Sewing Notes - Butterick 6167 Low bust adjustments

8.31.2015

Do your boobs hang low, do they wobble to and fro? Do they hang out near your waist instead of being up by your face? Are they pointing toward the ground while you're walking around town. Do your boobs hang low? Oh yeah, that just happened and you're welcome. Now that we've gotten the juvenile humor out of the way, let's talk about how having a low bust complicates a dress with a bust shelf element.

One could make the argument that those of us with low busts should just pass on this trend. When your bust just rolls off the shelf into the "floor" is there really any reason to put a shelf there in the first place?  The answer for me would have easily been "No!" if I hadn't purchased a Bernie Dexter Paris dress. (Here's a photo of that particular RTW dress.)
Bernie Dexter dress day.
Wearing that dress convinced me that girls with low busts can enjoy a bust shelf as long as you mentally relabel it as a rufflely bust dickie. It's there to cover your bust root and fill some your large upper chest area with fluffy goodness. To that I say, "Thumbs up to fluffy goodness. Let's sew some more bust dickies."

To do so we are going to have to brace ourselves for some pattern alterations.  Even on a pattern that offers different cup sizes*, the bust ease is not going to be in the correct place for those of us with "low hanging fruit." To see what I mean, let's take a look at the bust stay piece.
The bust apex is clearly marked more than half way up of the bust shelf with not much shelf height above it. (1.5" to be exact)  From this I can infer that the drafter is expecting there to a lot of breast fullness at the top of the dress.
To give you a colorful mental image of what I'm talking about let's think of the breast as a cupcake. The bust shelf is the ruffled cupcake liner with the top half of the breast, the icing, sitting above it. This is all well and good if your apex matches this point and you have plenty of "icing" to fill out the top of the bodice.  But what does this bodice look like if you have a low bust point?  Or to further our metaphor, your breasts are more like creme filled donuts than cupcakes? (Just as delicious but with less fluff on top) What you are going to get is a bodice with MAJOR gapituts along the top edge of the inset.
Looks like someone is going to be doing some redrafting. #butterick6167
Sorry about the poor quality photo but I was a bad girl and threw this muslin alway some time in the last 3 months. You can still see that I have literally inches of extra fabric along the top edge since all my bust fullness in in the lower part of the bodice. What you can't see is that the front part of the lower bodice feels tight because that's where my apex actually is. My face also says, "Crap, I need to do some major fitting work on this pattern."

That muslin might make the pattern look like a lost cause, but never fear because the bust ruching is going to allow us to make an easy fix.  All we really need is elastic!  That's right ladies, we're gonna sew elastic into the upper edge of the bust shelf and make all our problems go away.  Woot, Woot, fitting short cuts!  But first let's make few minor adjustments to the front bodice.

First you can remove a bit of that extra ease at the upper edge by changing the curve of the bust stay. This will keep the lower part of the seam the same width, which is good because your boobs are in that area. On my dress I was also changing the location of the seam, so some of the width removed here was added onto the bodice piece.  (Note - I changed the height of the bust stay for aesthetic reasons, not fitting ones.)
On the lower bodice you'll want to add some extra ease to the princess line seam for your low bust point. I added 1/4" to each side of the seam. (You can also see that I added a bit to the outside curve and changed the length of the bodice. The lengthening was more for portional reasons than bust fitting reasons since my bust won't actually hit the shelf area.)
Then you may want to reduce the width of the bust inset. On this pattern the ruching ration is fairly high on the bust inset. Adding elastic to that area is only going to increase it and it may get poofier than you'd like. Of course this is more of a personal taste than fitting issue, so use your own discretion. On my dress I reduced the inset by making the same curve change to it as was made on the bust stay. Then made the pattern smaller by moving the CF fold line in and cutting off some of the ease. In total I removed 2 3/4" on the half.

To assemble this area follow the pattern instructions for gathering the bust inset, sewing it to the lower bodice and the top edge to the bust stay. Before you do any edge stitching on the top edge, open the bodice like so.
We are going to sew in some 1/4" elastic onto the seam allowance to tighten up the area.  On my dress the inset area was 13" wide without elastic.  I wanted to gather it down to around 10" to get a nice snug fit against my chest.  After much trial and error, meaning sewing and seam ripping, I ended up inserting an 8" long piece of elastic.  Long story short, I recommend basting in the elastic and checking the fit before "really" sewing it in.

The elastic is going to be basted into the seam allowance of the bust inset area. First fold the seam allowances the same way you would for stay stitching. Pin the edges of the elastic near the edge of the bust seam.  I found it's a good idea to baste both ends of the elastic first before attaching all of it.

