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Once again, work has gotten to be so hectic that time for everything else has just about dried up. I tried at first to buy some extra minutes by eliminating unnecessary words and phrases from utterance, such as “please,” “thank you,” “are you going to eat that?” and “you don’t mind if I cut ahead of you, right?” And although I found myself at the front of queues much sooner after implementing these changes, I still found myself short on time, which meant no sewing for weeks on end. I finally squeezed a few hours this weekend to finish up a stagnating project (most likely at the expense of lectures that needed prepping or students that needed help- suckas!) – a dress inspired by the Kate Spade “Jillian” polka dot dress. Here’s the original:

Sooooooo pretty, right?? This dress has been drooled over by many a seamstress, including Kerry, who took a much smarter and more efficient approach to satisfying her covet. Not so for the Selfish Seamstress, who had to do things the slow way. (Kerry, incidentally, is so similar to Selfish in proportions that Selfish occasionally dreams of annexing Kerry, installing her in the sewing room, and using her as some sort of feisty, live-action dress form. Oh, what fun we would have, and what a precise fit!)

I don’t know on what blog or website I first saw the dress, but I am sure that the picture above is the first one I saw, and the one I fell for.  I don’t think I would have gotten quite so excited over it if I had only seen the modeled dress. Subsequent research on the dress revealed a slightly more sedate, less flared skirt than I had expected as well as a rather polka-dot-disruptive back seamed skirt that I wanted to avoid (as I had done before when knocking off other polka dot garments).

And so I set off to improve upon the original to make it more to my liking.  Yes, you read that correctly- a crankpot nobody sewing blogger with average sewing skills, no fashion design training, and paltry creative vision of her own actually claimed she was going to improve upon KATE SPADE. Improve. Kate Spade. Hubrisalicious!

Planned improvement #1: more flare in the skirt.  Planned improvement #2: side zip instead of back zip to ditch the back seam. Planned improvement #3: COTTON. Online retailers described the original polka dot Jillian dress as being done in “heavy silk organza.” Really?  Looks like taffeta to me.  Whatever weave it is, it’s strictly a party dress in sheeny, stiff silk. And Selfish never gets invited to parties on account of her tendency to ruin everyone else’s evening, so she was aiming for a little more versatility- something she could wear to ruin general everyday events for people.

Improvement #3 turned out to be a rather tall order, as it was hard to find the right navy and white polka dot cotton fabric. I didn’t want to wuss out with some rinky-dink mid-scale 1/2″ polka dot. I wanted a proper, robust, intentionally large, unashamed dot. Plus I wanted a regular dot pattern, like Kate’s, and not an irregular, scattered dot. See this?  Unacceptable:

After much scouring of the internet, I found this perfectly patterned navy and and white cotton on Denver Fabrics, with just the right size dot (slightly less dense than the original, but not a problem) and a smooth, sateen-like weave, for the just-right price of $5.50 . (Of course, I was so desperate to have the dress that I paid the $40 international shipping to procure 2.5 yards of it.  Oh, Selfish, there you go again.) The dots are perfectly circular in real life- they just look a little eccentric in the picture.

The fabric arrived and although it’s not lightweight, it’s softer and drapier than I was expecting- it feels like the high thread count cotton Royal Sateen bedsheets that my mom loves, after they’ve been through the wash a couple of times. So, rather limp and prone to wrinkling- better suited to a softer, looser style of dress than the crisp fit and flare silhouette that I had envisioned. But I was determined and certainly wasn’t going to find a better print so I pressed on.

I was going to draft the dress from scratch, and then I remembered that I had a custom-drafted pattern with just the right bodice for it that I could use as a block- my good old Coffee Date Dress (download the pattern and instructions for free here!). I slashed-and-spread the skirt in several places to give it a little more flare for good measure (the original Coffee Date Dress draft has a rather modest flare) and added a 4″  inverted box pleat in the center front à la Kate. I omitted the Coffee Date Dress’s back zip in favor of a side invisible zip to avoid the dreaded polka dot disruption:

The side seam polka-dot disruption is much less jarring since the side seam of the skirt is on the bias and no strong vertical elements to get interrupted:

And of course, I drafted the fun midriff drape and the bow (the tails of my bow are a little longer than in the original. Somehow I thought the little bow looked rather twee, but with this style of dress that’s kind of like further splitting hairs that have already been split.) The bow droops a bit due to the softness of the fabric so I may open it up again and line or interface it.

