Sunday, May 15, 2016

Finished Object: Kielo Wrap Dress - Wearable Muslin

I went a bit off-road with this sewing experience - and (much as one loves woodsy clean air and fresh water) I have nothing but enjoyment to report.

Here's my new dress. It's a total muslin (albeit a wearable one) - made in a cotton/poly blend jersey that cost me 5 bucks a metre at FabricLand, a while ago:

Kielo Wrap Dress by Named Cloting - Non-wrap version
No, it doesn't look like the version on the website:

I'm not 5'10". My waist is not 9" long. I am not going to a wedding.

My version is hemmed at knee-length, omitting the back vent (unnecessary with a short tulip skirt). You might also note the sheer absence of, um, the ties that make this dress a wrap.

Here's the thing: I deliberately opted to muslin - I know, not very "quick and dirty" of me, but I had no idea how my vertical adjustments were going to land and I couldn't bring myself to spend 50 bucks in fabric on something unwearable. But my muslin fabric is NOTHING like my final fabric. It's cotton-y. It has mediocre recovery. It holds its shape because there isn't much in the way of drape. It's a cheap-ish, non-flimsy fabric that one might use for a casual t shirt. I bought it cuz it wasn't too special and it wasn't too pricey. But it IS a great colour and it does the trick excellently as muslin fabric.

Alas, though I spent 30 minutes making those ties and pulling them inside out (with a fabric that loves to stick to itself), I sensed that the dress was not going to fare well with them. Again - no drape. Not slinky.

I recall having read a review the Kielo Wrap, made without the ties. In truth, even if I hadn't seen that review, I would have known not to attach them. It was obvious. This version of the dress, in this fabric, did not want ties. Its boxy line is SO Scandi-chic, peeps. It's got all the side-seam appeal of that Toni Dress and none of the potential detractors.

This pattern is by Named Clothing, a Finnish line, and I am freakin' impressed. I'm impressed because it's awesomely drafted - the best evidence of which is that, when I shortened it vertically (and to some extent horizontally) - respecting the laws of alterations - it scaled beautifully.

You'll recall my pre-construction alterations. They were a best guess but I'm more confident about those vertical adjustments than ever I have been. I did end up making the wedge-alteration in the low back (one I always do to account for the extra length I require in the front body piece re: the boobs).

I could tell, just by looking at the model (never mind the pattern pieces) that this thing is drafted, not only for a tall person, but a person that's tall in the torso. The span between the armscye and the waist is LONG. The span between the waist and the hip is LONG. The armholes, as drafted, are LONG. These dimensions work very well for a tall, lean, small-breasted person. They are terrible for a short, short-waisted frame with sizeable breasts.

But because the pattern is so well-labeled with info about where the armscyes end and where the waist and hip sit, it was pretty clear about how to shorten the armscye / upper back length and the waist length above the hip. In addition to yesterday's alterations, I decided to lower the side wings (which should be at actual waist height given that this is where the ties attach) - that is to say that I removed some of the fabric above them which resulted in a) lowering the waist tie zone and b) removing some of the bulk at the upper (diagonal) part of the wing. I suspect, when I do add the ties to the next version, this will put them where I want them and diminish unnecessary bulk at my under bust (where I scarcely need it).

By making the armscye depth (and under armscye width) identical to my sloper's, I was successful in producing a well-fitted bodice that does not require a bust dart. Woohoo - since I don't love bust darts and I particularly don't love the ones that point downwards.

