Monday, December 1, 2014

The Problem with Washi - Pt. 1: Background

I admit that this is a curmudgeonly post, but I'm putting it out there in the interest of sanity, so that if someone Googles "Washi Dress," they might get a glimpse into what is really going on with this pattern.

I tend to peruse the indie pattern circuit.  I love ModKid patterns in particular.  Most of my sewing is Ottobre Design, as this blog attests in a limited way.  So when I stumbled on the Washi Dress from Made by Rae, and read about it again... and again... and again...  (and let's not forget the Flickr pool) I was intrigued.  What sold me was the versatility.  I rarely make the same pattern twice--there has been one top/tunic pattern and one pants pattern (both Ottobre) that I have made repeatedly--but the customizations on the Washi dress seemed enough to keep me interested!

I am not sure how I would classify my sewing level.  I am not a beginner, though I have been sewing for the barest fraction of the time that my mother and all my aunts had been sewing when I was growing up, so my standards for sewing excellence are a bit high.  I'm starting to think that I'm an advanced intermediate given some of the things that Ottobre has led me to try.  I don't tend to think much about level unless I'm trying out a Vogue pattern--which I very rarely do because I have Ottobre.  I mention this because the Washi dress is considered intermediate--but I don't actually think that the Washi dress is an intermediate pattern at its most basic.  You have a very few pattern pieces, and a couple of tricky techniques--if you consider the neckline keyhole tricky, but that's an optional feature.  For starters, I did the round neck option on the basic Washi dress pattern.  

What you have with the Washi dress is a nice, basic dress with an interesting neckline, an empire-waist, pleats, and shirring on the back.  The shirring has been known to give some trouble to those who are unfamiliar with the technique, but it can be mastered fairly easily with good instructions and the right thread (I recommend Gutterman's elastic thread!!  It makes a HUGE difference!).  The basic pattern (there is an expansion pack as well) has a bodice front, a skirt front, a back (with integral pockets that I omitted), neck facings, and cap sleeves.  Before creating the expansion pack, Rae posted a sleeve for the Washi that I opted to use before deciding whether I would buy the expansion.

Now, I don't make muslins.  I'm afraid that if I made the muslin to determine the fit, my sewing energy would be all used up on something I can't wear.  I have a limited amount of time.  And, well, I can't sew on ugly fabric.  I have a mental block against it.  So the fact that the pattern itself and the blog argue vociferously for the creation of a muslin for the sake of adjustment... and the fact that every single blogger who has made the pattern has made a muslin... and the fact that most of those bloggers went on to make extensive changes to the pattern... meant, basically, that I was going to disregard that advice at my own risk and buy some attractive but relatively inexpensive fabric to use to make the not-exactly-a-muslin of my Washi.

Have I mentioned that every single blogger who has reviewed this pattern has made a muslin?  And that, having made the muslin, 98% of reviewers have basically redrafted the bodice front?

Now, if this were a piece of ready-to-wear clothes, body-image activists would say that there was a problem with the article of clothing, not the bodies...  So I was dismayed to see this blogger remark that she is "pretty sure it has more to do with myshape, than the pattern itself, since so many people have had such great luck with this pattern."  Ack!! Please, don't do this!  This is coming from the blogger, not the designer.  In fact, the designer specifically promotes the ability to customize the pattern to fit ourown bodies--more or less implying that this we should do so if we are botheringto sew for ourselves in the first place.  So yay!  On the other hand...

I confess that I do not buy patterns expecting to do a lot of customizations.  Ottobre patterns are beautifully drafted, with very few exceptions.  So why the need to customize?

Rae has mentioned on her web site that she often had to do a "Small Bust Adjustment" (the cousin to the "Full Bust Adjustment") to make patterns fit.  It is oft-noted that the "big 4" patterns are generally sized for a B-C cup, regardless of the size, which explained (once I learned this truth), why I could never find a McCalls or Simplicity that fit, because when one fit my bust, I couldn't move my arms.  Ottobre seems to reproportion the bust along with the rest of the garment, which I appreciate!

So let's take a look at the bust darts on the Washi...  Every time you have a snug fit on a full bust, the darts are a little off, even if the dress can be deemed a success overall (as is usually the case):

"Needs work, but I would still make this pattern again."

Here, Michelle redrafts the darts and lengthens the bodice, and still resolves to do a true FBA next time:

And sometimes a non-full-figure also seems to have the dart a bit high:

You can see why this is a popular pattern.  It's cute. There are a lot of options.  But you can also see that not only is this not a pattern that fits all, it is a pattern that seems never to be suited for the intended wearer right out of the package.  It becomes, then, not so much a pattern as a learning exercise, and not everyone is going to welcome the experience!

