Monday, October 25, 2010

Vogue 1210 - Sandra Betzina dress

When I reviewed the recent batch of Vogue patterns, I pretty much wrote this Sandra Betzina dress off as "not for my figure." Fast forward to Artistry in Fashion, an event benefiting the fashion design program at Canada College and featuring Sandra herself, who spoke and presented a fashion show of her designs. Students from Canada's fashion program modeled Sandra's garments and the same dress from the pattern cover was presented, but it was worn with the ties hanging down, rather than tied under the bust. It was lovely on the student model and I realized that it might work for me.

It wouldn't be fabulous on me, mind you, because it would hang from the bust and completely hide my hips/legs, but, hey... Variety is the spice of life, and all. :)

Several months ago I bought this border print fabric from FabricMart (no longer available). Well, it's not exactly a border print. It is a polka dot print, but the dots are small on one selvedge and grow larger towards the other selvedge. The fabric is wide (maybe 60") and I needed a long garment to show it off. A top or pants wouldn't satisfy my desire to use the entire print.

Yes, that's right. My first dress. gulp

I first considered Vogue 8659, but decided I didn't want to interrupt the print with that curved hem. Sandra's design is reminiscent of that pattern, but is cut almost straight across at the hemline.

This fabric is a 4-way polyester ITY knit. I don't particularly like to sew or wear ITY, or slinky, knits, because I find them to be hot and they tend to hug (rather than skim) my lumps and bumps, but I was completely seduced by this beautiful polka dot print.

This fabric has most of its stretch in the lengthwise grain. I cut it on the crosswise grain, which is more stable, but I had no choice if I wanted the dots to grow larger as they approached the hem. Meaning that the stretch goes up and down the body, rather than around the body, which is how you would usually want it. Having the stretch go vertically is rather strange, but, wow, the dress sure does swing and flow, and when I jump up and down, the dress actually bounces. After I bought this fabric from FM, I later saw it on Marcy Tilton's site, so, between the two sites, there must be lots of us who now have this in our stash. :)


  • Polka dot ITY knit from FabricMart.
  • Black mesh (for contrast) from Fabrix.
  • 1/2" Steam A Seam 2 (for hems)
  • 1/4" twill tape (to stabilize neckline)

Alterations & Modifications:

  • I cut out a size F, which was 4" too small in the bust. (This pattern allows for 1/2" finished ease in the bust, at least in the sizes I was looking at.) Instead of a traditional FBA, I just added 1" to the side seam at the bust and tapered it out after a few inches. I had to do this on the front and back side seam, and the front and back underarm sleeve seam - four pattern pieces were affected, in all. The side seams are sewn last so I knew I could take out what I needed - every knit has different stretch and you should tweak the fit here anyway. This approach worked well for this garment.

    Sleeve with added bit for FBA.

  • During construction, I removed 1/2" from the shoulder seams, before attaching sleeves.
  • As recommended in the pattern, I doubled the mesh for the sleeve insert.
  • I did not shorten the sleeves. This is very unusual for me, so I suspect that the sleeves are on the short side.
  • After the dress was finished, I shortened it 2". They recommend that you lengthen or shorten at the hemline, so this worked well.
  • After sewing the side seams, I tweaked the fit by removing 1/2 from the side seam, just under the bust - a 2" reduction in all.

This pattern was fairly easy to construct, with a couple caveats. The trickiest part is the neckline. Despite stabilizing the neckline with twill tape, once I had attached the contrast mesh band, it was far too baggy. Sandra recommends that you block the neckline, using steam, to encourage the band to hug the body, but there was no way any amount of steam would have fixed the floppy neck band.

Stabilizing the neckline with twill tape

After mulling it over for a bit, I decided that it was time to use a Marcy Tilton technique I had never used before. It felt right to combine their work, since Marcy and Sandra have been great friends for years. :) Marcy often creates outside tucks on her neckbands, which you can see on Vogue 8636. I'm not sure if I used the exact same technique as she uses, but I pinned in a number of tucks and started sewing. I kept adding tucks, without measuring, until the neckline fit the way I wanted it to fit. In the end, I added 18 tiny tucks.

