2015 as a skirt

I love reflection, especially at the end of the year. I was heartily disappointed to miss participating in Gillian’s Top 5 series, but I continue to have so many favorite pieces still to be blogged that joining in didn’t quite make sense.

Instead, to celebrate the quickly approaching Lunar New Year, I present one garment to represent the year that was 2015 – my skirt created for the September wedding I attended.

crabandbee.com | self-drafted flared skirt

There’s nothing complicated about the construction or the design. Yes, I did draft it but I just followed a recipe from my drafting manual. Yet it epitomizes 2015 for me.

Permit me a bit of a metaphysical ramble. Like nearly all of my friends, family, acquaintances and many fellow bloggers, I underwent the process prescribed by Mari Kondo in The Magical Art of Tidying Up. And I benefitted, as expected – my living space has been reoriented to support me instead of my stuff, and my socks and undies are happily nested in leftover cardboard boxes that fit them perfectly.

But the fundamental question she requires the reader to ask of their belongings – does it spark joy? – quietly and sneakily turned my world upside down. Like my fabric-buying process, most of my decisions have been the product of tortuous mental exercises. I realized how few decisions in my life took joy into account.

So, I decided to make joy my decision-making criteria for the year. I joined an improvisational dance group, without any goal beyond moving my body for a couple of hours every week with a wonderful bunch of women. Sewing hours were more readily set aside for friend and family time. I changed jobs, going back to a full-time regular position on the team I’d left in 2013; it had nothing that I said I’d wanted (flexibility, sustainability focus) but the new role gave me a chance to work with people I really liked and it just spoke to me. I went to Japan. I went clubbing, for Pete’s sake.

I found myself buying fabrics in rainbow palettes that I would have chosen as a 7-year-old, without any of my usual dithering, and sewing up impractical things like Gabriola skirts.

This skirt fabric was one such purchase; I saw it, picked it up and walked it straight to the cutting counter. It sat on my fabric shelf, very noticeable among the solids, but it wasn’t until my friend’s wedding that it demanded to be a simple flared skirt. It was the perfect piece to wear to the wedding. Even in a particularly joyful year, dancing under the stars late at night to atrocious Top 40 music from the nineties stands out.

crabandbee.com | self-drafted flared skirt

The magical cloud of joy that carried me through most of 2015 sputtered out after Japan in October. Major changes started happening at my job. We lost our beloved kitty Orson in late October quite suddenly. Chronic health problems that had miraculously disappeared earlier in the year came back with a vengeance. I was exhausted, and needed to take care of myself.

But I wouldn’t trade my experiment for anything; it was a much-needed tonic and after a rocky couple of months, I’m finally ready for the new year that’s somehow already a month underway.

crabandbee.com | self-drafted flared skirt

I don’t have a particular goal or inspiration for 2016, but I’m wishing you joy and all other good things you may need this year.

My favorite shirt

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

After I finished my husband’s jacket, you’d better believe I dove straight into that pile of fabrics from Japan! First on the cutting table was a tantalizing water-color striped double-gauze bought with the incomparable Inna in the incomparable town of Kyoto.


Inna witnessed my shopping process. For me, it’s rarely as simple as “I like that, I have the money, I’ll buy it.” I’ll call into question my entire identity and value system (aspirational minimalism, thrift, investment of time required to properly own something, quality, wardrobe versatility, environmental values) before I make a purchase.

And guess what? It’s a tiring, and ultimately not all that effective method for making decisions; I’ll prevaricate for some sweaty minutes or hours until I throw out all of my requirements in favor of an impulse decision. Luckily, Inna was a patient shopping buddy.

Obviously I did buy the fabric in this case, and I haven’t regretted it because it’s been sewn into what is hands-down my favorite shirt!

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

I had no such analysis paralysis choosing the pattern. It’s another McCall’s 6436, of course, with all of my standard fit adjustments (1/2″ square shoulder, size 14 with 12 bust) and as well as some design changes (1 – piece sleeve, topstitched french button plackets, shorter cuffs, no back darts). I also added a tower placket – my first ever, after a practice run – using another Vogue pattern to place the opening. I used the Off The Cuff placket construction method.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

And may I add that I’m excited to have my first long-sleeved buttoned shirt that fits through the shoulders…!