Because the fabric was so soft, I opted to do a full lining instead of facings to give it a little more body. I used a champagne taffeta lining from my stash- probably an acetate and rayon blend, but possibly full acetate. It has a bit more stiffness than Bemberg (a good thing for the soft fashion fabric) and the champagne color softens the sparkling whiteness of the polka dot fabric a little (also a good thing, in my opinion.)

I don’t regret adding in the extra flare to the skirt – this dress looks pretty much like what I imagined in my head. But the volume of the skirt does cause the front box pleat to get a little bit lost in the shuffle. And I always forget how short I drafted the original Coffee Date Dress- I’ve got about a 3/4″ hem only because I didn’t want to go any shorter with this style.

There you have it- inspired by the Kate Spade polka dot Jillian dress, knocked off and “improved” by the Selfish Seamstress on the cheap, ready to wear to any number of places and activities where you can fully expect that I will ruin your day and that of everyone around you. Oh, by the way, are you going to eat that? Thanks.

Remember the Pants-with-a-bow crazypants from a couple of days back? Some of you asked for a tutorial on the waistband, which I will now condescend to sort of give to you, despite an extremely pathetic lack of offers of gifts in return. I do have to warn you, however, I stopped taking pictures partway through the sewing process, because honestly, I really can’t be bothered to think about your needs when I’m sewing.  Okay, let us begin.

This tutorial assumes that you have some knowledge of how to assemble a pair of pants or a skirt with a waistband and zipper. It also assumes you have a pant/skirt pattern with a curved waistband, or that you can draft a waistband from an existing pattern or sloper. I drafted a wide, 2.5″ waistband for my pants. You should have a front waistband and a back waistband. If your pattern has a waistband that has a seam in the center back, no seams at the side, and closes in the center front, you’ll need to create a front and back waistband from it. Create the back waistband by slashing the piece where it meets pant side seam, removing any seam allowance at the center back end, and mirroring it at the center back to create an arc that will go from one side of your waist to the other. Use the other piece to create a front waistband in the same fashion, remembering to remove anything that goes past the center front, such as extended tabs, etc. If you use seam allowances on your pattern, add them back in at the sides.

Okay, with me so far? Here’s what your back waistband will look like. See how it’s mirrored at the center back? Now first, (not pictured) MAKE A COPY of your front and back waistband patterns. They will be the patterns you use for the inner waistband. This is the outer waistband. Draw a line 2″ from side edge at one side (2 5/8″ inches if you’re using a 5/8″ seam allowance) like so. I should note that I actually did my waistband drafting backwards by accident. You’ll see here that I drew this slash line at the right side of the waistband, but it should actually be at the LEFT side if you want your the bow on your left hip (I fixed this when cutting my just flipping my pattern over.)

Ok, now slash at the line you just drew. This will create your back outer waistband and side-back outer waistband pieces:

And if you’re using seam allowances, don’t forget to add them back in to both pieces:

As you can maybe see, I drew in some notches for matching.

Then do the same thing to the front outer waistband (again, I did this backwards by slashing on the left side, but I should have slashed on the RIGHT side):

In the end, here are both outer waistbands and outer side waistband pieces:

The way the construction works is that you’re going to create two long sashes, and each of them will get “sandwiched” in that slash. Make sense?

Now we draft the bow. I made each of my sashes 32″ in length. I did this by tying a mini USB cable at my waist and determining how long I wanted it to be. You could make yours longer or shorter, as you like. The important thing is that the WIDTH at the end where it meets the waistband should be THE SAME AS THE WIDTH OF THE WAISTBAND.

Start drafting the bow by drawing a line the intended length of the bow, 32″ in my case:

Then at one end of the line you just drew, square off a line that the same length as the intended finished width of your waistband.  In my case, the waistband is intended to be 2.5 inches in width after sewing, so I drew a 2.5″ long line, with my original line meeting it at the center:

At the other end of the line, square off another line. For my sashes, I wanted them longer at the bottom than at the top, so I squared off a 5″ line:

Now, connect the ends of the short lines to form the seam lines of the sash.  If you would like the bottom edge of your sash to be angled, draw that angle in:

If you’re using seam allowance, add that in as well on all sides. Here is the finished sash pattern. The center line can serve as your grainline, unless you would prefer to cut the sash on the bias (I did not):

At this point, I stopped taking a lot of photos and you’re just going to have to rely on your mind’s eye and your smarts. Cut one inner front waistband and one inner back waistband (remember the original waistbands I asked you to put aside at the very beginning?) from your fabric. Also cut one outer waistband (front and back main pieces, and front and back side pieces) from your fabric. Cut the sash twice on doubled fabric (four sash pieces in total).

