Autumn Plaid Dress

I’d like to introduce you to my Autumn Plaid Dress! This is one of the dresses that I mentioned in my end of 2018 post as something that was made but never posted about. The goal was to post about it early this year. I would say it’s now mid-year, but better late than never, right?

I made this dress at the very end of last summer. I even made sure to find time to take photos of it while the trees were still in full autumn glory! The colors in the fabric reminded me so much of autumn that I felt that photos with lovely changing leaves were essential!

This dress came about due to the intersection of inspiration and fabric. I think the inspiration came first, when I found this dress (with no further information other than the single image). I loved the irregular large scale plaid, hidden placket, shirt collar, and long sleeves. It’s just a very different plaid dress than the often some-amount-of-circle skirt and smaller scale plaid dresses I am often drawn to.

In November of 2016, I saw the perfect fabric at Blackbird Fabrics. Of course it’s long gone now, but I snapped up 1.5 meters at the time. I loved the rich autumnal colors and large scale plaid! That pop of orange is unusual and great!

After that, the fabric sat in my stash… Until last year, when I actually make time for the dress. In August, I decided that now was the time!

The first step was to figure out a pattern. The bodice started life as McCalls 7351 because I didn’t want to deal with drafting a collar or front button placket. I also thought it might be a good starting place for sleeves.

I made multiple mockups of this pattern, fiddling with the fit especially in terms of the sleeves. I wanted to have a dress I could work in, with full range of motion for my arms without feeling constricted or lifting the dress at the side seams. This is not what I got with the sleeve straight out of the envelope. It looked nice with my arms down, flat and smooth, but I had very restricted arm movement. (So I guess this pattern wasn’t the easiet starting place for sleeves… oh well!)

After finally sorting out the fit of the sleeves and body pieces, I moved on to changing the front button placket to be invisible as I really liked that feature of the inspiration dress. This tutorial from Threads Magazine was great for this pattern change. Once I understood the different parts and how the folds interacted it was easy to alter the width of each fold to make a narrower placket than the tutorial.

I drafted the skirt pattern on a dress form. I wanted to get the deep pleats and rounded silhouette of the inspiration. It was a bit tricky and required lots of fiddling, playing with pleat depths, and also playing with the angle of the pleats at the waist seam.

Armed with my pattern pieces, I sat about cutting my fabric… and realized that 1.5 meters was not enough fabric to make the dress I had patterned! Oh no! What to do?

The first thing I did was eliminated some of the fullness I put in the skirt. I was able to keep the pleats, but the hem is narrower than I’d originally patterned. (But that’s fine in the end, because I think it’s a nice shape without being too full.) Then I started very, very carefully planning where to put each of the other pieces I needed. I realized that I could use less fabric if I changed the back from the original pattern (with a yoke and bottom section with a box pleat as on a man’s dress shirt) to a simple darted one-piece back. I did some pattern piece mashing, tested the new pattern out, and was able to move forward again.

My detail-oriented brain clearly decided on symmetry of the plaid (even though the inspiration didn’t worry about that at all and that’s something I liked… I find it’s hard to break the desire for symmetry!). That meant the cutting layout needed to be very specific in order to accommodate both that and the quantity of fabric I had to work with.

I fit the skirt pieces on the yardage (with a tiny hem). Then found places for the fronts (without the placket extensions) and back. The sleeves barely fit. I could have shortened them and had plenty of fabric but I really wanted the wrist length. The collar and placket pieces were next. They got squished in between the larger pieces. Of those, only the upper collar is one piece. As you can see in the next photo, the under collar and both layers of collar stand have seams at center back (though I did manage to make them all symmetrical!). The button placket had to be seamed on and pieced horizontally and the buttonhole placket also had to be pieced on. There’s a narrow orange line near the buttonholes just across from the horizontal piecing seam where the placket extension was stitched on to the front piece.

This was absolutely a case of laying out every single piece before cutting anything! After all that, this is what I was left with for fabric scraps. I’d say that’s a pretty good use of all my fabric, wouldn’t you?

