April 30, 2011

Dress to Skirt Restyle

Dress to skirt restyle

There's nothing like writing down a really long to do list to give you motivation to finish projects.

Yesterday and today I tackled making a skirt smaller (in my mending pile), adding a braided string belt loop to my paper bag skirt (the belt kept slipping up off the back of the skirt whenever I sat down), working on a muslin for a dress and I bought a new pillow and some lace trim to use for a pillowcase I plan on making.

Also included was this little restyle (another from my mending pile). It began life as a pretty terrible dress which had a broken zipper (I must have attempted to sew myself into this dress at some point because it had hand stitches along the zipper). I haven't worn it in years I have no idea why I bought this dress. It was ill fitting, not because it was the wrong size but because it was so poorly made that the bust lining didn't fit into the shell fabric. The fabric was cheap and thin, the straps were flimsy and the back elastic was droopy. That, and I should just never wear empire waist dresses in general.

Dress to skirt restyle

Anyway, it was either fix the dress or toss it so I tried my hand at fixing it. I used the bodice fabric to make a very narrow waistband and added some interfacing. I didn't feel like hemming or gathering anything so I trimmed the skirt portion off at the waistband of the dress so that the white lining underneath and the green top fabric were still attached together. That made it easy to slip on the waistband. Then I added a new zipper and voila, all fixed!

Because the dress had an empire waist it made the skirt almost tea length. I kind of like it. And the pattern makes it feel almost 70s.

I have to go back to the craft store again tomorrow because I forgot I needed to buy a zipper for my muslin and also one for my pillowcase. Ugh. But at least I am making progress!

April 28, 2011

Washing and Care for Handmade Clothes

(I really wish this was my washing machine. Found via Pinterest, although I can't find the original source.)

Today, I had a mental debate with myself as I sorted laundry to go into the wash. I tried to decide if I should wash my handmade denim blazer with my other denim clothes like shorts and jeans. It's the same type of fabric so it could be washed together. But then again the blazer is handmade...?

Like most folks, I usually sort my laundry by color (light and dark) and fabric type to dictate the kind of wash cycle I use. A soft knit cardigan - gentle cycle, jeans - normal cycle.

But it got me thinking about how I wash my handmade clothes. I tend to doubt the quality of my own construction and always wash my handmade clothes on gentle or at most permanent press regardless if the fabric can take a higher setting or not. I guess I have some fear that all my stitches will rip out if the washing machine drum spins too high (I seriously have had nightmares about that happening).

My overly cautious attitude won and I decided not to wash the blazer with my jeans on the higher speed.

So here's a question - how do you wash your handmade items? Do you separate them from your store bought clothes? Do you take extra special care of them? Dry clean? What about drying? I don't own a dryer so I line dry everything. Ever had a handmade piece get ruined in the wash like my color bleeding dress?

Now that my regular wardrobe is probably 40% handmade I am paying more attention to how I wash my handmade clothes and even being more diligent about reading the labels on my store bought pieces, as well.

April 27, 2011

Sewing To-Do List

I know I'm not the only one who keeps a running to do list of sewing projects. It just seems like mine is ever growing right now - so big that I need to write it down!

1. Obviously I need to work on making the pattern for my new chevron dress.

2. I need to finish this green knit dress. Right now some major fitting problems need to be addressed. It was one of those spur of the moment sewing ideas that I was inspired to do when I saw this fabric and now I'm a little over my head.
Green Knit Dress In Progress

3. I'm in the middle of making a muslin for an altered version of this Burda dress (7514).

4. I have a growing mending pile of pieces that don't fit or have broken zippers or need to be turned completely into something else. The pile just sits there on my book shelf nagging me whenever I look at it.
Mending Pile

5. I've been collecting doilies to make this pillow and I think I finally have enough to start working on it.

6. I'm still working on this dress - yes, from last year.

7. I've been dying to make a pair of high waist and/or wide pants but I'm searching for the right pattern. I'm thinking of some how combining this vintage pants pattern and these Kwik Sew sailor shorts for the waist.

8. I am mentally hording a bunch of 70s patterns I intend to make at some point. I don't know why I've been so drawn to the 70s lately but this top and this two toned wrap dress make me giddy! I don't actually own these patterns. Rather, I intend on just making them from scratch based on the pictures... looks simple enough, I hope!

9. I have about four other dress sketches that I want to make and eventually make patterns for as well. And yes, I do sometimes sketch on paper towels.


Phew, that's a long list! I need to tell myself "no" - no more new projects until you finish the old ones! Bad Dixie!

