Simplicity 2443 (again) and packing trials

4 days until we leave, and I am in full on packing terror.  I may not have mentioned this before, but I have a terrible phobia of flying – more than once I have had full-on panic attacks in airports.  I now travel armed with a prescription for Xanax, which does help somewhat (I’m still scared, but I can’t quite get up the energy to hyperventilate.)  This doesn’t really help my pre-trip anxiety though, so I’m trying to focus on packing rather than the 12 hours I will be spending on various planes this week.  I have been sewing a lot of knit dresses, and several of them will be making the trip with me!  First up:  another version of Simplicity 2443.

Pattern: Simplicity 2443

Fabric: 2 yards of ponte knit from Fashionista fabric (really lovely quality!) Looks to be sold out, but she has several other pretty colors.

Notes: I made this dress last summer (here) and it has been one of my most worn garments!  I loved this cobalt blue ponte, but I couldn’t decide on a pattern.  As I was preparing for my trip, I thought “why not make another?”  I shortened the straps by one inch to raise the waistline to my natural waist (I am pretty short waisted.)  I did not install the zipper, and I didn’t interface anything – I don’t see the need unless you were to use a flimsy knit (which I wouldn’t recommend for this pattern.)

Even at a second try, sewing on the straps was still a bit of a nightmare.  I had to redo only one corner, and it’s not as stretched out as the last one.  My advice?  Do your stay stitching with a straight stitch, set to a short stitch length (I used 1.7 mm)  Pin and sew with the body of the dress facing up.  Clip only where necessary, in the body of the dress only – too many clips, and it becomes challenging to catch all those edges.  Go slow, and don’t worry if you have to redo one – I had  a spot where the whole fabric edge didn’t catch, so I had to rip and redo!  If you get fabric wrinkles when sewing, try stopping with the needle down, lifting the foot, and shifting the excess fabric behind the needle, similar to what you have to do when sewing a v neckline.   If it comes out slightly stretched (and it will, seriously) don’t worry – you can’t see that when it’s being worn.

I added a machine sewn hem.  I used the recommended slip stitch on the last dress, and it proved puckery and prone to coming undone.  I also redid the original dress’s hem with a machine hem at the same time.  Much better!  This is the third garment made from this pattern (I also made the jacket) and it’s one of the favorite patterns of my short sewing career!

Moving on, I’ve been considering my packing options.  I am really trying not to overpack, but it’s hard – I don’t really wear pants, so I’m bringing mostly dresses.  The weather looks to be similar to ours right now – upper 50s and chances of rain.  So I’m packing all short sleeved dresses, with cardigans to go over top (I am bringing a coat as well… I am very cold natured.)

The dresses are (from right to left) Simplicity 2443(x2), Vogue 8667,  Simplicity 2360, Vogue 1224, Vogue 1209, Vogue 8685, and the only dress not made by me (but blogged here.)

Cardigans are (from left:) Simplicity 2443, Jalie Pleated cardigan, Simplicity 2417, and two RTW sweaters, from Jones NY and Rachel Roy.

Shoes (from left:) Cole Haan air flats, Sofft mary janes, Alfani flat boots.  All three pairs are walkable.

I chose the dresses for ease of packing – all except Simplicity 2360 are knit, and after taking the photo I decided that one is getting cut.  They are also comfortable for travel, and easy enough to move in.  I don’t travel in anything uncomfortable.  Wrinkling should be minimal, although the ponte dresses will wrinkle if given the chance.  I own a travel steamer, but I doubt I will be taking it along – I think most of the hotels we are staying at have irons.  I’m not planning on doing any laundry beyond washing tights in the sink.  All of these items roll and pack pretty small – I may be able to get away with a small suitcase, so long as I wear the boots and my coat on the plane.  I will be taking leggings and tights, and several of these dresses are short enough to function as tunics if necessary. Both the dresses from 2243 as well as the Vogue Rachel Comey dress will work for both daytime and going out, with different shoes and accessories.   I’m also bringing my concert dress.  I finally found a new one!