I was very amused by the fringe-y selvedge edge and wanted to incorporate it into the dress. I used those selvedges for the inner edge of my plackets. The already finished edge was stitched down but not turned under, so a little bit of the fringe pokes out when the dress is worn. I did debate if it was making the dress too home-made looking, but I think it’s subtle enough that it doesn’t have that effect.

At some point I also made space on the fabric for a belt. There was no way to make this symmetrical without a lot of piecing, given the spacing of the plaid and the placement of the plaid on the dress, so this is my nod to asymmetry. I can line up one of the orange lines somewhere, but somewhere else around my waist they don’t line up.

I finished this dress right around the time that the pre-orders from Royal Vintage Shoes were delivered last fall. I had great fun wearing this dress with my new burgundy Aspen Boots. I couldn’t resist having red winter shoes!

I love these boots! I added an insole under my heel to help cushion my feet and they are so comfortable! I can wear them standing and walking all day and not have aching feet. The low heel is flattering and snazzy without feeling like a heel. The rubber soles are great for wearing in rain and snow. They are great with pants and skirts/dresses. And they’re a fun color! I feel very confident when I wear them and get lots of compliments. Can I say anything else positive? I love these!

What else have I not mentioned about the dress?

The buttons are from my stash and are plain and dark. I was one short, so there’s a slightly different dark button at the bottom. It’s fun to have details like that on clothes you make yourself.

My fabric is a nice medium-weight twill, which makes the dress well suited to fall and winter wearing. The dark colors didn’t really speak to me to wear this spring and it’s not a summer dress, so it’s waiting for autumn to roll around again to be worn. In the meantime, I’m happy to have captured the lovely colors of the leaves with the wonderfully autumnal colors of the dress. Maybe this year I’ll take photos of it with pumpkins…!

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Ikat Print Henrietta Maria

I have a modern dress to share with you today in the spirit of completing my goal for early this year that I share the modern garments I made last year. This is my second Scroop Patterns Henrietta Maria dress.

The first Henrietta Maria I made has a large floral pattern on it that I really like as it’s an unusual scale and subject for me. (Unfortunately, Mr. Q does not appreciate those fabric choice details and I always get an askance look when I wear it–and that’s pretty often once warmer weather sets in.) So partly because I find the Henrietta Maria to be super comfortable as well as classy and also because it’s nice to wear things that the people around you also appreciate, I finally got around to making a second Henrietta Maria last summer!

I happened on a 100% ikat print rayon fabric at Joann Fabrics of all places! (It’s great that they are carrying rayons more frequently than they used to.) This print seemed like an interesting choice for the new dress and I’m quite pleased with the end result. The rayon fabric is super soft and comfy–great for warm weather!

To learn more about what ikat fabric is, check out this awesome terminology post by The Dreamstress (she’s also the proprietress of Scroop Patterns!).

As I mentioned already, I highly recommend the Henrietta Maria by Scroop Patterns! The pleats around the neck and arm openings are unusual, visually interesting, and elegant in any setting. This is a dress that can easily be dressed up or down and made in everything from a solid color to a large print. I’ve considered making it in a warmer fabric for cooler weather as well, but have been stopped by the roadblock that the full sleeves don’t easily fit inside my usual winter coat (I’ve tried–they just get scrunched around my upper arms unless I fish around and pull them down!). For summer, when I don’t need a coat, the Henrietta Maria is great.

This dress was made as part of my #virtualsewingcircle while I was still finding time to sew live last summer. It is sewn in the exact same way as my first Henrietta Maria: mostly by machine with lace to nicely finish the tucked openings, an inner elastic at the waist, and a hand finished hem (there are photos of all of these finishing details in that post about the first dress). I made the hem on this version just a few inches longer than the first version in an effort to make this version more wear-to-work, but nothing else changed.

