Project pondering- choosing the next costume

I need to update about the costume I’ve been working on for Rarity (from My Little Pony), but I just don’t have time for a big post with pictures and process details… Soon, I hope.
In the meantime, I’ve been turning around different cosplay ideas for after Rarity (theoretically, for dragoncon), and keep coming back to two: Elsa or Call the Midwife.
Pro Elsa: I’ve wanted to do that blue dress since I first saw the movie and she pulled her hair down an transformed.
Pro Elsa: I can wear it as a Halloween costume and everyone in the ‘hood will recognize it and go bonkers for it (con: that made me feel weird and out of place when I wore my Effie Trinket costume)
Pro Elsa: I’ve already got the fabric (mitigating: I can still make the Elsa costume, but maybe not in time for dragoncon/Halloween this year)
Con Elsa: I will probably be 1 of 1000 Elsa’s at dragoncon, and I won’t be the best. I’ll feel shitty if I’m the worst.
Pro Elsa: it might be fun meeting up with other people in frozen/Elsa costume, and there’ll probably be more this year than next year.
Pro CTM: getting to cosplay a likely under represented fandom for a show I truly love.
Con CTM: less recognizable, probably won’t work as well for Halloween.
Con CTM: waaaaaay less “wow” factor/sparkle
Pro CTM: it would be awesome to be recognized and find other fans while wearing the costume
Con CTM: I’d need to get fabric (mitigating: could use cottons, which are cheap, easy to sew, and breathe so more comfortable in summer heat)
Pro CTM: costume is probably easier to make, more risk of not being able to finish Elsa in time.
Tough decisions :\

Pink Frosting Dress: Lekala 4282

Over a year ago, Tasia of Sewaholic wrote this brilliant post that instantly added two terms to the sewing blog lexicon: sewing cake, and sewing frosting.

Frosting is the fun stuff: the special occasion garments and garments made from that “OMG I have to make something out of that!” fabric that aren’t for a specific purpose or event.
Cake is the workhorse garment that you can wear to work, a party, or just running errands- the stuff that always looks good, and is never out of place.

Publix frosting..... droooool.....

I’ve always been a frosting kind of girl.  Even in the non-sewing world, if it were socially acceptable to eat the frosting, and leave the cake, I’d totally be down for that.

The same attitude applies to my sewing so much, I haven’t given much thought to how those labels fit my projects.  I figured I was firmly in the frosting camp, and that was just fine with me.

Take me home!!!

Nobody ever told me that sometimes frosting could also be cake.

I was browsing the bolts at my favorite fabric store some months back, when I found this fabric I couldn’t bear to leave without.  I honestly have never had such a strong reaction to a fabric.  I tried to talk myself out of it.
-Holographic rainbows?  Really?  This is too ridiculous, even for me.
-I know, but LOOK at it!!!  It’s practically begging me to buy it!  Maybe it’s so ridiculous it will be awesome- the way pugs are so ugly they’re cute
-Maybe, but awesome for what, exactly? And how do you even sew that?
-I don’t know.  I’ll figure it out.  It’s only $15/yard, and I get 20% off…
-So, if it doesn’t work, I guess we’ll only be out about $40…  Fine. Get it.  But this is probably the most ridiculous fabric you’ve ever bought including the USS Enterprise silk and the DC Metro Maps fabric you made on spoonflower- which you *still* haven’t used, by the way….
-YES!!!!  I can practically feel how excited this fabric is to have me take it home!!  This is the right decision.

So I bought the fabric, and I was happy.  I had no idea what pattern I was going to use for it, or how to even sew it, but it was a challenge I was excited to take on.

At the time, I was still head over heels for Lekala, I still am, but life has been busy, and I haven’t sewn or even planned a garment since this one, and that was over 4 months ago.  UGH!!!!  But anyway…..  Lekala 4282 was high on my “to sew” list because I thought it would be a good idea for my re-do of the matryoshka dress, so I decided this fabric would be a good opportunity to try that pattern out.

Before I even cut into the fabric, I had to figure this stuff out.  I knew there was no naturally occurring fiber to be found in it, and I cut out a test swatch to see how it would hold up in my normal laundry cycle.

It cut fairly easy, and didn’t fray too much, but I decided to zig-zag the edges before tossing it in the laundry.  It was then I got my first confirmation that this was going to be a tricky fabric to sew.

Sewing on the lengthwise grain was fine, but as soon as I turned the corner and started down the crosswise grain, it was a much bigger challenge.  First of all, the polyester fibers that give the fabric the purple color started pulling away from the plastic strands that are responsible for the shimmering rainbow effect.  Also?  Every so often, when my needle hit a rainbow strand in just the right/wrong way, I’d hear and feel that gut wrenching fabric snag sound.  It was very similar to the emotional feeling you get when you feel a run start in your pantyhose, and you have no nail polish with you, no spare pantyhose, and going without isn’t an option.  It’s a terrible feeling of dread, and all you can do is hope it doesn’t get worse and nobody notices.

