Knit (and fit!) success!

About a year ago I bought myself a Brother 1034D serger.  I had some lovely knit fabric in my stash that I wanted to make up in to a dress, my trusty vintage Singer did not do great on knits, and this machine had rave reviews on Pattern Review.  I received the box and set the machine up right away. It came pre-threaded with different colored threads.  I tried it out on a few scraps of fabric.  It made beautiful seams, and seemed easy enough.  I made plans to cut my fabric for my dress right away.

And then I didn’t.  And the machine sat.

The serger was a little intimidating to me.  While the ability to make, finish and trim a seam all at once is pretty awesome, you don’t have the same leeway with a serger that you do with a regular sewing machine.  If you mess up a seam or need to adjust fit, it’s not just a matter of unpicking and redoing.  The serger is not at all forgiving!

I’ve been focusing mostly on work clothes in the make-my-own-clothes challenge, and I needed dresses.  That lovely black and tourquise knit was sitting on my fabric shelf, staring at me, daring me to make something of it.  Part of resigning to make my own clothes was to challenge myself and learn new techniques, and if becoming confident on the serger didn’t qualify, well, I don’t know what does!  So out came the fabric and the shears, and three days later I have a new knit dress.

A GORGEOUS knit dress.



I chose McCall’s 5974, the Palmer/Pletsch perfect knit dress.  It had some great reviews on Pattern Review, and seemed like it would be a fairly easy dress for the beginning sergist.  I made view D with a few minor changes – leaving off the side ties and leaving out the back zipper.  One of the things I’ve struggled with in the past is cutting the correct pattern size.  With knits especially, it’s important to check the final measurements of the completed garment, and make sizing decisions with those measurements in mind.  I cut a size 14 based on high bust and final measurements.  To be honest, I was really, REALLY worried it wasn’t going to fit – 14 is a much smaller size than I usually cut to accomodate my waist and hip measurements.  But I think you can see it ended up fitting pretty darn well!

Although this was a knit with a lot of stretch, I did end up doing a 1.5″ FBA per the Palmer/Pletsch instructions included with the pattern.  I don’t like the look of things stretching and straining across my chest.  I think the FBA really did the trick with this dress.  The bodice lays quite nicely over my bust, and creates some really great lines.  I even like the low cut neckline – it’s great for a night out, although for the office I’ll wear something under it!

Whoops! Maybe NSFW….

I’m really proud of the fit I accomplished with this dress.  I love the color, the lines, and the way the dress flows.  It’s a lovely article of clothing, and I think I’ll definitely make at least one more.  I have a gorgeous J. Crew knit in white with small geometric shapes in coral and gray from Fabric Mart that would look wonderful in this design.

There are a few things that I need to work on before I tackle this again: I need to be MUCH more careful when matching up pieces.  I inadvertently shortened this dress by more than an inch because I serged the skirt front on to the waistback backwards.  Ugh.  I had to slice the skirt off just beneath the seam, then reattach the correct way.  Luckily I’m short (wow, never thought I’d say THAT!), so shortening the dress works in my favor. I also need to figure out a better way to do hems.  My vintage Singer, while a lovely machine that works marvelously for most things, doesn’t really like knits – especially multiple layers of knits.  The neckline, arms, and hem on this dress are a bit wavy from where my machine stretched them out while feeding through.  Also, I think I may be using the wrong needle as the holes in the seam seem really large.  I’m going to research this a bit more, and if I find a solution soon I may go ahead and fix the arms and the hem.  They’re both long enough that I can remove the existing hem to shorten a bit, and put in a new one. Overall though, I’m very pleased with myself.  I feel like I’ve made my first wearable garment in my self-imposed challenge, and I’m now on my way to filling my closet with self made clothes.  I plan to wear this dress to work tomorrow, in fact!

When I put the dress on today for pictures, my wonderful boyfriend and photographer told me, “That dress just screams for a hat!”  I think he’s right – a big, floppy black hat would look wonderful with this dress!  All I had that seemed appropriate in my hat collection was this cloche.  It works, but I think I may need to add a nice big fancy black hat to my collection soon!


Colette Trunk Show and the Anise Jacket

Colette just released two new patterns, the Anise jacket and the Juniper pants. To celebrate they held a series of trunk shows along the west coast. I was lucky enough to attend a Colette trunk show on Saturday, where Sarai graciously signed my copy of The Colette Sewing Handbook , I had an opportunity to meet other local sewing enthusiasts, and I picked up a few patterns and some really gorgeous fabric. It was wonderful to see everyone there in their darling Colette creations! I haven’t sewn up any of the Colette patterns aside from the Sorbetto. Seeing so many of the designs in person was very inspiring, and I can’t wait to make some up for myself!

Speaking of Colette designs – I’m really in love with the Anise jacket! What a cute, classic little number! I knew I’d be picking this pattern up at the trunk show, so I stopped by one of my favorite local fabric stores, Stonemountain & Daughter, beforehand to see if I might be able to find the right fabric. Lucky me, I found a really gorgeous soft wool in a dark burgundy shade in the clearance section for 50% off. Perfect! I can’t wait to get started on this. I’m excited to try some new techniques, such as the welt pockets. While I was going through my stash last night trying to find an appropriate lining, I ran across a beautiful piece of very soft black leather that I’d forgotten about. I don’t have much of it, but there’s definitely enough to use for the welt pockets and some bound buttonholes on the jacket. I’d really like to use the leather for these details, but I’m not sure I’ll be brave enough – especially since this will be my first time trying these techniques at all!

