Monday, December 17, 2012

Updated: Having My Cake (aka I Sewed Something)

I realize that all of this will have no ballast without a photo, but I only have so many hours in the day and my many crafts are whispering from the dust-bunnied corners like scary little poltergeists. So I will either upload a photo of me wearing the dress (best case scenario, if I look good tomorrow am) or (less best case scenario) on the dress form. In the meanwhile, please read on. I promise to rivet you with sewing-talk.

OK, here are some pics - but they really don't do the dress any favours. Why is black such a bitch to photo?? And why are the days so freakin', depressingly dark? Needless to say I've lightened the crap out of these photos, largely to no avail. See the updated section at the bottom to see what I've learned from a day of wearing a wearable muslin.

You can see how I've widened the span of the gathers. Note: This is dress is slightlytoo big for the boobs on my form and it needs some tweaking still on me... The dress form underarms are catching the sleeves - I fucking hate those things. The dress doesn't fall like that from actual shoulders.

Yeah, peeps, it isn't 6 p.m. and it's pitch black.

For starters, OMG, I actually sewed something. Given that my output for the last 6 months has been approximately one garment a month, I think that deserves a round of applause and a glass of wine.

What I sewed was this: the Tiramisu dress from the newly-formed company, Cake Patterns. People, we live an in enlightened age, one in which increasing numbers of young, independent (female) designers have taken the risk in starting their own pattern lines. Sewaholic and Colette come to mind, but Cake Patterns is an early cohort. And the woman who's formed it is but a young fawn, to my mind. Goes to show how creativity really is the purview of youth.

The thing that impresses me most about this pattern is the lightning sharp drafting. I mean, we have Tasia designing flatteringly for the "pear-shaped" among us and Colette reinventing the concept of cache in home-sewing, but there's something so smart - and almost incomprehensibly complex - about the 20 unaltered bodice sizes one can mix with a variety of waist sizes - that Steph's pulled off with this pattern. (Read more about it here...)

Having followed her blog for a while, I'm not surprised. It was really a joy to assemble this dress. There wasn't one unintelligible element. Furthermore, Steph got all of the instructions onto one piece of paper (double-sided) and they are clearly, visually-presented. This isn't an introductory beginner pattern, IMO, but one that an enthusiastic newbie could reproduce.

OK, onto my particular experience:

I find it amusing that, despite 20 unaltered bust-size options, I fall into the category of those who need to modify the bodice aka do a full bust adjustment (of sorts). Don't panic! Given the genius construction of this pattern, it is actually fun!

Why did I, of all peeps and the only one who's written about this so far (as far as I know), find myself in this position? Well, cuz I'm at the smallest end of the upper bust measurement scale (what's known as the 30 category) and above the largest end of the (proportional) bust circumference measurements, which align with the upper bust, what's known, kind of confusingly as "D cup". The cup terminology is confusing because it doesn't actually accord with a bra size D cup in any real way. The "D cup" is simply proportionately aligned with the various upper bust categories, larger than the A cup, B cup and C cup that precede it. Personally, I would have referred to the full bust circumference measurements by terms other than well-known, and rather meaningless in the scheme of things, bra-sizing terminology. But it matters not.

On the diagrams below, I am at the top left of the upper chart and mid-way down the second chart all the way on the right side:

Photos courtesy of Steph's Blog...

Those of you who can go straight across, on the same row, should be able to make this without a bust adjustment. Given the numerous options, I sense you are in the majority. Those of you on the diagonal skew, well, welcome to my world.

Now the fab thing about this is that there's a diagonal line that more or less bisects the pattern (the one to the left of the grain mark with the arrow) that allows you to increase the bust size without undertaking much effort at all:
Simply slash it from the bottom to the top, leaving a little hinge at the top (those of you who do FBAs will be more than familiar with this concept) and open the two sides to the degree you require in order to increase the full-bust circumference. Of course, you'll need to tape a piece of paper behind the original pattern piece so that you have backing for the new width. You will also need to true the bottom of the pattern after you do this, by adding a bit more length on the right-hand side of the opening once you spread the two sides. The larger the FBA, the more true-ing you'll have to do. So make sure you have a wedge of paper for under the bottom of the right-hand side too.

I widened the pattern 0.5" (at the base) and there was barely any true-ing to be done.

Arguably, this pattern is very generously sized i.e. it fits really large and calls for much more fabric than you need, IMO.

