Tag Archives: Clara

Sew Liberated’s Clara shirtdress

The Clara shirtdress, pattern No. 118 from Sew Liberated, is complete, with a bonus belt!

Here’s the dress on Gene:

Sew Liberated's Clara shirtdress on Gene.

Gene looks good in everything. (The little white patch near the shoulder is the sun coming through the shrubbery.)

Sew Liberated's Clara shirtdress from the back.

From the back, it looks like the dress is cut on the bias. It’s not; that’s just the way the print is. By the way, using a busy print meant not worrying about pattern placement on the fabric. Lovely.

As a reminder of where it all started, here’s the mood board.

Mood board for Sew Liberated Clara dress.

I ended up using only the navy thread, and I abandoned these buttons in favor of vintage ones from my stash. I also decided at the last minute to make a matching belt.

The Clara is a shirtdress with an elasticized waist. It has a collar, front plackets and short sleeves with an interesting keyhole detail. (My 10-year-old son did not appreciate this detail at all. As he was being a good sport and “admiring” my newly finished dress, he pointed to the keyhole and asked, “What is this hideous thing?”) Oh well. I like it.

Alterations I made

To fit and flatter my figure, I made the following alterations to the pattern:

  • Adjusted for a full bust
  • Lowered the bust point
  • Added 8 inches to the length
  • Increased the overall bodice length (too much, as it turns out)

I find bodice length impossible to determine until the skirt is attached. On a hunch, I added 1 inch to the bodice length instead of the 1/2 inch I usually add to the Big Four patterns. When I tried on the completed bodice, I was absolutely sure it was still too short, but when I tried it on with the skirt attached, it was a 1/2 inch too long! This is not the first time this has happened to me. I cannot explain why the bodice seems longer when the skirt is attached.

Changes I made

Since putting my own stamp on a pattern is part of the fun of sewing, I made the following changes:

  • I added a white braid trim to accentuate the collar and plackets.
  • I sewed the bias trim fold to the wrong side by hand.
  • I sewed the double fold hem by hand.
  • I changed the elastic technique at the waist.
  • Bonus: I added a matching belt.

Because of the blouson bodice and waist elastic, Clara reminded me a bit of shirtdress patterns from the 1980s (minus the ubiquitous shoulder pads I was always altering out of patterns). Yes, I was sewing back then. Here’s the proof:

This was taken during Christmas break 1985, my freshman year of college. I'm on the right, in a shirtdress I made. Not bad plaid matching, I must say. On the left is my friend Melissa.

This was taken during Christmas break 1985, my freshman year of college. I’m on the right, in a shirtdress I made. Not bad plaid matching, I must say. On the left is my friend Melissa. This must have been during the brief misguided period when I wore contact lenses.

Because of the waist’s similarity to shirtdress patterns from my youth, I decided to use the waist elastic technique I remember from back in the day. The Clara pattern instructions called for sandwiching elastic between the waist seam allowances and sewing it in place with a zig-zag stitch while stretching it, but I didn’t like the idea of that seam allowance flopping around inside. Instead, I opted to trim the waist seam and sew single-fold bias tape over it. I opened one fold of the bias, and sewed it over the seam on the bodice side. Then I pressed the tape down over the trimmed seam allowance (which was then hidden underneath the bias tape) and sewed the other fold down onto the skirt. I inserted 3/8-inch elastic into the channel created by the bias tape.

As I was inserting that elastic, I remember what a bother that technique is. It’s pretty difficult to get that elastic all the way around, even with a bodkin. (Click here to see the kind of bodkin I used.) But once it was done, it looked nice and tidy inside.

Here you can see the casing I made for the elastic out of single-fold bias tape.

Here you can see the casing I made for the elastic out of single-fold bias tape.

As for the belt, I had no intention of making one. I have a navy leather belt that I was originally planning to wear with the dress, but I HATED the way it looked.

So, I decided to make one using a vintage buckle in my stash that was a pretty good match for the buttons.

Alas, I had no belt backing in my stash, and my Jo-Ann’s doesn’t seem to stock it. Instead, I used ribbed nonroll waistband elastic. It was no picnic to pull elastic through the tight tube of fabric I made to cover it. There are still a few spots where the fabric is gathered a little on the elastic.

The vintage buttons and buckle are a pretty decent match. Can you see a little gathering on the right part of the belt?

The vintage buttons and buckle are a pretty decent match.

It was the best I could come up with on short notice, and it did the trick; but I’m planning to order some belt backing and buckles to cover for my stash.

And here’s the dress on me:

Caption here. Photo by Robert the Husband.

This is the length I prefer on dresses and skirts, about 30 inches long from the waist. Photo by Robert the Husband.

This is a really comfortable and pretty dress. Nothing is too tight anywhere. It only really sits on the shoulders and at the elasticized waist. As a bonus, the keyhole detail makes the sleeves adjustable in width. Adding the extra length really worked for me. (My girlfriend and I were lamenting on Facebook this week the lack of calf-length dresses. Everything is at the knee, mid-thigh, maxi, or hi-lo. Not flattering for us suburban moms in our 40s!)

Gathers at the waist — even slight ones — are not my best look, but boy the comfort sure offsets that. All in all, I’d call this dress a winner. I’ll wear it later this month when I have dinner with another girlfriend.

Although I am WAY past the completion date for the Sew News sew-along, they let me add photos of my completed dress to their Flickr group. You can see them here.

Happy Fourth of July to my fellow Americans!

Buttoning up Clara

The bodice of Sew Liberated’s Clara dress is nearly done. I spent FOUR HOURS making the sleeves. That doesn’t even count attaching them, which will be next.

