Category Archives: It’s done!

Coral wrap dress update

I got to wear my coral wrap dress from Vogue 8784 for the first time today. My husband and I went to a lovely small restaurant here in town for brunch to celebrate our 21st anniversary. Afterward, I asked him to take my photo:

My new wrap dress! Photo by Robert the Husband.

My new wrap dress! Photo by Robert the Husband.

The dress was really comfortable to wear, but I might still add a snap at the V-neck where the sides cross. There was a tad of gaping when I was in the car wearing a seatbelt. I’m really glad I added the piping trim, otherwise all the design detail of this dress would have been lost in the print. As it is, the diagonal pleats are impossible to see.

I think the purse is worth a closeup:

I bought this purse at the Sacramento Antique Faire for $5 or $10.

I bought this purse at the Sacramento Antique Faire for $5 or $10.

Although I have a nice big quality leather purse (which I use for work meetings because it looks super professional and holds a full-size notepad), it’s really lovely to have a collection of small vintage purses. This one is big enough to hold a wallet, keys, phone, handkerchief and colored lip balm. What more does a girl need for brunch with her sweetie?

Next up: The Clara Dress from Sew Liberated.


Coral wrap dress — Vogue 8784

Whew! That took a while.

Last week, I finished the coral Vogue 8784 wrap dress that I started LAST FALL.

As it turns out, I prefer to sew while listening to Giants baseball on TV. (I just look up for the replay if something good happens.) Thus, I stopped working on my dress last September and picked it up again this April. (I’m going to need a sewing strategy for the winter because that’s just ridiculous. Too bad I hate football.)

This is the first wrap dress I’ve ever made, and it’s a pretty amazing thing, really. Yes, wrap dresses do seem to be pretty flattering, as people say. But this one is also pretty forgiving.

Vogue 8784 on Gene the Dress Form.

Vogue 8784 on Gene the Dress Form.

When I started it last fall, I weighed 20 pounds less than I do right now. From the beginning of November through the end of February, I suddenly gained weight. I didn’t eat any differently or exercise any less (because, well, there isn’t any less). I’m blaming hormones for changing my metabolism (I entered my late 40s this week), but I’m fighting back with an increase in biking and a decrease in sugary baked goods. We’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, the dress still fits because of the generous self-tie closure that wraps completely around the waist and ties at the right front. (There is no choice as to where it ties.) I was prepared to sew in a snap at the V-neck where the two fronts cross, but it doesn’t seem to need it.

The tie only closes in this one spot.

This tie is the only closure. With a generous front overlap, it makes this dress very forgiving of changes in weight.

Also, I didn’t realize this little bonus until I was half-way through sewing the dress, but it doesn’t call for interfacing. Whoo-hoo! Construction requires a full lining, so the interfacing isn’t needed. I also added prepackaged piping along the neckline down to the front edge of the skirt. That stabilized that entire edge, so I could dispense with the topstitching that was called for there. It also made the wrap style more noticeable despite the busy pattern.

The piping makes the wrap structure easier to see.

The piping makes the wrap structure easier to see.

To fit my figure — well, the one I had last fall anyway — I made my usual pattern alterations: full-bust adjustment, lowering the bust point, and lengthening the entire bodice half an inch. I also lengthened the skirt a few inches. That just-below-the-knee length makes the legs look good but is overall out of proportion on me.

I couldn’t bring myself to abandon my sewing pride and do the machine hem called for in the instructions. I used rayon seam binding as a hem tape and sewed both the dress and lining hems by hand, which — along with hand sewing the lining at the waist seam — took forever. Forever being two Giants games and one viewing of The Mummy Returns.

I sewed the fashion fabric hem and the lining hem by hand.

I sewed the fashion fabric hem and the lining hem by hand with a catch stitch.

I’m very happy with my new dress, but as is always the case with sewing, the project had its self-inflicted challenges.

  • In making the full-bust adjustment, I forgot to create the waist dart. That made the bodice front too wide to fit the skirt front. I fixed it by easing the bodice using the basting stitch that was holding the bodice and lining together at the waist seam. With the busy print, the easing isn’t noticeable. I think this is a pretty legit way to eliminate a waist dart.
  • I misread my own adjustment for the side seam dart when marking one bodice front piece, so the darts start at different spots in the side seam. They end at the same point, however. I made them both correctly in the lining just because it made me feel less lame.
  • I didn’t read the pattern instructions closely enough to notice until it was too late that the bodice lining is sewn in differently depending on which sleeve style is used. I ended up having to hand sew the lining to the bodice at the armscye.
  • I was very diligent about marking the wrong sides of the fabric and the lining for the unusual diagonal pleats. This was a total waste of time. The pleats are made after the bodice lining is in place — that is, when the wrong sides are no longer visible. Curses! Next time, I’ll mark the pleats on the right side of the lining. I’ve already made a note in the pattern instructions.
  • I was a little sloppy putting in the cap sleeve. It doesn’t even go completely around the armscye, and it still has accidental tucks. That’s just amateur night.
  • I didn’t pay close enough attention to my thread and bobbin color choices. If I had, I wouldn’t have ended up with coral thread showing on the white lining at the pleats. That was so easy to avoid with a little forethought.
See the coral thread on the white lining. That just didn't need to be.