It’s an ITY knit, so no wrinkles.  I will be wearing this with the Jalie pleated cardigan over top, making it Me-made-March acceptable!  And my new glasses came in – I love them!  Conventional wisdom says that if you have bad eyes (my left eye is -9.75, right is -7) you should use small glasses, or so my eye doctor tells me.  I could never wear my old pair for very long – I felt constantly seasick, and I could always see the edges of my vision, even when looking straight ahead (the edges of lenses distort, so this is probably the reason for my poor depth perception.)  I can see great out of these- so much better.  And I don’t feel like my eyes look so teeny!  The only complaint I have is that they do tend to slide a bit on my nose, but I think I have to accept that – I have yet to own a pair of glasses that didn’t, I just have a really tiny bridge.

Back to packing… I have lots more to do, and an extremely busy week.  I have rehearsal or a concert every night before we leave!



Me Made March, Simplicity spring/McCall’s early summer

Here we go!

‘I, Jessica, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-March ’11. I endeavour to wear
one handmade or refashioned item each day for the duration of March 2011’

I wasn’t sure if I was going to participate this time – I will be traveling for the first two weeks of March, and I was worried about packing.  I’ve since decided that too much choice in packing is a bad thing – limiting myself to my handmade items makes it possible that I may finish packing early!  I’m planning to take several of my knit dresses, and a few cardigans.  I will be planning my outfits (yes, I am that OCD) and I will post about exactly what I’m packing once I get it all decided.  I am making another dress from Simplicity 2443 to take with me (out of cobalt blue ponte) because the first is just so useful!  This is the third piece I’ve made from that pattern – I think I got my 99 cents worth!

Let me outline my personal rules for the challenge.  I will wear one item that I made each day.  That’s enough of a challenge, what with the travel and all!  I’m not interested in going to everything handmade, because there are things I don’t, and probably won’t, sew.  I will try to get photos every day (probably not hard, since I will be vacationing!)  I may get some up during the trip, or they may wait til I get back – it rather depends on internet access and time!   I actually think it will be a good excuse to take photos – I am so bad to take none during trips!

So… moving on, McCall’s and Simplicity released new patterns this week   It’s very much a mixed bag for me, with a few must haves, and also quite a few “what the heck is that” patterns.  Here is what I like, starting with McCall’s.


I think the modeled version is my favorite, at least based on the line drawings.  This dress is pretty similar to the one from the Drape Drape Japanese pattern series (example here.)  I don’t own that book, but I do like the interesting skirt style!  The pattern calls for crepe de chine etc, but I think I might use a rayon matte jersey for a bit more weight behind the drape.


I think this has potential, but I’m not sure.  I’m not sure how I feel about the asymmetry.  I kind of have a thing about that.

I also like the ruffled shorts, 6328.  I am unlikely to make them, but they do have a nice retro vibe.

I am happier with the new Simplicity patterns.  First, my favorite:


I love knit dresses!  I’m imagining the long version in a rayon print that I already own, and the short, flutter sleeved version in a solid.  This will definitely be made!


I like the primness of the dress – it looks like something Michelle Williams might wear (and I love her style!)  I don’t like the frayed trim, but the other version is pretty.  The skirt is also a nice basic.

Lisette is a new line of patterns by the designer of the Oliver S line of children’s patterns.  I will probably get both of these patterns to try.   I have an adorable sateen print to use for the dress – I need something without princess seams, and this looks like a good choice.  The darts in the front are slightly unusual.

Finally, they have released a few patterns from Project Runway designer Suede.  The ruffle dress is pretty, and I don’t have any similar patterns.  It would be a nice showcase for a pretty charmeuse print.  And no, I’m not making a jumpsuit.  But the dress pattern included (the line drawing to the left) looks cute and easy, so I’m picking it up!

That’s it for now!  I am more likely to make the Simplicity patterns, because their draft seems to fit me better, but I am really interested in the skirt on the first McCall’s dress!

