In the past I’ve tried to skip the muslin process, often with regrettable results. I seem to think I should be able to cheat or outsmart my way clear of making a muslin. I started sewing with the misconception that a muslin is a chore you should try to avoid doing if possible, whenever possible. I’m having to learn for myself the hard way that what everyone says is true: if you want a better chance than a roll of the dice at a garment that you’re happy with, making a muslin is critical.
Now, I’m not going to say that me up and making two muslins for fun marks a sea change in my attitude towards them, but I think it does reflect a grudging acceptance of how important a muslin is. It didn’t hurt that both these patterns are free. Patterns can be pricey and if I’ve chosen to spend money I already have a personal investment greater than the financial one. Making muslins of French Navy’s Orla and Peppermint’s Peplum Top patterns felt more like I was taking them out for a test drive than a trial run, or as in the case of my Belladone, training for a marathon.
This post got too long, so first Orla. I had seem some very nice examples here and there, but I wasn’t up for another fitting challenge so I was fully prepared to make a muslin and chuck it. I was stunned that this fit so well right out of the (virtual pdf) envelope.
Folks, if I found a dress that fit as well as this in a store I would absolutely buy it. Lest you think the muslin in this case was a waste of time, I decided to size up and make a couple small adjustments on my final version because I, ironically, am aiming at something less fitted. It’s currently more of a hospital gown than a dress – the fabric store is far and my weekends are busy, but hopefully I’ll get around to buying and installing the zip soon!
I bought this fabric ages ago, when I was first learning to sew and making oodles and oodles of kids clothes because I wasn’t ready to make clothes for myself, yet. I’ve always loved little dresses, but have always worried this makes me a bad feminist so I bought a bunch of red dino fabric with the intention of making dresses that were ever so slightly subversive. In time I let those worries go. It turns out the do-I-or-don’t-I-dress-my-daughter-in-dresses question solves itself when your kid is old enough to pick out her own clothes. This produces sometimes hilarious combinations on MJ’s part and sometimes frustrated feelings on mine as she eschews all other clothes in favor of the same Peppa Pig shirt and clashing teal sweatpants she plucks out of the drawer whenever they’re clean.
MJ is interested in dinosaurs and I thought this dress might have a chance, especially when she started demanding it while I was still working on it. I was excited to present it to her the morning after I finished it, but when I asked her if she wanted to wear it she said, “No, no wear dat.” She selected the day’s mismatched outfit and I remembered that toddler demands are not necessarily an indication of toddler desires and that toddlers are very literal. Wanting to have a thing and wanting to wear that thing are two different questions that might elicit two different responses.
This pattern is terrific. I’ve made lots and so has everyone else and with good reason. Excellent instruction, fantastic results, and lots of possible combinations even without purchasing the expansion pack which I own and am chiding myself for not have incorporated, yet.
There will be more Geraniums in other variations. I’ll keep making them, even if they’re rejected.
I dreamed of this make between cutting it out and starting to sew. In my dream I forgot to sew the side panels on, a mistake I am glad to say I did not replicate in my wakeful state. I did try to piece the side panels to the front upside down – in my defense the curve of the sleeve looks an awful lot like the curve of an inverted armscye – so I credit my dream for the extra attention I paid to the side panels’ notches and why they might not be lining up. I had wondered why those notches were there when I cutting this pattern out. I couldn’t imagine how they would be relevant and considered omitting them. I’m so glad I decided I wasn’t smarter than the pattern.
I’d admired Forsythe for some time but it wasn’t on my must-make list because I’d already made Fen which has a similar vibe and even though I really like patterns which use coordinating fabric trying to find them mentally exhausts me. However! Given my love of jewel tones and adoration of the color blue (and this blue in particular: I refer you to Moneta which I finally got around to hemming in part because my machine was already threaded in matching blue for this make) it was only a matter of time before two suitable coordinating fabrics landed in my stash and lo:
I was looking for an easy win and I thought I couldn’t go wrong with a boxy style. I can’t quite figure out what the problem is here. Something about my body shape and/or the excess fabric across the chest and/or side seam placement and/or weight of the fabric makes the dress bubble weirdly in the bust/underarm area. You can see it in the photo; it’s really noticeable when I’m in motion. On the one hand, who cares? On the other hand, I do?