Stretch the elastic to that it sits flat against the inset and baste it to the seam allowance. At this point try on the dress to see if the upper edge fit is to your liking. If not you can rip out the elastic and try a different length.

Once the you're happy with the elastic length, it can be secured with some edge stitching.  On my dress I edge stitched the entire upper edge of the bodice at once, but you could just do the inset area.
Go back and remove any basting left over. Then press the edge so that the lining rolls toward the inside of the garment

Ta Da! A perfect fitting bodice. See that actually wasn't all that hard to do. Thanks elastic!

* Note about cup sizes on this pattern - The shelf pieces vary 1/4" in height between each cup size but are the same width. I did go with the recommended cup size for my bust, but don't think it's as important for women with low busts.  You could just choose the height of the shelf you prefer the look of the most. 

A sundress just under the wire - Butterick 6167

8.30.2015

Oh hi there, where did those almost 3 weeks go? All I remember doing was laying in bed coughing and then decorating for Mr. D's 5th birthday party.  Maybe I happened upon "The Doctor" and some weird timey whimey crap happened and suddenly it's the end of August and I have strange dreams of giant bugs. AHHHHH, AHHHH, get away bee!  In truth I've been suffering from a rather long case of lost sewing mojo this summer. Usually warm weather puts me all in a froth to sew as many dresses as possible before being forced once again to layer in wool. However this summer's mostly been spent knitting said wool and binge watching TV series most people saw years ago. Maybe I just have too many giant stashes of supplies that make me slightly nervous. Gosh darn hoarding gene.

I have been doing a bit of sewing at about a quarter of my usual pace. You might say that Butterick 6167 is a perfect encapsulation of this. A perfectly fine project that was then complicated by second guessing, procrastination and general laziness. In total it took more than 3 months from start of muslining to finished dress. This is honestly terrifying since it's a cute summer dress and I've made lined coats in less time than that. I'm sorry Butterick 6167, you deserved better!
Originally this pattern was going to be one of my first summer projects.  The design caught my fancy when Butterick released their Spring line and I thought the version Amy sewed up was very pretty. Coincidentally after Amy's FO post JoAnn's had a Butterick sale, so you know I "had" to buy a copy. Pattern in hand I excitedly muslined up the bodice to find that there were going to be major fit issues due to my low bust. You'd think that would have been my stopping point, but no. Sometimes I need to show my dominance by pounding fitting issues into the ground with a steely gaze much like Robert Patrick as the T-1000.
Ooooh yeah....I will kill you fitting issues/John Conner with merely a gaze.  Side note - Anyone else find the T-1000 weirdly hot. He's trying to kill us all, but he looks so good doing it. I'm all a flutter just thinking about his intense running. Stupid sexy evil robot. Anyway, let's just say I put this face on and the fitting problems magically melted away...with the liberal use of elastic. If that sounds vague it's because I'll be going into detail about my low bust alterations in a "Sewing Notes" post tomorrow. I compare boobs to baked goods.......so you've got that look forward to.

Now back to actual sewing talk....having completed the musling process all I had to do was pick a fabric and get sewing.  Usually this is not a hard decision for me because A. I have a lot of fabric and B. I have no problems buying more fabric.  There should have been at least 7 different applicable fabrics in the stash, but for whatever reason I just wasn't excited about using them for this particular pattern.  One sewing lesson I have learned is not to shoehorn fabric into a project if it doesn't feel right. You are never going to be happy about sewing that fabric up. Better just to put the project on the back burner until the right fabric comes along.  So poor Butterick 6167 got put on the back burner a looooong time.  I did try to find it some new fabric but my usual crack fabric dealers just didn't come through for me this time.
I'd just about written this pattern off for this summer when my pal Margo mailed me a surprise package of fabric. Margo has impeccable taste, so I basically squeed all over myself when I found she'd send me a tropical print on a black background. The fabric said, "I'm here for the Butterick dress! Aren't you glad you waited for me?"  YES fabric, YES! You are so worth it. We hugged and I put it in the washer for a prewash.

It's all smooth sailing from here right?  Wrong.  Turns out that if I make a muslin in April and then pick it up in August my little brain decides maybe the whole thing needs to be tinkered with. Maybe it needs to be more like the Bernie Dexter Paris dress I'd been wearing all summer.  The general look between the two was very similar, but I liked some of the details on the Paris dress more.  Why not get the pattern out and just change one or two things?

