Upton Dress muslin

Considering that most of my major pattern changes are already incorporated into the draft, I shouldn’t be so surprised that only one muslin for the Cashmerette Upton dress bodice was necessary. I made a few small tweaks to muslin #1, but nothing that required a fresh mock-up.

Before sewing up the bodice muslin, I made a few size modifications to the pattern at the side seams, grading out from a 14 at the shoulders and bust to a 16 at the upper waist. Initially, based on the pattern measurements compared to my own, I used the size 16 for the back waistband, but for the front waistband I graded out from a 16 where it joins the bodice to a 20 where it joins the skirt, because I’ve got some tummy that I wasn’t sure the size 18 would fully accommodate. But I saw immediately that all this excess needed to come right back out when I put the bodice on and zipped it up. I pinned the excess at the waistband and it turned out to shrink it back down to a straight 16. Even with a more snug fit through the waistband, it felt comfortable when I sat; if you have any fleshy bits in your torso you know sitting causes that flesh to expand. So I ended up using a straight 16 waistband. There’s just enough ease for comfort.

The short, torpedo-shaped waist dart with its curved legs was problematic for me because my bust is set very high and its fullness is evenly distributed from top to bottom. This waist dart shape nicely scoops in the bodice at the torso under the bust, but it ends too abruptly for my shape. This would probably work best for someone whose bust is low-set and is fuller on the lower half. For my shape, I needed to extend the dart and create a more gradual taper toward the point, while retaining the arced dart leg shapes. Below you can see the original waist dart shape (the shortest one) and the two extended versions I tried before deciding on the tallest one. Yes, that puts the dart point very close to my actual bust point, but for a garment with minimal ease, that works ok.


When I made the Appleton knit wrap dress, I didn’t do any length adjustments, and the dress’s waist hit me just above my natural waist, which was perfect. It was pretty much the same for this pattern. Jenny, the pattern designer, described Upton’s lengthwise fit as “the top edge of the waistband sits at the high waist.” The dress may be designed to be a tad short-waisted on a person with an average torso length, to rest above tummy fluff. My torso is short and my waist is pretty clearly defined, even with my fluff. I wanted the waistband to rest closer to my natural waist, which it did without lengthening the pattern anywhere. However, I did need to add about 1/4 inch length to the front bodice waist to make the waistline level, because mine dips a bit in front, while it tilts up in back. The pattern’s included swayback alteration was still a teensy bit too long for me, so I took it up an additional 1/4 inch at center-back, tapering it to nothing at the side seams.

One other area of fit concern was across my shoulder blades. I have a very erect posture (thank you scoliosis, childhood horse riding lessons, and yoga), and many bodices bag out at my upper back. Even though I’m using the V-neck back bodice sections for this dress, I needed to take a bit of volume out of the upper shoulder and center-back areas. I took a few tiny darts out of the back neckline to remove some of that bagginess. I’ll have to do this to the scoop-neck version, too.

All in all, this was an extremely easy dress bodice to fit! The built-in customized cup sizes, swayback alteration, and shortened torso made getting the fit right faster than any other bodice I’ve fitted.

I’ve cut all the dress sections from fabric, and now I’m working on printing them. More on that later!


Dress Decision 2016

After polling all my coworkers, some key friends, and the fine folks following me on this blog and over at Instagram (@stephani.miller), I have decided on the design I will sew for my friend’s afternoon, outdoor/barn, September wedding. *trumpetssound*

Here’s the winner:


The indigo (I’ve decided it’s indigo, not royal or cornflower; maybe I’m wrong) silk shantung in the Cashmerette Upton dress, pleated skirt with V neck, not the scoop neck I was originally thinking of. A coworker pointed out to me that scoop necks seem a bit more casual, and I would usually choose the V neck anyway. But for the other Upton dresses that are to come, I will most likely make the scoop neck version.

Anyway, I’m going to use the shattered lace printing effect that I love so much, so I’ll try to blog about that process here. I’m expecting the Jacquard Lumiere and Textile Paints I ordered to arrive early next week. I love Jacquard’s textile paints and dyes! They’re so easy to use. I’ve selected some lace scraps and will try out the printing process on other fabric scraps once the paints arrive to make sure I like the effect.