I searched for some trick to sewing the fabric without disaster, and got some tips by asking on the pattern review message board .  I tried a few techniques that were suggested there, and underlining it seemed to work best to give it more stability without adding bulk.  I also decided to cut the bodice on the bias, since that seemed to help with the pulling issue (but not really the snag issue), and I figured that would help at the waist when the skirt attached to the bodice.  I also thought the lines of the rainbow strips would look extra awesome on the bias, so that was an added bonus.

It’s been over 4 months since this dress was completed, and the dress I made on a completely ridiculous whim, has become one of my most worn creations.  It became my go-to dress for several parties and events this past fall/winter.  I even wore it as a Halloween costume by slapping on some fairy wings and calling it done.  So, my take away here is not to shy away from the frosting.  Even if it seems too silly for the effort, you might be surprised by how often you look for an excuse to wear the end result.

On to more specifics of dress creation!
After I had decided on the pattern, I headed back to the fabric store to pick up a little more just in case, and it was then I realized this amazeballs fabric came in sparkly rainbows of every shade!  I decided to keep the purple in my stash for some other purpose because pink was obviously more “me”.  This fabric was so much fun to sew.  It was mesmerizing watching it go through the machine under the bright lights.  I couldn’t resist capturing the moment, and joked I was working on a dress to wear to the grocery store some random Tuesday at 10am- something I haven’t done yet, but maybe one day!  Why NOT wear this frosting dress grocery shopping?  I don’t need an excuse to enjoy my personal sense of style, questionable though it may be.

There were not too many issues with construction.  Bias cutting the bodice turned out to be a good idea, as snags were minimal.  The snags actually not nearly as big a deal as I feared they would be.  Not because they didn’t happen, but because they didn’t “grow” the way a run in pantyhose does and also because there is just too much to look at and process with this fabric that small snags just aren’t that noticeable in all that sparkle and awesome.

My negative issues with this dress (because I have yet to sew anything “perfect”) came down to style and fit.  Pleats at the bust just aren’t for me, unfortunately.  It’s also quite high waisted like the Tiana dress I made from a Lekala.  I even added length because I made a muslin of the bodice, but I either did not add enough, or that change didn’t make it into my final copy of the pattern.  I made a couple of fitting tweaks to the shoulders, which worked well.  This was related to Lekala user error in that I told them I had both broad shoulders and a broad back, when I actually have narrow shoulders and a broad back (I am still not sure how that works, But the Tiana dress bodice fit so well, and those were the parameters I used for that.
I think those shoulder/bodice tweaks are why I have that kind of “w” shape going on at the waist because that definitely wasn’t in the line drawing!  It’s something I would correct on a do-over, or maybe I’ll get around to fixing some other way in the future, but I didn’t hate it enough that it stopped me from wearing it in public 4 times in a 2 month period.

And the fit issues…  The back is just… not great.  Again, this is totally my fault.  I actually wore this dress before it was technically finished.  I hadn’t finished sewing down the bodice lining or done the hem, but I was completely out of time and options to go to a Halloween party.  Tim Gunn was seriously standing over my shoulder shouting “Miss Parayim!  Time is UP!  This is SO unprofessional!” and then I told him I’m actually an accountant, and this is supposed to be *fun* for me, and we were cool again.

But seriously, I wore it out unfinished, because it was a costume anyway, and I was totally swimming in the bodice.  I later measured 2″ of extra ease PER SIDE.  It felt awkward.  I was overly ambitious when I made the correction and should have double/triple checked that adjustment or done something more sloping and gradual rather than taking a straight 2″ from the entire side.  Around the armpits isn’t that bad, but go down a couple of inches, and things are starting to look tighter.  And since I was in a rush to wear this to another party, I just let this mistake ride.  Thank god for spanx (which probably don’t help as much as I imagine they do, but since I don’t ever look at my back, I don’t mind living with this fantasy).
In terms of deliberate design changes, I decided to gather the skirt instead of pleat it.  This was partly because it had been a while since I had done a gathered skirt, partly because gathering is faster for me than pleating, but mostly because I couldn’t make heads or tails of Lekala’s pleating marks or instructions for this, and I didn’t feel like doing the same type of box pleats like the Tiana dress.  I’ve written about Lekala’s pretty terrible sewing instructions before, but the good news is I’ve heard they recently hired someone to overhaul their English translated instructions, so maybe there is hope for the future.

I finished this dress on the inside by covering the waist seam in this cute Hello Kitty ribbon I had in my stash- because why not.  I covered the hem in a different Hello Kitty ribbon, but I neglected to take a picture of that.

So, that’s the story of my Lekala 4282 pink frosting dress.  It was pretty fun to make, and is lots of fun to wear, flaws and all.  I don’t think I’ll be making this again because the bodice pleats are not my cup of tea, but I still think it’s a cute design- it may be better for someone without such a *ahem* curvy silhouette.

