Dresscue Mission

Before the holidays I did a wearable muslin of the Marilla Walker Isca shirtdress. I had very high hopes—the reviews were good, the diagonal bodice line had me dreaming of stripey wonders, and, of course, pockets!

I made it up in some nice brushed blue/black check shirting (no idea where this fabric came from, I feel like I’ve had it forever). The directions were excellent, especially given the unusual shoulder construction, and the fit was pretty good. The only alteration I made was to change the pointed collar to a rounded one.

The only problem was the pockets were too shallow. I kept losing things out of them when I sat down. Now, I don’t have very many requirements for pockets, but one hard and fast rule I do have is that things need to stay in them until I take them out.

Obviously I could just fix it in round two, but I really didn’t want to give up on the muslin, which had turned out more on the ‘wearable’ side than the ‘muslin’ side. But I didn’t have enough fabric to recut the front skirt (nor did I have enough ‘want to do it’ to recut the front skirt).

I did, however, have enough fabric to cut a few bias bands and enough ‘want to do it’ to undo just enough of the waist and side seams to shove them in:

Isca shirtdress

The inner piping is where the original pocket edge ended; I sewed the new strip to the pocket edge (sewing in the ditch of the piping), then attached piping to the raw edge of the new strip. I used a strip of black hem facing tape to finish the inside of the bias strip (because I didn’t have enough of the check fabric to do so).

Here’s a closer view (the inner piping is fatter than the outer piping because, uh, things that are closer look bigger and also because I ran out of that size of piping cord):

Isca pocket (revised edition)

And one with an iPad mini in it, for scale:

Isca pocket (iPad mini for scale)

I also shortened the skirt by about three inches (did I unpick the original foldover hem and then redo it? Ha, no, I just folded it up and sewed it down, as my reserves of ‘want to do it’ were running quite low at this point).

The only other thing I wish I had enough fabric to change are the sleeves: I feel like that diagonal line of the bodice would be really cool if it extended to a little cap sleeve. I looked at a bunch of “draft a cap sleeve” instructions but … not enough fabric, and even my spiffy new LIGHT UP SEAM RIPPER didn’t inspire me to take off these (perfectly serviceable) set-in sleeves and see if I could recut them into caps.

Isca sleeve, unrescued

I have some (lol “some” I have ENORMOUS QUANTITIES) of stripey fabric that I think will be good for the next round. There are a couple more projects in the queue before I will get there, but in the meantime, I can now wear this one!

2023: year of the shirtdress, for real this time

Matilda shirtdress front

“Yes, Erin, we’ve heard this before,” you say, and you’d be right—I don’t want to go back and search, but I’m pretty sure I’ve declared several previous Years of the Shirtdress, and then made … one. If that.

This time, though … that above is my third Matilda shirtdress, and I’m planning on making quite a few more. I actually bought the original non-curve-sized Matilda pattern yonks ago, realized how much work it was going to be to curvenize it (that’s the technical term), and it promptly went to the bottom of the pile. So when the curve version came out I was pretty enthusiastic, and the pile got shuffled somewhat.

Matilda shirtdress back view

I’ve since made it three times; this is the latest iteration. I will post the other two anon, but I wanted to get this posted sooner, because … well, I like it!

It’s not perfect by any means; the collar is a bit wonky on the left-hand edge (I might be able to just re-press it tho):

Matilda shirtdress collar

I like lots of things about this pattern: first off, the pockets are a good size, and patch pockets so very easy. The sleeve bands are fun, too:

Matilda shirtdress sleeve band

I’m looking forward to really playing around with stripes and plaids next, because this pattern goes together really well.

There were some changes made: I had to raise the bust point a bit (but the pattern designer actually has a great tutorial for this). I think the collar stand is too tall, so I shortened it (and I might narrow the collar, too). I’d love to try this with a flat (Peter Pan) collar, but I haven’t wrapped my mind around that change yet. I also did the waistband buttonholes horizontally, instead of vertically, because that just feels better? Idk. Because this fabric is lightweight, I used hem binding instead of the ‘fold twice and sew’ method because I wanted a little extra weight. Next go-round I’m going to only use this (very good) fusible interfacing for the collar stand and front bands, and use organza for the waistband and the collar.

