A Sewing Update

11 Feb photo 1[1]

Lest you all start to worry that I have sold my sewing machine to pay for all my new clothes, I have been slowly getting my Sew-jo back. It was temporarily interrupted by selling our home and moving into a much smaller condo. I don’t really have a dedicated sewing space anymore so that has made me reevaluate my sewing methods. But I will not be deterred and I have been slowly but steadily making my flat pattern adjustments to the new Sewaholic Granville shirt pattern. So far, I have done my full bust, forward shoulder, short waist, swayback, and uneven shoulder adjustments. Now all I have left to do is trace and cut the pattern pieces that didn’t have to be altered and make a muslin. I am feeling a little brazen and may forego the actual muslin and cut into a real fabric for this test run. The flat pattern adjustments are looking pretty good when I hold them up against my body in the mirror — ha!

I have also solved the dilemma about where to put my sewing machine. If you remember in a prior post, I was debating about what small space sewing solution to use to set up my work area. Well, I didn’t go with any of those options because my grandmother reminded me that I was supposed to take her 1960s Kenmore that is built into a cute little wooden cabinet. I picked up the machine a few weeks ago but knew it wasn’t in working order — I don’t remember my grandmother ever really sewing anything although there are rumors of her sewing prom dresses for my mom and aunt. You can guess how out of shape that machine was! I called my friend and trusty sewing machine doctor, Richard Givens, and he came and picked it up.

When I dropped by his shop today, he showed me pictures of all the work he had to do to get her back in serviceable condition — basically a complete overall with the machine torn totally apart. Almost every gear was locked up. But now that he has worked his magic, she is humming a sweet, sweet song, and I can’t wait to sew that Granville on her. Poor little Janome is going to get so jealous when I stash her in the closet for the time being. But she’ll come back out when the new house is finished. Mr. Givens says sewing machines aren’t manufactured like this Kenmore anymore — all precision metal parts, etc. And that if it were to be manufactured today, it would cost over $1000. Luckily the repairs weren’t quite that much but I can understand why many of us today don’t invest in repairing the things we have (as I could have easily bought a decent cheap machine — like my current Janome — for the cost of the repairs). But I would gladly spend it again to be able to sew dresses for myself on the machine that my grandmother and possibly mother once spent hours in front of creating the frocks of their dreams.

photo 1[1] Here’s a picture of Mr. Givens with my little Kenmore. You can start to get a glimpse of all the sewing machines that were laying around everywhere.

Sewing Machines

He let me snap some more pictures to show you all the different types of machines he works on. I don’t think there is a machine he couldn’t fix. The button machine does nothing but sew on buttons. And it does it in about 2 seconds. How awesome is that?!?

The last really cool bit of news is that I entered my Butterick 6019 bombshell dress into Gertie’s Grand Giveaway and I was selected as a finalist! Now I have to mail my dress off to NYC to be inspected by the judges — yikes! There is only a 20% chance I will win, but if I do, what will I do with 17 bolts of fabric??? We will have a big giveaway here on the blog! Cross your fingers, say your prayers, and send good thoughts my way!

Stitch Fix | A Sewist’s Review

31 Jan

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As I mentioned in my last post, I recently decided to try out some online personal styling services. I am planning to tell you about all three that I signed up for and the first one up is Stitch Fix. Before I signed up to try it out, I scoured the web looking for details about the type and quality of clothes that women typically got in their boxes. I was interested in the quality of the construction, the fabric content, and the finishes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much info on these things. So I decided when I received my box, I would write about these details, regardless of my overall experience. Fortunately, my overall experience has been positive, so that is a bonus!

I won’t go into excessive details about how Stitch Fix works because there are plenty of other sites that do that, but I will give you the Cliff Notes version here in case you are completely unfamiliar. Stitch Fix is a web-based company that provides personal styling services to women on a subscription or on-demand basis. They collect information from you about your preferences in color, fit, fashion, style icons, accessories, etc. When you sign up for your first box, you agree to pay a $20 “styling fee” (more about that in a sec). Then, they assign a personal stylist to you who reviews your profile and your Pinterest board (if you have one), and she sends you a box of 5 items, most likely 4 garments and 1 accessory, personally selected to suit you.

