Total Pattern Fail

You know when you finally finish that great pattern that looks super cute on everyone (everyone!), and then you put it on and it looks just terrible (truly!) on you. That.

It’s possibly not a total fail. I am hoping that later tonight after a couple glasses of wine, it can be upgraded to “wearable” (sigh). Possibly it will have to be (double sigh) up-cycled. And no, no photos yet. It’s raining and I am unmotivated to wrestle dress, light, camera and photobombing toddlers into place.

I am especially discouraged because I dutifully made up a muslin. I even muslined the sleeve (the &^&%#$#ing sleeve folks!), which fit well, by the way. And I tried it on as I was sewing, and only when I got to the buttons (arrrrrrgh!) did it become apparent that this would not be wearable. And it isn’t even the pattern, or the fit, it is that style on my body. Did I mention the fabric had an especially nice drape? @%$#*!

Eventually I will share photos. (And no, it is not the men’s shirt that I’m also working on).

To borrow from ¬†Mad Men, you might put a Betty in a Joan dress, but you can’t really put a Joan in a Betty dress. And I am clearly in the Joan camp. And this is a Betty dress.

For the record I am in the rectangular/hourglass camp, and curvy on top. Let’s just say that the FBA is a good friend of mine ūüėČ And I still have a bit of baby belly to work on (four kids will do that to you). In other words, I am human.

So while I wait for a less rainy day, I thought I would take the time to jot down a few styles which I have proven do not look good on me, so that when a new and exciting pattern comes out I can check this list and remind myself that the following do not look good on me. (Though they may be smashing on you, in which case, carry on, nothing to see here).

What Looks Bad On Me

  • peter pan collars
  • pussy bow blouses
  • fitted capris and short shorts
  • high waisted bodices with gathered skirts
  • empire waists
  • short and cropped and/or boxy jackets
  • tiny upper pockets
  • smock-style tunics/dresses
  • drop waists
  • pleated pants
  • tea-length skirts, unless quite fitted
  • strapless dresses
  • anything with gathering at the bust
  • low v-necks (a bit too “hey mister!”, if you know what I mean)
  • details that are too small
  • ruffles (often but not always)

You know the patterns I’m talking about!

And this is what I should remind myself to get instead, possibly along with some new fabric in my colour palette.

What Looks Good On Me

  • pencil skirts
  • long, fitted tops
  • a-line (most of the time)
  • longer, tailored jackets
  • cowl necks, square necks, scoop necks
  • shift dresses, especially with sleeves
  • wrap dresses (when they have enough coverage)
  • boot cut jeans, skinny jeans
  • flat front pants
  • 3/4 sleeves
  • stretch knits

I also have a request of you, dear reader. Which sewing bloggers do you know, who are shaped like yours truly?

I feel like I should be following more people who sew things that look good on a me-shaped body and that I should find some more kindred souls so that it is less tempting to copy the super cute, petite and/or waiflike sewists stitching up some terribly adorable peter pan collars and such. (And that is sincerely not meant as a slight to the peter pan collar or the petite sewist! Do carry on!)

So send your links my way so I have something to read with my glass of wine tonight. Bonus points if you can suggest some great curve-friendly patterns.

Shorts for the Win!

shorts on the line - a summer sew along
shorts on the line – a summer sew along

So where have I been, you may be asking? Each I year I co-organize an open source tech conference. It was on June 29-30. It is huge and crazy and getting through the pile of laundry afterwards is an amazing feat. But I am officially back in my usual, crazy, mum-of-four swing of things.

My first job has been to tame the email, and what was awaiting me there? A prize!

Yes, I am one of the official winners of the shorts on the line giveaway. My prize is the Kid Shorts by MADE. It looks really cute and I can’t wait to try it out. And since it fits kids 12 months to size 10, that means I’ll have to make four. Shorts, shorts, shorts! Thanks to Rachel of Imagine Gnats and Carla of Small + Friendly for organizing both the Shorts on the Line contest (which I also entered) and the giveaway. And thanks to Dana of MADE for donating the prize.

