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A Dress Made of Watercolor Flowers and Fairy Wings

July 22, 2014

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

Have you ever sewn with wool gauze?  This dress marks my first occasion to sew with this type of fabric, and I swear it was like sewing with fabric made of fairy wings.  So light and delicate and fragile.  But amazing and beautiful and perfect all the same. UPDATE:  I just looked up my order info, and the fabric was actually labeled wool georgette, not gauze!

I’d been saving this particular watercolor floral fabric, which came from the Tessuti Fabrics remnants section (or specials section?), from way back when I was trying to get my Gridlock order into the realm of free shipping.  I seem to fall head over heels for painterly fabrics, and this one was no exception.  It needed just the right pattern.  When I got a sneak peek during pattern testing of Tasia of Sewaholic‘s next dress pattern, the Yaletown Dress, I figured it was just the thing.  It had large skirt pieces that would feature the giant floral pattern nicely, and the loose wrap bodice was perfect for the more abstract parts of the print.

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

I had just enough fabric for the dress but not enough for the self-fabric belt, so I made do with a belt from my closet.  The pattern calls for facings, but since this wool gauze was so sheer, I instead lined everything but the sleeves with some ivory silk crepe de chine left over from this skirt project.  It took some creativity to figure out how to line the entire blouse while also enclosing all of the side seams, but my perseverance won out in the end.  The pattern suggests you topstitch the facing down along the entire neckline, and though I hadn’t used a facing, I decided my lining would benefit from the same treatment.  The openness of the wrap meant understitching alone wasn’t cutting it for me.  I used a walking foot and went as slowly as I could, but the delicate wool gauze did end up with a few slight ripples between the topstitching and the neckline.  The fabric wouldn’t have forgiven any seam ripping, I think the tiny ripples are imperceptible to most, and it beats seeing the lining peek out, so I didn’t bother to try to restitch.

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

Did I mention how much I love painterly fabrics?!  Look at those flowers! I just love how they dance across the back in their muted browns and oranges and bright pinks and yellows and greens.

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

The front and the back of the skirt are the same pattern piece, which for me means I get nice soft gathers in the front and a nice loose skirt in the back.  Perhaps it’s my bum that eats up the possibility of any gathers in the back!?  Both of my shorter Saltsprings do the same (Liberty here and galaxy here), so I think it’s just a feature of how this style of pattern fits me.

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

Sadly, there are no pockets here.  I found that though I love the idea of pockets, I don’t like the way side seam pockets in floaty fabrics like this look on me.  Though I like the style of dress (as apparent in how many times I’ve made the Saltspring!) there are not enough gathers to hide pockets well on me.  I’m always catching myself in the mirror trying to smooth them down.  Perhaps if they were caught up in the waistline a bit to help them lay smoothly towards the front?  I guess that’s something I should have mentioned in my pattern testing feedback but didn’t realize until now!

The looser wrap top is new for me.  I like how it drapes across…

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

…but it does gape a lot, so I think I’ll tack it closed once I’m no longer nursing and needing access to that area.  For now I’m wearing the dress with a nursing tank underneath.

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

I also really like how my StyleArc Nina cardigan pairs with this dress.  This year I’m trying to think a bit more about how the garments I stitch can come together into a wearable closet, which is how I went about planning my SWAP (the Stitcher’s Guild Sewing with a Plan challenge) a few years back.  My Belcarra blouse and my Mariska skirt made earlier this year go together nicely, and now my Nina cardigan pairs with both my galaxy Saltspring dress and this Yaletown dress.

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

Also, here’s a peek at what the dress looks like without a belt…

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

…and though I always wear my Saltsprings without a belt, I like this one better belted.

Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress

I wish I’d had enough fabric to try out the self-fabric belt since I think it adds to the loose-wrap-dress look, but I wouldn’t have wanted to give up anything about this dress to make it happen with the little fabric I had on hand.  Plus, this fairy-wing fabric might not have taken kindly to being tugged and tied in belt form at the waist.  The sleeve seams, the only seams not lined, are already showing a bit of wear and tear from the few times I’ve worn it this summer.