The great thing about sewing is that you can make a garment just how you want it. It's also the worst thing because you can get caught up in a series of fiddly changes that had nothing to do with the fit of the garment. You end up wondering if you're really just trying to drive yourself crazy and/or find an excuse to abandon the sewing project for you knitting project. "I can't possibly think of pattern edits right now. Guess I have NO CHOICE but to knit this sock and watch The Americans. Yeah baby, Wigs!" Seriously though, the wigs in that show are great. This blonde one....uhhh I want to marry it.
Eventually I burned through all cold war era spy craft available to me and finally buckled down to make those pattern edits. Based on the look of the Bernie Dexter dress I decided to make the following changes:

- Changed the ratio of bust shelf to lower bodice.  The height of the bust shelf was reduced and added to the lower bodice instead.

- Added a bust band under the ruched area.  I thought the band gave a nice transition between the two areas.  I've put my drafting and construction details for this in the Confessions/Advice area.
- Thinned the shoulder straps to about the same width as the Bernie Dexter dress.

- Added a lot more width to the skirt for more gathered volume. Since this made the pieces very large the skirt was cut on the cross grain even though my fabric wasn't a border print. I think the skirt as drafted is nice, just wanted to turn it up to 11.

- Added side seam pockets because why doesn't this dress have some in the first place?
I kept some of the nicer elements of the Butterick pattern that the Bernie Dexter dress doesn't have, like a full lining and a deep hem. If you're cherry picking you might as well have it all, don't you think? Just nod your head and we'll move on.


Pattern
Butterick 6167. Started with a straight size 14 with a C cup.

Fabrics used
Stretch cotton shirting from the most excellent Margo. Thank You Margo!!!

Pattern changes/alterations
1. Added 1/4" at the waist to each side of the front princess line seam.

2. Changed the proportion of the front bodice of the dress.  The overall height was nice but I wanted the ruched area to be a bit smaller.  Removed 5/16" from the bust pieces, added the same to the lower bodice pieces. (Back needs no alteration since the overall height remains the same.)

3. Changed the angle of the bust shelf. On the bodice side added 1/2" at the very top of the curve and graded it out to nothing. Removed the  3/4" from the bust stay and bust inset because that area needed to be taken in.

4. Additionally reduced the length of the bust inset 2" for a total of 2 3/4" of width removed.

5. Added 8" long elastic to the top of the bust shelf to get rid of the rest of the gapping.

6. Added a bias band to the bottom of the bust shelf.  Finished width is 5/8".

7. Reduced shoulder strap width to a finished width of 8/16".

8. Added 11" to both the front and back skirt pattern pieces to increase the skirt fullness by 44".

9. Added pockets to the side seams. I used the pockets from the Odette dress.

10. Made the hem slightly smaller at 1.25" when pattern calls for 1.75" hem.

11. Omitted the boning called for in the back of the bodice.

12. Went back into the finished garment and took the side seams in a 1/2". Think I didn't make my muslin small enough to account for the lycra in the real fabric.


Confessions/Advice
- Just a note that my fabric choice was a lighter weight than the cotton sateen the pattern sample is sewn in. I probably wouldn't have added as much volume to the skirt if using a sateen weight.

- I'm not opposed to boning in dresses, but don't think one piece makes sense for the design. I could see adding additional boning into the side seams/front princess lines seams if you wanted to make the garment really sturdy. I also think this design works fine with no boning at all. (Bonus, you don't have to worry about dry cleaning the dress because of spiral steel boning.)
- The hem was machine sewn because I wasn't feeling it in the hand hemming department.

- Also skipped the lapped zipper and put in an invisible one. Screw you lapped zipper.

- Looking at these pictures I should have done a bit more seam allowance grading at the waist.

- If you like the underbust band, here's how to add one to the dress.  First measure the curved seam of the lower bodice to get an idea of the length needed.  Double that and add an extra 1" of wiggle room. This will be the length of your underbust strap pattern piece.
Decide how wide you want the finished band to be. The fabric piece will be folded in half when it is attached, so double that measurement and then add seam allowance.  For example my finished band is 5/8" so the finished pattern width is 2.5"  After drafting the pattern add a bias grain line to it.  You'll want the band cut on the bias so that it bends around the curved part of the bust seam.
The band is added before sewing in the bust inset. To attach the piece, fold it in half and then baste it to the lower bodice edge.  Change to a regular stitch width and then edge stitch the folded edge to the bodice.  Try to make the curved area as flat as possible. You may need to manipulate the curved area of the bias with your fingers as you stitch.   Once the folded edge is secured you can remove the basting, or leave it in until the bust inset is attached.


Husband Comment
"It's bunchy...and all the cleavage is hidden under the bunches." *Insert sad face emoji here* (I even showed him my Marilyn Monroe impression photo and he was not impressed.)