What I like about the pattern:
  • It's totally easy to put together (esp. in a jersey short version with no lining). I didn't follow the instructions, which is just as well, cuz I'm better when I work intuitively. The fact that this is marginally more complicated than a t shirt helps. The fish-eye (diamond) darts are very well applied.
  • It's multiple dresses in one: There's the long fancy version, a version you could make with sleeves (if you drafted the sleeve, it doesn't come along with the pattern apparently there's a free add-on sleeve - check out the website), a short version, a version with ties, a version without. Very versatile. Moreover, it looks totally different when made in different fabrics, having different properties of drape and hand.
  • It's elegant. Perfect with bare legs or denim leggings.
  • Not to be gauche, but it looks expensive. It's very sack-like in that French way.
  • Made to fit the shoulder/arms well,  it's very flattering. Note: Badly fitted, I imagine it would be awful.
  • It took me 3 hours to put this together - and I was figuring it out as I went along. Next time I suspect it will take 2 hours. That's pretty unheard of quick for me.
  • A newbie could make this. I mean, a few knit projects under her belt would help, but it's not complicated - especially with a serger (which I realize, most newbies don't have).
Things I don't love (but that aren't deal-breakers):
  • I don't love making the ties but I can't blame the pattern. Turning ties is a pain in the ass and it's got to be done. 
  •  I also think that the front neck may be a bit too wide for me so I'm potentially going to have to alter that next time. (It might be that I just didn't affix the neck binding with enough negative ease.) I did consider this possibility when I was cutting the pattern, but I didn't want to start messing with this on top of everything else.
  • And, on the topic of neck binding - the pattern doesn't come with binding pattern pieces for the neck and armscyce. This is because the instructions are pretty neutral about how you are supposed to finish these areas. Turn-under is the proposed option - and I do find that so meh. Mind you, if ever it were going to work on an armscye, it's this one cuz it's almost flat at the underarm. The neck, though. I don't know how you'd turn that under to any good effect.  I've made enough knits that I just cut out my standard 2 x 1.75" wide / 15" long (for armscyes) and 1 x 1.75" wide / 30" long for neck. Then, I cut off any excess length at the end of the seaming (after stretching the binding to produce a snug hole for head or arms).
  • Alas, and this is TOTALLY my fault: while I won't abide bad fit, I feel far too little shame about wonky top stitching, particularly when I'm making a muslin. This fabric didn't love the top stitch and I wasn't in the mood to thread the coverstitch machine and get all into that (I'm not awesome at it yet). So shoddiness ensued. Since I like this muslin a lot, I'm probably going to rip out and redo the neck stitching (of course, I fucked it up right along the front neck). But I'm bringing it to NC so that's not going to happen till next weekend at the earliest.
On the topic of top stitching, I'm rather horrified by how mediocre I am at it. I mean, I work carefully, I have good motor coordination, I follow a marker. And still, I make some garments with very amateur-seeming, visible seams. Top stitching's never been my strength, but I'm going to have to start paying it more mind. I sense that this is where my multiple repeats of projects will stand me in good stead. Most of the time, my first version (often a wearable muslin) is the worst. As I get more comfortable with a garment's specific sewing process - esp. if I'm working with a malleable fabric - my stitching improves. No surprise, I suppose.  Also, when I'm making the muslin, I'm always so focused on the preceding pattern alterations and the fit. I'll take the garment off 10 times to examine the line produced by a basted stitch. But by the time it comes to sewing the actual thing, I'm tired and I'm sure I rush. I tell myself that no one notices this but me, but I notice it on others, all the time, and it would be pretty stupid to assume I'm the only one.

For what it's worth, I will not wear a muslin - even if the fabric is GORGEOUS and my work flawless - if the fit is even slightly off. But wavy or jagged stitching is a secondary concern. I suppose it's because, much of the time, I know I could actually fix the issue (even if I tend to be too lazy to do so in the long run - really, it's just that I'm onto other things). It's also because this craft is challenging. It takes a lot of mediocrity to yield eventual, beautiful technique. It's taken me years to get even the small distance that I have with fit. Technical workmanship is its own art form and one can only focus on so many things at once without blowing all her circuits.

I leave you with one more pic:

Do tell me if you like this sort of dress. Would you make a version without the ties? What do you think of my version? What do you think of Named Clothing? Let's talk!


  1. OOOH! I would never have thought of that, but I'm loving the shape. And it's going to look so different again in a drapey rayon... though I love the volume. But most of all, I'm happy you had fun sewing!

  2. Gorgeous! And I like it much better without the ties, myself. ;)

    I find my topstitching quality varies a lot with the fabric I choose, but also the foot I use. My fave is a stitch-in-the-ditch foot with the keel down the middle---I set my needle to the side and it works great.

    Knits are definitely on the trickier end of the spectrum. And I have found some fairly terrible topstitching on storebought knits, too. ;)

  3. This is one of those dresses that when it works, it *really* works, but when it doesn't, it's an absolute train wreck. I fall into the latter category, despite my slim hips. Glad that it will work for you--can't wait to see the final version! :-)

    Re: Topstitching. Make a few buttondowns for your husband, your father, you, or whomever. After you've made 5 or 6 of those, your topstitching will be flawless, no matter how shifty the fabric. I promise. ;-)

  4. I love Named! I've made the Alexandria peg trousers 3 times (the fourth is cut...). I have failed with the Wyome jeans, and I'm on the fence about the Inari tee dress (the armscye is way too low and I'm not sure how to fix it. Maybe I should just use the upper part of the Scout tee and the side seams from the Inari instead of going the other way around).

    I'm not sure to what cup size they design though. I assumed (by looking at their models) that they draft for an A cup, B maximum. But for the Inari I had to do a 1"SBA to fit my AA bust.

    Anyway I love the new ideas they bring into the community, so different from the American designers.
    My only complaint is the nesting. Between 34 and 36 that come in different files and it annoying.

  5. I was in awe of your pattern origami, but even more so of the finished dress. I love the Scandi chic but cannot for the life of me wear it. But this is wonderful and so much prettier than the original. Ties at the waist are not a good look for me!