More on my learning experience in the next post!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ottobre Sundress turned Swim Dress!

I have been wanting to try making a bathing suit for myself since my first bathing suit attempt in 2011, but as my further considerations show, I was not convinced that the design that Ottobre presented for women in the 2/2011 version was right for me.  So I waited.  When the latest Ottobre Woman came out, I was not looking to make swimsuits, but sun dresses!  And yet... when I made my first attempt at The New Chic, #18, the fit was so snug that I thought immediately of swimsuit possibilities.  Here are the results:

The bottoms were made from the very patterns I was considering using when I posted in 2011 (from 2/2009):

And though I'm not sure they are ideal, they are at least hidden.  I raised the waistband too much initially on both the boyshort and the high-cut bottom, and added a yoga waistband in addition.  I also made a sz. 48, but I think I could have sized down.  The one that fits best, the boyshort, is the least flattering.  But--still very serviceable, and yes, hidden:

Construction was a lot trickier than if the pattern I was using had actually been intended for a bathing suit.  I started with a 48, and sized down, and down, and down again, at just about every stage of constructing the swim dress.  I'm still not sure that it isn't too loose, but I don't do a lot of laps or anything, so it should be fine.  

I added a bra between the layers of the bodice:

You can't see it, but I shortened the back bodice quite a bit so that by having the seam at the bodice back where it needed to be, the front bodice would also be appropriately placed.  I also added elastic inside the casing created by the straps.  

To create a nicer finish, and to try to make it a little more snug, I added fold-over elastic:

I am quite pleased by the result, and will see how it works tonight, at a swim party for a friend's son.

It is not a maternity suit--just a swim dress tankini, but it could easily work in early pregnancy, and could be modified to be a maternity suit.  Hopefully, that won't be confusing to anyone!

The fabric is from Chez Ami.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Dresses and Skirts Pt. 3: Ottobre Hippie Style and New Chic Dresses

I have been fascinated ever since Ottobre Woman 2/2014 came out with the two sundress patterns that feature the same v-neck bodice.  "The New Chic" has an A-line skirt and "Hippie Style" is a three-tiered maxi dress.  They both caught my attention, but which to make first?  This time, both were on my SWAP!  "The New Style" was originally going to be made from the tan and brown floral that I used for the ModKid Madeline.  Having used it, I decided to make this dress from a sheet that I have been wanting to use--don't you just love these fish?  I almost made the three-tiered maxi version from the fish sheet because I loved it so much, but then I decided I would look too much like a sheet--or maybe a sail--if I did that...

When I started, I was thinking of this as essentially a trial.  The sheet didn't cost me anything, and besides, I can usually wear things that I make for the first time.  I traced the 48 and 50 together.  I generally wear a 48 in Ottobre--particularly in dresses--regardless of what I measure.  When I have made a 50, it has generally been too big.  Not so in this case!  I cut out the 50, and was shocked and dismayed to find that it fit much more snugly than I wanted.  So much so, that when it was assembled, I ripped out the seam where the bodice joined to the skirt in the back and removed the darts.  At that point, I was able to zip it (side zipper) without fear of pinching myself, but breathing and sitting are still a problem.  And I made it a size larger than I usually do!

However, I was not going to give up on the pattern.  I loved it in the magazine, and I loved it on!  It is very flattering, even as a second skin.  So the next weekend I traced and cut out a sz. 52 to make the maxi dress version.  This is straight from my SWAP!  I used a muted seafoam-colored linen eyelet that I have been having since 2005.  My mom made me a maternity dress out of the companion piece, which was more green than this one and had a different pattern of eyelet.  It is rare to have so much nice quality linen hanging around; I think it was waiting for this pattern.

I did make a couple of modifications.  While the 50 was too small around, the bodice came up too high.  Under the arms was too high as well.  So when I traced the sz. 52, I lowered the arms and the top of the bodice by tracing those portions on a 48. I gathered the top tier, but left the front of the skirt between the two princess seams flat to avoid a maternity look.  I also left out the zipper, because heck--I was making it a lot larger this time. The difference between a 50 and a 52 is fairly significant.

Here is the result:

It's not very "crisp" because these pictures were taken straight out of the dryer, and I didn't iron it.  Pretty good, though, for an un-ironed linen dress!  I bought actual lining fabric rather than self-lining.  I wouldn't have bothered lining the skirt, except for the little holes in the eyelet.  In retrospect, it probably wouldn't have mattered.  A note about the third tier--it is very, very wide.  So wide that in my size, the sz. 48 tier would not fit on 56" fabric.  So what you're seeing is less full than it should be.  I don't think it's a problem, but I've been wondering how I might make the maxi version from 45" wide fabric...

