My second round entry for the Pattern Review Sewing Bee is in! It was a lot more work than I was anticipating, but I’m really pleased with the final product. They asked for fabulous sleeves. I did my best to deliver.
Here is my official entry and Pattern Review:
All About Sleeve: Since the sleeves on this garment needed to be “F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S!!” my first thought was, “What would Bob Mackie do?” Obviously, a bedazzled slinky gown with wide sleeves and tons of sequins. Then I thought, “Great! Now be Channel and take something off.” The result was that I designed an evening gown with nothing to distract from the shape and embellishment of the sleeves, while having the silhouette echo the shape of the sleeve to create harmony with the whole garment. The shape of the garment meant I would have little room for error in the fit, and I was looking at a lot of time working with the embellishments if I wanted to create the sort of look I was envisioning.
For the lace under sleeve, I bought fabric with a scalloped design along the edge (though it still had a straight selvedge beyond the scallop, so had to be cut out along the design). I cut the flat parts of the sleeve along the scallops to make use of the design feature, and then cut the remaining selvedge off and pieced it onto the curved part of the sleeve. I actually ran out of fabric for this (about 8” short!), so I had to buy more, which I placed so that the scallops would look continuous. It took about 3 hours to sew, cut and trim the under sleeve.
The over sleeves are embellished with sequin appliqué work. The sequins appliqués were actually a design on a mesh fabric, which I cut out and placed on the sleeves. I used the selvedge edges scalloped design along the curved edge of the sleeves, and took pieces from the rest of the design for higher up on the sleeve. Originally, I was going to use a much denser part of the design on the sleeve, but I preferred the look of the more delicate flower motifs, as opposed to the larger, more sequined ones. Of course, the more delicate the design, the more time and stitching I would need to attach the appliqués. I used a tiny zigzag stitch (0.5mm wide, 1.5mm long) to sew the appliqué to the fabric. I had to use a tiny stitch because the design has such narrow, delicate lines, and I wanted the stitching to be as invisible from the front as possible. I used different top and bobbin threads so the stitches would blend into the fabric. Afterwards, I used tiny scissors to cut around the designs, to remove the mesh netting on which the fabric was made originally. I have done this technique before on skating costumes, however, there are some important differences. On a skating costume, you want the non-stretch design to have some flexibility (so as not to tear), whereas on this design I wanted the appliqué to look as much a part of the fabric as possible, so I sewed it on to be totally flat. Also, on a skating costume it is ok to use larger stitches because you will cover them with rhinestones anyway, and it is more important to have a secure attachment than an invisible stitch. Here, however, I wanted the garment to look impeccable from up close and far away, so I had to take much, much longer to attach the floral motifs. I think the over sleeves took me 15-20 hours to complete.
Challenges: Although I did not have to deal with hurricane aftermath as many of the other contestant did, I was struggling with using my left arm for a few days at the start of the challenge (note to self: do NOT get a tetanus shot in the middle of the Bee!), and many of my sewing hours got hijacked by unexpected events, such a funeral service and work obligations. The intricacy of what I was trying to achieve took much longer, and much more detailed care than what I was anticipating when I started. It was also my first time piecing together the lace scallops for the sleeves. Although the pattern pieces themselves were not overwhelmingly complex, my desire for delicate and intricate design features made this round much more of a challenge than I was expecting.
Pattern Description: The bodice is the Closet Case Nettie dress, a close fitting body-con knit dress with fitted sleeves. I chose the high front and low back necklines. The bottom of the skirt is from David Tutera’s McCall’s 7540, using the pattern pieces from view C. Finally, the flounce of the sleeve is from Burda’s OOP 8199. Since this is the year of the sleeve, clearly I had to seek out an OOP pattern circa 2005. Though, to be fair, all of these patterns were already in my stash.
Pattern Sizing: Burda 8199: sizes 36-48. I only used the pattern for the sleeve flounce, so I traced the largest size. I wanted EPIC sleeves. McCall’s 7540: 6-14 and 14-22. I had the 6-14 pattern at hand, so I traced the size 14 flounce, but then adjusted it so that the length would attach to the Nettie dress hem. Closet Case Nettie Dress: 0-20. I traced a size 10 at the shoulders, grading out to a 12 at the waist and a 16 at the hip. For the sleeves I graded out to something like a 16. I was optimistic and used a size 14 sleeve in my muslin, which barely fit. My dress fabric was much less stretchy than my practice fabric, so I graded up a notch. I also made a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) because Nettie is sized for a B-cup, and I’m a D by sewing standards. More details on this in the “Adjustments” section below.
Were the instructions easy to follow? I only looked at the instructions for the Nettie dress. Closet Case is a new-to-me pattern company (I bought the Nettie and the Ginger Jeans a while ago but hadn’t sewn them before), so I needed to find important details like seam allowance, etc. I tried to follow the instructions, but I found them almost too wordy and hand-holdy. I instead referred to the Closet Case Nettie Sew Along blog series – same instructions, but real photographs and a bit easier to skip the overly explanatory bits. I think I’m just too used to Burda at this point – if I’m not confused at least once during construction, it’s too much information. I think the instructions would be *GREAT* for new sewers though, as they explain not only *what* to do but *why* you are doing it. The instructions themselves are logical and achieve good results; they are pretty much all the standard procedures for sewing knits.
