Review + Interview with Kellie K Apparel’s Lingerie Designer

Sew Well - Interview with Kellie K Apparel's Designer

Just over a year ago, I wrote about a Kickstarter that had just been launched by a guy I went to grad school with.  It was for a strapless bra that was designed to stay in place by taking advantage of the gecko’s ability to walk on walls. I thought it was so cool that someone I knew had developed a brand new fabric that seemed incredibly useful, and I wanted to share it with all of you. I backed Kellie K Apparel‘s Kickstarter because I just had to get my hands on one of those bras.  I don’t often by ready-to-wear these days, but I’ve never sewn a bra before and I can’t exactly get my hands on my own GeckTeckTM (the gecko-inspired lining inside these bras), so there was no way I was even considering trying to make my own.

The bra arrived in the mail last week, and to round out my series of posts on the subject, I wanted to write a review of it. The timing is perfect since it also happens to coincide with Kellie K Apparel’s most recent Kickstarter.  The strapless bra designs have now been updated (no more seams along the front of the cup!), so the current Kickstarter isn’t for this exact bra, but the technology is still the same. I’ve also coupled this review with an interview with Kellie K Apparel’s designer, Ruth, so please make sure to check that out at the end of this post. 

When the bra arrived in the mail, it was as I expected from the photos shown in the original Kickstarter campaign (see the photos in my interview with the creator of Kellie K Apparel). There were molded, but not padded, cups and strips of pink GeckTeck in the lining of the band and in the lining between the two cups. There was also a seam running along the front of the cups.

Sew Well - Interview with Kellie K Apparel's Designer

I’ve had this new strapless bra in heavy rotation since it arrived, even though it’s far from strapless-top weather here in Seattle.  Up until this point I probably would have laughed if you asked me to wear a strapless bra under a sweater, but I have to say that I’ve actually really enjoyed wearing this one.  I’ve not once thought about pulling it up.  Once it’s on, it really stays in place. My shoulders have actually felt lighter, too. I don’t keep my bra straps tight or anything, but I’m now fairly confident that my shoulders must still notice when bra straps are there all the same. This bra gets high marks from me in function.

In form I don’t really have any complaints either.  The only real difference I notice from a traditional strapless bra is the GeckTeck, which is sewn in strips in the lining.  It’s not sticky or anything though (it works through van der Waals forces), and once on, it’s not noticeable. The Kellie K Apparel team has been sending out the bras from the first Kickstarter in batches based on size (with mine being one of the last!), and while they say not a single one has been returned because the wearer didn’t feel it lived up to its pledge of staying up, they acknowledge that many people requested that the seam on the front of the cup be removed.  That complaint has been addressed in the most recent Kickstarter though with two different bra styles, both of which have seamless cups.

My only other minor complaint is that ordering the right bra size over the internet can be tricky.  Kellie K Apparel tries to help with that with a band- and cup-size chart on their main Kickstarter page. But, it would still be nice to one day be able to try on one of their bras in a store. This most recent Kickstarter does have a Reseller’s package, so maybe that day isn’t too far away?

Last time I wrote about Kellie K Apparel, I had the chance to interview the creator of the bra, Tony. I tried to keep that interview sewing related, but Tony and I are both scientists, so I think it was pretty heavy on the science and engineering aspects of the bra. This time I thought it would be fun to combine my review with an interview with Kellie K Apparel’s designer, Ruth, since haven’t we all dreamed about being a designer at one point or another in our sewing career? Even if just when matching pattern to fabric? Read below to learn more about Ruth’s background, her experience with lingerie, and what her experience has taught her about sewing, design, and pattern making. 

Hi Ruth, thanks for joining me today on my blog. Would you mind telling my readers a little bit about your background in sewing, design, and pattern making?

I started sewing as a child.  My mother worked as a tailor in her father’s suiting shop when she was younger and had always loved to sew.  I began making clothing in high school for myself out of necessity (junior lines didn’t make plus sizes back in 1997) and eventually I started designing for other students at the high school.  My junior year I had a wait list for prom dresses that I would make my senior year.  Since I had already done so much with no training I decided to pursue a degree in fashion at SAIC so I could develop and refine my skills.

Of the three – sewing, design, and pattern making – which is your favorite?