My Final Thoughts
The husband and I are going to have to agree to disagree on this one because I felt pretty darn good taking pictures out on the sidewalk today.  I even got an unsolicited "Beautiful dress," comment from someone's husband.  (His wife chose not to comment, but I'm going to pretend he spoke for both of them.)  I also like being able to bend over in a dress and not worry about my girls falling out. Flashing cleavage all over town has never been my MO anyway.  Flashing collarbones, now that's another story.
Don't let my long list of alterations scare you off. Remember that half of them didn't really need to be made to get a pretty end result.  The only thing really had to be tinkered with was the front of the bodice/inset area. If your bust apex is in a "normal" location or if you are smaller busted this area would not be as tricky to fit. For those of you with low bust apexes like me, check out tomorrow's fitting post.  A little elastic in the inset area hides a lot of sins. :)

Fabric Hull Video and a Giveaways Galore!

8.07.2015

I mentioned last post that Lillestoff sent me giant box of fabric with the instructions to sew some of it and give some away.  Well today is that exciting day where I'm arraying all the goodies out for your perusal.  If you're a knit junkie you might want to put a drool guard on your keyboard now.

If you've never gotten your hands on this fine german jersey then you may enjoy checking out this fabric hull video. You can thank my gal pal Gillian for prompting me to get out the camera and inexpertly prattle on about fabric bases.  Also per her request I compare/contrast Lillestoff to both Kaufman Laguna jersey and Art Gallery jersey. So hit play at your own peril!
(P.S. I reversed the fiber content on the Art Gallery knits. It is 95% cotton, 5% spandex. Guess if you say that enough times it loses all meaning.)

Now on to the really juicy stuff, how to score some free fabric. I've split out the fabric into 4 different bundles so that more people could get their hands on pretties.  The pattern name and yardage are noted under each bundle.  (Lillestoff was generous with their cuts so there is a few extra inches in edition to the stated yardage.) If you want a closer look at any of these prints then pop on over to the Lillestoff website and type in the pattern name into their search bar. They have expandable pics of all the printed fabrics over there.

Note - The giveaway is for US residents ONLY. (Sorry my lovely foreign readers, but I'm covering shipping and we don't have a lot of extra cash floating around in the Bee coffers at the moment.)
To enter leave a comment on the blog and then put your information in the Rafflecopter box under the bundle you'd be interested in owning. The giveaway will run from today Friday the 7th to Friday the 14th at 12am.  "May the odds ever be in your favor." ;)  *GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED*


Bundle 1 - Wovens
Contains....
2 yards Marrakesch
2 yards Marrakesch Kombi
2 yards Lightflowers Ornamental
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Bundle 2 - Brown/Purple Knits
Contains
2 yards Trees
2 yards Trees Kombi
1 yard Light brown heathered jersey (Lighter weight)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bundle 3 - Teal knits
Contains
2 yards Waterbloom
2 yards Roberta
1 yard Light blue heathered jersey (Lighter weight)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bundle 4 - Jersey mashup
Contains
2 yards Flowers N Dots
2 yards Apples
1 yard Heathered pink jersey (Heavy weight) a Rafflecopter giveaway

Lay you down on a bed of roses

8.05.2015

A couple weeks back I was surprised to find an email from the Lillestoff company in my mailbox. My first thought was, "Has someone stolen my identity and bought a lot of luxurious fabric that I will not get to pet? I demand petting privileges!"  But no, instead it was Lillestoff asking if I'd like to receive some of their recent fabric range and host a giveaway.  After falling off my chair, I had to wait 10 minutes before replying yes so that my email wasn't all capital letters and emojis, like some highly caffeinated teenager.

Lillestoff has been my "screw it I'm going to splurge" fabric of choice since about 2011. At first my purchases were small, only getting a yard at a time to make things for Desmond.  Eventually the "kid yardage" started to migrate into the "fabric for myself" pile and I now have my own Lillestoff PJ pants, bodysuits, and T-shirts. Hey moms should have nice things too....and I'm a greedy fabric hog.