I’ll leave you with a photo of the little guy who kept trying to sneak into the photo shoot.  He’s being camera shy here of course, but look at all that fur!

Sew Well - Yaletown Dress


Flappers, Necklines, and Winners

July 17, 2014

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

I was hoping to have a muslin to show you today of the Flapper Dress from The Unofficial Downton Abbey Sews Magazine, but I got bogged down this week trying to sew the neckline on the By Hand London Polly Tops I’m making for my next MSN project.  The pattern called for a strip of bias to bind the raw edge, like what The Little Tailoress shows in this video, but I really wanted to use the bias as a facing, like what Jen of Grainline Studio shows in this tutorial.  I measured (with my EZ Wheel Measuring Wheel), trimmed, clipped, under stitched, etc., but four attempts and no flat necklines later, and I gave in to using the bias as a binding. The bias facing technique has worked for me in the past with Sewaholic patterns (here and here), but maybe I’m still at the point where I need the binding to have all the many notches that come with Sewaholic patterns so I can properly distribute the binding around the neckline? In the end what I expected to take no time at all actually took up all of my sewing time this week!  So, even though this muslin would have been such a quick sew (two seams!), I didn’t even get around to cutting the fabric.

Anyway, what you actually care about is who won last week’s giveaway.  Congratulations go out to these five winners:  Emily of Emily Ventureshappystitches2CassandraJana of, and Gina Milano!  I hope you all enjoy your magazines!  Get in touch with me so I can make sure they’ll be on their way to you shortly!

Home Sewing Drama

July 15, 2014

Sew Well - Home Sewing Drama

My husband has been traveling a lot this summer for work.  Right now he’s currently on an island in the Pacific.  People often ask me why I don’t travel with him when he’s in these exotic locales, but, to be honest, when he’s in the field he’s working 24/7, so I know I’d still pretty much be on my own and maybe even in the way.  Once things are not quite so new – new job, new baby – then maybe we’ll find our rhythm and get to share these crazy adventures together.

In the meantime, to keep myself from not getting stir crazy at home, I’ve taken to watching snippets of documentaries on Netflix during baby girl’s longer feeding sessions.  One that I watched on a new-to-me topic was “Tiny:  A Story About Living Small”.  Did you know that there are people who choose to live in less than 200 square feet of home?!  From what I gathered, the residences are typically called Tiny Homes, and they’re often built on wheels since many counties have restrictions against building structures so small. Did you also know that blogging about Tiny Homes is a big thing?  I had no idea.  At least not until watching this film.  The film interweaves a couple’s experience building their own Tiny Home with interviews of Tiny Home owners and bloggers.  It creates a story that’s a more broadly appealing when you see it from so many different perspectives.

It got me thinking:  is there a documentary on home sewing that benefits from the amazing sewing blogging community?  I did a quick search, and I couldn’t find anything.  I think having something like that pop up on someone’s Netflix queue would really bring slow fashion into the limelight in a way that an introductory book on sewing or even a captivating book on fast fashion isn’t quite able.  I know I would love to see a documentary that followed Melanie of poppykettle‘s wedding dress journey.  Or the first year of Sarah of Goodbye Valentino‘s ready-to-wear fast.  Or Oonaballoona doing just about anything.  (Speaking of Oona, if time and money were no object, I think this silk crepe de chine would be perfect for oonapalooza – maybe even made up in her own soon-to-be romper tutorial!)  I’m imagining said documentary to be complimented by interviews with sewing bloggers and insight into the current state of fast fashion.

So, please enlighten me, is there something like this already out there?  Is there something better?  Do share since my husband is gone until the end of the week!

