i told you guys i’d have more adult sewing in store, but i had to keep mum on exactly what until today…very excited to give you an exclusive sneak preview of april rhodes‘ new pattern(s), the date night dress (left) and simple slip (right)! awkward photo shoots are part and parcel of self-sewing, but i must admit it’s still bizarre for me to see so many pictures of my body from so many angles…please be gentle (and if you want to comment on my apparently mom-buff arm, i won’t hold it against you).
perhaps you’ve heard of april’s first pattern, the staple dress, which has taken the blogging community by storm and can be found in hundreds of lovely incarnations in her flickr pool. seeing as i’m relatively new to adult sewing, the pattern must be awfully widespread for it to reach me, entrenched as i am in the kid sewing realm. i had heard nothing but praise for the staple dress, and thought seriously about buying it, but was afraid it might not flatter my figure (though much of the praise has to do with the apparent universal figure flattering). i thought i’d hop over to april’s blog to read more about it.while i was there, two major things happened. first, i was completely enchanted by april’s genuine, endearing, touching story leading to her well deserved success. her graciousness and love for creating are so evident and endearing. the fact that she and her kids are absolutely adorable only enhances the overall midwestern charm (her family owns a fabric store in ohio) that warmed the cockles of this old michiganian heart. second, i was redirected to her new site (where patterns can be purchased), which is where the story of how i came to land a coveted pattern testing spot really begins. over a month ago, we took the kids to santa cruz, a location i innocently suggested knowing i could steal away for some serious fabric shopping. it’s tough to find anything but quilting cottons in my area, so i vowed not to leave santa cruz without a new substrate, and they had reams upon reams of anna maria horner rayon. i love the field study line, and rayon is perfect for drapey, breathable, non wrinkly summer wear. however, i had no specific pattern in mind and feared the prints would be too busy on a whole dress. hours were spent (not kidding) in front of those spools of rayon, and i finally went with the print pictured here.however, when visiting april’s new site just weeks later, i saw the photo of the date night dress in sinister swarm (my first runner up rayon) and was mortified. i loved that dress, and i COULD have had it. david’s high school reunion was around the corner and i wanted a new dress for it. that dress. i was only moderately calmed when i found the pattern was still in progress, so i couldn’t get it to make the dress anyway.fast forward to saturday, when, on a whim, i checked her site again to see if the pattern had been complete. imagine my surprise to find this post, calling for pattern testers, dated just a few days prior! i knew it was an absolute long shot, but it struck me as too much a coincidence to ignore. i wrote to april telling her the story, and humbly submitted myself for a slot. i left out the part about being quite new to adult sewing and referred her to my blog, hoping she wouldn’t scroll back too far and see the total lack of adult sewing before may…and you can figure out the rest! she agreed that this dress was meant to be–the deadline for pattern testing was today, the very day i’d be leaving for the reunion where the dress would be worn (i’m writing this on the plane). though i had the rayon meant for this dress, i happened to be in san francisco the day i got the pattern, and on a whim, picked up some silk (!) on major sale at a fabric outlet there. already scheduled for two 14 hours shifts this week, i had two days to complete both patterns with fabrics i’d never worked with before…a lofty endeavor, but such challenges can be taken on when the kids are at grandma’s.so that is the backstory…seeing as this is a pattern test, i suppose i ought to talk about the pattern! this is actually a two for one deal–the pattern includes both the dress and the slip, which can be worn together or separately. i’d say both are (confident) beginner friendly! no closures, no darts. both garments are loose fitting and remarkably comfortable. if you’re a tiny waif of a thing, you would probably look cute in the dress with no fitting. if you’re rocking some curves like myself, the dress looks great belted, though you could add some shirring or elastic to flatter your figure. it’s definitely not so loose that it gets bunchy with cinching at the waist–big plus. i was all set to add some shirring, but wanted to see the dress belted first. i popped on the only belt i have (purchased for a similar purpose), and while it didn’t appear to match at all, it worked perfectly and i even liked the color combo (weird, since the fabric is blue and black), so i’m sticking to it!while incredibly straight forward (only three pattern pieces!), the dress features some great touches to make it unique. above you can appreciate the fun flutter sleeves, a small box pleat at the back neckline, and the pretty shirt tail hem. the arm scythes are intentionally low-cut to show a peak of your simple slip, or maybe a lacy undergarment (i own no belts so it might not surprise you that i also own no lingerie). overall the dress sews up very quickly with all french seams, so no serger required to make the inside as lovely as the outside. the instructions are clear and well written with accompanying photographs, and plenty of information on how to tweak the pattern for your own shape and preferences. if you’re using cotton or linen, i imagine it would take only a few short hours to create this really beautiful and flattering wardrobe piece (rayon took a bit more coaxing). depending on your fabric and accessory choices, you can certainly dress this up or down. it’s the most beautiful (and comfortable) thing by far i’ve ever made for myself–i really love this dress!and now, for the slip. it is exactly as described–simple. this pattern has only one piece (!), the same one is used for the front and back, with bias tape for the straps. it produces a nice little body skimming number that would make a nice dress on its own. i have to wonder what the neighbors thought as i pranced around at high noon in a nightgown, but such are the sacrifices we make for blogging deadlines. i also had to wear a strapless bra because i made this a little low cut with the strap length i selected. then i realized that, since weaning reese a few months ago, my boobs have evidently shrunk an entire cup size. i really debated stuffing my bra, but i have limits. anyway, i wanted to capture the nice shape and movement of the slip and we couldn’t sit around and wait for the wind to blow as this was a drive-by photo shoot on david’s way to work, so, prancing it was. poor guy is very tolerant of my photography demands now that i can’t always operate the camera…check out bossy pants below…all in all, what wonderful patterns lovingly created by an absolute sweetheart. i have sewn from quite a few independent designers now, and i must say, this might be the best ratio of time invested: stunning results that i’ve come across. so, head on over to april’s site to get your hands on one of these asap for your next special occasion, or even your next date night. you won’t be disappointed!
