threadpaperpaint

Things made by me. Paintings, clothes and everything in between.


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A blue velvet dress for the holidays and a book review

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*Firstly, let me say that I did not get this book for free, I wasn’t asked to review this and I am not using affiliated links. I stumbled upon this book in a local bookshop, took a peak inside and bought it on a whim.*

This blog post comes in two parts. Part one will feature a book review of „Sew many dresses, sew little time“ by Tanya Whelan and in part two I will tell you about the dress I made from said book.

About the book
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When Victory Patterns announced their Boundless Style book I was quite taken with the idea to have a whole book of different bodice, skirt and sleeve variations to mix and match into my dream dress. But – and this is a big buuuut for me – Boundless Style is not at all size inclusive. (size range 2 to 16)

„Sew many dresses, sew little time“ on the other hand goes up to a size 24. This makes it a way better fit for me (pun intended) as I’m well within their size range.

What I really like about SMDSLT ist that it doesn’t give fancy design options. It gives you basic pattern pieces and enough instruction (at least for me) to design all the fancy bits and pieces yourself for a more personalized dress.

You can choose between a simple bodice with darts, a bodice with princess seams, a halter neck option, a wrap bodice and a cowl neck and more (7 total). From there it gives you instructions to pretty much make any variation you could ever want (collars, off-the-shoulder straps and anything you could ever do by moving darts). It comes with basic sleeve and skirt options – the most complex being a multi-panelled, flared skirt. The book also includes a short but well compiled chapter on fit-alterations and features design-based alteration instructions throughout.

Basically it gives you the option to fit a basic pattern to your body (somewhat similar to a sloper, but with SA and ease) and then make hundreds of different dresses from that. At least that is my intented use of the book.

I think „Sew many dresses, sew little time“ is a good fit for anyone who wants to either make basic dresses in different variations without having to go through the fitting stage every single time or wants to do the same for more complicated dresses with design features and doesn’t mind putting in the design-effort themselves. If you fall in category one – simple but effective – I would go so far as to recommend this book to an advanced beginner. I’m only putting in the advanced for one reason – you have to draft your own facings and linings. The book gives you comprehensible instructions on the how-to but this might seem daunting to an absolute beginner.
If you are, like me, a more advanced sewer who likes to look at any dress and go – I could make that! and you don’t mind a little pattern drafting to make your dream dress happen, then this book could be right up your alley.

Now to the good, the bad and the mixed.
I really liked the basic bodice with darts I worked with for my dress. I love that the back bodice comes with shoulder darts. This makes all the difference with my slightly forwards falling shoulders. The instructions on how to alter or implement design features are easy to understand and well written. I loved that I could solely rely on the instructions in the book and didn’t have to look up anything additional online during my drafting process.
The only thing that I find to be problematic in this book is the fact that the lines in the nested patterns are very close in color and easily confused.

I will add that all the patterns are drafted for a B-Cup. That is amazing for me, as B is my cup size but many people might need to do a FBA (or SBA). Although, since all alterations should translate easily throughout the book, this might be less big of a deal.

That’s all I can think of for now but feel free to ask away if you have additional questions. By the way, for anyone who’s interested – there is a german edition called „Kleider nähen“ (they didn’t even try to be creative, let alone come up with a pun).

About the dress

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It was my dads birthday recently and I decided that I needed a new dress for that occasion. Need might have been a strong word, but I wanted one … also christmas is coming up, y’know? 4 weeks are surely not enough time to make an additional dress … *cough*.

So I was set on something festive. And what screams holiday-season like dark blue velvet? Well, red or green velvet, but I’m distinctly not an elf.
But I also knew that I wanted this dress to be reasonably comfortable, so I went for a velvet knit. At 4€/m it was quite inexpensive. Despite buying over 3 meters of the extra wide velvet I ended up having too little fabric for the full circle skirt I wanted, but it was just about enough for a 3/4 circle.

For the bodice I wanted to try a variation with yoke-gathers. The book had good instructions on what I wanted to to. I basically just cut off a yoke-piece at the top of the basic bodice and then moved all the darts to the center top to form a big piece that I then gathered and reattached to the yoke piece after adding seam allowances on both pieces. I then changed the the front and the back bodice to a boat neckline.

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I then drafted a simple 3/4 circle skirt and copied the pattern for long sleeves from the book. I had to add about 2 inches to the sleeves as per usual. For future reference – they just about fit, adding an additional inch or so couldn’t hurt.

All in all the dress was a remarkably easy sew. I had never worked with velvet before and added extra pins to prevent any „walking fabric“ but I had zero problems. Not a single pucker was detected and even the sleeves went in perfectly fine. Glorious.