Vogue 8380

Pattern: Vogue 8380

Fabric: 2 yards of stretch cotton sateen from Sawyer Brook fabrics


It’s a bit girly, no?  I don’t think I would describe my style as girly per se, but sometimes you are just in the mood!  This was a super easy pattern.  I made it because I have seen it looking fabulous on many different ladies, and I was not disappointed!  The fabric is a cotton sateen.  It is perhaps a wee bit heavy for the pattern – I think it would drape better in a nice lawn or voile, though then you would have to line it.  This is a straight size 8.  I made no real alterations, not even the length – as drafted, with the prescribed hem, it is exactly knee length on me.  That’s where I prefer a summer dress to fall – I don’t like to show too much leg, as it limits the places I can wear the dress without tights.  I had a heck of a time getting the dress to photograph!

This photo is true to color, but a bit washed out in the details.  Imagine the dress being somewhere between the two photos.  The empire band has to fit pretty tightly for the dress to hang right.  After my fitting mishap (which involved me having to use a seam ripper to get out of the dress) I didn’t actually make any alterations – I just sewed in the zipper.  It fits fine, but I cannot zip myself into the dress because there is no ease – it requires a helper.  Once zipped the fit is perfect (this is why I prefer a back zip – side zippers are so picky!)

If I made this dress again, I might cut down the width of the straps.  They must be folded to go through the casing, and that seems a bit bulky to me.  Other than that, this dress was easy and flattering.  Now we just have to get some warm weather for me to wear it!

What I’m making & wearing this week

I had a very busy weekend.  We took a trip to see Marc’s parents (and to borrow their traveling gear!)  I also subbed as the pianist for a few masses, which I played while recovering from a severely bruised wrist (I fell on it while attempting to carry a duffel bag to the car… this does not bode well for our trip.)  Last night I finally had time to get started on the project I had planned for the weekend, Vogue 8380.  I’m using a stretch cotton sateen from Sawyer Brook (now sold out… I bought the last 2 yards when it went on clearance!)  It is perhaps a bit heavy for the pattern, though I think it is one of the recommended fabrics.

I only have to add in the zipper and hem the dress – this project is very simple and straightforward.  Last night I based the dress together to try it on, and managed to get myself stuck in the dress.  I usually don’t put in zippers to test sizing – I can wriggle my way into almost anything, being quite double jointed.  What I forgot was that this dress has an empire waist.  I also cut the waistband on the crossgrain, so it doesn’t have any stretch.  The dress fits fine, but I had to hobble up to the sewing room and use a seam ripper to get myself out!  Hopefully I can finish the dress tonight after my lessons are finished.

I’m trying not to wear the clothes I’m taking on my trip this week, because I don’t want to wash them again (and I will be tired of them after 2 weeks of remixing!)  Instead, I got out this dress, which I have neglected since making it.

Dress: made by me, Butterick 5523

Tights: Forever 21

Shoes: MIA

The problem that I have with this dress is that it is long sleeved.  I like to layer cardigans and jackets over dresses in the winter, but the rather thick sleeves won’t let me do that.  It’s also a solid color, and I almost never wear outfits that don’t have any pattern.  I decided to pair it with these tights (I love these tights, and they are on their last legs… time to look for better argyle tights for next year!)  Now the dress feels like me, instead of someone else!

Weird thing about these shoes… I had stopped wearing heels for about a year after I broke my toe, and when I went back to wearing them last year I thought these shoes were hideously uncomfortable.  Now?  I think I’ve grown accustomed to heels again, and they pretty much feel fine!  I am still thinking about getting insoles for them, but I have really, really high arches, and adding depth to the bottom of shoes tends to make them bruise the tops of my feet… so probably not.

Outfit of the day & my shoe storage solutions


Dress: Vintage, thrifted

Shoes: Mia

Sorry for the radioactive photo!  I have a lot of trouble getting properly exposed photos when I’m wearing a dark outfit.  I am really, really pale, and all my childhood photo albums are filled with photos of me glowing in the dark.  Still, this was the best photo of the dress (there is another on flickr, but while I look ok (only slightly radioactive) the dress is rather dark.  I get better photos outside, but I don’t have much of a backyard, and I live in a neighborhood with tons of foot traffic – sometimes I don’t feel like being stared at!