if you’re here to read about the patterns, you have the scoop. if, however, you enjoy reading about my sewing debacles, i’ll take a few more moments of your time to talk about sewing with silk, and why i’ve sworn myself off it. i wanted to make sure i completely disassociated the pattern from this experience, as they are completely unrelated. as i mentioned above, i was so excited to test the pattern, i couldn’t help but buy new fabric in spite of the fabric i had specifically designated for the purpose. i’ve never sewn with silk and it’s not readily available to me, so when i found some 50% off in san francisco, i had to snag it, figuring i’d use the rayon as a primer.
the rayon went slowly, but i had zero problems with it. no seam ripping, no puckering, nothing. i had done some research, and armed with my new sewing machine needle, silk pins, press cloth, barely warm iron, and beginner’s luck, off i went to sew the easiest pattern ever. i don’t own a single silk thing (not ideal for toddler minding), but i tried to embrace the high maintenance of it all, because hey, don’t i *deserve* to have a silk slip?
after an hour of pressing with a lukewarm iron and *shockingly* not removing any wrinkles, i decided anything i own that can wrinkle will, and i began cutting this shifty mistress. i used the entire living room floor and covered the pattern with everything heavy in our pantry. it still ended up jagged and uneven. but, deadline looming, i began to sew. the side seams went ok, but french seams were tricky since you can’t really press them. they’re puckered, but on the inside. no harm no foul. next, to make the bias tape. more cutting of this shape shifter, more “pressing,” and asking myself why i made 1/4″ vs. 1/2″ bias tape. really, why would i do that? then, i applied the bias tape to the slip body…does silk not HAVE a bias? i’m sure it shifted to straight grain while i was cutting it to spite me, as i would say it was not conforming well to curves. one mitered corner at the back got seam ripped into a giant hole, so one strap is sewn to the outside rather than the inside of the slip to hide it.
somewhere around this point, i really considered switching to a lovely cut of voile i had, knowing i could finish it from cutting to last hem in half the time i’d already spent on this silk monster. but i had come so far…i persevered. i had only the hem left at this point, which i knew would cause problems because of the pressing issue and the slight curve. however, i recently purchased a rolled hem presser foot for exactly these situations. works like a dream on cotton and linen, but guess what else we can add to the list of things silk doesn’t like (heat, irons, steam, dryers, water, normal needles, normal pins, human contact)? rolled hem feet. it slid and slipped around in there through three very valiant attempts that wreaked such havoc, i couldn’t even pick the seams, i had to just chop the whole thing off, resulting in the hi-low hem effect seen above.
sewing tools and notions were thrown in rage. this little swatch of fabric behaved SO MUCH WORSE than my toddlers. so much less rational and reasonable than my two and three year old, truly. when you come into my house with a laundry list of don’ts and then begin a reign of terror, there is no place for you. maybe silk needs to stop being such a spoiled brat and the firm hand of a mom-to-toddlers to tell it what’s up. i cranked that iron up to the linen setting, max heat, max steam, disposed of that absurd press cloth, and ironed the sh*t out of that hemline. oh, it listened to me then. it talks a big talk, but there’s nary a scorch mark or steam stain to be seen. in one final, feeble effort to outdo me, i had one major pucker in the last few inches of hem that i flat out chopped up with scissors. close up, this is the absolute worst sewn thing i have *ever* made. i think either of my children would have created something equal in craftsmanship. but, it feels amazing, i made it by the deadline, it looks fine from several feet away, and now i have a silk slip, so i’m a real lady. and the pattern is rock solid. however, the other cut of amazing plum silk chiffon (let’s be honest, i don’t know if it’s chiffon but it’s so pretty and light as air) i bought to make another date night dress to go atop this slip might end up being a scarf since sewing silk is bad for my blood pressure.
anyhow, i already have more sewing adventures to share since the silk road ended, but we’ll save that for another day…hope to see many date night dresses and slips from you guys!