Lillestoff was very generous and sent me a GIANT box of fabric.  Des and I might have opened it and then flung fabric around while manically laughing.  "We're high on cotton and we didn't even know it was possible!" Once we stopped sniffing the new fabric fumes, things calmed down a bit and I started to brainstorm what fabrics to sew up first.  Out of all the prints the "Black Rose" jersey was screaming my name the loudest so it got the thumbs up.  (Bright colored roses on black = Heather bait....if you're ever looking to trap me for your own personal baking slave.) Selecting a pattern took a little longer because I was looking for a knit dress that I hadn't blogged about a million times already. (Those would be all of Kitshycoo's patterns which are always my go to dresses.) The pattern winner turned out to be Vogue 1027, a dress I've made before but never blogged.
I attempted this pattern back in 2009 without making a muslin or consulting PR for reviews on the pattern.  What I ended up with was a nice dress that was almost 2 sizes too big.  At that point I pulled up a couple of PR reviews and discovered that everyone found their usual size to be too big.  Most reviewers went down at least one size, sometimes 2 to get the pattern to fit their measurements. Curses, you dirty graders or maybe block makers!!! A knit dress should have a bit of negative ease, not be inches too large.  Well at that time I didn't feel like trying to salvage the dress. Instead it got put away in one of those dirty secret UFO boxes....the ones way in the back of the closet. We all have those right? I always hope some sewing fairy will show up and magically take care of those garments.
Here in 2015 I've done a couple of me-made culls but still have that first version of Vogue 1027. The fabric print is really wonderful so I'm gonna cut it down "someday." (Confession - Someday probably means never.) I figured, why not just use that as muslin #1 and do all my normal fitting changes.  Sounds good, yes? Spoiler, I didn't wait for your feedback and tried the dress on. At my current weight the entire bodice needed to be sized down and a large amount of ease needed to be removed from the waist. I pinned out something in the 1 3/4 to 2" range....on each side. Yes that means I needed to take almost 4" out of the pattern.  There was also some gaping in the wrap bodice neckline that needed to be removed.  OK then, I knew what my problems were, it was time to fix them in the pattern.

I would have loved to simply trace a smaller size of the bodice, but in 2009 I'd made the smallest size in the 14-22 size nest. Never fear though because it easy to do a little DIY grading using the nested sizes. (I blogged about this technique here. To grade down you reverse the process.)  I graded down the width of the bodice, but left the length at the size 14 measurements.  This removed about an 1" of ease at the side seams and about 1/2" around the armholes. At this point I mocked up a new bodice and decided to remove an additional 1/2"(on the quarter) at the waistline. The skirt and belt pieces were adjusted to fit the new waist measurement, details in the review portion, and the length of the skirt was shortened two inches.
In my previous version I used a knit lining to finish the edges of the bodice. This worked well for the armholes, but I had problems with the lining rolling out along the neck edge.  This time I decided to use the provided facing for the armholes and draft one for the neckline.  I traced off the neckline area of the front and back bodice patterns to create the facing.  To reduce the gaping on the bodice I reduced the length of the front neckline facing about 1.25." When the facing was serged on, I stretched it to fit, making it pull towards the body a bit.   To finish all the edges, I covered stitched on the right side and then trimmed any excess facing fabric on the wrong side.

Pattern
Vogue 1027 - DKNY faux wrap dress (Might be OOP by now)

Fabrics used
Lillestoff cotton/spandex jersey in the "Black Rose" print.

Pattern changes/alterations
1. The size 14 bodice was graded down one size in width, but the length was left alone.

2. An additional 1/2" was removed at the waist area on the bodice.  Finished dress had 4" of ease removed from the waist area.

3. On the skirt I removed 1" from the side seams and reduced the length by 2".

4. The two belt pieces were reduced by 1" so that they would match the new waist circumference.

5. The front belt edges were serged together to eliminate the white back from showing through.

6. The pockets were omitted because there was not enough yardage.  (Confession - I wouldn't use knit pockets either)

Confessions/Advice
- That waist seam has a lot of layers thanks to the sewn in belt.  On my version I basted each layer with a large zig zag stitch to keep all 4 layers aligned. Then the seam was finished with the overlocker and the basting removed.

- Since Lillestoff cotton is less drapy than rayon, the facing trick did get rid of most of the gaping. If I were to do it again in rayon, I'd reduce the length of the bodice fronts as well.

- I'm not completely sold on the sewn on belt.  At some angles it looks good, in others it looks bulky.

Husband Comment
"It has sharp angles, which I like. That rope thing coming off the waist is like a karate uniform. Cool." (I "think" sharp angles means wrap bodice, but I didn't seek clarification from the source.)

My Final Thoughts
After all the pattern edits were done, sewing up this dress was easy peasy. None of the construction steps are difficult and Lillestoff cotton doesn't fight you as it goes through the serger.  Instead it wants to be sewn, and worn, and fondled....um maybe I should stop there. *Goes and sniffs fabric in a corner.*

This was a bit more fitting work than I'd usually want to put into a knit pattern, but for some reason that didn't bother me too much this time. It helped that I'd purchased the pattern so long ago that it just felt like being thrifty at this point. Now that I have a version that actually fits, I'm very pleased with the pattern. The style lines are classy and work well with my body type. I also think it pairs every elegantly with the black rose pattern making me look dressed up when really I'm thinking, "Ahhhh secret pajamas."
The Lillestoff fabric giveaway will be next post, hopefully later in the week.  I need to take photos and do a video for Mrs. Crafting a Rainbow. As long as tomorrow goes according to plan then everything should be on schedule.  *Famous Last Words*

My arch nemesis the bathing suit

7.23.2015

Guys...guys... I have to talk about my troubled relationship bathing suits today and it might result in some binge chocolate eating.  But we're gonna get through this because it's helpful confess when projects don't go smoothly.  Or maybe I just need some absolution over the dumb shit I did while trying to appropriately cover my body for our trip to the coast.

