MOAR Dressies!

Drafting a shirt dress from my sloper…

I present to you, a shirt dress! It’s the sloper dress with a placket added. Basically, I took the sloper bodice, added 1.5″ out from the center front (CF) for the placket, and borrowed the collar pieces from my fitted shirt pattern.

There have been several new shirt dress patterns released by the Magical Girls of Indie Sewing Land, so the project has been on my mind. When the CP Penny dress came out, with it’s wonky buttons and crotch placket, I knew I could do better.

Because 1. I hate doing a pants fly 2. f that waistband 3. I like a challenge and the taste of rivalry (even if it’s just for me)

Rolling my massive dragon belly aside, I selected from my hoard a very special cotton that is printed with all the moon phases in glorious color. I’ve been saving it for a dress for about a year.

To retain the proper fit, I had to make sure the 2 sides of the bodice would meet at exactly the CF line. Therefore, the buttons and button holes had to be on that CF line. I marked the line with a straight pins and carefully folded, then pressed and top stitched the placket. I put the button holes on first, then basted the bodice pieces together at the waistline.

Next, I sewed up the skirt and pockets in the usual way and attached it to the bodice very carefully. Nearly done!

The next challenge was marrying the back zipper with the shirt collar. I installed a lapped zipper, making sure the pull tab was clear of the neckline’s 5/8″ SA. This left the tab ~3/4″ below the raw edge. I made the collar and stand normally. I zipped the dress up and hand-stitched the top of the zipper tape together for stability.

I began attaching the collar at the center back, starting at the zipper, working outwards. It was a cinch!

At this point, I showed the dress to my husband.  Due to the experimental nature of this project, I saved the intended sleeves for last. If the dress had failed, it would have become a skirt, the sleeves wasted.

He and I agreed it looked awesome without sleeves. So I ditched them in favor of self bias tape.

Armscye finished with self bias tape and the blood of my enemies on the desk (jk it’s acrylic paint)

At the current moment, I’m more proud of this dress than any other. As usual, I had my doubts while constructing it but I trusted my skills!

Sloper Dress & New Armscye

I finally used my sloper to draft a dress! yaaaay!

It’s a very simple dress so far. The bodice is my sloper straight-up, the skirt is a half-circle skirt I drafted last year. I ran into some problems making this pattern, despite how simple it appeared.

The first issue I encountered was due to flaws in the original sloper. It needed a SBA. I’m a bit mad at myself for not realizing this from the start because, when I drafted my fitted shirt, I had to make an SBA on that pattern as well.

So, I made the SBA on the sloper. I left the CF waist darts as they were post-SBA. This was a mistake because it made the bodice wider than the skirt and the side seams did not match! To remedy that, I added the original waist darts back in. That got the bodice and skirt side seams to match.

The other issue with my old sloper was the armscye. I carved it out a little bit on the fitted shirt (not enough BTW) but I failed to apply that to the sloper. The armscye was about 1″ too big (the seam hit on my arm not my armpit). This limited my comfortable mobility quite a bit. The sleeve was also too small.

And the final problem – the bodice fit perfectly at my waist, but had alot of extra fabric in the underarm side seam area.

I took my pattern to the Cut and Sew Studio for a little help. Under the direction of instructor Sophie, we took in the side seam above the waist, fixed the armscye, and expanded the sleeve.

It worked like a charm! In the pictures below, the grey dress with cats on it was made with the original, flawed pattern. I took it in and chopped off the sleeves to match the new armscye.

This Mountains dress was made with the new pattern (Firecracker Fabrics FTW! also photo by Firecracker Fabrics). firecracker fabrics photo

And finally, to show the new sleeve in action, is an updated picture of my fitted shirt! I applied the new pattern’s armscye and sleeve to this pattern. The tunic pattern will also need this change and I hope to make one soon with some lovely summer rayon I want to use before Fall!

picasso shirt
expanded sleeve with fixed armscye!


In which we feel the power!

Vms necktie
yes, I fiddled with the tie all day. It’s a weird feeling to be wearing one! 

I drafted a necktie! There wasn’t much to it besides figuring out the right sizing for me. I used one of my hubby’s neckties as a guide. I measured both parts of the tie and his neck size. From there I was able to calculate how much extra length was needed beyond the neck size using percentages.

