Flowery vogue top


I’m just going to go ahead and start by talking about the fabric. Fabric Mart had a bunch of this large scale floral chiffon by J Crew for $2-4 per yard a while back, and despite the fact that no one needs that much poly chiffon I got it all. As in four yards of each of the four fabrics (two different prints, two colorways each). This fabric is the stuff of my dreams. Despite my shy nature I love large scale florals, especially when they are broken up by pleats and seaming, and the colors are fantastic. This colorway may be my very favorite – gray background with peach roses, dark purple irises, olive leaves, and flashes of yellow in the irises.

Vogue 1247, from Pattern Review

The design is pretty good too. This is Vogue 1247, the Rachel Comey pattern with that great skirt that everyone has made. I bought the pattern for the skirt, and actually planned on making both pieces at the same time. That would have worked except apparently I forgot how to sew by the time I got to the skirt. Despite having just made a fiddly chiffon top the cotton skirt bested me. Of course it’s totally fixable but I threw it in my scrap/UFO bin last weekend and figured I’d better just get the top up by itself. It could be a while before that skirt gets finished…


My favorite feature of this design is the way the pleats form a bit of a sleeve cap in an otherwise boxy style. I tend to live on the edge and not look at Pattern Review before diving into a project, so that was a happy surprise. Otherwise the top went together as expected. I used quite a bit of hand stitching on this garment – the pleats and the neckline are secured by a running stitch and the hem is hand rolled. It may an Alabama Chanin influence, but I’m finding myself using hand stitching in visible, intentional ways lately. I’ve never had a problem with stitches showing, it’s sewing after all, and in this case it would have been hard to make machine stitching look good. Maybe I should strive for perfection on the machine, but eh, I don’t really care.

vouge back and side

I didn’t even think about pattern matching or not matching, but I should have because, ugh, that back. It’s not even the same flower, but it’s too close. Oh well, what’s done is done. The back view isn’t terribly flattering, especially on my stationary dress form, but the chiffon is sheer enough to show there is a shape underneath. I’ll probably wear this with a tan or gray camisole.

All in all I’m very happy with this top. Lightweight and loose floral tops are part of my work uniform, and this one is a favorite already!

This was the first rainless January in San Francisco in recorded history. Dandelion has been enjoying the sunshine, but we’re all a little worried…




Emerald and Violet Garden Dress

It’s been awhile… I always feel a little bad when bloggers come back from a hiatus with apologies and explanations as if they owe it to their readers, but I get it, it’s hard to just jump back in. I don’t even have an excuse – I’ve just been unable to muster the energy to do the photos+post thing. I also have such a backlog of garments to photograph and the inevitable (for me) months of delay before a garment is finally photographed was getting me down. I want to share what I’m doing now, what I’m excited about now! Unfortunately that’s just not a reality for me right now, at least with me modeling, but I’ve made a decision. Instead of the months of delay problem… we now get the purple dress form problem!

I don’t even care, though, when it comes to sharing this dream-come-true dress.

V1395 fullfrontThis is Vogue 1395, a Rebecca Taylor design, made up in a silk-cotton voile from Fabric Mart. This was one of those J. Crew fabrics that so many of us jumped on, and I really love it. It’s soft and light with just a little sheen, and the colors, not at all like the photos, are rich emerald and violet.

Vogue 1395, image from Pattern Review

I live in a place that is completely fogged in for a few months of the year, and I am terribly thankful for the huge windows that let in a ton of light, even in pea soup conditions. They make for really hard photo-taking, though, so much light and so little blank wall space. I doubt this color would photograph well anyway, though. I took photos at night for my fabric stash app and took in-progress Instagram photos at various times of day in various rooms, and they hall have this washed out color. It’s emerald, you’ll have to take my word for it!

V1395 back and sideThe second I saw this dress I felt like it was designed just for me, and I like the design even more now that it’s done. The back is a double layer, with the overlay extending into ties at the front. I love this feature! Some reviewers complained that the wrap at the armhole is too low and you can see undergarments, and that is true. Luckily, I recently made a slip out that will always be worn with this dress. The purples coordinate perfectly, and I don’t mind at all that it shows. Secretly I kind of like it…

Here's the slip, V8888, made out of Bemberg lining, which is by far the most difficult fabric I've ever worked with. It's nice to wear, though!
Here’s the slip, V8888, made out of bias-cut Bemberg lining, which is by far the most difficult fabric I’ve ever worked with. It’s nice to wear, though!

