09 Aug

The Socialite Dress

I jumped on the bandwagon and made Anna Maria Horner’s Socialite Dress. I’d call this more of an after action report than an actual pattern review, but here goes.

My interest in this dress was piqued by my happiness with AMH’s Multi-Tasker Tote, and my desire for a simple, cool, dress to throw on when even shorts and a T-shirt seem too hot and restrictive. I liked what I was seeing in Flickr groups, but wondered if the dress wouldn’t be even more comfy in jersey. Not long ago, I found a hawaiian-ish striped cotton jersey in the remnant pile and decided that I’d give it a go. If I hated it, no big loss.

The pattern states finished garment sizes, so I wrapped myself with a tape measure and decided that XS seemed right up top, but was a bit snug around my hips and butt, so I adjusted the pattern using S for the lower half, plus added an extra 1 1/2″ to the length. I adjusted and traced the pattern, and sewed the entire dress in an all-day sewing bee on Saturday, proving it’s simple, straightforward construction. Having sewn many garments before, I thought the instructions got a bit wordy, especially when it came to making the ease gathers where the dress attaches to the neck yoke. In my mind I knew what I needed to do so it was tedious to still be reading about it three paragraphs later. However, for someone who’s new to sewing or making the cross over from quilting straight lines to making a garment, I totally get why the instructions aught to be so specific. I made the dress with the pockets, but no belt since I had a leather one I already own in mind. I used a stretch needle and the stretch stitches on my sewing machine.

The result? Quite possibly the world’s most comfortable dress! It’s maybe a bit big around the butt after-all and the stripes make it look more like a beach cover-up than a serious dress, but I’d definitely wear this around the house or on a beach/pool day. In fact, I’ve had it on all day today.

I had brought a pile of indonesian style fabrics my SIL had given me from The Netherlands to the bee, with the intention of making a skirt from one of them. When we unfolded them though and saw that one had a lovely panel, we decided that it really wanted to become a Socialite dress too. So I made this today. I left out the pockets, not wanting to add hip bulk (though they are so fun to have) and since the fabric had a lovely finished edge, I just aligned the bottom of the original pattern with the fabric edge. This version was quite possibly the easiest dress pattern ever. But it doesn’t fit the same.

I tried it on mid-way through construction and it seemed tight across the back. So, I spread the gathers out over a wider area of the back yoke. Finished, it fit better, but feels tight under the arms. It did, however, fit well around the butt.  At first, I was frustrated that the pattern fit so poorly, but then I realized that all my issues could probably be solved just by going up a size. 

In conclusion, I think I’m an overall XS if the dress is made with a knit, and overall a S if it’s made with a woven fabric. (I’m about a size 6 in off-the-rack fashion, sometimes a 4.) Unfortunately, I don’t have any more of that pretty indonesian panel, so rather than making  the dress again, I think I’ll just take off the arm hole facing of this dress and re-do it with a slightly longer arm hole. (EDIT: Done; and the fit is much better!) I’m going to keep an eye out for a pretty floral print in a cotton jersey (and won’t limit myself to sale and remnant fabric this time) and make another knit dress though. I’m not crazy to make three of these am I?

09 Apr

Another Pattern Review

Just to add another dimension to my already schizophrenic blog, I seem to be on a roll with commercial patterns and I think the best way to share them is to do a review. So here’s another pattern review:

Like the Heather Bailey apron, I saw a peek of the Anna Maria Horner’s Multi Tasker Tote and knew I wanted it — but had to wait for it to be published. Luckily the wait this time was less than a year. Kathy of Pink Chalk Fabrics was potentially first in line to stock the patterns and I think I was first in her line to order one. She ships fast and I was off and sewing right away.

A roomy tote bag with integrated outer side pockets. The bag’s big side panels are perfect for bold prints as shown on the pattern, but also leave room for adaptations like mine. I love the side pockets as an opportunity for coordinating fabric (the more fabrics, the better in my book).

The instructions are very complete with lots of diagrams. At first glance some steps might look a little weird, but as soon as you have the actual pieces in front of you it all makes sense. I spotted two typos and noticed that although the pattern piece for the strap says to cut two out of interfacing as well as your fabric, the outer panel pattern piece does not (even though you DO need to cut two out of interfacing). Luckily, the written instructions are very clear about what you need to cut out of what and the typos are inconsequential.

Degree of Difficulty:
Although this is not a difficult pattern, there are some steps that may be a bit tricky for an absolute beginner — mostly in terms of wrestling odd shapes under one’s sewing machine foot. It should be a piece of cake for an intermediate sewer though. Sometimes I see something and I can figure out how to make it myself, but this one has a bit of ingenious construction, so I’m glad I bought the pattern and learned a new trick or two to add to my toolbox of sewing skills.

It’s probably obvious that I modified my tote a bit. I deconstructed one of Mr. Incredible‘s old uniforms for my outer panel fabric. The side in the first picture is the back of the uniform “blouse” with the nice big side pocket from his pants. I added a name tape and branch insignia in totally non-official places. I used the cinch-y thing from the pants and a cuff from the blouse for quasi-usable decoration. The other side is essentially the front of the blouse with the two lower pockets, and including the button placket, although it opens to nothing (if I were really high-speed I would have sewn an inner lining behind the button placket so there’d be a hidden Napoleon-style side entry pocket). Another cinch-y thing, jump wings, insignia from another branch, and a tape you can’t see that says US Army dress it up a bit. On the inside  I used the upper pocket from the uniform blouse because it has an awesome inner pocket for a pen (photo above). The other side of the interior has the pocket included in the pattern, although I used the ribbon that cinches up the bottom of the uniform pants instead of the fabric loop from the instructions (photo below). The shoulder straps are from the length of the pants and include a bit of the double layered sections that reinforce the knee and inner thighs (adds nothing to the functionality of the straps, just a couple of decorative seams).

I’m very pleased with the pattern and the finished product. I appreciate when something looks equally handsome in real life as it does in the photos on the package. I would definitely recommend this pattern. I give it 12 muffins too (though not literally this time).