I should know better than to sew a dress the day of a party. You could write a mathematical proof showing that impulse sewing directly increases your level of stress. But sometimes (who am I kidding, A LOT of the time) your fabric speaks to you.
You have a serger now it says. I’m a thick, sturdy knit it says. You’ve already sewn this pattern twice it says. And so I listened. I listened and that meant I was sewing on a neckband and finishing sleeves and the hem barely 90 minutes before folks walked through the door for my birthday party.
It wasn’t all so haphazard, though. If I’ve learned anything in three-ish years of sewing, it’s that a little planning goes a long way when it comes to the finished product—and your sanity. Here are some tips for a speedy sew:
Cut out multiple projects at once. I don’t know how I had the patience to cut out several different projects in one evening, but I did and this ponte double-knit floral dress was one of ’em. If only I’d gotten to sewing it before the morning of the party…
Pick a pattern you’ve already used. I knew this dress would fit without much fuss, as I’ve used Marcy Tilton’s Vogue 8904 pattern four times now. A long sleeveless dress with panels, short sleeveless dress with panels, long sleeveless V-neck hack for Cruella, and now the short version with sleeves and no panels. (I’d link to it but the Vogue site gives a 404 error when you click through—it might be out of print…?!?!)
Choose a fast sewing method. Sorry French seams and Hong Kong finishes! We’ll meet again some leisurely day. I used my SUPER FAST WONDERFUL serger for most of the construction of this dress and used the sewing machine to anchor the neckband and sew the hems.
Don’t rush the finishing touches. Listen, I know that my hems look better when I use a walking foot. I know it. But I let my pre-hosting jitters cloud my brain into 1). using a regular foot and 2). not busting out the twin needle. I used a ballpoint needle (I’m not INSANE, y’alls) and a zigzag stitch, and my bottom hem turned out a wee bit wavy for my liking. Note to self: Take the extra 3 minutes to attach the walking foot and thread the twin needle. Le sigh.
Do you have any tips for speedy sewing? I’m all ears. And happy SPRING everybody! I’m embracing it with plenty of pretty florals and rosé wine. Actually, I drank rosé most of the winter, too. The gods of booze snobbery will have to pry my rosé out of my cold, dead hands.
It’s time for me to get back in the blog saddle. I recently started a new job, and I gave myself a little break for a few weeks to adjust. The gig’s been great thus far, but I’m still getting used to dressing like a real person (business casual, y’all!) and coming into the office five days in a row without feeling like a zombie.
My previous job offered Work from Home Wednesdays. I hadn’t realized how much of an impact that had on my energy levels. Doing work braless, in my pajamas once a week really did wonders for my well-being. But alas, that life is no more. I’m finally used my new schedule and workload, and that means more energy for blogging. 😀
I know Halloween has come and gone, but daggumit I worked hard on my costume and I want to share it. Here’s the outfit breakdown:
Earrings and necklace: sourced from my late grandma’s fantastic costume jewelry stash
Emerald ring: panic attack central AKA Forever 21
The gloves were slippery, the wig was a little itchy, and the coat was hot as hell at the indoor party I attended. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel like a badass the entire night. Being a glamorous Disney villain has its perks.
When it came time for a practical sewing project, I turned to the Archer Button Up from Grainline Studio. Last year, I sewed view B in a red chambray. This shirt is view A, a classic boyfriend-style button up, in a super-soft Robert Kaufman flannel from The Needle Shop in Chicago. I was very, very hungover when I took these pictures (like, “oh god why did I do this to myself never again” stupid hungover), so I apologize for my glazed-over eyes and general derpness.
The sewing process was so much less intimidating this time around with one Archer under my belt. I don’t have a ton to say about construction, but I did fudge the collar a little bit. Instead of using Andrea’s collar tutorial like I did last time, I followed along with the pattern directions and referred to Jen’s sew along. Her video on how to attach the collar is helpful, but my collar stand ended up jutting out past the button band a little bit on one side. It’s not enough to be bothersome, so it’s staying as-is.
I’m not sure if it’s good or bad that I’m coming to accept little imperfections in my handmade work. Part of me wonders if I notice the mistakes more because I’m gaining experience. But, I could just be getting lazier. Either way, I have a wearable shirt at the end of the day. Right now, that’s good enough for me.
In case you’re interested in the boring details:
Size: Straight 8. My measurements are 36″-29″-38″ and I’m 6’0″ tall.
