Monthly Archives: December 2018

The Whale Tale Dress

I write, briefly, in praise of Seamwork. I am sure you know about Seamwork, but just in case you don’t, Seamwork is the digital magazine created by Colette Patterns which releases patterns monthly as part of the magazine. The original idea was that these patterns be ones a sewer could stitch up in less than three hours, although I think that is no longer the case, given the fact that they have released some outerwear and trouser patterns! But I digress. The point is, over the years in which Seamwork has been a thing, they have released scores and scores of patterns, along with fascinating articles and ideas for pattern hacks, for an excruciatingly reasonable price. Sometimes I like the patterns, and sometimes I don’t, but that’s sort of the point, right? Releasing patterns all the time means that people have endless options, and that I can wait for the item that fits my style.

Of course, a psychologist/Don Draper might critisize me for my constant hunger for the new. Seamwork is the Instagram of pattern sources, always offering me something new, eager to present me with options rather than forcing me to evaluate what I already have. But as someone who likes to try new things, but also feels she has to get her money’s worth, I tend to make patterns over and over again, partially because I like them, I’m not insane, but partially because I feel like they need to earn their keep, and that can make my sewing a little, well, boring. New patterns stimulate and challenge me, and I like that I don’t have to feel that I wasted money on something I only made once, or that I have to make something work in multiple iterations if it just doesn’t. Does anyone else out there have this dilemma, that when you spend 20 dollars on a pattern you have to make it over and over again or you will feel guilty? Ah, guilt, my constant companion, welcome home.

And while they might not all be three-hour speed racers, they are all pretty simple, in their way, and yet I do learn from them, which I love. I am constantly impressed by the team at Seamwork for their designs and ideas, and this month was one of those times when I saw the new releases and almost sprained my finger trying to download them as quickly as possible. And then I taped, cut, traced, cut, and went to sewing, throwing everything else to the side, because I was extremely eager to wear Rachel.

The Rachel shirt (and bonus tunic/dress hack), is your straightforward button down, but the thing is, I’ve been looking for one of those! Isn’t it delightful when things come to you right as you decide you need them?

Of course, I have made the Grainline Archer many a time, but while I love it, I don’t know, the fit has never been 100% right. And yet I never tried another button down! I shop around for zucchini, I try three shops for cat food, but I never tried to make a different button down pattern. Maybe I am insane….

So I went ahead and cut two out! Which I maybe shouldn’t have done until I tested the fit but OH well…..A long sleeve shirt version is still on my sewing table, paused because of a weekend in Kolkata from which I have only just returned, ready to complete it, but I knocked out a short-sleeve version of the tunic/dress last week, and harassed What’s-his-face until he took my picture. So here you go, my first iteration of Rachel (can’t quite shake that “make multiple” thing yet) in a fabric I can only describe as magnificent, one in which I am as happy as a clam, as playful as a dolphin, as optimistic as an octopus, because it is covered in whales:

You see, when you wear fabric printed with animals, you can never be truly lonely, because you are never alone!

I adore adore adore this fabric, and I like the way this turned out, eventually, but I gotta say, there were some bumps on the road.

I wanted this to be a dress, rather than a tunic, but I have to say, the (absolutely gorgeous) model they used must have legs for days because I lengthened this a few inches and it was on the way to a maxi, then I cut it back to the original hem length and it’s still at my knees! That’s fine, makes it India appropriate, but jeez, way to make a girl feel short!

 

That’s okay, I can’t stay mad at this dress, look at the whales!

Thinking about my bust measurements alone, I cut a 14,  because I figured the rest would be big but that was fine. But when I tried this on, I was SWIMMING in it. Instead of the slim skirt I admired from the photo, I had a tent. Okay, I thought, this is on me, I wanted a roomy bust and got a roomy everything! But the bust ease was also a lot more than I had planned for, and I ended up taking in the sides over and over again in little degrees, trying to make this less of a tent while maintaining the ability to get into it, because the buttons only go to the waist, so I worried that I would reduce it to the point that I couldn’t, ya know, get into it.

I think I ended up taking out like, 8 inches on each side. Oy. Next time I will just cut a size 10 or 8, and grade out at the bust if I’m nervous. It’s still quite loose fitting, which is of course the design, but while my whales are happy swimming, I don’t want to be!

I kind of like the fact that there is no yoke, although I also love a yoke. Variety, it’s the spice of life!

Of course, I can always belt it, but it’s nice to have it be loose and airy in the Mumbai heat. I love to wear things like this at home when I’m writing, because it is comfortable but I don’t look like I was raised by wolves. That’s the sweet spot, right there.