The pattern instructions want you to sew the bands to the front, flip them to the back, and then topstitch, but I am not nearly patient enough for that nonsense, so I did it the opposite way around. (This review has better instructions than that, search the page for ‘reverse method’.) With the reverse method you’re topstitching on the edge that needs to be sewn down, so you can focus on the topstitching bit, and not the “am I catching the loose edge on the side of the dress I can’t see” bit.

This fabric is (I think) Liberty Mark Tana lawn; I mean, it’s definitely the Mark pattern, I just can’t find a record of this colorway. I’m not usually a navy-blue person (I ended up using all my navy thread sewing this, and had to cheat with a little bit of a blue-purple in places). I figured this would be a good test run for whether this fabric works in Tana lawn, because I really like the print and it is SO BUSY that any little bobbles would be hidden, a kind of Where’s Waldo, but for sewing mistakes. It is also still kind of coldish here so I can wear this over a long-sleeved black tee and leggings. (Mixing navy and black is how you can tell the real fashion pros from the wannabees, right?)

On the easy-to-wear scale, where 10 is “pajamas you’ve had for >5 years” and 0 is “actual suit of armor” this is a solid 7. It hangs nicely, there’s good arm mobility with sleeve bands, the pockets are well-placed and ample, and the fit is trim without being constricting.

I won’t kid you—any shirtdress pattern is just going to be a lot of work. This one has a lot of pieces, and buttonholes, and interfacing, and a collar and and and … it’s definitely a “one bite at a time” pattern and not a “cut out Saturday morning, wear it Saturday night” pattern. I tried keeping track of how long it took me to complete each stage, and I’m pretty sure this was a 5-8 hour sew (for comparison, a dress like this is usually a 3-4 hour sew). Plus I generally like to approach buttonholes well-rested, after a light stretching session, and properly caffeinated ….

You might notice a new background to the pics—I’m now nicely settled in to my new sewing space! That’s a new dress form, too (her name is Dot, for obvious reasons). My previous dress form (RIP) was bought in the last century and succumbed to terminal foam-disintegration disease. That white drawer-thingy next to the dress in the first picture? That’s full of bias tape. Full, I tell you. (It’s not a problem, I’m sure I’ll use it all up before I die …)

Stay tuned for more Matildas, perhaps an Isca, and a vintage shirtdress! Really!

2022 Purge Accounting

Well, my move is complete (…ish, so many more boxes of books to unpack!) and since the world is on fire, it’s time to tally up the dress purchases and send out the donations!

You lovely people bought 38 dresses (there are 39 marked off on the spreadsheet but I discovered one had a grease spot and needed to go to the ragbag instead) for a grand total of US$760.

I decided to split the donation into three parts, one for trans rights, one for abortion funds, and one for Ukraine.

Thanks for helping me find new homes for these dresses and send a little money to the folks fighting for us all to be safe and free.

Finally, gingko

black cotton poplin with print of large gingko leaves in purple, blue, yellow, orange, and gray
gingko fabric!

The fabric above is from MaaiDesign in Australia (the actual fabric designer is Alicia Marshall from Winding Road Design Studio), and I CANNOT WAIT for it to arrive. I have been obsessing about gingko fabric basically forever (really, forever) and this is better than I could have hoped for, to wit:

  • cotton poplin
  • black background
  • multicolored leaves

Plus the shipping was … reasonable? for something coming from Australia?

Since we’re moving (imminently!) I had a fabric purchase moratorium in place but I made an emergency declaration and managed to get this one in under the wire. I may be throwing the parcel into the last box to be sealed (well, depending on shipping speed) but I was not going to miss out on ACTUAL GINGKO FABRIC.

Also, while you’re here: quick purge update! There are still a few dresses left, and since I realistically can’t buy any more fabric until at least June, I’ll be donating all the proceeds of the purge (net of shipping) to relief efforts for Ukraine and trans rights orgs. So grab the last dresses while you can, I’ll officially declare the purge done on 1 May!

Quick Purge Update

First: I’ve updated the list to include photos for some of the dresses that didn’t have any. (The photos are on Flickr; I’ve only linked the full front view of the dress so check the photostream for side/back/pocket views.)

Also, someone asked if I would mind if they bought a dress to alter or use for the fabric. Nope! Once a dress is yours, it’s yours! You can cover it in glitter, turn it into tea cosies, incorporate it into your collages—whatever else makes you happy. 🙂

If you have asked for a dress and haven’t seen a payment request from Paypal, please check your spam folders, or log into Paypal and check your messages there. At this point everyone who has requested a dress should have received a funds request, and packages have been sent for everyone who has sent funds (if you want a tracking #, just email me).

Also, in the last purge I had some fabric up on Etsy; a few people have asked if I’m listing any fabric at the moment. I’m not listing fabric now, but I have been listing non-handmade items (dresses/skirts/shoes/scarves, etc.) on Poshmark.

The Purge (2022)

So if you were wondering “How often does Erin clear out the dresses she made but no longer wears” the answer turns out to be ‘about every five years’. Yep, it’s that time again!

Over the holidays I did a big closet re-org and realized a few things. First, WOW I have made a LOT of dresses. I mean, a LOT a LOT. Also, I seem to have done a complete palette shift since my hair has gone gray; I’m no longer pulled toward moss greens, mustard yellows, or chocolate browns.

Last time I decided to get rid of a lot of Made By Erin dresses, I put up a spreadsheet and a form and y’all went to town! I ended up being able to send ~40 dresses to new homes and $400 to Chicago Books to Women in Prison.

So I’m going to do it again! Here’s the list of dresses that are up for grabs. Not all of them have links/photos yet, but I’ll keep posting them as I find/take them. (Or hey! Surprise dress!)

If you see a dress you like, fill out THIS FORM with the dress you want and your email and mailing address, and I will send you a Paypal invoice for the $20 plus whatever shipping costs to wherever you live. Then you have a week to pay the invoice (or the dress becomes available to someone else).

Like last time, every dress is US$20. Unlike last time, there are Liberty fabric dresses, crossword puzzle dresses, and a Tetris dress on this list!

I’ll strikethrough dresses on the spreadsheet as they are claimed and remove them when they are purchased.

Here are some questions I thought you might have:

Q. Do these dresses have pockets?


Q. There’s a dress of yours I want that isn’t on the list! Will you be selling it?

A. Uh, maybe? You can email me and ask.

Q. There are no prices on the spreadsheet, how much are the dresses?

A. Every dress is US$20.

Q. What are you going to use the money for?

A. I’m going to give half of it to charity (likely bail reform, books for prisoners, or a local mutual aid org), and I’m going to use half of it to buy more fabric. (Yes, I know this negates the whole concept of “getting rid of stuff” … but, FABRIC!)

Q. What if I don’t support those causes? 

A. Easy! Don’t buy a dress!

Q. I want to buy a dress but I would like you to ship it (some way other than Priority Mail Flat Rate). Can you do that?

A. Sorry, flat rate only, as I need to minimize the time I spend in line at the Post Office.

Q. Will you make (my requested alterations) to the dress before you send it to me?

A. No, I’m afraid not … your local dry cleaners/alterations shop can help you out.

Q. Are these dresses new?

A. All of these dresses have been worn. Some have been worn more than others. (Any notable flaws are listed in the spreadsheet.)

Q. Are the measurements on the sheet body measurements or garment measurements?

A. They’re garment measurements, measured flat across the front and doubled. Make sure to leave wearing ease for yourself!

Q. Why don’t you just give them all to Goodwill and be done with it?

A. Local Goodwills and other donations orgs have been overwhelmed here, and a lot of what is donated is sent to landfill or shipped overseas to become someone else’s problem.  I’m worried my dresses will be considered unsaleable since they’re home-made—I want them to go to good homes!

Q. I would like to pay some other way (not Paypal).

A. I’m sorry, I can only take Paypal.

Q. When will this purge end?

A. At dawn. When they’re all gone. However, anything that’s not gone in a month or so (end of March) will probably get cut up into quilting squares.

Q. I have a question that you were unable to anticipate! How can I ask it?

A. Leave your question as a comment on this post and I will answer it as soon as possible.

Picking Knits

Turner with gored skirt and pockets
black knit t-shirt dress (Cashmerette Turner)

So a few Saturdays ago, I woke up with one burning idea: I needed to hack the Cashmerette Turner dress to have a six-gore skirt with patch-ish pockets.

Why? No earthly idea. If it were the beforetimes, I’d at least have the excuse of frequent air travel, but at this point I haven’t been on a plane since February of 2020. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This is my second shot at the Turner—I made a wearable muslin a while back just to kick the tires, so to speak. It was so easy to put together (and fit so well, with minimal adjustments) that I thought “huh, how can I make this more difficult?”