Your box arrives on or before the date you selected when you signed up and you get to try on your items in the comfort of your home and with the help of your hubby, bff, etc. You can mix and match with what’s already in your closet to help you decide what to keep and what to send back. If you love something but it doesn’t fit quite right, you can email them to see if they have a different size and if they do, they will send it. You have three business days to make up your mind. The $20 styling fee you paid when you ordered your box gets credited toward the purchase of what you decide to keep from your box. If you decide to keep everything, you get an additional 25% off everything. You send back what you don’t want and aren’t charged for those items. There is no additional charge for shipping either direction.

If you try Stitch Fix and you love it, you can tell your friends about it with a referral link and you will get $25 each time one of them signs up (yes, that is my referral link and I would love it if you decide to use mine :) ).

So without further ado, here’s a fashion show for you, complete with both garment insides and outsides!

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First, the entire line up of the articles that came in my box. My first fix was a pretty neutral color scheme. I don’t mind neutrals but I also enjoy colors. I made a specific request for more color in my next box.

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41Hawthorn | Astrid Spade Print Tie-Neck Blouse | Medium | $58 ($44.50 with 25% discount for keeping all 5 pieces)

100% polyester | Hand wash cold, no bleach, lay flat to dry | Made in USA (!!!)

The first garment I tried on was this white 100% polyester blouse with a black spade pattern on it. The fabric is soft and reminiscent of crepe de chine. The care label calls for hand wash and lay flat to dry but I will machine wash on delicate and lay flat to dry. I am excited that the garment was made in the USA! It has a button placket with bronze buttons in front and is accented by a bow tie at the neckline.

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The neckline is safe for work and the hem is a nice length for wearing tucked in or out. The blouse fits well through the bust but is a tad low in the armscye. This minor fitting issue was not a deal breaker, though, and I think this blouse will fit nicely as a multipurpose basic in my wardrobe. It has tucks sewn at the shoulders for bust shaping and no side darts for a loose, flowy fit.

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As for interior finishes, the back yoke and side seams are serged. The neckline has a clean finish. The armholes are nice and tidy with bias binding. Overall, this is definitely a finished product I would be happy to produce from my sewing room and reminds me of my Belle Bow Blouse in style and finish.

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Liverpool | Anita Skinny Pant | Size 10/30 | $78 ($59.50 after discount)

62% Rayon, 33% Nylon, 5% Spandex | Turn inside out, machine wash cold, no bleach, tumble dry | Made in China

I paired the blouse with the black ponte skinny jeans by Liverpool. I have to tell you I was soooo skeptical about these pants when I first pulled them out. I warned my stylist in my online profile that I had a really hard time finding pants and jeans to fit properly. But let me tell you, I wanted to cry with joy when I slipped these babies on. They fit PERFECTLY!

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They have the perfect rise in front and back, the waistband doesn’t gape, they flatter my booty. The fabric is a smooth black ponte knit that has great recovery so they don’t bag out after wearing. I love them so much I asked for them to send more in other colors if they have them. I didn’t take interior pictures of these pants but they are very straight forward — serged seams and basic 5-pocket styling with faux front pockets.

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Daniel Rainn | Owen Tie Neck Blouse | Medium | $68 ($52 after discount)

100% Polyester shell, 92% Polyester, 8% Spandex lining | Hand wash, hang to dry, dry clean recommended | Made in China

The next garment out was this 100% polyester chiffon peasant tunic. I have to admit I wrinkled my nose at it a little when I pulled it out, but I was determined to be an equal opportunity shopper so I tried it on.

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You already know I kept the shirt — I liked that it fit in the shoulders, had a work-appropriate neckline, had a cute hemline that dipped lower in the back to cover the tush, and upon closer inspection, has an awesome bird print all over the fabric. Plus the top has a built in cami so I don’t have to worry about finding a clean one.

sf1 tunic collage

The seams feature faggoting or entredeux which adds visual interest and texture. The interior seams are serged and sewn flat to the trim. The neckline features shirring with elastic thread and is finished with a placket and closed with yarn tassels. The sleeves have a simple placket and button closure.