Here’s a couple of extra pics:

So… Any guesses why I just had to have the pink version?  That headshot was a bathroom selfie from a Macklemore concert I went to with some friends.  As I was going into the venue, a woman stopped me to ask if I had gotten this dress at a thrift shop.  Ouch!  Turns out she was a reporter with a local publication and was doing a story about… people that go to his shows wearing stuff from the thrift shop? Because he has a song called Thrift Shop?  I don’t even know, but I guess my sewing skillz need improvement.  Then later that evening, some little girls asked to take a picture with me!  I felt like a cosplayer at a con for a moment, but it was nice!  Vindicated, a little bit!

P.S.  I have been making snuggie after snuggie since this dress.  First for winter holiday gifting, then for myself, my kids, and Mr. Parayim, and then for my new etsy shop.  I am kind of tired of it, though, so I’ve started listing some of my extra yardage on etsy too.  By taking a break from snuggies, I’ll free up time to allow me to focus more on the sewing I love- garments and costumes.  Hopefully I will get to post more about that in the next few weeks.

I’m No Martha Stewart

I’ve been neglecting my blog reading (and writing) lately, but I managed to log into my reader today to find this excellent post by Suzannah of Adventures in Dressmaking.

Apparently, Martha Stewart said something kind of crappy about bloggers earlier this week:

“I do have a minor gripe about that, too, because who are these bloggers? They’re not trained editors and writers at Vogue magazine. I mean, there are bloggers writing recipes that aren’t tested, that aren’t necessarily very good or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. Bloggers create kind of a popularity. But they are not the experts and we have to understand that.”

I have a confession, y’all.  I’m no Martha Stewart.  You are advised to use extreme caution before attempting a recipe from my kitchen.  I’m not crafty- I think most crafts are actually kind of pointless, and 2 years ago I couldn’t thread my sewing machine or wind a bobbin without consulting the manual.  I earn my living working in a profession where “creativity” is usually rewarded with jail time, and my sense of style is so terrible I had to learn to sew because stores don’t sell the ridiculous things I wanted to wear.  Not even Mod Cloth.
So, if you came here expecting Vogue or Southern Living or Martha Stewart, Google really really failed you this time.

The thing is, I like bloggers for exactly the same reason she apparently dislikes them. They AREN’T experts! They are often people like me, that have no degree or professional cred behind their hobby. They are trying to juggle working a full time job, raising a family, and finding time to finish a project. They are sharing their pitfalls so the rest of us can learn from their experience.  They are showing off their successes, so we can be inspired to try something new. Because if a blogger can rock that pattern, despite her lack of accredited expertise, maybe I can too!
I have never religiously followed Martha, but I used to watch her tv show and think “she makes it look so easy, but I’m sure it would be a disaster if I tried it. I’m no Martha Stewart.”
Bloggers make these projects attainable. They often show what the tricky part is, what went wrong, and how they fixed it. They give us the courage to walk into the craft store, buy the Martha Stewart brand crafting supplies, and try it on our own.
Nope.  There are no experts or crafty people here.  Just me, inexpertly flailing through my sewing projects.  If you were looking for Martha Stewart, she’s on aisle 10 at Joann.  Go have fun, but don’t tell the internet about it…

I’m sharing this post over at, where you can find more posts to piss off Martha from amature chefs, crafters without art degrees, and even articles about feminism from people without women’s study degrees (I’m pretty sure they have vaginas, but I have not personally verified that).

Panda Bear Picnic: Lekala 4276

I’m a week late to Fall for Cotton, but I did manage to finish up Lekala 4276 this past weekend.

The reasons for my delay are both good and bad.  Everything was going along just fine until I attached the skirt on September 27th.  I should have no trouble finishing by the 9/30 deadline, right?  Well…  Unfortunately for me, it was immediately apparent that this skirt was wayyyy too tight :(  I double checked my measurements against what I told Lekala my measurement’s were, and I am entirely to blame for this snafu.  I used the same measurements as for my Tiana dress, but either I measured wrong, or my body changed because my hips were a good 6cm larger than I had reported.  Not a huge amount, but when the skirt has so little ease, 1 cm seam allowance, and 3 seams to work with, it was apparent that no amount of seam tweaking was going to save this thing.  Fortunately, I had enough fabric to cut another skirt.  Unfortunately, in the quest to get this thing done in time, I just added .5″ to all seams except at the waist, which was fine.  This worked well to fit my hips.  It did not work so well for giving me a skirt that didn’t look like I was sporting saddlebags.  Fixing that issue took time and frustration, so I moved forward on this at a snails pace.  Also, the inside is ugly as shit as a result of all my guess and check work, so you will get pics of the outside only!

More bad news on the timing of this dress- the deadline fell right in the middle of a super busy time at work, and was one of the 4 weekends a year where I lose most of my weekend for work.  Womp womp womp….

Her name is Rarity, of course.

But wait! Didn’t I say there was a *good* reason for missing the fall for cotton deadline? I surely did! Possibly the most best reason!!! The same Friday of the skirt fitting disaster, I became a proud new mommy to this baby:

She’s a barely used Pfaff 4.2 that I got a pretty good deal on (I think). My husband and I were talking about a new machine for Chistmas, so I wasn’t at all expecting to get one that day, but I knew the barely used ones would be gone by then, so I high tailed it back to the dealer as soon as the expense was approved.

