Ginger Made: By Hand London Flora Dress!

Hi, guys! I’m so excited to show you my newest dress! Yay! I was lucky enough to be a tester for By Hand London‘s newest sewing pattern, the Flora Dress.  I’ve had the hardest time keeping my trap clapped- I wanted to spill the beans so badly!

Flora has two bodice options, a fitted tank with a high neckline, or this faux wrap. I generally don’t like wrap dresses (I know, I’m alone in this) and I rarely even wear a v-neck, but I thought it would be fun to try something different from my usual style. You can also choose between a pleated skirt and a pleated skirt with a dipped hem (I chose the latter).

By Hand London Flora Dress by Ginger Makes

I used a bright polyester taffeta from Mood Fabrics NYC. It was kind of a strange fabric, very tightly woven (it was really hard to get pins to pierce it!) and almost like windbreaker material, so it might be kind of an unusual choice for a party dress, but it has lots of body and I thought that would make for a fun, billowy skirt. I used a sharp needle and low tension, which worked well.

By Hand London Flora Dress by Ginger Makes

The pattern is very easy and quick to sew up. I understitched the lining very carefully along the bodice and used a lining that was very similar in color to minimize flashing the lining, which worked really well.

By Hand London Flora Dress by Ginger Makes

Here’s my perky pink lining, made with cotton shirting from Mood. You could easily add a skirt lining, but I didn’t feel like I needed it. I used French seams where I could, and where I couldn’t, I used ready-made bias binding from my stash that coordinated perfectly!  If you make the version with the dipped hem, you need to make sure that your center back seam is nice and pretty since you’ll see peeks of it! Hooray for pretty seams!

By Hand London Flora Dress by Ginger Makes

I haven’t made a lined bodice with a faux wrap before, so I was glad to have it explained clearly as figuring it out on my own would have melted my brain (but that’s just me). You need to press under the lining and dress shell seam allowances at the arm holes and then slip stitch them together. I’d never done this before and try to avoid hand stitching as much as possible, but I couldn’t figure out another way to finish the seam allowances! To avoid puckers, I ran a basting stitch just inside the seam allowances around the arm hole, then clipped every 1/2″ or so around the arm hole before pressing them under. I left the basting stitch in because I was worried about fraying- hopefully that will work!

By Hand London Flora Dress by Ginger Makes

I’m a little bit unhappy with the fit, sadly. I made a silly mistake, so it’s all my fault. I made a muslin and decided I wanted the waist to be more fitted (I tend to under-fit rather than over-fit to avoid this, but I thought the dress would look nicer if the waist was more emphasized). But when I made the changes to the muslin, I must have stretched it out a bit because the final version in the fashion fabric is too tight (the polyester has absolutely no give whatsoever).  There are diagonal lines pulling from the waist to the bust, which is kind of annoying. I also didn’t think about the fact that taking in the waist pretty drastically would pull the bust darts closer to the side seams, so they’re not quite right now, either. I’ll know better next time!

By Hand London Flora Dress by Ginger Makes

Fit issues notwithstanding, I’m really happy with this dress! It’s a fun party dress, and I feel like a princess when I’m twirling around in the skirt (even if I look like an idiot in reality)! I’m looking forward to making another! I know I sound like a total fangirl, but the By Hand London girls have a knack for designing patterns that I didn’t know I really wanted to wear. I just love their aesthetic!

By Hand London Flora Dress by Ginger Makes

This is what happens when I try to twirl.

So what do you guys think? Do you like this pattern? What’s your perfect party dress? Have you made it already, or is it something you’re still dreaming of making one day?

Ginger Made: Houndstooth Victoria Blazer!

Victoria Blazer in Houndstooth Wool by Ginger Makes

Guys, I’ve been watching a LOT of TV lately. A LOT.  I feel like a bit of a couch potato, but it’s totally justified since I work in film and television—it counts as homework, right?

