The Fourth Dress: October 2010

For the last two months I've sewn Simplicity Patterns and it's time to make a change.  I knew I wanted to sew a Burda pattern sometime this year, and the Fourth Dress is it!  I'm excited about this...in my meager and recent sewing research, Burda patterns somehow seem like a rite of passage.  That may be a weird thing to say, but it's true.  Burda is like open source software, editable and at your fingertips: free (or cheap) patterns, tons of detailed user alterations, and lots of images of finished projects.  Seriously, check it out.

Wait, sorry, before you go...you might be stuck on that "free pattern" part.  It's true!  The pattern I choose was not free, but close: only $4.00!  Why are they so cheap?  They are downloadable.  (Who knew??)

I'll reveal the dress tomorrow, but here's a little teaser for you now.  Thirty-six pages and an episode and a half of 30 Rock later (yes, I have a sloooooow printer), here it is!:

Holy crap, I'm going to need a lot of tape.

I'm excited about this dress.  I thought about making it last month, but something about it just says "October" to me....*swoon* 

And can I getta' "Whoa!"?  The Fourth Dress!?...I'm already a third of the way through this little experiment. EEE!  I'll have to post a picture of my ever expanding closet soon!



Woo hoo, you already knew this.  But the proof is in the hemming...always the final step:

This fabric was super fray-y (which I don't remember from the last cotton fabric I worked with...any tips?) so I chose to do a little zig-zag binding to clean up the edges first:

But enough about that, here's the finished dress:

BOOTS!  Maybe next time white patent leather??

I just picked this picture because my butt looks good.

Without further ado...


*Third Dress Report Card*

PATTERN INSTRUCTIONS: I've got to give Simplicity a C+ this time.  Some of the steps were so poorly written it seemed like they were translated into English by a non-native speaker...for instance, you can ascertain that some words were come upon in a thesaurus but their message was not in all respects apprehended.  Like that.  So, yeah, some of it was hard to follow.

PATTERN SIZING:  I still need help here.  Correct sizing was THE goal this time, but the waist is still a little big.  I am really glad that I cut out larger sleeves, though, and recommend you do the same.  Also, some people complained the neck was too high.  I have kind of a pencil neck, though, so I thought it was fine.

FABRIC CHOICE:  Um, yes!  I hope to work with some of Alexander Henry's more faboo prints in the future!  I liked how this print had the vertical effect of stripes without the pain in the butt of actually sewing/keeping straight stripes.  This fabric is not something I would have ever ever bought a dress in, but I like the dress absolutely in spite of that.  I'm not a 70s girl, but think the almost neon flowers look good with this throwback style.

Another thing about this pattern, and patterns in general:  I've told you that I'm a solid color person.  I think I'm too...thrifty.....to buy bold patterns because they are harder to subtly cycle through your wardrobe.  (I ♥ to layer.)  But I'm learning that the fun of making your own clothes is that you're willing to cycle them more frequently.  I would have never bought this dress, ever.  But lord knows I needed the color, and now I'm happy to have it.

Pattern: $12.00
Fabric (first cut, plus added yard): $29.69
Notions (big ole spool of thread, wee bit of interfacing, zipper): $8.65
Total: $50.34...whoa, that was a lot more than I thought.  Long sleeves, longer dress, more fabric.

PERFECT OCCASION:  Seriously, the Food Network release party.  It was fun, but business appropriate.  Black, so slightly toned down, but electric poppies, so a little keyed up.  Work party, fo' sho'.

WOULD I MAKE THIS DRESS AGAIN?: I'd like to try it in a solid.  Is it too bold, or am I just too meager, to call this a "Statement Dress"?    Oooo, my old ways are coming back!  I do wonder how much sewing I'll do when this year long project is over.  Probably, hopefully, just as much, but I don't know that I'll be able to keep up the dress pace.  There are too many fun patterns out there.  Like underwear.


The Invisible Zipper Strikes Again!

We meet again...

Hey!  I'm back!  As you may remember from the last post, I finished the Third Dress in a last minute scramble.  Though there were days left in the month, I wanted to wear it to a big fancy work function: our Food Network debut.  I got the dress done and both it and the television show were very well-received.  (And the consensus was to keep the pockets, so we're all settled there.)

But before the celebration begins, let's back up to T minus 24 hours, back to the zipper.  I sewed it wrong twice...GRRRR!  I had to use the instructions that came with the zipper itself as the original pattern called for a normal zipper.  Next time I think I'll have it for real.

The zipper was a little longer than the original patten called for as well, so I had to let out the seam a bit, but I don't think anyone can tell.  Finished zipper!:

I know, it's hard to see anything.  But it looks good.  Except for a little spot at the end.  The zipper was 22" long and the instructions called for 20".  I didn't have time to shorten it and apparently things got a little bumpy:

But unless you're looking at my butt...who can tell?  Zipper ended up a success.