I love it so far.  It’s so quiet and fast, and I haven’t even had time to play with all the awesome features yet.  The invisible zipper foot is especially good.  It really curls up around the zipper teeth, so it feels like there is little to no chance of hitting them.  I always had to be oh so careful doing invisible zippers with my Brother CS6000i as things had a tendency to shift, and I’d get too close a good part of the time.

I am reminded why I hate collars. I need to tack that shit down.

This post isn’t (only) about my new machine, though, so here’s the details on the dress:
I really liked the design on the Lekala website, but I felt like I wanted to pull the contrast fabric into another part of the dress besides the collar.  Initially, I planned to do the midriff portion in that same fabric, but once I had the fabric all cut out, I started to doubt that plan.  The midriff was a bit wider (taller?) than I expected, and that felt like too much of the contrast.  I debated flat piping the seams, but decided that looked weird.  I wound up making a belt.  I apparently suck at making belts.  I’m glad I have the option to not wear it.

Construction and fit wise, this was not a difficult dress.  I was nervous about the keyhole part.  The instructions told me to cut the hole in fabric and lining, then sew it.  I decided this was a supremely bad idea.  Instead, I marked the stitch line around the hole,pinned it, sewed it, then cut it.  That worked just fine.

For the custom sizing of this Lekala, I went with “average” on the choices that affect bodice front dart placement, and I didn’t have the issue of darts being too low or too widely spaced like my other Lekala had.

I still had them give me the broad back adjustment, and that worked well, but it’s still a bit tight and has a very slight upper mid-back gap, so I probably would do well to add a little more back room in the future.

I think this dress is supposed to be more form fitting than the previous Lekala I made, but back wrinkles aren’t a good look even if it was still comfortable.

Lekala’s instructions for the kick pleat were a nightmare.  Frustrating because it’s a really neat detail.  Even more frustrating, I couldn’t find great instructions for it in any of the big 4 patterns in my stash.  Luckily for me, the geniuses at Threads magazine saw a need to tutorialize this technique last December, and they totally saved my kick pleat from becoming a vent.

The intended length of this skirt is also super short!  When I decided to re-cut the skirt, I took the opportunity to add 2″ to the length, and that hem is .5″ single folded up and covered with navy blue lace hem tape on the inside.  Maybe having that first skirt not fit was a blessing in disguise because otherwise I wouldn’t have had the chance to lengthen the skirt.

I think that’s about all I have to say about constructing this thing.  It’s a cute dress, but I’m reminded why I like full skirts in crimes against quilting cotton (wrinkles!!!  UGH!!! ), and if I make it again I’m going to do a proper hip adjustment and let out the back just a little bit.

Oh- and tack down that silly collar!


I don’t really like to go around sleeveless, anyway, and a cardigan conceals most of my issues/insecurities about this dress, though I’m ambivalent about the belt either way.


Tutorial: lined sleeveless bodice with no hand sewing

This week, I’ve been working Lekala 4276 as part of the Fall For Cotton sewalong.  Yes, I’ll use any excuse to do some guilt-free garment sewing from a quilting cotton, and I was so super happy with how my last Lekala turned out, I wanted to try another, and this one looked pretty cute and retro inspired.

This one is coming together much faster than the previous one, and I am hoping to have it finished and blogged tomorrow.  Now that I’ve got some Lekala experience under my belt, the instructions aren’t quite as hard to muddle through (though still kind of weird- like when they tell you to “fold” or “overstitch” that doesn’t always means what you might initially assume), and I was so impressed by their lined sleeveless bodice method, I thought I’d do up a quick tutorial.

It’s such a super easy and efficient way to put together a lined bodice with NO hand stitching, that I kind of feel like I’m having a serious memory issue for not remembering coming across this method before, so apologies if this is old hat, but I thought it was pretty nifty.

This method is for a lined sleeveless bodice with a center back zip.

You will need
Bodice front and bodice front lining pieces, with side darts sewn
Bodice back and bodice back lining pieces
Needles, thread, pins… nothing special.

1. Right sides together, sew bodice front to bodice front lining at neckline and armhole.  Leave side seam and shoulder seam open.  Press, clip curves, flip right side out, and press.
2. Do the same with each back piece.

You should have 1 front bodice and 2 back bodice pieces with nice clean necklines and arm holes

3. Flip the back pieces inside out, and slide them over the bodice front shoulders.  Line up the raw edges of your shoulders, pin, sew, press, and flip it all right side out again

Make sure the side seams of the bodice front and bodice back shoulders butt right up against each other, or they won’t line up exactly when you’re done.

I have a tiny bit of “overhang”, but not enough to bug me on a casual dress

4. Complete the side seams.  This method is fairly standard, but I know it confused me the first time I ran into it, so I thought I’d include it.  On each side of the bodice, pin right sides together bodice front and back and bodice lining front and back.  It should be a straight line for each side of the bodice.

If you look at it from the right sides after pinning, it will look something like this.

