Sunday, July 10, 2016

Almost Finished Object: Cashmerette Appleton Dress

I have so much to say about the Cashmerette Appleton Dress that I doubt I'll be able to fit it all into one post. No mind, let's get started... Here's what my first - not quite finished - muslin looks like:

The seams on this are a bit crunchy (due to Steam and Seam). Once I finish altering this, I'll throw it in the washer/dryer, pre-wear.

This fabric cost a fortune ($60). In the end, even without sleeves I used @2 yards of 70" wide fabric. This is not a cheap sew if you use pricey material. But use a good textile. It makes the process so much more pleasant!

The Good

OK, peeps, this pattern is terrific. It's enjoyable to sew (save a few itchy moments i.e. when attaching the neck/binding to the bodice). The instructions are clear, the drafting is excellent (amongst the best I've ever come across in indie pattern companies), the design is timeless. What can I say? Buy it.

I will absolutely make this dress again - next time with sleeves and with a few alterations:
  • This time, I debated, and then declined to do a swayback adjustment (to account for the length I generally required in the front bodice, that I do not require in the back).  I should have done it. 
  • While I find the construction really lovely, I feel that the the neck and bodice bands are too thick for me. Maybe it's because I left off sleeves. Maybe it's just a proportion thing. I find that the bands look a bit sturdy. Perhaps this is just my initial perspective, but I feel it calls attention to my bust in a strange way. There's enough ease in the (beautifully drafted) front bodice so that I can trim 0.5" of band next time. I suspsect that's what I'll do.
  • The front fits well - even roomily (which I can rarely say). The back bodice, however, is too roomy. I've been thinking about how I might address this - I mean, for 60 bucks, I'm going to find a fix! - and I've come up with a plan: 1 fisheye dart on either side of the centre back (there's no CB seam since it's cut on the fold. The side seams sit nicely but there's too much fabric on the back (you can sort of see it with the vertical drag lines). I've never darted a back bodice without a centre seam so I hope this works. Please let me know if it's not possible!
  • I lowered the ties by 1 inch. I'm really short in the waist but, if I weren't , I'd have lowered it by more like 2". I'm not into an empire bodice - and that's what this wrap dress produces.
  • My bamboo fabric is beautiful. It drapes well. It's adequately robust. I even like the colour, in the end. But it's a bit princess-y - it does love to snag. Next time, I'm going to use a less fancy fabric (till I confirm my alterations). I mean, I'll ensure that it's a good fabric. But I don't think I need to spend another 60 bucks on this until I've got the fit sorted. It did take me a good 10 hours to put together, over 3 days, from start to finish.  I worked consistently and carefully. It's not perfect workmanship, of course, but it's alright. I imagine, next time out, I might shave a couple of hours off the process.
The Rest
  • Somehow I manage to vertically hem the wrong side of the skirt (don't ask me which, at this point, it's a blur). To make it right, in the end, I hemmed them both. If this was the original instruction, I didn't pay attention, but next time I'll def hem both sides. It looks better.
  • I found the tie-opening instructions strange and suboptimal. I used a serger (though I did reinforce the stitches with a zig zag on either side of the opening, in addition to stay stitching) and there's really no way to cleanly topstitch, after the fact. I've got to consider how I'll seam when I make it the next time...
  • It doesn't matter what pattern you purchase, chances are it's not going to fit awesomely without alterations. There are a lot of great looking Appletons on the 'net but, don't be fooled, those sewists pre-altered things to suit their shapes (or they took great photos). If you have a sloper, utilize it. I sense that a you-altered Concord T is an excellent starting-off point for this pattern. By using my Concord "sloper", and knowing what I do of fit - with the exception of the back bodice width, my fit is pretty good. FWIW, I didn't even have to cut more than 1 inch from the length of the skirt and I'm only 5'3". But if I'd cut a 12 C/D, out of the box, it would have been a bad fit. Effectively, I cut a smaller than 12 (like a self-devised 10) with the size 12-14 bust. I'd call that a @10 E/F (Note: that size isn't part of the pattern draft. I altered it).
  • I have a feeling that the underside of the wrap may hang a bit long - it's unclear whether I can fix this by tying things or if I'm going to have to alter to get an even hem. Others have had this issue but, apparently, it was fixed between the test-phase and when the pattern was released. I'm not so sure.
What I'm going to do next
  • As soon as I have a moment (and I do hope this happens in the next week, though who can say), I'm going to dart the back bodice and I'll let you know how it lands. 
So, that's where I'm at. Thoughts about the Appleton? I'm particularly interested if you've made major alterations... Let's talk!