..and The Useless Picture Gallery (oh yes...I faithfully photographed all the wrong ways I sewed the zipper because I was so confident I was doing it correctly each new time):


Third Dress is.....

....DONE!  AH!  Sorry, no pictures.  Too much of a whirlwind.  I thought I only had three hours at home, but forgot I go to work late on Thursday mornings.  BONUS!  The dress was finished in the nick of time.  Thank goodness for the extra hours this morning because all last night was used for was to sew, seam rip, sew, seam rip and sew the zipper in.  But I finally got it!  And I'm wearing the dress tonight!

Sorry for the lack of pictures and oohing and aahing....full step by step recap of the last minute sewing fury to come.  I'm also going to be taking a day or two off for the sake of real life.  Don't miss me too much!  I'll talk to you over the weekend...


Rushing? Maybe not...

So, it's just over a week until the end of the month, which means the end of the Third Dress and the start of the Fourth (wow!).  I know I can get it wrapped up in that time, but the kicker is....can I get it done by tomorrow?

Why tomorrow?  Tomorrow is a very awesome occasion.  I work for a small chocolate shop here is Madison called Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier.  Tomorrow! we will make our debut on Food Network as "America's Best Little Box of Chocolates"! (September 23rd, 8pm Central)  It's all very exciting!  I'm the general manager at the shop, so the following days and weeks will (hopefully) be a very busy blur.  We will hit the ground running, creating thousands upon thousands of tasty handmade treats each day.  But Thursday is our final respite.  We're having a viewing party with family and friends of the shop, we'll get to have fun and enjoy each other's company a bit before the chocolate deluge...maybe get to wear a new dress? 

I have a number of hurdles in my way to accomplish that though.  Namely I only have about three hours at home between now and then.  And I don't yet have the zipper to finish this dress off, the buying of which will shorten my time at home.  Ah well....we'll see......

I do have two big accomplishments under my belt since we last spoke though. Neck band on, sleeves attached:

Hoping for "better fitting though zippers".
So, I think I'll start sewing.  But don't be disappointed if I chose to relax tonight instead of finish the dress.  That is what a sane person would do.  I hear it's going to be a busy week.  Wish me luck on both accounts!



Wingy dingys are done!  Oh man are they done.  The sleeve situation was rectified yesterday.  Another yard of fabric, another set of sleeves.  Perfection:

I cut the sleeves out to a size 12 as the rumor was the sleeves are tight on this bad boy.  (Foreshadowing: I did not cut the wings to a size 12.)  I learned a lot as I went on this one.  The first sleeve took me about an hour, while the second one was wrapped up inside 20 minutes.  What a difference a little practice makes.

These were not as easy as I thought they would be, but super clever.  You need little clippy areas:

Then you sew the inner wingy in first, then the dingy, then some clever folding and ironing.  Lots of new stuff for this novice.  I'm always amazed at the ingenuity of these patterns.  You'll have to sew it to understand what I mean, but the fastest way to a cute dress is not always a straight line.

Anyway, they were fun to make....but they aren't perfect.  Like I mentioned, I didn't cut the wingy dingys to a size 12, so they ended up a little uneven:

And the curves weren't as smooth as I'd like.  This was after two tries.  I worry I took the ballpoint needle out of my sewing machine after sewing with knit fabric for the Second Dress REMIX! and replaced it with another poorly organized ballpoint needle.  Something just seems slippery:

But who can tell?!  So you can see I walked away from this whole experience with some tips for the next time.  If you ever make this absolutely adorable dress, here are some other things I learned:

1) Skip step 6 if you're adding wingy dingys.  It may be obvious to you, but well, you know....Whatever.  It wasn't explicit.
2) Also, on step 13, when the instructions tell you to pin and sew on the "OUTSIDE" in ALL CAPS! twice! just do it.  Unless you like seam ripping backstitching.  Then by all means, go ahead.
3) Finally...Have fun!  And watch out for that right hook!:

Dress and Dart Love

I don't know why this step is always so shocking, but it is!  A quasi-dress!:

Nice, huh?  Maybe long?  Maybe not.  Damn, this is going to look so good with boots.


Let's take a time out from this macro view to zoom in on a little sewing technique that knows how to bring it.  I'm talking about the dart.  Every woman could have a few more of these in their life.  Sounds absurd?  Think again.  Darts are like tiny cupid's arrows hugging all the right things in the dress you're making.  These darts are on the back of the dress, making it ever so slightly sung around the booty.

Look at how nice mine turned out (not my booty, the darts):

That is smoove, girl.  The instructions were so clear that I will to cut and paste them for all the darts my booty argument convinced you to make.  From Simplicity:

The prevent a "bubble" at each point, make the last few stitches right on the fold and leave the thread ends long enough to tie a knot.  DO NOT back-stitch at the points.
Press the dart flat along the stitching to "blend" the stitches, the press dart towards center.
 True dat.


Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Ah, those pockets.  I've given them such an ego swooning over their ease and functionality, and so here they come taking advantage of my exorbitant love.  Here's the situation:

Pockets started great.  I sewed them, didn't understand the directions at first, but figured it out.  (If you ever sew this dress, in step two, they want you to flip it inside out.  Trust me.)

Drop down, flip it and reverse it.

But when I added them onto the front of the dress, things got jumbly.  The pattern easily overlays so while you can't make anything out, you can also tell something is off.  See what I mean?:

Camera One.

Camera Two.
So, anyway...I just don't know.  I was so looking forward to seeing this pattern on a long, very vertical dress (yes, long dresses mean dresses that hit your knees) and I'm afraid the pockets interrupt that.  But they are easy enough to take off so for now they stay.  But be prepared to weigh in on this in the final days of September.

PS, I love how pictures of this fabric sometimes make the flowers look so electric neon orange and pink.   Don't hate, congratulate.


Sewing the Third Dress, or Any Dress

Oh Jesus, let it happen.  Sewing the Third Dress has commenced!  Check out this Phatty McPhat Phat spool of thread:

This sucker is getting sewn!  (At least as far as I can get without having to sew the sleeves.  Damage Control on that will happen tomorrow.)

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I may have mixed feelings about the pockets.  More on that to come soon...Right now I want to indulge in a little sewing love.......I am starting to love the flow of how a dress is made.  It starts with an accessory to the dress...like a facing, a pocket, or darts.  It's usually the little piece of flair that makes the dress so attractive to you.  For me so far, this attraction has also always meant learning a new skill.  There's some frustration, but then you get it.  And then you're proud.  Next, you piece the front or back, eventually sewing the two halves together.  And for the first time since the project began, it starts to look like a dress.  After that first hurdle, immediate success.  A tough new thing to a dress.  In a handful of steps.  I ♥ it.


Whoopsies! Third Dress Sleeves

I was so determined to make something with sleeves, but so far I've been nothing but a sleeve saboteur!  You may have seen a bunch of pattern pieces in my last post, but you most certainly did not see all of them.  Missing are the sleeves.

 Sleeves are a funny thing.  Did you know that sleeve pieces kind of look like bodice pieces?  I spent the better part of my pattern cutting wondering where the sleeve pieces were.  I guess I expected them to look like rectangles.  If only I had read the pieces, I would have seen this:

A simple oversight wasn't the end of my problems though.  Remember how proud I was to add those little sleeve wingy-dingys to the sleeves of this dress?  Well I've learned something from that experience:

8) If you're going to alter the available pattern, pull out the pattern in the store, read it, and make sure you have enough fabric.

The wingy-dingys took up more fabric than I thought.  They are kind of a pain to account for because they need to be cut on a bias and because of this they take up a lot of very particular fabric real estate.

Finally, we arrive at the last screw ups: After I had resigned myself to cutting the wingy-dingy lining out of black for a little contrast and to save this fabric, I realized I cut the sleeves wrong entirely.

Because I didn't have quite enough fabric left after my little additions (see Lesson Learned #8) I had to cut the sleeves out where they fit on the remaining fabric.  First, I had to shorten them a bit so they would fit at all.  Then, since I didn't have a double layer of fabric to make the "Cut 2" the instructions called for, I had to cut them out one at a time.  When I went to cut the second sleeves, I forgot to turn the pattern over and ended up with the unusable piece of mismatch in the above photo.

Oh well.

I know that was hard to follow.  The long and the short of it is that I have to start all over with new sleeves, so off to buy more fabric.  Enough for two sleeves and a wingy-dingy.  This is good though, because now I remember the pattern reviews saying the sleeves were too tight, so I'll cut them a little larger the next time around.  Just in case I forget all this, here's my to do list:


I (try to) Break the Pattern Mold

So, I'm a little queasy about sizing the Third Dress.  Last time, when I jumped from a 14 back to a 10, I had stretch knit to help hug or give on any tight or loose measurements.  But now I'm back to working with 100% unforgiving cotton.

There were definitely some fitting issues with the First Dress around the bust and shoulders which I will pay special attention too.  I think a dress dummy is in my near future.  Not only would it be great for hemming, but those parts of my body which orbit between a 10 and a whatever would also be accounted for a bit more easily.  But since I don't have a dress dummy (yard sale season is pretty much over in Wisconsin), for the first time ever I am going to try to cut the pattern to mark those transitions myself.  