5.  Sew each side as 1 straight seam.  Press, flip down the bodice, press some more.

6. You’re done!  Admire you’re finished armholes and neckline, and rejoice in not having to hand sew a bit of it!

The 7 Most Horrifying things in McCall’s (Sept 1949)

Last weekend, I found myself in an antique store, and came across a stack of old McCall’s magazines from 1949.  I had completely forgotten that this magazine even existed, and since I wasn’t interested in sewing when they stopped publishing it over 10 years ago I never connected the dots between the magazine and the pattern company.

I decided to buy one, and thought it would be fun to peruse the pages of what your average housewife would read for funsies 64 years ago.

My how times have changed.  THANK GOD!

First off, that iconic ad image of the 1950’s woman that has become almost a cliche at this point- the huge bright smile, wide eyes, giant full skirt- it must have started sometime in the 40’s because this thing was so full of that it was almost unreal.  I had a few “is this real life?” moments because while I knew that character must have been used, for whatever reason I didn’t expect to see it on almost every page.  It was very surreal.

Also- there are NO makeup ads, but if you take a modern women’s magazine, and replace every makeup ad with an ad for deodorant, you’ll have a sense of how weirdly prevalent those types of ads were.  Apparently late 1940’s/early 1950’s women were naturally gorgeous, but they smelled REALLY bad (or, at least, that’s what advertisers wanted them to believe).  Kind of makes you wonder about the things they advertise in those magazines today.

As I flipped through the pages of brightly smiling, malodorous women, I became more and more glad I am in my 30’s today, not 60 years ago.  Because as beautiful and fun as some of those outfits were, there’s a lot from back then that I have absolutely no desire to remake as “vintage modern”.

Presenting….  The 7 most awful and horrifying things I saw in the September 1949 McCalls (or- why I feel sorry for my grandmothers)

#1  Crisco- it’s digestable!

Let’s start off with an easy one. This was early in the magazine, and is the sort of whimsical and humorous tag line we like to expect. Digestible! How quaint!

#2 Green food coloring = instant pistachio!

Yeah…. I don’t buy it. And I’m starting to doubt the image of the mid-century housewife that was an amazing homemaker and cook that they would even suggest such a thing.

#3 You’re a bad mom if you don’t buy our product!

Gee- thanks for the guilt trip, McCalls. Not only do I not have any oil-o-sol in my medicine cabinet, I had never heard of it until now. Consider my children, unloved :(

#4- You can never be too clean!

Can you read the subheading? This is number ELEVEN in a series. I don’t want to know how long that series was. This article was several pages long :(

#5 You are getting sleepy….

This article was about 6 pages long, and “Cook it for him good” was splattered across every page in large font. One page even had it twice. Brainwashing by repetition? It is my womanly duty, after all…

#6 I’m not even going to try to make this one entertaining. It’s that awful.

Think twice before you tell the man “make yourself at home” I can’t even put into words… The man is actually the “hero” of this story. That girl is supposed to be 11 years old. I only skimmed the story, and what’s implied by this picture doesn’t happen (which kind of makes it even worse that they would dream this up to lure in readers). The gist of the story is- man gets invited to dinner at his high-school girlfriend’s house. He is completely disgusted by how unkempt the place is (there are crumbs on the kitchen counter!). He says some borderline inappropriate things to the daughter. Later the mom propositions him, but can’t decide if he can be with someone that keeps such a filthy house (crumbs!!! on the counter!!!!) . He later decides to call the mom and take her up on the offer, and she pretends he dialed the wrong number. The whole thing was just weird, and the mediocre housekeeping seemed like the real point of the story. Or maybe that unclean houses are magnets for pedophiles? I thought this might be something of a Lolita rip off since the mom in that book was kind of a slob, but that wasn’t published until 1955. Maybe this was just an ongoing theme until that book defined it. Whatever it is, it’s gross on several levels.

#7 The woman today is as bright as a toilet

Bright? You’re right! That goes for the lady- and the toilet bowl too!

Really, McCall’s?  REALLY?  Let’s compare our readers to a toilet!  That’s a great idea!
This is the one that really infuriates me.  This is 1949.  Only a few years ago, the women that were reading this magazine were keeping calm and carrying on.  They were making do and mending.  They were planting victory gardens to feed their family, and hoarding their rations so they could be lucky enough to buy one of those brand new sewing machines that you charmingly advertise in this magazine!
They were Rosie the Riveter, and you just made a buck on an advertiser that compared them to a toilet!?  REALLY???

Fucking hell, it sucked to be a woman back then….

Lekala 4278: Tiana Dress

UntitledLast week, my husband had a funny conversation with our 4 year old.  It went something like this:

Mr. Parayim: Who is the most handsome man?
A: Daddy!
Mr. P: And who is the most beautiful woman?
A: Princess Tiana!

How am I supposed to live up to that??
A friend suggested her opinion might change if she saw me in a green ball gown and tiara, and since I was already in the middle of this project, I decided to name it after my daughter’s inspiration.  I tend to think her answer had more to do with beignets and gumbo than Tiana’s clothing.