OK, so let's unpack some childhood trauma to give you some context first.  I did not have a lithe, toned teenager phase. The body I have now is the body I had then minus some additional abdominal padding and a bunch of blown out veins in my legs. (Thanks pregnancy!) Had I been born in the Renaissance my pear shape with saggy bewbs would have made me tres sexy. Just add a gauzy robe plus hair flowers and the studs come a running. Not sure about that wind guy though, he looks a little sketchy.
Of course our current beauty standards are pretty much the exact opposite of this and teenage me was painfully aware of how short I fell from them. We women tend to beat ourselves up anyway, but I also had the additional "help" of series of asshats who regularly told me that I was fat and ugly. So to say I had low self esteem as a teenager might be putting it mildly.  

What does a teenager with body issues really not want to do?  Strip down to a clingy piece of swimwear and stand around with a bunch of strangers in a public place. Guess what my father's favorite activity is? Ten points if you guessed going to the beach. So I spent a fair amount of my teenage age summer's awkwardly sitting on the beach hoping the Dude Bros would just ignore me instead of giving me derisive looks. Or even worse bark...as in "That's one's a dog bro!" (This did happen more than once.) In short, the beach was akin to a low level circle of hell for me. The moment I moved out of my parents house and realized I never had to go to the beach again it was like winning the mother clucking jackpot!
But wait, what's this Heather? You appear to have gone back to the beach despite that fact that you hear the "Psycho" RRRRKKK, RRRRKKK, RRRRKKK noise while looking at this picture. Well people, I did it for the kid and for the grandparents.  My father now lives down at Ocean City MD, when he isn't living somewhere in the Philippines.  Every summer he starts calling/emailing, "When are you coming to the beach? When are you coming to the beach?" for....the....entire.....summer. We did go once before when Des was almost 1 years old. I remember two things about that trip, A: I bought a black one piece with ruching knowing no one was going to pay attention to me with an adorable baby in my arms. (100% true, adorable babies always pull focus.) B: Desmond ate sand and by a stroke of luck I got this picture. It still makes me laugh really hard. 
The next couple summers I declined visiting because.....well I hate the beach. This year Desmond started asking me when were we going to the beach about the same time my father did. You dirty rats, I smell a conspiracy!!! Being double teamed by the two of them I sucked it up and agreed to come for a visit this year. Now what the heck was I going to wear? The previously mentioned black bathing suit had been donated with my other plus sized clothing last year. I could either endure the hellscape that is trying on bathing suits in grimly lit dressing rooms or try something new and sew my own. Since we're talking about bathing suits you probably figured out that I decided to make my own. This is when I started making mistakes.

Mistake number #1 - Procrastinated away time needed for the project.
Despite being in a much better place about my body, I'm still not that keen on swimsuits.  With other garments I can camouflage areas that are not my favorite and end up feeling good about what I'm wearing. With swimwear that's just not going to happen. I knew that looking at myself in a swimsuit would be depressing and put it off as long as possible. Then I was on a sewing deadline and had to skip some important steps.

Mistake number #2 - Not muslining.
Due to the previous mistake I was in a time crunch and did not muslin anything but the bra portion of the Nautilus swimsuit.  I should know better! It was silly to think that swimsuits wouldn't need any fitting adjustments when everything else I make does.  Also my brain really could have used a trial run on how a suit goes together since it was my first try at this sort of sewing. It would have saved a lot of grumpy seam ripping later.

Mistake number #3 - Not knowing what I really wanted in a swimsuit. 
OK I "thought" I knew what I wanted, a one piece with minimal bust support. This was based on that black bathingsuit from the previous beach trip. However when wearing the suits on the beach I found that my girls were in desperate need of more support. So much so that I felt uncomfortable.  If you are the sort of person who doesn't understand why people hate underwire, then Do Not assume a swim cup is enough support. My heavy as shit breast tissue was like, "Haa haa floating foam, how amusing, let's flop around now. Who can reach her belly button first?!"  I also also wrong about wanting a one piece. I have a tiny bladder so having to completely undress myself for every bathroom break was super annoying.  I also felt a little dumpy/matronly in a one piece because it just exacerbated my pear shape. If I'd muslined and tried on the patterns ahead of time, then the problems mentioned above would have been apparent then.  Both of these patterns have two piece options and links in their sew-a-longs about how to add more supportive cups. It would have been possible to adjust both of them to some sort of bra top with a high waisted bikini bottom had I not made all the mistakes above.

OK, now we're done with my extremely long intro about personal human frailty and we can get into the patterns themselves.  I even put up unflattering photos! I'm a little small in them, but considering it was my husband's first spin with the Canon camera he did a good job. At least that's what I'm telling myself to avoid taking more pictures of these on my back porch.


Bombshell from Closet Case Files
I chose to sew view A with the small alteration of crossing the straps at the back instead of doing a halter. My heavy breast tissue and halters don't mix unless I'm really in the mood for some neck pain. Let's face it, no one's ever in the mood for that.  My fabric choice was a red nylon spandex tricot from The Fabric Fairy. I took a gamble buying this bright red color without swatching it and lost.  It was not the bright red tone I like, more of an orange red and therefore slightly irks me everytime I look at it.  Yet another reason to leave plenty of time for projects don't you think? (A comedy of errors I tell you!) This superficial problem aside, was good quality and was pretty easy to work with.  I used the more matte side as my right side for the suit. 
Despite following along with the sew-a-long blog posts I managed to do just about everything wrong on this suit the first time.  Probably because I'm a complete asshole about reading directions and sometimes my brain is like, "Nope, not learning new stuff. I'm sleeping now. Zzzzzzz."  It would be fair to say that I did not gracefully climb the learning curve of sewing swimsuits. Instead my deadline drug me kicking and screaming up the hill. You can teach me new tricks, but it's going to involve a lot of seam ripping and feeling like idiot. Most of the mistakes were fixable with the ripper, but I did end up putting my lining in backward and only realizing it until most of the elastic was in.  I wasn't crazy enough to rip that out on a deadline.
My suit is a combo 10/12 size which was almost perfect out of the envelope.  The suit could use the torso shortened about 3/8", but the ruching does help to hide this.  At the center front the ruching line had to be extended further down into the suit body several inches so that it matched up to where my bewbs actually were.  I made the bust tab longer to accommodate the new position and the increased volume of gathers. This was done on the fly so I'd guesstimate that it was about 1/2" longer.
I really liked the ruching and the leg/butt coverage on this suit. In fact the whole bottom half gets a perfect score in my book.  The upper half didn't work for me because I hadn't put in the kind of bust support I need. As I when on and on about earlier, swim cups did little and the addition of elastic under them did not help, My breast tissue just make the elastic buckle away from my body so that it offered zero support. It's possible that stretching the elastic would have helped, but I thinking nothing short of underwires is really going to do the job.

Nautilus from Seamstress Erin
I went with view A on this one as well, with straps that connect to the back band. The starfish print fabric is also from The Fabric Fairy and I'm going to have to gush about it for a minute.  This is one of those fabrics where you touch it and think "Ooooo yeah, that's some nice quality here." It's just a tad thicker than the solid red fabric used for the bombshell.  The face is matte and the colors are clear and bright. It's still in stock and I might have to snag a bit more.
Since I'd muslined the top part and gotten a little experience sewing the bombshell, the Nautilus went together a lot quicker. My suit is a 10 with a C/D cup.  Based on the measurement chart I muslined the DD cups but they were too big on the bottom.  The C/D's fit perfect even though I were a DD bra, so that's one area where it was good that I'd bothered to muslin. With the bra like straps and a underbust seam Nautilus has a bit more bewb support built in.  I still need more since my girls are pushing down into the seam and puckering up into the little keyhole window under the twist.  The Nautilus top seems like a design that would lend itself to being converted to more of a standard bra. I "think" it would be easy overlay the twist over a bra base.....if I knew how to sew a bra base. Guess that's a goal that should be added to the sewing list.
I should have muslined the bottom half as well because there were a few minor fitting problems that would have been easy to fix. The torso length needs to be shortened on this pattern. You can see it wrinkling up where the body joins to the bra portion. I also wasn't happy with the amount of butt coverage. In these pictures the it looks fine, but while wearing the suit the bottoms felt a tad too small.  It didn't help that the elastic on the back of the leg was a little loose, adding to the feeling that my butt was not covered. The elastic on the top edge of the back also needs to be shortened up to really lay flat on my body.  Erin gives you suggested elastic lengths per size in those areas, but I should have known that some fine tuning to the fit might be needed.  Good news is that sort of thing can be fixed if I feel like getting out the seam ripper and re-attaching the elastic with a shorter length.
On this suit I like the top a lot more than the bottom.  It's not bad from the back but from the front I don't like the look of the one piece on my body.  Again, musling would have solved this whole problem and I could have easily modified one of the bikini bottoms to cover my belly.  

Shewwww! That was a big info dump so how about a summary?
- I hate swimsuits. Duh. However sewing one seemed like a better idea then unsuccessfully searching for a decent RTW one.

- For the most part sewing one was better, even if it was a very aggravating process of learning new skills. I can confirm that it gets easier after the first suit.

- I made some stupid mistakes from the get go that caused me not to be 100% happy with my finished suits.

- My personal opinion is that both of these swimsuit patterns are nicely drafted and have helpful sew-a-long blog posts.  If we could pull out a time turner I'd still use these patterns, just chose different views than the one's shown here.

- Some of this shit is all in my head because my husband was thrilled with both suits and had nothing but good things to say about them.

- And finally if you can get yourself a 4 year old to take to the beach I'd recommend it. First you're too busy making sure they don't drown to worry about your appearance. Secondly their pure happiness at being at the beach rubs is contagious and soon you find yourself laughing and holding hands while slapping waves. Take that wave, SMASH!!!!

The Return of the McCalls Shirtdress

7.16.2015

Two sewing repeats back to back? Tsk, tsk. Someone needs to plan my life better so this sort of thing doesn't happen. In fact let me just get a ghost blogger so I can focus all my attention on my real loves, cake and toy frogs. :)  But not toy frog cake because that would be weird.
Anyway, let's just blame Roisin for pattern repeat number 2 and move on.  She's been cranking out McCall's 6696 like clockwork and with every post my desire to sew another has increased. There was even a moment where I thought, "My wardrobe really needs a M6696 sewn in Liberty Carline," forgetting that I'd already sewn one. Derp. To be honest though two Carline shirtdresses would not be a bad thing.

Not having any other colors of Carline in the stash, I did the next best thing and chose a Liberty Lawn in a different print.  It's name did not lodge itself in my head, but it's the one with all the different colored pears. When purchasing this fabric I thought, "OOOOHHH FRUIT PRINT ON SALE!" and grabbed 3 yards. This probably would have been more than enough fabric for most garments if a. The print wasn't directional and b. The pears are set up in stripes so you have to stripe match if you don't want the garment to look like a pile of dog poop. I did luck out was able to fussy cut most of the garment correctly  One button band had to be squeezed out without any regard to pattern placement, the inside waist facing is pieced and my skirt side seams aren't perfectly aligned. But the center front looks pretty great which is what's really important...right...right? *twitches slightly when looking at sideways pictures*
This dress was cut out at the end of May, a few days before we took a trip to my in-laws.  The plan was to get most of the machine sewing parts done and then do all that tedious hand sewing at their house. No machine no problem, I'm still making garments!!!  Well the fly in the ointment is that my hand sewing is slow and even with the assistance of audiobooks,  incredibly boring. At the end of that weekend only half of the sewing was done. The stash busting contest started in June and this poor dress sat around in a tote bag for most of that time.  I finally picked it back up during/after? our long term power outage and finished up all the fiddly handiwork. 

There are a few minor pattern alterations to this version. After pulling last year's dress out of storage and putting it on, the bodice length felt too short.  I went back and removed my bodice length alteration of 1/2" and sewed this one as drafted.  The waist hits where I want it now, but it seems like this change makes the back puffer.  That's my current theory anyway since the fabrics are exactly the same.
My preference for skirt length as also changed in a year, so I added 3 3/4" to the pattern to make it 27" long. This change was also made to the button band because you want all those pieces to fit together. ;)  On this dress I gathered the edge to ease in the extra fullness and catch stitched a 1 3/4" hem.

In any future versions I'd tweak the back gathers a bit. They may just need to be distributed over a larger area since I do like the feel of that much ease across my broad upper back. I'd also make the pockets bigger, a change that had to be skipped on this is dress due to fabric yardage concerns.
All in all it was a good stash busting project to crank out since I didn't need to buy a thing to sew this dress. Isn't it nice when all your hoarding pays off in the future. There was even a pear brooch already lurking in my collection. (Somehow not surprising thanks to my brooch addiction.) Though I'd like to go back in time and tell past Heather to buy these sandals in navy too. Still kicking myself about that years later.

In parting I'll leave you with a picture from a different location in the park.  The house in the background is an office space for some of the local government employees, but hasn't lost any of it charm....if we ignore the AC units. It might also amuse you to know that a family found my photo taking entertaining enough to stand around watching for about 10 minutes.  In truth watching me try to climb up this wall before the camera stopped responding to the remote probably was hilarious. Climb overly dressed women, climb!

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