Finishing: Used my machine’s overcast foot for a faux-serged look (this foot is AMAZING by the way); sewed faux flat-felled seams throughout.
It feels good to be back! Before I leave, did you all see Heather’s latest release over at Closet Case Files?
The Clare Coat just pounced to the top of my queue. I know, I know, I did a whole post about which coat pattern I wanted to make and actually bought one from Burda. But this pattern just speaks to me. Now to source some wool and super-warm lining…
Have any patterns cut the line in your sewing queue?
For discerning readers out there, two things may look familiar here: the striped fabric and the pattern. I love them both dearly, so it seemed only fitting to birth their love child. After a couple relaxing nights of cutting, pinning, and sewing, out popped my second iteration of Vogue 8904.
This time around, I made the shorter version but kept it sleeveless for seasonal purposes. The dress took considerably less time overall since the pattern pieces were already cut out and ready to go.
Hot tip: A cool iron works wonders on wrinkled, creased pattern pieces. I picked that info up from one of my Grainline patterns, so thanks, Jen!
Side note: The left side of my face was still very much novocaine numb from an earlier dentist appointment, so please excuse any Derp Face in this post.
The pattern: V8904, view A without the sleeves
Alterations: added 1″ of length at the waist (same as the last dress)
Fabric: for the base layer (which is completely hidden by the shingles), I used a black knit bought for $3.95/yard at Textile Discount Outlet in Chicago. I’m not sure about the content, but it’s not too dissimilar in stretch from the top layers. For the shingles, I used my beloved striped bamboo-lycra blend from Girl Charlee.
I sewed the neck binding in the flat, like the pattern directs. But then I CUT A HOLE in the binding attempting to trim the excess fabric down. (Insert sounds of glass shattering and a banshee scream.) Instead of unpicking an entire row of lightning-bolt stitches, I cut the neckband off as closely to the original stitching as I could. I then cut a new neckband, stitched it into a circle, press it in half lengthwise with wrong sides together, and sewed it on in the round.
I’ve sewn a good handful of knit neckbands in the round now, and I’m pretty happy with this result. To anchor the neckband, I used an edgestitching foot to stitch verrrry closely just below the seam line. I sewed the armholes in the round for the hell of it, topstitching near the seam to anchor them. I might go back and unpick that stitching, though, since it’s a little wonky and uneven for my taste. We’ll see if I find the energy.
And now for a side-by-side comparison of V8904 and one of the Bailey 44 layered column dresses I drooled over for ages at Anthropologie (now retired, but originally $178 LOLOLOL):
Obviously this model’s beach house beats my backdrop: a gravel-filled lot where the garbage cans live. Styling aside, V8904 holds its own pretty well, especially considering that this dress cost less than $20 in fabric. The stripe matching ain’t perfect (although the top and bottom shingles are pretty good), but this dress is so forgiving that the imperfect stripes don’t stress me out. This little number will most likely make an appearance on my Me Made May feed… maybe in Vegas?
A lot of important decisions I make are determined by two distinct, opinionated voices in my head. I’d like to think of them as Ambitious-Bordering-on-Irrational Dani, and Calculated-Bordering-on-Boring Dani. This past week, their conversation involved sewing.
ABOI: Should I make a dress to wear to Bianca and Jon’s wedding?
CBOB: Absolutely not.
ABOI: But I never make formalwear—it’ll be fun!
CBOB: The wedding is five days away, dummy, and you haven’t even bought a pattern yet.
ABOI: It’s fiiiine. I’ll go to JoAnn and get a nice Vogue pattern and some fabric. Kill two birds with one stone.
CBOB: But what if it doesn’t turn out? You know you have dramatic tendencies when sewing under pressure.
ABOI: I’ll pick an “easy” pattern. I’m not worried about it.
CBOB: I’m worried about it. This is a bad idea.
ABOI: [Frolics off to catch the bus to JoAnn.]
CBOB: [Yelling:] Don’t expect me to calm you down when your needle breaks and gets lost in your sewing machine at midnight on Thursday!
ABOI: Can’t hear you! Too busy flipping through pages of designer dress patterns!
CBOB: [Still yelling:] Or when you realize that the pretty dusty-rose fabric you’re about to buy is a rayon-lycra blend that will make you consider throwing your sewing machine off the roof of your building!