Sew Downton Abbey + Giveaway

July 10, 2014

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

I remember a time in the not too distant past when the costumes in Downton Abbey were weekly fodder in the sewing blogging world.  Lady Mary this, Countess Cora that…  At the time I hadn’t yet watched the show (I got rid of my TV several years ago because I had become addicted to say the least - cold turkey was my only saving grace!), and I was desperate to figure out what this new-to-me show was all about.  I read every Downton post I found in order to piece together the story that was gripping this community.  I eventually watched the first season of the show with my neighbor, finally catching up with the online social scene while enjoying some in-real-life social time.  A win, win if you ask me!

So, when the good people at Interweave/F+W wrote to ask if I’d like to give away five copies of The Unofficial Downton Abbey Sews Magazine from the editors of Stitch Magazine, I immediately said, “Yes, please!”  How could I not spread the Downton love?

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

The fine print says that this magazine is unofficial and unauthorized, but that doesn’t stop it from being chock full of patterns inspired by the show.  The projects are divided into four sections:  Take Me Dancing, which includes fancy dresses and the like; Out and About, which includes casual and practical everyday wear; At Home, which includes home dec and nightgowns and robes and such; and, finally, From the Archives, which includes a hodge podge of everything else.

Most of my favorite patterns come from the everyday wear in the Out and About section.  While it would just take too long to show you everything, I hope you’ll oblige me with a few of my favorite patterns.  (And, here’s a secret for you:  most of the patterns from the magazine can be downloaded for free from if you are willing to sign up for a free membership to their site.  You’ll still need the magazine for the instructions though.)

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

There’s something about the blues and greens used in the Suffragette Day Blouse and Skirt (all of the pattern links here and below go to the corresponding free pattern download) that immediately drew me in to this section.  These two patterns were inspired by Lady Sybil and the outfit she wore to the political rally in Season 1.  I don’t think I could personally pull off either of these garments since I’m not sure high-waisted skirts are for me (after trying one here), but I’d love to see this exact outfit on everyone else!

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

The Maid’s Day Off Coat, however, is right up my alley.  This pattern was inspired by Anna and the coat she wore to visit Bates in prison in Season 3. While I don’t have too many occasions to visit prison, I imagine I could find many other appropriate places to wear this coat!

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

I also like the Sporting Jacket and the Modern Jean Jodhpurs.  The jacket pattern was inspired by the jacket Lady Mary wore when she was horseback riding with the Turkish diplomat in Season 1.  The Jodhpur riding pant pattern isn’t attributed to one particular point in the story, but it’s hard to imagine a list of Downton-inspired garments that doesn’t include Jodhpurs.

While most of the patterns are free online downloads, the magazine also includes pull out paper patterns for the Let’s Do Lunch Topper (hat), the Legacy Cot Quilt, the Out and About Wrap, the Peacock Evening Clutch, the Embroidered and Embellished Belt, the Goddess Headpiece, and the Silk Polonaise Stole.  The magazine is also invaluable for the included instructions.  Take the Peacock Evening Clutch for example…

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

The beautiful peacock feather is actually made by smocking.  And, the directions don’t just assume that you know how to smock – there’s a whole sidebar detailing the technique.  In fact, instructions for most of the projects require more than just the typical “sew right sides together”.  This magazine details how to make puckered fabric, make a jeweled collar, sew with sequins, embroider, work with lace, make fringe, attach a coat lining, pad stitch, create welt pockets, make a fagoted seam, sew with French seams, add piping, make scallops, paper piece, make rosettes and other floral embellishments, and more.  I learned a lot just reading the instructions! Now, that said, the instructions are mostly text with minimal figures.  So, while there are a lot of techniques included in this magazine, you have to have the confidence to work mostly through text descriptions with a single key image.

