Precious fabric Indigo dress

I think we all have precious fabric, something we hesitate to cut because it’s so important to get it right. indigo sleeve.jpgFor this project, it was two pieces of indigo. I bought one of them (that became the skirt below) at A Verb For Keeping Warm and dyed the other one to coordinate. I was delighted to have these pieces to use and spent a lot of time figuring out what to do with them. I adjusted a pattern to use and cut out the fabric. I sewed to the point where I could try it on and check for fit. And then… I noticed the fabric was scratchy on my back! I wondered if this was just a fluke.

So I decided to finish the dress; at very least I could see how the dress design looked on me. And I think it’s good in terms of the proportions. (Confession: the dress is unhemmed in these pics.)  I like the bodice closure. I’m not sure about the split sleeve. It looks like it could use some interfacing or something to help keep its structure. The dress was still scratchy when I took these pics on a cool morning.

The point of the dress was to make something I could wear in hot, humid weather for some upcoming trips to Hawaii and Thailand. I could line the dress, but then the purpose is defeated. I could wear it in more temperate climates, though.

I’ll post how I used S1878 to make this design, just for reference. I find it’s much easier to take a pattern that fits and make design adjustments rather than starting over with fitting adjustments each time I get a new pattern.

Thank you, Readers

FullSizeRenderThank you for stopping by! Writing this blog is a labor of love, and I hope that you are getting useful information that will help you sew for a post-mastectomy body. I started writing in May, and have had readers from the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Ecuador, South Africa, Netherlands, India, Taiwan, Lebanon, Belgium, New Zealand, Austria, Greece, France, Denmark and Israel. This is a strong reminder of the power of the internet to connect us!

Please be sure to leave a comment or send a message (brendamarksstudio at yahoo dot com) if you would like to share your journey or have suggestions for topics you’d like to see.

Keep on sewing!

Fall down seven times, get up eight

bubble dress

You may have seen this pic on Instagram where I asked if this fabric is weird or weirdly good. The consensus was that the fabric was good! When you look closely, you can see bubbles that are textures, not just the printed ones. It’s an odd fabric, for sure. I like it, but… after just a few minutes of wearing the partially completed dress, and asking my husband for his opinion, the dress started irritating my skin. My back was feeling scratched, and not in a good way. I imagine my scars would have started to feel irritated, too, if I left the dress on.

This is the first attempt at a wearable dress from the S1878 pattern with princess seams, and the fact that it’s not wearable is disappointing. Truly. I put a lot of time into getting the pattern ready to go and cutting this bubbly fabric out (and the fabric wasn’t cheap, either). Then I’ve ended up with a wadder .

indigo trySo, what’s a girl to do? My answer is usually to figure out the next project. My goal is still to create a lightweight woven dress to wear in hot weather. I searched throug reasonable options and found some indigo pieces that I dyed last summer. Until now, they have been too precious to cut, but it’s time to move forward!

The top piece is one I dyed last summer at a shibori and indigo class with Judilee Fitzhugh. That was a fun class, and I was able to get fabric that coordinated with a piece (the bottom) I picked up at A Verb For Keeping Warm. (As an aside, indigo is challenging to match/coordinate. The indigo pigment will be a different color depending on water quality, temperature, etc. So, creating a coordinating piece was amazingly good luck.)

I draped the fabrics in different configurations (side-by-side, striped in different directions, etc.) and decided I like this arrangement best.

sketch 1

Next I drew a very basic sketch with some ideas for the dress. I noted some ideas that may or may not work, such as adding some sashiko stitching, overlapping the bodice, and cutting and stitching the fabric together before cutting out the skirt. This bodice and skirt sketch is different from the princess pattern I’ve developed (the bubble dress above), so it means pattern adjusting. I may need a nap before tackling this…









Flat style – Dress embellishment update


Here’s one of my recent makes “in action”. This is a gratuitous pic of my Scooter, who is stubborn enough to stand on the armrest regardless of how many times I command, “step back”.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve worked on finishing the bodice-embellished dresses that I wrote about. Here’s an update of how things have gone.

The stencil dress turned out really well. For this project, I first stitched the front together and the back together. Then I taped off the stencil area,  and it was easy to rotate the stencil and fill in the bodice.

Because of my surgery area, and the thin fabric of the dress, I wish I had extended the stenciled area further down, but I like and wear the dress. It’s very comfortable on warm days, and we’ve had plenty of those in the past few weeks.