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Market and Spruce | Kristah Ruffle Knit Blazer | Medium | $78 ($59.50 after discount)

95% Rayon, 5% Spandex | Hand wash, tumble dry low | Made in China

This cute navy knit jacket is 100% polyester and is the weight of a t-shirt.

stitch fix 1 jacket back

The back features a cute peplum details in polyester chiffon.

sf1 jacket collage

The interior seams are finished with serging and a Hong Kong finish taking this jacket up a notch. There is a facing for the front and the back neck. There are faux welt pockets on the front.

sf1 necklace

Zad | Meagan Cut Out Spade Layering Necklace | $32 ($25 with discount)

My fifth item is this cute long gold necklace with a design that mimics the white bow blouse, above. I had always shied away from longer necklaces because I felt like they looked funny on me, but I have been coming around to the look and was glad to see this in my box, especially since it is a great basic. It has already gotten quite a bit of wear since its arrival.

So, to wrap this really long post up, I had fun trying out Stitch Fix. I was satisfied with the quality of the garments in my box although I would love to see some natural fibers in the next box. I also loved that one of my garments was made in the USA. A lot of people will probably think the garments are a bit on the pricey side, especially if you are a bargain shopper (I know the girls in my office love to hunt for deals at places like TJ Maxx), but you have to consider that you don’t have to spend the gas driving to the store, the lost time you will be away from home/work/family/sewing, and you won’t have to spend money to feed yourself while you are away from home for half a day shopping. Plus you won’t be as tempted to purchase other things that you don’t necessarily need. And you can avoid the frustration that comes with searching through the racks not finding what you want. You also have the advantage of knowing that a professional objective third party selected the garments because they thought they would look good on you.

I think the web interface for Stitch Fix is very easy to use and allows for great user interaction. I also think the $20 styling fee is reasonable since you get to credit it to the purchase of anything from your Fix (I will talk more about this when I compare all of the services later). I also think the referral program is great and means that you could really get a good deal on some clothes if you are comfortable sharing your experience about Stitch Fix with your friends — and you don’t even have to have a blog. You could share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or via email. I did contact Stitch Fix customer service once via email and my question was answered very promptly and the issue handled immediately and satisfactorily (I forgot to enter my friend’s referral code when I signed up).

In summary (finally!), I had fun trying out Stitch Fix and I can’t wait to see if my next Fix is better than this one. It has been a good treatment for my sewing dry spell. If you decide to try it out, click through this link to sign up and let us know what you think!

Megan Nielsen Eucalypt Tank | Jungle January

17 Jan IMG_2906

Hi, friends! I hope this post finds you well. It’s been a little more than a season since I last checked in but I hope you have had other blogs in your reader to keep you entertained. We have had a very busy few months with vacation, selling our home, moving, birth of a niece, the holidays, hospitalizations of grandparents (everyone is doing great now), husband working out of town, all that on top of the usual cold and flu season which is always hectic for a pediatrician.

But life is good and we are excited about all the changes happening. Selling our old house means we get to build a new one. We are living temporarily in a small condo but we are in the heart of our downtown so we are enjoying being close to everything and walking distance to my favorite coffee shop and BBQ joint. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of room for sewing so I have not stitched anything since before the move (pre-Thanksgiving). I am looking at purchasing a Gidget table and setting it up in my bedroom and adapting my sewing habits to be more streamlined and uncluttered.

I have also been reevaluating my wardrobe as I had gotten into a bit of a funk with dressing everyday. Since I had started sewing, I had stopped purchasing as many clothes as I used to thinking I would sew the perfect garment and that perfect garment just never materialized. Sure, I have sewn some things that I really love and am very proud of, but I have not made many daily basics that work well for my usual routines. Plus many of my clothes weren’t fitting right any more because I have been working out. So in my sewing-restricted state, I decided to do a little shopping for myself. First, I visited my favorite online spots, Nordstrom and Anthropologie, and quickly had some packages sent my way. As is usual, many things had to be returned but I ended up with some new colored skinny cords and jeans and a few basic tops and one pretty dress. Nothing that really sang to me, though.