As an FBA-doer, here's how I can advise the pattern will likely also need to be altered in terms of construction:
  • You'll need to increase the width of the gather zone on the front bodice. The pattern makes it 2" wide (at least in the 30D size). I ended up adjusting it to be 5" wide because I needed more gathers a) to span the width of my lower bust and b) because the FBA made the bodice larger than what I required, arguably, so I needed to diminish the width by gathering over a wider span.
Other thoughts:
  • I had to take an extra inch off of the side seams (.5" on each side) to get a fitted dress.  Chances are, if I had made an unaltered 30D and hadn't taken in the side seams in that extra amount, I would have been fine.
  • Steph is obviously designing for a short person with a short-waist because I didn't need to take any length out of the waist - or off the bottom of the bodice piece (that attaches to a waist piece that runs approximately the length of one's full waist).
  • Furthermore, in terms of the skirt length, I think it's kind of perfect. I hemmed it by 0.5" (which, in a stretch fabric, doesn't really need a lot of finessing, despite the fact that the skirt is very full). I used a firm, good-quality ponte knit that doesn't have a lot of stretch. In a flimsier, stretchier knit, I sense the hemming might be a bit trickier than I found it.
  • Let's talk about the pockets: I know that Lauren said she doesn't mind the fullness imparted by them (and which she attributes to a stretchy, thin fabric). I used a totally different weight of fabric and I also found the pockets gave a very full profile - not just at the supposed-to-be-curvy full hip, but from where they start right under the waist - at the high hip. I believe it's the nature of the positioning of the pockets. What I'll say is that I might try inserting them again but, next time, farther down. If I get the same result, I'll omit the pockets going forward. I don't find the fullness flattering - and I'm not particularly large-of-hip.
So there you go. Pls. stay tuned for pics. And in the meantime, tell me what you think of the Tiramisu - or the alterations if you've already made this...

Updated fitting info after wearing the dress:

OK, this bodice is nowhere near as ready-for-wear as I originally imagined. It's too big in some spots and too small in others, namely:
  • I sense I didn't need the FBA. There's just too much fabric over the breasts which then gapes when I sit down or move in certain directions. While standing and walking everything hangs properly, but particularly above the bust apex, it's too big.
  • On the flip side, the bodice is not long enough. I could make it another .5" - 1" longer. It's not very observable because a) the dress is black, b) the depth of my breasts is kind of deceptive and c) the gathers do hit under my bust - just not at my under bust rib cage.
  • I either need to dart out the gaping fabric or revert to the original 30D size - but either way, I need to make the bodice longer overall.
  • I really like those pockets so I think I'll have to find a way to keep them. They're surprisingly swishy-comfortable to put one's hands in.
For this version, I'm simply going to attach a snap at the join of the v-neck or sew it down, but I will be correcting the fit in the next go round.


  1. Thanks for the information. I'm a newbie so I haven't purchased the pattern yet but very much want to! Can't wait to see pictures!

    1. Saro: You can always buy it now and then you'll have it on hand when you're ready to take the plunge :-) I do think that Steph will be doing a sew along of the dress in the near future so keep you're eye on that.

    2. There is a sew-along planned for January, which will be broken into 30 minutes a day of sewing. I hope this helps.
      I really love your black version.

  2. Ooh, it's interesting to me that you feel this is designed for a short-waisted person. What's put me off about this pattern is the presence of that wide bodice piece below the bust... it's not really logical, because it would be so easy to shorten, but something about seeing so many FOs with that long piece just harkens memories of dresses with waistbands sitting halfway down my hips and gives me a knee-jerk negative feeling. But of course, perhaps those people lengthened that piece - I have no way of knowing!

    I was just thinking about this pattern this morning, after having had some really eye-opening feelings about dresses and clothing in general lately, and feeling like I should give it a go. Your review has sold me on it.

    By my measurements I'd be a 35C - but I have to admit, most of the FOs I've seen fit much more loosely than I would like for myself. I'm wondering if I should throw caution to the wind and just size down from the get-go (if I ever get around to making this, that is)? What would you think? (My high bust is 36, my full bust is 38 and my under bust is about 30 or 31? Come to think of it I'm probably long overdue to retake my measurements...)

    1. It really is a very malleable pattern. Those waist pieces are entirely adjustable at the side at the top, at the bottom. You can be quite creative with this. Go smaller than the 35. I'd suggest 30C or D - and you'll prob want to lengthen (but not widen) the bodice pieces.

    2. Thanks! If I ever get around to sewing again I'll blog about it for sure!

    3. Ooh, just saw the updated photos. Looks awesome!

    4. Thanks! It's hard to show black off to good advantage in photos, but it really is a very nice fabric and the dress hangs in a beautiful way.

  3. Awesome advice! I'm glad it's suited to shorties... hurrah for that! I found the bust fit a bit loose too, so I think I'll go down a size. I'm looking forward to your pictures!

    1. At least when you start out with a size that's too big you can pull fabric out of it! :-)

  4. Love your dress. Some of the versions I've seen have sort of turned me off the pattern. But then again, I don't really wear dresses much so I guess it's not really a big deal! LOL

    1. Thanks Debbie. This is the sort of dress that even a confirmed pants-wearer could get to like. Soooo comfortable :-)