To print the shantung for the dress, I plan to either outline the pattern shapes on the fabric first, or just go ahead and cut the fabric before printing so I don’t waste paint and can be more strategic in the print placement and composition.

The fabric may get a vinegar/water bath before printing just to super-extra-fix the dye job.

Time to clean off my dining room table so I can use it for the printing! But even before that, I need to muslin the Upton’s bodice to make sure of my size and any adjustments.

What to make for a friend’s wedding??

What to make for a friend’s wedding??

I just realized it’s August. Funny how that happens. The months roll by, you think you have enough time for all the projects on your plate, and BOOM! It’s all gone.

This finally hit me today because in just a bit over a month, a friend of mine is getting married and I can’t decide what to make to wear. I’ve got a 2-year-old UFO that’s all underlined and pleated and ready to be sewn together that I could finish. The fabric is a beautiful mulberry-colored metallic jacquard I picked up from the Haberman Fabrics booth at American Sewing Expo three or four years ago. The pattern is from an issue of BurdaStyle magazine from 2011. I still love the fabric, I still love the dress, and as it’s ready for assembly it would be easy to finish. But I’m not sure it hits the right note for an early September wedding and reception in a rustic barn in Connecticut at 3 p.m.

I could change plans pretty easily at this point and instead make the Cashmerette Upton dress with the full pleated skirt option. If past experience with Cashmerette’s patterns carries through to this one, most of my pattern alterations are already included in the pattern’s draft. I’d have to do a muslin, of course, and I’d have to pick a fabric. I have lots in my stash to choose from, but half my stash is now at my parents’ house 8 hours away, as I’m prepping for a move. What I do have on-hand is mostly casual, or intended for historical costume, or fancier but not enough yardage.

Here’s what I have that could make a just-fancy-enough-but-not-too-fancy Upton for my friend’s wedding:

A beautiful fuchsia jacquard-weave linen, which I’ve already planned to make into this dress anyway. I’ve got a solid 4 yards of this. The color looks a little hot in this photo, but it’s not far off the real color. There’s a large Art Nouveau-ish design woven into the fabric, and the linen has a beautiful hand, stiff body, and full drape, plus that lovely linen luminescence. I’d wash this by dunking it a few times in warm water and letting it air dry before pressing to preserve some of its crispness and the fiber’s natural glow.


A silk shantung that started out periwinkle, but which I dyed to what I’ll call royal purple. Or maybe cornflower. It came out a tad splotchy in areas, but one more spin through the wash cleared most of that up. Still, the subtle sheen of shantung was diminished by the hot dye bath and washing it afterward. It definitely has a sand-washed appearance now. I have 3 yards of this 59-inch-wide fabric, which should be JUST enough for an Upton dress. I’d like to try a bit of painting on this one to disguise any remaining splotches, with black and gold paints. It would be semi-fancy, original, and just challenging and creative enough to keep my attention on it.


Then there’s the 7+ yards of rose-gold silk dupioni that I bought for a Regency gown, but then decided it would be too stiff even after washing. It is very highly slubbed and medium weight. It would probably look great after a gentle wash with baby shampoo. Despite the texture and pretty color and nice sheen, it would be a rather plain dress. So I’d probably do some painting on it to give the dress more interest.


What do you do when you’re faced with several good options and can’t decide which would be best? If there wasn’t a deadline involved I’d say: I’ll make them all and it doesn’t matter which one comes first. But since this is sewing for a goal, a dress to wear to a friend’s wedding, deciding is kind of important.

Here’s what I do when I can’t decide: sketch. I either free-hand draw the design, then color it in to get the full effect, or I use the pattern flats. Since the Upton is a very simple design and the flats are already nicely proportioned for my kind of figure, I decided to use them as the basis for my sketches.