Like many of us, I'm not a "perfect size" in anything, and what's the point of making your own clothes if you can't make them fit you perfectly?  Along with revisiting the invisible zipper, a good fit in the ultimate goal this time around.  *fingers crossed* *seam ripper sharpened*

Anyway, here is the pinnacle of sexiness when it comes to making a dress....pattern paper.......


I'm Back!: Fabric for the Third Dress

Hello (twelve) dressers, you lovely little pieces of furniture, you!  Hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane this past week, but I'm back now.  Vacation was great!   And I'll do it again soon, but for now, back to sewing....It is just about the middle of the month and the Third Dress has yet to be started.  No fears, I work great under pressure...

So, as a refresher, here is the pattern I have chosen for this month's dress:

Get it, got it, good?  Yesterday after work I headed on down to my favorite fabric stop and picked up a few yards of something lovely.  Before I left for vacation, I waxed hopeful about some sexy Alexander Henry prints.  I did not get the ones I had in mind, mainly because Gayfeathers did not have them and I'm nervous to order fabric online (...how do you get a sense of scale for the prints?  Any tips?....) No problme though, I found something equally wonderful by the same company.  A.H. fabrics are wonderful, I mean, and they come on golden bolts of fabric!   Doesn;t get much better than that.  Lots of bold colors and larger prints. See what I mean:

Ohhhhhh, ahhhhh.......Stunning.  That is the Third Dress just waiting to happen.  I can't believe that it's taken three dresses to get some black fabric.  I live in black, and solids...ask my husband, it drives him crazy.  But I'm really doing some departures for this yearlong project, non?

Anyway, the long, vertical repeat on this fabric is going to look so good on a short, fitted dress.  I can't wait!  The pop of color is going to look great as it gets cold too.  See what I mean???:

This dress is going to be awesome.  A little outside my comfort zone, but I know with a pair of black boots is will be unstoppable.  Prewash is already done, pattern cutting to begin soon!


"Archives": [Spoiler Alert!]

So far this walk down memory lane has taken you across decades, events, and styles.  Wait.  Wait a minute.  Not styles really.  So far I've showed you a dress and a skirt.  And this whole blog is about dresses.  Not much of a range, huh?  Well, I humbly disagree with you.  I hope you're sitting for this one.


photo credit: Papa-Razzi

Oh man, were you ready for that?  No, neither was I, wait!--


photo credit: Papa-Razzi

Oh, got you again with the body suit hotness.  Yes friends, I, like too few people in the world, have a custom made body suit.  Pictured above with my body suit accomplice, Stank Girl (left), these shiny stretchy wonders are part of a roller derby training program.  Quick Lesson!:
I am in a suit which represents Blocking Zones.  I can hit people with the part of my body that are covered in that fabulous green material.  Stank is in a Target Zone suit.  She can legally be hit in the areas of her body that are covered in that same fabulous green material.  Now you know.
I know those images above cannot be unseen and I apologize for that.  But I'm not done telling you about them.  Stank and I had so much fun picking out this fabric.  We went to a few places in town looking for the just right thing, and over the course of a few evenings held these shimmering pieces of spandex up to our arms, legs, back and butt and sewed these snug little numbers up.  We also amused ourselves greatly by following this guys DEDICATED website to making body suits.  We didn't follow the directions step by step, though.   Stank was the one who was instrumental in getting these done...a totally organic and natural sew-er.

I can hear you now, So much effort for such a singular piece of clothing, it's a shame.  That's not entirely true.  This suit also doubles as my cheering suit for my brother Doug's marathons.  Next marathon will be in Chicago this October!  Mark your calendars!  Hide your children!  Here he is running away from me now:

Go, Doug, Go!

I hope you've enjoyed the "Archives".  I better not go on vacation for a while because that's about all the sewing projects I've ever done and still have around.  I kept some winners.  Be back home soon!  xoxox


"Archives": The Circle Skirt

I'm glad we're doing these "archives".  Hopefully it makes up the impression of me that you started with, as a someone who doesn't finish what she starts.  This next project might go a step farther though, and convince you that once I commit not only do I finish but I NEVER LET GO.

This archival entry, dialing all the way back to my days at Western Branch High School, is the Circle Skirt.  Why is this project such a bastion of committal and relentlessness?, you ask?  Well, I made this skirt in a day.  Bought the fabric, measured, cut and sewed on one teenaged afternoon.  But I have never ever worn this skirt.  Ever.  And I still have it.  Still have it, and I always know where it is packed, through countless moves and closet purges and basement floods.  Here's it's chance in the sun!

I left the wrinkles for posterity

Um, where are these zipper skillz today?
It's cute enough, fits me better now than it did then, and it even has the investment of decent lining.  But it's not just me...*shrug*...At least now it's been worn.  Back to the basement with you.

Fancy lining, less than fancy facial expression.