So we’ll see. Honestly it’s not the pattern. It’s just another example of how even when you think you can guess about a shape or style you really can’t.
I have some ideas for this dress. I might try basting the side panel seams closer to the neckline over the shoulder, moving those seams closer to my bust and farther from my armpits. I might try wearing this dress as it is; wear and washing might soften the fabric and help it drape better. Or I might give it to a bustier friend since all this dress needs to be a complete success is a curvier upper half. The dress is totally cute, it’s the fit that fails and that’s on me.
After all that hemming and hawing about… well, hemming, I stopped trying to be fancee and a perfectionist and used a narrow zig zag to hem Moneta. And you know what? It looks FINE. Even better, it’s FINISHED.
Size: Small at the bust and shoulders graded to medium at the waist and skirt
Fabric: Birth Organics Wink Knit
Everybody and her sister has already made a Moneta and for good reason: easy to fit, easy to wear. This dress feels like a leotard which makes me feel like I’m playing secret dress-up.
I have friends who swear by knit dresses but I don’t remember feeling comfortable in one since college which was long ago enough that I’ve become someone who uses terms like “since college” as a way of referring to herself as if in the third person. This dress is something of an experiment in personal style. Will I reach for when getting ready in the morning? We’ll see!
I used a party invitation an excuse for making this dress even though I wasn’t sure we would make it that party. A fitted dress was on my sewing list, I already had the pattern in mind and the fabric on hand, and maybe I thought if I acted like it was a given that we would be going that it might improve our chances. I could at least make sure I had something to wear even if I couldn’t control the financial, familial, occupational, and other personal conflicts that ultimately prevented our attendance.
I kept working on my dress while watching airfare climb without ever dropping. Even after sending regrets I kept working on my dress because I was in deep and aren’t there sometimes really cheap last minute bargain prices? I finished up the dress the morning after the party, probably at the same time that the party honorees were hosting brunch for their out-of-town guests that beat the nor’easter that grounded all flights on the date I had hoped to be traveling.
Pattern: Belladone by Deer and Doe, View B
Fabric: Gertrude Made for Ella Blue Fabrics, Outback Wife, Barkcloth, Elaine Navy from fabricworm.com
Size & adjustments: It’s complicated.
A summary of my pattern adjustments:
Started with a size 40
1″ small bust adjustment (from C to B)
Shortened horizontal bust darts and moved them up
Moved vertical bust darts towards side seams
Moved skirt pleats to match relocated bust darts
1/2″ forward-shoulder adjustment
1/2″ gaping neck adjustment (I wonder if I could achieved better results more simply by doing a square shoulder adjustment. I have some wrinkles on my left shoulder in particular that I think the square shoulder adjustment would help)
Lengthened the back .75″ and the front 1.25″. The added length to the front is misleading because the small bust adjustment takes away length.
Graded bodice from size 40 at the underarm to 38 at the waist. Graded skirt from 38 at the waist to 40 at the hip.*
*I didn’t realize until I was trying to figure out what to do with the flappy ends of at the top of the invisible zipper** that I had been installing the zip wrong all along on all of my muslins. I was butting the edge of the zipper right up against the edge of my pattern piece, wondering all the time 1) how it made sense to sew a 5/8″ seam around a zipper that was being placed in at 3/8″; and 2) how in the world a 38 was fitting me when I don’t have a 26.5″ waist. Turns out you’re supposed to allow for that seam allowance when sewing the zipper in, duh. So even though I graded down to a size 38, once you add back in the seam allowance I didn’t take at the zip you’re back at a 40 and I was making things harder on myself than they needed to be. Honestly, making fit issues a bigger problem than they needed to be was the theme of this make, but that’s how I hope to learn.
**I still don’t know exactly what to do with the flappy ends since every tutorial I found assumed you hadn’t finished selvages, yet. I made do. It looks fine.
I lined the skirt with some blue stuff I picked up at Jo-Ann’s. I tried to use the same lining fabric to finish the armholes and neck, but it was fighting me. I used store bought navy single fold bias tape instead and hand-sewed it to the inside of the dress using the same blind hem stitch I had used on the skirt hem. I would like to face the waistband on the inside as well, but that’s another hand-sewing project for another day and since that’s an add-on I’m calling this one done.