What's on your sewing to do list right now?

April 26, 2011

Yellow Chevron Dress

Yellow Chevron Dress

As promised, here is my new finished dress. It is a knee length pullover dress with an elastic waist (here worn with a belt), buttons on the upper front and diagonal chevron style folds on the top front that are sewn down so they lay flat.

Yellow Chevron Dress

I originally made this dress design about three years ago but now I cannot find that dress (must be lost in the garage, I believe). It was inspired by a vintage romper I found online. The original dress was yellow as well so I kept that color for this one.

Yellow Chevron Dress

Since the buttercup yellow color of the dress was important to me I went with color over coverage. If I make this dress again I would use a thicker fabric. Realizing this I decided to line the skirt portion of the dress with an layer of the same fabric. I might go back and line the top as well... maybe, if I'm not too lazy.

Yellow Chevron Dress

For some reason I'm a little obsessed with this kind of sloped sleeves, rather than set in sleeves. This type of sleeve was really popular in the 50s, I've noticed. I just like how easy they hang. On this dress it also adds some interest because when you have your arms at your sides it looks like the stripes slope down on your arms - sort of like a zig zag on your upper body.

Yellow Chevron Dress

And to answer the question on everyone's mind - when are you going to have a pattern for it? Unfortunately the answer is probably in about a month. Not only does this dress feature several pattern pieces that need to be transferred to the computer and sized but I also want to take time to work on making good instructions with images and make sure all the details are extra special. I'm steppin' up my game with my next patterns I don't want to rush things but I promise it will get done.

Yellow Chevron Dress

On a side note - I cut my bangs! It's a new look for me. I've never had bangs like this before and I'm not exactly sure what to do with them. Kind of a bold statement for me but I'm going to rock 'em and and see if they grow on me.

April 25, 2011


Sewing Buttons

Justin and I packed up to spend Easter weekend with family. I brought my nearly finished dress so I could attach the buttons on the front of the dress during the 3 hour car ride. I even filled a little ziplock bag with tiny scissors, thread and a needle.

But I forgot the buttons.

So instead of wearing my new yellow dress for Easter and taking pictures, I didn't finish the dress until I came home today. I'll share my finished dress tomorrow (I hope) instead of today but I've learned a valuable lesson - make a packing list and check it twice. Hope your weekend was fun and productive!

April 22, 2011

Muslin 3.0 is complete!

Muslin 3.0

Well, complete enough. It isn't hemmed nor does it have buttons and button holes. It isn't sewn exactly perfectly either, especially the folds, where I got a little lazy after making the bodice three times - in fact I think I sewed one half of the front bodice on backwards but that isn't a big deal. Otherwise it is good to go!

I'm going to make some final tiny tweaks to the pattern pieces and make the final sample dress. After that I can start making pattern pieces and instructions. Woohoo!

Muslin 3.0

I hope I can finish the final dress before we leave tomorrow evening to visit family for Easter Sunday and Monday. I've cut out most of the pieces already. I'm crossing my fingers that I can get it done.

April 21, 2011

Do I Really Need a Dress Form?

my dress form stands in the corner of my bedroom

So I missed last week's "Do You Really Need..." post. Ooops. You'll forgive me, right?

This week we're talking dress forms. I have one. I bought it because I thought I needed it. After several years of serious sewing I thought a form would transform my stitching experience into something magical and I'd feel like I was on Project Runway and all my sewing projects would look as pretty as the pictures on the Anthropologie shop website.

Since buying one I can definitely say No, you don't need a dress form. Here me out, ok! Yes, I use my form but not nearly as much as I thought I would - not because it isn't useful and great but because I'm not much of a dress form person I've discovered. I'm sure many home sewers are the same way. I am also sure that there are sewers who could not live without their form and I completely understand that.

Besides that I've also discovered that for some bodies the type of form you have can make the difference between a valuable tool and fancy decoration in the corner. I say "bodies" because some forms mimic your shape more than others. If your shape is anything other than super duper average than the type of form you get is important.