I really wanted to get photos of this dress before I put it away for the winter and I did manage to sneak these in on the last warm day of September last year, but I’m still hoping for a better background eventually. A black marble waterfall or tropical plants are in my hopes–maybe this year I’ll get one of them!

A Wizarding World Of Harry Potter Vacation

If you’ve been reading the last few posts on the blog, you’ve seen mentions of my visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando, which provided the backdrops for the photos I shared of my Book Dress and Fortescue Frock. And if you’ve been following my blog since 2015, you might remember how excited I was to share photos from my visit to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Harry Potter experience. Well, I’m just as excited to share more photos from my more recent trip to Universal Orlando! Not all of these are strictly clothing related, so I thought they merited their own vacation-recap post.

If you’re not familiar with Harry Potter then I think this post will mostly seem like gibberish, but there are probably still some amusing photos you might enjoy!

First, I have to say that I greatly enjoyed my visit! First, Diagon Alley is shady and cooler than the rest of the park. Second, I loved all the detail that went into the design of the atmosphere, the edibles, the staff costumes, the merchandise, the rides… There were so many things to appreciate in terms of details–you can dial the Ministry Of Magic number in the telephone booth, disappear onto platform 9 ¾, see Kreacher periodically looking out of Grimmauld Place, hear Moaning Myrtle in one of the bathrooms, see amusing wizard ads and signage, watch Celestina Warbeck perform the entirety of A Cauldron Full Of Hot Strong Love, talk to a banking goblin who responds to your questions, send a piece of mail via owl post with a Hogsmeade stamp, see Durmstrang and Beauxbatons students show off their staff drills and ribbon twirling skills… the list goes on and on.

On our very first day in the park we were walking towards Harry-Potter-land (which is at the back of the park) and saw the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo parked along the road. I’ve enjoyed Scooby Doo since I was a kid so I found it great fun to take photos with the van!

While wandering back through the park sipping pumpkin juice later in the day the van was gone… but there was Scooby Doo, walking down the road! Picture time again! I was amused.

I greatly enjoyed pumpkin juice! I love how the words sound in my head (say it with an emphasis on the consonants) and am always the most intrigued by that edible in the books. Pumpkin juice was delightfully sweet and cold. I don’t know that I would want to drink it all the time, but it was a treat I would definitely have again. On the other hand, butterbeer (which I also tried) was super sweet. I actually didn’t mind the taste as much as I thought I would, not being a fan of cream soda type tastes, but I wasn’t interested in more than a few sips of it. Oh, and pumpkin pasties! We tried one of those, too. That was actually disappointing. Kind of dry and very spiced without being interesting. I’d try making them myself someday, but I wouldn’t want to eat the ones at the park again. There are also special ‘wizard’ beers sold at different shops that I enjoyed tasting. They weren’t particularly special in terms of taste, but it was still fun to try them all!

One thing I thought could have been more interactive and full was Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. There wasn’t a whole lot of merchandise in that store, though it is described as being full and busy. That being said, it was one of the locations with GIANT pygmy puffs, which amused me greatly.

Here’s just one example of another shop window that I was amused by. There are so many shop windows for stores you can’t actually enter. Just imagine if you could enter them all! What fun!

This is in the Magical Menagerie. Mr. Q visited the park without me while I was in Denmark in 2017 (I was sad, especially because he doesn’t particularly care about Harry Potter or know any details, but I was in Denmark so I couldn’t really complain!). He brought me back an owl from the middle shelf, which I call my House Owl, because it was a belated housewarming present and it’s like a house elf…! (You know, I don’t think you could buy a stuffed house elf anywhere. Surprising, because it seems like the sort of thing you might find in Knockturn Alley, perhaps…) All of these owls are characters in the books. I think the top one is Draco Malfoy’s Eagle Owl, the brown one is the Weasley’s old owl Errol, the grey one (my House Owl) is Ron’s owl Pigwideon, and the bottom one is of course Harry’s snowy owl Hedwig. Some if not all of the Hedwig’s are backpacks, which is super amusing and cute but seems like it would get grimy awfully fast!