Another common complaint about this pattern is the difficulty of the narrow hems on the ties, especially when made in a slippery fabric. I can guarantee I would have had problems with this on the pointy tie ends on my machine, but I just hand rolled the entire thing. I learned to hand roll hems when making pocket squares for a friend’s wedding, and fell in love with the technique. It is so fun to do, and I couldn’t love the results more. The tiny hem is so neat and tidy, and it has a soft, handmade look that I really like. Handmade is a key descriptor here, this is not a RTW look. Even after pressing the hems flat I think you can tell that this was done by hand. For the sake of durability I also take big enough bites of fabric that you can see the stitching as well. I don’t mind that at all, I’m using stitches and thread to make this, why not let the medium show? I know it’s not for everyone, though.

V1395 hem 2
Here’s a snippet of the tie where you can see right and wrong sides of the hand rolled hem.

So, I love this dress. It’s just the sort of garment I feel like myself in and the little details make it special. I haven’t actually worn it yet because I had to get around to hemming that slip, which I hand rolled yesterday while watching the new Cosmos series. I think it will get its debut tomorrow!

V1395 close

My belated ball gown

I can’t believe Opera Ball was almost a month ago! I got my dress finished in time, but didn’t get a photo taken that night. It was just too crazy! I should have though, on the grand staircase of the majestic San Francisco City Hall where the event was held. That week was pretty insane. I work in education, not events, so my workload was totally unrelated to the ball and we had a couple issues pop up at the end of the week. Dealing with that while being pulled in the other direction for my added event responsibilities left me little time to care about how I actually looked. Besides, I was just scurrying around checking attendees in, folding napkins, checking place cards and seating charts, trying in vain to get people to sit down for dinner, cleaning up volunteer meals, schlepping boxes back to the office at 2am, and so on. It’s hard work!

I ended up making Vogue 1176, an OOP Michael Kors pattern. I added a gathered skirt with big pockets to store my phone, badge, and keys, and these pockets were the envy of every one of my coworkers. Seriously, you could see the look of longing appear on their faces as they noticed me whipping my phone out! The dress served its purpose, but I don’t feel very sophisticated. I think the combination of the too-short skirt, the wide straps, and, well, maybe the pockets too make it feel a little frumpy.

I also had some trouble making this dress. First, I ran out of fabric! I had bought four yards, which seemed like an infinite amount. I usually make a dress using no more than two yards of fabric, since I’m short and on the smaller side, and I really didn’t think that a long, full skirt would take that much extra fabric. I wanted the skirt to be cut in an A-line shape with gathering at the top, so that it would have a pretty full skirt by my shoes to keep them hidden. That was absolutely not going to happen, and this skirt not only isn’t full enough to not show my shoes, but it’s also too short. I didn’t want to step on it, but I think it needs another couple inches at least.

Then the bodice… it was fun to put together, and for a 100% polyester fabric it was pressing pretty well. But then I tried it on and realized it was really big. Too big to just take in at the side seams. Everyone always talks about the extra ease in McCall, Butterick, Vogue, and Simplicity patterns, and I’m always skeptical because I tend to sew Simplicity and Burda and I have never, ever had a problem with excess ease in a Simplicity pattern. I might become a believer when it comes to Vogue, though. I had to take it in three whole inches at the waist, and could easily take in another inch, and also took it in about one inch at the bust. The alterations were distributed through the side and back seams, but I couldn’t really take it in on the front due to the design and you can tell. It’s pretty baggy under the bust. I feel like the fit is acceptable, but it was problematic and I don’t really care about making another version to figure out all that was wrong.

I still love the color (more gray, less deep purple than the photos show) and the draped detail of the bodice, and I think I’m going to cut the skirt to knee-length to make it into a cocktail dress that I think will be much more successful.

Don’t forget to hand baste…

…when constructing something like this:

to make a seam like this:

Instead of diligently working on that gown I need in less than a month, last weekend I started making Vogue 1350, which has these terrific corner seams in the front and back. It’s my first designer pattern and I was nervous after reading reviews complaining about inadequate instructions for these tricky seams, but I shouldn’t have worried, it’s really not that bad if you baste it!

I’m actually having a blast with this dress. After that year when I hardly made anything, I felt pretty insecure about my skills and gravitated toward super simple patterns. This one really isn’t all that complicated either, but it does require careful, precise sewing, and, you guys, I’m rocking it! I haven’t had to unpick anything yet, and I feel so much more confident about my ability to construct garments. I can still sew!