Sewing is the necessity for me to see a finished piece, but is probably the least exciting element of the process.  I appreciate it, and I have learned to enjoy it to some degree, but I really like designing in flat sketch, which also means I have to simultaneously do some degree of pattern making in my head in order to design a piece.  I do really like pattern making as long as it’s for a design of mine.  

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry, and how did you go about making it happen?

I started going for fashion around my sophomore year of high school after I injured my singing voice, which kept me from pursuing opera as an avenue.  While I was in college I sold a few pieces at local shops, and continued the custom dress design work that I had begun in high school. It was a fun way to be creative and make money on the side.

What was it like studying fashion at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago? 

SAIC is very much a fine art school.  The first year is only multi disciplinary arts training with no fashion.  To get into the fashion department is a separate acceptance from the school admissions, and even then a lot of students who start don’t find they can finish the courses.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it if you love it.  I liked the way I was pushed to really design from an artistic perspective.  I’m very practical naturally, and I needed to be pushed out of my comfort zone. 

What brought you to Kellie K Apparel, and what are your goals for the company?

Tony found me because of my background in design and my 5 years as a bra fitter and store manager for a high end lingerie company.  I had just had a baby, and I wasn’t working at the time.  It gave me a project that was interesting but also flexible.  As for Kellie K I think there’s a lot more uses for the Geck Teck silicone in lots of lingerie and swim applications.  If we continue to grow I would like to expand the lines to show all of the options. 

Can you share anything that you learned while you were a bra-fit specialist about what women want and need in their bras?

That’s a loaded question.  Women expect a lot from their bras, and every woman wants different things.  Also, we have been taught a lot of misinformation about how bras fit.  I was wearing the wrong band size by 2 sizes when I was first taught to fit and I have garment construction experience.  The band of the bra is definitely the hardest working part of it.  That needs to be low and firm around the ribs so it can hold everything else in place.  The Geck Teck in our bras helps that positioning which is what makes them so different than the other things available.  The cups are probably the next most important because even in the right size the shape could be off.  No one style will fit every woman because of all the different factors.  That’s why for this Kickstarter we debuted a second style for the average bust range (a-d) so there would be one with contour cups and underwires as well as a second, softer shaping option to choose. 

I’ve not yet ventured into the world of bra making, but many of my readers make their own lingerie using a combination of store-bought patterns designed for home sewers, patterns they’ve designed and drafted for themselves, and patterns they’ve taken from favorite ready-to-wear pieces.  I would have thought that a bra is a bra, but from what I learned during my last interview with Kellie K Apparel, there are a lot of differences between a bra pattern designed for a home sewer and one for mass production.  What insights into bra design and pattern making have you gained from your experience?

Sewing a bra is probably one of the more difficult things to do.  Working with stretch and all of the different levels of kickback is tricky in its own right.  I would say using a guide from one that fits well already and then making a sample first will help figure out corrections.  We did a lot of sample making on these new bras because I wanted to make sure the stretch level was correct.  It’s a fine line between firm and tight. If there’s any rule for sewing your own lingerie it would be to be patient with the process. 

In your opinion are their any key elements that every bra should have?

A firm, not tight back band is probably the major thing.  After that it all depends on what works for you.  It really doesn’t matter how many hooks or how wide the straps are if the back band is working correctly.  

What’s a typical day like working in this industry?

There is no typical day, which is the fun part.  Every day is totally different.  

Do you find time to sew for fun?

Yes.  I recently made a friend’s Halloween costume and pair of harem pants for my toddler.  

Do you always design your own patterns?

Always.  Every once in a while I will use a base of a garment I like for pointers, but it’s really to cut down on having to take a million measurements.  

What is your proudest achievement to date?

I made my own wedding dress and it was full of handwork.  I was very patient.  

Finally, is there any piece of advice that you were given or that you’ve learned through your experience about sewing, design, or pattern making that you’d be willing to share with my readers?

Don’t use all your tricks at once.  Every piece needs a focus.  Sometimes designers over-design and it just looks busy.  I like when there are little details here and there that people may notice without having them pop out at the eye right away.  It is kind of like smelling a bottom note in a good perfume, it surprises you at the end.  When we did the bras we used bright pink for the silicone patches.  From the outside the bra looks fairly low key, and when the wearer takes it of it reveals a surprise.  

