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A long sleeve dress circa 1956- Butterick 5605

You know how sometimes you abandon a WIP just because life gets in the way?  And again and again, until you no longer have the drive to finish it?  That happened with this dress.  I started it the first week of December, meaning to wear it for Dressember, and it was done except for some finishing work and the zipper.  Between holidays, illness, work, and just life, it’s been sitting in the corner since.  I was recently inspired to start some new things, and since my new motto is to finish the old before starting new, I dug out the parts this weekend and made myself put in those last stitches.

The Pattern

I’ve loved the denim daydress I made last spring so much, I wanted to have more dresses that shape and style.  But the nature of woven fabric means it doesn’t stretch and the size is rigid.  Which means minor weight fluctuations make it suddenly fit differently.  Butterick 5605 was one of the retro patterns in my queue to make, and it has some fun details that I thought would marry well with a gorgeous soft deep rose stretch brocade I bought at Vogue Fabrics back in October.  I wanted to experiment making up some 50’s style dresses in medium weight stretch fabrics for comfort, with the added bonus that they’d continue to fit given small fluctuations.

The Cut

Here’s where I knew I had to deviate from the original pattern.  The back piece and bow detail are patterened to be cut all in one, which extends into the fabric in a really wasteful way.  The center backs and center fronts are also cut double, so the neck can turn with a full lining. Normally I like this, as facings can sometimes flap about and never lay well.  But in this case, since the period cut pattern is a dolman sleeve continuous with the fronts and backs, it means the entire sleeve would also be double thick.  Not really something I wanted.  I also didn’t care for the way the strap came off the back piece at a completely straight angle, when the rest of the dress is all curves.


After some serious thinking and chats with knowledgeable friends, I opted for the following:  Cut everything single layer only.  Eliminate the unnecessary center front seams.  Raise the back to cover a modern bra. Round the angles of the back strap.  Only cut the back strap to the center back line.  I then cut strap pieces on the fold, to be attached to the extension later.  I opted to cut cross grain strips 1″ wide to be used as a narrow facing, really just an interior binding, for all the neck edges and curves.  I also pinned out the elbow dart in the sleeve, since I was using a stretch fabric and the dart was unnecessary.  On a size note, I cut two sizes down, at zero ease, since I wanted a close fit and the fabric had quite a bit of stretch.

The Sewing

bodice corner butterick 5605

I used a straight stitch for all seams, as it seemed to stretch well enough.  I interfaced the points of the bodice where the tops of the princess seams made sharp corners, as well as the center back seams to make setting the zipper easier.  The trickiest part of the design is setting the bodice fronts and backs into the side pieces, where I used the following method:  Using a very short stitch length, reinforce the corner after interfacing on the fronts and backs.  Mark a dot on the side pieces exactly where the corner should finish, and pin the pieces together at this point but only along one side.  Clipping to the point of turn before stitching to the side front and back pieces, stitch up the side you have pinned and needle down in the corner at the dot.  Pivot the work, and pull the other side into place, and sew down the other side.  Press over a ham if you have one to help make the shaping curve smoothly.

exposed zipper

Fit: I ended up taking a bit out of the shoulder and sleeve, as it was patterned for a woven that would need more fabric there for movement.  I also needed to take a bit out of the center back, as it was still just a bit big with the spongey knit, so I moved the pleats in the skirt to accomodate the new closure line.  Since I opted for an exposed zipper for a bit of decoration, I also moved the pleats and the closure line in an extra 1/8″ on either side, since the zipper teeth add to the width.  Being overly cautious, I didn’t want the dress to end up stretching out over time and added a 1/4″ elastic encased in the waist seam.

hem stitch by machine

 

The hems were done by machine, utilizing the hem stitch.  I know.  I never ever use it.  Mainly because it’s so fiddly to set up and make sure you’re taking the same amount of bite each stitch, but the texture of the brocade easily hid all the stitching.  Definitely a stitch worth experimenting with if you want to start hemming at home but are intimidated to hand sew.

neck binding

And the binding on all the necklines?  Worked fantastically.  I stay stitched along the seam line first, and pre-pressed the binding to meet in the middle using my bias tape maker.  I curved the binding so the outside edge would lay flat since the curve is so severe, and then pinned the crease of the binding to the stay stitch line.  Stitched, trimmed away the excess, and understitched.  Pressed the binding to turn to the inside, and topstitched the other edge down at 1/2″ from the edge.

ties

The ties were a bit hard to fit on myself, as I wanted the join to end up somewhere in the knot at the neck so it wouldn’t be seen.  I overlapped where I thought it would meet, and enlisted a friend to double check the placement.  I trimmed off the excess, leaving 1/2″ seam allowance to attach the ties.  Sewed right sides together from inside the tie, and going through the extension piece, I then flipped the seam allowance inside the tie and closed up the inside edge by hand.

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The knit makes this dress so comfortable, and easy to care for.  Plus everything just stretches flat and lays so nicely!  And bonus, no pressing required.

side 5605

Miss Cakes felt we needed a serenade for pictures.

close up 5605

The points lay perfectly flat thanks to the interfacing, the waist stays put due to the elastic.  And pockets are just always nice to have.

back 5605

I did wonder if I should have cut the back opening a bit bigger, but decided that a dress with long sleeves was going to be worn when it was cold outside, so coverage was a good thing.  Plus I’ve learned with the denim dress that a bow on the back makes a cardigan not work for layering.

If you’ve been tempted to try a retro pattern but have been worried about it working well for our modern athleisure-loving lifestyle, take a chance and try it out of a knit.  And finish off those WIPs that have been taunting you!  Spring is coming, and with it, a whole new slew of projects to start.

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Love from Wisco,

Rebekah

 

Beginning sock knitting

Everyone knows that knitter.  You know, the one that is CONSTANTLY knitting socks.  In line at the post office, waiting for their kids at pickup, or at knit night.  Once upon a time six years ago, I thought I would try my first foray to see what all the fuss was about.  I picked some gorgeous Italian merino that *spoke to me* at my local yarn store, and a pattern that was so beautiful I would want to stick with it.  I read 5000 books about sizing, fiber choice, techniques, etc. before I started.  And then I made one and the other sat in a bin, half knit, for the last six years.  Mainly because I fell victim to what so many people do when they start out with a brand new project:  I didn’t make choices for a successful and fun project.  In the last few months I’ve become addicted to knitting socks, and have become one of those people.  So here are some tips I have if you’re thinking about picking up your first pair and want to actually have a good time and keep on going.