So about the fit... It is still a very flattering dress.  But... you probably guessed it.  It is too big.  The sides gape a bit under the arm.  I could easily take an inch off and taper, because where the bodice joins the skirt, the size is fine.  The bust is perfect as well.  In fact, the princess seams seem to fit more where they should fit, though I didn't notice that the weren't quite right until I made the second one.  Whilt it is a little large, it doesn't matter too much. I will probably wear it most often with a sweather like in the magzine.  I need to make one, in fact.  When I wore the dress last week, I wore a 3/4 sleeve blue jean jacket.  I may have made it a little long, but it is maxi and I am short.  Next time, I will look at the picture and hem it slightly above my ankle!

There will be a next time.  I love this pattern, and I have already bought fabric to make another.  I have also already modified the pattern into something completely different!  But more on that soon.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Dresses and Skirts Pt. 2: ModKid Women's Skirt

Here is another unplanned modification of my SWAP...  I had originally intended to use this particular print for a sundress from Ottobre Woman 2/2014,

but decided to try out the skirt instead.  This is the Madeline skirt from ModKid--a skirt with four different variations and a yoga waistband that can be made from knit or wovens.

I made a version with pockets on the front because the pockets were cute and sort of matched the style of the print, being a little less "urban" and a little more... farm and country?

My results were mixed.  It seems that the XL is perhaps not quite large enough for me in the hips, even though it is cut on the bias.  It feels a bit snug even though I added a half-inch to the edges on the back, as if I were adding a seam allowance to an Ottobre pattern.  It isn't a great fit across the tummy, either, though my pictures sort of hide that.  I didn't like the shape--I wanted it to be more of an A-line than it is. I might like it more in a slightly heavier woven, or perhaps in the right knit? And finally, I'm not sure I like the pockets.  They add a lot of bulk, when my fabric is fairly delicate.  The pockets are lined, so that's part of it.  And those ties are each sewn from two tie pieces, again adding to the bulk.

My biggest dilemma was with the yoga waistband.  I find that even with those off-the-rack slinky knit maxi-skirts, I do not wear my normal size.  Or when the hips fit, the waist is too large, and I usually have the other problem. I did use a soft, slinky knit with some rayon in it, and perhaps that was the problem, but following the directions for how to make the waistband the right size left me with a skirt that would fall off if I didn't poke out my stomach, which wasn't really the look I was going for.  It was also too long for me, maybe because I'm short? 

The fix:  I took off the waistband, cut it way down to size so that it's now a 3" band that does not fold down.  I also made it tighter by two inches.  What I really needed was some elastic, though, because it still didn't feel secure.  So I added a quick drawstring made out of binding.  I hemmed it with a scallop, which makes for a nice detail, although I'm not sure "shabby chic" is my style...

It is wearable, and will look pretty cute with a navy tee that I already have.  I may also make an Ottobre tee out of the same brown knit I used for the waistband to dress it up a bit, if I feel like it...  This is why I'm not crazy about making skirts, or separates from prints--you have to make or find something to match!  Which is why sewing dresses is so nice... unless you need a shrug!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Modified Plan: Summer Dresses and Skirts Pt. 1

I'm not very good at making plans.  I always reserve the right to opt out of parties, conferences, and other events.  If I should happen to plan meals for a week, it generally turns out that eating the food I intended to eat on a particular day is the last thing in the world that I want to do.  I like to follow impulses, I guess.  So every time I try to do a "SWAP"--"sewing with a plan"--I decide that I would really like to do something else!  This time is no different.

If you read my last post, you may recognize the fabrics I used in my latest dresses as belonging to my SWAP!

However, these dresses were not what I intended to make.  The watercolor print on the left was supposed to be used for Ottobre Woman 2/2013 #13, which I describe as "a dressy tee with an asymmetrical drape feature."  Although I originally bought it with a dress in mind, I intended more recently to make a top out of the purple camo, because I do tend to wear more pants and dressy tees/tops.  But when I feel like sewing, I want to sew what I want to sew!  And lately, that has been dresses.

In part, this is influenced by the Summer of No Pants.  I remember it from last year--or maybe the year before--and while I'm not ever going to promise to wear dresses all summer, they are cool, can be very comfortable, usually look nice, and are easy--no worrying about what coordinates!  Just toss it on and go!  I have also been pretty excited to try out several patterns from the latest Ottobre Woman (2/2014), which features several very nice looking, flattering dresses.  The dresses above were made from that issue--a design that I wasn't, at first glance, very crazy about because it seemed a little... well... blah:
See what I mean?

But my pretty knits seemed wasted on tee-shirts, and I wanted to branch out from my go-to knit dress pattern (ModKid Kyoko) so I gave it a go!