See the coral thread on the white lining? Well, how could you miss it? With a little advance planning, this could have been avoided.

  • Lengthening the skirt meant ending up with a wider hem that wouldn’t fit on the fabric per the pattern layout. I had to get a little creative there. I was also a little lackadaisical with my pattern matching at the back skirt seam (as in I didn’t bother with it at all). And the diagonal nature of the print combined with a V neck and diagonal pleats makes for some weird angles here and there.
Total lack of pattern matching!

Total lack of pattern matching! That’s just laziness.

  • I was right that I had enough white fabric in my stash for the lining. But I didn’t have enough of any single white fabric. Most of the lining is poly-cotton batiste. The remainder is a heavier cotton sateen.

This pattern came together nicely, and even with my flubs it makes me happy-happy.

It’s a pretty basic look but with the waist seam and the tie, I can imagine all sorts of variations in the future:

  • Color blocking with a white top, navy skirt, and red tie.
  • Making the bodice and tie in chambray with white topstitching and the skirt in a cream-colored lace.
  • Making the dress in eyelet with a color lining and matching tie.
  • Making the dress a solid color with embroidery detail along the neck edge and skirt front edge. And by embroidery, I of course mean machine embroidery. I need to get out that cute little Brother PE 700ii that’s been hiding under its dust cover for a while now.
  • Adding a stand up Mandarin-type collar, switching to different sleeves, and widening the waist tie.

And with the style being so flexible as to accommodate fluctuating weight, I can definitely see making a few more.

I’m planning to wear the dress when my husband and I go for an anniversary brunch this Sunday. On D-Day, we will have been married for 21 years. I’ll see about taking a photo then.

Gemini Note (because it’s not all about sewing)

As of this writing, the San Francisco Giants are not only in first place in the National League West, they also have the best record in baseball. This makes for a happy Casa Tokunaga.


The linen skirt, inside and out

Just in time for Labor Day weekend, I completed the Butterick See & Sew 5737 skirt made with the gorgeous embroidered linen from JoAnn’s.

I had gone into JoAnn’s looking for a natural linen to make the skirt. I thought I might explore using some machine embroidery along the hem, but then I found the embroidered linen. Perfect!

Here’s the before:


I made view A, on the left.

And here’s the after:

I love the drape!

I love the drape! This skirt makes me very happy.

After making the plaid version, I decided to make the pattern 3 inches longer, and the length feels great. I also reduced the waistband to 1 inch (as I did previously) because I prefer a narrower waistband, and I like to use the Palmer/Pletsch waistband interfacing, which is 1 inch wide.

The fabric necessitated a change in the pattern layout. It originally called for the center of each panel to be on the lengthwise grain, which would put each seamline on a bias (perfect for a plaid or stripe). The embroidered pattern on this linen is done in barely perceptible vertical rows along the lengthwise grain. The idea of those rows meeting at an angle made me anxious, therefore I cut the center front and back to meet on the lengthwise grain. I made a rough match of the embroidery.

These grain changes put the center of each panel on a bias and the side seams close to true bias. The resulting drape is really lovely.

If you have ever made a garment cut on the bias, you will know that the instructions tell you to let it hang for 24 hours so the bias stretches out as much as possible before you trim and hem. To even off this hem, I had to trim as much as 1.5 inches in some spots! But it’s even, as you can see.

The nice even hem.

The nice even hem, at least when worn by Gene the Dress Form. I have no way of marking the hem while wearing it myself.

On the inside, I finished the heck out of this skirt with Hug Snug rayon seam binding.

I finished the heck out of the inside with rayon seam binding. I'm not sure that I'm completely satisfied with how I handled the hem.

So pretty on the inside, but I’m not sure that I’m completely satisfied with how I handled the hem.

I’m wondering if I should have turned back a deeper hem. The pattern calls for a double-fold 5/8-inch hem (and I didn’t want to lose any length), but I didn’t want the topstitching on the outside. Instead, I sewed on the seam binding, turned and ironed the hem, then finished with a catch stitch.

Meanwhile, the way the zipper looks on the inside is an improvement over the navy zipper hand picked with white thread that I did for the plaid skirt.

The inside of the zipper looks good because the zipper and thread all match, but I'm still looking for a more finished look.

The inside of the hand picked zipper looks pretty tidy because the zipper and thread all match, but I’m still trying to devise a more finished look.

I was thinking a wide grosgrain ribbon placket over the back of the zipper might look better, but I’m still puzzling through that idea. I’m getting obsessed with the notion of the inside of the garment looking as good as the outside.