Yarn

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Look how easy it is to see that pattern! Good yarn choice.

Make a good yarn choice.  Yarn for socks should be made specifically for socks; typically superwash wool, most will have a small amount of nylon or other synthetic yarn to help with their lifespan.  I know, some yarns don’t have this.  And some are handwash only.  Which are all great.  But if you’re just starting out, give yourself the benefit of the doubt and pick something durable.  The other thing about yarn made specifically for sock knitting is that it most of the time will have a bit of a spring or twist to it, which will help with elasticity in knitting and also hug your foot nicely.  Light colors will also be easier to see, which helps when working things like heels for the first time, and will also showcase a pattern better.

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I had thought this merino, with its burgundy, mustard, and teal yarns would be a great choice for wearing and go with a lot in my closet.  But it’s so hard to even discern the pattern there’s so much going on.

     My bad first yarn choice:  Tightly spun 100% merino, it had no spring and was a bit harder on the hands to work with.  Also since I read my 5000 books, I was convinced I would want a bit of synthetic for strength, and held a polyarn meant for sergers double as I worked.  Also fine, but again added to being harder on the hands.  And super fun (not) to be working with doubled yarn on size 0’s for intricate cable work.  It was also a dark color, making it harder to see at night, which is when I typically get to sit down and knit.

Gauge

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Well worn booties out of worsted versus fingering gauge.  Even with all the fancy stitching they took less time because of gauge.

Pick a starter pattern with a bigger gauge.  Something dk or worsted weight would be fabulous.  If you’re just trying to figure out Judy’s Magic Cast On, or how to turn a heel, or whether you like working on double points or magic loop, you want a fast knit.  Getting through a pair quickly will help you get a feel for how you like to work socks.  If you have a yarn and a gauge that are larger than typical, it will make for a speedy test project.  You could also make a pair up for kids if you’d like to use regular small sock gauge, but a smaller test knit.

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Can you even count those stitches with the colors and the patterns and everything going on? Not a good first gauge project.

My bad gauge choice:  The gorgeous merino I picked knit up at a really small gauge, even for socks.  I was getting 9 stitches and 13 rows per inch on size 0’s.  I’m sure they’ll wear forever since it’s a nice dense fabric, but it meant that my work was sooooooo sloooooow going, I wasn’t seeing progress quickly.  And when I don’t see progress, I tend to put projects aside. I timed myself while finishing them recently, and it took me 7 minutes to knit a single row.  Which means it took 91 minutes to make an inch.  Multiplied by the length of my foot and the length of the sock leg, I’m estimating about 40 hours of solid knitting time.  Not counting silly things like bathroom breaks, sipping on my wine in between rows, watching that scene in Mozart in the Jungle that you can’t possibly keep knitting during.  Just SOLID KNITTING.

Pattern

Pick an easy pattern.  Maybe just plain old stockinette and try out a toe, heel, and cuff variation that intrigues you.  But something easy.  Again, you want to whip through this pair just to even see if socks are your thing.  Because they might not be, and then at least you won’t have Single Sock Syndrome taunting you from a project bag in the back of a closet.  I’m in love with Lucy Neatby’s books for this, which have so many options you can just pick techniques for parts that intrigue you and come up with your own sock.

Cable versus stockinette
I’ll give you one guess which sock took 20 hours and which sock took 4.

My bad pattern choice:  I picked something pretty that I’d want to wear as socks.  Yes, please laugh with me.  Knitters know that “things I’d love to wear” and “things I’d love to knit” don’t always go hand in hand.  For the love of socks, just pick something easy to knit and get through.  Not a 36 stitch wide, 20 row repeat cable chart that you can never memorize and have to keep a placeholder on, so the possibility of knitting when you’re not completely in the zone is out the window.  I was never able to knit these complicated things around my kids, or even just do a row when I had a spare moment during the day.  And at night when I’d take them out, it was so hard to see with the dark yarn and all the cables and the size 0 needles…..

All the other knitting stuffs

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Working a tubular cast on utilizing a provisional yarn, on double points.

You may have a preference for what kind of needles you like, and you may not.  Your preference with socks might be different than other projects.  You may want bamboo needles so everything stays put while you learn a new technique, or you may want metal so you can work the stitches with lightning speed.  You may like double points.  You may like working on two small circulars.  You may like magic loop.  The thing with all these choices though is there isn’t really a “best” for your first rodeo, it’s just what you like.  And it’s completely okay to switch if whatever you’ve started with isn’t jelling.  I started my socks from hell on double points, and then realized that my doubled yarn, four needles, a working needle, and a cable needle was ridiculous to ask of my hands.  So I tried double circs and ended up liking magic loop best.  As long as you stay same gauge, it’s fine to switch up your instruments.

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My personal preference at the moment:  knitting two at a time, using magic loop, each sock on a different circular needle.  I’m still too chicken to put them on the same needle.

And as far as sizing goes, here’s what I’ve distilled from umpteen books and websites:  knit a circumference about 10% smaller than your foot.  Unless you’re using yarn with elastic, like Cascade Fixation or Soxx Appeal, and then make them even smaller.  You want the yarn to stretch and hug your feet.  Knit the length of the socks a tad shorter than your foot for the same reason, but because knitting stretches less lengthwise than around, somewhere around half an inch shorter will do.  Most patterns are written assuming your ankle and your instep circumference are the same; if they’re not, just add or subtract stitches as needed.

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My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad sock choices; finally finished.  Rio de la Plata yarn, pattern by Melissa Morgan-Oakes.

The funny thing is that I actually put my socks of death to the side and whipped out several pairs for my kids over the years, just knowing how speedy they would be.  And being able to work on such small things helped me see that sock knitting isn’t inherently evil, just my combination of choices was.  I found my favorite elastic cast off (Russian bind off 4evah), that I like knitting toe up best for yarn usage, test how several different yarns wash and wear over time, and all with the added bonus of having wool socks on my kids in frigid winters when wool socks for kids are hard to come by commercially.  I started 2017 wanting to finish all my outstanding UFO’s before starting new things, and made myself dig out my old unfinished socks.  And you know what?  They were so much fun to finish, I’ve made two pairs for myself since.  With much better choices.  One even had a charted pattern, and I promised myself I’d knit only on those, one repeat a day, until they were finished.  And without letting myself cheat, I did it!  I’m almost sad that I’m going to force myself to get back to the sewing room and finish all my stitching WIPs before casting on more socks, there are just so many more pretty yarns and patterns to test.  Until then, sock on, friends.