Thank you, Ruth, for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m glad to hear that you still make time to sew for fun, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Kellie K Apparel since I agree that there are a lot more uses for the GeckTeck lining.  Goodbye wardrobe malfunctions!

Just as a reminder, I went to grad school with the creator of Kellie K Apparel, but I bought the bra featured in this review with my own money. I’m even trying to convince my husband that there’s room in our budget for another one since I’d like one (or both?!) of the redesigns in beige! There are only eight days to go in the Kickstarter, but I think I just about have him convinced…

Happy Halloween from a Darling Little Duck!

Sew Well - Happy Halloween from a Darling Little Duck

Happy Halloween everyone! It’s my daughter’s second Halloween, and I just had to make her another costume. While she was the cutest little black kitten last year and I’d happily have her be a cat every year (because cats and sewing go hand in hand!), I decided to make her into a darling little duck this year.

Sew Well - Happy Halloween from a Darling Little Duck

Why a duck? Well, because she really likes ducks and all things water related right now. She figured out how to say “duh duh” pretty early on, but it wasn’t her way of saying Daddy – it was her way of saying duck. (She used “Mama” as both Mommy and Daddy for the longest time.  Then one day I became “Mommy”, and my husband finally became “Daddy”.) Not to mention that she has a huge collection of rubber ducks for bath time. And, my dad made her a wooden duck push toy that she loves to walk around the house and up and down our street. Ducks have been a theme around here for awhile.

Sew Well - Happy Halloween from a Darling Little Duck

Plus, I was really excited to have an excuse to finally sew with feathers. If you can believe it, feathers don’t really fit into my day-to-day routine. But, Halloween is definitely a time to sew outside the day to day. At first I figured I’d sew a bright yellow duck costume with lots of yellow feathers – something that would look very close to her duck push toy or the classic rubber duck. But, Mood had just sold out of solid yellow feather fringe (Hmmmm… I wonder how many others also wanted to be ducks for Halloween this year?!), so I decided to expand away from the all-yellow duck costume idea. Instead of bright yellow feathers, I chose Mood’s Yellow Feather Fringe, a fringe that gradually shifts from a dark yellow to dark greens and blues.

Sew Well - Happy Halloween from a Darling Little Duck

With a fringe chosen, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I wanted to sew feathers along the empire waist line of the Oliver + S Bubble Dress, the same pattern I used last Halloween (and first made here).  The colors in the fringe led me to the Liberty of London Kenzos Leaf Yellow/Blue Cotton Poplin, which I decided to use for the skirt.  While the print may be designed after leaves, I thought it also worked well as yellow and white feathers on a navy blue background, taking the duck costume from my original simple and cute idea to something darling and glamorous.

Sew Well - Happy Halloween from a Darling Little Duck

I continued adding dark green and blue elements with the little feather wings (aka goose feather pads) and the three navy buttons used to close the back bodice.

Sew Well - Happy Halloween from a Darling Little Duck

I like the contrast of the dark against the yellow cotton lawn used for the bodice and how the feather wings sit on her shoulders.

Sew Well - Happy Halloween from a Darling Little Duck

The last detail to mention is the giant yellow feather coconut button. I saw it when I was browsing Mood’s site for feather-related things, and I thought the giant button would add a bit of whimsy and fun.

Sew Well - Happy Halloween from a Darling Little Duck

I wasn’t sure at first where to put it, but I’m glad I put it front and center since my daughter loved playing with it while I was taking photos.

Sew Well - Happy Halloween from a Darling Little Duck

Though the feathers and the yellow bodice are supposed to let you know this dress is meant to be a duck costume, when it was all sewn together, I thought it didn’t scream “duck” as much as an all-yellow costume might have. So, at the last minute I decided to make a hood to help round out the costume. I used the pattern pieces from McCall’s M4642, the yellow cotton lawn that was used in the bodice, and some orange denim and black buttons from my stash (originally from JoAnn Fabrics).  My guess is that I’ll end up being the one carrying (wearing?!) the hood five minutes into the neighborhood Halloween parade, but I’m glad it’ll be available whenever my daughter will tolerate it.