Due to it being a circle skirt and therefore parts of the skirt being cut on the bias I let the dress hang for a few days before I hemmed it. The fabric moved a lot during cutting an hemming and I am not one hundred percent sure that the hem is even, it might be ever so slightly shorter in the front. But I suspect no one will ever notice that besides me anyway. The dress fits me pretty well but I don’t want to make any final statements about the general fit of the patterns until I’ve made at least one different view in a woven fabric.

I am very happy with the final dress and have been wearing it a lot over that past few weeks. Do you have any holiday-dress plans?

I really want to make a wrap-dress or a faux-wrap and the book has examples on both. I might give that one a try next. But I also need some pants for work. I’m still working up the courage to start with my first pair of gingers, so tempting but so daunting.

Hope you are doing well,

xxx Sarah


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Sketches, patternmaking, measurements and cakes!

It has been quite a while since I last put something up here. I have been terribly busy with life in general but I have also been sewing things and prepping things for future sewing projects. I have finished some garments but haven’t had the time to take pictures of them yet. So beware – I will be showing you some finished garments in the weeks to come.

But for now, something different. My mind has been busy with all the things I want to sew for my summer wardrobe. I am quite pleased that I’m no longer thinking in terms of buying stuff but go straight to: can I make this myself? Since I usually rock quite a simple wardrobe of skirts and jersey dresses and easy shirts more often than not these days the answer is yes. (sadly, wether or not I have time to do it is a whole other question)

A few months back I took a course in pattern drafting that thought us how to draft our own pattern blocks. I have not yet done that, mostly because it is made for close fitting woven garments and I haven’t made any of those for quite a while. But one thing has been incredibly helpful to me: the measurements. We measured each others in pairs and took a total of over 20 measurements. Those have been so helpful to me both in adjusting patterns (for example checking if the back length is correct in the pattern stage) and in drafting my own patterns. Like I said, I didn’t draft close fitting patterns but even in my loose fitting tunic and some future projects you have yet to see I used a bunch of my measurements before cutting into the fabric. Back width, back length and shoulder width have been especially helpful to me since these are the areas in which most commercial patterns fail me.

Highly encouraged through those successes I sketched out some additions I’d like to make to my summer wardrobe.

Sketches

#1 is a loose fitting batwing top that could also work in knee length as a dress. One or two of those from a thinner jersey are high up on my to-sew list. #2 is a shirred loose pant. I had a pair of those last year but they were badly manufactured and ripped halfway through the summer. Also, pants are expensive. I hope to make a pair of those for a fraction of the cost in a way better quality. If I can only get the fit right. I threw the RTW part away in pure anger and now I wish I had kept them as a pattern. Well, mistakes were made.
#3 is a floor length dress that I can just throw on and feel breezy and comfy in the heat. I always wanted one of those long dresses that has a ribbon attached under the bust that then gathers a very loose kaftan-like dress by tying it in the back. You get what I mean, right? I would love to get some thin and soft cotton in a nice color and pattern for this dress and I think it has potential to be amazing. What do you guys think?
#4 finally is a super easy summer jacket that I can just throw over anything and that’ll keep me warm in the evenings. For this purpose I usually wear cardigans and I just wanted something more structured then that for a change. I think it will be lovely and with it being fully lined I might even be able to make it reversible like the Billie Jean.

I’d like the color palette to stay in the blues and greens and just have a little less black and more white as combination colors. And of course I still like my pinks and mustardy yellows as a contrast. Read my previous ramblings about color schemes here.
Lastly I want to tell you about the amazing birthday cake one of my closest and dearest friends made for me for my birthday last week. It was all sewing themed with a fondant spool of thread and a fondant pincushion you guys! Much happiness!

x Sarah


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Wardrobe Architect Part Two

In my second post on the Wardrobe Architect Challenge I’d like to talk about silhouettes. When looking at the general types of body shapes (hourglass, pear, apple, rectangle) I fall in the category „rectangle“. This sounds a bit ridiculous to my ears since my upper body looks nothing like a rectangle, it’s mostly curves in all directions. But lets stick to those types for a sec.

I deducted that I have to be rectangular since none of the other apply. I have broad shoulders and broad hips but no tiny waist like a hourglass figure calls for. And my shoulders are almost as wide as my hips so I’m not pear shaped either. Crossing out „apple“ from the beginning this leaves „rectangle“. Lovely. Additionally I might need to add that I am about 6’2ft tall – just to give you a better picture.

So there are two things I took in consideration when deciding upon my silhouettes: What I like to wear and feel comfortable in and what I think suits my body type and personality. These are  of course interconnected since I feel more confident and happy in garments that enhance my favorite features about myself.

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Firstly the length. I love to wear knee-length dresses and skirts and this will remain my go-to. In the summer I also enjoy maxi dresses and skirts and the freedom and level of comfort they bring. Since I’m very tall they suit me quite well, no problem here. I don’t think a mid-length between the two suits me nor do I like midi skirts so I will stay away from that completely.
I found that tunic length blouses and sweaters look better on me then their shorter counterparts and over time I’ve collected quite a few of these. If I wear a pencil skirt I can just throw a longer shirt or sweater on and I will look good without seeming overdressed and if I’m more in the mood for a flowy high-waisted skirt that day I can just tuck the shirt in.