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Heart to heart socks in Knitpicks Stroll Tonal, pattern by Wendy Johnson.

Love from Wisconsin with my toasty warm feet,

Rebekah

 

Short row sleeves, featuring the Cissi Swing Coat

I did it!  I finished something!  I’ve been plodding along on so many different projects lately, I decided I MUST start finishing my UFO’s before they start taking over my house.  I did knock out a few things for Christmas, which made me hit the pause button on my WIPs.  But back in the game, baby.

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In my last post about finishing your knitting, I neglected to talk about setting sleeve caps.  Mainly because I was being an uber procrastinator about sewing and photographing them on a few sweaters I have going.  But also because I used a technique on this new swing coat for Miss Cakes that I felt deserved more attention.

I took a short row shaping class with Lily Chin a million years ago, and found my notes recently.  While I’ve been using the technique of short rows in my knitting whenever a pattern indicates, I haven’t taken advantage of all the ways they could help finesse patterns that don’t specify to use them.  If you’re not familiar, short rows are simply that:  rows in your knitting where instead of working all the way across, you stop at a certain point, turn your work around using a wrapped stitch to close up the inevitable gap, and keep knitting.  It’s done to add shaping or length to your knitting, almost in the opposite way a dart works in sewing by taking away fabric.  In the case of knitting, it makes a certain section longer.  Which is useful for all kinds of things as you’d imagine- heels in socks, lengthening the center back in a pair of soakers or longies, the upper back neck on a sweater, or even to add bust shaping.

shortrows

Graphic courtesy of Interweave, and explained in depth here.

At the end of the class, she encouraged us to brainstorm all the ways that short rows could help us accomplish more elegant finishing in our knitting.  When you work a short row, you eventually do knit a row all the way across again, which turns into a nice smooth rounded edge.  By doing this, you can create perfect curves that would help in your finishing anywhere a smooth edge is more desirable than the stair step casting off 2,3,4 stitches at a time. Areas like mitten tops, sock toes, or what I used them for today, sleeve caps.

Now I absolutely adore every pattern in the book Wonderland by MillaMia.  I’m sure I’ll eventually knit at least half of it, which is a lot to say for such a long book.  The designs are fresh and modern, easy enough to knit, but with a nod to the designers’ Scandinavian heritage.  When I started delving into the patterns however, I noticed that they don’t take advantage of techniques that would make their garments as fun to make as they are cute to wear.  So many seams could be eliminated, shaping done differently.

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Blocking:  on top the cap as written, and on the bottom a short row cap.

I didn’t make a plan when I cast on the Cissi Swing Coat, I just impatiently cast on one day in fall when I wanted something new.  I would have knit the body all as one instead of a two fronts and a back.  I would have knit the sleeves in the round instead of flat.  But c’est la vie.  When I finished the first sleeve cap, I noticed the ragged edge their shaping left me to work with, and I decided to knit the second using short rows instead.  I started the shaping a row earlier, as you have to with short rows, since you end up with the extra finishing row at the end going across the top.  And seriously.  Do you see that perfectly curved line?  Game changer.

setting-up-sleeves

So for those dying to know, here’s how I sew in sleeves.  I start by sectioning off all areas of different shaping:  1.  Across the underarm, where there is a 1:1 ratio, 2. Initial shaping, which is usually mirrored on the sleeve and the body of the garment, and 3. The upper edge of the cap, which is usually a flat cast off edge on the sleeve piece and straight on the body pieces, where the ratio may be closer to 2:1 due to the different directions of knitting being joined.

  1.  I start at the underarm, and work a faux graft stitch.underarm-sewing
  2. At the initial shaping, which in this pattern is a single decrease every other row, I use a mattress stitch and work mostly 1:1, taking an extra bar or two to make the pieces fit.armscye-sewing
  3. Along the upper edge, I do a combo.  It functions as a graft from the top of the sleeve, coming from the centers of the V’s at the top of the stitches, but picks up the bars between the rows along the body pieces.  Here I pin to make sure the pieces are the same length, aligning the center to the shoulder seam, and take up however many stitches as needed to make it work.  In this case, I alternated between 2 and 1 body stitches per 1 stitch on the sleeve cap.sleeve-cap-sewing

The short row cap set in so much easier, and makes such a smoother finished line.  I can’t imagine I’ll go back to the old way of knitting caps again.  Short row sleeve on the right below.

I’ve been wanting to knit this for Miss Cakes for a few years now, and I’m so glad I waited until she was a bit bigger.  Even though it meant searching for an extra skein on the Buy Sell Trade pages of Ravelry, since this dye lot of Cascade 200 Heathers had been discontinued since I bought the first three skeins.  At this size, it’s something she can wear for a few years and a garment she’ll get a lot of use out of.

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It turned out soooo cute.  I debated about knitting the scarf versus a more traditional collar, which would have made it a bit more versatile, but it was such a sweet detail I went ahead with it.  And as a bonus, now I know she has a scarf that will get used and that can’t get lost.  😉

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Pewter buttons, sourced from our amazing local yarn store The Sow’s Ear.

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I also love the non traditional ribbing on all the borders.  It doesn’t pull in as usually K2P2 ribbing does, but you wouldn’t want it to in a swing shape.

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Finished just in time to keep her warm and cozy for the rest of our already subzero winter.  One of these days, I’ll make something for myself again.  Really.  I will.

Stay warm out there!  Love from Wisconsin,

Rebekah

Finishing your knitting

Anyone else struggling to finish all their handmade gifts for the holidays? No? Just me?  I have serious project commitment problems this time of year.  I keep thinking of things that one person or another would like, and I pull out all the yarn and fabric and patterns that I own and lay it everywhere brainstorming until I don’t have any room left to actually work.  And then when I finally do start picking up projects, I end up in the middle of too many to finish.  Fleece jammies cut out but in need of a zipper, flannel pajamas pinned to paper, a holiday skirt for Miss Cakes that just needs buttons,  a dress stalled out at neckline binding conundrums, knitting that needs blocking and finishing work, and more yarn in bags designated for projects I’m not even going to get to cast on.  Sound familiar?

