Vogue 1250: I think it’s a go this time!

Well, here’s my second go at this very popular dress by Donna Karan.  The first one was a disaster due to a bad fabric choice, but this version is wearable.  It’s amazing how a particular fabric makes or breaks a design.  I used a poly-lycra knit from Emma One Sock that’s been in my stash since last summer.  It’s a green-grey feather print on a python print background.  Yeah, I know it sounds odd, but it works.  It’s a mid-weight knit with substantial body which helps with the skimming and shaping on this dress.  I must say I’m very pleasantly surprised with the quality of this jersey.  It was a 3H day today with the heat and humidity around 38C, so it was the perfect “test” weather to see just how (un)comfortable this poly-lycra would be.  Surprisingly very comfortable without that horrible scratchy itchy suffocating feeling that has been my experience with poly-lycras in the past.  Way to go EOS!

So here’s what I did differently this time.  I changed the size from my last run of this dress:  I cut my regular size through the bodice (no FBA) and one size smaller through the skirt, and since I’m slightly pear-shaped, that means I cut a straight size.  The only adjustments were my usual 1” short waist adjustment; a small addition to the armscye on the back bodice piece to give a more “round” look to the armhole and provide more coverage; and about 3” of additional width to the cowl facing.  I will confess to copying Kay’s design changes for the cowl and armscye, which you can read about on her blog.  Thank you, Kay!

I’m still not so enamoured of this dress that I need a second version.  One is definitely enough.  It’s passable in this print, but contrary to popular opinion, I don’t like it enough to sew another!

Pattern Review: Vogue 1220

V1220 sideI think this dress should be the “Vogue Pattern of the Year”.  So many people have sewn it up and it looks so great no matter what you do with it!

When Vogue published this pattern, I loved it.  It’s such an interesting take on the eternal shirt-dress, and the little “Donna Karan” details in this make it fun to put together and flattering.

V 1220 backFabric:  I chose to make this up in a nice chocolate-brown stretch (cotton-lycra) poplin that was – SURPRISE!! – at my local Fabricland.  Now, maybe that’s not really a surprise, but the Fabriclands in my area rarely carry really nice stuff and I was pleasantly surprised by the lightness of this fabric and the tightness of the weave.  It sewed up beautifully.  I can’t wait to see how it wears.  Here’s the back view.

Notes:  This pattern went together easily.  It’s rated “average”, and I would definitely agree with this.  There’s enough work in here to make it a day-long (or more) project and little things that require accurate markings and attention.  This is perhaps not a project to finish or work on while you’re sleepy.  The pattern markings were accurate and went together nicely, but there was one step in the instructions that threw me for a bit.  And I have to confess it’s probably due to my laziness.  You see, I will sometimes just glance at the picture instead of reading the instructions and continue on that way (maybe that’s why I have such trouble with Burda magazine’s instructions – I have to read and re-read them sometimes!)  P5310002Anyhow, the drawing of the button fly vs. the length of the facing in Step # 21 had me wondering, what the heck?  When I pin basted the fly into the facing, it was as long as the hem – and it’s not the case in the picture!  So I had to check the pattern pieces and realized that the drawing is wrong.  Go figure. Oh well, it’s the little things such as this that make me pay attention!

V1220 side frontI bought the required yardage, but there wasn’t quite enough to cut the tie in one piece, as instructed, so I put a French seam at the centre back of the tie.  I don’t know if the yardage shrank in the prewashing…  But it’s just as good as cutting it in one piece.  The other issue I had was setting the sleeves.  Has anyone else had this problem?  I don’t think I’ve ripped out and re-set little 1-inch sections of a sleeve head so many times in my life.  I just could NOT get the ease to work smoothly.  Perhaps this was a quirk of my tightly-woven cotton?  Anyways, I ended up pin basting the sleeve about every 1/8″, which is not something I usually do.  This probably doesn’t reflect on the pattern, but it was really annoying after about the 3rd time.

On a final note, I think I’m really going to like this dress.  I’ve always wanted a shirt dress, and this is the first one I’ve had in my closet in about 10 years.  Actually, it’s the first self-stitched one ever!  I’m thinking this might be the summer of the shirt dress in my life.  I’d really like to tackle the Chado Ralph Rucci take on it.  Maybe I’ll be ridiculous and actually make it in a silk taffeta.  How’s that for totally impractical?V1220 front 2

Oh, the charm of Donna Karan!

