My Makes: The Dottie Angel Frock

August 3, 2015

While I was away on vacation I picked up a handful of patterns and started to develop my post-vacation sewing plans. I have always been a fan of the grannie chic style that Dottie Angel has made her signature, so when I saw that she was releasing her famous Frock as a sewing pattern with Simplicity (Simplicity #1080), I didn't hesitate and jumped to buy it immediately. 

My personal tastes swing from hippie grannie to chic Parisian, depending on the situation and my mood. This garment allowed me to go deep into the one far side of my tastes and satisfy my hippie grannie to the fullest. Is it the most flattering of looks? No, but that's not the point to me with these kinds of frocks. It's about homespun comfort and everyday ease. And for that, it's a huge success in my book. 

If you're not familiar with the garment, the front features two top stitched pleats on the left and right of center, which have a tie sewn into them that wraps around to the back to cinch in the back of the dress. I found my tie was plenty long to wrap around to the front to place the bow in the front if I wanted to, but I liked it best in the back. 

The pleats are quite high on the front of the dress, so I would check to see where they land on your body before sewing them. I am rather short waisted and these hit me right under my bust for an empire fit. If you prefer them at your waist, or if you're more busty than I am (38B) I would suggest lowering them. The original images show them high on the body like an empire fit, but keep in mind they are quite high. 

The front features the signature Dottie Angel pleated pockets that are set on top of the optional contrast band at the bottom. The length is a midi length, meant to hit mid-calf. The sleeves are kimono sleeves that are formed in the shoulder seams, so there are no actual sleeves to put on.

I wanted to play with a mix of retro-inspired fabrics to keep with the original feel of the garment, but also tried to keep it somewhat current. The fabrics I picked were Ghost Saltines in Evergreen by Kim Kight for Cotton + Steel for the top, a scrap of Shot Cotton by Kaffe Fassett for the pockets (pretty sure it's the Pewter color, looking at the color chart), neon bias binding purchased locally at Michael Levine (I didn't see it on their website), and a scrap of floral from my stash that I bought at one of those cheap-o fabric stores in downtown LA. 

As with any garment, I try to follow the instructions the first time around, but this garment proved really tough in that department right from the get go. The end result I love, but I did make a ton of changes and will make a few more in my next go around. 

The first change was how I attached the binding to the pockets. As pictured above, the patch pockets are trimmed in 1/4" double fold bias binding. The instructions have you sandwich the binding on the edge of the pocket, baste it in place, then sew them in place close to the inner edge of the binding. I didn't do them this way for two reasons. First, this would mean that the distance from the inside of the binding to the edge would be like a flap, so if you go this way you might want to do another row of stitching at the actual pocket edge. And second, I prefer to sew my binding around like a wrap instead of a sandwich. 

I did my pocket binding as pictured above. Step 1- sew the binding to the right side of the pocket, stitching in the first fold. Step 2- wrap the binding to the wrong side, pressing it to the edge of the stitching. Step 3- stitch the binding in place at the inner edge. Step 4- then sew the pockets to the dress at the outer edge of the binding. 

The other changes I made to the dress involved the length, the sleeves, and the interior finishing. For the length, I am 5'4" and this hit me really at an unflattering spot. I usually prefer things at my knee, but I wanted to keep the midi skirt feel to this dress, while being as flattering as possible. I took 2" off the lower contrast panel during cutting, and another 1" after finishing the dress. I also did a simple double fold topstitched hem instead of finishing the hem with bias binding. 

The interior of the dress calls for every seam to be sewn, trimmed, covered with bias binding that's basted to the inside, then top stitched on both sides of the seam on the right side. I found this to be a little excessive and potentially bulky, especially where the pockets intersect with the seam of the lower band, so I did just regular straight stitched seams with a trimmed and zigzagged edge. The side seams instructs you to sew them as French seams, which again I found to be a bit unnecessary. I know why they do this, because you've at that point already finished the sleeves and this creates a finished edge in the armpit, but at that point I had already changed my sleeves and so a French seam was no longer necessary. 

Speaking of the sleeves, this seems to be the big point of confusion by those I've seen make this dress, and reading the instructions, I totally understand why. I did one sleeve as instructed and documented it. 

Step 1- the single fold bias tape is pinned to the sleeve opening, tapering to the edge of the fabric at the dots. Step 2- sew the binding to the sleeve in the first fold, then trim the excess away. As a patternmaker, it always confuses me when the garments are to be reshaped this way. Why not just design the sleeve in this shape so the binding can be sewn to the edge? Anyway, moving on...