Here’s a question for the ages: I love sewing. I love knitting. So why in the world do I hate sewing up my knitting with a fiery passion? It’s something I have to psyche myself up to do. Get a good cup of coffee, no distractions, take the kids, I’m gonna be here for awhile kind of situation. I think for me, the enjoyable part of knitting is the actual knitting. And when that’s done, I want my project done too. (I should really only knit seamless things, I know.) For those staring down a pile of knitting to finish, this one’s for you.

Invisible horizontal seaming

Whenever possible, I use this technique for horizontal seams. I looked in every stitch dictionary I own and on the interwebs, and I cannot find an actual name for it, but it appears that a lot of other people love it too.  I just like how it looks better than sewing a seam with a backstitch, overcast stitch, or other traditional sewing stitch.  Plus it has the added benefit of being slightly stretchy along with your knitting. It’s kind of like doing Kitchner stitch, without the scary prospect of live stitches.

invisible-horizontal-seam
Note, pictures don’t match the numbered instructions frame by frame.  I didn’t write and photo at the same time to make sure I was doing it properly, sorry!
  1. Bring your needle and yarn up through a stitch in your lower piece of knitting.
  2. Going left to right, or right to left (the same direction as your seam is going), take your needle around the base of the stitch in your upper piece of knitting.
  3.  Go back down into the same location in your lower piece of knitting.
  4. Come up in the middle of the next stitch in your lower piece.
  5. Repeat until done.
  6. Go back and tighten up the stitches with your needle until they match the same gauge as your knitting.

Now for horizontal seaming, you do always have the option of a 3-needle bind off, but I rarely find an actual use for this.  Only when making a tube of a Dale of Norway sweater did I have straight shoulder seams where it applied.

Mattress Stitch

I love this for vertical seams.  It’s pure magic.  It makes your work look seamless if you do it right.  I like to leave a tail long enough when I cast on so that when I get to the side seam in a sweater or sleeve, back seam in a hat, or whatever your seam, I can just thread my needle and go without attaching a new piece of yarn.  More secure and less weaving in later, which you already know I hate too.

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I took process shots in a ribbed section of this sweater, but you can easily do this in any stitch pattern as long as you keep track of picking up ladders from the same adjoining rows.
  1.  Looking at your pieces with the right sides up, bring your needle and yarn to the right side of the fabric.
  2. Pick the channel you’re going to sew in, whether it’s half a stitch, a full stitch, or more inside from the edge.  Locate the horizontal strands of yarn, sometimes called bars or ladders, that you see on the backside of the work between the front side stitches- these are what we’ll use to sew the pieces together.
  3. Take your needle to the opposite piece and pick up one of the ladders in the same direction you’re working (if you’re going from the bottom to the top of a piece, pick up the ladder from the bottom to the top, as in a running stitch in sewing).
  4. Going back to the original piece, pick up the corresponding ladder from the same stitches.
  5. Continue going back and forth.  Leave the stitch thread loose as you work.  Every inch or two inches or so, go back and tighten up the stitches.  When you get to the top, weave in ends to finish.
mattress-stitch-in-stockinette
In stockinette.

A note of caution:  When I tighten my stitching, I never pull from the needle thread, but go in with my needle and pull only on the stitch itself.  If you pull from the working yarn you risk overtightening and stressing the yarn, which can snap your yarn (and give you a headache as you now need to weave that in and join in a new working yarn).  It can also make the stitching yarn way too tight for wear in the garment.  I always snug up only a few stitches and then give the seam a tug, which puts a bit of slack back into the seam and mimics the amount of stretch you’ll want there for movement while wearing.

Weaving in your ends

I made a quick reference to this in the post I wrote about mending knits, but I really just snake up and down along a line of bumps on the back side of stockinette.

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While this shows joining in a new yarn, the top panels show how I go up and down in the backs of the stitches to invisibly weave in and lock your ends.

For areas like ribbing, I tend to make an overcast loop around a side of the V stitch, changing direction once or twice to help the yarn from pulling out in case the yarn is ever caught and pulled.

vertical-overcast-weaving-in
Can you spot the ribs that were woven into?  I love this method of hiding your cast on yarn, as it becomes almost invisible if you ever flip up your brims.

Occasionally the yarn is slippy or just feels like it needs a bit of extra reinforcement, and then I’ll actually thread my yarn through a sharp needle and splice the knitting yarns at an angle.  I remember gasping in horror when I first saw Elizabeth Zimmerman doing this in one of her old PBS episodes.  But if EZ does it, that’s enough for me to consider it acceptable technique.

splicing-stitches
In the case of this superwash yarn, I wanted to give it all the insurance I could.  I wove back and forth in the bumps before splicing as well.  I left all tails going up to the top of the hat so nothing would sneak down and out when worn.

And in some cases, you just go for it all.  This fair isle hat changed color so frequently, I wove the ends up or down as needed at the round join to help the row even out from the outside.  Then I went back and forth and spliced the backs sometimes where there was just so much yarn already, I didn’t have the space!

Vertical to horizontal seams

This is where what you’re doing will play a part in which stitch to use.  I’m working on finishing the Kim Hargreaves sweater I started last fall, and in attaching the mohair ruffles in vertical rows to my sweater, I chose an overcast stitch.  I pinned both ends in place and since I couldn’t go with any particular rate of stitch to stitch, I just made sure it seemed evenly distributed before I started and continued that way.  I would stitch from back to front in the middle of a V stitch in the ruffle, and then pick up a ladder or a few from the sweater.  Repeat until done.  And then weave in the bajillion ends since it had contrast yarn too.

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Sleeves have a special place in hell for me, which is why I’m still staring at these.  They take a combination of all of the above techniques, changing from one to one horizontal seaming at the top and bottom, some faux-kitchner as you change to a vertical to horizontal, and the rate at which you grab stitches changes with the angle.  I get the best results if I pin before I start in a couple places, marking off the areas top and bottom I want to have a one to one stitch ratio.  And then just go for it!

unsewn-sleeves

I’m really excited to finish up the sleeves on the new sweater for Miss Cakes featured in most of this post, as she hasn’t had a new sweater in a couple years.  Maybe in time for Christmas.  😉  Til then, tackle your knits!  Finish those UFO’s!  You can do it! (Can you hear me saying this just as much to psyche myself up?  I hope that works.)