When tracing the pattern, I lengthened the sleeves, since cap sleeves aren't my favorite on me.  One of the appeals of this dress is that there are no inset sleeves, which made it sew up that much more quickly!  I traced a sz. 48, which tends to be my usual size in Ottobre patterns, but I made the sleeves the length of the sz. 52.

I made the watercolor knit dress first, and it is a rayon/viscose knit, so I was a bit disappointed in how much the bodice stretched as I wore it.  It was about 2" longer at the end of mass than when I finished sewing it!  I'm trying to remember whether I rehemmed it--I want to say yes, but I admit that once something is finished, I don't tend to tweak it...

When I made the second dress--both in one weekend, mind you (it's that easy!)--I shortened the bodice by about an inch.  The purple camo is a cotton spandex--not so slinky--so has more recovery, and doesn't grow the way the watercolor knit does, which is great.

The gathers at the waist are done with clear elastic tape, and I feel like I finally got that technique right on these dresses--by using a stretch stitch rather than a zig-zag!

One feature I love about the dress is the pockets.  They're cute and easy to sew, if not terribly practical when made out of viscose knit or cotton spandex.  My 6 year-old thinks they are very cool, and puts her hands in them when she gets the chance.

One thing I did not do particularly well on the first dress was the neckline.  It has a binding, and it stretched out a bit more than I would have liked.  When I made the purple camo dress, I actually had a happy accident--I sewed the binding to the wrong side of the dress instead of the right side, and I used a stretch stitch to do it, which would have made it very difficult to undo.  So instead, I turned the neckline under and stitched it with a stretch honeycomb stitch.  It worked beautifully and lays quite flat!  Hooray!

The dresses are very comfortable--rather like a soft nightgown, which was a bit of a problem when I first wore them, but since I'm wearing one to work today, I guess I have gotten over the feeling of wearing pajamas in public!

Monday, March 31, 2014

SWAP: Sewing With A Plan, Summer 2014

It's been years since I heard of "SWAP," or sewing with a plan and tried it... I had a plan of sorts to make my daughter--then 3 or 4--an Ottobre wardrobe using mostly fabrics I had on hand.  I think I made one shirt that was very cute, and a pair of velour leggings that didn't fit, but did match, and then gave up because I didn't really like any of the fabric I was working with.  But it's time to revisit the SWAP, I think, and see how far I get this time.

This time, I would like to make myself an Ottobre wardrobe, including some pieces I've been wanting to make for years!  I do have some fabric to work with, but it's fabric I still like, which is important, and I know more about how to buy fabric that I will continue to like, whether or not I use it immediately. No more dull clearance fabric for me!!

So here's the plan:

I might make an extra pair of pants or two if they fit well (and if I stay focused!!)

Here's the breakdown, using Ottobre's numbering system, and the order of my sketches:

Ottobre 2/2014
#18-A sundress with an A-line skirt from a tan print with bold flowers
#7-A maxi-sundress with gathered tiers from a light sea-green eyelet linen
#8-A short-sleeved knit jacket from a brown lightweight knit with a nice drape
#15-A pin-tucked shirt - fabric TBA
#14-Pants with elastic in the back - would like a black or tan/khaki/lt. brown linen
Ottobre 2/2012
#19-A rayon top from a purple border print
Ottobre 2/2013
#2-A dressy tee that sits on the hip - from a solid knit
#13-A dressy tee with an asymmetrical drape feature - from a print knit with a nice drape
#20-Dressy trousers - from sateen
Ottobre 5/2007
#3-An A-line skirt - from a bottomweight print
Here are the fabrics I have so far!

A (short) Sewing Blog Round-up

In honor of trying to actually make a plan, stick to it, and blog it (we'll see, but I'll try), I want to put up a short list of blogs that I like, or people whose sewing I like who blog.  I am a member of the Ottobre English Yahoo! Group, which has members from all over the world sewing and discussing Ottobre patterns.  I discovered it early in my Ottobre Design adventures, and it gave me some hints and support with sewing Ottobre patterns.  (There's an accompanying Flickr group, as well.)  From those two sources, I discovered some very talented and creative people, including:
  • Pam at Off the Cuff - who does much more tailoring; always impressive!
And so many more whose blogs I have stumbled across before.  What is amazing is that the stories that go along with the people and the sewing.  So many of the members of the Ottobre Yahoo! Group sew for their children, their special needs children, their grown children, their grandchildren... And it is just nice to see the snapshot of the real people behind the wonderful things that they make!

Then, there are some I stumbled across while doing searches, like
  • LiEr at ikatbag - my all-time favorite because of the sheer level of creativity and variety of crafts!
  • Katy at no big dill - whom I love because of the themed sewing marathons
So this is my list.  I hope you find something to inspire and to share!