Sew Well - Happy Halloween from a Darling Little Duck

Okay, now for the nitty gritty. The cotton lawn and poplin were easy to sew. The lawn was a bit thin, but I expected that from its description. I used the lawn for both the bodice and its lining, which helped to brighten the color and served to make the bodice opaque. I also used the lawn to line the skirt (see below, peeking out from the bubble hem), and its thinness prevented it from competing with the lovely body of the poplin in the bubble skirt.

Sew Well - Happy Halloween from a Darling Little Duck

Adding the feather fringe was remarkably easy. The fringe was held together by a ribbon that was 5/8″ wide, so I just used that as my seam allowance (the prescribed seam allowances for this pattern were actually 1/2″).The ribbon peeks out just a tiny bit, but it’s hardly noticeable.  The downside is how thick the ribbon and feather ends make the seam allowances.  I didn’t have the courage to trim them down since I worried feathers would start coming out (especially since I figured it wouldn’t take my daughter long to try to pull feathers out herself!), so I left them as is. In the close ups of the bodice above, you can pretty clearly see where the seam allowances end. But, no feathers were lost while taking the photos for this post, so I take that as a win!

A lot of the other details were hand sewn on – the feather wings, the buttons, and the duck bill, for example. I chose white thread for the button eyes to add a bit of life to them. The bill was freehanded and stuffed with polyfill to give it a bit of shape.

Next, the sizing. I mistakenly decided to go ahead and cut one size up since my instincts seem to be to make something she can wear for the next six months.  I did the same thing last Halloween, and I should have learned then that it’s okay to cut her exact size for this kind of a costume. The hood ended up extremely big – so big that even I can wear it! I think making the hood out of a cotton lawn instead of the intended fleece and then binding the bottom edge instead of sewing it into the top for which it was designed resulted in a much larger hood than the sizing intended. On the plus side, if my daughter decides she wants to be a duck for the next 16 Halloweens, I won’t need to make another hood!

I’m excited to take my daughter out to the neighborhood Halloween parade this year and watch how she reacts to seeing other kids in costumes.  Last year she was too young to have any idea what was going on, but I think this year she’ll be able to get something out of it. Here’s to hoping she has a very happy Halloween. And, here’s to also hoping all of you have wonderful Halloweens as well!

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

Sewing for the Season: Rosy Fall Cowl

I promised earlier this week that I was going to post something in “Cashmere Rose”. Well, here it is! My new Renfrew cowl! From what I can tell, this pink is a little too light to truly be “Cashmere Rose”, but that’s okay with me. After all: “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Also, I’m sorry if a half-finished version of this post already popped into your reader or showed up on Twitter.  My daughter was curious what I was writing, and I pulled her into my lap to show her the pictures. I guess I let her have a bit too much freedom with my computer because I couldn’t even believe my eyes when she somehow managed to hit publish!

Sew Well - Cowl-neck Renfrew in #moodfabrics pink cotton jersey

I started planning my next Mood Sewing Network make back in August. I picked out one of Mood’s fun Liberty of London prints. I downloaded a pattern for a cute, sleeveless BurdaStyle dress. I printed the pattern out and taped it together.  I cut out my size and made a few flat-pattern adjustments. Then, just as I was getting ready to make a muslin, the weather shifted here in Seattle and fall appeared. With the chill in the air, I lost all motivation to make a cute summer dress. Instead I wanted something cozy.

Sew Well - Cowl-neck Renfrew in #moodfabrics pink cotton jersey

While I stalled, debating whether a project counts as an unfinished object (UFO) if the pattern is prepared but the fabric is left uncut, I kept eyeing a pink cotton jersey from Mood that I’d picked out a few months back (no longer available online – sorry! – but check out this one and this one and this one instead). It looked so cozy, and I kept imagining it as a cowl.  As the fall weather continued, that imaginary pink cowl became a cowl I wanted to wear right that moment. So, I put aside all of the work I’d already done to prepare the dress pattern and grabbed my tried-and-true (TNT) cowl-neck top pattern: the Sewaholic Renfrew.

Sew Well - Cowl-neck Renfrew in #moodfabrics pink cotton jersey

Ever since making my first cowl-neck Renfrew back in 2011, I always knew I’d make more. My second one was made in 2013 during my maternity sewing, and, unfortunately, that one hasn’t gotten much wear since that winter given all of the excess fabric it has in the tummy area. But, it was very loved back then. This pink version is my third. Given that it’s now 2015, it seems I’m on an every-other-year schedule for making these cowls!  And, I have to admit that I think this one is my favorite!