Happy holidays!  I wish you all get some good craft time in between visiting loved ones and endless cookie baking and eating.  Show me what you’ve got going on over on the Facebook page!

Stay warm out there!  Love from the frozen tundra that is Wisconsin,

Rebekah

 

 

A hat, a top, and a Dress(ember)

I’m sorry for the long pause that was November on the blog.  Truth is, I’ve been knitting lately. A lot. Call it therapy for all the election madness, or just soothing to curl up with now that winter is finally upon us. Or to be blunt, Gumball has decided naps are for suckers, and any parent knows that means that your daytime free time is gone for good. (Can I cry about that? Just a little?) While I can’t yet trust him to be loose while I sew, I can bring a ball of yarn and my needles to the backyard while he and Miss Cakes run through leaf piles.

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Knitting takes so.much.more.time than sewing a garment though. And while I’ve been snuggling four rotating projects under a blanket watching the Gilmore Girls revival, I just haven’t actually finished much.  I did make this cute hat for Gumball, pattern testing the new child size of the Dunloe hat pattern for Knit Knight Designs. It was a much needed item in his cold weather wardrobe, and as a bonus used up two skeins of Dale of Norway Baby Ull I’ve had sitting in my stash for awhile.

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It’s a lovely knit, with lots of stockinette to allow you to mindlessly speed through and focus on Rory and Lorelai’s antics instead of a complicated stitch chart. I love that the cable is written in both a chart and written instructions, so you can choose to follow your preferred method of pattern reading. And lots of places to mod more slouch, width, whatever you need to make it your own. Well written and fun? Yes please.


I did encounter some hijinks with my yarn; namely I suspect a moth problem. ***Scream at will here.*** There were tons of splits in the yarn, and after winding past the first three to begin, I just decided to start and reinforce any bad spots. There were 12 more to come.


Here’s what I did: when approaching a thin section where only a ply or two was broken, I’d use some of the yarn I unwound and cut off at the beginning, and knit both strands together for a few stitches on either side. Then cut off the second yarn, and continued on. I went back at the end and darned them all in. (I would have spit spliced if it wasn’t superwash.)


In any areas where the yarn was completely or almost broken, I tied a knot leaving long tails, and kept knitting on. When finished, I went back, untied the knots, and wove the ends in properly. SO MUCH WEAVING IN.

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Lots more work than a usual knit, but the yarn and the project were a perfect match. And who doesn’t love using up stash yarn? Now let’s hope he just keeps the darn thing on his head.


I also just whipped out this new top, Vogue pattern 9128 with next to no mods. I’d been itching to get this pattern for awhile, as it has good waist definition, a bit of playfulness in a mini peplum, but is still a comfy jersey T. Perfect for momming around town without feeling shlubby.

Cutting layout, a bit rearranged as usual to cut out in less yardage.

I had cotton-spandex jersey from a run to Vogue Fabrics in Evanston in October.  It’s the perfect balance of sturdy and drapey, and yet has good stretch and recovery thanks to the spandex. I did my typical measuring to double check all seams were where I wanted them, and it was super close to perfect. Narrowed in the wrists, cut two sizes down from what the pattern says my size should be to get to zero ease (how I like to wear my knits), and cut away.


I zig zagged first, checked fit, and went back to serge off excess, as I did with the peplum top. This needed no alterations though, and was so fast even my first time through, I’m definitely making more.

Topstitching done at a 3.0 stitch length to allow for slight stretch.

I went back in the morning and added top stitching around the neck edge and the curved seams to keep the seam allowance in place. I left the hem raw again, but I can see it wants to curl so I may go back after a wash and assess then if I want to turn under 1/4″.

I’m so happy with how it turned out, I’m planning on trying some with colorblocking and different knits for the side and back panels. It’ll have to wait for a month though, because….

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It’s Dressember! If you haven’t heard about it, Dressember is a movement to raise awareness and funds to help end modern day slavery, worldwide trafficking, and the exploitation of women. Every day for the month of December, I pledge to wear a dress. In Wisconsin. In the winter. And in doing so, I hope to bring about change in my own small way by helping to finance rescue missions for those stuck in dire circumstances.  I was so moved after watching the founder Blythe Hill’s TED Talk, I knew I had to participate.  #dressember, #itsbiggerthanadress, and #youcandoanythinginadress is all about how what is seemingly a silly sartorial challenge can help bring about change.  I hope you’ll consider donating to my team here, or wearing a dress for a day or two yourself. And when your friends and family ask why you’re wearing a dress, you can say you’re helping change the world, one step at a time.

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Happy December! If you need me, I’ll be huddled under a blanket in my wool tights trying to finish up one more of these sweaters…

Love from Wisconsin,

Rebekah

 

If one is good, two is better. 

If you live in the upper midwest, I’m sure you know what happened this week. Hint: It got cold. One day we were at the pumpkin patch sweating in long sleeves, and the next day we were at the park with friends and my head was screaming “WHEN DID IT GET SO FREEZING COLD AND WHY DIDN’T I PACK GLOVES?!” I came home to put the button placket on my polka dot dress, and it suddenly looked less like The Dress I Can Layer With Tights, and more like The Dress That Will Give Me Pneumonia. Such is fall in Wisconsin. I’ll see you in spring, sweet thing, when I feel like wearing a sleeveless flimsy lawn slip again.

My mind has already been wrapped around LONG SLEEVES for a few weeks now. And how I own very few items that aren’t full of holes, pilled to the point of embarrassment, over six years old (hi there, pre-kids clothes!), or maternity items still loitering in my drawer. Time for a clean out and a redesign.  And when you need clothes in bulk, why not make multiples of the same pattern?  It’s so much faster to make a second, or a third, because the pattern is already proofed and fitted. You’ve figured out how you want to stitch your seams, and the best order to do so. Making a multiple usually takes half the time, and keeps going down with practice.

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My first tops of the season were inspired by a little thing called Lularoe. A lot of you have probably seen this brand making the rounds as cute stretchy pieces billed as easy to wear and figure flattering.  You know by now what a sucker I am for a novelty print, extra points for holiday themes. I’m not even a person that wears leggings to sleep in, but I suddenly felt like I NEEDED Halloween leggings. And then realized after I bought two pairs that I gave away all my tunic tops, and I was up a s!%* creek when it came to styling these with anything.