I’m a little nervous about fitting the jacket, as I know I’ll need to do an FBA and the pattern does not have bust darts. I was hoping to avoid adding darts in since I really like the lines of the pattern as-is, but I don’t think that’s going to be an option. I’ve ordered some tracing paper and am going to make a couple muslins, one based on high bust and one based on bust, to see which gives me the correct fit. I’m planning on participating in the Anise Sew-Along on the Colette forums, which started this week. I’ll post my progress here. Stay tuned!

Anise Jacket Sewalong

A Tale of Two Fittings

I mentioned in my last entry that I had made a few Colette Sorbetto tops.  The first I made from a nice blue and white faux brocade that I really loved.  One of the nice things about the Sorbetto is that it takes very little fabric, so it is perfect for those odd pieces you have that are not quite big enough for anything else.

Here’s my first Sorbetto:

Sorbetto number 1

Sorbetto number 2

I was happy enough with the outcome.  It looks the way it should, and as a dress/work shirt under jackets – which was my original intent – it would be great.  But there are some issues with the top as it is.  The bust darts are too high, it’s too tight across the chest, it’s too short, and it is much narrower in the hips than I prefer. While I could wear this top, particularly under jackets, it was apparent that it didn’t fit the way it should. I had initially cut a size 14 pattern.  I decided that I’d try the next size up to see if that solved the problems I was having.  It seemed logical to me – chest and hips too tight must mean that the shirt was too small, right?  Going on this logic, I cut a size 16 pattern and whipped it together in a brown polka dot fabric.  This definitely fixed the issues of length and being too tight across the hips, but it created new issues.  You can’t tell very well in this picture, but the size 16 was ENORMOUS in the top.  The neck and armscyes are huge.  When my shoulders are relaxed, the top is constantly falling off of me.  I thought it would be passable under a sweater and wore it to work on Friday.  I spent the whole day feeling uncomfortable and readjusting my shirt.  That was just not going to work long term.

I’ve known since I started sewing that I really should be doing a full bust adjustment on my tops.  I’m a DD cup bra.  Most patterns are sized for a B cup (Colette patterns are sized slightly larger, for a C cup).  Sometimes patterns will offer customizable cup sizes, but even then they usually only go up to a D. I’ve been avoiding doing an FBA because honestly, the process scared me.  It involved cutting in to the pattern and repositioning pieces.  It seemed pretty daunting, and until now I felt like it was easier just to wear things a little snug in order to avoid it.  But it was pretty apparent with the Sorbetto that if I wanted it to fit right, I needed to go with a size 14 and was going to have to finally attempt the dreaded FBA.  I really wanted to get the fit right, as I’d splurged and ordered some nice burnout silk specifically for this pattern and I didn’t want to “waste” it on an ill-fitted shirt.  With that in mind, I sat down to attempt my first FBA.

The Sorbetto is actually a good pattern to try this out on, since it’s free and you can just print another if you mess up.  The drafting of the pattern makes it fairly easy too.  In addition to the FBA, I decided to also attempt to grade the hips out to a size 16, and lengthen the top a little.

I used one of the FBA methods described in Fit For Real People, involving a tissue fitting (during which I discovered I needed to add 2 inches to the bustline – ugh), slashing the pattern through the bust dart, armscye and down the center and spreading to add size, and actually found it to be much easier than I expected.  What the heck have I been dreading all this time?!

Pattern after FBA modifications

I also decided to make a hybrid pattern of sorts by overlaying the size 14 on

top of the size 16, taping together, and trimming the excess size 16 pattern from the waist up.  This way I got the width around the hips and length that I liked from the size 16 pattern, without the fit issues at the top.

Now that I had my pattern all adjusted, it was time to cut and sew.  I chose a piece of semi-sheer yellow checked cotton that I’d had in my stash

Sorbetto number 3

for a while, and decided to add a little lace embellishment down either side of the center pleat for a fun touch. I also decided to add some sleeves to this one, based on a tutorial I found on The Seasoned Homemaker blog.  The top went together just as easily as it had in the past, although I must admit that the hugely increased size of the bust dart was a little disturbing to see!  I was pretty satisfied with the end result.  Yellow isn’t necessarily my best color, but I think the color and pattern give the top a cute sort of retro feel.

The FBA adjustment on the size 14 definitely corrected the issue with the top being too tight across the chest.  Yay!!  But this top has a couple issues of it’s own.  First off, I don’t like the sleeves.  I just don’t think sleeves work with this pattern.  This is unfortunate, because I don’t like bare arms and rarely wear sleeveless things.  Sigh.  Also, I didn’t realize it beforehand, but the FBA actually results in adding to the width of the garment everywhere – including the hips.  Because I did a 2 inch FBA,  I actually added 4 inches to the garment width.  Because of this, I probably didn’t need to add to the hip width also.  I’ll remember that for next time.  But overall, I think this top turned out OK.  Even with the extra width at the hips.  I think it would be super cute belted and worn with a pencil skirt or white capris – very retro!  For layering under a jacket or sweater, which is how I’ll most likely wear it, it’s perfect!

Me and my Sorbetto