You can see the waist seam here. The collar is a little smaller than the Archer, which I like. For the sleeves, I used the original sleeve pattern and just shortened it.

I’m so happy with my whales. And my shoes!

Aren’t they cool?

That about wraps up my Rachel. Do you guys like Seamwork? What is your pattern use philosophy?

Oh, and one last thing, if you, like I do, love the ocean, the many animals and plants that live in it, and want to protect, conserve, and help oceans, consider a little year-end donation to Oceana!

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Clothing, Colette Patterns, seamwork, Sewing

The Hanoi Blues Dress

Another day, another shirtdress, am I right? But there is something about this form that gets me every time, and that is why I have made so many incarnations of the shirtdress, from vintage to modern, and I think I have finally figured out what exactly that thing is that I love so much.

It’s pretty simple, really. Shirtdresses make me feel put together.

See, the thing about that phrase is, and I really believe that, it is something that women with curly hair rather hear in regards to themselves. Growing up, when talking to or about other women, I heard this phrase for some of them over and over again. My friend Presca, in college, who had and still has great style. My friend Betsy, who I studied abroad with, ditto. My friend Becca, also great style. But I have lots of friends with style! I mean, I don’t want to brag or anything, but, um, my friends are great. And they certainly know how to “put themselves together”. I mean, I hardly ever see one of them losing a tooth or a finger or something, ya know, falling apart at the seams. So what separates “put together” with not put together? I would admit that when I was younger, especially before I started sewing, I didn’t have a defined idea of my style. So I get that, up to a point. But in the years since I’ve been sewing, I have certainly found an aesthetic that I think works for me, and given that I, well, put it all together, it surely has some sense of cohesion, of being “together”, doesn’t it?

And yet, I have never heard that phrase directed at me. And I have to say, I think it’s the hair. I think there is an association with straight hair as smooth, cared for, styled, that there is a thought process behind it and therefore it is put together. It makes women look like they have tried. Well, first of all, women have tried in eight million directions outside of hair, people, so that’s something right there, and why do women have to try, at all, god knows it rarely seems like some men do, and then there are the cultural and racial implications of who has “straight” hair and who doesn’t and what that is supposed to mean about us, containing our curls across cultures. And then of course, there is the act of having curly hair at all, which, I can assure you, also takes maintenance, moisture, and money, so the idea that curls springing from one’s head means someone didn’t put the time in is just…all kinds of idiotic.

But whatever the world thinks about my hair, and, screw everyone who DOES feel some kind of way about my hair, by the way, whoever you are, a shirtdress does make me feel put together, no matter that no one has every told me that my thought process is reflected in their own. The coherency of the design, the crisp collar, the extension of the shirt into a skirt, it all works for me, it makes me feel purposeful, assembled, in line with myself. Which is, I believe, all put together should really mean. Regardless of this straight hair conspiracy.

I like to take my shirtdresses with me on the road, and this one accompanied me to Vietnam where I traveled with my friends Ben, Jill, and Travis, who indulged me in a photo shoot at this Buddhist temple.

The fabric is the star here, because it’s this lovely blue that actually shifts in tone, an ombre, hombre. When I saw it I knew I loved it, and I knew I wanted to make a dress that when from lighter blue around my shoulders to deeper blue around the hem. That meant I had to cut it on the crossgrain, and I’m okay with that.

I used McCalls 7351, once again, as the bodice, and added my usual two waist darts at 1.5 inches each on size 16 to get more waist definition. For the skirt, I simple draped it myself AKA it is just some big box pleats. Everything that can be french seamed is french seamed, and I have made this dress many a time, so to quote Bigmouth, NO NOTES!

I enjoyed this temple. First of all, it was pretty, and a fun place to take photos because it gave my friends places to photo bomb me from:

Where is Jill? It’s so mysterious, I have to look off in the distance.

Second of all, it included helpful advice for how to live your life well now to avoid unpleasant karmic consequences in reincarnation:

The use of the lower back tattoo as “too much cleavage” is magnificent.

Apparently becoming a mental illness means playing in a rock band in a mental institution which actually feels like a great movie idea, but what do I know.

It really was quite pretty, though:

And we found some great spots for me to poise against, which is of course the only reason to see anything, right?

So there you go. Don’t I look put together?

 

Well, frankly, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks, right? It matters what I feel.  And in this, or any shirtdress, I feel put together as hell. 

Leave a comment

Filed under McCalls Patterns, Sewing