June 21, 2014

More of the Same, but with Indie Patterns.

I made a dress! This was my entry to the Franken-Indie contest at the Monthly Stitch... although I'm not entirely sure this qualifies. I did use products from two different indie pattern companies, but only one of them was an actual, physical pattern. Even if it doesn't qualify, though, I still made a nice new dress, and that's what really matters, yeah?
(Sorry about the boring photos. I tried this time, I really did, but I just can't compel myself to take solo photos outside my apartment.)
The bodice is Lekala 4357, with some modifications. For the skirt, I used By Hand London's circle skirt app. With both of these, you put in your measurements and the program generates a pattern (or, in the BHL app case, cutting instructions) customized to fit you.
My fabric is 100% cotton shirting from the Pendleton Woolen Mill outlet store. It's two-sided, and of course once I'd gone too far to change things, I started to wish I'd used the other side, but in the end, I'm still happy with this. I used two yards at 60", and had just a little left over. My notions are all vintage, thrifted--a twenty-inch metal zipper (lapped, at the side), two packages of matching rayon hem tape, and a covered belt kit. In the forty or so years since the kit was manufactured, the sticky stuff for attaching the fabric to the buckle had dried up, and I swear I spent more time getting the buckle to work than on any other part of assembling the dress. (Oh--there's also no hand sewing on the dress, which is really unusual for me. I sewed about ten stitches by hand attaching the buckle to the belt (again, the buckle...) but that's it. Kind of liberating.)

So. How did I find the patterns? I'll talk about the app first, as that's quicker. You can choose to make a quarter, half, or full circle skirt (mine's a half circle) in three lengths, although it would be easy enough to just cut a bit longer or shorter, too--that's what I did. All you need to do is insert your waist measurement, and the app calculates the radius--including seam allowance, which in the past, I've often forgotten to add when doing this on my own. It also gives a cutting layout and tells you how much fabric you'll need. No further instructions (although there are links at the bottom to waistband and zipper tutorials.) Basically, the app is useful for figuring out the waist radius to cut without having to remember math, and it eliminates the possibility of forgetting to add seam allowance. Since I tend to forget numbers immediately and have never written my radius down, I'll continue to use this if I make circle skirts in the future.
skirt full
As to the Lekala pattern--aside from the style changes I made, I cut it out the pattern pieces exactly as they were, with no adjustments for fit. That's right--no adjustments for fit. And I'm really impressed with how well this does fit. I appreciate that in addition to your width-wise measurements, Lekala takes into account your height. As a rule, I have to lengthen all bodice patterns, but I didn't need to with this one; my bust and waist were already in the right place. It's pretty awesome. (This was also the first princess-seamed garment I've ever made. I like it.) I also want to mention that in addition to the standard measurements, Lekala has fifteen or so optional measurements and adjustments you can add. I didn't use any of those (except maybe the neck--I can't remember), but can see how they might be helpful in customizing the pattern even more to your size and shape. Obviously, I can't know how these patterns will work on other bodies, but if, like me, you tend to have fitting issues, I'd definitely consider giving Lekala a try.

Unless you need a lot of help from your instructions. I didn't really follow theirs. A lot of times I don't follow instructions anyway, and I was making so many changes that in this case, it didn't really make sense for me use them, either. However, I looked over them to write the review. I can report that, although this is one of their most recent releases and hasn't been edited by an English speaker (yet), all the directions do make sense. But they are very sparse--for the dress, there are 12 steps, and no pictures. If you know the gist of what you're doing, I think the instructions would be perfectly adequate, but if you like a bit more hand-holding, well, that won't be found here.

And finally, alterations. Since this is a Franken-Indie dress, obviously there's at least one: I chopped off the Lekala dress pattern at the waist and added a half-circle skirt from the By Hand London app instead. I made a few other changes, too, though: I combined the three back bodice pieces into one, with darts (less plaid matching, yeah). I also widened the shoulders by a few inches for slightly more coverage, and added an in-seam pocket on the side of the skirt where the zipper isn't. (Both those things I simply drew myself--hope that's okay.) And I added contrast plackets to the front yoke (the original just has the yoke piece folded back on itself) and omitted the buttons. I was planning to put them on--they were going to be covered, to match the belt--but then I decided that, even though it's slightly less shirtwaist dress-looking now, I liked how it looked without them.
side pocket

I also left out the interfacing on the collar (because I hate interfacing) and thank goodness I did. The collar doesn't need any more volume than it already has. If I make this again, I'll probably cut the collar around an inch narrower, all around. But that's really the only thing I'd definitely change.
yoke cu
I also wish I'd lapped the yokes rather than sewing them with French seams (the raw edges are finished with a combination of French seams and rayon-bound edges), and had the front of the skirt on the diagonal rather than straight. And maybe done a bit better job with my plaid matching. It's not perfect and I knew, with princess seams, that it wouldn't be. It's really only the right bodice piece that's not lined up; I should have re-cut it, but I didn't realize until I was nearly done that the rest was so even, and now I'd have to pretty much disassemble the entire dress to replace it.

All in all, though, the dress is fine. I'm happy. Very happy. And I really want to make another one, right now.

Okay project details:
Fabric: 2 yards at 60" double-sided green plaid cotton from Pendleton Woolen Mill outlet, $5.00
Pattern: Lekala 4357 with modifications, $1.87 (bodice) + BHL circle skirt app, free (skirt)
Year: contemporary
Notions: all from stash--20" metal zipper $0.55; two packages rayon hem tape $0.50; covered belt kit $0.50
Made before: no
Make again: maybe
Sewing soundtrack: Pulp
First worn: today
Wear again: yes
Total cost: $8.42


  1. I love that double sided fabric. So cool - you should make a reverse 'insert garment of your choice here" to take advantage of its super-cool reverse properties.
    I really like your alterations and I definitely think this dress qualifies for the Indie-Pattern-Month. I agree with your collar assessment; next time cut it down a bit to balance out the proportions of the dress a bit more.
    You look super happy and very stylish in your new dress it has a lovely 40's vibe going on ; )

    1. Thanks, Caroline. Yeah, I really wish I'd done something where both sides of the garment could show... I'm trying to console myself with the fact that if my skirt ever gets flipped up in the wind, at least it'll look pretty/interesting.