Yes, I’m barefooted around the house most days in the summer…


stitch dress topAnother project I worked on was stitching the bodice of a blue-grey dress. My thought was to make a garment that coordinated with the Kandinsky jacket, so I picked out embroidery floss that were colors from the jacket. After I sewed the front seams, I started stitching from the princess seam both toward the side seam and toward the center.

After a few inches, I noticed that my stitching lines would likely become skewed and might look odd as they met in the center of the dress, so I decided to incorporate some horizontal stitching to join the two vertical areas. It worked pretty well.


I think the dress looks good on its own and good with the jacket on top. Mission accomplished, with one caveat. I think the jacket needs to be shortened a few inches.

Adding shoulder princess seams to a plain front (S1878)

In this post, I’ll be explaining how I added princess seams and flare to the skirt of S1878, but this process can work for a variety of patterns. Adding princess seams might be a bit time consuming, but it’s not difficult. Adding flare to a skirt is also fairly straight forward. The basic concept is to figure out how much total flare you want to add, and then figure out how much you’ll want to add to each seam. I’m working with two patterns here, S1878 (sorry it’s OOP, but you can often find it on ETSY or Ebay) and Tessuti’s Bella dress. (You may be interested in how I eliminated the bust dart from S1878.)

First, I copied S1878 onto Swedish Tracing Paper. (The link is just for convenience; I am not an affiliate.) I really like this stuff, but I know my sewing teacher likes tissue paper because it drapes and behaves more like fabric when tissue fitting. I like Swedish Tracing paper because it’s durable, and I use my patterns over and over. You may want to experiment with what works best for you. Just for reference, I copied S1878 with seam allowances.

To add the shoulder princess sback shoulder seameams, I started with the back. I had darts in the back, and that gave me an easy point of reference for drawing the vertical princess line.

In the first photo, you can see the dart that I drew in. I marked the spot approximately in the middle of the shoulder seam.  I used a hip curve ruler (like this – again, no affiliation or compensation) to line up the curve from the top of the dart to the top of the shoulder. You may be able to see my note to eliminate 1/4″ at the shoulder, which is a common dart. After I drew the line at the shoulder, I eliminated 1/8″ on each side of the line. The bottom of the shoulder princess line is just the end of the dart to the hem, drawn parallel to the straight of grain.

I cut on the princess line and removed the area inside the dart, so the pattern curves gently in at that spot. Then I cut long pieces of tracing paper, taped them to the cut line,  and added seam allowances to both sides of the princess seam. I don’t have a good photo of that.

front shoulder seam

Next I added the princess seam line to the front. I like the curve on the back, so I laid the front on the back and copied the line from the shoulder to the top of the dart.  Then I drew a line parallel to the straight of grain down to the hem.

I cut on the princess line and added a seam allowance to each side.

So now the pattern has a center front, side front, center back and side back pieces. As I mentioned in my last previous post, this allows me to distribute the flare of the skirt. I like the amount of the flare of the Bella dress, but I don’t like it concentrated at the sides of the dress.

The next step is to determine how much flare to add and where to add it. To figure this out, I layered my new pattern on top of the Bella pattern, matching the shoulder seams. (I had done this before, so I had an approximation of where the patterns line up.) I measured the difference between the patterns at the top, middle and bottom of the side seams, and I made a note of the measurements.

add side seamNow for a little math, but don’t worry! I’m not a math whiz, and I could do this. The first measurement photo shows 1 1/4″ difference between my new pattern and Bella. I know that instead of just one side seam (Bella), I have two additional seams to join center front and side front. That’s four seams. So, I divide 1.25 by 4 and get about 3/10″, which I translate into 3/8″ (because we sew in 1/8ths and I figure a little more ease is easier to deal with than a little less). In the middle, I’ve got about a 2 1/2″ difference, and I divide that by 4 to get 5/8″ on the nose. At the bottom, I have about a 5″ difference, which is 1 1/4″ when divided by 4.

To add the flare, I taped tissue to the side, marked spots at the top (3/8″), middle (5/8″) and bottom (1 1/4″) and drew a straight line.

side seam saThen I added flare to the princess seams. After adding the flare, I added the side seam.







The final step is to cut out a toile and evaluate how things went. I’m happy with the flare and how it works in a cotton lawn. I like the even distribution of the flare in the skirt, and I think it will be even better in a fabric with more drape. The only issue is with easing in the sleeves. Liberty cotton lawn doesn’t like to ease, but I think adjusting the pattern will save me some frustration later, regardless of the fabric. In a future post, I’ll show how I add a seam to help with the ease situation.