Kid Shorts by MADE
Kid Shorts by MADE (used with permission)

And what else did I get to now that life is getting back to normal… the fabric store!

It’s about 40 degrees with the humidex during the day here in Montreal – unbearably hot and humid. I kept seeing all the local mums in these fabulously comfortable jersey maxi dresses. I’ve been having babies for so long now that my (non-maternity) wardrobe is just pitiful, so I figured it was time for some summer sewing for me.

McCall's M 6760 Misses' Dress and Jumpsuit and some spongey bamboo jersey.
McCall’s M 6760 Misses’ Dress and Jumpsuit and some spongey bamboo jersey.

This is some really soft, really spongey bamboo jersey and McCall’s M 6760. The photo makes the fabric look darker than it is. It’s actually a medium grey and medium-weight. Now that I’ve blogged it I will be forced to sew it. No procrastinating allowed!

I know, I know, all the dresses on the pattern envelope are made of georgette or some other airy fabric, but definitely not knit fabric. But there it was on the back of the envelope, “jersey”.

And the bonus is that with jersey, I won’t need to line it or use an invisible zipper. I’m just a bit concerned that the jersey might be a bit heavy and weigh too much on the waistband, but we will soon find out. The waistband is meant to be interfaced, but then it won’t be as comfortable. Hmmm. dilemma, dilemma. I love the fabric, but I could also do a glorified t-shirt maxi dress instead. Maybe a bit dull, in grey though. What would you do? Suggestions welcome.

More Family Patterns

I hope you had a good Easter. Mine was great. This year, the Easter bunny brought me vintage patterns! They are so much more exciting than chocolate and last longer too. Let’s take a look.

Look at all those new patterns!
Look at all those new patterns!

I know! Soooo many patterns.

A little while ago I posted an article on a bunch of patterns that my mother gave me. Well, my husband’s aunt saw the article and thought I might like her old patterns too. So generous!

I can’t show them all, so here are the ones I’m most likely to sew.

The blouse is Style 3351 from 1981. Next is a bias skirt, McCalls 3296, from 2001. Finally Simplicity 7254 from 1975, an apron.

There is a nice blouse (Style 3351) from the early 1980s, but it’s got 1970s styling. There is McCall’s 3296, which is a bias-cut skirt. There is also a fishtail version, but I think I’ll stick with the classic a-line skirt. Another good one is Simplicity 7254, an apron from 1975. I can’t believe I have no apron patterns at all, and yet I am in need of an apron.

This is McCalls 5861, from 1992: jacket, tank dress or top, skirt & pants or shorts.

This is another one that looks nice. McCall’s 5861, from 1992 includes a tank top and dress with Made-For-You A-B-C-D cup sizing. I think it might make a nice summer dress.

Simplicity 7412, from 1976: child’s dress and capelet. A French jumper pattern from Modes et Travaux. Simplicity 1434; ca. 1955/56; boy’s pajamas in two lengths.

But the real gems are in the children’s patterns. Here we have¬†Simplicity 7412, from 1976. Clearly, it’s a first communion dress, but without the capelet (and maybe a bit more length) it’s quite cute. Then there is this French pattern for a jumper by Modes et travaux. And my favourite is the boys pyjamas. They are pull-on with no buttons! My kids are pretty allergic to buttons, and this pattern has a really nice, unique neckline.

Butterick 7602: Quick & Easy boys‚Äô & girls‚Äô sport shirt. Simplicity 1785 Child’s Mandarin Pajamas, robe, and matching doll coat, from the 1950s. Simplicity 4636; ca. 1962; child’s hooded jacket and pants.

And finally, these were the most unusual kids’ patterns. I’m not sure I’ll be sewing them, but the 1950s styling is interesting. First there is ¬†¬†Butterick 7602, a pull-on shirt. I’ve never seen a shirt with this type of neckline. Next is¬†¬†Simplicity 1785, ¬†a child’s mandarin pyjamas and robe. So 1950s! And finally a ski suit:¬†Simplicity 4636.