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention that the magazine also has little blurbs about the designers.  I love getting a little bit of insight into the people behind the patterns!  For example, the Out and About Wrap was designed by Samina of Sew Everything Blog.  She wrote about her design and how to wear the wrap as a scarf here.  There are even two designers from the Seattle area:  Charise of Charise Creates and Kerry Smith!

For true Downton junkies the magazine even includes sections devoted solely to the show, like the piece on the Inveraray Castle, the Scottish estate featured in the Christmas special.

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

Now, typically when I review books and pattern collections like this I like to make one of the included garments so that you can get an idea of what is possible.  Unfortunately, I just couldn’t find the time this time around (read:  baby girl + husband being out of town a lot for work + science deadlines = very little sewing time).  I did get so far as to chose the Flapper Dress as my first victim.

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

I know it’s not one of the patterns I highlighted above as being my favorites, but I have had a beautiful sequins fabric from Distric Fabric burning a hole through my stash for half a year now (see top photo above).  I’ve been looking for the perfect dartless dress pattern since I only wanted to deal with stitching the sequins along the side seams.  As soon as I saw this one, I knew I had to give it a chance (again, see top photo above for the line drawing).

I’ve gotten as far as downloading the pattern and printing it out.  I still need to tape that sucker together (even simple dress patterns require taping a lot of sheets of paper!), and then I figure I should make a muslin.  My sequins fabric is a knit, which means it’ll forgive many fitting issues, but it would still be nice to truly get a sense of how the dress will fit before going through the time and effort of removing all the sequins from the stitching line only to realize something doesn’t work after stitching the side seams together.

Once it’s boot season again, I’d like to try the Jodhpurs.  I need more skinny jeans, and I like the equestrian seaming details.  I’ve tried to zoom in and lighten the photo below so you can see what I’m referring to. Look to the inside, just above the knees.

Sew Well - Downton Abbey Sews

And, then after that it’ll be that coat…  Definitely that coat!

Now it’s your turn!  I want to see the Downton love spread all around the sewing blogosphere again!  So, five lucky readers will win a copy of The Unofficial Downton Abbey Sews Magazine from the editors of Stitch Magazine (retail $14.99) thanks to F+W Media Distribution and Interweave!  If you’d like to be entered into the drawing, just leave a comment below letting me know. I’ll pick the winners at random next Thursday, July 17th at 7 am PDT. Good luck!  (If you want another chance to win, enter Sew Maris’s giveaway as well!)

The Big Bang Dress and Cardigan

June 26, 2014

Sew Well - Saltspring Dress and Nina Cardigan made with Mood Fabrics.

After taking a few months away from the Mood Sewing Network so that I could focus on my new baby, I really wanted to come back with a big bang.  I’d been keeping up with the Mood Fabrics New Arrivals page, and when this galaxy poly print from Mood Fabrics popped up, I knew it would be a stellar choice for my first MSN garment post baby.

Haha!  Too much?!  Big bang… Galaxy print… Stellar?! Also, please tell me I’m not the only one who regularly checks the Mood Fabrics New Arrivals page?

Sew Well - Saltspring Dress and Nina Cardigan made with Mood Fabrics.

At first I didn’t have a particular pattern in mind.  All I knew was that I wanted to make a dress so that I could take full advantage of the panels that I ordered.  I ended up choosing the Sewaholic Saltspring pattern since I thought the poly chiffon would work well with its drape and gathers (previously made here and here).  Plus, as a nursing mom I quickly learned that dresses are not inherently breastfeeding friendly, but the Saltspring pattern has ties at the shoulder that provide access where access is needed, if you get my meaning!

Sew Well - Saltspring Dress and Nina Cardigan made with Mood Fabrics.

After I’d chosen a pattern but before I’d gotten to any actual sewing, I learned through the power of Instagram that Sally of The Quirky Peach had squeezed a simple and elegant tee out of one panel of this print.  I’d worried a bit about how well the poly would sew and press since I tend to sew with natural fibers, but Sally had nothing but positive things to say when I asked her about her experiences.  I used my regular machine on the top (since all of the seam allowances are hidden in the lining) and my serger on the skirt (since I didn’t really feel like going through the process of making a French seam for a polyester dress), and the fabric behaved perfectly in both machines.  The little straps were even easy to turn as long as I took a big enough bite of fabric with the safety pin before trying to thread it through.

