After a tragic disappointment with another pattern, I needed something to pick me up. This asymmetrical pattern was exactly the thing. No two pieces are alike, and there are interesting curves and a forgiving silhouette. It's a 3D puzzle in fabric. An easy one, if you take it step-by-step.
Studying the envelope and online reviews, I wasn't thrilled by this tunic made in stripes. Nor with the seams outlined in piping. Mixing colors didn't speak to me either, which surprised me a bit. What did appeal, was fabric that appeared to have texture - and you can see both examples on the envelope have this appearance. I did see some attractive plaid versions, and will keep that under consideration for future makes.
For this initial effort, a beautiful piece of Ankara was chosen from my stash. Its pattern is vaguely tie-dye, with mock-croc elements, and even (if you look closely) some floral and geometric shapes. This fabric reminds me of exotic walls with numerous layers of paint washes. It's a fabric that makes me happy. It's also cotton, and I'm leaning towards natural fibers these days, and the purchase supports an African-American woman-owned small business. What is this amazing resource? AnkaraMalkia.com
This tunic in this fabric. Ankara is a substantial fabric, and I really like the short "tent dress" appearance. In fact, I might consider using the bust-up portion of this pattern for a tent maxi dress. It will definitely be made again. Possibly in other fabric weights as well as Ankara.
In the interest of total honesty, this is not a garment that makes me look smaller. It does however, fill me with joy and glee, and I like that.
It might not hurt to add a small bust dart...and that's the one additional tweak I'd consider, looking at my photos. I adored this pattern, and was happy sewing the beautiful fabric, and the unusual pieces kept me feeling as if I was doing a puzzle. This tunic makes my "Me Uniform" list. A fun sew, with distinctive, excellent results...definitely recommend!
These wide-leg woven pants were the reason I purchased S8177. They are high-waisted, and with Mimi G, I knew there would be room for my ample rear. Otoh, there's a yoke, and a zipper, and my figure, and...
This pattern overwhelmingly won a "do this next" survey, providing me the needed push to overcome my anxieties about its details. First modification was moving the zipper to the side, as my belly just does NOT need anything extra on the front of it. Belt carriers were left off, as these are to be pajamas. The final adjustment was grading from size 26 at the waist to 28 at the hip. My measurements supported this move, and I wanted all the help I could get in defining my waist!
I watched Mimi G's tutorial beforehand. While I consider myself an intermediate sewer, I know there are gaps in my knowledge, and it's best to be humble when approaching fabric. She advised watching her "basics" video, so I did that, and improved my layout/cut technique:
I did the staystitching, darts and pleats as directed, and then assembled the main section of the pants (the legs), leaving the whole outer left leg seam open. Next I put together the yoke, again leaving the left side open. This made it easy to match up and sew the yoke to the legs. The invisible zipper came next, and it will get its very own post, as it was my first one ever! The result was good, and like Mimi G, I prefer the zipper goes all the way to the top of the garment, avoiding the need for a hook and eye. The video did not show seam finishing, and I happen to like French seams. Tidy and sturdy, so that is what I used on the long leg seams. A bit of hemming (I opted for a deep hem, rather than the cuff shown), and I was done. Perfect fit!
Awesome and Not (Love is Complicated)
This pattern is love. It is everything I'd expected: fits my waist and rear end, and has lovely wide legs. That said, as you can see from the "side view" above, it is not particularly flattering to my belly - at least not from the side. What to do?
Step one was taping the pattern pieces to my dressform - handy thing about the duct tape is that regular clear tape peels right off it! As you can see, the pieces have a long thin gap, and it's due to my tummy bulge. The back piece fits well. When pinning the front piece, instead of placing it flush against the fold as directed, I put the top corner against the fold, and nudged the bottom corner a few inches further back. This put a long thin wedge into the front piece.
All the curling! This fabric was rolled and rolled tight around every edge. And the selvage edges curled the opposite of the cut edges! Google and a $1.19 can of spray starch saved my sanity. For good measure, I ironed and starched the entire piece of fabric before pinning/cutting.