Here’s option 1, from the linen jacquard:

Sketch 3-A

Here’s option 2, from the royal/cornflower shantung. I would apply a painted design that I call “shattered lace,” which is done by dabbing fabric paint or spraying liquid dye onto the fabric through scraps of lace. I love this technique because it’s so interesting. I’d use black and gold and scatter the patterns around the fabric randomly.

Sketch 1

And option 3, which is hard to get an accurate sketch for because the color is hard to reproduce with marker (I did some color saturation adjustment). For this option, I’d also apply a shattered lace effect, but in gold and bronze color paints, and probably only concentrated around the dress’s hemline. I tried to mimic the dupioni texture with metallic gold pen, but the color adjustment reduced its effect.

Sketch 2-ab copy

I really like all of these options, and making a decision is going to be tough. All the colors would look good with my complexion, I think. The linen is a fancy fabric, despite being made from a humble fiber, and it’s in one of my favorite colors. And it would require no additional embellishment.

The royal/cornflower shantung offers a real creative opportunity and could be a very unique, beautiful dress.

But the rose-gold dupioni also offers creativity, although it would be a more subtle paint-job. And the fabric is a bit fancier because of its sheen, maybe too fancy for the wedding time.

I’m leaning towards the royal/cornflower shantung, because I like to make things hard on myself, apparently. But it wouldn’t take much time to accomplish the painting. However, I have a lot of projects on my plate at the moment: I’m helping another friend with her wedding dress (for October), I’m supposed to be whipping up my fitting muslin for the Chanel jacket to contribute to a project at work (in September), and I’m trying to get some blouses made AND pack my belongings.

What would you do? Which would you wear to a 3 p.m. early September (read: potentially hot) wedding in a barn?

I know there aren’t a lot of followers of this blog out there, and it’s not often I ask for opinions because I usually have pretty firm ones of my own–but if you would like to share yours, please do! Help me out, folks!

Rosé in the Evenings Caftan

One of the things I love as much as I love sewing is good wine. And I’ve been going crazy on rosé the past two summers. It has a flavor profile similar to many reds, but has the lightness, acidity, and crispness of a white. It’s perfect for a hot summer evening. Not that there are too many of those in Connecticut. So it just seemed appropriate that I turn some rosé-hued ombré yardage, which I dip-dyed by hand, into something perfect for a summer evening. Even if I just spend it inside my non-balcony-or-patio-having apartment.


What’s easier and lighter and more perfect for summer than a caftan? Nothing, that’s what. And I’ve established my love of caftans previously. So I made what I’m calling my Rosé in the Evenings caftan.


The fabric is a rayon challis from Dharma Trading and of course the fuchsia dye also came from Dharma. Dip-dyeing is pretty easy, actually. In fact, it’s almost disappointing how quickly it can be accomplished. All that build-up for what amounts to a 5-minute process. Depending on your choice of color and fabric. But for rayon challis, it was fast. I dipped the fabric so that both selvage edges would get the most color and the center would take on only the palest of pink tinges.


I dyed the yardage last summer and started making a self-drafted caftan right away. But other projects beckoned and I set this one aside until earlier this summer. Because no one needs a caftan in winter. Not in Connecticut anyway. Using a couple tutorials found on Pinterest, I folded the fabric in half on its crossgrain, cut the neckline (a bit too deep), and marked the side seams. Getting those side seams properly marked isn’t quite as simple as it might seem. There’s quite a bit of fabric to wrangle and it takes a lot of pinning along the fabric’s width to make sure nothing shifts out of alignment while marking, and then you have to pin that seamline like nobody’s business to make sure it doesn’t shift while sewing. I got as far as half finishing the neck binding last summer, but finished it this summer.


I left the fuzzy selvages in place, because it gives the effect of fringe and means no finishing. There’s a simple machine-rolled hem at the bottom edges.


It’s a tad shorter than I’d prefer, and that neckline is way too low for public decency. That’s okay. I don’t ever intend to wear this thing in public. It’s strictly an at-home piece in which to lounge while sipping rosé.