This pattern is Lekala 4278, and I’ve been struggling to get excited and work through it for several weeks.
Lekala is a fascinating pattern company for a few reasons:
1. The patterns are cheap!  This dress pattern is $2.49, but if you register an account with them, you can snag it for $2.19!
2. The designs are interesting! I sometimes feel like some of the larger non-big 4 pattern companies either cater more toward an older clientele or their stuff is so similar to big 4 patterns I can’t see the point of doing a special order when I’ve got a Jo-Ann 3 miles from my house.  Many Lekala designs appeal to me (like this coat, these pants, this dress, and this dress), and while many of their designs are similar to patterns I could find at Jo-Ann, the most exciting thing about these patterns is….
4. CUSTOM SIZING!!!!!  Fit work has been my main sewing focus this year.  It’s been a time consuming and often frustrating process, and while I feel much more experienced in trying different adjustments, I still struggle a lot with choosing which adjustments I need and then doing them correctly.  The US Lekala site will email you any of their PDF patterns customized to your height, bust, underbust, waist, and hip measurements.  Or you can head over to the Russian version, and choose pattern modifications for a variety of common figure variations.

I have to admit, I’m digging the purple boots CGI me is sporting.

I was super curious to see how these pattern adjustments worked out, so I headed over to the Russian site, put in my measurements and adjustments, and they emailed me this creepily accurate computer generated image of myself.

The adjustments I requested were:
-high waist*
-low bust*
-wider bust points
-reduced shoulder width
-increased back width
-increased breast width

*I don’t think these adjustments were the right choice for me, and I will probably keep these as “average” in the future.

The dress sewed up pretty easily, although I would not recommend it to someone that was uncomfortable working with a pattern.  The instructions are translated from Russian, and aren’t always as clear or intuitive as what you’d expect from a big 4 pattern, and there were no diagrams.
For me, the trickiest part of the instructions came at the point of attaching the facings and connecting the shoulders.  I think I read the instructions 5 times, and still didn’t really understand exactly what I was supposed to do, so I just winged it.

Other quirks in the pattern: the grainline is marked “beam”, and seam allowances (if you choose to include them in your order) are 1cm.  I didn’t have a metric ruler handy, so I figured .394″ was close enough to a half inch, and I marked all my seam lines to make sewing it up easier.  The extra tenth of an inch I gave myself in the seam allowances didn’t appear to hurt the fit at all, and I think this is probably my best fitting dress so far, though I wouldn’t call it perfect just yet.


The 2 most obvious fit issues with the finished dress:
1.  The waist is a bit too high- I don’t think it’s that bad, but it does give the dress more of a “babydoll” look than I anticipated.  I’m comfortable with fixing this on my own if/when I use this pattern again.

2. The horizontal bust darts are a little too low. They’re about a half inch below the apex.  Again, this is a pretty easy fix for next time, and I don’t think it makes the dress unwearable.  Before I started to sew, I never would have noticed a flaw like this in my RTW clothes.
I blame both of these issues on the 2 adjustments I requested above that I marked with an asterisk.
I suppose since Lekala knew my height, they took that into consideration when drafting my pattern.  My torso is short because I am short- I guess I really don’t need that adjustment in their patterns.
The lower bust I requested was something that was marked on my “visual figure evaluation” worksheet I got at Sewing Expo in March.  I’m going to call that as wearing a bad bra that day, and that newfangled bra fitting method that has since led me to a more supportive and comfortable size.

There is 1 less obvious fit issue, and that’s a little bit of gaping around the armholes.  Maybe my request for wider bust points is to blame since the vertical bust darts are also about a half inch outside the apex.  I think a sloped shoulder adjustment might also help with this.

This isn’t a deal breaker for me at all since I almost always wear a cardigan over anything sleeveless.

The back of the dress fits so well!!!  Best fit I’ve ever made!!!  Practically none of the dreaded “back gap” in the upper center back!  I think with wovens there might always be just a little- depending on your posture.  It’s really comfortable too, and just the right amount of form fitting.  There are no baggy areas, and no too tight areas.  I am super happy with it.

The dress is a quilting cotton I’ve wanted for a while, and finally got on sale.  The polka dot contrast is a poly/cotton seersucker from Joann’s juvenile apparel fabrics.
I decided to cut the contrast on the bias.  I can’t tell if it makes a difference with the dot pattern, but the rows of seersuckering are at a 45 degree angle, and I think that looks a bit more interesting.

I think this might have been my first time using facings!  I usually

opt to fully line the bodice- either because it needs the coverage for sheerness or because I think it will be easier than facings.

To my surprise they were no more difficult than a lining (and probably easier, since no darts), and I’m not sure why I’ve been going out of my way to avoid them.

  I think maybe I was put off with the idea of them hanging loosely in there, ready to pop out and look ugly, but I understitched them, sewed them to the side seam allowances, and stitched in the ditched them to the back seam, so I feel like they are pretty secure.

