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Priscilla, Queen of the Mesa

I've been going back and writing up posts about my previous Seamwork Mesa makes and this is one of my most fabulous ones.

My dance studio does a little event about every 6 months called a Spotlight Ball.  The main feature of this event is the Spotlight Challenge.  The way this works is, you pay for 5 lessons to put together a routine that fits whatever the theme is for the event and then everyone entered performs their routine and then everyone attending votes on the winner.  The winner gets their 5 lesson package free for the next Spotlight ball so they can defend their title.

This particular Spotlight Ball back in April 2018 had the theme of Oscar Winning Movies.  So, I picked Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.  I wanted to use this cool Berry Pink/Black Poly/Nylon Laser Cut Scales Knit with Hologram Dots that I got from Fabric Mart back in April 2016.  And I wanted to feature large, fabulous sleeves.  So I started with the Seamwork Mesa and modified the neckline to be a boat neck.

Then I just laid out the sleeve piece and cut the sleeve head exact, but then made the actual sleeve extra wide and dramatic.  I kinda just eyeballed it and got lucky with my first try

Trying the dress on after one sleeve was done to test it out.
I lined the dress with a black tricot, so the neckline has a nice, clean finish and I also don't have to worry about wearing something underneath.

I didn't hem anything.  So, this was a pretty quick make.  Not that the Mesa takes very long anyway.

Dress rehearsal!
In the excitement of these events, I usually forget to stop and make sure good photos are taken.  So, here are the only ones I got while I still had my wig and makeup on.  I'm sorry for the terrible quality!  That's my instructor, Yaunique, but he already changed out of his drag outfit.

And now, here's the video of my performance.  Spoiler alert: I won this challenge.

After the performance, wig off, wine in hand, waiting for the results.

Three more Mesas

I made a new Seamwork Mesa last week and got inspired to make my first Mesa wearable again and realized that my new dress was the 10th time I'd made that pattern!  This post shows off 3 that I made pretty much exactly as the pattern is drafted.

This is the latest one, made from a cotton lycra that I got as part of a bargain lot from Girl Charlee.

The only change to the pattern is I shortened the neck band piece by a couple inches.  The way it's drafted is just not good.

I decided to use a decorative stitch for the sleeve hems.  

I also started to use it on the dress hem but I ended up being surprised to run out of top thread.  I didn't have another spool, but there was still a good amount in the bobbin, so I moved it to the top thread and used a grey thread for the bobbin to finish the hem with just a zigzag stitch.

This blue striped fabric is a cotton jersey also from Girl Charlee.  I made this dress back around August 2017 and wear it often.

The neck band was shortened a bit, but could be a bit tighter still and I used a band around the sleeves instead of hemming them.

I don't remember where I got this animal print fabric, but it's a cotton lycra.  I made this one way back in May 2017 and I managed to include a couple photos of it in my MMMay post that year.

If I remember correctly, this was the second one I made.  I hadn't smartened up about the neck band yet, but somehow it just worked with this one.  Or at least it isn't bad enough for me to notice.  I also used bands on the sleeves of this one too.  That just feels easier to me than hemming for some reason.

The rocky start of my love affair with Mesa

You may not have picked up on the fact that I'm madly in love with the Seamwork Mesa, since I've only blogged about her twice so far, when talking about my rainbow and 4th of July hacks.  But I've made this dress 8 more times that I haven't blogged about yet.  I'm going to write up some posts to rectify that, starting with the very first one I made.

I have to admit, when I made this first version back in August of 2015, I wasn't very impressed.  I used a rayon spandex jersey that I got as part of Girl Charlee's knitfix from earlier that year and lined it in a swimsuit lining that I got from Hancock a million years ago when that store still existed.

The main thing I didn't like about the dress was the fact that the shape of the dress just didn't work well with my apple shape.  Also, the neck band was way too long and so the neckline would sort of bow out, instead of laying flat like it's supposed to.  I just wasn't comfortable wearing it and so it just sat in my closet.

Fast forward a couple years later, I try on the dress after losing some weight and I actually like the way it fits.  So, I made a couple more and would still occasionally wear this one.  But the neckline drove me crazy, and I was constantly fussing with it when I did wear it.

So, this week, I finally just sat down and unpicked the neck band, shortened the piece, and then reattached it.  I'm SOOOO glad I did!

I wonder if I'd made a larger size back when I first made this dress, if I would have fallen in love sooner...

Do you have any garments that you didn't like when you first made them, but then later decided you loved?  Tell us all about it in the comments!

Reversible Reggie

My husband and I had a Hawaiian vacation the first week of December last year and I had a long list of items to sew for that getaway that included a lot of easy to wear beachy dresses.

I love a good wrap dress and the Seamwork Reggie has been on my ToSew list for a while, so it made its way onto my vacation list. But, because I can’t ever just leave well enough alone, I decided to make it fully reversible.