Certainly not the most complicated of projects, but sometimes simplicity is what you want. This blog has been a bit neglected for a few months, not because I haven’t been working on stuff, but because sometimes it’s hard to force myself to turn on the laptop at home after a full day of staring at and editing words at work. But I’m starting to pull together a more professional-looking work wardrobe, and I’ll be blogging about those projects in the coming months.

The first one will be a series of bow blouses! Ugh, buttons and buttonholes; not my favorite things to sew. But not everything can be a pullover. Plus, working with gorgeous fabrics makes the thought of buttons recede into the background.

Oh yeah, and that Chanel-style jacket I once blogged about? Yeah, that’s been postponed for a long time, but I have to get back on it. It wasn’t really on my up-and-coming to-do list when my boss announced the Chanel Jacket Club at work, but I figured, why not, I want to make one (someday), why not now? Well, no one managed to get beyond a muslin, and most in the group didn’t even get that far. We’ve decided to go with a different pattern, which is nice, because we know the pattern’s designer and she’s going to come to our office to help fit our muslins. On video. That’ll be nice. And now that I have my custom dress form, I think fitting will be a lot easier on my own, too. It’s still not something I really think I want to do NOW, when I have so many more everyday, easier-to-mix-and-match projects I want to do. But whatevs. I can roll. And I do want to make my Chanel-style jacket. I’ve got all the materials. I just need to get on it, so that should happen within the next month.

Fingers crossed!


My fancy-schmancy new dress form

My fancy-schmancy new dress form

I have a pretty cool dress form, and I’m not really bragging–I’m just totally jazzed about it. I got to go down to Washington, DC–my old stomping grounds–to this great little sewing studio/school called Bits of Thread in Adams Morgan.

At this studio, the owner and her partner have developed a really cool process for creating custom dress forms that pretty much 100% replicate your ACTUAL body. That includes your posture, your body proportions, and all your circumferences from neck to knee–and all your lumps ‘n bumps. I’ve only had it since February and already it’s been 5 times more useful than my standard professional dress form (which I never really found much use for, except as a display piece).


My custom dress form is a DittoForm. It’s made by scanning your body with a 3D imaging camera and then it’s machine-carved from foam. It is WAY cool. There’s an article all about it in the June/July 2016 issue of Threads magazine, so go check that out!

What’s so great about this custom dress form service is that it’s much more affordable, low-effort, and much faster than getting a custom professional dress form made. It isn’t perfect, but it’s so much closer to perfect than anything I’ve had before.


Yep. That’s my body. Gloriously imperfect and damned hard to fit.


I’ve done the Duct Tape dress form thing, and my experience with it sucked. It always titled on its curtain-rod pole and Christmas-tree stand base. Plus it expanded a bit in some places when filled with foam, and collapsed in others. And it wasn’t pinnable, or sturdy, or easy to move around despite being very lightweight. *Sadhorns*

I’ve owned a set of Fabulous Fit fitting system pads to make my other dress form resemble me, and my brain just froze every time I tried to start putting the pads in the right place. I know lots of other sewers have had great success with that system–it just was too much for me, because my shape is vastly different from a standard dress form: shorter, squatter, rounder, and asymmetrical. I’m not even sure the FF pads in one set would be enough.

I wanted a really low-effort, relatively affordable way to get a very close copy of my body, and DittoForm is it. It came out of the box, and I was a little spooked by how… ahem… ACCURATE it is. Like, I-don’t-want-to-leave-it-unclothed-in-my-living-room-when-company-comes-over accurate. (And that’s actually a possibility because my apartment is mostly a big open space, my sewing room is small and awkwardly sized, and the whole thing basically gets turned into a sewing studio when I’m in the throes of creation on more than one project at a time. So both dress forms live in my living room most of the time.)


Super-realistic shape and proportions. You can even see a bit of my asymmetry here in the way the form’s right shoulder (on the left of the photo) is a bit squarer than the left shoulder, which slopes a bit more; that’s my scoliosis showing.


Anyway, I’m looking forward to actually using a dress form now, when before it was this big thing sitting in the corner taunting me with its un-usefulness. Yay!