Then, I remembered a friend telling me about Stitch Fix and I started browsing the web for more info and for similar services. Basically, they are services that take your info on size and style likes and dislikes then send you a box of garments and accessories to try on at home. You decide what to keep and what to send back. During the course of my searching, I found two other companies to be viable contenders, although different in some respects. So I signed up for a box from all three to try it out. Worst case scenario, I would only be out $20.

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All that said, today I am here to actually tell you about something I sewed (of course back when my sewing machine was still plugged in, pre Turkey Day). I will tell you in upcoming posts about my experiences with the online styling services. This top is my first-ever contribution to Jungle January. I have never been a big animal print fan but this stretch silk charmeuse was cheap at Fabric Mart and I thought it would be perfect for muslining a basic silk shell. And it was.

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Enter the Megan Nielsen Eucalypt Tank. The is a perfect canvas for so many things. I was looking for a simple top that could be worn with a skirt or pants and blazer/cardi for work or paired with jeans and a necklace for a more casual look. I also wanted a pattern that would be a good base for embellishment. I started with a straight size medium and only adjusted the pattern by raising the armholes 1/2″. I knew that ultimately I would probably want to do a bust adjustment and add a side dart for a better fit but I wanted to see what the fit was like straight out of the envelope.

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This fit was not too bad. There is a little bit of dragging under the bust in the front, but this top is definitely wearable and with the silk having a little lycra in it, it helps. In my next version, I added a 3/4″ FBA and the drag was eliminated and the tank hung evenly front and back.

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So friends, to wrap this wordy, overly gushy post up, I hope I will not be such a stranger now that things are starting to settle back down in our life. I hope that you will indulge me if I talk a little bit about ready to wear fashion and a little less about sewing and cooking while we are living in a tiny two-story box. I may even talk a little about home planning and interior design as we get further into that project.

I would love to hear in the comments how your year is starting off and if you have advice on setting up in a tiny sewing space. Have a great weekend!

Thirsty Thursdays | Kentucky Saint |La Petite Grocery

18 Sep

Happy Thursday again, friends! I hope the upcoming weekend holds promise for being fun and relaxing for you. I am here to tell you about another ingredient that may fit right in to said weekend.

 

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This beverage is called the Kentucky Saint and the recipe is courtesy of La Petite Grocery, a James Beard award-winning restaurant on Magazine St. in New Orleans. Mr. Homemaker and I took a day trip to NOLA earlier this summer (for fabric shopping and eating), and this is where we chose to have a late lunch. Thank goodness we did because the service was friendly, the drinks were refreshing, and the food was delicious.

That afternoon, I went and purchased the ingredients that were listed on the menu. But no matter what ratio I tested, it didn’t taste quite right. So I sent an email to their bar manager, Julia (who happens to be from my hometown), and she graciously provided me with the official recipe. And the missing ingredient? A splash of orange juice.

As I mentioned last week in the Thirsty Thursday post, this is the recipe I originally purchased the St. Germain liqueur for. So now you have two excuses to buy some :)

This cocktail makes bourbon taste good even to the bourbon-averse among us. It has just the right amount of sweetness and citrus to compliment the bourbon. I didn’t think I would like this one but surprisingly, it is now a favorite.

Give it a try and let me know if you find it as much of a palate-pleaser as I do.

 

Looking for a few other refreshing cocktails? Try one of these:

La Recolte

Meyer Lemon Drop Martini

Cuba Libre

Absolut Stress

Blood Orange Martini

 

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Kentucky Saint

  • 1 ounce Noah’s Mill bourbon (or other bourbon of your choice)
  • 1/2 ounce St. Germain liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce Aperol
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce orange juice (original recipe called for 1/4 ounce)
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup

Combine all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake vigorously until the outside surface of the shaker is frosty.