The solid blue is a cotton gauze that I had long enough to forget where it came from and the floral is a mystery fabric that I got from Seattle ReCreative. It feels mostly cotton, but it could be a blend and it has a lovely texture to it.

I basically just made two copies of the dress, omitting all of the facings and adding the waist tie to the opposite side waist seam from where I basted the front tie on both copies, then put both dresses together, right sides together and sewed with a 5/8″ seam allowance. Except for the hem, which I sewed at 1 ¼”.

Then I trimmed the seam allowance all the way around with my pinking shears then turned it through one of the arm holes. Turn the sleeve hems under and topstitch everything all together and voila! Easy peasy!

As it turns out, the dress is a little big on me. It is still wearable, but the way the ties are attached, I can't get it to be more snug. Because of that, I don't wear it much and I only actually wear the print side.

Even though this one didn't turn out as great as I'd hoped, I would like to make some more reversible dresses. They are nice for traveling, although I don't seem to travel as much for work these days. Have you ever made a reversible garment?

Purple Lady Skater

I wanted to make a new knit dress because it's been a while since I've made a new everyday dress, but I was having decision anxiety over what to make and which fabric to use.  So, I made my husband come into my sewing room and pick a fabric for me to use.  He picked this lovely purple cotton lycra knit that has been in my stash long enough for me to not remember where it came from.

I only had 2 yards, so that limited my pattern selection without needing to color block.  I keep my patterns indexed in Evernote, and one of the tags I use is "2 yards or less" to indicate that I can make the pattern with less than 2 yards.  So, when I filtered my pattern list on "dress, pdf, knit, 2 yards or less" I got 14 hits.  Several of them are ones I haven't even made yet, so I need to fix that someday, but right now, I was looking for something I knew I could make in a day.  So, I decided it was time to make my old favorite TNT Lady Skater pattern.

I have had great love for the Kitschy Coo Lady Skater and have not bothered to hide it!  I hadn't made one since I lost weight and I had originally made some changes to the pattern to get a better fit, so I actually thought this might be a good time to find a different pattern for this simple dress silhouette to try out.  But I actually couldn't find another fit and flare knit dress that could be made with less than 2 yards.

So, I reprinted my beloved Lady Skater, which was the first PDF pattern I ever made, and realized how far along PDF patterns have come since that one!  The pattern doesn't have layers, which is fine because at least half the time I forget to go turn off the sizes I'm not cutting anyway.  The pattern has no line distinction for the sizes and only uses different colored solid lines.  I only have a black and white printer these days, so it was very obvious that the pattern isn't great for printing in black and white.  Luckily, the pattern is simple enough that it wasn't actually a problem.  But I did go over the size I wanted to cut out with a highlighter anyway, just to be sure.

My measurements fit squarely into the size 6.  Previously, I made the size 8, which is the biggest size it comes in.  The changes I made to that size 8 were: I took the shoulders in a bit, I raised the waistline by an inch and I did a small swayback adjustment.  I compared the size 6 to the size 8 and the shoulders were not as wide as my adjusted size 8 shoulders and the waistline was the same as my adjusted waist on the size 8.  So, I decided to just make the size 6 once as is and do all the fitting over again.

I added pockets, using the Colette Moneta pocket piece placed 4" from the top of the skirt pieces.  Because, of course all dresses should have pockets!

The fitting changes I want to make to my next version:

  • take a bit of width out of the shoulders, because I hate having that little bubble on the top of my shoulder when I lift my arms.  
  • sway back adjustment to remove some of those wrinkles on my back
  • maybe I need to add a bit of length to the back of the skirt to allow for my bodacious booty. 

Do you have any patterns that are worth starting over with?

Making Fireworks!

I have been wanting to make a 4th of July dress for some time now.  I have purchased a few fabrics for that purpose, some a little more subtle than others.  I had a dance party that was encouraging patriotic outfits, so I decided to go quite literal by using these two fabrics:

I had visions of what I wanted to make and was planning on using the Colette Moneta.  But, as it turns out, I only had one yard each of those two cotton lycra fabrics, which isn't quite enough for the Moneta.   So, I decided to colorblock a Seamwork Mesa again and created a sketch of what I was envisioning.

Once I had a sketch that I liked, I basically just followed the same steps I did for my rainbow Mesa a couple years ago.  The main difference in my process this time is that after I printed out two copies of the front dress piece, and taped it all together to make the full front piece, instead of cutting up that piece, I just drew in the lines I wanted for my two sections and I traced each piece onto Swedish tracing paper, then added the seam allowances.  That way I still have that full sized front piece to use for the next time I color block the Mesa.  (Spoiler alert: I already have the next one planned and sketched out.)

Ripley loves to help!

I cut a neckline band out of the blue and white, but then thought it might look cuter with a red and while one, so I laid it out to see and decided that was the way to go.