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

In spring, I’ll be wearing this shirt tucked into skirts! This was the flared skirt muslin I drafted based on my skirt sloper. It started looking mighty wearable, so I finished it with a top-stitched waist-band facing.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

Back soon with the skirt I drafted and wore to my friend’s wedding!


A jacket for my gentleman

While I was sewing my sister’s wedding dress, my husband was keeping us alive by handling all of the cooking and household matters. I was enormously grateful. So grateful was I that I promised him that the first post-wedding project I would sew would be a jacket for him.

Here’s what happened:

  • Eager to demonstrate my commitment to the project, I ordered the fabric immediately, in April.
  • A wedding dress, a Gabriola, a dance costume and two shift dresses later, I ordered the pattern in mid-August.
  • A Watson binge, two tops, and a skirt sloper even later, I started the muslin process in September and got thoroughly tied up in a sleeve fitting fit.
  • After our trip to Japan in October, I told myself I couldn’t touch any of my newly acquired fabrics until I finished the jacket. And I desperately wanted to dig into that fabric, so it was done within a few weeks, with a sleeve fit that was good enough.

crabandbee.com | men's jacket using Vogue 8842

This was the first major project I’d felt up to since the wedding dress. No hand-stitching, of course, nor did it take nearly as many hours, but I did have a laundry list of design and fit changes to make the pattern, Vogue 8842, work for what I had in mind. The pattern looked more like a ski jacket, and I wanted something with a sporty fit in non-sporty materials -organic cotton twill for the shell, with a scrap of cotton-hemp for the hood lining, and rayon for the jacket lining.


The design changes I made form the alarmingly long list below:

  • Changing from a drop shoulder to a regular shoulder
  • Merging the 3-piece sleeve back into 1 piece
  • Moving the yokes lower
  • Removing the bottom hem band and adding a bit of length
  • Adding a hood facing
  • Adding front facings to the lining
  • Adding a zipper guard
  • Making a hybrid welted patch pocket
  • Changing the top zipper extension into two pieces instead of one folded piece for durability
  • Forgoing elastic cuffs
  • Adding a snap tap to the cuffs

(The hood and front facings should have been included in the pattern, in my opinion; I was studying a lot of RTW jackets, and even the cheapest ones had these features.)

Fit-wise, everything I did involved making more chest room and less back room. I also encountered an odd fit issue – Nathan couldn’t zip the front of the jacket over his chin! I ended up scooping the neck by 1″ at center front and widening the collar/hood area by 1.5″ total as the neck circumference had increased as well.


This was my first experience with parka snaps. They weren’t too bad to apply; trying to figure out all the sizes and tools was much worse!


If I make this pattern again (and I might as well – I put a ton of work into altering it!) I would raise the arm scyes. This photo is a little too dark to see, but there are some draglines across the back even though there’s ample room. I think it’s the low arm scye restricting arm motion.

Then there’s this:


Ultimately, I feel like this project was a pattern-making triumph for me – making so many design and fit changes all at once and having all my seams line up in the end was a big, fluffy feather in my cap – but not as much a stitching triumph. I hadn’t done a project requiring precision top-stitching in awhile, and the extensions, hood, and pockets show it.

That said, when I pounded in the last snap, Nathan put on his jacket and looked at himself multiple times in every mirror on the house. He’s stubbornly worn it in unsuitably cold conditions this fall and winter, and it’s now being referred to as his favorite jacket ever. So I think the subpar stitching and the ever-so-slightly late arrival are being overlooked.

Wedding dress: resources for sewing your own

crabandbee.com | home-sewn lace wedding separates

It recently occurred to me that I never really finished up the series on making my sister’s wedding dress! This was easily the project that dominated my sewing this year, so it feels fitting to finish blogging about it in the last days of 2015. So, without further delay, here’s what I used to get the job done.

How to start: make some decisions and set some boundaries
My sister was drawn to feminine formal styles and lace, and I was willing to incorporate some couture-style construction. I was also willing to see the project through, no matter how much time it took. These factors – along with my utter inexperience – led to a project that took well over 200 sewing hours to complete.

That said, a wedding dress can be whatever you want it to be – more or less formal, more or less labor-intensive. Feast your eyes on this Valentino-inspired gorgeousness by I Made This! that took 600 hours, for example. On the less formal side, check out this amazing short wedding dress by Dixie DIY or Meris’s re-wearable red dress! That’s the route I would go if I lived in an alternate universe where I was getting married again – although maybe it’s to say that because I already got to wear the floor-length weddingy wedding gown…?