Strain into a martini glass straight up or pour over ice in a rocks glass.

Garnish as desired and enjoy!

 

Courtesy of La Petite Grocery.

Thirsty Thursdays | La Recolte | Pear and St. Germain Martini

11 Sep

From what I hear, some parts of the world are starting to show signs of fall — autumnal leaves, crisp evenings, and don’t forget all the Christmas decorations in the stores (ugh!).

Here in the Deep South, Fall hasn’t even scheduled his airfare to our area. Highs are still in the 90s and humidity is always 100% (or close to it). We have rain showers most days.

Although I have not dusted off my boots or pulled out my sweaters, I would like to keep the spirit of the changing seasons and bring you an appropriately flavored cocktail that is still palatable and refreshing when your backyard is a sauna.

 

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Enter La Recolte (The Harvest en anglais). This is a cocktail that evokes thoughts of golden leaves, holiday gatherings, and cuddling up by the fire. It is also a cocktail that isn’t too sweet or too tart and has a refreshing effervescence that you can enjoy after swimming in from the mailbox or melting while carrying in your groceries.

 

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I love the styling of this bottle!

 

I found this recipe while searching for things to do with St. Germain liqueur — a French libation flavored from elderflowers. I had purchased a bottle for another recipe I will share with you later, but I like for things in my pantry to do double or triple duty if possible. Enter the Pear and St. Germain Martini.

This cocktail is a nice clear drink that is great made 1 or 2 at a time but would also work well mixed up as a punch for a cocktail party or bridal shower (consider adding a bottle of ginger ale to the mix to bring down the potency). The lemon juice and champagne help balance the sweetness of the St. Germain and pear vodka.

So if you find yourself with this random assortment of ingredients in your pantry, or if you just fancy a new, refreshing cocktail, give La Recolte a try and let me know what you think!

 

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La Recolte

  • 1 ounce pear vodka
  • 1/2 ounce St. Germain liqueur
  • 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Champagne or sparking wine
  • Thin pear slices

Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker is frosty.

Strain into a martini glass and top with enough sparkling wine to fill.

Garnish with a pear slice and enjoy!

 

Adapted from St. Germain website.

Our Favorite Biscuits | Gruyere Biscuits | The Ravenous Pig

9 Sep

Last fall we went to Orlando, Florida for work/fun. While there we tried out the restaurant Cask and Larder. It was delicious and before leaving I purchased the cookbook from their sister restaurant, The Ravenous Pig. I perused the book on the trip home and decided the first thing I had to make were these Gruyère Biscuits. And I have made them at least a dozen times since then.

They are great for any meal. I love them for breakfast with a little butter and homemade peach jam. But they are also good with dinner in the place of your traditional biscuit. I have even cubed the leftovers and made croutons for salad!

This recipe employs some basic pastry making techniques that may or may not be familiar to you. But don’t let that stop you from trying these out. They are definitely worth the effort. You can also make a double batch and freeze the uncooked biscuits to pop in the oven later. Just put the frozen biscuits on your baking sheet and place in the preheated oven. You will need to bake just a few minutes longer.

 

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First, combine all your dry ingredients in a bowl.

 

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Then, grate your frozen butter using a box grater.

 

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Work the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers until it resembles coarse meal. This shouldn’t take too long since the butter is already in such small pieces.

 

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Now stir in the cream and buttermilk just until mixed. The dough will look rough and shaggy but will pull away from the sides of the bowl.

 

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Sprinkle your counter top with a nice dusting of flour and spoon your dough on top.

 

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Gently shape the dough into a rectangle and roll it to about 1″ thick.

 

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Sprinkle the dough with half the cheese mixture.

 

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Fold the dough up into thirds like you would a letter.

 

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Roll the dough out to about 1″thick. Repeat sprinkling the rest of the cheese, fold and roll to 1 1/2″ thick.

 

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Using a knife or bench scraper, cut the dough into 12 equal squares. Or get fancy and use your round biscuit cutter.