Since the poly chiffon is sheer, I chose to line both the bodice and the dress with a lovely dark purple silk crepe de chine from Mood.  I hoped purple would help the stars pop while being a bit more interesting than black.  The exact purple silk is no longer online, but this one is pretty much the same.  The Saltspring pattern doesn’t come with instructions or pattern pieces for lining the skirt, so I just repeated the main skirt pieces, removing 4″ from the hem so the sheerness of the poly chiffon could show through at the bottom of the skirt, and then sewed the top of the lining to the top of the main skirt before attaching both to the top. I hemmed both by pressing up 1/4″ twice and then topstitching.

Sew Well - Saltspring Dress and Nina Cardigan made with Mood Fabrics.

It’s been kind of chilly here in Seattle lately, so I wanted something warmer to pair with my new dress.  Mood had (yes, past tense, but other Thakoon fabrics can be found here) this amazing coral sweatshirt knit that Thakoon used for a loose-fitting short sleeved sweatshirt (and Lori from MSN and Girls in the Garden used for a fitted long-sleeved sweatshirt), but I was thinking more of a versatile cardigan wrap.  I figured the right pattern could make it wear like a sweatshirt (a must these days when I’m baby wrangling) but still work with dresses like this one.  Plus, the back of the fabric has this lovely nubby texture that I wanted to peek out through the long folds of a cardigan wrap.

Sew Well - Saltspring Dress and Nina Cardigan made with Mood Fabrics.

This cardigan was a really fast make because I sewed every seam on my serger and left all of the edges raw. I used the StyleArc Nina Cardigan pattern, my first ever attempt at a StyleArc pattern.  The shoulders are looking a bit too wide in these photos, something I didn’t notice when I was making the cardigan, so I’m not sure if I need to watch that when making future StyleArc patterns or if it’s simply that the cardigan has stretched out a bit because I’ve worn it nearly every day for a week.  It’s in the wash right now, and I’m going to make sure to check the fit as soon as it comes out of the dryer! [UPDATE:  It's much snugger again now that it's been washed.  I'm going to pay better attention to how it wears this week.]

Sew Well - Saltspring Dress and Nina Cardigan made with Mood Fabrics.

Life as a new mom has been quite hectic these last few months, but I’m really looking forward to posting regularly again at MSN.  Though I’ve long since forgotten what it means to sleep through the night, baby girl and I have gotten into enough of a routine that I can regularly sneak time in front of my sewing machine, and I’ve had several months to dream up lots of things that I want to sew for MSN.

This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network. I used my MSN allowance towards the purchase of the fabric.

Sneak Peek – In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

June 25, 2014

Sew Well Nina Cardigan and Saltspring Dress

Well, not that really that far at all, considering you can go anywhere on the internet from the comfort of your very own living room.

What I mean to say is that I am back to posting for MSN again.  My most recent garments, a Sewaholic Saltspring dress in galaxy print and StyleArc Nina cardigan in bright coral, are live over there right this minute.  They’ll be here tomorrow, but for now they’re holding court over there.

Another Baby Shower, Another Baby Blanket

June 16, 2014

Sew Well - Elephant Baby Blanket

I’ve made so many of these baby blankets that I’m not sure there’s anything left to say.  They’re cute, they’re quick to make, and sometimes they even become the little recipient’s must-have blanket.  The pink bear I made back in 2011 became just such a blanket. Maybe this cute blue elephant will fill the same role for my friend’s future son… Or maybe not?  Either way, I can’t help but pull out the minky every single time I get a baby shower invitation in the mail – just in case.


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