Sew Well - Cowl-neck Renfrew in #moodfabrics pink cotton jersey

I made the pattern as shown in view C, only I doubled the height of the waistband to give it a bit of a tunic feel. I really like the length! I almost added the length into the top itself, leaving the waistband as designed, but I worried the waistband would ride up, leading to a baggy top instead of a tunic.

Sew Well - Cowl-neck Renfrew in #moodfabrics pink cotton jersey

This top’s dirty little secret is the neckband topstitching. I forgot to check my machine’s tension before topstitching the neckline, and after I was finished I immediately realized my mistake when I saw all of the skipped stitches.  I tried unpicking the topstitching, only to realize that I was stretching out the neckline. A stretched out neckline seemed worse than a bit of wonky topstitching, so I decided to just stitch over the original topstitching with the correct tension. The second row of topstitching dominates, which means that overall everything looks okay, but I’m thankful that the cowl neck covers the topstitching up for the most part. Lesson learned though: I will not launch right into topstitching without first testing my machine’s settings on a scrap of fabric! All of the rest of the interior seams were finished on my serger.

Sew Well - Cowl-neck Renfrew in #moodfabrics pink cotton jersey

Even though it was hard for me to set aside my original plans, I’m so happy that I decided to make this cowl instead.  I feel great in it, and it fits right into my life, whether I’m out and about or chasing my daughter around the house. I think this cowl is going to get a lot of wear until the weather warms up again!

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

Sewing for the Season: Fall 2015 Pantone

Pantone Fall 2015

Anticipated colors for this fall and winter. Image from material at

Once upon a time in the early days of this blog, I looked forward to writing about Pantone’s seasonal colors on the equinox, the first day of their respective season. My enjoyment came partly because you guys often had such lively opinions about the chosen colors, partly because I liked the challenge of planning a project in a “seasonal” color, and partly because I found it fun to see whether or not the colors really did end up being featured in ready-to-wear clothing lines.

Spring 2011 | Fall 2011 | Spring 2012 | Fall 2012 | Spring 2013 | Fall 2013

But, you’ll notice that I stopped posting about Pantone’s seasonal colors with the arrival of my daughter. I’ll be honest — I completely forgot all about Pantone and their seasonal colors in the fog that was new mommyhood. It wasn’t until a week or two ago that I stumbled upon them again. And, while my forgetting entirely about the existence of these colors would suggest that they really aren’t all that important to me, I still figured I’d go ahead and post this season’s colors for old time’s sake. We’re only just past the equinox after all, so I’m even almost on time.  Plus, I’m dying to hear your opinions again. And, coincidence would have it that I’ll be posting something in “Cashmere Rose” (aka pink – haha!) later this week.

Pantone calls Fall 2015 “an evolving color landscape.” They describe the ten top seasonal colors (shown above) as “earthy neutrals with a range of bold color statements”, which they say together “reflect a landscape of hope, fun, fantasy, and all things natural.” I almost feel like I’m at a wine tasting with a wannabe sommelier! Hmmm… Maybe that’s just the “Marsala” talking?!

As for suggested color combinations, Pantone says to “combine Desert Sage, Stormy Weather, and Oak Buff for a look inspired by the flora and fauna of Fall.” Or, “both men and women can weave Cadmium Orange and Cashmere Rose with Desert Sage for a bold mix of bright, earthy inspiration.”

Speaking of both men and women, I like that Pantone has not distinguished between female and male colors this season. All of the seasons I’d previously written about had a few color substitutions for men. Perhaps those substitutions really were reflective of the season, but it often felt like they were less about the color and more about the color’s name.  It was as if they were saying that men shouldn’t wear “Silver Cloud” when a nearly identical “Flint Gray” was available. Anyway, I’m glad to see that they’ve stuck with one set of colors this time around.

Okay, so my big question is — what do you think of these colors? I’ll admit that I’m curious to try them.  I tend to gravitate to brighter colors, but I’m starting to think softer colors like these are better for me.  If you like them, will you be sewing any of these colors this fall and winter?  If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s just starting to be spring, do you pay attention to these colors?