A big thank you to both the Easter bunny and my husband’s aunt (name omitted to protect her from the notoriety of sewing blog fame )!

It Just Isn’t Me

Yesterday I read a great blog post by Gillian at Crafting a Rainbow on the importance of having a personal wardrobe colour palette.

It’s similar to Colette‘s seasonal colour palettes, but more long-term. The idea is that once you know what your colour palette is, you can better choose what to make.

Here’s mine.

My personal wardrobe colour palette.
My personal wardrobe colour palette.

These are the colours I like the most, and that I enjoy wearing. I can see the lime, turquoise and ballerina pink fitting in with a spring wardrobe, while the chocolate-brown and tangerine would work well for fall.

I did a second colour chart with fabric swatches from some of the nicer online fabric stores. It definitely confirmed that I was on the right track. You should try it!

This colour palette is more aspirational than actual. I’ve had four kids in the last 7 years, which means that most of my wardrobe consists of maternity wear. I’m starting at square one. It’s liberating and frustrating at the same time.

It’s liberating because I can justify making a lot of clothing. Yay! But frustrating because a lot of what I see on online sewing blogs, while beautiful and inspirational, just isn’t me.

In a similar vein, you can also read how this blogger¬†(sallieoh)¬†inspired this blog post¬†by Joanne at Stitch and Witter, which in turn inspired this other blog post¬†by Sunni at a Fashionable Stitch about embracing your own personal style. I’m not sure which article is the most inspiring, or if the real inspiration is the blogosphere cross-pollination.

I’m starting with colour.¬†I like bold colours. I like stripes and houndstooth and strong geometric patterns, but I like solids even more, especially black. I like tailored clothing that is inspired by street wear and menswear. I like asymmetrical, minimalist, and modern. (You can see some Pinterest fashion inspiration¬†here and¬†here.)

So you won’t see a lot of peter pan collars, or tiny florals around here, but that just means you’ll see a lot more of me.

How to Grade the Kelly Skirt

The Kelly skirt by Megan Nielsen
The Kelly skirt by Megan Nielsen.

So you want to make Megan Nielsen’s Kelly skirt, but it doesn’t come in your size? Whether you need a plus size like XXL, or 3X, or a smaller size, like XXS there is an easy solution – grading the pattern.

What is Pattern Grading?
Grading a pattern just means to take a pattern up or down a size, or more. There are many ways to grade a pattern, and lots of articles on how to do this. It can be a complex process, depending on the pattern. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, if you have never graded a pattern, the Kelly Skirt is the perfect one to start with.

This skirt fits waists between 26 and 34 inches (66-86 cm). In commercial pattern sizes, that translates roughly to sizes 12 to 20. That is a pretty good range, but we can easily extend that range.

This week I published¬†my own version of the Kelly Skirt¬†and I mentioned that it is an easy pattern to grade. I recently had my fourth baby, and although I would normally be a size large in the Megan Nielsen size range, my waist is (temporarily I hope!) larger than the largest size included in the pattern. I graded the pattern up a size. I am not an expert pattern grader, this is just the way I graded the pattern. Since it worked out well, I thought I’d share.

Getting Started
In order to grade the pattern, you will need to trace the pattern onto tracing paper, with a few simple modifications. If you have never traced a pattern before, I suggest you read “How to Trace Sewing Patterns” by Sunni on a Fashionable Stitch. There are also some good photos of the process here.

You will need tracing paper, a pencil and a ruler.

A Little Math
You will start by comparing your measurements to the closest pattern size. You can ignore the bust measurement completely.¬†Because the skirt is gathered and has a fair bit of room in the hips, in most cases, you can just look at the waist measurement. However, if you have very large hips, compared to your waist, you may need to make more complex modifications. For this tutorial, we’ll assume your hips and waist are roughly proportional.

Kelly skirt pattern back.
What measurements to look at when grading the Kelly skirt.

Going Up a Size
If you are going up a size, compare your waist to body measurements for the largest pattern size. The waist measurement given for the XL size is 34 inches. My waist is 37 inches at the moment. That means I need to add 3 inches to the XL size.