Considering style, time and budget requirements will help you figure out what you’ll need for you or your loved one’s dress and whether or not you’ll want to sew it yourself.

I talked a bit about patterns in this post, so I’ll just say this: if you are at all influenced by current bridal trends, you may have a difficult time finding a pattern that looks anything like what you want. Get ready to exercise your imagination, your pattern mash-up skills and perhaps even your pattern-altering or pattern-making skills. I needed all three to achieve my sister’s vision. Also keep in mind that when you alter a pattern, you’ll also need to feel reasonably comfortable making your own instructions.

crabandbee.com | home-sewn wedding separates

Construction resources
I used a couple of indispensable resources created by Susan Khalje. The first was The Couture Dress class on Craftsy, which helped me make my muslins a lot more useful and usable. The second, purchased for me by my sister on eBay, was the out-of-print (whyyyyyy?) book Bridal Couture. The sections on bridal fabrics, lace, common necklines and structural reinforcements were key for me. The book isn’t long but it’s densely packed with most of the information I needed. Khalje also addresses some of the challenges of working with white fabrics, which are not to be underestimated.

I also used Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing book. Her section on different hand-stitches and their uses is incredibly useful, and she has more information on stays of all kinds than anywhere else I’ve seen.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 3.10.09 PM

Last but not least, I scoured sewing blogs for any posts on home-sewn wedding dresses! I had a lot of fun curating this Pinterest board of all the beautiful creations I found. (This board is by no means exhaustive, so if you’ve created a wedding dress I’d love to hear about it!) I also created another board with tutorials or images of formal dress construction.

crabandbee.com | home-sewn wedding separates

Fabrics & notions
Sourcing supplies was less difficult than finding a pattern, and most of what I bought worked fine (with some exceptions, noted below).We chose the lace first, which I recommend if it’s part of your dress! It can be pricey or harder to find and Mood, NY Fashion Center and other fabric stores that cater to formal sewing should have formal fabrics in many colors that coordinate with your lace and each other.

Here’s what I used, organized per piece:

Bodice fabrics:

  • Lace overlay: Alencon lace, purchased semi-locally from Mill’s End in Portland
  • Bodice fabric: Duchesse silk satin, from Gorgeous Fabrics (online)
  • Bodice underlining: Silk organza from my stash (wish I’d chosen muslin instead for added weight and opacity)
  • Bodice lining: Cotton voile, purchased locally from Pacific Fabrics

Bodice notions:

  • Twill tape for stabilizing the neckline purchased locally
  • Quilt batting from my stash for the bust cups
  • Bra cups from Felinus Fabrics (Etsy)
  • Spiral steel boning pieces, purchased locally from Stitches
  • Spiral Steel by the yard (from an Etsy shop I do not recommend – the boning had damaged and dirty sections)
  • Spiral steel boning tips from Cherington MetalCraft (Etsy)
  • Hook and eye tape, purchased online from Susan Khalje’s shop
  • Silk ribbon for hanger straps, purchased locally from Nancy’s Sewing Basket

Skirt fabrics:

  • Skirt overlay: Silk chiffon, from Mood Fabrics
  • Skirt: Silk charmeuse, from Mood Fabrics
  • Skirt underlining: Silk habotai, from my stash / Mood Fabrics
  • Skirt waistband: Duchesse from the bodice for the waistband
  • Skirt underlining: Canvas, from my stash for the waistband underlining

Skirt notions:

  • Hook and eye from my stash
  • Button from my grandmother’s stash
  • Invisible zipper from my stash

The bulk of the skirt fabric came from Mood based on their color variety and the wide widths they sell. My experiences ordering from Mood have been inconsistent, but this one was mostly positive – I got what I ordered, the yardage was correct and there didn’t appear to be any discrepancy in fiber content. The charmeuse was on the thin side, however, which required me to buy extra habotai.

(As an alternative to all this sourcing, consider Alex’s method of harvesting fabric and notions from an existing wedding dress – how cool is that?)

