Sunday, July 12, 2009

This Is How I Sew

Yesterday I gave the program at my monthly sewing guild meeting - we are the Fashion Focus Group for anyone interested in the Richmond, Virginia area - and my mission to was impart how I use just a few patterns to achieve different looks for my dresses. I'd like to say I do this because I love the challenge, the creativity involved, etc., but I really sew this way because:

I. Simply. Do. Not. Have. The. Time.

That is the truth. Between work and the MS, my time and energy are in short supply.

Clearly, the most time consuming part of sewing is fitting. And a good fit is what makes a garment look good on you. So my philosophy is that once you get a good fit, work that pattern to death. You can achieve great results with minimal effort.

So yesterday I was able to show how I got 14 garments from just two dress patterns and two skirt patterns. Here are the two dress patterns, Simplicity 9559 and McCall's 4919: The Simplicity pattern was the very first dress pattern I ever used. I got lucky; for some reason the bodice of this dress just fit me perfectly. It is out of print these days, but it has several views, which includes a v-neck bodice, a sweetheart neckline, and a sundress. The McCall's pattern is simply a sheath dress pattern, with a seam at the waist and a straight skirt with a vent in the back. I believe it is still in print.

My two skirt patterns are McCall's 2029 and Butterick 4515:
The McCall's pattern is an A-line skirt with a waist band, with two darts in front and two darts in back. The Butterick pattern is a dress pattern, but I only use it for the circle skirt.
Because the Simplicity 9559 fit me so well, I have made every view many, many times. Here are three examples of the v-neck bodice, the sweetheart bodice, and the sundress, all in cotton:
You will have to trust me that these look good on - ideally I would have had photos of me wearing them, but alas, no photographer was available today. The next photo is of the McCall's 2029 skirt pattern which I have made up in various fabrics:The green plaid is a wool tartan I bought in Edinburgh at a weaver's shop right next to Edinburgh castle. I bought it off the remenant table, which is probably the only reason I was brave enough to cut in to it. I lined it in silk. The red skirt is a cotton/rayon fabric that I love to wear in the summer. And the pink sundress is a morphed hybrid: it is the sundress bodice of the Simplicity 9559 dress and the McCall's 2029 skirt. It has poodles on it:

I couldn't believe my luck when the front and back darts of the skirt matched up perfectly with the darts of the bodice. Clearly, it was Meant To Be.
Next are all my versions of the McCall's 4919 sheath dress:
On the far left is a cotton version done in a Kaffe Fassette fabric, the red is a red wool I got from, and the silver on the left is a duipioni silk I made for a Christmas party (which I wear with a sash). The grey wool skirt in the middle is one I made just using the skirt portion of the pattern. I've photographed the back of it, so you can see that I just added a waistband, and I lined it in a bright silk fabric that VickiW gave me. I wear this dress constantly, especially in the winter in wool, with a sweater or jacket. I feel very Jackie-O in it.
Next are more morphed dresses. All of these dresses are made using the circular skirt pattern from the Butterick 4512:

On the far left is an Italian worsted wool version that I love. The wool is a brown check with light blue, and I usually wear it with a light blue sweater and brown mary jane pumps. I made it with the v-neck verison of the Simplicity 9559 pattern. The bright pink is a duipioni silk with the sheath dress bodice. The pale yellow dress is the same as the brown check wool, but of course, it uses two different fabrics, and I drafted a collar for the yellow version.
And of course, the latest incarnation is the silk jacquard dress I recently posted about. It was made with the circle skirt, and the sweetheart bodice of Simplicity 9559:

So this is how I roll. Some would call it lazy sewing; I just call it smart sewing. I never do muslins; I just keep making the same dress over and over in different variations on a theme. Muslins bore me, and have I mentioned that time is always of the essence?
I do, however, make other patterns. I have a particular love of vintage patterns, and I have ventured into dress patterns that actually have sleeves. But the above examples are what I make when I don't have a lot of time or energy, and I want to know that what I am making will work. These are the tried and true pattern friends.
Hmm. Now I'm thinking something needs to be made in a rayon batik. I'll have to think about that some more and get back to you . . .

Parting Shot: I got a pedicure this weekend! Which always feels decadent:


Vicki W said...

See how much better you liik in silk jacquard than in cotton crabs?

Vicki W said...



gwensews said...

I love TNTs. Your garments are all distinctive. And, for many, time is limited for one reason or another. Nice work.

Summerset said...

Yet another crab dress reference. All of your versions are unique and such a good use of so few patterns.

YankeeQuilter said...

I have some blue wool that I bought off that same table in Edinburgh! Great post.

sewkalico said...

I loved this post. I don't sew garments, but wish I did and any way of saving time, yet creating such gorgeous outfits impresses me!!

Audrey said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation. You did a great job. I had no idea you had made so many garments from those dress patterns. As I hoped you brought the silk dress and I got to see it in person. and I appreciated being able to compare the different hemming methods you used on the circle skirt. Summerset’s method really looked great, I need to try it next time I make a circle skirt.

Linda T said...

You are so smart to do this. Thanks or showing how so much can be done with just a few. My Mom did this alot--me? I seem to be jumping from one pattern to the next. I should take a lesson from you (and Mom).

minnie said...

I've had this in my pattern stash for ever and just got it out last night only to discover that i bought it when i was slimmer and the size is wrong for me now. OH WOE! after seeing all your cute dresses i was super hot to get sewing. darn extra baby weight. :(

love that crab dress too!