I just winged the construction, so I didn’t sew it together properly. I stitched the tip linings on first, turned them, then sewed the center back seam like I would a belt loop, turned the whole thing, then pressed.

Apparently, you’re supposed to slip-stitch the tie closed and sew the lining on in a certain way, so I will be doing that next time for a more professional finish.

Google did help me learn to tie this thing. I used a four-in-hand knot. It was easy!

I see many more ties in my future, each one a Power Tie.



In which I ‘draft’ a Kimono…

Getting caught on doorknobs is a drag, literally and figuratively. Wherever I went in my apartment, the large sleeves of my robe (Seamwork Almada) would get caught on a doorknob, jerking me abruptly backwards, or sweep random table-top items onto the floor as I passed by.

It was annoying.

I wanted a robe with more manageable sleeves. I also wanted a decadent robe worthy of my usernamesake, Chrestomanci, who is known for his opulent and gaudy silk dressing gowns.

I decided to make a traditional kimono robe because I didn’t want to use or make a paper pattern. And, as I’m not a wealthy nine-lifed enchanter, I didn’t use silk, but cotton.

To make a Chrestomanci-worthy robe, it needed to be made from 2 different fabric prints, the fancier the better.

The 2 cottons I chose were ones that I picked up at Firecracker Fabrics – one a Japanese cotton with lots of colors; the other a red quilting cotton with little hummingbirds and shiny silver flowers. The reds of both fabrics matched.

My main fabric was about 54″wide which was wide enough that I could use all of it for the shoulder width. I folded the fabric parallel to the selvage, draping it over myself to judge length and width.

The measurements I focused on were:

  • Center front/back length
  • Sleeve width (9″ flat)
  • Sleeve depth (5″ in from elbow)

I drew directly on the fabric using tailor’s chalk and a ruler. I used a French curve to make the underarm seam a curve instead of a 90° angle and flared the bottom out by .5″.

I also cut lengths of the coordinating red fabric for the sleeve cuffs, neckline hem, and waist tie. The finished width of each was 3″.

Sewing it was easy. I used French seams and I even added a fringed patch pocket on the front for extra faux extravagance. I have minor regrets about that but the pocket gets to stay…for now.

I chose not to interface the sleeve cuffs and neckline hem, as I wanted them to remain flexible, but I did interface the waist tie. I secured the waist tie to the robe at the center back seam so it can’t get lost.

I think Chrestomanci would be proud. And I haven’t gotten stuck on a single doorknob!

Some tunic to love

In which I draft a tunic…

It’s been a long time since I loved a tunic. The last one I remember having was sky blue with 3/4 length sleeves held up by epaulets,  with pin-tucks and simple white embroidery on the front yoke. It had little straps to cinch the waist and a mandarin collar. I think it bought it at Burlington’s.

While that tunic is long gone, I still miss it. I tried other tunics but they weren’t the same. Too many of them have empire waists or weird, unnecessary details that turn me off.

So now that I have a custom sloper and a fitted shirt pattern, I decided to tackle making a tunic I can love again.

There were a few crucial elements this tunic needed to have:

  1. It must be blue.
  2. It must have 3/4 length sleeves with cuffs and an epaulet.
  3. It must cinch at the waist.

Thankfully I had already found my fabric – a light blue cotton with Jackson Pollock-esque white and silver splatter. It was begging me to become a tunic!

I made some sketches to get an idea of what I wanted and set to work.

The very first thing (every time) is making a copy! For this project, I intended to use my fitted shirt pattern as the base for the tunic pattern. I also gathered my DD Airelle and DD Arum patterns for reference, as they are pull-over tops. I measured the width of these 2 patterns to make sure my tunic could be pulled over my head, too.

Math is a beautiful thing. Minus the placket allowance and waist dart, the fitted shirt pattern was just the right size to fit over my head! Minimal adjustments necessary!

I decided to keep the bust darts for shaping but completely eliminated the front and back waist darts. I also removed the 1.5″ button placket allowance from the front.

Next was the neckline. I wanted clean-finished v-neckline (without a center front seam on the bodice). After some measuring, I marked a point on the shoulder seam and another on the center front line, connecting them with a ruler. I adjusted the back neckline on the shoulder seams to match. Using this new neckline, I traced facing pieces for the front and back, making them 1.5″ wide.