Additional supplies & tools
You’ll most likely need some of the following supplies and tools:

  • Muslin fabric
  • Trial dress fabric (I didn’t go this route because I ran out of time)
  • Silk pins
  • Fine-weight thread for fine fabrics
  • Microtex needles for fine fabrics
  • Beefy wire cutters, if you use spiral steel boning
  • Pliers, to apply new spiral steel boning tips

crabandbee.com | draping lace

Final thoughts
So, is it worth sewing a wedding dress? My (admittedly lame) answer is, it really depends! You should give yourself some time to consider it carefully. If you are the bride in the equation, ask yourself if such a large project will fit with your increased social and planning obligations leading up to the wedding. If you’re sewing for someone else, will you resent the number of hours taken away from your personal sewing projects? In my case, this was a gift I’d long wanted to give to my sister and it dovetailed nicely with my personal sewing goals.

I will say that my zest for sewing has only very recently returned to 100%, a full 6 months after I finished the dress. It pushed me way beyond my skill level in terms of fit, construction and project management, to the point where I felt like my brain and hands were turned to mush and haven’t fully reformed themselves yet.

So this, my friends, is my final wedding dress post! Are you considering sewing a wedding dress?

Figuring it out in 2015

This was a big year for me in terms of figuring out how to fit my figure better. My fit journey started like many others do – measuring the bust/waist/hips, comparing it to the pattern, and picking a size. based on those measurements -I’m 5’8″ and 34.5″/29″/39″ (plus or minus 0.5″ on any given day)* – I assumed I had a mild pear shape .

After six+ years of sewing, I’ve realized I don’t fit easily within any of the figure typing systems – not without caveats. The closest I can get to a neat description is an extra-wide-shouldered long-torsoed short-legged rectangle in the front / hourglass in the back. And yet with a body type that apparently doesn’t exist and some physical asymmetry, I can walk without falling over. Sometimes, I even find RTW pants that fit reasonably well.

All that is to say, I don’t think I’m that unusual in needing a more nuanced way of talking about shape and fit. I think quantifying and naming our unique shape – without judgment – can be a way to treat our bodies with more care and attention.

So, listed below are some of my fit epiphanies this year.

I learned just how wide – 17″ – and square – I require an extra 1/2″ at the shoulder seam – my shoulders are. Luckily for me (and perhaps frustrating to almost everybody else!), the Big 4 across-shoulder measurement seems to run quite wide; I can wear a 14 in the shoulders, which works well enough for my waist and hips in fitted to semi-fitted designs.


Having square shoulders means there’s more distance between your shoulder tip to your armpit. I do a 1/2″ square shoulder adjustment the back of every bodice (since my shoulders are also forward) grading to nothing at the neck line. After fixing the shoulder, I adjust the sleeve. To my great surprise, I’ve been able to successfully do this on every Big 4 pattern I’ve tried. It’s also positioned the bust darts correctly.

As for raglan sleeves, I now know I need either a two-piece sleeve or a dart; the angle between shoulders and neck is just too sharp for an unshaped raglan sleeve to hang off of it. (Imagine a towel draping over the arm of a chair.) This was the key in fitting my Yona coat, which has a two-piece raglan sleeve, and my McCall’s 6992 sweatshirt, which has a dart.

Before and after a sq. shoulder adj. on a raglan sleeve

While I can sew a 14 for my shoulders, waist, and hips in Big 4 patterns, my bust is smaller at 34.5″. I’ve had luck with both grading down to a 12 through the bust for the front and back bodices, or doing a 2″ SBA to a 14. I think grading down is a better method as I wear a B-cup, which is the size Big 4 patterns are drafted for.

Waist / Hips / Rear
I noticed something strange when I was working on my skirt sloper – my back waist arc was dramatically smaller than my front waist. Comparing these numbers to the drafting standards in my manual was enlightening. My front waist measured 16″ and back waist 12.75″, which put me in very different sizes from front to back.

crabandbee.com | skirt sloper

To make matters even more interesting, the situation reverses itself at the hips – my back hip arc is much, much bigger than my front. All this is to say there is a dramatic and challenging curve in my back torso, and not a lot happening in the front. No wonder I always have fabric pooling at my low back.

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1387

In the upcoming year, I’d like to try a couple of experiments for fitting my lower half – sizing down combined with a full butt adjustment, grading between different sizes in the waist/hip and back/front, or getting more into self-drafting.

In conclusion
So that’s where this year brought me – some standard shoulder adjustments, a small but fairly easy to fit bust, and some front-to-back asymmetry from the waist down. Sometimes it sounds like an exciting puzzle; other times I just want to sew up a giant caftan and call it good!

How are you doing on your fit journey? Any interesting realizations this year? Have you noticed any fascinating asymmetry – 0r maybe even rarer, perfect symmetry! – in your figure?