There only a couple of design changes I made to the pattern. I added a pocket at the side seam that doesn’t have a zipper.  I firmly believe that pockets should not be optional if at all possible.  I also decided to gather the skirt instead of pleat it because I had just done a pleated skirt, and it’s been a while since I did a gathered one.  I’m happy with both of these changes :)

I think I did an especially nice job on the hem of this dress.  I have not been too impressed with my hems on the last several things I’ve made, so I’m pretty proud of how nice this turned out.  It helps that the fabric is pretty light weight.  Maybe I am improving with practice.

So…  I am very happy with my first Lekala experience.  While I didn’t get the *perfect* fit, I definitely got a better fit than most other patterns I’ve done- either straight out of the envelope or with my own adjustment attempts, and a few simple pattern adjustments would make it even better (but honestly? this isn’t couture, and I feel like it’s good enough as is for a simple, casual, comfortable dress).

While the PDF pattern is a pain in the ass, and the instructions could be better, I feel like the hassle is worth it to get something that requires minimal to no adjustments.  Lekala has a lot of great designs, and now that I’ve got one of their patterns under my belt, I am sure I will go back to try more.

How many awkward faces does it take to make a blog post?

Finding Inspiration in Fabric and Patterns

There are as many ways to become inspired as there are things in the universe, but when I’m feeling especially directionless with my sewing, I generally gravitate towards 2 things to get my creative juices flowing:  Sewing patterns, and fabric.

The Big 4 (Vogue, Butterick, McCalls, and Simplicity) issue new patterns several times a year.  I am sure there is some sort of schedule to it…  I usually start checking daily when it seems like it’s been a while since new patterns came out, and then they are inevitably released the day I don’t check, and I have to find out from twitter or pattern review.
The independent companies aren’t quite as regular, which makes it even more of a treat when a new pattern debuts.  They usually like to tease us with twitter or blog posts leading up to it, so new pattern day is not as hard to miss!

This past round of releases hasn’t delivered many must-haves for me, but I will probably add Simplicity 1558 to my stash just for that skirt.  Simplicity 1553 is probably not something I’ll pick up, but did you see the hem of the skirt and list of notions? Battery operated micro fairy lights?  I didn’t know this was a thing, and it’s definitely got me curious.
McCalls 6891 is very interesting, and I’ve been turning it over in my head as an option for a costume if the corset  doesn’t pan out.
Then there’s Lekala.  I’m not sure how to classify this pattern company since it doesn’t really “feel” like an indie, but they aren’t like the big 4 (or their various underlings) either.  Maybe they deserve their own category.  Whatever they are, their 4282 pattern has me itching to do a matryoshka dress do-over like you wouldn’t believe.  Because I never really sold myself on that bodice I made.  Because despite pre-washing all my fabric, I got maybe 3 wears out of that dress before an unfortunate laundry accident caused the blue part to bleed all over the matryoshka part giving everything that was creme colored an off-putting and unintentional tinge of aqua.  4282 is the real reason I’m pushing onward with 4278…  Because I *need* to know if/how well this custom sizing system works before I blow another $2.18 and who knows how much time assembling another one of their blasted PDF patterns.

Which brings me to fabric:There are more online fabric stores than you can shake a stick at.  I dare you not to become inspired after spending time browsing, Mood, or Fabric Mart.  The fabrics you see made up into clothing at your favorite retailer are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s out there, and while I could tell you that I sew because I have a passion for fit, or sustainability, or to avoid supporting sweatshops- the main reason I wanted to learn, and the thing that keeps me inspired, is the fabric ~*~*~~*fabric*~*~*~ FAAAAABBBBRRRRIIIIIC!
Because I love my “hot dog dress” from modcloth, but what if I’m in the mood for a grilled cheese? And how else would I get a dress with roller skates all over it to wear to my favorite band’s show?

And sometimes you find a RTW dress where you love the fabric, but hate the design (and/or pricetag).  SEWING TO THE RESCUE!!!!

I found the fabric!  And this might be great for my matryoshka re-do (if it’s not too heavy….  that’s one of the risks with buying fabric online).
And so many others I could shop and sew forever….

On my Sewing Table: Variety is the Spice of Life

Since completing the Enterprise dress, I’ve been in a bit of a sewing funk.

I started my 2nd go-round at Simplicity 1873, which I made once before with pretty good results (Cosmo Cricket Dress).  I intended to get that done in 1 day to bring to Play on Con, but I got overwhelmed with con-prep, and didn’t finish it until after I got back.  I still need to photograph and blog it.


Then I kind of stalled out and flailed around for my next project.

I want to get started on a corset, and have Butterick 5662 and Laughing Moon Mercantile #100 cut and ready for tracing.  I just feel kind of… scared to get started on that for some reason.  I’ve never played with any boning at all, and I’m wondering if I should get my feet wet by making a dress with that requires it before jumping into a full blown corset.
I also had Lekala 4278 assembled, traced, and ready to go, but I was having a hard time getting excited about it since the pattern is so similar to the Simplicity 1873 I had just finished.  I was super curious about the fit since the Lekala patterns are custom made to the measurements you send them, so I decided to go with that.
  I raided my stash for a suitable fabric for this.  Since I’ve been making more of an effort to stay away from quilting cottons, I tried hard to figure out a grown up fabric that would work.  I really did.  Turns out, I really didn’t have anything else that was suitable.  I have quilting cotton, and I have sheer and floaty fabrics, and I don’t really have much in between.  So quilting cotton it is!
I had my eye on this print at Joann for months, and caught it in the clearance section when I was looking for fabric for Simplicity 1873.  I decided I could indulge myself by using it for a lining, but it turned out that only the bodice needed a lining, so I had plenty of leftovers to use it for Lekala 4278!
The green polka dot is a poly/cotton seersucker-ish fabric from Joann’s Children’s apparel collection, which happens to be the same stuff I used for Simplicity 1873, but a different print. 