With the right sides facing, pin the sash pieces along three sides, excluding the top edge where the sash meets the waistband, and stitch. Ooh, sorry for the weird photo angle:

Trim the seam allowances along the three sides, clip the corners, turn the sashes right side out, and press. That’s it, now I’ve really run out of photos.

Interface all the waistband pieces.

Take the back outer waistband and pin it to the side back outer waistband right sides facing, with one of the sashes sandwiched in between. The edges should match up with the top edge of the sash, and the sash should be centered such that it does not extend between the top and bottom seam allowances of the waistband. Stitch. You should now have a complete back outer waistband with a sash coming out of it.

Repeat the process for the front outer waistband and front sash. You should now have a complete front outer waistband with a sash coming out of it.

Stitch the front outer waistband and back outer waistband together at the right side to form a complete outer waistband with sashes. Press.

Stitch the front inner waistband and back inner waistband together at right side to form a complete inner waistband (keep in mind that the inner waistband will be facing inwards towards your body when you are wearing it, so this will look like the reverse of the outer waistband).

Assemble your pants or skirt as desired or according to the pattern instructions, leaving an opening on the left side for your zipper.

Stitch lower edge of outer waistband to top edge of pants or skirt right sides facing, being careful not to catch the sashes in the stitching. Press.

Stitch inner waistband to outer waistband right sides facing at top edges. Turn inner waistband to inside of pants and press.

Install side zip and finish inner waistband as desired. (I usually turn the seam allowance of the inner waistband to the inside, and slip stitch it to hide the seam allowances of pants and the outer waistband.)

Okay, hope you could follow all that.  If so, ta-dah! Pants with a bow!

After discovering last week that the coveted pants from Burda July 2010 were not meant to be, I pulled out my entire Burda collection and started sifting through for other flowy pant patterns, but nothing was really to my liking. And then the day before yesterday for no reason, a phrase popped into my head:

“Pants with a bow!”

It kind of stuck in my head and I said it over and over to myself, “pantswithabowpantswithabowpantswithabow…” I’m not sure if this is inspiration or mental deterioration at play, but suffice it to say I became quite fixed on the idea of “pants with a bow.” I drafted them mentally on the way to work yesterday morning, and then on paper yesterday evening (using my pant sloper), and finished off the evening by sewing them up zippy quick. Here’s how they turned out:

Super easy pants! (BTW, I love how a pair of pants that actually fits properly makes me feel so much less short- the inseam on these is a meager 27.5″, and I cut them to wear them with very high heels, so you can imagine how short my actual inseam is. But I look almost sort of tall-ish in these pants when no one is standing next to me!) They have a 2.5″ wide waistband, slightly flared legs, and a side zip. No pockets, no fly, no darts, no cuffs, just simple and clean! Here’s the rear view (kids, cover your eyes!)

(Incidentally, I really don’t care for how not blind my machine-stitched blind hem is compared to when I hem by hand. I almost always hem by hand, but I decided to give it another shot with the machine last night since it was getting late, and really, I might just unpick it and re-hem these by hand.)

And of course, there is the bow. I realize that by adding this bow, I’m reducing the wearability of these pants (you can wear a pair of basic beige pants once a week if you want, but I don’t think you can get away with giant bow crazypants quite as often), but I wanted them. With a bow. And I didn’t want some cop-out detachable bow either. I wanted the bow engineered into the pants. I just made two long tapered sashes which are sort of “inserted” into the waistband about an inch away from the side zip.

Actually, I slashed the outer waistband and inserted the sash so that there are no exposed ends. If anyone is interested, I can show you how to draft the pattern for this- it’s very simple. When the sashes are tied into a bow, it mostly hides the side closure, which is nice.

The fabric is some drapey stone beige wool that I’ve had in my stash for a long time. It’s smooth and kind of spongey and it might be wool crepe, but I don’t really recognize the weave. I think I bought it to make some basic pants a while ago, then wasn’t interested in making beige pants anymore. Recently I pulled it out again and earmarked it for the Vogue 1183 Kay Unger dress, but upon holding it up to myself in the mirror, I realized that the cool beige color does not belong anywhere near my face.

Anyway, that’s it. Some new quick-to-draft and quick-to-sew crazypants for the Selfish Seamstress. Pants with a bow! Pants with a bow! Pants with a bow!

The weather up by the Selfish Seamstress’s igloo has taken a turn for the nasty, and here we are on the 4th of May suddenly facing bitter wind and lots and lots of swirling snow. Surely such a phenomenon can only occur when you bet on the sewing gods over the weather gods, and then the weather gods have to remind you that the sewing gods are very, very small peanuts indeed compared to something as powerful and global as weather.