So many muslins, so much adjusting, so much hand-sewing makes this my slowest fashion make yet. Worth it!
It’s been more than a month since I posted about Belladone, but that’s not because I haven’t been keeping at it. A few weeks ago I hit my parents up for babysitting to go see the movie Phantom Thread and while I was at their house I hit Mom up for some muslin she wasn’t using, too. Thanks, Mom!
That I went to see a movie that prominently features dressmaking on the same day I lifted muslin for my own dressmaking efforts is a narrative parallel so on point that it seems contrived. Nonetheless, here we are:
This is my 2nd Official Muslin of this dress, a number which doesn’t include the 3 paper versions I made to get close enough to move on to muslin. I stopped to get some similarly badly-lit photos of the first and didn’t realize until I was uploading pics that it still had pins in it where I was trying to resolve the back wrinkles so you can’t see how bad they were. Oh wait, I sent a pic to Mom:
who wisely advised me to take length out of the back. Thanks again Mom! Much better.
I took some out of the front, too, but I’m going to add another quarter of an inch back in. It’s a little too high. Look, I borrowed a trick that was in the film and tied some yarn around my waist to demonstrate:
Can you see the waistband sloping up at the front in these tiny pics?
The scene where Reynolds measures Alma has stayed with me. Their interaction echoes the hopeful conversion of every home sewist. Alma says:
I never really liked myself. I thought my shoulders were too wide, my neck was skinny like a bird, that I had no breasts. I felt my hips were larger than needed and my arms strong.
The measurements have meaning to her. Judgment. Embarrassment. But to Reynolds they’re just numbers. He can dress her beautifully no matter what the numbers are.
I’m surprised every time I read a sewist’s sewing-with-knits-is-so-much-easier-than-I-previously-thought story. They’re everywhere. Or do I only notice them because I seem to have nothing but trouble? I find knits utterly befuddling. Partly my problem is that I overthink it. I couldn’t figure out, for example, how to finish knit seams. Answer: you don’t.
So, Moneta. Again. I tried to sew it last year as my first sewing-with-knits project. It was an utter failure. I was trying to be good and made a trial run or two of the bodice but it didn’t seem to give me a good idea of how things would turn out. Then I got to the part when you gather the fabric with clear elastic. I couldn’t manage that at all. I was wrestling with the elastic and wrestling with my fabric and wrestling with my machine and each one seemed to be pulling in a different direction. My results were abysmal.
I stuffed it in a drawer, but instead of forgetting about it this project weighed on my conscience. After making that tiny t-shirt I decided to go for broke. I already at the double needle installed and raring to go, why not take it for another walk?
I graded from a size small bust to medium waist and added 1.5 inches to the bodice and got…
a somewhat drop-waisted Moneta. Turns out I didn’t need all that extra length after all! Not bad, huh? This came together like a dream one Saturday morning as the children were making a horrible mess playing. A serger can make a big difference! Especially with clear elastic. It was happening! I too would have a sewing-with-knits-was-easier-than-I-previously-thought story!
And then? And then (dramatic pause) the dream turned into a nightmare. I sat down at my Bernina Nova. As I was winding a bobbin the double needle broke spectacularly. Weird, right? No matter, I had a jersey double needle on hand. I could sub that one in. I tested. It looked terrible. Was it the needle or something else? I investigated and discovered that the screw on the bobbin casing that I had so carefully loosened had, in fact, flown out of the bobbin casing entirely. STRESS.
My priority after that was to get my machine and the bobbin tension back in good working order for regular sewing. I have no confidence in my mechanical abilities, but I’ve made a dress muslin or two and a top since then and they’re all sewn together which is as much as one can ask for from a sewing machine if a brain doesn’t overthink it (I refer you back to the first paragraph of this post: I excel at overthinking). But I haven’t tried the double needle again, yet, and so the dress in the picture that came together so quickly on a Saturday morning languishes for want of hemming and finishing and my sewing-with-knits-was-easier-than-I-previously-thought story continues to elude me.