Let's first talk about the different kinds of dress forms because each have their pros and cons. I'm not going to talk about specific models or where to buy one, we'll still haven't decided if you even need one.
  1. A professionally made form fit to your own measurements. These are the most expensive and the some require you to make a cast of your own torso. For an easier option you can buy one made to your own specific measurements (just the numbers, no cast) but you'd probably be better off with option #2. These are good if you only make clothes for yourself and your weight and body shape does not fluctuate often.
  2. An adjustable form. I have one of these myself. I like it for a few reasons. It's cheaper than a pro form, if I fatten up a bit I can still use the thing and I can also make clothes for people who are a similar size as myself, meaning someone who is a few inches bigger or smaller here and there, but the form does have a limit to how wide and tall it will grow. These forms work best if your body resembles that of the form - consider if you have a large bust, sloped shoulders, sway back, etc - these things cannot be adjusted in an adjustable form.
  3. Self made form. There are a few methods of doing this. One of the most popular is the duct tape form. Threads Magazine features a tutorial on how to make a duct tape dress form. This type is your exact double like the pro form but you can't stick pins in it and you need a patient helper to do wrap you up.
close up of bust adjustment gear

Now lets ask some general questions about your sewing:

Do you often make major fitting alterations to a sewing pattern?
Unless you have an exact torso double like a professional form or a duct tape form then your standard store bought form may not give you an accurate depiction of the garment as compared to your own body. If you often have to do an FBA because you're a double D but your waist is tiny then that B-cup adjustable form isn't going to be a good representation of your body. 

Do you make your own patterns? Do you like to drape fabric to discover ideas?
Making garments from scratch often requires trial and error and in that case a dress form can be super helpful. For draping it is a near necessity. On the other hand, with my most recent dress I am working on, for example, the only time I've used my form is to take pictures of my progress.

Do you get frustrated while working with a garment flat? Also, are you a visual person or can you understand in your mind how a garment construction technique works without having to see it?
I use my dress form most often when I work on detailed or small parts of a garment like attaching a tricky collar. In that case having the garment in 3D on a form rather than flat on a table and moving around is convenient but it is certainly not necessary. On simpler projects I almost never use my form. Sometimes, though, imagining what the finished product will look like can be difficult without the ability to look at a garment objectively on a form.

Muslin Top 1
bodice muslin on my form

Another consideration about dress forms:
A dress form is not a replacement for your body. You will still have to repeatedly try a garment on while you work on it. A dress form does not move. You can make that top fit great on the form it won't tell you that the armholes need to be adjusted because you can't lift your arms up. A dress form doesn't have arms, an important factor when you're working on fancy sleeves you've made from scratch (which I've learned from experience).

In the end I think that you certainly don't need a dress form, however, whether or not one would be worth the cost and/or time to make depends more on your style of sewing than anything else. I could go without my dress form and never miss it but someone else may feel that a form makes the process so much easier for her.

BUT if you do decide to buy/make a form my biggest suggestion is that if you have many body quirks such as those discusses in this post you should buy or make a form that is as close to your real torso as possible. It will save you headaches later.

Do you have a dress form? How often do you use it?

April 20, 2011

Pattern Making Tools

Pattern Making Tools

I'm still working on Muslin 3.0 for my new dress - I think I finally have the bodice measurements down and I've decided what to do about the sleeves. But now I have to adjust the collar because after making so many tiny changes to the front of the dress the the collar isn't quite as curved as I'd like. Ugh, but once I finish the collar I can attach the skirt and Muslin 3.0 will be finished and ready for the real thing!

All this work has got me thinking about the supplies I use so often for pattern making. Some people have asked about my process so I thought I'd share a little list of my most utilized tools when making patterns - in no particular order:
  1. French curve set. I own more than these but these two are the ones I use most. French curves are designed to mimic curves on the body - think arm holes, neck openings, hip curves, etc. They all have a curved part at one end that straightens out at some point. Some sets have ruler markings. Mine don't but they still work. I found mine in the art section at Joann.
  2. Clear acrylic ruler. I didn't realize mine was upside down when I took the picture, oops! Good for drawing straight lines and making seam allowances on straight lines.
  3. Is not shown because I couldn't find it - a protractor. I find this most useful when I'm transferring patterns from paper to the computer and I need to know exact angles of lines but It's also helpful with darts and shoulders and even sleeves when the seam angles need to match.
  4. Tape measure - obviously you need one for measuring yourself but it is also good for measuring curves on pattern pieces. A thin bendy ruler also works for measuring curves, too.
  5. Short ruler. I think this has some sort of technical name but I don't know what it is, ha! Useful for seam allowances on curves and general short measurements.
  6. Taylor's chalk. Necessary for making marks on fabrics.
  7. Pen. Necessary for making marks on paper pattern pieces.
  8. Tracing wheel. Good for making copies of garments or pattern pieces without having to draw.
  9. Calculator. Or in this case, the calc app on my phone - or just my brain! Pattern making uses SO MUCH MATH. Ugh. Doubling seam allowances and quadrupling widths and shortening hems, oh my! I never thought in my life I'd be using this much math on a regular basis. When the equations get complicated it is good to have a calculator.
Do you see anything that I'm missing? I didn't include tools I use for general sewing - scissors, pins, cutting mat, etc. If you make patterns what do you most often use?