 

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Transfer the biscuits to a parchment lined or buttered baking sheet and brush the tops with a little cream.

 

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Bake at 375F for 12-14 minutes until golden on the tops.

 

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Enjoy in whatever manner you prefer. With homemade peach jam and a side of homemade bacon (recipe from the same cookbook) and Conecuh sausage. Or make a bacon or sausage biscuit sandwich.

 

How ever you enjoy them, just promise me you will make these biscuits ASAP!

 

 

Gruyere Biscuits

  • Servings: 12 biscuits
  • Print

  • 3/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese*
  • 2 Tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup briefly frozen butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing**
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a sheet pan with parchment or brush with butter.

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together to combine. Using a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients. Blend the butter and dry ingredients with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Pour in the cream and buttermilk and stir just until combined and dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Pat into a rectangle and sprinkle lightly with flour. Roll the dough to 1″ thick.

Sprinkle the dough with half of the cheese mixture. Fold the dough into thirds like a letter.

Lightly flour the surface of the dough and roll again to 1″ thick. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and fold into thirds and roll to 1 1/2″ thick.

Cut the dough into 12 squares (3×4) and place 2″ apart on the prepared pan. Lightly brush the tops with the remaining heavy cream.

Bake in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, turning the pan halfway through baking, or until the tops are golden brown.

Remove the pan from the oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving warm.

 

*We have used other cheeses in this recipe with success (Cheddar, Swiss, Monterey Jack, etc.).

**I have substituted half-and-half for the entirety of the heavy cream with perfectly tasty results. We couldn’t really tell a difference so consider subbing if you are trying to be healthier ;)-

 

Adapted from The Ravenous Pig: Seasons of Florida.

Bodice Modifications for Butterick 6019

27 Jul

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Hi, friends! I am here today with a quick “tutorial” post to address a question that came up about the fitting of my Butterick 6019 bombshell dress. During the muslin-making process, I realized that the bust cups of the dress were all wrong for me. The top of the dress was too low for comfortable decency and the cup seams created an awkward pointy shape over my bust (think bullet bra to the extreme). I also discovered that the under bust seam didn’t hit under my bust and the bodice was overall too long for my figure.

I will warn you in advance, I am going to share some less than attractive photos of myself in this post. But it’s all for the sake of science, right?

I started by pinching out the excess from bodice fabric in the front and back. This helped bring the under bust seam into the correct position. I then pinched and pinned out a little excess in the side seams.

 

 

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Once that had been taken care of, I pinned out the excess in the vertical and horizontal bust cup seams, creating a much more natural shape in this area. Then I checked the location of the horizontal bust cup seams and felt it was too low across my body and raised it across both lower cup pattern pieces (hence the reason it doesn’t look like I took any out in these areas). Hopefully you can see in the photos that the overall effect of these adjustments was to decrease the severity of the curve across the bust. At this point I made new muslin and tweaked all of the previous adjustments by a few more minor amounts.

 

 

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You can hopefully see in this photo how my final pattern pieces in white paper compare to the original pattern pieces.

 

Once all these adjustments had been made, I assessed the location of the top of the bodice all the way around and realized I wanted roughly 1/2″ added in the front and 1″ in the back. I added these amounts to my already modified pattern pieces and tapered the 1/2″ in front around to the 1″ in back.

 

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Since this layer wouldn’t show in the final dress, I sewed it with leftover bobbins in random colors.

 

I made my final muslin just to check the fit once more but to also use as the interlining if all my adjustments had been successful.

 

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You can see I added a lot more boning than suggested in the pattern.

 

During the earlier muslins, I duct taped cheap boning from Hancock Fabrics into place for fitting but on the final version, I went ahead and sewed my boning channels and added the spiral steel boning. Next time, I think I will lengthen this layer to my high hip (like a corselet) for added wearing comfort. As it is now, the boning ends right at my narrowest point, somewhat cutting into my body when I sit, and also making the skirt portion just below the waist seam blouse out a little bit.

 

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Here’s the finished dress just waiting on a hem. Please pardon the unattractive setting and the cute socks :)

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