Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Dotty Duster Coat - New Look 6656

Pattern: New Look 6656 (2006)

Pattern Description: Collar-less, unlined, above-knee duster jacket.

Pattern Sizing: Size A (10-12-14-16-18-20-22) I made view A in a size 14 at the shoulders and bust increasing to a 16 at waist and 18 below.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing it? Yes, yes it did!

Were the instructions easy to follow? Extremely, it had a very simple construction, with no tricky or difficult steps involved.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? What I appreciated the most was the inclusion of a center back seam for shaping. Also the waist shaping of the side seams match my body type (10" difference between waist and hips) although it might be too much of a difference for a slimmer-hipped woman.

Fabric Used: 2 yards of black, white, and gray polka dot print moleskin from Jo-Ann Fabrics (on sale for $7.49 per yard, orig $29.98), Pellon SK135 Sheer-Knit fusible interfacing, 2 packages Wrights 1/4" double fold bias tape in Black, vintage Wright's Trims non-shrink seam binding in Navy #55, and Gutermann 100% polyester thread in Black #10.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made?: I first made some changes to the paper pattern: I cut View A out in size 14 at the shoulders moving out to a size 18 at hips.

Comparing the pattern pieces, New Look 6656 had a strange drafted protrusion at the upper back that I cut off leaving the back straight above the curved "swayback" shaping. I found the back neckline uncomfortably high on my neck so ended up cutting both necklines and their facings in a size 12.

The sleeves for this design were meant to be cropped or extended with a contrast cuff. Instead, I combined the two pattern pieces and cut my sleeves out at full length.


First thing, first, I discovered when I checked and straightened the fabric grain by pulling a thread that the print was slightly off grain.

 Correct => Incorrect

Second, when finally confronted with cutting out this fabric I realized that I had misrepresented the fabric's orientation to myself all these years. I had imagined a coat with vertical lines when in fact the fabric has the dots running horizontally! Which now meant that I should really try to match the seams, right? That resulted in me spending a lot of time lining up, marking, and cutting out all the pieces in a single layer.

I then attempted to match the side seams, though the bust darts made it more complicated. The moleskin was a but stretchy which made matching a little difficult as I had to keep tugging the rows into place. Eventually, I was able to have white rows of dots line up across the seams; however, if you look close, you can see that the two adjacent rows of gray dots weren't matched correctly and different shades of gray were lined up! Luckily, the most important seam, the back seam, came out perfectly.

However, I shouldn't have had that problem though because the fabric was a bit translucent making the matching pretty easy.  I was able to lay a piece atop another piece and see the design on both. Oh, wait... I could see the design/shapes but not differentiate between the very close shades of gray. Okay, I feel better now.

Later on, I also added stay tape to the shoulder seams to combat the possibility of them stretching. It just happened that I received this vintage seam binding in navy (from a giveaway) that I could use for this "vintage" project.

Turning out the squared lapels was very important to this jacket looking great. Therefore, I trimmed the seam allowance to eliminate bulk. Of course, later I remembered I had tips and tutorials saved on the best ways to do this. Ugh!

In fact, right after this jacket was completed I saw this very promising technique on page 73 of the February/March 2017 issue of Threads magazine.

I finished the raw edges on the facing by turning under and stitching. At this point, the fabric had revealed that it frayed extensively and since this coat would not be lined I wanted to finish as nearly as possible the other raw edges that would be subject to regular friction.

Side A or B?
I had the choice of going with my typical finish of simply turning the seam allowance under or I could be daring and try something more decorative like a bound edge or a Hong Kong finish.

Because of the graphic look of the jacket and how precious this project had become over time I chose to use bias tape to bind the exposed seam allowances.

On the back, I bound the seams separately so they could lay open and flat; but I chose to bind the sides and sleeves together as one flat seam. I am so happy with how this turned out.

I'm extremely proud of my sleeve caps. The ease allowed in the pattern was perfect, I was able to achieve a smooth cap but it was not effortless. I first machine basted the sleeves in but my turquoise staystitching (absolutely necessary!) showed that they didn't go in exactly on the seam line. I then unpicked the seam and basted them in by hand and stitched directly over those stitches. Voila!

That success was followed by more bound seams for the underarm and shoulder seams before attempting the most difficult, the binding of the armscye. Luckily, that went well too and I am in love with all of my bound seams and how professional the whole thing looks!

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?  Yes, I would. The alterations I had to make were needed for my particular body and didn't seem too bad to me. The difference between my waist and hips was perfectly accommodated for in the pattern. Otherwise, the construction is perfect for a beginner. I also love the slight bell shape of the sleeves.

Images: Calvin Klein and @meccok on instagram

J. Jill duster

Conclusion: I have had a few inspiration pics for this type of coat over the years and I have finally made one for myself. The J. Jill pic above is from their 2010 catalog and is the original inspiration for this duster and shows how diligent I was in getting all the details right despite going with a woven versus their knit version.

I think this will be a great addition to my wardrobe, easily able to transform a simple top and bottom into a chic ensemble. I hope to use this pattern many times and definitely want to make an evening coat out of a patterned satin brocade.

Duster History Posts:

The original idea

The first try

The second try

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Mod Double Knit Ponte Dress - Simplicity 5289

Pattern: Simplicity 5289 (1972)

Pattern Description: A-line dress with back zipper closing has French darts, high round neck, and short raglan sleeves.

Pattern Sizing: Pattern is size 14, though my waist and hip measurements corresponded with their size 16.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing it? Yes, pretty much, except the neckline is a bit lower on my version.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, extremely easy.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? It's easy, perfect for a quick, cute make. It has a very forgiving shape. However, I had to make adjustments in order for it to fit the way I desired.

Fabric Used: 1-3/4 yards green double knit from VA/DC/MD swap (where I also got the pattern!). This is a medium-weight fabric with minimum stretch. Gutermann polyester thread in Spruce #784 and a 3/8" button from my stash.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:  I knew that the round necklines of the 60-70s were worn high and I might have to lower the neckline so I created a quick muslin of the dress (waist-up only) to check that, the fit of the shoulders, and the armscye. The neckline was extremely high to the point of near choking. Note that my muslin was made from a former twill duvet cover while the final dress would be in a double knit so the actual result would still be a mystery.

Otherwise, I was extremely surprised by the good fit of the muslin. The armholes for the raglan sleeve hung a bit too low for full mobility but otherwise, the darts were in the correct place and the shoulder shape was near perfect.

The bodice fit perfectly but the size 14 was meant for a waist and hip 2 inches smaller than mm actual measurements so I thought I needed to add some width to the pattern at the side seam. In the end, I ended up removing the additional width and in fact, increased all of the darts considerably to bring the fit in closer.

Despite the pattern illustration, according to the pattern envelope, the finished dress length was meant be 42", most definitely a 1970s "midi" to "maxi" length. I ended up removing 6 inches (!) and then doing a 2-1/4" hem. 

One thing I really enjoyed while making this dress was all the hand basting that I did, it was very relaxing, and didn't take that much time. If you desire stitching accuracy, basting by hand is a necessity. I even basted in all of the darts, dart legs and all, so I could machine stitch exactly on the lines.

Here is the dress during my first fitting:

Shoulder shape is looking good!

Unfortunately, the perfect shoulder shape was the only good thing about the fit of the dress. I had a lot more work to do to achieve the look of my inspiration dresses (see other construction links at bottom of this post).

I ended up cutting the neckline lower, more at the sides than at the front to correct the patterns vintage look and stifling feel. At first I had planned to bind the neckline but scared of bulk and any possible stretching I chose to just turn the seam allowance under and topstitch. I'm very happy with how that turned out.

Even though this is a stable knit, I still finished all raw edges with a zigzag for neatness and hemmed it by machine, doing two rows of stitching (faux twin needle) at the skirt hem.

Still some swayback issues but I'm fine with it.

I love these French darts.

I chose not to install a zipper, scared that it would stretch out the fabric or not lay flat. Instead I did a simple button closure following an awesome thread button loop tutorial from the Tessuti blog. It turned out so simple and elegant looking.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Even though I AM in love with the final dress, probably not. I'm not sure I would be able to forget the frustration and time spent trying to finally get the dress I originally imagined. I'm also not sure I transferred all the changes to the paper pattern during the process. F.Y.I. I suggest that anyone attempting a vintage pattern like this one definitely make a muslin, or two.