I forgot about that delicate balance last night and decided to indulge in some warm weather sewing for the first time this year, even though the weather has yet to turn warm. Even though my Madwoman dress has barely progressed since you last saw it, I couldn’t resist the draw of that gorgeous birthday voile any longer. Having it in my stash was like knowing there is a full pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer- I couldn’t just pretend like I’d get around to it later. So I pulled it out, all crispy and shimmery, along with a vintage pattern that was unfortunately missing some pieces, some paper for drafting, and some muslin. A little drafting, some adapting and editing, and after a mere two hours I had this:

What’s that you say?  You can’t figure it out from the picture? Hahaha, that’s because it’s a secret. And it’s a secret because after it’s done, I’m going to upload the pattern so you can make your own. It’s been a while since I’ve put up a pattern for you, and I like to keep you guessing. It makes me feel powerful.

Suffice it to say, after that dizzying summer sewing frenzy last night, delicate cotton voile flying everywhere, pins scattered all over the floor, I woke up this morning to a blizzard. I guess I won’t be wearing this anytime soon. But maybe you will!

Oh, okay, fine. Here’s my inspiration pattern. Twist my arm a little, why don’t you.

I check the sales on from time to time but rarely get excited over them.  But today there’s a sale on Magaschoni (why oh why had I never heard of them before??) and it’s like a dream in which Audrey Hepburn takes your hand and says, “Would you like me to take you on a tour of my closet, delightfully updated with current colors and detailing?” I would happily wear almost anything from the sale, but here are the ones that are really getting me:







I think I can figure out how to draft most of those myself as the shapes are pretty straightforward.  And I’ll probably never even get around to most of them because my need for silky things and flouncy ruffles is not super urgent.  But what is urgent is this top which I *MUST* have and have no idea how to draft!

Brilliant readers, I implore you to help me!  How do I do this?  What does the draft of that center bib piece look like? How can I make something so impossibly gorgeous and graceful?  Your advice please- I must have this top, and my French blue bamboo knit is languishing in my stash.  It is an emergency because I will indeed perish if I don’t have this top. Please help.

[P.S. I think is now open to anyone to browse and shop, but if not and you need an account, just email me at selfishseamstress[at]gmail[dot]com, and I’ll send you an invite.]

Well, here’s a novel concept: Actually sewing something.  

That’s right, after weeks of me rambling on and on about books and fabric and my mom, rants on the undeserving, butcherings of a beautiful Japanese art form, I’m back home with Dan, my cat, and my dear, sweet Husqvarna. Last night I put all of my lovely new fabric on the shelf (oh dear, the stash needs some reorganizing and possibly some purging) and then promptly took out a big remnant that I’ve had sitting around for a while.

I love this fabric. I got it at Vogue in Chicago and it was one of those fabrics that just jumped out at me as I walked by the tables- the kind of warm coffee-and-chocolate brown tones that I love with a subtle but interesting diagonal not-quite-herringbone pattern that make it perfect for the kind of office-appropriate slacks, slim skirts, and sheath dresses that I always gravitate towards making. Sure, it was one of those rolls on which the fiber content was described as “assorted,” but it has a lovely, substantial drape and is nice and soft and smooth.  I’m going to assume there’s some rayon in there.

And as per your feedback, I decided to bump up the knockoff of the Anthropologie Verite dress on my priority queue.  Remember this one?

I drafted up a muslin using the bodice of my Delancey Dress as a block, which (duh) made for a pretty good fit on the first try. Just a bit of a pinch under the arms at each side seam, and then off to the fashion fabric. I’m calling it the Parity Dress for now. Here’s where I am with it thus far:

It occurs to me now that I should really take photos in progress, as that might be more useful than these sort of halfway-done still shots. But sometimes my sewing process is so weird and wrong and ad hoc that that would do more harm than good. For example, because I still haven’t figured out a good dress form solution, I started out by holding up a muslin of half of the bodice of my Delancey Dress to my body over my bra with one hand and then standing in front of a mirror and sketching the under bust style lines directly on it with a Sharpie with my other hand. Surely no one needs to see photos of that! (Yes, I know. Either get a dress form or learn to pin into own flesh. I’m working on it.)

Well, fingers crossed for a good end result, as I love that Anthropologie dress and it’s exactly the sort of thing that would NEVER even come close to fitting my short and shapeless body if I bought it from a store. Who knows?  If it works out well, there might even be another free pattern in it for you. More soon!

About this blog

The Selfish Seamstress loves to design and sew garments, but only if she gets to keep them. I'm Elaine, known in the online sewing world as elainemay, and welcome to my selfish sewing blog.

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