*Just a note, I’ve stayed away from sharing measurements and sizes in a cohesive way, but I’ve been changing my ideas (perhaps due to an interesting conversation that Heather started!) I don’t like how often elements of women’s physical appearance (and increasingly, men’s) are quantified and judged. But since I’ve started sewing – and I hope I’m not alone in this – mine and others’ measurements feel more quantitative and less qualitative.

Post season

Every season, I think I’m going to get really on top of things and blog as I sew. Yet at every equinox and solstice, I’m left with quite a few un-blogged, unseasonal projects. I’m considering calling this an Australian sewing blog in hopes of creating timely content… but before I go that route, however, I have a couple of late-summer/early fall pieces to share!

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1387

I made Vogue 1387 again in silk crepe de chine, taking a page out of Katie’s book and swapping the neckline for a scoop and changing construction accordingly. I LOVE IT. It’s made the pleats a little awkward, so if I make it again I’ll turn them into gathers. And consider a swayback adjustment. And a big butt adjustment. And maybe I’ll iron before I take pictures…

I also made my new-to-me standard adjustments – 1/2″ square/forward shoulder adjustment – as well as lengthen the bodice by an extra 1″ this time and the front looks much better; the back probably didn’t need it.

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1387 crabandbee.com | Vogue 1387

Like before, I ignored the gusset/band insertion markings because they are just wrong! The drawstring channel construction – which I’m pretty dang sure is incorrect as written in the pattern – was simplified because of the design change.

crabandbee.com | Vogue 1387

This top isn’t strictly for summer; in fact, in silk it’s better suited to a less sweaty season. (Anyone else ever think of that Outkast lyric “in a silk suit trying not to sweat” when they’re wearing this sensitive fiber?) Anyway, I’m thinking it may find its way into winter rotation with a cardigan.

crabandbee.com | Cloth Habit Watson

Later in August, I got obsessed with the Watson Bra pattern and made myself three versions in short order: a gorgeous but way too tiny black dotted non-stretch mesh version (begrudgingly gifted to my sister after a day of wearing yielded no additional ease), a very sensible and much more comfortable nude version (not pictured as it’s a very intimate-looking intimate!) AND a swimsuit bikini top with a matching pair of high-waisted bottoms based on my favorite So, Zo undies.

crabandbee.com | Cloth Habit Watson bikini top, So, Zo undies

I’m tempted to fill in the missing 2-3″ at the mid-section (yes, the bottoms are that high-waisted!) and make a one-piece for next year.

As for what I’m sewing now, I’ve got dreams for my precious Japan fabrics but before I allow myself to start in on them I’m virtuously finishing up a long-overdue jacket project for my husbo! I’m using Vogue 8842 (OOP, purchased on eBay), modified for both fit and style. The sleeve fit threw me off for a long time and I was doing my best to ignore the whole project. It’s still not perfect but I think he would prefer to have a jacket before “Australian winter” is upon us again…

crabandbee.com | Vogue 8842

Back to life, back to reality

Some days ago, we returned from spectacular two-week trip to Japan. I’ve talked a little bit about my background in this post, but part of my family came from Japan several generations ago. I’d wanted to go since I was a kid, but somehow this was my first trip. I’m not sure I can adequately express my excitement and my expectations before going, or the mix of familiarity and strangeness of a culture my family came from many decades ago.

crabandbee.com | Roscoe Dress

What made the trip feel less overwhelming and the country more accessible was information and welcoming from sewing friends. I reached out to Gillian, Inna and Sanae with newbie questions about what to do, where to stay and how to get around, and they did a better job of getting me oriented and even more excited about the trip than any guidebook.

crabandbee.com | Kyoto

And as luck would have it, Inna and I overlapped by one day in Kyoto, during which she took me on an amazing whirlwind tour of the sewing shops near the indoor markets. Our menfolk met up afterwards for a fun little dinner. The very next day, we left for Tokyo by train and I got to meet Yoshimi, Novita, and Chie for tea! Talk about spoiled. (And I apparently managed to miss Amy by some minutes in Nippori Fabric Town!)

crabandbee.com | Nippori Fabric Town

For the past few years, I’ve intermittently asked myself if I want to continue blogging and why. It does require an investment of time, and I am purely a hobby blogger. The online sewing world is growing exponentially and becoming more commercial, and I wonder if I’m short-sighted for meandering along without any particular goal beyond sewing and writing/reading about it.