The best laid plans…

LOL! Yeah, so about those plans to avoid impulse sewing and focus on anything but historical costuming. Totally didn’t work out. I caved at the first opportunity and have spent the past three months at least focused on creating an 18th century ensemble for a recent visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC to see an exhibition of 18th century paintings by Elisabeth Louise Vigee le Brun. And I didn’t even get that ensemble totally finished!

Sigh. Well, over the years, I’ve learned the fastest way to get me to do exactly the opposite of what I know I should do is to make a plan to do what I know I should do (get the logic there?).

In any case, the unfinished 18th century ensemble is put away for now, waiting for some essential fixes. You can read all about it on my other blog, Belle Mode Belle Histoire, if you’re curious. If not, know that I really really really WILL be starting real-life, modern sewing projects very soon. Because I need clothes to wear to work.

In fact, I have a fourth True Bias Sutton Blouse all cut out and waiting for me on my work table. It’s been there since January. And I have a slew of other blouse and pants patterns I want to tackle before summer really gets underway. And I have a cocktail dress to finish so I can wear it to a friend’s wedding in September (that will make 2 full years since it was cut out and basted to its underlining–that’s how long it’s been sitting in my admittedly small UFO pile).

So, back to it. It will begin this weekend. What did I say just three paragraphs ago about making a plan…? No, no, this time I WILL stick to it. I have no more reasons to take up a historical costume project for several months. Stay tuned.

Don’t laugh–I’m serious!

Impulse sewing, planned sewing, and New Year’s resolutions

Over the past year, I’ve come to realize that I’m an impulse sewer. I have lists and lists and sub-lists, and addendum lists, of projects that I’ve been wanting to start, with the fabric waiting patiently in my stash, but I usually don’t get to the big ones or the ones that have been in planning for a long time. Why is this? Is it because I don’t really want them? Don’t want to do the work? They don’t fit my everyday, practical life? Well, in some cases the last one is true. (A lot of the things I’ve planned to sew have a distinctly “professional” flavor, and honestly, I spend most of my days at work in jean leggings, creative tops, and sometimes blazers; it is after all a creative, casual environment.) But in most cases, I’d wear the garments happily. Is it the work? Maybe. Many of them will take longer to suss out fitting details at least.

In looking back over my sewing habits during 2015, I find that most of what I’ve sewn has been the result of impulse–an “I want that in my closet NOW” feeling. And that’s fine to a certain point, but I feel like most of what I sew should be things that I’ve been planning, and purchasing fabric for, and actually do want in my closet, even though thinking about them doesn’t give me a rush of excitement.

Nothing can easily beat that rush of starting a project one week and wearing it the next, but there is a deeper satisfaction that comes from completing a carefully planned and carefully sewn project. And in 2016, I want to feel more of that deep satisfaction. Some of those impulse projects turned out well and are garments that I will wear the heck out of and be sad when they wear out. And they certainly beef up my wardrobe quickly. But a couple didn’t work out so great. Some of them have been historical costumes and have limited use.

I’ve been feeling for about a year that the beautiful fabrics in my stash need to be seen and worn: the gorgeous, quality woolens I’ve picked up here and there; the stunning silks I’ve had stashed away for years. They all have projects loosely planned for them. I suppose I’ve also been afraid of cutting into them and of the possibility of failure. But that’s the whole point of this blog, isn’t it? Plough through the fear, or shove it to one side and tell it to get the hell out of the way, because I’m ready to grab my scissors (or rotary cutter) and go to town on that fabric.

I’m not very big on New Year’s resolutions, but this year, I feel the need for a couple, in sewing and in other areas of my life. So, here’s my sewing resolution for 2016: sew less based on impulse, and more based on planning. Tick a few of those long-awaited projects off my list finally. I guess that Facebook quiz that took my name and told me the word that would guide me through 2016 was right: Change. It can be tough, but it can be very good and lead to better things. In this case, I hope this little change, this shift in mindset, will lead to greater satisfaction and a more useful wardrobe. And isn’t that one of the major reasons we sew?

Yes; yes it is. 😉

Happy New Year! (and may you stick to your resolutions, whatever they are)