I attached the facings and understitched, meticulously clipping and layering the front “v” so it would turn out sharp and crisp. Then I hand tacked the facing to the shoulder seams to hold it in place.

For the sleeves, I used the same ones I drafted for the fitted shirt. I traced a facing for the sleeve cuff, hemmed one edge, and attached it so the cuff could be folded to the outside with its right side facing out.

I stitched the epaulet on by hand for the inside and attached it to the outside with a  9mm button. To finish, I slip stitched the cuff to the sleeve in a few strategic places.

That’s it….I love this new tunic. It turned out just as I wanted and I have already made a second one with a deeper neckline and short sleeves.

The Longest Journey (of a shirt)

In which I draft a fitted shirt from a sloper…

When I picked up sewing 3 years ago, the indie pattern companies glittered like a magical girl group, using their Hearts and the Power of Friendship to help me learn to sew. Supporting small businesses over corporations is important to me, but I took for granted how much work goes into a pattern and getting the right fit for a wide array of sizes.
(Click here to skip the intro)
I trusted the patterns I was buying were drafted well and made with care. But I kept running into issues that I attributed to my own naivete. As I gained more experience, and took more care with my projects, that notion bothered me.

Recently, I discovered my discontent wasn’t exclusive to me. Many others felt the same disillusionment, the same disappointment in the magical girl patterns as I did. The fit issues I’ve encountered weren’t due to my lack of skill (most of the time), they were due to problems in the blueprint.

I felt lost.

I know, there’s the Big 4, but I have a strong aversion to them from my botched Middle School attempts to make my own clothes. I really want to avoid using them. But who can I trust?

So I began the search for tutorials to make my own sloper. I landed on one from Madalynne, which was more visual than verbal, acting like a big geometry problem.

The tute was easy enough to follow, but my poor first round of measuring left me with a bad sloper. After another 2 tries, I had it right. I created a muslin complete with a zipper to test it out. I made a front, back, and sleeve sloper.

(I used another Madalynne tute to make the sleeves. I used a french curve ruler to make the initial curves but edited them by hand.)

The next step was taking that sloper and turning it into something. I really wanted a fitted shirt.

Converting the sloper to a shirt pattern was a bit tricky. I had no idea where to start.

****Warning: I’m no expert, I’m no drafter, the following could all be rubbish****

I knew I wanted to add a bust dart, so first I did a slash’n’spread to create the space for one. I rotated the side seam inward until it pointed toward the waistline. This also condensed the waist darts a bit.

To create the full diamond-shaped waist dart, I traced my existing dart, folded it in half at the middle, and traced again. Voila! A waist dart.

I ended up having to move the darts a few times to get the placement right on the front. For the back, I folded up the little shoulder dart before cutting my fabric and I doubled the back waist darts without changing their size or position.

Going through 4 muslins, I made the following adjustments:
-lengthened the front waist dart by 3″, further tapering the bottom point
-removed excess fabric between bust/armscye
-lowered the bust dart .5″
-added length to front armscye to match sleeve by adding curve and .25″ to side seam                   –reduced the sleeve cap height by .5″

Finally, I used a modified version of the Melilot’s collar pieces, placket allowance, and button placement for the deets.

Since then I’ve made 3 shirts from this pattern. Each has gotten progressively better, due in part to improving my technique for marking and sewing the darts.

I have begun marking the middle of the waist darts and the top/bottom edges of all the dart points with chalk. At about 1″ away from the dart point, I reduce my stitch length from 2.5mm to 1.4mm and begin to taper towards the marked end point. The goal is to have the last 4-5 stitches right on the fold of the fabric and still terminate at the marked end point. This has greatly improved the fit over the bust with no puckering at the dart tip.

I started this project around Thanksgiving and have only felt completely satisfied with the pattern now in February. It’s not perfect but I am so proud of myself. The shirt fits great and it looks like a shirt!

The really cool part, however, is I’ve used this pattern to make 3 other patterns already. They didn’t take nearly as long as the hard work of drafting and achieving the proper fit have been done. I’ll share those sometime, too!