I had McCalls pattern 7021 from last summer, which I’d passed over when I made my scuba peplum top in favor of a pattern with more shaping. This seemed like a great pattern for a drapey rayon/spandex jersey, and would work well for some *ahem* backside coverage in a tunic length. I like my tops to be slightly more fitted, with a waistline emphasis, and not too much volume.  Made up almost as a mini dress, this seemed to be the ticket.

The cut:  I sized down a size from my standard, because I like to utilize the negative ease in knits more than patterns generally account for.  I tissue fit the bodice pieces like in Make it Fit:  Bust points, and added a bit of length as it seemed too short.  I redrafted the neckline to be a scoop, following the line of one of my favorite T’s instead of the drafted boatneck.  I also lengthened the peplum for more coverage with leggings, and made it an even length figuring I could cut it off later if I wanted to shorten or do a high-low hem like the original.  With the changes, I barely squeaked it out of 2 yards, with a completely different layout than the pattern. The second sleeve piece had to be flipped the other direction and nested.

The first top:   I stitched everything initially with a zig zag to double check fit before taking it to the serger.  It didn’t have enough shaping, so I whittled down the waist and the sleeves.  I cut a neck band at 70% of the finished stitch line to finish the neck edge, which ended up being just a bit small for my liking but fine enough that I left it alone.  At first pass attaching the peplum, I realized the weight dragged the bodice down so far I’d need to cut off a lot of the excess length I’d added.  I tied a string around my waist, chalked off the adjustment, took it off, cut, and restitched.  One of my prepurchased peplum tops uses a clear elastic to stabilize the waist, which I tried to attach when I serged the seam.  It worked fine but was really scratchy, so I cut a binding and encased the finished seam.  I finished the sleeves with a zig zag hem, and left the peplum raw edge since it’s a circular piece that would surely curl up in the wash and never hang well after the initial wear. I’ve used this rayon/spandex jersey before and it washes fine left raw.

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Note the differences in waist construction; also all the stops and starts on the seams of the black (1st) versus the smooth lines on the purple (2nd).

The second top:  I immediately cut into the purple the next day, marking all changes onto the pattern pieces, and just going for it. No zigzag, just straight through my serger. The only seam I zigged on my sewing machine was the waist.  I wanted a different finish, so I made a casing between two rows of stitching, and serged the seam allowance shut after inserting the elastic. Less bulky, softer, and less steps.  The benefit of making two back to back literally cut my time on the second shirt in half.  It made up in a little more than an hour, and after midnight when your eyes are already starting to close but you just wanna push through. This is the true bonus of duplicates, they’re just automatic and you don’t even need to think.

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And look how cute they are!! Not my typical style for sure, but I think it ended up being a more flattering shape than most oversized tunic tops.  They’re so comfy, I may need to make one up as a full dress length.

Well, I really am my daughter’s mother.  Twirls just run in the family when you’re wearing a full skirt.

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I have to say, these are some of the coziest outfits I’ve worn in awhile.  Perfect for these rainy cold days when you just wanna snuggle up on the couch and knit, or have to go out but want to stay in clothes as comfortable as your pajamas.  Please pray no one calls me out on still wearing them through November.  Shhhhhh.

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Miss Cakes instigated this leaf fight.  I swear.

Happy Halloween from Wisco!  Stay warm out there!

Rebekah

Make it fit: Bust points 

Whenever I make a new dress or anything that covers my top half, I start with the bust. It can make or break how everything else fits with the plethora of things that can go wrong: too high, too low, too small, too big, not enough shape… You know. You’ve tried on things that have been so far wrong and put them back on the rack. Not today, my friends. Conquer your bust fitting fears once and for all.


I started cutting into Butterick 6333 to make a late summer dress (which has taken so long that it’s fall already) and thought it would be a perfect learning project. It has a classic lengthwise princess seam, the term for when you have a seam that runs from the shoulder down over the bust to the waist. These are my favorite for making fitting adjustments because there are no limitations of what you can do with this placement, as opposed to a princess seam that starts at the armhole.

Doesn’t she look happy about her perfectly fit bodice?

I laid out a lot of measuring basics in Make it Fit: Knitwear, and we’ll be needing a lot of those to make our changes. Here’s a handy diagram from my favorite drafting textbook Patternmaking for Fashion Design that shows all the directions in which you can utilize the bust point for shaping (which, P.S., is basically anywhere).

From Helen Joseph Armstrong’s book, Patternmaking for Fashion Design.


You can put a seam wherever you dream up when you have the bust point in the correct spot. All you’re doing is working around it and taking away the excess fabric to make the rest of the garment fit.


Longitude matters as much as latitude in this case. I always start with distance from center, since the center front line is pretty clearly marked on all patterns. This is where you use your tip to tip measurement and divide in half. I’m almost always narrower here than the pattern is marked, so I want to move my dot in and mark with a pencil. My lovely form is modeling a measurement of 6.75″, so I would mark placement for her at 3.38″ from the center line.


Next is distance from shoulder to point. For this pattern, I’d suggest measuring from your mid shoulder so you can follow the seam line of the pattern. Start your tape measure where a shoulder seam would sit, and measure down. Do the same on the pattern. (Just remembering to take out the seam allowance at the edges.) If you’re much longer or shorter than the pattern, draw a horizontal line again in pencil to indicate where you fall. It may mean the entire top needs to be lengthened or shortened, or just that your point needs to be lowered; we don’t know which yet. My form is just shy of 9″ in length to the bust point.


The last measurement is your point to waist. Tie a string or ribbon around your natural waist and measure on yourself and again on your pattern and compare. This is the one shorter women often find needs adjusting, and the pattern companies put some lines there to help with that. Keep in mind where you think you might need to go with this and whether you need to shorten the whole pattern, in which case you can fold along the lines and make a horizontal pleat as deep as you need. My form here is 7.5″, and I’m not quite 6″ myself. If I need to shorten up the length of a pattern, I almost always do it here.


Before I do any line adjusting though, I always spot check the side length and the shoulder seam. (Side note: you’ll never have your side length all the way up to the plate in a form or the hollow of your underarm, it would be way too tight for movement. This is why trying on is essential to see where you prefer it to sit on you comfortably.)  This is important to check, because if you shorten the entire bodice in the wrong spot you’ve only created a different problem by setting the armscye in the wrong place.  Tissue fitting can help if you’re unsure here.  You can pin the seam together to try on the front:  Draw the seam allowance around all outside edges, and try it on over a tightly fitting shirt like a camisole so you have something to pin into. Start at the center front line, place the shoulder in the correct spot, and put in a pin or two to hold in place.