I also usually put bands on my sleeves too, so I just made them opposite on each sleeve too.  I really love how the dress turned out.  I was a bit concerned that the "waving" line would be hard to get to lie flat, but I didn't have any problems with that at all.

I managed to get the stripes to line up pretty well on the left side.  The right side, not so much, but it's the shorter seamline for the stripes, so it's not all that noticeable and I'm not concerned about it.

I like that I can just cut out each piece double with this pattern to make the front and the back of the dress without needing to modify each pattern piece separately.

We didn't leave the house, other than to take these photos on the actual 4th of July.  But I went to my party on the 5th and got a ton of compliments.  I like the way this dress turned out and I'm glad I finally have a patriotic outfit to wear for when the occasion calls for it.

Anna goes to Las Vegas

I have a special place in my heart for the By Hand London Anna.  First of all, my daughter's name is Anna, so that alone would make me interested in taking a look at anything named after her.  Plus, when it first came out, all the photos I saw were stunning.  I've made 3 versions already and I was incredibly pleased with each one.  So, when I needed a formal gown and didn't have a ton of time to mess with fitting, I decided to go back to my beloved Anna since already I knew the pattern pretty well.  I wanted to add some extra drama, and I sketched up a couple quick silhouette options, including one with a neckline capelet and had decided to go that route.


Previously, I had to grade up a size to a ~US 18 and I didn't bother doing any other fit alterations.  But I've lost a significant amount of weight since I last made an Anna, so this time around, I decided to make a size US 14 with a 3" FBA.  I read up quite a bit on other ladies' experience with doing an FBA on Anna and decided to not do it the way the BHL blog recommends, since I was adding a large amount.  I just used the normal Y method that I usually use, then rotated the dart and absorbed it into the two pleats, trying to distribute it equally.  It's very hacky looking, but here's what the finished piece ended up looking like.


This dress was going to be for the awards dinner of a dance event and it is always a formal evening with a theme and this time the theme was Viva Las Vegas.  I had this periwinkle/black/white shimmery animal print crinkle chiffon fabric that was gorgeous and just screamed Vegas to me.  So, I decided I had to go with it.


The fabric was too transparent, so I looked through my stash and I found a black charmeuse satin to underline it with. 


I thought the shiny side would feel nice against my skin, so I put the fabrics wrong sides together and I cut them together and cut a single layer -- not on the fold.  I also hand basted the fabrics together to keep the chiffon from shifting around too much and I'm really glad I took the extra effort to do so.  It made it so much easier once I started sewing all those skirt pieces together! I made cut and sewed up the bodice first and I finished the arm holes with black packaged bias binding, hand stitching it to the underlining layer only, instead of turning and sewing the edges in place as the instructions direct.  This is the first time I've done it this way, because I usually line my Anna bodice and I also have always added sleeves before, but I really like how clean this method came out.


After I made up the bodice, with the neckline unfinished, waiting for the capelet, I put it on my dressform and was looking at it sitting there, already second guessing my plan.  I was chatting with a friend/coworker who was working late out of town and sent some photos, she didn't agree with my plan either, so I started thinking of other ways I could add some extra drama to the dress.  I started thinking about cutting a V back and draping some long flaps from the V to create a little back cape thing (yes, I REALLY want a dress with a cape of some sort!!) and so I unpinned the back of the bodice to see what it would look like with a V back....


...and the fun side effect of underlining my dress with the shiny side of the charmeuse on the inside meant that the good side showed in the flap that folded out once I unpinned the back.  I LOVED IT!  So I ran with it.  I took out the basting stitches and stitched the two layers together on those edges right sides together and pressed.  I finished the skirt, attached it, inserted a shorter zipper and figured out where to insert it where it would cover up my normal bra.  I somehow misjudged and had to improvise, because by this time, I was running out of time before I had to pack it up to go to my event and there was no way I was going to unzip that invisible zipper.  So I found 3 big, shiny black buttons and added them so that I could close the V a little higher than the zipper did, just to cover up my bra.  The top one is the only one that actually does any real work.  The other two are only for show.  They get a little lost in the pattern, so now that my event is over, I might make some sort of change there.  Either use different buttons that stand out more or redo the zipper to be about an inch higher, I'm not sure yet.

But with no further ado, here are the professional photos that I conned the amazing Heather from Maude Productions to take special for me.

I have decided that this is my new favorite dress.  It feels amazing to wear.  It’s so slippery and nice against my skin.  And the fit feels just about as perfect as it gets.  I got several compliments on this dress.  People are well used to the fact that I often make my own dresses for these things, so the first question is usually, “Did you make this one?” and I was very proud to say “Yes I did!”

This is a post that was originally published on The Monthly Stitch on September 25, 2018, but since then, I modeled this dress in the American Sewing Guild's fashion show at the Sewing & Stitchery Expo and here is a video: