Françoise: A Story of Failure

Woe is me, gentle reader, and woe is she who heeds not my words of warning! Do not make ye a dress from fabric which wants not to be that dress! Warning: the following tale contains fabric abuse and a gratuitous amount of self-pity. Proceed with caution!

It all started out so innocently! Ages ago, when the pattern was first released, Tilly sent me a review copy of her cute Françoise dress. Now, I love the look of French darts and the yoke detail is extra cute, so I was looking forward to sewing this, especially since I tried and failed after a couple of muslins to fit both a vintage pattern with French darts as well as Burda 7031 (I’ve seen some cute versions of the latter, but when I tried it a few years ago, my fitting skills just weren’t up to the task of making lots of changes without screwing up the shape of the darts). So I figured, a chance to redeem myself! What could possibly go wrong?

When I first saw the pattern, my immediate thought was, “ORANGE!”, followed by, “ORANGE ORANGE ORANGE ORANGE ORANGE!” I desperately needed an orange shift dress! Since it was winter when I received the pattern, I searched high and low for a winter-weight wool crepe with a hint of stretch (suggested by Tilly for comfortable close-fitting sleeves). No dice, friends! This perfect fabric existed only in my imagination! But it had to be orange, so I waited for summertime and resumed the hunt. I found this fabric at Mood and POUNCED on it! A crisp, bright, beautiful, deep orange! EXACTLY what I wanted! Only… it has the feel of, I dunno, like, a windbreaker? An umbrella? THIS WILL BE PERFECT FOR A DRESS, YES?

A student of classical mythology may interject at this point in the saga, wondering if there was, perhaps, a wise soothsayer who, rising from the mist, predicted my downfall. My Tiresias was Oona, who tried in vain to save me from myself. “Are you sure that you really want to wear that?”, she queried. “I love it and it will be great!” “Don’t you think it’s a little… stiff?” “It will soften in the wash”. Oh, readers, the folly! The hubris! As you can see, this fabric just doesn’t want to be this dress. It doesn’t want to mold into soft, shaped darts, instead forming a big hot mess in the chest region. And I didn’t slow down to check the fit before sewing away, hence this fantastic look:

Let’s sidebar from the tragedy a bit to talk about the pattern. The instructions are clear and detailed, with photos accompanying each step, so even the most timid of beginners should feel confident going into this project. I didn’t bother making a muslin, instead opting to make a straight size 3, even though my waist and hips fit in a size 2. Why, readers, why? This was a huge mistake. I should have made the smaller size and done an FBA, but because I didn’t, the dress was huge through the back shoulders. I pinched out 1″ darts on each side of the back neckline as a quick fix, but it looks pretty messy. I thought the flare of the skirt looked pretty costume-y, so I slimmed it down a bit from the waist to the hem, which probably brought it down to the size 2 lines, which I should have cut from the get-go. I’m still on the fence about this shape, but honestly, I never wear anything a-line, so I think I’m just not used to it. But just because I jacked up the fit doesn’t mean it’s not a good pattern. Smarter, better, non-risk-taking seamstresses made adorable versions of this. See: Lorelai, Marie, Roisin.

Lest ye think the tragedy ends here, take a look at this awfulness. In haste and foul temper, I accidentally ripped it under the arm when I had only the hem left to do. This happened over a month ago, and the dress has been in a timeout ever since. I could fix it, for sure, but dealing with a patch, interfacing on the wrong side, and redoing both the dart and the armhole binding has just been a bigger task than I can think about. Moreover, I don’t really like the looks of the centered zipper that I put in… I just didn’t have a matching invisible zipper in my stash so I went with the regular, and I’m not very happy with it. Considering my general bad feelings about this dress, even if I fix it, I doubt that I’ll ever wear it. So it will probably be chopped up into a happier project. UGH, am I right? But, you can’t win ’em all… especially when your project is just a string of bad ideas! Sorry for butchering your pattern, Tilly! 😦

But… can we at least all agree that this shade of orange is PERFECT?

Book Report + Giveaway: Love at First Stitch!

Hi, guys! Hope all of you are well and that you had a great Thanksgiving weekend, if you celebrate!

Roost Books contacted me a while back to see if I would be interested in doing a review and giveaway to celebrate the U.S. launch of Tilly Walnes’ book, Love at First Stitch. At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it, since the book was so widely-reviewed in the sewing blog community around the U.K. launch. I wasn’t sure I had anything new to say about the book, or if there’s even a single person who reads my blog who hasn’t heard of the book before! But I decided to host a giveaway for one simple reason: it’s a great book and I’d love for one of you to get a free copy!

You see, I’d already ordered two copies of the book, before it was released in the States (I don’t even know if I should tell you this, but Book Depository ships books INTERNATIONALLY FOR FREE… how is this even possible?!?! Hide your wallets!!!). I ordered them for a couple of friends who are beginning sewers, so I flipped through the book before handing it off to them and was thoroughly impressed. There’s a wealth of information about dressmaking in there- far more info than I had at hand when I began sewing- and it’s organized in a way that makes it easy to build on your skills as you progress through the book.

I appreciate that Tilly takes the time to explain not just the what’s (use interfacing), but the how’s (apply it with your iron) and the why’s (it stiffens your fabric and is used to help things keep their shape, etc.). And there’s quite a bit of info that I would’ve really benefited from as a newbie, such as this section on understanding ease. I would’ve had much better results in my early sewing projects if I’d had this book!

Here are the patterns included in the book:

Obviously, everyone’s taste is different, and these styles aren’t for everyone, but I find them much more appealing than the patterns you usually see in books aimed at beginners (like the book I used as a beginner, Sew Everything Workshop… it was a good resource for a newbie, but I didn’t make a single pattern from the book because I didn’t like any of them).

While the reasons I’ve listed above why I like this book are all good, here’s why I REALLY like this book. I gave a copy to my friend Christine to help her learn more about sewing. We’d done one lesson together at my apartment and made a little tote bag in an afternoon, but she didn’t have any other experience sewing. So I was really excited when she texted me a photo of her modeling her own pair of freshly-made Margot pajamas pyjamas! She was so happy and proud that she immediately sewed up a shorts version with her leftover fabric! I was so glad that she was able to work through the pattern using Tilly’s instructions without difficulties or frustration! From here on out I’ll be keeping a copy handy for friends that want to learn how to sew. 🙂

I was also tickled to see a shout-out to my blog in the book… thanks, Tilly! I didn’t know that she’d done that, so I was really shocked when I flipped through the book and saw it! I do appreciate that she includes information on blogs, though- I know I’m not the only one who learned almost everything they know about sewing from blogs!

Alright, now it’s time for the giveaway! It’s open to US readers, and I will pick a winner using If you’d like to be entered in the drawing, please fill out the Google form below before Monday, December 8th at 11:59P EST. Good luck!

Sew Grateful Week 2014: Giveaway!

I love Sew Grateful Week! It’s an annual event organized by Debi of My Happy Sewing Place to give us a chance to give back to the lovely folks that make the sewing world the sweetest corner of the internet.  I’m ever so grateful for all the support, inspiration, and humor that you guys share so generously, so it’s nice to have an “official” time to show my thanks!

image from Tilly and the Buttons

This year my giveaway was a no-brainer… something brand-new, easy, and fun, Tilly‘s new Coco pattern!  I just made my first version and will definitely be making more!

I’m giving away a PDF version, so it can go to anyone anywhere! If you’d like a chance to win, just leave a comment below. I’m nosy, so I’d love to hear which version you’d like to make and what kind of fabric you’d use, if you feel like sharing!  I’ll close the giveaway Friday, February 28th at 11:59PM EST so the winner can get their copy on Saturday!  Yay!

Ginger Made: Coco Dress!

Tilly & the Buttons Coco Dress by Ginger Makes

Sooooo… I really didn’t mean to buy another pattern.  I’m really trying, people, honest!  But when I saw the latest from Tilly and the Buttons, the Coco pattern, I couldn’t help myself and downloaded it right away.  I printed it out, dug up some stash fabric, and sewed it right up!  It was just too cute to wait!  The slowest and hardest part of the process was finding time in my photographer’s busy schedule!

Tilly & the Buttons Coco Dress by Ginger Makes

As you can see, I made the dress variation with three-quarter sleeves, cuffs, and a funnel neck.  There are also variations for a top, long sleeves, and a standard Breton top slash neck.  Plenty of options!  The pattern was super easy to stitch up and takes no time at all.

Tilly & the Buttons Coco Dress by Ginger Makes

I used a sweatshirt-weight French terry that I bought with a Living Social coupon at Paron Fabrics nearly two years ago.  It’s been hogging up space in my stash for way too long, so I was so happy to stitch it up!  I probably shouldn’t have made the version with cuffs and a funnel neck since the fabric is so thick, but I loved them so much that I tried it anyway.  The seam allowances are a bit bulky, but I can live with that.

Since the fabric is so thick, the seam allowances didn’t want to lie flat- I could press them flat, but they would spring back almost immediately.  I solved this problem by topstitching them down.  Let’s just call it a design detail!  I hemmed the dress by turning it up and twin needling it.  I don’t know it if was because of the weight of the fabric, but the hem sagged at the side seams instead of standing out, so I just trimmed it even before hemming.

Tilly & the Buttons Coco Dress by Ginger Makes

I don’t usually wear skirts that are flared or even A-line, so this is a little different look for me, but it’s really fun!  It’s super easy to wear, and since it’s made from French terry, it’s really, really comfortable.  Man Friend was pretty jealous of getting to wear something so cozy as actual clothes (he kept telling me I needed to make more “housedresses”… um, let’s not call them that… maybe “secret pajamas”?).  This dress and the pattern is a total win! I’m excited to make more- it’s a quick make and I have a few other pieces in my stash that are now Cocos-to-be! Plus, I just realized that this works for #sewbluefebruary!  #Win!

Tilly & the Buttons Coco Dress by Ginger Makes

Do you love this pattern, too?  What are you sewing right now?  Anybody else made any accidental pattern purchases lately?

Sewing for my Sis: Miette Skirt!

Hi, guys!  I’m so glad to report that I’ve finished the first garment for my sister’s back-to-work wardrobe!  It’s the Miette skirt from Tilly and the Buttons!

I’m a big fan of indie patterns, and I love to support new designers.  I felt bad because neither this skirt nor the Mathilde blouse is my style at all, but I wanted to be supportive of Tilly’s new endeavor.  Luckily my sister loved this pattern so I was able to try out one of these designs– yay!

This skirt comes together very quickly.  There are no zippers, buttonholes, or difficult techniques to slow you down.  It’s a perfect beginner’s pattern.  I spent more time turning the waistband and ties right-side out and pressing them than on the rest of the skirt in its entirety!  Unfortunately, most of the sewing on this skirt took place in the late evening after work when I was really tired, so I made a stupid mistake and lost momentum on the project.  I attached one of the waistband pieces to the wrong side, making one tie 30″ longer than the other!  Somehow I didn’t notice this until I had turned out the waistband, trimmed the seams, and topstitched the whole thing down.  I didn’t want to unpick the whole thing as I was afraid that it would fray like crazy, so I just chopped off extra length on the one side, folded down the edges, and topstitched it closed.  Then I folded the edges under on the extra piece, fit it around the short edge, and topstitched that down.  It’s not a flawless fix, but it’s functional and it got me out of my funk.

Action shot: look, no peep show! This is one well-designed wrap skirt!

The pattern instructions aren’t illustrated at all, but there are photos on the blog from Tilly’s sewalong demonstrating every step.  I can’t emphasize enough how easy this pattern is.  If you’re thinking about learning how to sew, and you want to try out a project that will pretty much guarantee your success, this is a good bet.

I used a red linen from my stash (hooray!), and I’m not sure how wise of a choice this was.  It’s drapey and nice, but I wonder if it’s not TOO drapey.  Somehow the skirt makes my butt look huge, and I don’t have a whole lot of junk in the trunk!  And the ties look a little droopy in linen, so maybe a fabric with a little bit more body might have looked a little nicer.  But overall, I’m pleased with this skirt and I really hope my sister likes it.  It’s really adjustable, so at least I know it should fit her.

Does this make my butt look big? Kidding. Kinda.

I’m so glad I finished something off this list!  Next I’m planning to whip up some quick tops to go with this skirt!