A dress in blue noil

Hi guys! Thanks for your thoughtful responses to my interview with Leigh Anne Van Dusen. It was reassuring to hear that many of you experience the same feelings I do – wanting to sew with sustainable textiles but wondering (and feeling overwhelmed by) what really constitutes a sustainable, healthy fabric. I thought it was cool was that people had a wide range of experience with the idea – some people were new to the concept while others started sewing because they specifically wanted clothing made from textiles that met certain requirements.

Anyhoodles, today I’m sharing a project made with one of my personal favorite sorts of fabric – second-hand! One of the more astounding fabrics I’ve found at Our Fabric Stash was a royal blue silk noil. It’s weird, amazing stuff – heavier, some drape, crazy easy to sew. And, it’s one of my absolute favorite colors that I don’t seem to come across often in fabric. I’ve been pondering what to make out of it, and decided to go for a dress-length version of my long-coveted, out-of-print Built By Wendy pattern (graciously given to me by Philippa and previously sewn up in the shirt length).

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

As I was constructing the dress, I started wondering what I could do to make it special. Eventually, Sanae’s sashiko stitching on a dress for her daughter got me thinking, and I realized I could try to play up some of the cool design lines in the pattern with embroidery.

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

You want to look even closer, you say?

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

I tried a lot of options – three strands of embroidery floss, two, different designs – and this is where I ended up. Part of me wanted to go crazy and cover the yokes and insets completely, and another part of me wanted to stitch a single outline around each piece. Evidently, I reached a compromise! I’m a total novice at embroidery, but I really enjoyed seeing the graphic stitches come together to form a pattern.

I’d meant to start listening to Christine’s podcast Thread Cult for awhile, and this was the perfect project to start digging in. I’ve often wished for more sewing-related documentaries and media, and Christine does a great job interviewing a wide swath of sewing folks.

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

One change I wish I’d made is closing up the back opening. The neckline is large enough for even my melon head, and the weight of the ties tends to make it gape open. I stitched the ties down to make a fake bow that isn’t as bulky.

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

I decided against a sash (included in the pattern) or elastic waist (not included). I’m not sure it’s my “best look” (I’m irritating myself just writing that!) but it’s definitely a “best feeling”. And, I get to feel like I’m following in the stylish, un-fettered steps of Sonja.

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

The pattern has you sew the little sleeves and the binding onto the arm scye. Given the thickness of my fabric, I had to remove the binding and use a thinner silk scrap for binding that I hand-stitched. More hand-sewing = more Thread Cult!

I shortened the dress a bit by cutting off 10″ or so and turning it into a hem band. I love the weight this finish adds to the dress.

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

And that, my friends, is how my precious piece of blue silk noil became a embroidered, no-waist dress that is a delight to her creator. Is embroidery in your arsenal? Do you go waist-less? Do tell!

Yokes and gathers, part I

There are some design features that I’m just a sucker for. They may fall in or out of favor with prevailing trends, but I’ll seek them out. Yokes are one and gathers are the other, and providence help me if a pattern has both.

Recently, two (!) such patterns crossed my sewing table. The first and more successful one is Simplicity 3964. I have searched high and low for this out-of-print pattern on and off for a few years with very little luck until 1. I finally found a size-too-small version on Etsy that I bought anyway and 2. shortly after, I won the right-sized version from Philippa’s amazingly generous Sew Grateful giveaway. (Thank you again, Philippa!)

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I started tracing and sewing the instant it was delivered…

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

I used an embroidered white cotton from Our Fabric Stash for the body and sleeves, and some plain white cotton lined with the embroidered fabric for the inset and yoke pieces. Both fabrics are pretty rumply, but I don’t mind it on this top.

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

I needed the length of the larger size through the shoulders, but had to take out quite a bit of ease at the top of the side seams. There is still quite a bit of ease in the back, even though the bust is pretty fitted now.

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

You can see the back ease in action as I kick somebody’s emptied vodka bottle out of the frame. Thanks for the action shot, Nathan! (Semi-related side note: I’m sure you all saw, but I laughed HEARTILY at Katy & Laney’s 1st anniversary blooper reel.)

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

The back is closed by ties, but it looks like even my gigantic dome could fit through the neck opening. The visual break provided by the ties is kind of nice, though.

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

I took my time on the inset point, and sewed one side of it at a time instead of pivoting. I think this made a world of difference. I love this design, and it looks just as I would have hoped. Even though it’s distinctive, I plan on making a tunic or dress length version.

Stay tuned for Part II! And now I must take a poll; what design features do you love beyond reason or trends? Have they stayed the same through the years?