Showering Pincushion Treats with Elephants

Sew Well: Elephant Baby Blanket

Hello friends!  It’s been awhile. Right after my last post, we packed up our little family of three and headed east to Glacier National Park to join my parents and my brother and his family in a little over a week of outdoor fun. I loved getting away and into the wild, but it’s true what they say: any travel with multiple little kids (my brother has two darling little girls) should really be called a trip and not a vacation. My parents then came back to Seattle with us, and my dad decided we were going to tackle the plumbing projects that were holding up our kitchen remodel. My mom took care of my daughter while my dad and I sweated copper pipes. Every day. For over a week. It was fun but intense! The back to back adventures meant that for nearly a month the only time my sewing machine got turned on was when I mended the strap on my mom’s purse.

That is, until the end of last week.  Then my sewing machine whirred into action again in order to make a baby shower gift for Melizza of Pincushion Treats.  Yes, I went to a baby shower for one of our very own! And, it was a pretty much a requirement to make something handmade for it.

Back when several of the Seattle sewing folks first started talking about throwing Melizza a baby shower, I had so many ideas for what I wanted to make her.  I eventually narrowed it down to an outfit from out-of-print McCall’s M5415 and an elephant blanket from Cotton Ginny’s Animal Blanket pattern. I’d even picked out fabric for both.  But, then, with everything going on, the days slipped away, and I ran out of time to make it all.  So, I settled on only making the elephant blanket and wrapping up the McCall’s pattern, fabric, and trim as a ready-made project for Melizza.

I’ve made a million of these blankets, so there’s really not much more to say about the pattern. I originally got the pattern for an assigned project in my Introduction to Sewing class, and I’m almost certain that this particular pattern has been used more than any other pattern in my stash. Since it feels like everyone I know is having babies, it figures that a quick baby pattern would be a winner for me. It’s too bad I hadn’t yet discovered sewing when everyone I knew was getting married! It would have been fun to have an excuse to make party dress after party dress!

If you’ve never sewn with minky, you should keep in mind that the nap is directional and that little flecks of minky fuzz will get all inside your sewing machine. After I finish a project like this one, I typically use a pipe cleaner to dig the fuzz out from inside my machine. It’s a bit of a nuisance, but it’s not irritating enough to keep me from sewing blanket after blanket from this incredibly soft material.

Who else has sewn with minky? Any tips or tricks to share? Anyone else disappear recently on a fun end-of-summer vacation or an intense home-improvement staycation? Anyone in the southern hemisphere counting the weeks until their summer vacation?

Mulberry Roses Neoprene Dress

I’m not sure how many of you also follow the Mood Sewing Network, but my newest dress went live there yesterday. This dress was definitely an experiment for me. As you’ll read, I’m happy with the result (I feel great wearing it!), but I’m not quite sure I did the fabric or the pattern justice by combining the two. I definitely have a lot to learn when it comes to sewing with neoprene, but I’m glad I gave it a shot. Next time I might stick with a simpler sheath silhouette (my original plan, before I decided to be adventurous!) with fewer seams.

Sew Well - Raspberry Roses in #moodfabrics Neoprene

Even though I’d heard great things about sewing with neoprene, I wasn’t really tempted to try out the new-to-me fabric. I was worried that it would be too hot to wear or that it would make people wonder why I was wearing a wetsuit to the park. But then Mood Fabrics started offering digitally printed neoprene jerseys, and those prints were just too much to resist. There were quite a few prints that I considered, but this Mulberry Roses digital print ending up being the winner.

Sew Well - Raspberry Roses in #moodfabrics Neoprene

When the fabric arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it draped when I hung it on my dress form. It was not at all stiff like my surfing wetsuit. It still felt sporty to me, but it didn’t scream I’m-supposed-to-be-a-wetsuit like I feared. While it was still on my dress form, I pinned it this way and that way to see how it behaved since I didn’t have a definite pattern in mind for it. I’d been thinking of making a sleeveless sheath dress, but the drape suggested I might have more options.

My favorite ready-to-wear sporty dress is fitted through the top and then flares out into an A-line skirt. The jersey it’s made out of is definitely more fluid than this mulberry neoprene, but I still wondered if the neoprene could work in a similar silhouette. If I could pull it off, I knew I’d get a lot more wear out of a dress with an A-line skirt than a sheath since the former feels more everyday casual to me.