And here it is on me!

My outfit for lunch with friends at the Sacramento Greek Festival. Photo by Matt Henry, 9.

Long and swishy! Photo by Matt Henry, 9. Can you tell from the angle of the photograph that he’s quite a bit shorter than my teenage daughter?

My goodness, the skirt was cool and comfortable in the hot Sacramento weather today. My friends and I made our annual trek to the Sacramento Greek Festival for lunch. The SacAnime convention was held at the same time and location, so I was not the only person at the Convention Center in a homemade garment. Crazy costumes!

Next up, a simple white blouse from New Look 0134/6104. That’s the pattern I already made in the plaid. This time, I’m planning on honing in that side dart on the proper location.

And the matching plaid skirt

In no time at all, my plaid top has gained a matching skirt.


Maddie the Teenage Daughter has apparently never encountered matching separates. She thought I reworked my top into a dress.

And the back.


“Gene” and I have the same measurements, but somehow she has an hourglass figure. Show-off.

It was my HOPE to match the plaid at all four seams. Alas, my cutting strategy was off a bit, so the center front and back are matched:

Matched (well, pretty darn close, anyway)!

Matched at the front (well, pretty darn close, anyway)!

And at the sides, not so much:

The plaid is matched only at the horizontal lines. Oops.

The plaid is matched only at the horizontal lines. Oops.

This is how I tried to match the plaid:

I compared the front and back pattern pieces. They were identical except the front was a quarter-inch wider. So I used that piece to cut all four panels so they would be identical, knowing I could just ease in the excess fabric. Then I pinned the pattern once and marked a reference intersection of lines in the middle of the pattern piece and the horizontal lines along the sides. I cut single layer, two face up and two face down.

Aha, two face down was my downfall. The fabric is a woven plaid; there is no wrong or right side. If I had cut all four face up with the plaids lined up with my marks, I only had to flip two pieces to get mirror-image matching along all four seams. As it was, the plaid hit the seam lines slightly differently on each set. So, the centers match on each pair cut the same, but the sides match only on the horizontal lines.  This may be obvious to some, but it took approximately 36 hours of pondering for me to puzzle it out after the fact.

Live and learn.

But I did try a new-to-me technique to make sure the plaids matched when they were sewn. I folded the seam allowance to the wrong side of one piece for each seam then laid it on top of the other (unfolded) piece so the plaid matched at the seamline with the right sides facing up. Then I slip basted from the right side so the plaid would stay aligned. After that, I opened up the seam and stitched on the seam line. This took a lot of time, and it was a little tricky removing the basting stitches (which got caught by the real stitching here and there), but it kept my plaid from shifting around too much when I sewed. Good technique.

I also inserted the zipper by hand. I never really liked stitching them in by machine. It seems to be such a crapshoot: Sew and hope for the best. Hand stitching gives you much more control. Sadly, in my first time trying the technique, I stitched too close to the zipper teeth, leaving no room for the zipper pull to hide in the fabric folds. Lame!

Here it is from the right side:

Look how nicely the plaid matches!

Look how nicely the plaid matches!

But I do NOT like how it looks on the inside:

The seam finishes with the Hug Snug look so nice, but the zipper looks so unfinished.

The seam finishes with the Hug Snug look so nice, but the zipper looks so unfinished. Using a white zipper would have helped, but I had navy in my stash.

All in all, I consider the plaid skirt a success, even with the matching problems at the sides. Regardless, my pattern matching came out better than the example below from a higher-end national retail chain commonly found in malls:

Even my daughter asked how this stripe could match so well at the top but not at the bottom.

Even my daughter asked how this stripe could match so well at the top but not at the bottom. I’m not quite sure what happened here.

I’ve already worn my happy top and skirt combo. Perfect on a not-too-hot summer day. Throw on a cardigan (of which I have many, many, many), and the outfit can easily be worn during our nice warm Northern California fall.

Next up is a linen version of the skirt that will be three inches longer. Here’s the mood board:


A pretty embroidered linen from JoAnn’s. I hadn’t bought the zipper yet when I took this photo. It’s the same color as the linen.

I’m not sure what, if any, attempt at pattern matching I need to make with this fabric. I haven’t examined it that closely yet. But I think there was enough unembroidered fabric along the selvage to use for the waistband.

But it’s linen, and Labor Day is around the corner. I need to get on this quick!


Butterick/See & Sew 5737

Pros: An easy four-gore skirt with a straight waistband that goes together in a cinch. It’s got a decent sweep, but not nearly the sweep of a circle skirt.

Cons: No finished hem width information on the envelope. The pattern companies seem to be moving this kind of information either to the pattern instructions or, worse yet, to the pattern pieces themselves. For me, this is important information when deciding to purchase a pattern. Fair warning to the pattern companies: I don’t want to unfold a pattern in a store to see the finished dimensions, but I will if I have to!


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