My Uniquely You Dress Form…

…and a blazer, because the two go hand-in-hand.

I’d been wanting a dress form for a while when I found a decorative-type dress form at a discount store last year. It looked smaller than any dress form I’d seen, and seemed close to my measurements, so I grabbed it up, thinking it would be “the one.” Well, of course once I got it home and started using it, I realized that close wasn’t good enough and that it was really too big all around, but particularly in the shoulders and bust, for me to use for any sort of fitted or draped garment. It quickly became a glorified, decorative coat rack where I tossed any project that didn’t seem to be coming together the way I wanted at any given moment.

And all the while, I researched dress forms whenever I had fitting issues with a project or got tired of trying on a piece-in-progress on a million times. Lots of research showed me that most dress forms, even those in small or petite sizes, weren’t quite small enough. Despite knowing back in November/December that I was going to be budgeting all of my holiday gift money toward a dress form, I couldn’t find “the one” and didn’t make any purchases until early February.

I ended up going with a Uniquely You dress form, which came close to fitting everything on my wishlist (and a few things that I hadn’t thought to consider but love now – it’s pin-able and “steam-on-able” in addition to being small enough to fit my clothing). These dress forms consist of two parts: a foam “base” and a fabric cover (which you buy separately to suit your sizing needs). You fit the cover to yourself, then squish the foam form into the fitted cover, giving you a finished form that more-or-less mimics your body’s measurements, if not shape.

I got the petite sized form, with the size 2 cover. As many of the other reviews have shown, she does indeed come with two torpedoes (my mom was with me when I pulled her out of the box and was ready to name her Dolly). I couldn’t resist putting the cover on her immediately, just to see how it worked with no adjustments, and then let her sit like this for a few weeks while I got up the nerve to fit the cover. Of course, I didn’t take a picture of her with the cover, but did take one as soon as she came out of the box.

It took a few tries for me to get the cover/form to match my measurements, even after very snugly fitting the cover to myself. Note: this isn’t exactly how the directions say to do it, but my way seemed to make more sense to me at the time. First, it was too big all around, so I figured I must not have fit it snugly enough and took out a smidge from each of the main seams. Then it was too small all around, so I let out the side seams. At this point, it was the right size/shape through the underbust, waist, and hips, and my mom was asking me if this was really something I was enjoying as we squished the form back into the cover for what seemed like the hundredth time (and it is definitely a two person job…I would probably still be trying to get that cover zipped onto the form if I hadn’t had help). I decided that rather than risk messing up any of those measurements that now looked right, I would use an old bra and pad out the bust to get the right shape and measurements.

Uniquely You Dressform - WithNeedleAndThreadUnlike many of the reviews I read, I didn’t need to perform surgery on the torpedo boobs to get them to fit into the cover – though I have to admit that they weren’t pretty before I added the bra. Nor did I cut off the shoulders, as I have seen others do, to reduce the shoulder width. Instead, I went with a slightly less permanent fix, by sewing a band of muslin to match my shoulder measurements and using that to reduce the shoulders from about 15.5 to 14 inches.

To give the fitted, padded, and banded form a more finished/polished look, since it would be sitting out a lot of the time, I used less than a yard of super stretchy swimsuit knit to make a final cover for the form. I draped the fabric wrong side out over the form, and working in somewhat equal increments, stretched and pinned the fabric along the sideseams and shoulders/neck of the form. Then I carefully eased the pinned fabric off of the form and used the pins as a stitching guide. After sewing along the pinned lines, I flipped it right side out and put it back on the dress form, and handsewed the bottom (so it’s easily removable, which is the one thing I’d change somehow if I were making another).

As a test, I put my just-finished jacket on the dress form and took a picture. Then had my mom take a picture of me wearing the jacket so that I could compare how the jacket hung on both. And, I think it fits both of “us” pretty similarly, so I am calling project dress form a success.

Lekala 4162 Coral Blazer - WithNeedleAndThreadThe blazer is Lekala 4162, a classic princess seamed blazer with a notched lapel and single button closure, which I’ve made a few times and seems to have become my go-to pattern for both dressy and casual jackets. This one is made with a textured jacquard knit from Fabric Mart and is lined with a coral and black polka dot ITY knit, also from Fabric Mart.

I’ve worn the blazer several times between when I finished it and when I got around to writing this post, and I’ve noticed that the lapels naturally want to break slightly higher than called for in the pattern. Since the fabric doesn’t hold a crease very well, I decided to go with it and added a second button above the first.

 

A New Fall Jacket: the “Moto-blazer”

WithNeedleAndThread-MotoBlazerI’d been wanting (to make) a moto/biker-style jacket for a while, buy hadn’t found a pattern that spoke to me, so the project kept getting bumped further and further down my “to make” list. Included in my list of wishes for my jacket were that it: have an asymmetrical but mostly straight zipper (versus a diagonal zipper), have an actually collar (not just the lapels), have traditional two-piece sleeves with no gussets, zippers, buttons, or extra seams, and that it be fitted rather than boxy, ideally with princess seams.

In other words, I wanted a cross between a classic moto-style jacket and a traditional blazer. Once I came to that epiphany, I decided to set about making my own “frankenpattern” (an oh so technical term for when you combine two or more different patterns to create one new pattern…think Frankenstein). I debated between several different moto jacket patterns before deciding on Simplicity 2056, which had the collar, lapels, and straight-off-center front that I had envisioned. For the blazer portion, I used Lekala 4162, a classic blazer pattern which I’ve made before and know fits well.