Baby "Marcy" tucks!

Finished neckline. Photo lightened to show detail.

In order to reinforce the idea that these tucks were intentional, I also added tucks to the sleeve inset. They are hard to photograph, and very subtle, but they are there.

It's subtle, but there are 6 tucks spread across the length of the sleeve inset.

What do I think about this pattern? To be honest, I am not sure. It reminds me a bit of loungewear. Something I might wear before dinner when my friends drop by for cocktails. Wait, I don't do that. OK, I might wear it on the cruise ship apres swimming. Oops, not my lifestyle either. OK, how about I wear it when the doorbell rings and it's the neighbor reminding me to move the car because it's street cleaning day. Yup, that sounds more feasible. This knit is so heavy and drapey, and the print so dramatic, the great funky skirt shape is a bit lost, which is unfortunate.

When DD1 returned on Sunday afternoon, I put the dress on and styled it as I might wear it out. I nervously asked her what she thought and she really liked it and felt it was a rather dressed up look.

So, for me, the jury is out. I'm not sure if I will wear this out of the house, or to bed. What do you guys think?

Hangar shot

The shape of the dress

My knee fits perfectly into the corner!

Twirlability? Check.

Fashion DON'T. (I couldn't resist.) ;)


A Bit of Knitting - Missoni Scarf

One of the sewing blogs I follow is The Selfish Seamstress. I enjoy the humor of her blog. She is a younger, petite sewist with a passion for classic and retro styles crafted in menswear fabrics. She has recently relocated from Canada to Europe and her sewing machine has been in transit, so she has been knitting in the interim.

I had been getting the itch to do some knitting recently (must be the season and the cooler temperatures), when I saw her latest project, a Missoni-inspired scarf, and I had to make one. This design uses the classic Feather and Fan stitch, and I was preparing to create my own, when she graciously shared her pattern. I had already located some Lang Jawoll Magic sock yarn - I loved the variegated greens in her scarf, but I selected the blue shades (color 84.0035, or 35, for short). Lang Jawoll Magic is a superwash fingering weight yarn that is 75% wool and 25% nylon. The zigzag design of the Feather and Fan stitch really highlights this yarn's tendency to stripe. I grabbed my size 7 (4.5mm) bamboo circular needle and off I went. The pattern is on her page, but here it is again:

Cast on 78 stitches:

Row 1: K
Row 2: P
Row 3: K3, * (K2tog) 3 times, (YO, K1) 6 times, (K2tog) 3 times. Repeat from * until 3 stitches remain. K3.
Row 4: K

Repeat all rows until desired length is reached. Bind off loosely.

Before blocking


  • I slipped the first stitch of each row in the way it would have been knitted (or purled). This is an age-old technique that yields a more stable selvedge edge.
  • I ripped out many, many rows of this project. In fact, for the first 15 inches or so, I probably knitted it twice, because I did so much "unknitting". And that was after my first effort, which I completely frogged after a couple inches. I was really good at losing stitches, or forgetting the odd yarn over. Feh.
  • I used less than two skeins. The completed scarf was 56"x10-1/4" when relaxed.
  • This is a lace pattern, so you really have to block it to fully appreciate the design. I wet blocked mine, gently swishing it in a sink filled with warm water and Garnier shampoo (the current "regular" shampoo in the shower). I emptied the sink, refilled it with clean warm water, and rinsed the shampoo out. I put the scarf in a clean dry towel, rolled it up, and removed as much water as possible. I then laid out the scarf on two towels on the carpet. I arranged the scarf to 80" x 12", coaxing the scallops into shape, and secured them with lots of pins, stabbing directly into the towel/carpet. I didn't bother pinning the sides of the scarf, but smoothed it with my hands. Because it was a rainy day, I pointed a small rotating fan at the scarf to encourage it to dry more quickly.

    Proper blocking is no laughing matter, Jack!

Lacey goodness, post blocking.


Now that it's done, I'm a little sad. I finally got this pattern down and now it's over. I need a new knitting project. :)