I pinned on the front placket piece since it has the center line, which I then lined up with my hollow and belly button to center.

This is where you can get creative with how you want to account for the adjustments needed. Was it too long from the shoulder to the point? Double check that the underarm is ending in a place you like before you adjust the bust. If the underarm is too low, that’s a sign that the adjustment needs to be made at the shoulder seam. Raise your pattern on your body and reassess. Is the waist seam too high or too low? Change that now too. Does the seam fall over the point or is it too closely spaced or too wide? Did your marks reflect this? If so you can feel confident moving the point (and with it the seam) to whatever location you need. With this adjustment, make sure to change all pieces involved the same amount.

See how the plus sign lays right on the bust point, and the waist line sits right at the indent? This is perfect placement folks.

This is also a time you can note anything that sticks out to you- if your shoulder line is more square or more sloped than the angle of the pattern, if the waistline doesn’t seem to follow your waistline and you want to draw in a new one, or if you need more or less bust shaping to account for your cup size. Always cut the pattern made for your bust measurement (with added ease), because you can adjust how much fabric is doing the shaping around it with your darts or seams. Take a look now and see if you need more or less shaping and pin it out or draw it on.

 

Take off your paper pattern after making your marks. If you have anything that would transfer to the back, continue those lines to those pieces. For now, true up all your lines- make everything look smooth and transfer to a new paper if it’s starting to look confusing. Repeat with the back pieces if you’d like to fine tune the back as well.

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An example of an original pattern piece, the muslin fitting, and a new pattern draft to reflect the changes.  So much was done here, it would have been confusing to mark on the original piece.

Once you have your pattern adjusted, we can cut. But not into the real fabric yet. Next make a mock up to test the pattern out of that cheap fabric I told you to go out and get. I just use muslin because it’s cheap and sturdy so nothing will slip slide out of place, but gingham is sometimes nice to help you see the lines for adjusting. Then you can assemble your basic seams and move around in it a bit to test not just placement, but also wearing ease and make sure it’ll be comfortable for you to wear.

Confession time: This pattern fit me really well. Like a full on Cinderella glass slipper situation. I could tell from just fitting the tissue that any alterations I would make while sewing would be minor, and I could fit them in the actual dress. So I cut straight into my real fabric. *Gasp!* I only wish this happened more often! And of course it happens the one time I was hoping for a really crappy fit so I would have a ton of pictures to show you how to move things around. Le sigh. 

The point though friends, no pun intended, is to measure twice, cut once.  Measure flat, measure on the body, and mock up before you go to your fashion fabric.  Once you figure out what adjustments to make for your body, you’ll have a better idea what to keep an eye out for on your next project.  Keep a lookout here for the finished dress coming up, and please show me what you’re working on fitting in the comments or on the Facebook page!  Don’t fear the bust, people.

Love from Wisco,

Rebekah

Lightening fast sewing, featuring the Oliver + S Apple Picking Dress

Sometimes you just have to whip something out fast. I mean, FAST. like in an hour before Easter brunch and you have no clean pants but fabric and a basic pattern. This year’s picture day was my Three Amigos moment, sewing like the wind.

It started with the flyer that came home in the  backpack on Friday, announcing Monday picture day. Ran to the closet, assessed that I didn’t have tights that fit or shoes that aren’t scuffed and no time to order good ones. Target run it is. Then the clothes. So here’s the thing: it’s not like Miss Cakes doesn’t have perfectly acceptable options in her closet for photos. But SCHOOL PICTURES. The ones that line your staircase for the next 20 years that your prom date sees. The ones where you wish your mom had saved that heart sweater so you could put it on your own kid. Those clothes are remembered more than even some of your long forgotten favorites because they are immortalized FOREVER. So do you want to send your kid in the cutest thing that’s clean, or do you want them to remember the special things you took the time to make for them? Yeah, I thought so.

Luckily I have an understanding husband who took over Saturday’s fancy schmancy breakfast cooking so I could cut on the kitchen table. I had bought this adorable fabric from Cotton + Steel’s Boo! collection at the Quilt Expo a few weeks ago, intending to make the Oliver + S Apple Picking Dress, and had already pre-washed and pressed it.


SPEED SEWING TIP 1: Only moderately care about pattern placement. As much as I’m usually such a stickler, when you need to cut fast, just pick a couple things and don’t obsess. I made sure the pattern would run around the body with fronts and backs on the same placement, decided the center fold was cute enough, and just cut. Didn’t even check sleeves, because it’s just an allover and the pattern wouldn’t stand out terribly. Done.

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How cute is this selvedge?!

SPEED SEWING TIP 2: Ignore the instructions. Scan them through once quickly, get the gist of where you’re going, and then put them down. Sew literally every seam you can until you have to get up and move to the iron or get a scissor. Also chain piece, feeding everything back to back, saving thread. Skirts, side seams, sleeve seams, the bias tie, any circumference seam, JUST KEEP GOING. 


SPEED SEWING TIP 3: Try to avoid a trip to the store. I didn’t have matching sewing thread OR serger thread, and it was faster to French seam everything rather than run to the store and spend time and money on new thread. Picked a cute contrasting lavender and called it a “design choice.” 

SPEED SEWING TIP 4: Minimal fittings. Avoid completely if you can. I took a nape to knee measurement on Miss Cakes, and guesstimated on hem length and just went for it. I assumed that since Oliver + S patterns are usually a little big and boxy on her, none of the circumference fits would be too small or terribly off. I only popped it on her once, to check the sleeve band would truly fit over her hand, and to double check hem. Otherwise, just sew, sew, sew. 

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And that’s all folks! Admission: I did have to run to the store Sunday morning to get buttons. The only buttons I had in quantity were silk white bridal buttons, and they just weren’t what I wanted. Love the bronze metal I found.

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Also whipped out a matching headband with a wool felt bow to match her boots.  I wanted to do a wool applique barrette or a headband piece similar to the candies on the fabric, but as this was FAST SEWING, a bow sufficed.

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OMG, please let her smile be this cute for the actual pictures.