I’ve finished yet another Donna Karan design – Vogue 2064.  I made view A out of a lovely rich plummy purple rayon knit.  Now, you know me and patterns that say “No provision for above-waist adjustment”.  Whatever.  I’m shortwaisted, so it’s going to be adjusted, like it, possible or not. And I took pictures of my pattern layout prior to cutting it to show you how I adjusted the length on this odd pattern (the bodice is 3 pieces – left front & back, right front and sleeves), and my camera’s memory card died.

Digression begins here. And I mean died.  Have you ever had a memory card in your digital camera die on you?  This is a first for me, but I was prepared!  When I purchased my Olympus camera back in 2004, every website I read said it wasn’t a matter of if your memory card would corrupt, but when.  So I downloaded a nifty little piece of software called Card Recovery Software.  I’ve used it in the past quite successfully for pictures that I deleted, but wanted back.  But today…. well… let’s just say every single sector on the disk was corrupted.  ARGH!  So no pictures of this lovely top or my pattern layouts!!!!  So sad… so sad…..  Digression ends here.

Well, now that I’ve got that off my chest, here’s a diagram of where I shortened the pattern.  The red lines indicate where I folded the pattern horizontally, each fold taking in a total of 1″ on the front bodice, and 2″ on the back.

Click here for a bigger picture

Now, I have to confess that I didn’t do the muslin thing for this top.  I did a tissue fit on my 1940’s dress form, and trusted the give in the jersey to make up the width through the bust that I would have added in a woven fabric.  But I needed to shorten the waist.  I just picked points about 3 inches below the armscye on the bodice fronts and at the waistline marking on the back for my adjustments.  I did have to redraw the neckline drape on the left front (pattern piece #1 in the picture above) once the tissue was folded down 1 inch, but the adjustments worked beautifully. The top went together very easily, and it’s amazingly flattering.

~ Vogue 2064 top ~ pants Vogue 2390

Here’s another picture of mostly the top.  Don’t you love the back of my house and the driveway?  I found the colours so difficult to photograph, so I went outside today (November 2, 2010) and stood in the sunshine so the details would show up on the top.  The pants are from my pre-blogging days – an OOP Vogue suit pattern by Anne Klein in black wool crepe.  They’re very wide, so I usually wear them for dressier occasions.  Sorry I’m headless!

I’m so pleasantly surprised!  Everything I’ve made that’s designed by Donna Karan looks so good and is comfortable to wear, too.  I’ll be making up the pants in a chocolate RPL from Emma One Sock when it arrives.   Stay tuned!

The Fall Jersey: The Final Episode

Well, it’s finally done.  I’ve sewed the last piece of jersey on my sewing table into Vogue 1087, another design by Donna Karan.  I used a piece of lovely autumn green RPL – it’s got some substance, and this dress is unlined.  I’m hoping the slightly heavier knit will take this through the fall – and perhaps the winter – with a jacket.

I really liked the draped front of the dress, and the bodice!  No worries about a wardrobe malfunction here.  That said, I’m just really liking DK’s designs lately – they just suit a woman’s body and take away a lot of the STRESS of looking put-together.

I did some alterations, but I didn’t do an FBA given the stretch of the jersey – I thought it would give me the extra couple of inches I need.  I did shorten the bodice back 2″.

I’ve drawn red lines where I made my adjustments.  I only shortened pieces 1 (R front & back) and 2 (L front & back) by 1 inch instead of the 2″ on piece 5 (bodice back) because of my usual bust length requirements.  I also cut the waist and skirt up one size.  I cut the bodice front (piece 4) one size bigger than usual instead of doing the FBA – I just wanted to make sure I had the width I required.

The markings on the patterns are detailed and accurate – I made sure I marked every single one meticulously – and they went together well, with the exceptions noted below.


invisible catchstiching on armhole edge

There is a lot of hand stitching.  All the armhole edges and the wrap front edges are hemmed invisibly.  I chose to use a tiny catchstitch because they’re secure yet flexible, and, well, knits move around!


invisible hem on inside of wrap front

Well, I followed the instructions to the letter (and diagram), and they made perfect sense and the garment went together beautifully.  I really had no “HUH?” moments until I put the half-finished garment on my dress form.  And this is what I noticed:  On the pattern front, the left side wraps over top of the right side.  But even though I followed the directions P.E.R.F.E.C.T.L.Y., my garment wraps the opposite way.

half-finished on my dress form

I think I studied the instructions and re-did the steps about six times, just to make sure that I followed them correctly.  I did.  Either the instructions are backwards (and so are the pattern pieces) or the pattern envelope image was flipped.  I tried changing it around, but the two front pieces are cut slightly differently, so I decided to just leave it.  Who in the world is going to notice, anyways?