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the envelope once you were done with it? I’m going to say each piece of the design looked very much like the pattern it came from, so yes! I think it was the perfect combination to achieve the look I wanted.
What did you particularly like or dislike about this pattern? Likes: The Burda and McCall’s patterns gave me the drama I was looking for, and were pretty easy to graft onto the Nettie. I like the neckline options of the Nettie, I like that it didn’t have any darts (I wanted all the focus on the sleeves, so no extraneous lines anywhere it wasn’t necessary), and I liked the high fit of the sleeve armpit (this is a weird skater quirk thing, just go with it). Dislikes: On the sew along blog, she does admit that the bust shelf does create a tiny tug at the side-seams, which is slightly noticeable. It also causes drag lines at the arms because the weight of the bust is being supported by the fabric there. If I wear a bra, the drag lines go away, but then it ruins the line of the low back of the design.
Fabric used: A stretch crepe textured knit and metallic lace from Jo-Ann Fabrics. I didn’t have a large enough quantity of any one fabric in my stash to make this design, so I went to Jo-Ann in hopes of avoiding a trip to the LA garment district (don’t get me wrong, I love it there, but it was going to be a whole day less to work on the actual dress). Luckily, the fall fabrics are just starting to come in, so I was able to buy a whole 8-yard bolt of the red knit, of which I used probably about 6.5 yards (I forgot the sleeve calculations were for double fabrics, but it’s ok because now I can make something else with the rest of it). I bought 3 yards of the metallic lace, but had to go back to buy another half yard because I wanted to used the scalloped edges along the curve of the sleeves. I also used a knit lining for the bust shelf, and the sequined mesh fabric that I cut up to use for my appliqué designs. My notions were bust cups and clear elastic to stabilize the shoulder seam, and 3” horsehair braid from Wawak. All of those items (except the horsehair) came from my stash, and were originally purchased in the LA Garment District.
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Since the Nettie is sized for a B-cup, I made an FBA. I made a wearable muslin of the dress (yay, bonus dress!), and used a rotate and slide method to create the FBA. This did not work for me, as it distorts the amount of fabric around the armhole, but that is NOT where I need more space. So, before cutting out my red fabric, I went back to the original armhole draft, and instead just made and extra lump on the side seam of the pattern at full bust level. To figure out how much to adjust it, I had to do some calculations because this pattern is drafted with negative ease. So, I made a ratio of the pattern’s full bust measurement to my full bust measurement, setting it equal to the garment measurement over x. Solving for x and finding the difference gave me the amount I needed to add, which I divided by 2 to get the amount to add to 1 seam. I did not distribute this between front and back seams because, as noted elsewhere, the breasts are only in the front. You might think my “add lumps to the sides” method odd, but my Kwik Sew leotard patterns do the same thing, though just not as pronounced as I did here. Since it’s a negative-ease knit pattern, it’s all going to stretch into place anyway. Because adding this lump lengthening the side seam by 1/4” I had to cut the back along the top “lengthen” line and add 1/4” to the back piece as well, so that the side seams would match up. My only other pattern change was to add horsehair braid to the hem of the McCall’s 7540 pattern. I wanted a more dramatic flare than the hanging drape that the limp hem it would have otherwise had. It was only my second time using horsehair braid – it went much better than the first time! I possibly should have covered the braid in a fabric before attaching it to the hem, but that’s something to consider for next time. All of the other design changes come from merging three patterns and have been discussed in more detail in the previous sections.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I’m actually super excited that I will get a more wearable Nettie from making my practice run of the dress. I will definitely be using this pattern again, maybe also for the bodysuit now that I’ve got a good fit. The Nettie is quite close fitting, so I would recommend it if you are comfortable wearing a dress that will completely hug to your figure. As a pattern, the drafting seems good, and the instructions are quite verbose, plus there is a very helpful online sew along tutorial as well. As for the McCall’s and Burda patterns – I would definitely consider using them again if I’m in the need for a formal gown, but since it seems like I’m starting to build up a closet full of party dresses, I would probably want to use different features in the future. I didn’t use enough of the patterns to really properly review them, but the sections I did use were perfect for helping me achieve my look.
Conclusion: This was a labor of love, but I’m so happy with how it turned out! It’s the sort of thing where I was very flustered by the contest, because I haven’t been the biggest fan of the sleeve emphasis trend, but once I embraced the challenge I really started to love my creation. I’m exhausted, but I’m also extremely happy with what I’ve created, which is a gown with some FABULOUS sleeves!
As a bonus, here is a fun behind the scenes moment:
So, the second round for the Sewing Bee ends September 20th at midnight ET. Sometime around 3:30am PT on September 18 I realized I really needed horsehair braid for the hem of my dress. I ordered some on Wawak, but couldn’t bring myself to pay for guaranteed next day shipping, because they usually ship fast and it usually arrives quick. So I took a gamble, and went with standard shipping. On September 19 around 12pm PT, I was ready to hem my gown. Of course, the package hadn’t arrived, but I really wanted to get it done and photographed that day, as I’d have less time the next day, and the turnaround to get the entry in would be really tight. So I rooted around my stash looking for the horsehair I *know* I have (somewhere), though I was worried I wouldn’t have enough of it. Unsuccessful, I decided to (on a whim) check and see if my package had arrived. And it was there! It was a total dues ex machina moment, but it allowed me to finish my dress literally 1 minute before my mother came home, which let me get the photos and review done in a timely manner.