could dance. The back is elasticated so I can take the dress on and off. I made a little belt (more fabric from same old prom dress) that I sewed to the front of the dress and attached with snaps around the back.

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It was easy to dance in and really comfortable. I had to bring a jacket to wear for the air conditioning but the long skirt kept my legs warm.

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I also made the gift I gave to the happy couple- more on that later this week!

Summer dress series:: A Pair and A Spare maxi wrap dress

 

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My friend Emily is so fun to sew for. She is tall and leggy and gorgeous; everything looks great on her. She brings all her sewing projects to me, and despite several last minute Halloween costumes she has needed in the past (like the Hershey Kiss dress of 2012 ), I can’t complain. This winter she asked me to make her this dress from the blog a Pair and a Spare. We spent an afternoon making the dress, but she hadn’t had a chance to wear it until it got hot out recently. This is the dress we modeled it after:

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The tutorial was simple to follow- we made a maxi skirt and attached a long, wide strip of fabric (the bodice using) to the waistband using a zig zag stitch.

Directions and a video can be found here.

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The main modifications we made to this tutorial were 1) to use a thicker fabric than recommended, and 2) to use a longer piece of fabric for the bodice so we could wrap it around her more. Using stretchy fabric also extended the wrapping potential.

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I used my serger to make a simple rolled hem.

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I love seeing how much she enjoys wearing the clothes I make for her, and it is always a good excuse to make the trip out of the city to visit her. She is also a very talented painter and decorator, so sometimes there is an EXPLOSION of creativity when we are in the same room.

Thank you to A Pair and A Spare for this great tutorial!

Summer dress series:: shoulder pads no more

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That’s the after picture. Here’s the before:

blue dress before

This is another thrift store dress. It started as sort of a prairie dress with shoulder pads, but I loved the detail on the front and the general structure of the dress. The waist fit, but everything else was too big.  Excuse all the awkward faces in these photos. That is about all I had in me when we were taking these pictures.

First I ripped off the sleeves. Then I used chalk to draw a new neckline. I followed this tutorial from Cotton and Curls to make a facing. You can faintly see a yellow chalk line above the bust in this picture where I drew the new neckline.

in progress

The top of the dress was baggy under the arms without the sleeves, so I took it in at the side seams above the waistline before I sewed the facing on.  Here is the dress post-cutting/pre-taking in side seams and pre-facing.

pre facing

I used twill tape for the straps, both blue and white (the white is under the blue)

The back of the dress originally had 6 buttons holding it together, spaced widely apart. When I lowered the neckline, there were only two buttons left on the dress. I added two more buttonholes and sewed on two of the previously removed buttons. The first and third buttons from the top are the ones I added.

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I also lopped off about 4 inches from the hem so the dress hits just above my knees.

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That’s it! Now I’ve got a nice airy fit and flare dress to wear this summer.

Thanks to my sis Ro for these pictures. I drove down to visit her and she was kind enough to photograph all my recent sewing projects. She has been away for the past 5 months in Spain, and I am so happy to have her home!

dress // thrifted / altered :: bag // thrift store :: shoes // Shoemint

And I’ll leave you all with a spinning picture:

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