In addition to the shelving full of owls, pygmy puffs, etc. the Magical Menagerie was a fun place to look around because the gallery around the top was full of moving animals of various different sorts. Here’s the shop from the outside. Cheers!

Just to one side of this shop is Gringotts. I like roller coasters, so I found this ride to be great fun. Oh and that dragon on top of the bank? He breathes real fire about every 10 minutes. It was hot when you were standing under it! And oh dear, but it was amusing when people didn’t realize it would be happening and were sitting on the steps of the bank…

Just near there is Hagrid’s motorbike, which you can actually sit on and fiddle with. Could you actually ride it sideways? Probably not, but I was amused.

Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are actually in two different parks. To get between them we could walk or take the Hogwarts Express. Of course we did both!

Wandering through the parks allowed us to happen upon things like Scooby Doo and the Mystery Machine, as well as a Greek themed restaurant that made for a lovely spot to get lunch one day. We also passed through Dr. Seuss-land. I meant to get pictures with the Truffula trees, but didn’t when we were passing through and then forgot. (I am the Lorax! I speak for the trees!) Maybe next time. I did get photos of other amusing things though. They gave the topiaries faces and hair!

We also took the Hogwarts Express both directions. When you take the Hogwarts Express from London (Diagon Alley) they’ve engineered the queue so that people appear to actually disappear into the wall at Platform 9 ¾! It’s really neat! And we were there on a weekday when there wasn’t a line, so we could go back and forth and amuse ourselves! After getting on to the platform there are many more things to look at. Here’s Hedwig, who blinks and turns her head.

And here’s the Hogwarts Express after arriving in Hogsmeade. I’m hard to spot, but I’m near the engine in this photo.

Arriving in Hogsmeade. Brrr! (Not really, it was still 90 degrees!)

A required photo of the castle! I really enjoyed the castle ride (again, I like roller coasters)! …except for the spiders! I closed my eyes for that part, because I do not like spiders.

The snowman (who never melts, of course!) has his own owl! And robe, hat and scarf! I was very amused!

Hogsmeade is where Owl Post is located. There’s a whole shop for it, with owls in the nooks that hoot and move.

You have to go outside to get your Hogsmeade stamp. Here I am writing a postcard to a friend with a snowy owl looking on. I might have also written a postcard to myself…! Even out here there are owls in the rafters that hoot, turn their heads, and move their wings.

Back in London, there is a Knight Bus near the telephone booth where you can phone the Ministry of Magic. Here I am, sticking out my wand hand (sans wand, so clearly I wasn’t the one who summoned the Knight Bus, but oh well!).

And one more shop photo, from Madame Malkin’s. This mirror would say snarky things as people walked by. It reminds me of the Mirror of Erised, which I enjoy the idea of. What do you see in the Mirror of Erised?

Thanks for enjoying my vacation with me!

A Fortescue Frock

Say that ten times fast! I was originally calling this dress the Cotton Candy Stripe Dress, but while wearing it to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and seeing how well it matched the decor of Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor it earned a new name.

I happened upon this summery fabric while looking for a different striped fabric at Farmhouse Fabrics. I bought it with the plan of using New Look #6143 for the bodice with a gathered skirt similar to my Bubble Dots Skirt.

I very carefully cut out the bodice pieces to match the stripes and was very pleased with the results. Look at how well my center back seam matches with the invisible zipper set in! The shoulder seams match nicely, too, and I didn’t even plan that!

The bodice is lined in lightweight white cotton, in the same way as the New Old(er) Dress I posted about in July. It uses the same bodice pattern and like the other dress this one closes with an invisible zipper down the back as well.

I thought of adding pockets but the fabric seemed to sheer to hide them well, so I decided against it.  I thought of adding a skirt lining, but decided I didn’t want to add bulk at the waist so I would live dangerously and hope that a slip would be enough to provide opacity. Thankfully, a knee length white slip is perfect. To add a just a little bit of volume, I also wear my vintage petticoat with the dress. You can see that petticoat in this past post.