But even splitting up the skirt and adding on-gore pockets can’t overcomplicate the Turner. It’s SUCH a fast sew—I think I spent more time winding stretch thread on bobbins and remembering how to use my twin needle setup than I did actually putting it together. It definitely took me more time to trace and hack the pattern than it did to construct this dress!

This fabric is thick (think old-style Hanes Beefy-T, heavier than jersey) knit cotton with some lycra or spandex in it; it has a nice recovery. (It was on super-sale at Cali Fabrics, so of course it’s not available anymore.) There are some drag lines in the picture above, but that’s mostly because my dress form is a bit small now (it broke and is no longer adjustable, or, rather, I am more adjustable than it is, although over a longer time period).

When I make this again (and I probably will, if I can find the right fabric … it would be cute in a lightweight sweatshirting which I’m pretty sure I already have in my stash) I have some further hacks … the pockets would be better if they started a bit higher on the inner edge, or I might play with having them integrated into the gore instead of on top. I meant to reinforce the side seams along the pocket seams with some clear elastic, but I ran out after the waistband, so it will have to wait until I buy some more. The skirt could also be shortened by a few inches (I don’t mind the longer length, but I don’t really need it, either).

The heavy knit means it’s not very staticky (my main complaint about jersey knit dresses; evidently I have an electric personality which results in clingy, shocky knits), and it hangs nicely. It’s also very comfortable (I mean, why wouldn’t it be? It’s a giant t-shirt with pockets!)

Turner bodice
The neck binding here is some knit binding I had that miraculously was the same tone
Turner pocket (with errant thread)
a better look at the pocket (and the thread I didn’t clip yet)
Turner hem
the double-needle hem (I stiffened the hem with knit fusible interfacing cut in 2″ strips)

I definitely feel late to the ‘sewing knits is great’ party. I don’t wear a lot of t-shirts so the gateway project of “make a custom tee” never caught my eye. And until recently, I didn’t have a rotary cutting mat big enough for my cutting table, so cutting knits was always fraught—I always seemed to pull them out of grain when cutting with scissors. And the revelation that is stretch sewing thread! (Kids, come onto my lawn, I need to tell you about how I used to have to wind bobbins uphill, in the snow, both ways!)

Also, the knits available for home sewing have gotten a LOT better, especially for natural-fiber snobs like me. (I remember walking through the fabric store touching knits and hating the scratchy, oily, slippery hand of everything I could afford.) The prints are better now too, she said, at the end of a post about a plain black dress.

Might as well jump(er)

front Grainline Farrow jumper

This is one of my favorite fabrics (and favorite patterns). (You might recognize the fabric from this dress—which I still wear—and this one, which I took apart and from which some of this yardage was recovered.)

The pattern is the Grainline Farrow, modified a bit to turn it into a jumper. (The Farrow has a sleeveless version, which is not quite the same as a jumper version …)

back Grainline Farrow jumper
Farrow back (The bright dots on these pics are sunlight—weird for where I live, I know!)

Because I didn’t have much fabric, I kind of took a “this is deliberate” approach to just picking a stripe direction for each major section and rolling with it. The center front stripe below the pocket isn’t quite right but … eh. “Good enough for Zoom”, that’s my new motto.

pockets Grainline Farrow jumper
pocket + piping
bias binding Grainline Farrow jumper
neck bias
other side Grainline Farrow jumper
side view, slightly dizzying, in a ‘welcome to Castrovalva’ way

I’ve made a few other Farrow jumpers, mostly in denim/heavy twill/corduroy, but I don’t think I’ve blogged any of them. They’re pretty utilitarian, but make a great work-from-home uniform with a long-sleeved tee and leggings underneath. (If you’d told my eighteen-year-old self that someday I would wear Birkenstocks and socks every day for a year, BY CHOICE, I’m pretty sure she would have looked at you with horror.)

I’ve been trying to plan out more projects that will sew down my stash/remnant pile. (I thought that making a metric faceton of masks, a braided rag rug, and enough 2″ squares for a king-size quilt would have taken care of the remnant problem but … lol no. Comments are open for suggestions …) This is the first of two (the other is a buffalo-plaid Fringe that I hope to finish this week, it’s all done but the neck facing/waist seam/hemming/shouting).