If you like podcasts, and this blog, and, uh, word stuff? Then you will most likely enjoy hearing me and Matt Haughey talk about sewing, Project Runway, and dictionaries on his excellent podcast, Hobby Horse. Check out the episode here.
This particular dress is made out of (I think) four men’s shirts of varying gingham and stripe patterns (I tried really hard to find all different ginghams but ended up with the stripes, which I think worked out okay).
I thought about trying to cut the waistband so that it too would unbutton, but the placket width was slightly off (and I was more than slightly lazy).
But I remembered to take construction pictures this time! So here’s how I cut out that center front skirt panel from the front of a shirt—I extended the front panel to include the curved hem.
Here’s a closeup:
Basically, I created a new pattern piece for the full center front panel (since it’s too hard to put buttons on the fold) and drew a line to mark the CF, which I could then line up over the center of the buttons in the shirt. (I did the same for the CF bodice and CB bodice & skirt pieces [not pictured]).
For the CB, I was able to keep the locker loop and yoke, which I always like (but not enough to go out of my way to sew myself, oh no):
The pocket backing is cut on the bias from the sleeve (men’s shirt sleeves have a lot of fabric in them):
This is right after I resewed the front pocket to overlap the side bodice piece — I usually use washaway tape to hold the pocket in place while I sew, because otherwise things go badly.
And the piecing of that, since I couldn’t get the curved hems on the shirts to match up well with the pieces I was cutting. (I actually like how this turned out better …)
I just took the curved hem bits I had left over and eyeballed how they should match the front skirt, like so:
Then it was just a matter of making sure I had seam allowance on the other side, too:
Unless you already have a lot of old men’s shirts lying around, making a shirtdress out of shirts is not that much less expensive than buying yardage (at least not in SF, where a decent shirt at a thrift store will cost you $5-9, depending on condition and whether or not it’s on 50% off sale that day). It takes 4-5 L or XL shirts for one dress, and I try to limit myself to shirts that are unwearable as shirts when I can—ones with stained cuffs, frayed collars, or minor holes that I can work around. I hear tell there’s a Goodwill warehouse in Burlingame that has a ‘pay-by-the-pound’ sale, but I haven’t gone yet—if you’ve gone, feel free to leave your report in the comments!
I want to make a version that is all different flannel plaids for fall, but finding coordinating flannel plaids on intermittent thrift-store trips is a loooooooong project. (It’d would also be fun to make one in Hawaiian-shirt prints, or one in novelty prints … )
[This is not a post about dresses, so if you only want to read about dresses, please either scroll down or wait until I post something else, thanks!]
A few weeks ago I was in SF’s Japantown and found that the grocery there (Nijiya Market) sells my favorite coffee-flavored candy, coffeebeat. (I love this stuff and hadn’t been able to find it for ages, so this made me very happy!)
Coffee candy is odd, in that it melds something that is considered ‘for grownups’ (coffee) with something that’s for kids (candy). This narrow audience of immature adults and/or precocious children means that there isn’t a ton of coffee-flavored candy out there. (I’m deliberately leaving out high-end fancy chocolate that includes coffee.)
“Erin,” you might be saying (and are saying for the purposes of me setting up this blog post) “If coffeebeat is your favorite coffee candy, how do all the other available coffee candies rank against it?” I’m so glad you asked, imaginary blog interlocutor! Here, I will rank all the best coffee-flavored candies for you!
NB: I don’t actually like to DRINK coffee (other than cold brew) so none of these candies are ranked by how well they replicate the experience of drinking a hot cup of coffee. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I know we covered this above, but coffeebeat’s particular blend of coffee, chocolate, and a crunchy candy shell, plus the adorable packaging, puts coffeebeat at the top of the coffee-candy list.
2. Coffee Crisp
Does what it says on the package: is coffee-flavored, is crisp. (In the small print you will also find that this is Canadian.) These are addictive and my son knows that if he brings me back one of these when he returns home from college I will do all his laundry without complaint, which makes this a pretty powerful candy bar.
3. Coffee Nips
These are delicious, but terrifyingly sticky and the sworn enemy of dental work. You can lose a filling just opening the box. (I imagine unscrupulous dentists keeping bowls of these in their waiting rooms.) Nips come in other flavors, including Butter Rum, which is what you buy when you think Werther’s are for whippersnappers.
4. Coffee Rio
Coffee Rio is a kinder, gentler Coffee Nip (at least, texture-wise) which comes in more coffee flavors (although I’ve never seen anyone eat the Raspberry Mochas, and I would be slightly weirded out if you told me those were your favorite, but de gustibus, whatever). These are easier to find, being carried by most Trader Joe’s, and come in sugar-free versions, too.
Hopjes taste a little more on the bitter side to me, but they have the best typography (after coffeebeat, of course) so that’s a definite plus. They’re also usually available at bulk or penny-candy shops (for grandma? I don’t know, several of the Amazon reviews for Hopjes mention grandmas) which makes them more accessible.
These are a hard candy that have a soft center, but not a liquid one (this is an important distinction). Sperlari candies are also classy, because they’re Italian, but the best Sperlari candies are the anise ones.
7. Bali’s Best Coffee
The espresso and latte flavors have fillings that can be a little grainy (and disconcerting if you weren’t expecting them) but the plain coffee flavor is delightful and not too strong.
Kopiko is a fine (and caffeinated) coffee candy that comes individually wrapped. Kopiko is great for when you have a sore throat but still want to maintain the pretense that you are a working person doing work things like a worker (but should really just be zonked out on the couch with those lozenges that make you think of yodeling).
CoffeeGo’s schtick is that they replace coffee. They do not. They also do not replace candy. I’m not sure what they replace.
10. Pocket Coffee
You might think it’s called “Pocket Coffee” because it’s convenient to keep in your pocket, but I suspect (from the taste) that the coffee in Pocket Coffee is actually brewed from pocket lint. If you are old enough to remember liquid-center chewing gum, and are thinking “huh, I’d like to experience that again, only with cold espresso,” then maybe this is for you.
I haven’t tried the coffee Werther’s, this Brazilian coffee candy, these suspiciously-unreviewed Coffee Drops, or these Woogie Fine Drops (the sellers describe eating them as “sinking into an abyss of rich and succulent coffee flavor”, so be warned).
I may have tried these French hard candies in junior high school (they look familiar and are supposedly available at Epcot (!) which makes them exactly the kind of thing I would have purchased at 13) and these Simpkins coffee “travel sweets”, but I have no firm recollection of either, just that at one point I had a nice round tin with coffee candy in it, which I later used to hold my D&D dice.
If you have a favorite coffee candy, feel free to rave about it in the comments!
Been busier than any number of busy things you could mention (the devil in a high wind; an English oven at Christmas; a bag of fleas) and so sewing has taken a backish seat, but I have managed to make a few more Seamwork Veronicas (the panel version for subscribers).
Today I managed to take pictures of one of them that’s been in process for a couple weeks (this is actually a very quick pattern to sew, it takes a couple weeks if you only get ten minutes a day to sew in …).
Forgive the foreshortened perspective … here’s the bodice:
The back shirring:
And the whole back:
You may be saying, “huh, Erin, I don’t remember the Veronica dress looking quite like that” so here is a (not-exhaustive) list of the things I have altered:
- added 2 inches to the center front and back skirt so that I could get more fullness
- changed the pockets from the kangaroo kind to actual scoop pockets in the skirt side panels
- omitted the center back seam in the bodice, skirt, and waistband and just cut everything on the fold
- did a FBA (full butt adjustment) on the center back to keep the skirt from being shorter in the back than the front
- shortened the bodice a bit to lessen the blousiness
- finished the hem with a 3″ bias band
- finished the neck and sleeves with bias binding
- changed the back channel elastic to elastic shirring (with this very nice Seamwork tutorial)
- scooped the neck about 1.5 inches
As you may have already figured out, my topstitching is not what you would call precise, but I am calling it wabi-sabi and retiring from the ring. (It was fun to do and I think it livens up the joint.)
The fabric is a cotton/silk? blend (maybe?) very very very lightweight not-gray-not-blue-somehow-both chambray that I’m sure I bought from FabricMartFabrics a while back. I would dig through my email receipts to confirm but 1) I’m lazy and 2) everything on FMF sells out in less than a week so there’s no utility in doing so; I can’t link to it. The fabric is a bit sheerer than I expected but I only own all of the slips in the northern hemisphere so we’re good on that front. (And back.)
Considerable alterations aside, this is a very comfortable dress for summer, and I’m all set to make at least, oh, three or four more until I get tired of it. It’s just so darn easy, both to make and to wear! (I’ve already made two others, both in seersucker, that I haven’t photographed yet.)