This dress is fun! It’s light, summer-y, and my only fear was getting something on the white fabric while wandering around the amusement park. Thankfully that never happened!  We happened upon this spot while wandering around and it seemed good for a photo! My vacation sunglasses look like a bug and are silly, but I rather enjoy them once or twice a year. I never wear sunglasses that big in my normal life! They were great for the bright Florida sun!

Here are a few end-of-day shots, with frizzier hair and running-out-of-pose-idea poses. We stayed at the Cabana Bay Resort. It’s vintage themed and had some really adorable decor that we really enjoyed!

I made the dress with a 2″ hem but that skirt length was just barely long enough to conceal my petticoat (I realized after looking at photos). It was too close for comfort, so after I got home I decided to lower the hem as much as possible, which I’m very pleased with. Sadly I only got one wearing in with the new length before fall set in. Now the dress is now packed away and waiting for warmer weather next year!

Vintage-Inspired Book Dress

Two or so years ago, I came across this dress as I was poking around the internet. I loved the print, but the style was not for me. The peter pan collar, in particular, isn’t really my style. However, I got it in my head that maybe I could make my own version of this dress, with style details that suited me better.

This led to a hunt for the fabric. With a little bit of searching, I was actually able to find the exact cotton print fabric used in the dress I originally liked! I bought mine from Fabric.com, but it was (and still is) also listed on Etsy. It has a little bit more stiffness than your average quilting cotton, which makes for a dress with nice body. It also has little hints of metallic gold in the book titles, some of which are readable. This makes it a little festive and fun without being over done.

That was back in 2016. It took me about a year to get around to making the dress, but I finished it in late 2017. And I’ve been wearing it! It just took another year to wear it somewhere that was good for taking photos. (I still hold out hopes of taking photos of it in a fabulous wood paneled library, while holding my hardcover copy of Gone With The Wind. That’s one of the readable titles on the dress! Not sure when that will happen, though.) In the meantime, I’m very pleased with these photos from my trip to Universal Orlando, where we took photos of this dress in various Harry Potter locations.

I used Butterick 5880 (a retro pattern from 1951) for the bodice of this dress. This is the same bodice I used for my Happy Clover Dress, which I finally finished in 2017 as well. Both of these dresses have a different neckline than the original pattern. I’ve found that this is a great basic pattern for me. It fits well, I like the all-in-one-with-the-bodice sleeve, and different necklines work with it to change it up from one dress to the next!

The square neck inspiration for this dress came from a blog reader in 2017, who commented on my Happy Clover Dress post and suggested that a square neckline might be a nice vintage touch. I thought the idea made sense with the square corners of the books in this print and decided to give it a try!

As with the Happy Clover Dress, I did not use the Butterick skirt pattern, instead opting to create my own. My vintage inspired skirt is simply a tube that is 122″ in circumference, knife pleated to fit the waist size of the bodice. I carefully cut and seamed the panels to maximize my fabric use and have side seams as well as a center back seam. Part of the reason I had to maximize my fabric use was that I used up pretty much all of all 2.5 yards that I bought. In fact, I didn’t even have scraps big enough to make pockets out of after cutting out the bodice and skirt pieces! I used what I had and pieced the rest of my pocket bags with fabric left over from my 1860s Flower Basket Fancy Dress project. I had dyed the fabric a mottled brown, had only had small scraps left, and the look reminded me of book leather, so it seemed like a fitting thing to use.

Pockets in a dress is excellent! And you can do that when you make your own clothes. Actually, while I was on my trip I was asked whether I’d made the dress. The giveaways were the fact that I had my hands in my pockets and the knife pleated skirt, both of which struck the person who asked as being vintage and self-made details–not a combination that would be easy to buy in a store. I thought that was fun!