As I mentioned previously, there are a lot of unfinished edges in the garment, and three steps leave out finishing instructions altogether.

At Step # 9, the pleat on the left front (R front, in reality) side is only basted.  This leaves a very large mess once you get to Step # 13, so I stitched the pleat from the inside of the garment, not from the outside, overlapping the edges to match the markings as the instructions would have you do it.

Step # 9 pleat stitched from the inside

Then at Step # 13, the instructions simply have you stitch a seam about 1 inch long to tack the front and back together.

Step # 13

If you follow this to the letter, the edge of the pleats (where the stitching is) hangs loose and is in danger of being in constant view to whoever is looking at you.

incomplete pleat as per instructions

So once the garment was complete, I fell-stitched the R front edge over the pleats and loose edges.

There is also no indication that the edge of the R front should be hemmed….

unfinished R front wrap edge

…. but I did, because I didn’t want that raw edge waiting for a chance to exhibit itself.

pin basted R front edge waiting to be hemmed

The last little bit of finishing that’s left out is in Step # 31.

just press in the armhole edge?!?!

So I invisibly hemmed the back armhole edges on both sides to hold them in place and give the garment a clean look.

All the seam allowances in this garment are unfinished.  I don’t think this will bother me because the RPL is quite stable, and after abusing a piece of  it horribly in the hope it would disintegrate and fray around the raw edges (to no avail), I decided to leave the edges unfinished.  I must confess I’m not crazy about a completely unlined dress.  I usually line all my dresses, even if it means I draft my own lining, so wearing this will be an adventure.

Some final comments on the fit of the dress:

  1. The skirt is quite snug – you can tell from the pattern envelope.  I think it’s a nice snugness, but if you’re a bit shy about it, cut the skirt up a size.
  2. The bodice is VERY generous.  Remember I cut it one size bigger to accommodate my non-existent FBA?  Well, I ended up cutting it down a full size, and it fits me perfectly.  Make a note of this!  I always need to do a full 1 inch bust adjustment on a pattern, but this one does not require it.
  3. The bodice hangs loose on the inside – this could be annoying, depending on you.
  4. The bodice piece is not symmetrical.  Some reviewers trued up the bodice, but I didn’t bother.  I’m not symmetrical by anyone’s definition, and the asymmetricality (is that a word??) of the bodice worked on my asymmetrical body.

Would I make this dress again?  Yes, because the fit is unbelievably flattering, and I was pleased with how it turned out.

Would I recommend it to others?  Yes, if you’re willing to take your time and do a lot of hand finishing and use your experience to fill in the gaps in the instructions.   The pattern is rated “Advanced”, which I’ve always found to mean Vogue is giving you the basic order of construction with some special notes about oddities of the design, but they expect you to be able to fill in the gaps with good dressmaking or tailoring techniques.

The Fall Jersey: Episode III

Well, I got down and finally decided on what to do with a rayon jersey that I ordered from ebay years ago.  It was one of those pieces hanging around my sewing table.  After the usual indecision about what to do with it…. as a total aside, this indecision thing is chronic.  It always happens with I buy a piece of fabric without having the idea for it before I buy it.  Usually if I see a design that I like, then I can go hunting for the fabric and voilà!!! The garment is cut and stitched no problem.  But sometimes I do the reverse:  fall in love with a piece of fabric and then have no idea what to do with it.   This lovely piece of knit was one of those problem fabrics.

First, I didn’t really know what it was.  I had purchased it off ebay because it was supposed to be silk.  Yeah, right.  No silk here.  But what the heck WAS it?  I finally did a burn test, as blogged about earlier.  And boy, does it have 2-way stretch.  More like 360º-way stretch.  And it’s surprisingly fragile.  Not really great qualities for a jersey if it’s supposed to hold its shape over time.

Oh, well…. I took the plunge and cut out Vogue 1027 which I had previously made, reviewed, worn once or twice, and trashed due to the absolute horribleness of the polyester fabric.  UGH!!!! I still shudder when I think of how it felt in hot, hazy, humid summertime Toronto.  But it was my first foray into sewing knits and the fabric was very cheap, so I thought there wouldn’t be much to lose if I messed it up.

I have to say that I didn’t make any adjustments to the pattern for this dress.  There was enough fabric to cut the bodice twice if I needed to, and I just wasn’t sure about the give in the fabric.  I had originally thought I would have to add width through the bust, since this was a problem area in the first dress.  No such problem with this über-giving fabric.  I just cut and sewed – what a NICE TREAT that was, considering all the fussing and thinking usually required for a garment these days (this size!).

I was very pleased with the dress.  I can’t wait to wear it tomorrow for my dear SIL’s 40th birthday party. The colour is fantabulous, the fabric is cool and breezy and it looks so terrific!  Thank you, Donna Karan and Vogue patterns, for another great dress!

The Fall Jersey: Episode I

Well, I cut into the fabric and cleared my sewing table of one piece of jersey:  the wildly coloured animal print cotton jersey from EmmaOneSock.  Hey – she’s having a great sale all weekend, so click on the link and buy yourself something.  NOTE:  she is not responsible (and neither am I, by the way of referral) for any fabric addiction and the damage purchases may cause to you or your sewing budget!!!  🙂

Anyways…. I decided it was time to cut out Donna Karan’s dress (Vogue 1159) and see what would happen with it.  I was excited to work with this fabric.  It wasn’t slinky or hard to work with.  It had a middle-weight substance to it that made it comfortable to handle.

So I taped together the three sections of the front-back piece.  Yup – the skirt front and back and the bodice front and side backs and the shoulders are all one very VERY big pattern piece.

pattern pieces for Vogue 1159

So I opened up the jersey, spread it open and laid the pattern piece down.  I had a very good look at that pattern piece for a couple of reasons:  1) I am short-waisted so I always make a 2″ adjustment on waist length; 2) an FBA is required at all times for me, even with a two-way stretch knit, particularly if it’s a cross0ver type neckline such as this; and 3) the pattern specifically states “NO PROVISION FOR ABOVE WAIST ADJUSTMENT”.  Hmmm…. Well, I never actually believe it when Vogue writes that.  It just usually means they haven’t put the horizontal “lengthen or shorten here” lines on their pattern.  I have found that it does not necessarily mean that you can’t adjust the pattern to fit yourself properly above your waist.  It just means you need to do the fitting, fussing, thinking and calculating for the adjustment using your own brains and skills.  Hey – that’s how I learned – trying and failing and trying again.

So… I shortened the bodice front by 2″ at the shoulders and re-marked the pleats.  After measuring the width of the bodice at the bustline, I decided against adding any more as an FBA.  I calculated there would be enough to satisfy my modesty requirements.

So I cut and transferred all the pattern markings v.e.r.y c.a.r.e.f.u.l.l.y, keeping in mind that some of the reviews at PatternReview.com for this pattern said the notches were off in anything other than a size 10.  I cut a size 16.

Then I started sewing.  And this dress was fun to sew.  I like a challenge that’s outside the usual staid design demographic, and I really enjoyed putting this dress together.  I found the instructions and the diagrams were well-written and for the most part, easy to understand.  For the two or three times that I didn’t quite get what was wanted, I held up the garment, had a good look and could see where we were going with the construction.  That said, there are two instances that stand out in my mind where I did a “huh!?”:

Step #12:  This is where the markings do NOT match.

upper edge of skirt notches should match the bottom of the back

But this is how the notches actually (don’t) match up.

mismatched notches

Well, I just ignored the mismatch as it went together properly otherwise.  This discrepancy showed up in Step # 18 when the lining is attached to the bodice, as well.  But if you get the small circle markings matched up at the front of the skirt, then you can ignore the mismatched notches on the waistline seam.  There was no extra fabric to ease in or other adjustments to be made.  I just had to pass over the mismatched markings.

Step #18:  With wrong sides together, pin upper edge of lining to upper back between small circles, etc., etc. I pin basted this first, and thought, “That’s funny.  If I stitch the wrong side of the lining to the wrong side of the bodice back, then the RS (right side) of the lining is going to be facing out, instead of towards the wearer, like a lining should.”  Or maybe I just read it wrong.  Anyhow, I left it like that for two reasons:  1) the darts in the lining are facing me, so there’s no seeing the outline of them through the fashion fabric; and 2) it finished the inside waistline seam nicely.

Other than these two stop-and-think-about-this-for-a-minute moments, the dress went together very easily.  I did stitch the underarm seams an extra 2″ so my bra would be covered properly, as noted in the other reviews posted about this dress. One other thing that kind of bugs the everything-has-to-be-beautifully-finished-on-the-inside part of me is that this dress has a lot of unfinished edges on the inside.  I did serge some, but in retrospect, I would probably just double stitch the seams and trim the allowances close to the second line of stitching instead of serging them.  I think it would produce a neater finishing effect.

By the way, what is it about Donna Karan’s dresses?  This is the second dress I’ve made of hers where the armscye sits at the underbust line.  This just doesn’t work when you’re wearing a bra, and I’m not one to put a cami underneath a dress that gapes open.  If I do make this dress again I’ll shorten the length of the armhole opening by 2 or 3 inches.

~ the finished dress ~

I really really like this dress. It’s super comfortable to wear and it’s very unique in it’s design.  I would love to have another one in a solid colour – it would show the draping design off better than this print does.  Like I said, I had a great time putting this dress together.  Now I’m going to have a great time wearing it!

Vogue 1175: Architecture by Donna Karan

Well, I’ve finally started a blog.  I’ve been debating about it for a long time.  But I love to sew and there are so may wonderfully creative people who have such lovely blogs, that I thought I’d like to add my voice and share some of the fun, quirky and beautiful things that inspire me.

I just finished my version of a Donna Karan dress, courtesy of Vogue Patterns.   I was very intrigued with the design of the dress, and WOW – was it ever an ingenious feat of engineering.  I don’t have a clue in the world about pattern drafting.  After making this dress, I wish I did!

I don’t know if I’ll actually WEAR this dress – but it was sure fun to make!  The pattern described the dress as a close-fitting, above mid-knee length, pullover, lined dress has contrast bodice back, seam detail, pleated front and back, side front in-seam pockets and puffed hem.

The markings on the pattern were very good, and the instructions were clear. The only exception to this was the instructions for the front bodice pleat in the lining, which I’m still not sure of, although I made it work.

I was drawn to the dress by the very unusual-ness of the design. Vogue used to publish “Vogue Individualist” patterns in the 80’s and 90’s, and I loved them: I was guaranteed not to walk into myself on the street (which is one of the reasons that I started sewing – I didn’t want to look like everyone else!) But it wasn’t until I started putting this dress together that I really appreciated the absolute genius of design. The pieces are cut sometimes oddly on the straight grain to make use of the bias in areas that could use a bit of give i.e. the front bodice. However, bias, even in a medium-weight linen like I used, does have a tendency to keep stretching. Problem solved by the design: almost every bias edge is connected to a straight grain edge. I am totally wowed by the architectural engineering that went into this pattern design.

I sewed this out of a medium-weight linen and matching (fluke!) washed silk charmeuse from my stash. The pattern suggests LIGHTWEIGHT linen, and I would agree with that from the construction point of view, but the medium-weight linen shows the design of the dress off better than a lighter weight fabric would. I think the original on the pattern must be made of the paper taffeta or something similar, which would hold the pleats crisply without a lot of weight or bulk.

It was a challenge to fit.  I made many pattern adjustments.  I thought long and hard about this adjustment, since I didn’t want to add any darts to the design, so I decided to expand the front pleat and slash up to the shoulder to add the width that I required. I also lengthened the front of the dress (a triangular piece) by 2″ so that the bottom of the neckline would not be at the bustpoint. I wanted to be able to wear this dress without double-sided tape. 🙂

Then I had to adjust the lining.

FBA for lining

During the construction of the dress, I really noticed the bulk of the linen I was using. I graded all the seams, but in the back the linen is attached to the silk charmeuse bodice. I was concerned about the weight, although again, the design ingeniously used the grain to make the back bodice pieces stable in order to prevent sagging. However, I underlined the back bodice with silk organza just to add that extra stability given the weight of the linen. Then I graded the seams and catch-stitched them in place.

Once I tried the dress on, I realized I had a problem in the bust area. I made further pin alterations. Apparently I had added too much in my original FBA. Also, the lining through the bust area is cut on the straight grain, which totally negated the give of the bias fabric. So I ended up re-cutting the front top half of the lining pattern adding a pleat from the shoulder to the bust point to add the width I required through the bust point without bulking up the shoulder of the bodice.

I also forgot about my usual waist shortening of 2″ in my original pattern adjustment. So I shortened the shoulder the required amount which had an added benefit: it brought the armscye up 2″ so that any bra is covered. The original armscye was at the bustpoint line, which is too low if you’re planning to wear undergarments.

I had a fantastic time putting it together and marveling over the drafting. I think this dress would be an AMAZING evening piece. What a statement dress. I love pieces like this – they’re one-of-a-kind and a little bit edgy. And that’s why I love to sew what I wear!