When I was looking through my pattern collection for potential patterns, I didn’t see much that tempted me until I got to my Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress book. The Chanel Dress variation (far right, below) was pretty close to what I was imagining: a simple, fitted top with an A-line skirt.

Sew Well + Little Black Dress Book's Chanel Dress - Raspberry Roses in #moodfabrics Neoprene

Ever since I first read through this book, I’ve always wanted to make one of its dresses. Most of the looks feel pretty classic to me.  I thought I was going to make the wrap dress pattern… until my friend lent me her original Diane von Furstenburg wrap dress pattern. How could I pass that opportunity up? I was happy that this neoprene gave me another reason to try out the book. The patterns in this book are drafted for someone who is 5’3″ to 5’6″ tall and has a C cup. I’m 5’7″ and have a B cup so I started by adjusting the flat pattern to make what I figured were the necessary modifications: small-bust adjustment, extra length, extra at the side seams since my waist measurement fell into a different size than my bust measurement. I also made the necessary modifications for the variation: raise the front neckline, lower the back neckline, take off a bit from the armhole. Then I daringly cut straight into my neoprene.  I figured the weight and stretch of the neoprene would be hard to mimic in any cheap jersey I could spare, so I might as well just give the mulberry neoprene a go and hope for the best.

Sew Well - Raspberry Roses in #moodfabrics Neoprene

(As an aside, here’s a peek at the reason I am using leaves as props in most of the photos – she loves picking up leaves, sticks, and rocks whenever we are out on a walk now!)

Sew Well - Raspberry Roses in #moodfabrics Neoprene

Sewing the neoprene was easy.  The only issues I had were prewashing and what to do with the skirt seams. My go-to fabric guide, Sandra Betzina’s More Fabric Savvy, said wetsuit fabrics like this one didn’t need to be pre-washed, but I wanted to anyway.  I threw it in with a thin white jersey that I was considering using as a lining when I wasn’t sure what pattern I was going to use (the Marcy Tilton shingle dress that I previously made here was a contender, and it uses a lining to hold the shingles in place). And, would you believe it – I had my first piece of white fabric turn pink! I’d heard stories of white socks becoming pink socks, but it’d never happened to me before. Ha! I learned a valuable lesson that everyone else already knows and that I’m surprised took me this long: be wary of washing colorful new fabrics with white fabrics!

As for the skirt seams, they almost made me wishI’d chosen had fewer skirt seams. Or that I’d stuck with my original sheath plan. When simply sewn and pressed, they wanted to cave in on themselves at the hem. More Fabric Savvy recommended flat-locking the seams with my serger, but I thought that would be a little too sporty for this dress. I liked the idea though since I found that forcing the seam allowances to be flat really helped the skirt keep its A-line shape. I tried topstitching the seams to one side, in a mock-felled seam sort of way, but my topstitching pulled the neoprene too taut, showing off the unseemly white underbelly of the printed fabric (hello shine!). I carefully unpicked all of the topstitching and then catch stitched the seam allowances to one side to try to achieve a similar, but invisible, mock-felled effect. Though it’s not as noticeable in person, I didn’t quite achieve the completely invisible look I wanted. You can see little dimples along most of my seams in these photos. Because the neoprene fabric has a bit of thickness, I made sure to only catch the innermost layers when I was hand catch stitching, which leads me to believe that, just like with my wrap dress, the reason for the dimpling is that I pulled my catch stitches to tight – the second lesson in the making of this dress that I should have already learned. Urg. I might redo them if they still bother me after a few wears.

Sew Well - Raspberry Roses in #moodfabrics Neoprene

The last major step was sewing the side seams. I started by basting them together in order to check the overall fit of the dress. Maybe it was the extra weight of the skirt or the stretch of the neoprene fabric, but the poor dress just hung off me! I pulled out the basting stitches and took the side seams in as much as I dared, essentially removing everything I’d added when I graded the flat pattern out to match the size for my true waist measurement. I thought the adjusted dress fit well when I checked it out in the mirror, but after looking at these photos, I can see that there are drag lines coming down from my bust. Maybe the weight of the skirt causes this neoprene to grow over time? Given that jerseys are so forgiving, I think I can reduce those drag lines by taking in the waist a bit more. But, I have to be careful since I don’t want to take in the dress too much since I already learned that this printed neoprene sort of shines when pulled too taut.