  1. Yay! I love that colour, and I'm so pleased you like the pattern!
    - I wonder if the bands look wide on you because you've sewn a small size - picture them on a size 24, and they probably look proportional? Easy to narrow next time.
    - the hole for the tie isn't my fav finish either. doing a little facing could be neater...
    - I fixed my muslin's long underwrap by taking a little tuck right at the tie. It's all hidden underneath, so you'll never see it!
    - I've always turned and stitch the edges of both layers of the wrap! Have I been doing it wrong??

    The alterations I've made on mine are really just a slash and spread of the back skirt to get more butt room. I don't think I've done anything else... but I'm really happy that your Concord adjustments translated well!

    1. I think the bands do look wide because the proportion is a bit off. But, having tried on the dress again today (to make further alterations), I don't know that I'd want to simply remove band width. I think I'll take it off the bands and move it to the bodice (to keep the same bust volume). This wrap really is cleavage-plus on everyone! I'll try that fix on the underwrap if I find the issue persists, thanks for intel.

      I'm sure you were supposed to stitch down the vertical edge of both sides of the wrap. I just wasn't reading carefully, I suppose. Sometimes I read so carefully that I don't retain any of the relevant info. It's a weird thing that happens to me with written instructions. Next time I'll remember and the forgotten side (of course, the overwrap) won't look so sad.

      I did the darts and, while it helps, there really is too much room still in the back. It's strange. This pattern company fits me so well in the front bodice and so wrong in the back. I think I'm going to have to put in a CB seam to give myself a bit more wiggle room in how I alter. Cuz above the armscye the width is great. Below, there's too much fabric all in the centre of the back panel. I might be able to do the reverse of your alteration? Also, I should have done that freakin' swayback adjustment. The width plus length of fabric pool, emphasized by a tie, isn't the best. Still, this is a great dress that I will figure out and then it'll be in regular sewing rotation.

    2. I should say that things work above the armscye specifically because of how I moved it, wholesale, towards the CB. I guess I could just shave fabric off the side seams but I don't know if that will fix the vertical pooling in the centre. It's the easy fix. I guess that's what I'll do next.

  2. Well, it looks great from here! But excess back fabric is one of my bugbears so I definitely get the annoyance. Someday I'll figure out why I'm always taking back waists in when technically my waist is at least two inches bigger than the pattern says it's drafted for. ;)

    1. I generally have to narrow the back and shorten it somewhere, but this is more extensive (perhaps cuz it's a whole dress). It's ok because, once I figure it out, the dress will be a great TNT.

  3. Looking good! As you note, you're not the underlying "body type" for the block, which leads to the need for all the alterations - believe it or not, many (if not most!) plus size & curvy women who've made it up haven't made any alterations at all. But as you say, part of the fun is tailoring everything to fit! I look forward to seeing the final product :)

    1. Thanks Jenny! Well you've got a genius pattern if the ladies are all getting such great results with no alterations! Can't wait to try your next one...

  4. I like the wide bands; they just seem like a design feature, necklace- or scarf-like, rather than fading to invisible utility. They match the width of the waist tie. Is it possible they also provide structural stability to the fabric as it lays diagonally across the body? Anyway, the dress is beautiful, like everything you make.

  5. Actually, now that I've worn it, the wide bands are growing on me - maybe not growing on me but they don't seem as sturdy as they originally did and you are correct - they do match the bands. If I were to change the neck, I'd have to narrow those bands. Thanks so much for your lovely compliment SanMarie!

  6. Meant to say they match the ties!