Secondly I’d like to talk about volume. I don’t particularly like to wear a voluminous garment on my upper and lower body at the same time if that makes sense. It doesn’t? Let me explain. If I wear a gathered skirt I don’t also want to wear a voluminous sweater. If I wear a straight skirt I like a big sweater or big flawy, maybe gathered shirt as a contrast. I recently started wearing the small pencil skirt and big sweater combination more than the flipped combination and think it is more flattering on me as well. So it is going to be a staple in my wardrobe in 2015. I will still wear gathered skirts since I love them too much to stay away from them but I plan on using flowy fabric instead of stiff cottons to make them less pouffy since I really don’t need my hip area exaggerated all that much.

Additionally I will rock the straight forward no-to-little-volume garments. These are maybe the most boring when it comes to silhouette but highly important to my wardrobe nonetheless. In this I would count all my knee-lenght jersey dresses or slightly a-line skirts with fitted shirts and all that fun stuff.
For right now I cant’t think of anything else. Please feel free to ask any question you may have and have a lovely time.

x Sarah


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The reversible Billie Jean Dress

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Since I’ve been thinking about summer dresses a lot for the past few weeks I remembered that I made a lovely summer dress earlier this year, namely the Billie Jean by Bluegingerdoll. I didn’t however make this for myself but for one of my closest friends as a gift for her birthday. Sadly I didn’t think of taking many detailed pictures since this dressmaking adventure predates the blog. I hope the ones you see plus a more in-depth description will give you an idea of this project.
My friend has a very specific idea about the dresses she loves and I was eager to make a garment for someone else than myself for the first time so we did a lot of research before starting this project. My friend has a very hourglassy figure so we looked for a dress that would show off her curves and wouldn’t need to much adjusting. Basically a pattern already made for her figure typ.
We opted for the Billie Jean because of the flattering 50s cut and the good adjustability for a fuller bust. Also Bluegingerdoll patterns are generally made for a bigger cup size, D cups. Not ideal for me but great for my friend. I still had to do a Full Bust Adjustment but not nearly as severe as I would have had to do with a standard pattern made with a B cup in mind.
Fist off, let me say that the instructions included in the pattern are very easy to follow and the additional sew-along posts that are provided on the Bluegingerdoll blog make this a lovely pattern for beginners. Especially Abby’s post on how to do the FBA on a princess seamed bodice was very helpful to me since I hadn’t done that before. The Bonnie I blogged about a few weeks ago was my second Bluegingerdoll pattern and love their easy instructions. I also think it is great that their newer patterns come in a larger variety of sizes. But I’m rambling, let’s talk about the process of making this dress.

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In total I made two muslins – one before, one after the FBA – to get the fit as close to perfect as possible. After the FBA I added some additional fullness to the upper part of the bodice by very slightly redrawing the princess seams. this is certainly not how you should adjust for a persons bust shape but the change was small enough for me to get away with it. If someone knows a better way to adjust for a fuller upper bust with princess seams please tell me, I’d love to know.
I think I also adjusted the fit of the lower bodice a bit by taking in the side seams about half an inch or so.

At this point I decided that one dress would just be a bit boring why not make two? I know this sounds a little crazy and it surely was but it worked out so let’s call it „inspiration“. We had decided upon a beautifully patterned black, white and pastel cotton fabric that was lovely but not exactly evening wear. So I bought a nice black cotton for the lining and fully lined the dress so it could be worn inside out as well. This way she’d have two dresses in one, a flowery sun dress as well as a little black dress.
This plan of doubling up the skirt might have caused problems with too much fullness if I had used the original skirt pattern. But my friend wanted less fullness in the skirt and a considerably shorter skirt anyway so I drafted my own skirt pattern. Since it is a simple gathered skirt by „drafted“ I of course mean „cut some rectangles“.

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To make the dress reversible I attached the bodice lining to the bodice shell as suggested in the instructions but opted for an invisible zipper to make it easier to zip from the wrong side. (Sadly it is not totally invisible, *sob*) I then sewed the skirt lining to the skirt shell at the bottom and back seam (with an opening for the zipper at the top of the seam) and gathered it as one piece. After that I attached the skirt to the bodice shell and hand-sewed the lining to the bodice at the zipper and the waist seam. I decided not to add the in-seam pockets that are included in the pattern, partly because they would have added some fullness to the sides – a thing my friend explicitly asked me to avoid – and partly because I found the process of making everything reversible confusing enough and didn’t want to risk my sanity over some pockets.
Let me know what you think!

x Sarah