April 17, 2011

Red Stripe Built By You Top - Simplicity 4111 (out of print)


I bought the pattern (which is now out of print, boo!) several years ago when I went a little wild and crazy with the Built By Wendy Simplicity pattern series. Back then I was bad at following directions, or at least fabric recommendations and this was before I realized I needed to make one size smaller than whatever the pattern suggested. The result of all of that mess was me making this pattern no less that four times.

The first time the shirt ended up too big, the second time the fabric was too stiff and heavy. This is the third attempt I believe but somewhere close to being finished I somehow accidentally clipped the fabric near the buttons and made a tiny hole.

At the time the only way I thought to salvage it was paint the hole with clear nail polish to keep it from fraying and fabric gluing a tiny patch behind it to keep it closed. Ha! You can still see the hole.


Because of that fail I made a fourth version but since then the elastic in one of the sleeves broke and I haven't finished it.

I had forgotten about this shirt until I went through an old plastic bin full of clothes and random things that never got unpacked.


While I love the design in theory it just wasn't working for me. I have that major problem many women have of looking fat and pregnant in empire waist clothes and the top is so low cut I can't imagine anyone with a bust bigger than an A cup fitting in it without needing a tank top underneath. Very precarious situation. Somehow in the four times making this shirt I never learned that I needed to bring up the v-neck and make it narrower at the shoulders as well. I should have lowered the elastic empire waist, too, as it tends to rise up, I guess to compensate for the show a few inches above. At least my sewing technique improved quite a bit by version 3.


The more I pack for my eventual move the more I realize how many of my clothes (that I have made as well as bought) are missing - lost somewhere in my garage. I swear my garage resembles that big warehouse of crates at the end of the Indiana Jones movie!

I'm still chugging away at my muslin for my new dress. I think I've got the collar and front center fixed, still deciding what to do about the sleeves and sleeve cuffs. It's slowly coming together!

April 16, 2011

Muslin 2.0

Muslin 2.0
Here is version 2.0 of the top half of my dress I'm working on. I only made the top for now because I knew the skirt portion would be easy.

I scrambled together four different types of fabric to make this although you can only see two in the photos - the pink and the white. My stitching on this is pretty atrocious as well but it's just a muslin so no big deal.

Muslin 2.0

Things I want to change:
  • I like the shape of the neckline but I want to raise it up so it isn't as wide and it can show off the top fold.
  • I haven't added the sleeve cuffs yet but I can tell I want to shorten the sleeves slightly and also I'll need to open the sleeves up more at the side seam.
  • And the pink fabric is some kind of linen blend and is way too thick for this application. I'll make a note of that for when I make the final version.
  • I want to lower the back yoke more (oops, forgot to take a picture of the back)
  • In general I need to adjust the collar pieces.
It is always the details, isn't it, that cause all the problems? I need to find more fabric to make muslin 3.0 because I have no more big enough chunks for the skirt and front pieces.

Cute as a button

Other things I did today - I went to Shop Crafty, a craft show event here in Austin. I stopped by the Stitch Lab station and made a felt patch.

J&D stitching

Here's Justin helping me cut. He's a good sport.

I'm going to try my best to do more work on muslin 3.0 tomorrow. I hope I can keep up my motivation!

April 15, 2011

New Pattern Downloads Coming... Eventually

Dress Sketches

I'm working on some big projects soon (well, at least big for me) starting with a few dress designs that I plan on making into multi sized patterns for download. These will be a little more detailed dresses with pleats and gathers and zippers and, you know, fancy stuff like that.

Muslin Top 1

I'll begin with making a muslin for one of the dress designs. The first is going to be a remake of a dress I made three years ago which I can no longer find since I moved. I loved the dress, the design was inspired by a vintage romper I saw once, but the construction could have been better. It was also one of my first forays into making clothing from scratch. This time I'm going to remake it the right way.

Adjusted Pattern Pieces
So here we have pieces for the skirt, collar, sleeve cuffs, back, back yoke, front with fold lines and center front where the buttons will go.

With a good enough muslin top to get the details worked out I ripped it apart to make real pattern pieces. With these I'll make a second muslin of the full design, then make necessary changes to the pattern pieces, and finally sew the finished product. After all of that I'll transfer the pattern onto the computer and size it.