And then something like this trip happens, where I’m nearly 5,000 miles from my home and I have sewing friends to meet up with. And they’re just like they are on their blogs, only more interesting!

crabandbee.com | Tokyo bloggers

The trip revealed my infrequently-seen maximalist side. We walked over 10 miles a day for two weeks, pushing ourselves to see a tiny fraction of what was beautiful and strange in Japan, consoling ourselves with thoughts of a return trip. But now I’m back, adjusting to my regular life and have had some time to reflect on how grateful I am to all the sewing folks who made our trip wonderful.


Now, to make some time to sew up the fabrics I bought in Japan…

Eating my words / a new crop top

Hey, everybody! I ended up finishing my skirt and enjoyed THE CRAP out of myself at the wedding, which was held at a ranch in Mendocino County. In addition to attending the wedding, we stayed on the ranch for four days, doing everything from swimming, dancing, hefting around benches for the ceremony, running around the nearby small town, connecting with old friends and making some new ones. The wedding itself was a no-photography sort of affair, so I’ll try and get share pics of the finished skirt soon.


But let’s back up a bit, shall we, and take a look at a slightly older project?

A couple of weeks ago, I was completely and utterly fooled by a Burdastyle pattern. I take a foolish amount of pride in being adept at avoiding patterns that are only a couple of alterations away from my bodice sloper or patterns I already own. Not this time! A not-very-critical look reveals that this pattern is simply a dartless block with a yoke and horizontal seam lines.


Well, I do consistently lose my restraint when there’s a yoke in play. And after I finished softly berating myself and turned my attention to basting my garment for fitting, I noticed that the yoke had truly beautiful proportions. $5.99 for a gorgeous yoke shape doesn’t seem so terrible!

crabandbee.com | Seamed Crop Top 05/2014 #123

I did choose to baste-fit instead of making a muslin. I’ll do this when I’m pretty sure a pattern won’t have more than minor fit tweaks like adjusting the shoulder seam or taking in the sides. I’ve found that Burdastyle patterns are pretty good on my top half. Before baste-fitting, I added my usual 1/2″ square shoulder adjustment to the back only, and graded to one size smaller through the bust while keeping the shoulders and waist a larger size. I left 1″ of shoulder seam allowance in addition to my square shoulder adjustment, but I didn’t need it.

crabandbee.com | Seamed Crop Top 05/2014 #123

After fitting, I took additional ease from the bust – maybe 1.5″ total – grading to nothing at the hem and scooped the armholes.

I also skipped the shoulder wings and bound the armholes with bias binding I made. I love how they look on others, but they simply extend my already square and broad shoulders.

crabandbee.com | Seamed Crop Top 05/2014 #123

I used flat piping around the yoke only, skipping it on the tank pieces. The seam lines on the silver fabric stand on their own, you know?

This was mostly a stash project. I bought two yards of silver coated linen from Mood a few years ago for this dress and received something like four yards. Pretty sure it has some sneaky polyester in it. The yoke is the dull side of the fabric. I did buy some accent fabric for the flat piping.

crabandbee.com | Seamed Crop Top 05/2014 #123

I’ve worn this over top of light sweaters and my denim shift dress, and as a tank top over jeans or this (unblogged) black Gabriola below. I love it! I was a bit pissy when my husband likened it to a Star Trek alien costume, mid-construction – I think I was feeling insecure about all the shine and seam lines could look like an insect thorax. He got to roll his eyes when I showed him the final piece and proudly proclaimed that I did in fact feel like I was a TNG character, but in a good way.

crabandbee.com | Seamed Crop Top 05/2014 #123

In spite of slapping my forehead when I realized how simple this pattern was, I really like it and will probably use it again. And look what Sax Silverain did with print-mixing on hers!

crabandbee.com | Seamed Crop Top 05/2014 #123

Party in the back: skirt sloper

This weekend, I was scrounging around for something to wear to a wedding. I was considering my MOH dress but I just don’t love how it looks on me. There’s something about the depth of the v-neck and the arm scyes I need to fix, but I’m not quite sure what it is yet.

After I’d run through my closet, I moved on to my fabrics, I found myself lingering on an intensely wonderful cotton sateen print I found earlier this year. (You may have seen it on Instagram when I was publicly wondering what to make with it.) After I’d considered a shift, a sheath, pants and a bomber jacket, the fabric demanded suddenly and unequivocally to be an A-line skirt.