Although I’m pretty happy with the fabric choices, I’m still having a hard time getting into this one.  I think I need more variety in my sewing, and maybe I’d be better off if I had just gotten over my fears and done the corset right away.  I am about halfway through this dress, and just want to get it done so I can work on something different.

Sewaholic Cambie: The Enterprise Dress

UntitledIt’s been a month since my last completed project post, but I’ve been busy! I’ve been working away at my version of the Sewaholic Cambie dress. I decided a while back that the a-line version without the sweetheart neckline (thanks to the handy dandy tutorial on Tasia’s blog) would be perfect for my favorite fabric.

I finished the dress over a week ago- just in time to debut it at the super awesome fun time that was Play On Con. So, while I usually have tried to post my projects within a day or 2 of completion, I am doing this a little late because I had a lot of sleep to catch up on.

I love the shape of this dress. The A line has a little bit of a late 1960’s feel, but is not so obviously retro. I like that there is a little flare still in the skirt. It doesn’t feel as sultry bombshell as a straight or pencil skirt, but it’s much more tailored than a fuller gathered or pleated skirt, and I only had about 2 yards of the fabric, so I wouldn’t have had enough for that anyway. I think it’s a good balance between the two, and just right for showcasing a large scale, busy print.

The main fabric is silk, and is probably the softest, floatiest fabric I have worked with so far. I’m glad I did some test stitches on scraps because I very quickly discovered my feed dogs were hungry, and they think silk is delicious! To avoid disaster, I pinned a strip of tissue paper to the feed dog side of every seam before I sewed it. It was a pain, but it worked. I also reduced my stitch length to 1.6 (my machine default is 2.5). I thought puckers might be an issue, but that was fine. I noticed in my test scrap that the seams with a longer stitch length were pulling at the fabric, and I could see the holes where needle and thread had gone. Shortening the stitch length helped prevent this from happening, and kept the seam together and strong.

UntitledI tried to be soooo careful in laying out this pattern. I even made myself a chart of each piece of the garment, and where the enterprise would wind up- left or right, top or bottom. But I must have had the pattern piece for the skirt back wrong side up when I went to cut it because I ended up with 2 enterprises on the same side in the back. Oops! It doesn’t bother me too much- especially since I don’t look at my own back, but I was kind of annoyed when I discovered the mistake.

The back of this dress ended up being a little bit tight, but nothing some spanx couldn’t make better. I’m not exactly sure why that happened. I muslined the dress 3 times, and it seemed like it would be OK, but I wound up having to take it in at the neckline, and maybe I got a little over eager at that point. Or maybe the zipper in my muslins wasn’t placed well. Or maybe I gained 5 lbs in between starting and finishing this dress. Who knows. I really like the pattern, and I’m not too disappointed with the fit, but I will definitely be re-mulslining it if/when I make it again, and will probably add a side dart and a real FBA instead of only monkeying with the back and side seams, which is what I did here.


I lined the dress in a quilting cotton I found at Jo-Ann. I didn’t plan to line it in quilting cotton, but when I saw the print, how could I not? I wanted something breathable since I’d be wearing this at “Nerd Camp”, and while a lawn or voile would have probably been softer and more drapey, the cotton did the job of ensuring against transparency, keeping me from sweating, and providing some support to the bodice. Also- ENTERPRISE!

You can see in the final muslin/lining fit photo there’s some gaping around the neck area. I thought this might be self correcting once I attached it to the silk, and wasn’t looking at seam allowances, but no such luck. Doing the fix at that point in the project was definitely not ideal, and another reason for a new muslin next time.


I finished off the hem with piping I’d made from leftovers of the sleeve and pocket fabric, and I covered up the ugly with this sparkly blue trim. I’m a sucker for the sparkly. I look for excuses to work it in. That contrast fabric has a little bit too.
I originally thought about using the piping around the neckline, to make a clean, sharp, seam with that floaty silk, but it was suggested I understitch it instead, and that worked just fine. I’m glad I didn’t use the piping there because it does add a little bulk, and I made sure I packed my trusty iron for the con to de-wonk the hem before heading out, and that helped.

Sewing the dress was a good experience. I sewed a fabric I had never worked with before, and while it isn’t perfect, I don’t regret it. I feel like I learn something new with every project, and this was definitely no exception! I didn’t even get into the genius way the invisible zip is installed, but I know I’ll be using that technique in the future.
I really like the pattern, and I think I will definitely make it again!

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