ABOI: Oh stop being such a grouch. It’ll be a learning experience! Plus, I have other dresses to wear if this turns out to be a total disaster.
CBOB: I guess that’s true. Fine. Do it. But I’m not buying the Spanx.
ABOI: I already did.
And so, Ambitious-Bordering-on-Irrational won that round. While it’s important to self-edit when it comes to project ideas, especially when precious $$$z are involved, it’s also pretty liberating to follow your gut. I’m happy to say that this particular gamble turned out well enough that I didn’t have to outfit repeat. (Not that there’s anything wrong with outfit repeating.)
Here’s what I ended up with after sifting through three giant pattern books and the limited selection of knits at JoAnn:
Cost: $16.50 (at 40% off, but you can get it for $4.99 online grrr >:-o)
I normally avoid buying Vogue patterns when they’re not on sale for $5, but, being desperate, I made an exception for Vogue 8904. Several other bloggers who’ve made this dress have commented on its striking similarity to a layered column dress from Anthropologie. Years ago, I tried on a near-identical version of that column dress and fell madly in love. It was one of the most flattering, comfortable piece I’d ever worn, but I couldn’t justify the roughly $150 price tag. Sadly, I left it on the rack that day. Enter Vogue 8904, which not only fills the void of that layered column dress, but also offers a shorter option with sleeves for the fall/winter! I’ll definitely be trying view A (and maybe making one for a friend… eek!) at some point in the next few months.
Dusty rose rayon-lycra blend with slub texturing
Difficulty to work with: !!@#$%^&*!!!!!
Cost: $17 (after using a 60% off coupon)
Ohhh, where to start with this one. I really should know better than to rely on the selection of knits at JoAnn, but I just didn’t have time to order anything online. I settled for a very pretty, very slippery rayon knit that turned out to be quite a doozy to lay out and cut. Using a rotary cutter helped, and that’s what I made sure to use to carefully cut the raw edge portion of the floating panels (“shingles”) that are sewn on top of the base layer. The base layer doesn’t have to be the same fabric as the shingles (mine was), but I assume it makes life easier if you use the same fabric or one with a very similar stretch/drape.
All I can say about sewing this material is thank god for my walking foot. Having the top and bottom layers feed through evenly was key to this material not ending up a puckered mess.
The pattern deserves its “easy” difficulty, but it’s not a project that you can whip up in an afternoon. Marcy Tilton, the pattern’s designer, wrote an informative blog post that I highly recommend reading if you plan on trying this pattern out. It’s full of great tips and in-progress pictures.
The main pain points I had during construction were with the neckline and armhole binding. I’ve never bound a knit before, let alone a super-stretchy one, and the finished neckline and armholes ended up a little droopy where I didn’t stretch enough when attaching, and a little puckered where I stretched too much. I also decided to add some self-material stabilization since the dress was getting heavy. I folded a small strip of fabric attached it with two layers of topstitching, parallel to the already existing topstitching at the shoulder. Not sure if it was necessary, but I think it made the dress feel more stable.
Oh, and in case you noticed the strange imperfection in the second-from-the-bottom front layer, that’s from where I ran out of fabric and had to piece two scraps together. (That’s what I get for buying the last of the fabric bolt and hoping that I wouldn’t need those extra two inches.)
I was pretty worried about the clinginess of the material, but the double-layer construction (and some microfiber shorts) helped to reduce most of the cling. That said, this dress is definitely cut to hug the figure. Marcy points out that you can sew it a size bigger if you want to reduce the bootylicious factor (in so many words).
Per usual, I lengthened the pattern at the waist by about 1″ to accommodate my long torso, and I think that was the correct amount, although I’m wondering if that added length is what made the middle back panel a little droopier than the rest.
A raw-edge hem allowed for total freedom of movement.
I’m happy to say that this dress held up pretty well during an amazing day that included a pre-wedding cocktail hour, ceremony, dinner, and reception full of sweaty dancing. The raw edges did start to run a little bit, and the material is already pilling under the armpits, but it pretty much felt like I was wearing fancy pajamas all evening. That’s really all a girl can ask for when it comes to formalwear. But a handsome date doesn’t hurt either.
Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Mecoli! The outpouring of love shown at your wedding is a true testament to both of your characters. It was a beautiful day (not to mention a total blast) and made me proud to call myself your friend. Can’t wait to start sewing y’alls some baby clothes!!! 😉