PR Hacks - 50's Style Shirt Dress


After a month's hiatus I've got another hacking article posted over on Pattern Review. Sometimes a girl has to take a month off to sew 3 Easter dresses, you know how it is. The April post features a 50's style shirt dress hack based on McCalls 6891. In the article I talk about how to convert set in sleeves to kimono sleeves and how to redraw the neckline. Nice thing about this hack is that you can mix and match either one of those new design elements with the original pattern. You can even switch up the skirt portion for a slightly different look. Ahh shirt dresses, they are the best.  If you'd like one too then hop on over to the PR blog and read up.  

Taming the Lime Leopard


In March I had one of those fabric buying binges brought on by thoughts of Spring/Summer clothing. My stash busting spreadsheet assured me that this is an annual occurrence. Once florals and hawaiian prints start popping up I get all weak at the knees and scream,"Take my money!"  Even so there was a certain amount of guilt about adding almost 15 yards of fabric to the stash in the space of the month. What to do, what to do?  Maybe sew up some old stash into transitional clothing? Sounds like a plan. I even doubled down and choose one of the patterns that was in my "to sew" January post. Namely the Du Barry wrap blouse. Good blogger, you get all the cookies.
The Du Barry blouse was another one of those 32" bust patterns that I just "had to have" even though I'm a 36" bust.  Grading never seems easier than when you're pushing the purchase button on Etsy. But when it comes time to do the grading work I feel like a complete fraud. "Don't know what I'm doing, tra la la la la. Look over there instead." So after pulling out the pattern I waited for the usual sense of panic and dread to overtake me. Instead my brain said, "Hey we just graded that whole Hollywood pattern and it turned out fine. Just do the same thing knucklehead." It was then that I realized that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't a fraud but had learned to do a pretty good 4" grade. Huzzah!

 Incase you're wondering what my personal grading steps are I'll break out for you.
1. Trace the pattern...of course.

2. Since I'm pear shaped 1/2" is added to the waist and hip area along the side seam. In the case of 40's skirts I usually add that extra 1/2" of width down the whole length.

3. For pattern pieces on the quarter, I draw 3 grading lines and slash the spread the pattern. Two of the lines are spread 3/8" and the third is spread a 1/4".  (Was pretty pleased with myself for remembering the front blouse on this pattern is not on the quarter and needed to be slashed and spread 2".)

4. Finally I add 1/2" of extra height to the pattern along the shoulder and neckline. If there's some sort of attached neck facing, like on the Hollywood blouse, I usually walk the pattern on the seamline to see how much extra length is needed.

At this point I'll make any standard fitting adjustments for my figure and then sew a muslin.  Usually the muslin fits pretty decently and I can tinker with seam placement, lengths, etc.  The Du Barry wrap blouse was an easy fitting job since the shoulder pleats give you plenty of bust room and the tie makes the waist width easily adjustable. After the first muslin all that needed to be done was remove some of the height from the sleeve caps. Those babies were impossible to ease in without puckers.
For the fabric I choose some silk crepe de chine that had been in the stash for a couple of years. Sewing pleats in silk wasn't exactly my idea of a good time, but froggie and I got through it with a minor amount of ripping. We also learned from past mistakes and hand sewed the neckline bias binding on out of the gate. Better to do the hand stitching first thing then after you've ripped out your machine stitches 3 times. A person could go leopard blind doing a thing like that.

Du Barry 5510, blouse portion only.

Fabrics used
Silk Crepe de Chine from the stash.

Pattern changes/alterations
1. Graded the pattern up from a 32 bust to a 36 bust.

2. Did standard 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment to the shoulder and sleeve cap

3. Reduced the sleeve cap height by 1/2" because they seemed to have too much ease to set properly.

- I said on my instagram feed that this isn't a blouse made for raising your arms. Even with an at waist skirt any upward arm movement results in some bare midriff.

- The downside of a silk wrap blouse is that the ties starts to loosen as you wear it.  I haven't had a wardrobe malfunction, but do need to retie the blouse during the day.

- Put 1/4" shoulder pads in this because I've been brainwashed by the 40's into worrying about droopy shoulders.

- In case you were wondering how does this particular wrap blouse wrap, then here's a handy illustration from the instructions.
The pattern has a short tie and a long tie, the short tie goes on the blouse half that crosses in front. On the other blouse half the long tie comes out of a hole you leave in the side seam, wraps around the back and ties to the short tie.

Husband Comment
"Never seen a green leopard before but it's silky and nice."

My Final Thoughts
Despite my confession about the length occasionally causing accidental bare midriff, I've worn this blouse every week since finishing it. It just feels so elegant in both style and fabrication.  Figure I need to add a pair of high waisted trousers and high waisted skirt into the sewing list. Then I can pair them with this blouse and wave my hands in the air like I just don't care. Cause I won't because my hats are too fabulous. ;) Have a great friends. Next time we "talk" I'll have a dress that's refreshing as a tall glass of lemonade. Mmm delicious.

Stash Busting April Theme - Facing your Fabric Fears


This month I'm the hosting the Stash busting sew-a-long group theme which is "Facing your Fabric Fears." I guess this means I better pull the tricky fabric bin out of the back of the stash cave. At least froggie will get to sleep in silk all month.

For those of you who may not know the Stash busting sew-a-long group was created as a support group of sorts for those of us who felt overwhelmed by our stashes. We wanted a way to motivate ourselves to sew out of the stash instead of constantly buying new fabric.  We have a monthly theme to get the creative juices flowing but you can sew whatever you want.  Here's a link to our facebook group if you feel like joining the party.

To start off the month put together a list of tips and links to helpful tutorials for all the stereotypical tricky fabrics.

- Stiffen light weight silk fabrics, like chiffon and georgette, before cutting. My favorite method is soaking the fabric in gelatin solution as described in this Threads article. This does take a little pre-planning since the fabric will need time to dry before cutting.  What I like to do is mix up my gelation solution and put it and the fabric into a rubbermaid dish pan. (A bucket or the kitchen sink would also work fine.) After letting the fabric soak for an hour, I take it out and roll it in a towel to get rid of the extra water. Then the fabric is put on a drying rack to dry overnight. After the fabric is dry it can be pressed on low heat if any wrinkles happened during drying. Then you're ready to cut

- Cut silk out in a "paper sandwich." You've probably heard this before and I'm here to tell you that it does make a BIG difference.  Let's not talk about the time I decided to cut georgette without disaster. Grainline Studios has a nice tutorial on how she cuts using this technique. I do it the same way other than using the floor and a roll of Kraft paper. Use the sharpest set of shears you have to make everything go as smooth as possible.

- Use a new sharp needle.  You don't want to accidentally snag your fabric just because your needle's gone dull. Also make sure you're using the right size needle for your fabric weight.

- Empty out the water in your iron and use a pressing cloth. Don't take the chance of your ironing peeing all over your silk project. A press cloth is another great way of protecting your fabric.  Silk organza is my personal favorite pressing clothing because you can see through it while pressing.

- Pre-wash, pre-wash, pre-wash because rayon will shrink like nobody's business.

- Give yourself some cutting help.  Cutting rayon isn't as tricky as silk, but using some of the silk techniques can keep you from getting wonky pattern pieces.  Personally I like to stiffen rayon up with some spray starch and then cut it laying on some paper.

- Let it hang before you hem it. I've had more wonky hemlines with rayon than anything else so let it drop before doing all your hand sewing work.

- Choose a plaid line for all your matching. When I start cutting a plaid project first I mark all my pattern pieces with a horizontal like in this Grainline Studio post.  That way I know all my vertical plaid will match up as long as I place them on the same plaid line.

- When cutting pieces that are mirror images use the first to help line up the plaid on the second. For example my pattern has two back skirts to cut.  When cutting the first pattern piece I use my plaid line mark and straight of grain to line up the pattern. Then when I cut the second piece I flip the first piece on top of the pattern and use that to help line up the plaid.

- Sew with a walking foot to help match plaid along the seams.

- Get yourself some clips to use instead of pins. You can go high end and buy some Clover Wonder Clips or be cheap like me and buy some small binder clips.

- Use a leather needle and 100% polyester thread. You don't want to worry about cotton thread deteriorating on your leather project.

- Teflon or roller feet are great for sewing leather because they don't stick to the hide. You can also put some scotch tape on the bottom of a regular foot to keep it from sticking.

- Use a hammer to help flatten any seams or darts that you don't want to topstitch flat.

- Double sided tape is helpful for positioning things like zippers on welt pockets.

- The By Hand London blog put together a very comprehensive post on working with sequined fabric. Thinking I should don some safety goggles and finally sew the black sequin yardage in the stash.

- We just finished up a knits themed month in the group and Heather D rounded up a lot of great tips. Here's a link to her blog posts.

- I think of my pal Gillian as "The queen of knits." Her Lazy tips for sewing knits series is great of any newbies out there.

- Get yourself a self healing mat and a rotary cutter to make cutting out knits a breeze.

- I also highly recommend buying yourself a serger if you really like working with knits. My personal machine is the fairly economical priced Brother 104D. I've been using mine for several years and it's probably the most dependable machine in my sewing room.

That's all the tips and tricks I've run across in my personal experience. How about you guys? Do you have any great tips you like to share? Leave them in the comments section and I will have Froggie collate them for everyone's benefit.
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