Make sure you are looking at the body measurements and not the finished garment measurements. The finished garment measurement won’t be skin-tight, it should have some ease or breathing room, so that the clothing will be comfortable to wear. This pattern has around 3/4 of an inch of ease at the waist. Professional pattern graders adjust the ease in very precise ways, but we’ll just use the ease of the closest size (XL or XS).

Going Down a Size
If you are going down a size, compare your waist to the to body measurements for the smallest pattern size. The waist measurement given for the XS size is 26 inches. If you have a 24 inch waist, you would need to subtract 2 inches from the XS size. Again, make sure you are looking at the body measurements and not the finished garment measurements.

Modifying the Pattern Pieces
There are only 5 pattern pieces in the Kelly Skirt.

Kelly skirt
There are only five pattern pieces for the Kelly skirt.

Pocket Facing and Pocket Lining
You will trace the pocket facing and pocket lining as they are. These two pieces don’t change when the skirt size changes.

The Waistband
The waistband is a single piece that circles the waist. In the XL size, this piece is made for a 34 inch waist. Because I have a 37 inch waist, I need to add 3 inches of length to this piece. I added the length to the XL size at the end without the markings, just because it is a little easier that way. Don’t forget to transfer all the markings to your tissue paper. If you are going down a size, subtract the amount you need from the XS size. This will shorten the waistband.

Keep in mind that the piece won’t measure exactly 37 inches after my modification. That is because the length of the pattern piece also includes seam allowances.

I write the changes I’ve made directly on the tracing paper as a reminder.

Kelly skirt waistband
The modified waistband for the Kelly skirt.

The Skirt Front and Skirt Back
The skirt front and skirt back need to be modified as well. I need to add 3 inches, but I need to split this amount between the two seams that join those pieces together. That means I need to add 1.5 inches to each seam, and 0.75 inches to each pattern piece at that seam.

Kelly skirt
Modifications to the back of the Kelly skirt.

The skirt back is cut on the fold. I just extended out the side that is not on the fold by o.75 inches. Because the piece is on the fold, that amount fill be added to each side of the pattern piece.

You will also have to move the markings for the pleats on the skirt back. If you don’t, the pleats might look a bit odd, and strangely placed. If you are going up a size, starting from the markings for the XL size, for two inches that you added to the waistband, move the pleat markings out, away from the fold, by 1/4 inch. ¬†(The pleat markings are more precisely spaced than 1/4 inch intervals, but this number will serve as a good approximation for us.)¬†If you are going down a size, starting from the markings for the XS size, for two inches that you subtracted from the waistband, move the pleat markings in, toward from the fold, by 1/4 inch. There are three lines that need to be moved.

Kelly skirt front
Modifications to the front of the Kelly skirt.

The skirt front is in two pieces. I extended out the side with the curve for the pocket by 0.75 inches. This adds 0.75 inches to each piece. Again, I moved the markings for the pleats over exactly the same way as for the skirt back.

Kelly skirt pattern changes.
These are the changes I made to the Kelly skirt.

What about the skirt length?
If you are going down a size, it’s probably a good idea to keep the length of the XS size, unless you are also shorter than average. After all, it is easier to take the hem up a little more than to be stuck with a skirt that is shorter than you were expecting.

If you are going up a size, you can probably also stick with the XL length, unless you are also taller than average. I used the length of the XL skirt and I’m quite happy with the results. However, you need to make sure that there is enough skirt so that when you are sitting, you can sit on the skirt, and not on the hem. If you are quite a bit larger than the pattern XL size, and your pattern modifications are substantial, you may also want to add some length so that you can sit comfortably. The finished skirt length of the XL size is 23 inches. Compare this to a skirt you own, to see if this is sufficient.

What next?
That’s it! Now assemble the skirt following the instructions.

Kelly Skirt
Kelly Skirt by Megan Nielsen in linen with black piping.

I hope you have found this useful. If you have any tips for making this process a little easier, please leave them in the comments.