Comparing patterns to make decisions

One of the questions I that often rolls around my head is how to decrease challenges and increase enjoyment, particularly when I’m sewing. I like sewing to be fun (in addition to clothing my body). Toward that end, I try to use the work I’ve put into a pattern I’ve tested to help me make decisions about a new pattern.


For example, I wrote about Simplicity 1878, a dress that has been tissue fit for me (with Marla Kazell’s help), and I am using as my woven block/sloper. The technical drawing shows flare in the skirt (indicated by vertical lines), but I’ve become skeptical of technical drawings. One person’s “perfect flare” is another person’s “overwhelming cascade” or “disappointing lack of style”. So, I thought I’d compare S1878 with Tessuti’s Bella dress.  I have made a toile of Bella out of cotton lawn and know it is close to – if not spot on- the amount of flare I’d like in a skirt. (This is a personal preference only. I like enough flare so that I can sit in a car with a seat belt for an hour and get out feeling fresh, not crumpled.)


I matched up the center front and shoulder seams of each pattern. (As an aside, Bella has 1/2″ seam allowances, and S1878 has 5/8″ seam allowances, which should be taken into account when aligning the patterns. Also, S1878 has a center front seam with flare, so I matched up the true center front.) It’s clear to see that the Bella pattern has close to 4″ of  additional flare at the side seams. I can measure how much flare that is added at different points along the side seam of the Bella pattern to help me make decisions about modifying S1878.

My plan is to copy S1878, add shoulder princess seams, and add flare onto each panel. I like the flare in the Bella dress, but I’d like it distributed around the garment. Adding flare only to the sides seams means that the drape will concentrate there. (Or I could cut the Bella on the bias, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish.)

In previous posts, I have touted my love for shoulder princess seams. This originated when I was sewing for a DD bust, and sewing a good dart that large was a challenge. Sewing a princess seam is much easier to get a nice dart since the dart is transferred to the seam line. I also like the long line, particularly with plain fabric. For those of you who sew a lot of plaids or stripes, the pattern matching may be too much of a bother on so many seams.

The point is that it can be helpful to using an existing pattern (that you have made and understand the fit) to evaluate a new pattern. You can compare sleeves, hem width, ease, etc., and this process can help you avoid wasted time and fabric if the new pattern doesn’t suit your preferences.
















SBA for Simplicity 1878 (OOP)

As I’ve mentioned, I’m working on making a knit and woven dress slopers/blocks to fit my new shape. I’m pretty happy with my knit sloper, so it’s time to work on the woven version. There are not many commercial woven dress patterns that don’t have a bust dart, but I found Simplicity 1878, a Lisette pattern, that looked like it could work. I took it to my sewing teacher and we were able to make a few pretty simple adjustments to make this work for me. I’d like to show you how, because this looks different from other SBA’s, but it’s not.

First, here’s the line drawing of the pattern from the instruction sheet. I’ll be adjusting the front to eliminate the horizontal seam at the yoke/bodice. You can use this same process and leave the seam if you want.


You can see that the top/yoke and the bottom are very similar shapes at the seamline, but there is actually a 5/8″ dart put in that seam. So, how do you eliminate it if you don’t need it? There are probably several approaches, but I’ll show you the one we used.


Here’s our end result.

final result

Here are the steps for how we got there.

draw lines

Draw lines from the middle of the arm scythe to the bust point (where it would be if you had one), and from the side seam to the bust point. The line from the side seam should be perpendicular to the straight of grain. Draw a third line parallel to the straight of grain that connects to the bust point.
cut leaving hinges

Carefully cut – first cut up the vertical line to the bust point and over to the arm scythe, BUT leave a hinge at the seam allowance (usually 5/8″). Cut from the arm scythe in to the hinge. Next cut from the side seam to the bust point, leaving a hinge there, too.

overlap and tape

Overlap the pattern pieces to remove the bust dart. In this case, it’s 5/8″. So the overlap of 5/8″ is at the side seam, and then adjust so the rest of the pattern is lying flat. Once everything is flat, tape the pieces together. You will lose some length on the side panel. That’s ok (that length was to go over the bust, but I don’t need it any more.)

true up the top

True up the pattern. You will likely need to do this to the bottom/skirt piece as well.

Now I have a pattern that fits! I will probably not use this pattern as-is. First I’ll trace it and modify the neckline because it doesn’t work well for me. (I’ve tried it several times in the past.) I’ll change it to a nice V-curve – my combination of a v-neck with a curved bottom. Second, I’ll add shoulder princess seams and some flare to the skirt. And I’ll add side seam pockets.

I’m thinking of using Tessuti’s Bella dress for inspiration. Stay tuned.