The pattern is for an unlined skirt, yet I wanted a power mesh lining to help smooth (not eliminate!) the tummy bulge. Mimi G has a fantastic tutorial on how to do this. The tutorial recommends making the liner shorter than the skirt. I ended the lining at the "flare" of this skirt. The sturdy striped fabric is not at all see-through, so I wasn't worried about that. I used Joann's "performance stretch mesh" and was VERY disappointed in it. It doesn't provide compression or smoothing, and should only be used for opacity.
The lining process is simple, yet I made some notes for next time:
Whether you spell it "shirt dress" or "shirtdress," this garment presents some challenges to the Apple. Typically it's a short, somewhat fitted garment. Ready-to-wear options are frequently unflattering, with "fitting" that hits all the wrong places on us, or a lack of fitting that leaves us looking like an egg in a really long dress shirt. Not an attractive look.
All that said, you CAN make a flattering shirtdress if you are willing to spend a little time up front on the fitting and pattern selection. It is a wardrobe staple, so the extra effort will pay off for years to come! Today I compared two shirtdress patterns: McCalls 7889 and 7890. Only one is going to land in my pattern box.
M7889 has lovely sleeve and hem detailing that will beautifully show off fabric lines and/or graphic elements. I can see how dramatic it could be with some of my ankara prints. However, I'm apprehensive about the waistline. It appears to sit pretty close to bellybutton level, while my thinnest point is higher. Additionally, the fabric above the belt blouses out - in a flattering way on the model shown. My experience is that this makes me somehow look fatter and as if I have no boobs at all. Attempts to move the waistline have met with very limited success.
Careful inspection of the M7889 line art and back of envelope description reveals the "gathers" are actually stitched pleats. This is promising, as it means less bulk. I look at the model pictured again, and set the pattern aside for now. Because if the pleats look like gathers in the picture, they will look that way on me. All the flaring over my belly won't matter if the top half looks dowdy.
On to M7890. It looks a little scary at first: a little "sheath-shaped" maybe. Yet look at that beautiful collar and neckline. That clean placket line provides a very crisp appearance that will help me look pulled together, even when I don't have the time for coordinating an outfit. M7890 also offers two waistline fitting points that work really well for Apples:
Stumbling across Ankara fabric last year changed my life. The large-scale designs, the brilliant colors, the vibrant Ankara sewing community...I was hooked.
Ankara is generally a cotton fabric, dyed using a wax process. The resulting fabric is nearly identical on both sides. It's a versatile, medium-weight woven that resists wrinkling and is pleasant to sew and comfortable to wear. What's not to love?
A bit of googling informed me that the fabrics were originally of Dutch origin, and quickly became adopted in Africa. Today, Ankara production is mostly African-inspired and African-owned. Wikipedia covers the fabric's background rather well.
What the Wikipedia article doesn't mention, is that many of the design elements have meaning. Being of mostly Irish descent, I love the idea of a story being told - in this case, through fabric! More importantly, you can buy Ankara that is made in Africa. If that seems like an odd statement, please investigate where your sewing fabric is made. I find most of the fabric in chain stores is made in China.
There is nothing wrong with Chinese fabric per se. Someday I hope to add authentic Chinese designed and made fabric to my collection of African, American, German, Irish, Japanese, and US materials. What I'm not into, is mass-produced imitations of other cultures' fabrics. JoAnn Fabrics "tribal prints" are a perfect example of this: cheap one-sided quilting cotton printed with a sort of kente print. Made, yes, in China.
We live in a fast, possession-heavy society. I'm no exception, and have opted for convenience or low cost more than once. Yet, we can choose to value authenticity, and appreciate the genuine. When you sew, you are creating something new, and you spend hours with your hands on that fabric. Choose that fabric wisely.
Most of my Ankara collection comes from Ankara Malkia - fantastic service owned and operated by the wonderful Roni Gordon.
Next post: first Ankara project completed!
Vogue 1297 is an excellent pattern for Apples. It looks fabulous in striped fabric, thanks to the giant pockets set at a slimming angle. It's also surprisingly easy to make, even when you're working with an older sewing machine like I do!
My first version of this dress was made with a substantial brick-red striped knit. It's not a scuba knit, but it is almost that substantial. I do think you could get away with a medium-weight knit. Anything too light might not skim over you as flatteringly (no surprise to most of us). The minor wubble in the front-facing pic is my not-very layerable shirt scrunching!
Not As Awesome