The insides: French seams for most of the garment, and the two seams I serged (the skirt to bodice seam, and the armscyes).

And dancing, as she does so well.  Especially in piles of leaves.  Have I mentioned yet in this post how happy I am about fall?  Because FALL.

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Happy picture day to all those with littles in school!  And a happy fall to everyone!

Love from Wisco,

Rebekah

Learn to sew. Love your body. 

First off, sorry if a few of you got the one liner last week in your inboxes- that’ll teach me to try to input ideas into WordPress while feeding the kids lunch. This is something that’s been swirling in my head for awhile now. Today I want to talk about a topic really important to me; related sewing posts to follow in the upcoming weeks.

I’m not sure when or where or how women started feeling bad about their bodies.  It’s nothing I was taught, just here and there in the form of an innocent comment about someone’s thighs or someone’s “fleshiness” can be enough to make you think, Are people saying those things about me? What do my thighs look like? How do I compare to other people’s thighs? I won’t go into all the headlines and stories in young girls magazines either about being thin and pretty and popular versus boys magazines teaching them to explore and aim for the stars and find their passion. The articles circulating last week about Girls’ Life magazine did a pretty stellar job of that.


But I will tell you about myself. How when I was a teenager I’d cover up my upper hips with my hands and imagine my waist extended longer at its thinnest part. The time my cheerleading coach innocently asked if I was “under a buck five” to see if I was light enough to be a flyer.   Even then at the smallest I’ve been as a post-pubescent, clothes did not fit me off the rack well. I was compact but curvy. I was small but not straight. If I tried to buy at the upper end of the kids sizes, they didn’t have nearly the width for my legs and hips. And if I bought in the women’s or the juniors section, the clothes stood inches taller off my shoulders and skirts fell way too long. And bell bottom jeans started flaring back out in my calves instead of at my knees like they did on other girls.

So I started sewing for myself. I had sewn for my dolls for years, and just scaled up what I knew. I learned how my body translated to pattern paper and what fabrics suited which projects. I had some misses as I learned which styles just don’t work on my figure (looking at you, bias slip dresses), and some surprising wins as I tried new silhouettes in college as a theatre major wearing all eras of clothing. But I’d still have to confront the tape measure every time I took a pair of scissors to fabric and wish I could go down a pattern size here or an inch there.

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One thing nobody talks about is how literally no one else knows your numbers. No one cares what you weigh, what your waist measures after you had kids (or if you don’t have kids for that matter), what label is sewn into your garment, what size you picked on the pattern tissue. That’s for your eyes only. What people see is you. They see your confidence in yourself. They see your personality, in your energy, your colors, your style, how you carry yourself. Making your own clothes (or even altering them to fit your body and your tastes) helps project who you really are to the world.  I started sewing when I couldn’t afford what I liked in the stores, but I kept on sewing when I realized I could make things that were the way I saw myself in my head. I could live my dream life in pink plaid silk cocktail dresses, or an updated version of Vera Ellen’s “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” dress to the prom.  I could make a Moulin Rouge corset for Halloween or a new pair of pants for dance class in an hour when my old ones wore out. Formals, bras, blouses, pants- anything I saw in a magazine or a movie and wanted, I could make a version of for myself and design it to work with my life. (Just ask my English teacher about the day I gave a book report on Gone With the Wind and showed up in a hoop dress I’d made literally from Goodwill curtains.)

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Junior prom, only missing the million layers of chiffon when I ran out of time the day of the dance.

I’ve fit a wide range of bodies and sizes and shapes in my career, and virtually everyone is different. There is no “better,” we’re all just different. Taller, shorter, curvier, straighter, there is no perfect. I’ve fit women with a Marilyn figure who bemoan trying to find a button front shirt that doesn’t gape in the size that fits their waist, or make them look like a box in the size that fits their bust. I’ve fit women so slight they were literally too small for adult bridal gown sizes. Women so straight and narrow who buy push up bras to try to fill out the top in their bridesmaid dress. Women crying about the vast amount of fabric thrown into a plus size dress who don’t feel like they can even see the best parts of themselves. Literally everyone has fitting issues, and the only people who can buy off the rack is the fit model a company uses for their sizing. As some wise friends have said: Its not you, it’s the clothes. 

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Pattern changes made to this blouse:  change shoulder line angle, raise waistline shaping, raise hemline, adjust each bust seam differently per differences in fullness, nip in small of back, take in sides different amounts for different hip flare per side.

Sewing taught me about every inch of myself, how to love who I am, and how to flatter my shape. I now love my high hip for how it fills out a mid-century full skirt. I can cut my armscye a bit higher because I like it that way to allow for better movement. I cut my sleeves a hair wider to account for my bicep because I don’t have arms as lithe as “standard” for my size. I can draft dresses and blouses that fit me correctly in length and width where I still have problems finding fitted shirts off the rack.  When I try on clothes in stores I can look at them for the potential they have, instead of a reflection on whether I measure up to what the fashion industry deems “ideal” this season.

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Working at the Santa Fe Opera at 19, altering a vintage silk skirt to fit better.

I won’t say it’s easy to retrain your brain. After having kids, my measurements and my proportions are just different than they used to be. It takes a bit more acceptance when the standard you measure yourself against is your own. We grow. We change. And that’s okay and as it should be. Even if it takes you a second to reroute your thinking from “I used to be…” But sewing for myself has been one of my best weapons against that kind of detrimental thinking. It allows me to say, This is me. Today. Take it or leave it, but I love who I am.

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None of my dress forms are perfectly my size.  But this one best approximates my length.

So in this spirit, I’m going to focus on a lot of fit issues coming up. I’m going to be making different patterns and showing you how I alter them for myself, how I draft my own, and what you can change when you don’t like it. If there’s a garment you consistently can’t seem to find in the stores and want to wear, go pick up a similar pattern. Grab a fit textbook and figure out how to change the lines so they reflect what you need. Get some sheets at Goodwill to chop up for cheap test garments, or something that makes you smile from the clearance section of the fabric store. I’m currently working on Butterick 6333, a shirtwaist dress with a princess seamed bodice that’s a great pattern for learning your fitting quirks.  If you want to try it out, Butterick patterns will be on sale at Jo-Ann Fabrics, 3 for $5, September 22-25.  Play along with me and learn your figure. And by all means, love the journey and yourself for who you are.

Love from Wisco,

Rebekah

 

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