Mad Men season 7, episode 3
Stella McCartney "Ridley" dress

See? I swear I didn't pose like the pictures on purpose. Also ignore my food baby.

Conclusion: I knew this was a perfect marriage of pattern and fabric to attempt a version of my inspiration dresses; a dress worn by Elizabeth Moss as "Peggy Olson" on Mad Men's final season and a similarly shaped dress, the "Ridley" dress by Stella McCartney as worn by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. I wanted a simple dress design that would result in pure comfort, fully taking advantage of this cozy fabric and this design succeeded. In the end, I chose not to do the contrast topstitching, but it's something I can always do later if I change my mind.

More Of My Mad Mod Ponte Dress
My Mad Mod Ponte Knit Dress In Progress

Images: My own photos, AMC, Media-Mode.com, whatkatewore.com

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Chocolate Replicate Skirt - Butterick 6464

This project was inspired by a favorite, well-worn skirt I bought from New York & Company about five years ago. The fabric it was made of was 70% polyester, 25% rayon, 5% spandex.

The skirt had center back and front topstitched seam lines, a back vent, and a wide flat waistband that encased a narrower piece of elastic.

Because of this construction, there is no evidence of gathers and the waist lays flat both on and off the body.

Vogue 8962

For the last year, I had casually looked for a pattern to replicate this skirt, originally thinking I had found the right one in Vogue 8962 (OOP) but an online review revealed that the waistband treatment was no different than the skirt patterns that I already owned. Then this year, Lisette released Butterick 6464 and after reading the instructions at Jo-Anns* I knew I had found exactly what I was looking for!

Pattern: Butterick 6464 (2017)

Pattern Description: Close-fitting, pull-on skirt with side panels and thin elastic inside a wide waistband.

Pattern Sizing: Size E5 (14-16-18-20-22), I cut halfway between a size 16 and 18.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing it?  Sorta, the actual skirt's waistband appeared more gathered than in the drawing.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Extremely easy. Great pattern for a beginner and it that has more style than a basic pencil skirt.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I could see myself making all three pieces but it was the skirt that won me over because its construction was the same as my favorite RTW skirt.

Fabric Used: Mahogany brown 58" ponte knit (poly/rayon/Lycra) from Fabric Mart, (70 denier 100% polyester tricot in Oat from Fabric.com), Stretchrite 1/2" polyester braided elastic, Gutermann 100% polyester thread in #592 Chili Brown.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: I checked the design ease for this skirt. They had calculated 1.5 inches (43.5 for a 42" hip), which I thought was far too much positive ease for a knit skirt. I decided half of that would be much better so I cut my skirt pieces halfway between a size 16 and a size 18.

I love the way the waistband is constructed, it consists visually of a wide waistband/yoke with elastic inside. However, it's extremely clever because unlike most elastic waists the channel of elastic is not evident from the outside. The yoke sections are stitched together on the sides only, a casing is formed at the top edge where a thin elastic is inserted, and once secured the entire yoke is turned right side out; essentially hiding the elastic. The yoke is then attached to the skirt pieces.

The rest of the skirt is incredibly simple, consisting of center and side panels on both the front and back. The instructions suggest that all seams, if not sewn on a serger, should be double-stitched. I topstitched the panel seams, the waistband, and the hem in order to replicate the details on my inspiration skirt. I increased the hem to 1.5" . The only detail missing was the back vent which I didn't need with this shorter skirt.

I considered adding a lining to the skirt because I originally thought it was too lightweight and would be too clingy. But as you see it looks fine; however, I have the tricot if I should choose to sew it in at a later date.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?  Yes, I will definitely make more of these and can also see using this same waistband yoke and attaching it to different shaped skirts and possibly some pants. I definitely recommend this skirt pattern.

Conclusion: This was a successful make, a slim skirt with an ingenious waistband treatment and visual interest provided by the topstitched side panels.

* Yes, I am that woman who before she buys a pattern glances through the instructions and unfolds the pattern sheets just enough to find the finished garment measurements and wearing ease. That second step helps a lot when determining which multi-size combination to buy. Luckily for everyone else I always refold EXACTLY like they were before.