I made this dress using modern techniques. All of the inside seam allowances are finished using a serger/overlocker. There is an invisible zipper in the back. It is almost entirely machine sewn, including the hem and armholes. The only hand stitching is the finishing of the brown bias tape that finishes the neckline, in order to keep that nice and invisible. On the hem and armholes the black machine stitching blends into the print and is hardly noticeable.

I have fun wearing this dress and pairing it with different cardigans in the colder months! Black and red are my favorites. And I can report that it was very enjoyable to be dressed in slightly-vintage-style to visit Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. I had no trouble on the rides and was as comfortable in the heat of Florida as I would have been in shorts or capris and a tee shirt, which is what most people were wearing. I felt more put together and enjoyed the themed dress! I might have to do things like that more often!

A New Old(er) Dress

Today, I present a new version of an old dress.

(Well, not old in the usual way on this blog, which is a dress that is often 100+ years old. In this case, the ‘old’ dress is about 8 years old. I couldn’t pass up the colors in the flowers, though the cut and fabric was more ‘junior’ than adult woman, especially with the built in underskirt of tulle which I promptly cut out as soon as I reached home. However, worn with a waist length or otherwise cropped cardigan, the original dress saw me through a number of summers.)

And then my shape changed and the the dress became a bit too small and a bit too tight. This is the standard my-clothes-shrunk-in-the-closet problem. Boo! But I still loved the colors, so when I happened to see a similar fabric at the fabric store I snapped it right up with the goal of making a new, older (as in, not ‘junior’ style) version of the original dress, so I could retire the original from my wardrobe and send it on to a new home. (In fact, when Mr. Q saw me working on the new dress he confused it with the old one because the colors are so similar!)

I decided to use New Look #6143 as a starting point for a pattern for the new version of the dress. It’s got a basic bodice that would be good for other things if I liked it made up and a variation on a basic skirt, which never hurts to have either. I believe the only thing I changed from the original pattern design was the neckline in the front. Of course, it took me probably two years to actually get around to finishing the darn thing. I started it, realized it was too big, got frustrated by the amount of alterations needed, and let it languish (for years…).

This year, however, I was determined. Turns out I had just cut a size larger than I needed. (P.S. I hate figuring out commercial pattern sizing. There is so much ease that the size the pattern envelope claims I should be is often too big, as in this case. Do you ever have that struggle? When I took apart my bodice pieces and traced out the lines for a smaller size, the bodice fit perfectly. Nice, but it would have been so much better if it fit perfectly the first time!) I had already pleated the skirt and added side seam pockets when I started the dress years ago-I wasn’t going to change that–so instead I angled the side seams from the pockets up to the waist to take in the excess amount. Not the most perfect solution, but in a full skirt you can’t see the fudge.

I love how tidy the insides of Carolyn’s modern dresses are (like this and this) and I wanted similar tidiness for this dress. The bodice of my dress is fully lined in lightweight cotton and the skirt edges are all overlocked to keep them from fraying.

Oh, and as I mentioned, I added pockets! Most dresses are better with pockets! (I would say all, but some lightweight dresses just pull in awkward ways with things in the pockets, so really, why bother adding them?)

The dress closes in the back with a (pink!) invisible zipper that is carefully sandwiched between the floral exterior and the bodice lining. The pink zipper matches perfectly and amuses me greatly. It’s a fun color!

At the bottom of the bodice lining the seam allowance is turned up and whip stitched to the waistband seam allowance to create a tidy finish. Tidy finishes like this make my heart pitter-patter with glee!

I’m very pleased with the new version of this dress and so pleased that it is off of the UFO pile! My only slight complaint is that I wanted an everyday dress, but the fabric is a little satin-finish-y rather than matte, even though it’s cotton, which takes it more in a ‘dinner’ or ‘event’ direction rather than ‘wear to work’. Oh well! It’s cute, it fits, and the colors are perfectly me.

I’m looking forward to trying this pattern out in other variations! I have plans to make another version of this dress soon–probably during August!

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