The only trouble is I don’t actually have an A-line skirt pattern. I briefly considered a truncated Gabriola like this one from Fadanista, but I didn’t want the gores and wasn’t sure exactly how to de-flare it. And I’ve meant to make a skirt sloper ever since I finished my bodice sloper (which I’ve never blogged about it…) so I went the self-drafting route.

Reviewing my measurements made me glad I’d chosen to self-draft, particularly the front/back waist and hip arcs. These measurements are important because they divide the front half from the back half, and provide more info about how a circumference is distributed. I’m rectangular from the front and basically a Kardashian from the back; most of my waist width is in the front, and most of my hip width is not actually from the hips at all but from the rear.

My drafting manual – Helen Joseph-Armstrong’s Pattern Making for Fashion Design- details measurements for standard sizes, and my arc measurements are all over the chart. This certainly explains all the fit problems I’ve ever had with my lower half, which has always baffled me because my waist/hip measurements put me in a single size in most commercial patterns.

So here’s my sloper – I got decent results pretty quickly, to my great surprise! It was much, much easier than the bodice sloper. (Please enjoy the grainy phone photos.)

crabandbee.com | skirt sloper

I took the author’s advice for swayback figures and made one small dart in the front with two larger ones in the back. These pictures are of my second muslin; I moved the back darts after seeing my first muslin. If I were working on a pencil skirt, I would fine-tune them some more, but time is limited and I think this is a fine place to draft an A-line skirt from.

crabandbee.com | skirt sloper

The waist isn’t quite level, but I think my waist itself might be tilted. I may lower the front a bit and blend towards the back. I adjusted the side seams on the third muslin; it’s hard to see in the photo below, but they were swinging forward.

crabandbee.com | skirt sloper

Fingers crossed I get the skirt finished it in time for the wedding! Even if I don’t, I’m already psyched about the possibilities of having a skirt sloper.

Shirt shifts

When I was finishing my sister’s and my dresses, my sewing brain was scheming on summer projects. As I’ve gotten a bit obsessed with altering patterns over the past couple of years, the possibilities felt even more numerous/tantalizing. So a few weeks after the wedding wrapped up, when it was as hot as blazes, I made good on one of those ideas and sewed a couple of shift dresses based on McCall’s 6436 shirt pattern.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

The pattern seemed like a good shift candidate because of the bust/back darts and the body-skimming fit. The shirt hit the widest point of my hips, so I was able to extend the side seams and square off the hem. I added extra ease through the hips just in case, but found I’d removed it all by the end of fitting. I was working with a light-weight stretch denim, previously sewn up as pants.

This dress has a split hem that’s 1″ longer in the back, a bound neckline, and an exposed zip back closure that would be too short for a non-stretch fabric.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

Even though I’m in love with this dress and wear it multiple times a week, I can acknowledge its faults; the fabric doesn’t press particularly well – I can’t seem to steam out those dart bubbles – and my zipper insertion caused waves. And fit-wise, there are some lines in the front, I’m getting some pooling in the low back, and I think the back darts could use some work towards the top.

Getting close but not quite achieving a good fit triples the likelihood I’ll make another version immediately. I dove directly into my second version. To contrast the first, I chose the loudest fabric in my stash, a quilting cotton (!) bought as a souvenir from my trip to Kauai.

This was the best picture of the front of the dress…

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

I think everything lays much more nicely in this version, even though I wear the denim version 10x more. I raised the neckline a bit and cut the armholes in further. I’m still seeing some mild lines from bust to hip – is this just shift dress territory, or is there alteration I can make? Maybe one of those crazy darts I see on 60s shift patterns?

Not sure what I’m doing here…

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

I think I could stand to make a bit more of a swayback adjustment, but the back is much improved. I added a center back seam on this version, which helped me squeeze this dress out of 2 yards of 44″ fabric.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

I underlined with a cotton lawn and used a neckline facing instead of binding.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

I also used another one of my grandma’s spectacular buttons and made a thread loop from embroidery floss.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 altered into a shift dress

Here’s a gratuitous shot – I just like how nonplussed I look while wearing this festive print.

Overall, I would call this pattern mutation very wearable. I am realizing just how much I neglect fitting my back, though, especially below the arm holes. Do you have any techniques for fitting your own back?