This dress is one of my favorite thrift store finds.  I rarely find decent vintage, but I do have a few stores that I visit which I think the pickers avoid.  This dress doesn’t have a lot of hanger appeal, but I love it!  I’m finding that dresses of this era (late 1970s?) suit me.

On to the topic of the day: Storing (and sorting) shoes.

I spent this weekend sorting and culling my shoe collection.  I tend to have a lot of shoes, mostly because I have a really hard time getting rid of any.  I still had shoes from 10 years ago, and I know I don’t wear them anymore!  I forced myself to get rid of 20 pairs, none of which had been worn in the past year, and some which were only worn once (I used to buy a lot of desperations shoes – shoes to match an outfit for one occasion, usually cheap shoes that I didn’t like.)  I’ve also, within the past 2 years, decided that I’m unwilling to suffer foot pain for my shoes.  I do like to wear heels, and I wear them almost every day.  This means that I can’t buy cheap shoes, but since I don’t really buy new clothes I just spend my wardrobe money on my shoes.  I thought I would share a photo of my shoe storage:

Shoe storage

This is just one of those modular wire shelving systems.  Most of my shoes have stacked heels, and don’t fall through the mesh.  I store my flats at the bottom, with the second of every pair leaning up in the back.  I like this system because I can see what I have, and I tend to actually wear them all.  I used to keep them in my closet, but then I wore the same 2 pairs all the time.  I try not to keep anything on the floor of my closet, ever since I had a minor carpet beetle invasion in the house – I vacuum it several times a week!  I haven’t quite figured out good boot storage yet:


I store all my boots with rolled up magazines inside, so that they don’t fall over and crease.  And yes, that is a t-ball bat (you know, in case we hae any really tiny burglars!)  I have a lot of boots, because I wear them most of the time in the winter.  I wear the other shoes in the spring, summer, and fall.  I have very few pairs of sandals (and I had to send back the Seychelles I just got from 6pm – they were too big!)  I don’t wear sandals often… they just don’t go with my wardrobe very well.

Going through the shoes (and getting rid of a bunch) helped me to see where the holes are in my collection.  I do not, for instance, need any more black shoes (especially because I don’t wear them often in warm weather – I don’t care for the contrast.)  I would like a pair of casual oxford type shoes – I am seeing them worn with dresses quite often, and I think it would be nice to have a different type of flat.  I’m thinking of the Caley by Bass.

I like that it has oxford styling, but it isn’t as high cut as the traditional type.  I’m not interested in looking like I’m wearing men’s shoes, and some of the other styles remind me of jazz shoes (which I’ve already got quite enough of, thanks!)

I’m also a bit obsessed with this pair, by Poetic License:

But, they are from last season and seem to be sold out everywhere!  I can find the brown/black color, but it’s the blue with red stitching that I really love.  I might go ahead and buy the other color while I still can.  Wouldn’t they be lovely with a retro dress?  Again, they aren’t too high cut, which keeps them from looking too mannish to me.

Lately I’ve been using Pinterest to keep track of the pretty shoes I find, most of which I won’t buy.  If anyone is interested, the shoe pinboard is here.  I might also get a new pair of sandals for summer, flat ones to wear with maxi dresses, but I have yet to find any that I like.    I don’t know why Sandals don’t appeal to me!  A new pair of Mary janes is definitely in the cards, as my pair of black Mary janes is entirely too uncomfortable for wearing without tights.

I’m also obsessing a bit about what shoes to take on my trip to Italy (in 2 weeks!)  But… once I get my packing wardrobe planned that will be  a separate post.  I have yet to decide whether I’m doing me-made-march or not.  I will be in Italy for half the month, but perhaps wearing my handmade stuff might force me to pack a bit lighter!


Vogue 1225: another Tracy Reese design

Pattern: Vogue 1225, a Tracy Reese design

Fabric: 3.5 yards of poly/lycra knit, from ebay seller BestOnlineFabrics

Notions: Elastic

Shoes: Steve Madden

Notes: I have now officially become one of those people who wear spring clothes at the first hint of warmth.  It almost got to 60 today – it was glorious!  These shoes are hideously uncomfortable.  I don’t like Steve Madden shoes at all.  You would think flats couldn’t be that bad, but somehow these are.  But!  They match the dress, so I had to wear them.  And yes, I’m still trying out the glasses (they will go back tomorrow.)  These are the Coltons.