Next step for this dress is to do a version that has panels in the back as well as the front … and maybe even a version with a flat collar?
I have decided that for Winter 2017-2018 I really want to dress like an overgrown three-year-old in A-line dresses and bright tights, so I’ve made two more Grainline Farrows to help me with this goal. Here’s one of them:
The fabric is from a German Etsy seller, who seems to have lots and lots of print sweatshirting. It’s medium-weight and lovely and soft on the inside but I’m already starting to notice a little bit of pilling after very little wear; luckily the pattern is so busy that it hides it so far.
Here’s a closer view of the fabric, plus a bit of the neckline finishing:
Matching this seam is WAY WAY easier if you use Wonder tape and baste UP from just a few inches below the seam. Then you can check to make sure it’s matched before going back and sewing the entire front seam for real.
Here’s the back center seam, where you can probably already see a tiny bit of pilling:
I cut size 10 in the previous versions I made and in fabrics without stretch they were a little tight in the armscye; for this version I cut a 12 at the shoulder, narrowing to a 10 just above the pocketline seam, and that gave me the added ease I was hoping for. (This fabric has virtually no stretch, so it ended up being a good test of the sizing.)
I also made the Grainline Farrow in a sleeveless version in black sweatshirt knit to wear as a jumper, but I’m not very happy with that version—the fabric I found is slightly too shiny and polyestery, and the first time I wore it, with a gray t-shirt and gray leggings, I felt like a postulant in an order of Courrèges-inspired space nuns. (Which is not a BAD feeling, to be sure, but wasn’t really the aesthetic I was going for.)
Once you have the rhythm down this dress is ridiculously easy and quick to sew, even given the piping, bias neckline trim, swapping out for the double needle, etc. etc. The hardest part is finding suitably thick, stable knits! (Recommendations welcome!) If you’re less impatient than I am I highly recommend either shopping in person, or ordering swatches before committing; I have a couple of pieces in my stash right now that I ordered too rashly and will now need to find alternative patterns for … I am going to make a few in woven fabrics (probably flannel) but the knit ones are so comfortable!
I’ve been traveling a lot lately (including a few long intercontinental flights) and I wanted a soft knit dress that would let me sleep comfortably in the seat and let me feel like myself walking through the terminal. (Yes, I know, I could just wear yoga pants on the plane like 99.99% of humanity but I don’t really feel like *myself* in yoga pants, unless I am actually Doing Yoga.)
I even considered—gasp!—buying RTW, but I could not find a knit dress that was longer than knee length, heavier than t-shirt weight, or HAD POCKETS. And we all know that pockets are NON-NEGOTIABLE.
Enter the Grainline Farrow.
So I made this up in a cotton/poly sweatshirt fabric (slight stretch and fleece-backed!) and it is really, really comfortable. I did some altering—I cut a 10, but used the size 0 neckline cutting line for more of a scoop. I cut the pocket backing out of a lighter-weight fabric, instead of cutting the skirt front and pocket backing as one. Since the whole point of pocket seam lines is to put piping in them, I really wanted a seam there and not a fold. (Also, if you cut the pocket backing separately, you can get away with less yardage of your main fabric.)
I deepened the pockets (no surprise), lengthened the skirt slightly, and shortened the sleeves. I faced the hem instead of turning it up, but did not face the sleeves or the neckline (I used knit bias binding instead). I even used a double-needle for the bias binding, which I’ve never done before (in 30+ years of sewing). Verdict: it was easy, I’d do it again.
The pockets are a bit droopy here (I was carrying a LOT in them) so next time I think I will add a little elastic to that seam to help keep them from gapping. Also, you can’t see in these pics, but it has a little bit of shaped high-low hem that dips lower in back. (Some people hate high-low hems, so I figured I’d point that out.)
The above picture was actually taken on day 2 of wearing this dress—it was so comfortable on the flight over that I washed it in the hotel room so I could wear it again on the way back!
This dress was SUPER simple to make, so I decided to make two—the version below is also in fleece-backed sweatshirt knit. This is a heavier knit so it was actually a bit warm! This also had less stretch than the other version, so I ended up taking the sleeves out and cheating on the seam allowances so that I could move my arms. (If I make this again in a less-stretchy fabric I will cut a 12 or even a 14 in the sleeves.)
So as not to have TWO nearly-identical gray fleece dresses, I decided to add a collar to version 2; it’s a single layer collar finished with bias binding.
I have already planned two more of these (including one in Liberty Linford fleece). It’s just a really comfortable, well-drafted pattern that goes together quickly and has excellent pockets—what more could you want?
Hey! It’s everyone’s favorite time: accounting time!
So a couple months ago I decided to purge a bunch of me-made dresses that I just don’t wear anymore, and give half of the net proceeds to Chicago Books to Women in Prison. (Dress buyers could also request a “MADE IN A HURRY BY ERIN MCKEAN” label for their dresses for $2, and all label money would go straight to Chicago BWP.)
So, for the curious, here is how the accounting worked out:
- of 43 listed dresses, 39 sold
- 15 labels were sold at $2 each, so $30
- shipping costs were $340.55 (with the single largest shipping cost being $95.95, to send five dresses to the UK). Dresses were also sent to Australia and Canada.
- Paypal fees were $47.28
And, so, rounding up:
Thanks so much to everyone who bought a dress! (And special thanks to those of you who sent me pictures of you wearing your new dresses, they made me incandescently happy!)
The last few dresses will be on their way to Goodwill shortly. If I have time I will put labels in them—if you find one at your local Goodwill, please let me know!
Anyway, back to the dress! Obviously, I had to add pockets:
When I saw the subscriber modifications (specifically, the front panels for the skirt), my first thought was “pockets!” and my second thought was “STRIPES!”.
This fabric is a heavyish cotton knit with moderate stretch, so I fused some tricot knit interfacing to the pocket backing to keep them from pulling out of shape too much. I also zig-zagged some clear elastic along the pocket opening edge (although from this picture it looks as if I could have pulled it a bit tighter).
I added gathers to the center front and the center back to add some extra ease, and lengthened the back skirt about 3/4″ for a BBA (bubble-butt adjustment):
Because it’s a knit fabric I didn’t have to put in the back zipper (the dress goes on fine without one). When I make this again I might cut that piece on the fold to get rid of the center back seam entirely.
Also because this is knit, I didn’t do facings—I did bindings instead. I used my tried-and-true “eyeball it” method and ended up cutting the neck binding about two inches shorter than the neck measurement, which seemed to work fine:
The same technique worked for the sleeve bindings:
There are a few more refinements I would like to make—the waist elastic is a bit bulky (even though I used a thinner fabric for the inside casing). I might try it with sew-through elastic next time to get a more even gather. The stripes are a bit off on the front waistband—I thought about cutting it on the bias and stabilizing it with interfacing, but I was too lazy. It would have been a cool effect … Sewing the waistband was definitely the trickiest bit, especially with this fabric. I am sure it would have been easier with a lightweight woven.
The bodice could also be shorter by about an inch, because the weight of the skirt pulls it downward and you don’t get the nice blousy effect you see in the pattern photos.
I’m surprised that this worked as well as it did because the pattern is not really intended for knits ( ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) and I changed it *so* much. I made it in a rush because I needed a comfy knit dress for a couple of looooooong plane trips. It held up fantastically, and looked just as good getting off the plane as it did getting on.
Next version is definitely going to be a gray sweatshirt knit, possibly with piping along those front panels, and I’m also planning on making it in a blue-and-white woven seersucker (because you really can’t have TOO MANY striped dresses).
Anyone else sewn this pattern? What were your modifications?
Mavis: I spent all last night sharpening my sleeve-wings—if I don’t draw first blood in this year’s Dirigible Dollies Derby, I’m just going to plop myself right down and cry!
Doris: Don’t worry, dear, I’m sure you’ll shred the other girls—you always do! Fingers crossed that this is the year I take the Puppy Picnic Princess crown!
Mavis: Either way, we go halfsies on the judge, right?
Doris: You betcha! I think he’s almost recovered from last year.
So I was about to wrap up everything for the Great Dress Purge of 2017 when I realized that I had never taken/posted pictures of the dresses that didn’t have any. (Oops!) And needless to say, those pigs in pokes were not bought.
So I’m going to keep the Purge open another week, and here are those last few unpictured dresses waiting for new homes:
(UPDATE: this one is taken) This is the “Sherbet seersucker Frankendress”, number 18:
All the dresses (and their measurements) still available are here (four left!), and the form to request one is here, and all the other details and frequently-asked-questions are here. Just a reminder, all dresses are US$20 each (plus shipping) and I’ll be donating half of the proceeds to Chicago Books for Women in Prison.
ALL DRESSES HAVE POCKETS. (Everyone seen this thread?)