Sew Well - Raspberry Roses in #moodfabrics Neoprene

The neckline and armholes are bound with self fabric and the hem line was turned up and catch stitched in place. I like the proportions of the skirt relative to the top, but maybe it hits me at a weird spot in my knee? It’s funny – I felt great when I wore this dress out this weekend, but writing this post has shown me that the perfectionist in me does have a few issues with it. Maybe I asked the neoprene to do too much?Maybe it’s just natural to be critical for the blog? I actually really did enjoy wearing this dress this past weekend! But, if these little things do end up bothering me, then, thankfully, taking in the side seams, redoing the catch stitching, and altering the hem are all easy enough to do. For now I’m just going to ignore them though and keep throwing this dress on as often as I can during this unseasonably warm Seattle summer!

Have you ever sewn with neoprene? If so, what did you think? If not, would you ever?!

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

A Little Reversible Scalloped Skirt

Sew Well - A Little Scalloped Skirt

This project was one of those that started with the pattern.  Maris of Sew Maris posted a sneak peek of her Cosmos reversible skirt pattern, and I was taken by the idea of a reversible skirt.

By the end of a typical day, whatever top my daughter is wearing will likely be covered in a happy collage of what she ate that day. But, whatever happens to be on her lower half is often in pretty decent shape.  The idea of being able to flip a perfectly fine skirt over, pair it with a clean shirt, and have a new outfit without much fuss really appealed to me.

Sew Well - A Little Scalloped Skirt

I have to say that I love that kiddie things are perfectly sized to use up my treasured scraps. After trying out several different fabric combinations, the ultimate winners were two fabrics I picked up awhile back from The shimmering green floral was left over from the making of a Lonsdale, and the textured white floral was left over from the making of a pleated skirt.  I thought that the small scale of both floral prints would work well for such a tiny skirt, and I liked that both fabrics would coordinate with a waistband made from a bit of dark green fold-over elastic that I had in my stash.

Sew Well - A Little Scalloped Skirt

This skirt was a really quick sew. First, it’s tiny.  Second, because it’s reversible, all of the seam allowances are enclosed, which means there’s no need to spend extra time French seaming or anything.

The trickiest part was the scalloped hem. If you’ll believe it, I’d never sewn scallops before.  I spent a little extra time on the scallops each step of the way to make sure I was making them as nicely as I could. First, I carefully cut the scalloped hem of all four skirt pieces (front and back of both sides).  Then I marked the point where each scallop came together right at the stitching line so I knew exactly where to pivot when I was sewing (a tip from Maris’s instructions!). Then I clipped and trimmed the seam allowances before turning the skirt right side out and carefully pressing the scallops into place.

Sew Well - A Little Scalloped Skirt

The only downside was that the smallest size, a 2-3, was still too big for my one-and-a-half-year-old little girl. So, I just cut off a bit of length and gathered the skirt relative to her true-waist measurement.  However, I failed to realize that a skirt like this would either want to sit above or below her round little belly – not right on the mid-line where I took my measurement.  For now she’ll wear it at her empire waist – a look I find to be super cute on her anyway.

Sew Well - A Little Scalloped Skirt

Trying to capture a garment on a toddler with a camera is quite an interesting experience! She wasn’t even really crawling when I took photos of her Halloween costume last year, so I could get all the photos I wanted while camped out in one spot. This time we covered quite a lot of ground at a local park before I called it quits!

Sew Well - A Little Scalloped Skirt

Maris made the Cosmos reversible skirt pattern for issue 8 of the One Thimble digital sewing magazine, and I made the skirt as part of Maris’s pre-magazine pattern testing. Even though I made the skirt before the magazine was put together (it’s still coming soon), I had no idea that I might be part of the promotional material! But, look who made it onto the One Thimble Facebook page:

Sew Well - A Little Scalloped Skirt

I wonder if she’ll be in the magazine as well?  Does anyone get One Thimble?  If so, will you let me know if you see her in there once issue 8 comes out?

Also, who else has enjoyed a recent quick sew?