Since I had such good luck with the last Tracy Reese design I sewed, I decided to whip this one up this weekend.  I made a size 8, but a six would have been better if it were offered.  I usually take an 8 in vogue patterns, so this might run just a touch big.  The Vogue website claims this dress is easy, but I would really question that!  There is a ton of gathering involved in this dress, including five tedious rows on each shoulder (that I’m still not certain if I should remove or not… I’m leaning towards not.)  Other techniques needed for this dress: baby hemming, making casings and using elastic, and an awful lot of markings for a knit. Getting the front facing to sit well was also challenging.  The pattern called for pressing in 1/4″ on each side of the tie, and then edgestitching it closed.  Um… on a knit?  I don’t think so.  I just sewed it the way you normally would a tie, and then turned it right side out with a skewer (I must get one of those tube turner sets!)

As you can see, there is a lot of skirt in this dress.  The pattern called for making a petticoat (crinoline) and sewing it into the dress.  I couldn’t see doing that.  If I want a full skirt, I will use a separate crinoline. I don’t go to that trouble for one dress (this is also why I wear slips rather than line most things.)  This skirt is actually larger than a circle, I think.  I like the way it looks without the crinoline – not as poofy as the envelope photo.  Please note that the waist seam has 7/8″ seam allowances.   I concentrated the skirt gathers in the front (in the pattern they go towards the sides a bit more) to make up for the lack of crinoline.

The back neck ties are not elasticized, and they do not go around to the front.  It’s not clear from the pattern photo (or mine, probably!) but there is an open slit under the ties.  It does not show a bra strap.  However, even with the ties fully tightened, I felt that I needed to wear a camisole under the dress for front coverage.  You could easily add a little modesty panel there to avoid the camisole, but I like how it looks this way.

I haven’t hemmed the bottom edge – it will need a narrow hem, and I’m not looking forward to that.  I want to make sure it doesn’t stretch significantly before I hem it.  The skirt is quite heavy, but I think the thick elastic in the waist holds it up well.  The waist sits a bit high on me (and I am short waisted) so you may wish to test that!

I am very pleased with this project.  I can’t believe I nearly gave up on it – you can’t even see the place I was upset about the pattern match (it’s at center back, should you wish to check.)  The pattern is recommended, but be aware that some of the instructions won’t work for a poly knit (there is a lot of “press this amount under” going on, and that doesn’t work.)  You may also wish to adjust the front bustline, as it is quite low.  Other than that, it’s an easy, cool spring dress.  I wore it all day today, and it was so comfortable!

Weekend project

Thank you all so much for the help with my glasses.  At last count, that post had 74 comments – wow!  Finn came in first, with Colton second.  I’ve decided that I’m going to order them both!  I have a coupon they sent me to make up for the try-ons being delayed, and they aren’t expensive – so why not?  I think it will be good to have one small and one large pair.  Now I just have to decide if I want them both in black, or if I should order one in tortoiseshell (I like black frames, but it might be nice to have variety?)

Moving on, here is the project I’m working on this weekend:

Vogue 1225

Vogue 1225 is one of the new Spring patterns.  I liked my first Tracy Reese dress so much, that I decided to make up the second right away!  I would not say that the path to making this dress has gone quite as smoothly.  First of all, this dress has a 4 panel skirt, and six body panels.  That makes pattern matching impossible, but my fabric (the tie-dyed rayon knit above) doesn’t have a repeating pattern anyway.  I tried to match similar colors, which worked pretty well except for on the back – the center back has a mismatch, which made me so upset that I almost gave up entirely!  I got distracted from binning the pattern when my husband sliced through his thumbnail chopping garlic (one trip to the immediate care center, and one tetanus shot later, he’s ok!)  I’m glad I didn’t, because the dress is turning out to be really cute, and you can hardly notice that seamline.  I will try for a proper review tomorrow – I need to organize my thoughts, because this pattern had some strange inconsistencies!