April 14, 2011

In the Mail

Look what I got in the mail today!

Vintage Pattern Present

A little gift from the lovely Miss P. Thank you!

Vintage Pattern Present

I love getting mail and this was extra special. I don't know which one to make first!

April 12, 2011

Beginner Sew-a-long

Montanachic is starting a Very Beginner Sew-a-long on her blog featuring my two piece tunic. You can see her finished version.

She'll be working on it for the next few weeks so go follow along and make your own summer tunic!

April 11, 2011

Birthday/100 Follower Giveaway Winner

Birthday Cupcakes

These are the cupcakes I made for myself for my birthday. They're fun-fetti white with chocolate frosting. I had a pretty good birthday. I spent time relaxing as well as working on new sewing projects. I'm doing more celebratory activities later this week but for now I'm happy to chill out!

Pattern Giveaway

And the winner for my 100 Follower Giveaway acording to random.org is #5 - Stevie! "my favorite era at the moment is pretty specific. I go through crushes. Mine is from 1955 to around 1962"

Congratulations Stevie! Email me your address to dixiedavis ( at ) gmail.com and I'll mail the vintage pattern out to you right away!

April 10, 2011

Cynthia Rowley Denim Jacket - Simplicty 2250

Cynthia Rowley Denim Jacket - Simplicty 2250

For a little pre-birthday outing, Justin and I ventured to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in South Austin. It is a lovely place full of native Texas plant gardens, streams, meadows and nature trails. Unfortunately, my camera battery died shortly after taking these pictures. At least it had enough juice left to grab a couple shots.

Anyway, at the fabric store I went through two different bolts of blue fabric and there wasn't enough fabric left for this jacket on either bolt (I wanted just the right blue color). In the end I settled on using what was left on one of the bolts and figured I'd make it work.

Cynthia Rowley Denim Jacket - Simplicty 2250

When I got home I found that I had enough fabric to cut out all the pieces except for the inside facing in front. The jacket isn't lined except for the very front panels. Instead I used some old striped cream fabric that I had leftover (yay for using scraps!) for the inside. I like the contrast.

I chose not to make the belt (I probably didn't have enough fabric anyway). Plus, with the two layers of fabric and one layer of interfacing in front, tying a belt would have made the fabric bunch up in an unflattering way.

Cynthia Rowley Denim Jacket - Simplicty 2250

I also chose not to add the shoulder pads because well, I'm to lazy for that. But it's okay because the jacket is stiff enough without them.

I made the dress from this pattern a couple weeks ago but while the jacket was a success the dress was most certainly a fail.

Cynthia Rowley Denim Jacket - Simplicty 2250

This jacket is so simple and it took me less than a day to make it from start to finish. Too bad it's going to be too hot to wear it outside soon.

Oh, well. I'm off to make birthday cupcakes now. Don't forget to enter the vintage pattern giveaway! One day left!

April 8, 2011

Dinosaur Planter - Dinosucculent


A friend and I met up for dinner last night at a hip part of town. Only when I hit traffic that I realized it was First Thursday, an event held on the first Thursday (obviously) of every month in which dozens of artisans and street musicians fill the sidewalks and parking spaces along a main thoroughfare in Austin. Cool businesses stay open late and food trailers abound. Naturally restaurants are packed and the only parking available is that of the slightly illegal variety. ("No, officer, my car wasn't blocking that fire hydrant. I swear!")

After eating some yummy burgers and Dublin Dr. Pepper we wandered around the craft and art tents and found this company.

I had seen these dinos before online but I didn't know they were from Austin.


I walked away with this cute little guy which I call a dinosucculent.

It's a painted, hollowed out dinosaur toy with a little Echeveria succulent planted in it's back. Drilled on the bottom are drain holes. They have other dino and animal figurines as well.


I love succulents because they are pretty and easy to care for and I love that this little guy is looking back on himself wondering whether or not to take a chomp at his own spine!

I'm going to bring this little guy to work to spice up my desk.

When I first found these little dino toy planters on the web I added this exact one to my Pinterest page. If you've never seen Pinterest it is a sharing site similar to We Heart It only with a better interface, I think.

You have a board (some kind of topic like summer or accessories) and then you pin things you find on the web to your board. I'm using it to clear out all of my random bookmarked websites and images. You can also follow other people's boards or just browse for information.

You should follow me and if you need an invite just leave me a comment with your email address or email me if you don't want to share yours. My email is on the side bar on the top right.