JUST SAY YES.

My main obsession lately has been all things BBC- Dr. Who, Torchwood, Luther, and Sherlock, to name a few. All of this led to a sudden, desperate attraction to classic British wool garments—there are only so many times you can see Benedict Cumberbatch swirling around in a fantastic wool coat before you want to wrap yourself in tweed from head to toe!

Victoria Blazer in Houndstooth Wool by Ginger Makes

I picked up this classic wool houndstooth a while ago from Mood Fabrics NYC, but wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I considered many options—sheath dress, shift dress, jacket, cape—before settling on one of my all-time favorite patterns, the By Hand London Victoria blazer. You can’t go wrong with a houndstooth blazer!

Victoria Blazer in Houndstooth Wool by Ginger Makes

This fabric is really soft and drapey, which worked really well with this pattern. Since it’s meant to be slouchy and casual, nothing is interfaced and there aren’t any facings, which makes this a little quicker to construct than more traditional blazers. It was a breeze to sew and press the fabric, and since the wool is so malleable, setting in the sleeves was a cinch! Let’s not talk about the sleeves I set in the other day in a stiff, unforgiving twill… I’m still traumatized!

Victoria Blazer in Houndstooth Wool by Ginger Makes

The blazer is fully lined in rayon bemberg, also from Mood. I love this soft peachy color. I bought a ton of it a few months back and use it every chance I get! I really like rayon linings since they’re breathable and affordable, so I buy five or six yards of it when I find it in a color I like so I can get a few projects out of it.  I used a scrap of cotton/silk (leftover from this dress waaaaaay back in 2011) for the pockets as it was a perfect match.

Victoria Blazer in Houndstooth Wool by Ginger Makes

Don’t worry, guys, my fun with Brit-inspired wools isn’t over yet! Right before I cut into this fabric, I decided I would give the blazer to my sister. She’s headed off to grad school in the fall, and this just screams “Academic Chic” to me! I hope she’ll feel too cool for school when she’s wearing it! But before you get the impression that I’m a sewing saint, know that I’ve been hoarding a nice length of tweed for myself, so I’ll have a fun blazer of my own in no time!

Victoria Blazer in Houndstooth Wool by Ginger Makes

Do you ever draw sewing inspiration from television? Which shows inspire you most?  Is it weird that almost every episode of Dr. Who makes me weep like a child?  Go on, spill the beans!

Victoria Blazer in Houndstooth Wool by Ginger Makes

By Hand London Anna Dress: Back Neckline Adjustment!

Hey-o! Hope you busy little bees are all having a great day!  Today I have something a little different for you– a tutorial!  I promised to show you guys how I removed excess fabric from the back of my Anna dress.  I’m not great with PhotoShop, so I just hand-drew some shoddy illustrations… please forgive the crudeness!  Also, I’m not a professional and there are probably many other/better ways to do this.  This is just what worked for me.  🙂

OK, let’s do it!  This is a common alteration for me, but I had to really think through how to do it as my usual method doesn’t work so well on a garment with kimono sleeves.  I know several sewists just turned the excess fabric into darts, but I didn’t really want to do that. Here’s what I did instead:

[NOTE: This is an alteration to the pattern piece, so you need to do it BEFORE cutting into your fabric.]

First, figure out how much excess fabric you need to take out (you can do this by pinching it as though you’re making a dart, pinning it, and then measuring how much you’ve removed).  Jot down how much you need to remove if you’re like me and forget everything!

OK, so here’s your back bodice:

Now,  draw a straight line from the underarm curve to the middle of the neckline, landing about where the excess fabric gapes the most:

Stop your line right before you get into the seam allowance on the underarm side (so, 5/8″ from the edge).  Cut along this line.

Next, overlap the pattern along the cut edge by the proper amount.  For me, a 3/8″ overlap was just the ticket.

This illustration is particularly bad– my apologies!

Does that make sense?  It should overlap the most at the shoulder area and taper out to nothing at the end of the cut line.  When you have it positioned nicely, tape it in place!

Now you want to smooth out the neckline curve.  Tape some extra paper behind the neckline, and using a French curve, just blend the line together nicely.

Perfect!  Cut this out, and you’re all done!

That was a trick.  You’re SO not done, missy!  Get back here!

Your final step is to adjust your back facing to reflect the changes you just made to the bodice. You can slash and spread the facing the same way that you did the back bodice, or you can be lazy like me and just quickly draft a new one.

The facing is about 3.5″ wide, so I just measured down on my new back bodice piece and placed little dots at that mark:

The actual dots I used were, um, measured instead of sloppily eyeballed… whoops.

Then you can lay some tracing paper on top and just trace alone the dotted line to make your new, perfectly-matched facing!  NOW you’re done!

As a reminder, the ladies of By Hand London are about to start a sewalong for this pattern, so I’m sure they will handle other fit adjustments along the way.  I just wanted to share this in case it helps any other narrow-shouldered types like myself that can’t wait for the sewalong!

Ginger Made: By Hand London Anna Dress!

O hai!  I made another dress!  It’s a super practical bright orange silk maxi dress– a wardrobe staple, if you will!  OK, this might be the single most impractical thing I’ve ever sewn, but I loooooooove it!

Let’s just go ahead and ignore the Snapple bottled discarded on the sidewalk. I don’t even notice trash on the ground anymore!

This is the Anna dress, the fab fourth pattern from the fierce gals of By Hand London!  (Sidenote: I met the lovely and elegant Charlotte of BHL earlier this month as she was passing through NYC and folks, she is as cool and fun as you might guess, plus a little more!  There’s a huge part of me that wants to run away to London and sew amazing clothes with these girls allllll day every day!  Come back to visit, Charlotte!)  Oona eloquently told the tale of how she and I came to make the same pattern for our August Mood Sewing Network projects, and how the reigning queen of Nashville, Lauren, joined in on the fun!  In short, we now have an Instagram-instigated trio of silken Anna dresses tearing through the internet– fun, yes?

OK, so, I know that “less is more” is a good mantra, but I was kind of in a “go big or go home” mood when I grabbed this amazing silk crepe de chine from Mood Fabrics NYC.  I’ve ogled this beauty before, twice in fact, but never really knew what to do with it, but the third time I saw it I knew it was destined to be an Anna dress!  I love the print so much that I wanted to wrap myself in it from head to toe, and a maxi dress is a slightly better option than a makeshift toga, right?

Hahaha, check out my neighbor in the background! You guys are seeing all the amazing sights from my ‘hood today!

Back to the pattern!  It’s a seven-gored skirt with pleats under the bust and kimono sleeves, all of which were new to me.  This is a real departure from my usual style, but it’s fun to play dress-up once in a while!  The pattern comes together easily, but holy cow, it took f o r e v e r to French seam all those long skirt panels!  It gives a nice, clean finish, though.  I removed 1.5″ of excess fabric at the back neckline after a muslin showed some gaping (I’ll show you how tomorrow, if you’re interested), and I shortened the skirt by 7″, based on a quick eyeballing of the length.  This was way too much!  I didn’t want this lovely fabric dragging on filthy New York sidewalks, but I got over-excited and didn’t really think it through.  Next time I’ll only shorten it by 4.5″.  Maxis can be a real fabric-suck, but luckily, with my shortened pieces, I could squeeze the whole dress out of 3 yards– hooray!

The crepe de chine was surprisingly easy to sew with!  It’s not slippery at all, especially compared to silk charmeuse or similar fabrics.  I used my walking foot to help keep the long seams lined up correctly, and I pinked the facing to stop it from showing through this lightweight fabric.  I understitched the facing, too, to help keep it from peeking out, and blind-stitched it to the shoulder seams on the inside.  Another thing that’s helpful to do with fabric this floaty is to stabilize the zipper opening before inserting it.  This prevents a wobbly, ripply zipper (yuck!).  You can baste strips of silk organza to the seam allowances, or just iron on some fusible interfacing– I’ve had good luck with both techniques!

This is such a happy dress!  The colors just make me feel so perky and fun!  I’m sure I’m an eyesore walking down the streets of New York in this shrieking color, but I can live with that.  There’s something kind of weirdly ’70’s about it that I’m not 100% thrilled about– you know those polyester floral maxi dresses worn by the likes of Dusty Springfield?  So I’m not sure about that, but I’m choosing to commit to this dress in its entirety.

I like to pretend like I’m heading to a fancy dinner in Waikiki when I put this on!  Hmm, I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii… Sadly, there aren’t any trips on my horizon, so I’ll have to settle for posing in front of my neighbor’s hibiscus.

Anyway, you should check out Lauren’s version of this dress here, and be sure to peep Oona’s fierce sheer version here!

Alright, how about you guys?  Anybody planning to sew the Anna dress?  I’ve really enjoyed the ones I’ve seen so far– there doesn’t seem to be a shape that it doesn’t flatter!  If you’re scared, there’s a sewalong gearing up on the By Hand London blog– details here!  How do you feel about maxi dresses– love?  Like?  Hate with a burning passion?  Finally, do you love Dusty Springfield with a passion that sometimes scares you?  Do YOU listen to “Dusty in Memphis” every time you’re home alone?

Ginger Made: By Hand London Victoria Blazer

Hi, guys!  Hope you’re all well and enjoying the end of the season!  I’m lamenting summer’s end (well, not really, because I’m still in denial about it! There’s so much summer fun that I haven’t had yet, and so many glorious summer garments that I couldn’t find the time to make!), but my newest garment is taking the edge off of fall’s approach  just a bit.  In fact, this guy is jumping right to the top of my greatest hits list!

This is, of course, By Hand London‘s Victoria Blazer pattern, and I’m completely thrilled with it.  It’s a peach of a pattern– easy to make, really wearable, and suuuuuuper cool.

I used this soft, medium-weight twill from Gorgeous Fabrics, and a contrasting cotton sateen with a nice sheen from Mood Fabrics.  I fully lined it with silk charmeuse, also from Mood.  It’s very easy to swap out the partial lining for a full– just cut a pair of sleeves from your lining fabric and insert them into the lining, then assemble your shell, and insert its sleeves.  Attach the lining to the jacket, right sides together, following the pattern directions and leaving the bottom hem on the back unsewn.  After you’ve turned it right-side out, push the lining sleeves into the shell sleeves, wrong sides together, and baste them together around the wrist opening before stitching your cuffs on.  Then you can finish the pattern as directed.  This makes for super clean, sleek insides!

This would be a great first jacket– it’s really straightforward, and the most confusing step, creating the darts and attaching the neckline all at once, is given the photo tutorial treatment in this sewalong post.  How fab is that?!  It’s almost too easy!  The only issue I had was that the front neckline was 1/2″ longer than the back, but that was easily fixed and I suspect that I made a mistake when I traced my pattern.

Can we go back to talking about how much I love this?  I’ve never really worn blazers to work, but I wore this yesterday and felt like the top of the pops!  I got five or six unsolicited compliments, which warmed the very cockles ‘o’ me heart!  I love everything about it– the slouchy but not shapeless fit, the sleeve length, the cuff and collar details.  I was a little worried as I was making this that it would be too boxy and rectangular for me, but I made sure to choose a fabric with some drape to keep it from looking stiff and angular.

Someone who shall remain nameless, but lives with me, asked if Wham! was looking for a third member when he saw me in this for the first time, but I think we all know that’s jealousy talking, yeah?  (He then backpedaled by saying, “Well, Wham! would still be on the top of the charts if it weren’t for the unfortunate bathroom incident”.)  I don’t mind looking slightly New Wave, so here’s me playing a little air keytar:

Except that apparently I’m strumming my air keytar?

Anyway, if you haven’t tried this pattern, hop to it!  It’s a perfect piece for the transition from summer to fall, and it only inflames my love for By Hand London.  I’m super excited to try out their new Anna dress pattern next!

What about you guys?  What are you working on?

Charlotte-y Wiggle Dress!

What comes first– the pattern or the fabric?  It’s an age-old question, really (no, it’s not)!  Me, I go to Mood Fabrics armed with a plan and a pattern every month, with a pretty decent idea of what I’m looking for, but I’m invariably assaulted by a beautiful fabric of a completely different variety and end up leaving with her!  It’s a pretty good bet that if I come in looking for gold brocade, I’m probably going to leave with fuchsia voile.  This fabric was no exception!  I had completely different plans for this month’s project, but when I saw this Nanette Lepore neon green houndstooth, what was I supposed to do?  Leave the gal behind?  No way, Jose!

The drawback to buying fabric on a whim is that it often takes me a while to decide what I want to make!  I had my heart set on a little romper or two-piece playsuit, but finally talked myself out of that when I realized it would literally NEVER step outside my closet.  So then I settled on By Hand London‘s Charlotte skirt for its suuuuper wiggle-a-bility.  But then I thought about how much fabric I would have left over, so I decided to make a peplum top, too!  Fun, right?  Only, I dug through my notions and I only had a 22″ zipper that matched, and that was enough rationale for me to make a dress instead of separates.  This seems RIDICULOUS now that I think about it, but let’s move on.  So, I opted for the Charlotte skirt bottom, with the peplum, and I added the bodice from Vogue V8511 (OOP), which I’ve made once before, which is KIND of like a skirt with a peplum top.

This became one of those projects that I couldn’t stop tinkering with!  I fitted the skirt like a glove and felt super hot until I figured out that I couldn’t sit down in it!  Whooooooops!  Obviously I should have realized that if I wanted a REALLY wiggly skirt, I should’ve followed BHL’s recommendations and used a fabric with stretch.  I have to admit that it took two days of contemplation before I let out the seams!  I kept thinking through scenarios in which I could wear this dress and not have to sit or climb stairs (cocktail party!).  But these scenarios all ended in my mind with me toddling around on heels, trying to get into a cab at the end of the night without sitting down– disaster!  So the seam ripper was the only way to go, so I resewed the side seams with a 1/4″ seam allowance.  Sadly, then I felt really frumpy, so I took it in a bit more between the hips and the waist.  But then I STILL felt frumpy, so I took it in from mid-thigh to hem, leaving the extra room I needed in the seat area intact.  THEN I fidgeted with the length, pressing up and down different hem lengths.  Crazy!

The dress is fully lined with rayon bemberg, which feels awesome!  I hemmed it with rayon seam binding, which was really fun to use.  I love the pink paired with neon green– it makes me feel like a secret watermelon (that sounds weird, doesn’t it?).  It’s not very subtle, but then again there’s nothing subtle about this dress!  I laughed because when my mother-in-law saw this dress, she remarked that it looked like a dress one of her Barbies had when she was a little girl (only Barbie’s dress was a classic white).  I do feel a bit like a Barbie doll or something in this dress– it’s not a very serious outfit.  But it’s fun to wear.  If I made this again, or just the skirt, I would take some of the volume out of the peplum and lengthen it so it hits a little lower on the hips to sort of fake an hourglass figure more.  As it is, it makes me feel kind of thick around the waist, which isn’t really the goal.  But I love this fabric so much!  It’s unusual and really fun to wear.

Now I want to know– when you’re sewing, do you choose the pattern first, or the fabric?  Are you seduced into impulse purchases, or do you stick to your plan in the fabric store?  Be honest!