It took four hours because after pressing the self-fabric bias tape, then machine stitching it to the right side of the sleeve, I opted to hand sew the bias fold to the wrong side. The instructions call for sewing this down by machine, but I never get that just right. I always end up with stitching wandering off the bias trim in spots. The instructions also called for just tying the raw ends of the ties, but I preferred a neater finish.

So, I ended up hand sewing the bias trim along the wrong side of each keyhole and each sleeve hem, including the ends of the ties. Obviously, it took a long time (an entire Giants game, including preshow and postshow), but to me it was worth it.

I prefer the tidy look hand sewing bias trim creates.

I prefer the tidy look hand sewing creates when applying bias trim. No visible stitching!

I also verified my guess that the bodice could slip over my head without unbuttoning the placket. That means, I’m not bothering to make buttonholes! I’m just going to sew the buttons right through both plackets.

Also, after trying out the buttons I found by going through an entire clearance basket at Jo-Ann’s, I was underwhelmed by my choice. The translucent plastic was not enough of a presence with the pretty braid and the busy print, so I went through my button stash and found other possibilities. (Click on the photos for a closer look.)

This button doesn't have enough contrast now that I see it with all the other elements.

This button doesn’t make enough of a statement considering all the other elements.

I love these buttons from Britex, but I don't think they're quite right for this project.

I love these buttons from Britex, but I don’t think they’re quite right for this project. Too preppy for the paisley.

I don't like these dark blue buttons with the white trim.

I don’t like these dark blue buttons with the white trim, although the button themselves are great.

These vintage buttons are the winner!

These vintage buttons are the winner!

I should have looked through my button stash first. I forgot what great treasures are in there.

Every time I change my button choice mid-project, I think that I shouldn’t even look for buttons until I’m ready to put them on; but I know having to wait to finish until after a shopping trip would drive me nuts! I feel more prepared if I have them on hand when I start a project, even though I sometimes change my mind.

With any luck, I’ll be finishing this project this weekend.

Bodice for Sew Liberated’s Clara dress

I made some great progress on the Sew Liberated Clara dress this week.

After making a muslin and checking the fit, I ended up making my usual adjustments:

  • I lowered the bust point. Because the pre-existing side dart pointed up sharply, I just changed the angle. It occurs to me that I need to find the ideal spot and angle for the side dart point, then I could recreate it for each garment.
  • I made a full-bust adjustment. Truthfully, now that the bodice is nearing completion, I realize that I could have made this a little larger.
  • I lengthened the entire bodice by an inch. I usually lengthen by a half-inch, but this pattern seemed to need more. It’s really impossible for me to tell precisely until the skirt is attached, but for patterns from the Big Four companies, it’s usually a half-inch.

Here’s what the altered bodice front looks like:

I traced the pattern with Swedish Tracing Paper but ran out when it was time to make the alterations.

I traced the pattern with Swedish Tracing Paper but ran out when it was time to make the alterations.

I finished the collar (though it’s not yet full attached) and am pretty happy with the way the cording looks.

Collar on Sew Liberated Clara dress.

The cording makes the collar stand out despite the busy print.

Next up, I’ll be finishing the bodice and tackling the sleeves with the interesting keyhole detail.

 

Navy and white paisley Clara

I discovered Sew Liberated’s Clara dress in the April/May issue of Sew News. In fact, Sew News featured it as part of a sew-along. The magazine showed the dress on a larger model, and it looked great on her.

I am late to the sew-along, which finished up at the end of last month, but I did buy the pattern. I already had a great fabric that had recently joined my stash — a navy and white paisley shirting I picked up at Jo-Ann’s. Here’s the mood board:

Mood

Mood board for the Clara dress. I’m not sure which thread I will use, the navy or the white. It may depend on whether I’m sewing construction seams or visible stitching.

The Clara dress is a shirtwaist dress, with a bodice that has a bit of a blouson effect. It has a collar, front placket and keyhole detailing on the sleeves.

The fabric pattern is pretty busy, and I want the collar and placket details to stand out, so I searched for a white trim of some kind. Since I had just used packaged piping on my coral wrap dress, I wanted something different for this dress. But all of the laces, chocheted laces and eyelets I considered got lost in the paisley. Instead, I opted for more of a cording.

Pretty, isn't it? I imagine this shiny cording was intended for use in a bridal gown. It only came in white and ivory.

Pretty, isn’t it? I imagine this shiny cording was intended for use in a bridal gown. It only came in white and ivory.

It stands out, but it’s a little different from packaged piping.

I always have a terrible time looking for buttons. In fact, I can spend 30 minutes looking for just the right button. It doesn’t help matters that Jo-Ann’s has reduced its garment button stock by about 25 percent in favor of stocking more “craft” buttons. I sat down on a low shelf and went through an entire clearance basket of La Petite buttons to find something suitable. I wanted a shirt-type button, but not any of the usual styles I see all the time at the store.

With four holes, edge detail and a bit of a wavy texture, these are a little nicer than the shirt buttons that come eight to a card for a dollar. Plus, you can't beat the price!

With four holes, edge detail and a bit of a wavy texture, these are a little nicer than the shirt buttons that come eight to a card for a dollar. Plus, you can’t beat the price!

I want to sew the buttons on using navy thread and a different pattern than the usual “X” or parallel stitches.

But first, I need to trace the pattern pieces and do a muslin. A muslin will be particularly important because I haven’t used a pattern from this company before. The sizing is likely to be different from the Big Four pattern companies. I don’t know how much (if any) I’ll need to add to the waist length, for example. I’m hoping the fact that the dress isn’t closely fitted will make fitting a little easier.

 

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