Step 3- Before you roll the binding to the inside, I marked the fold line on the right side of the dress with water soluble pencil so I could roll that to the inside after I sewed the binding on. Step 4- fold on the fold line, and pin in place. This will taper to the edge of the fabric. 

Step 5- baste the sleeve in place by sewing at the edge of the bias binding. Step 6- top stitch the binding in place by sewing on the right side of the fabric. Then remove the baste stitches. I then pressed it over a ham and basted the side seam to the mark on the pattern to see how the sleeve would fit. And how did it look? 

Terrible! Also, sorry for the late-night mirror selfie, but I wanted to document this moment. Aside from the obvious, which is that the armhole was way too low and totally showing my boobs, I also didn't like the sleeves on my body, which is common for me with this style of sleeve. I am small across my shoulders and this kind of sleeve often looks goofy on me. But to keep with the integrity of the dress, I wanted to give it a go. Needless to say, this had to change! I also saw at this point that the overall size was just too big. I made a medium based on the body and finished measurements, but I ended up trimming 1/2" off both sides of the front and back, so I will sew up a small next time.

So after all that sleeve nonsense, I ended up trimming off the sleeves all together. And yet, as you can see in the photos, they still go beyond my shoulders. I cut off 3 1/2" at the widest point of the shoulder, and turned it more into a tank. At this point I had to selvage the sleeves, so I simply sewed up the side seams of the dress and bound the armholes in bias binding. I thought I'd roll with the neon binding I already had going to give it a little bit of a pop.

In the end, I love this dress. I'm thinking of this as a wearable muslin since I didn't make a real muslin, but it's very wearable indeed. Changes I will make next time in addition to making the small and shortening the length a little bit more will be to just reshape the sleeves to be a proper tank, and raising the back a bit too as the scoop is a little too low for me. But this is just personal taste and nothing about the pattern at all. Next version I will try it without the pockets and in a less grannie fabric, as I can see this being a really great staple for hot summer days, or with a cardigan in the fall and winter, and made up in solid black or navy could be very chic and classic. 

The Guilt of Selfish Sewing

July 31, 2015

My studio is in my home, and for the most part I love that I can go from life to work to life and back and forth as much as I need to. It can be challenging to set boundaries so I'm not working all day and night. And the reverse can happen too–it can be easy to be sucked into non-work things in the middle of the day since my trash and laundry and dishes are right there looking at me.

If I'm guilty of one direction or the other, it's that I end up working all day and all night, rather than the other way around. That's fine on occasion, but it's really a bad habit to get into all the time. What I find happening is that in the evenings, I don't sew for myself for pleasure. Don't get me wrong, I do sew for myself all the time, but rarely for pure pleasure.

My wardrobe is probably 90-95% handmade, but it's really not very diverse at all. I find that if I am going to sew in the evening after "work" hours, I feel tremendously guilty if it isn't work related sewing. I can't be the only sewing professional that feels this way, as I'm sure there's a bit of this in all of us, but this is a really bad habit that I'm trying actively to break.

Why do I have dozens of Shift Dresses from my book, or Emery Dresses, or whatever? Because it feels like it's somehow "okay" to sew these for myself because they are "work" related. And if I'm going to take the time to sew for myself that's not work related, I mostly focus on something quick and easy like the Laurel Dress or the Pearl Shift. Both patterns I love and live in all the time, but I really feel a sense of guilt when I spend time sewing things for myself when I "should" be sewing something for work.

The joy of vacation is breaking from your daily habits, and the hope is that when you return to your life you see the bad habits and actively try to change them, which is exactly what I'm doing right now. Since being home, I am clocking out of my work after dinner, and then returning to my studio to sew for me. Last week I made the Dottie Angel Frock from Simplicity (photos shot and coming to the blog next week!) and now I'm working on the Carolyn Pajamas from Closet Case Files with some fabric I brought home from Paris (pictured above).

I'm hoping that this will result in a more diverse wardrobe and that I will actually use all these patterns I buy from my fellow designers! I buy them because I love them, but then I don't sew them up because somehow I get this guilty thing going on when I sew for pure pleasure. But no more I say!

Do you all feel this way too? I'm guessing many do, even if you don't sew for a living!

Announcing Upcoming Workshops at Fancy Tiger Crafts and Superbuzzy!

July 28, 2015

I am so excited to announce two upcoming in-person workshops!

Sylvie Dress

First up, I am so honored to return to the fabulous Fancy Tiger Crafts for another weekend workshop! Last time we made the Emery Dress, this time I'm coming to teach the new Sylvie Dress! Perfect for an advanced beginner or an intermediate sewer, this class will move quickly as we tackle the entire construction from start to finish in two days flat!

We'll cover darts, gathering, piping, bias finishing, invisible zipper, and so much more. Make either view, your choice!

Saturday and Sunday, September 12–13
10am–6pm with an hour lunch break
Limited to 10 students
Sign up directly at the Fancy Tiger Crafts site here 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Shift Dress class from Craftcation Conference 2014

Next is an all-day Saturday class at the lovely Superbuzzy in Ventura, CA, where I will be teaching the Shift Dress project from my book Skirts & Dresses For First Time Sewers. Perfect for new sewers or those new to garment construction, with this project you will learn how to measure your body, selecting your size, sewing and finishing basic seams, as well as bias binding the neckline and finishing the sleeves with a gathered cuff.

All of this will wrap up in one day of 6-hour sewing, so you will arrive with raw materials, and leave with a finished dress!

Saturday, September 19
11am–6pm with an hour lunch break
Limited to 10 students
Sign up directly at the Superbuzzy site here

New Blog Coming!

July 23, 2015

After reading the 400+ surveys from you all (THANK YOU by the way!!!) I knew it was time to do a big change on the blog. This is something that I suspected for a while now, and reading all the comments from everyone just confirmed all my thoughts to be true.

Most of you want to read about pattern hacks, sewalongs, finished makes, and tutorials. Yep, me too. That's what I like reading on other's blogs too, so this was not a surprise to me.

I have always looked at my blog as a support site to my patterns, and have never considered myself a "blogger" per se. But I see that as I grow, I am actually not supporting all my patterns as well as I could.

So, I'm going to officially declare that I am going to Blog. Blog with a capital B. Blog for real. And with that comes all new everything! New site, new address, new new new!

I'm keeping the name of my blog the same, and will simply be moving from a blogspot address to its own domain. So City Stitching will now live at (can you believe that was still available?!) While you're thinking about it, go bookmark it, follow it on your favorite reader, etc. I promise more notice when the full changeover occurs, which hopefully will be very soon (and hopefully will go smoothly!!!).

Here's a preview of what you can expect to see on the new site:

  • Better workshop listings: My main site where I sell my patterns is so amazing at doing exactly that, but both on that site and on my blog it is clunky for me to code a proper workshop schedule as I'd like it to be. That part looks amazing on the new site- complete with maps to the locations, the ability to sync to your personal calendar, and just a clearer organization.
  • Clear tabs for finished makes: I love reading and seeing the finished makes on all the blogs I read, and it's really nice to have a clear spot to find that. Personally, I loathe it when the tab simply brings up a search of posts with that tag, giving you pages and pages to sort through. So on the new blog, there will be a pretty grid of images for you to click through to the post about that outfit. Easy peasy!
  • A sewalong tab: Much like the finished makes issue, the same change will happen with the sewalong posts I've written. There is a drop down menu for you to pick the garment, and that will lead you to an easy to navigate grid of images to click through to each post. Love it!
  • More professional and clean look: I think blogger is great and all, but I am excited to move to a clean site that is less busy. I have trouble with clutter, both in my real home and my virtual one too!
  • A tutorials tab: Just like with the sewalong and finished makes, tutorials will get their own tab too, so you can find what you're looking for in a pretty way. 
  • More everything: With this change, I will be beefing up everything. More posts, more tutorials, more finished makes, and more more more! For someone who wears about 95% handmade, that surely isn't reflected on my blog. So I will be posting a lot more of what I'm sewing too.
  • Easier and prettier: This doesn't effect you necessarily, but I can say that the new site lets me do things in a prettier and easier way. Blogger really fights you with image formatting and such, and I'm so happy with the new software and how easy it is for me to make everything look beautiful. 
  • All the data: And of course, on the new site I will share all the data received from the surveys and a lot of discussion that will come with that. There's so much to talk about, that I want to roll it out a bit at a time. 

Thanks again to everyone for all the support and input on the surveys and beyond. Without all of you, my business is nothing! Seriously, I want to make sure to always stay clear with my own vision, but it is important for me to know what you all want too.

Big hugs!

Survey Giveaway Winner!

July 14, 2015

Thank you so much to all of you that filled out the survey about my sewing patterns! The data is incredibly helpful and I will be sharing all of it over the next few weeks. There's a lot to sort, discuss, and graphs and charts to make! But of course, some of you also entered the giveaway!

So without further ado, the winner is entry #74, which belongs to tine.vp(at)xxx(dot)com who chose the Sylvie Dress PDF pattern as their prize! Yay!

This entry didn't fill in their full name, and I'm not comfortable publishing their full email on the web, but if this is your email above, you've been contacted via this email, so be sure to write me back ASAP to claim your prize!

Stay tuned for loads of discussion on all the survey data and where this will all lead me in the future! Thanks again!