I traced the front of the Simplicity pattern onto the front piece of the Lekala pattern, lining up the shoulders and center fronts. When I cut the traced pattern out, I kept the center front part of the moto jacket and blended into the armscye princess seam lines of the blazer. In the photo below, the purple is the Lekala pattern, the teal is the moto jacket, and the red should be ignored (I traced two sizes of the moto jacket and ended up going with the smaller one – this is the larger one).

WithNeedleAndThread-MotoBlazer

In addition, I used the side front, side back, back, and sleeves from the Lekala pattern, and the collar and pocket pieces from the moto jacket pattern. About halfway though the project, I started calling my jacket a “moto-blazer,” and I think that name is going to stay with it.
Based on the pattern envelope images, I thought that the moto jacket collar may be too big for me, so I basted it on before sewing it for real. And it did turn out too big; I would up narrowing it by increasing the seam allowance along the back seamline, taking 1.5” from the corner, tapering to .75” at center back, then back out to 1.5” at the other corner. I probably could have made it smaller still, but decided to embrace the slightly oversized collar to give the jacket even more of a different look from the other jackets in my closet.

WithNeedleAndThread-MotoBlazerSince I had changed the fit of the moto jacket and was changing the pocket style of the blazer pattern, I added the pockets after I’d sewn most of the jacket, but before attaching the lining. This allowed me to determine the ideal length and placement of the pockets as they would fall when I was actually wearing the jacket. I think my pockets ended up being a bit smaller than a traditional pocket, but they work on me. And I don’t really intend to use the pockets for much, so going smaller with the pockets wasn’t an issue. This was the first time I’ve put zippered pockets in a jacket, and I initially found the idea of cutting a whole in my jacket slightly terrifying. Of course, in reality, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d built it up to be in my head and I’m glad I went ahead and put in the pockets/zippers.

After the jacket shell was mostly finished (and pockets mentioned above inserted), I decided that I really didn’t like the look of the partially exposed zipper that I was originally intending to use (the left zipper piece had no seam to be sewn into…which I hadn’t fully taken into consideration when combining my patterns as the Simplicity pattern originally called for buttons rather than a zipper on the view I used). Luckily, I had enough wiggle room (or extra ease that could be un-eased) that I was able to taper the top edge of the zipper tape, and fold the jacket fabric over the edge of the zipper tape to create a faux-seam. If/when I make this pattern again, I’d probably draft a real seam into the pattern here as I like this look much better than the exposed zipper look.

The fabric is a wool blend coating that I got from Fabric.com a few years ago. Though it’s hard to see in my pictures, it is a blend of cream/tan, olive, purple, and mustard yellow threads. I lined the jacket with purple Bemberg lining.

Zipper issues aside, I am happy with the way my new “moto-blazer” turned out and am now anxiously waiting for the weather to cool down enough so that I can wear my new jacket.

 

Summer Sewing Roundup: Part 2

After all of the tops I shared in my previous post, I knew I needed something to wear with these tops. Now, living in California, most people would think that my mind would jump to shorts and/or skirts for summer. Well, I’ve never claimed to be like everyone else, and the first thing I thought to make was a jacket. Which isn’t as crazy as it sounds because my office does run cool and most people there wear some sort of layering piece through the summer. Some of us like to joke that we can dress for summer for the drive to/from work, but that it isn’t summer in the building. Since all of the tops I’d made recently had shades of blue, I decided to draw on that for my jackets.

WithNeedleAndThread - Lekala 4268

On the jacket front, I’ve had my eye on Lekala 4268, a short-sleeved jacket with front and back princess seams, a darted front, welt pockets, and a shawl collar with angled front corners, since I first discovered Lekala patterns, but I never bought it because of the short sleeves. It finally dawned on me while watching a Peggy Saegers/Silhouette Patterns webcast that all I had to do was take a long sleeve that I liked the fit of and transfer that armscye/armhole onto the other pattern to use the long sleeve. I ended up taking a two-piece sleeve from another Lekala pattern and had to make virtually no adjustments to the armscye, even for fit, which I’ve had to do on a few Lekala jacket muslins.

Even though this jacket looked somewhat complicated, and Lekala is not known for its great directions, the only problems I ran into were the welt pockets, which I had never done before. I read some tutorials online, and ended up just going for it. They aren’t perfect, and I ended up making  them faux pockets, but in such a busy/texture fabric, I think (and/or hope) that I’m the only one who sees the flaws.

For this jacket, I used a textured knit that I got from FabricMart Fabrics and a coincidentally matching button that I took off of an old raincoat back my freshman year of college when I used the rest of the raincoat to make a waterproof bag to put in my bike baskets, and kept knowing it would come in handy at some point. Though I found a matching button easily, I had a hard time getting a buttonhole to look good on this fabric, so I wound up sewing a snap closure in, and putting the button on as a non-functioning decoration.

WithNeedleAndThread - Lekala 4162

Still thinking of summer-style jackets, I also tackled another blazer pattern that had been on my mental to-make list: Lekala 4162, a classic blazer with princess seams, a notched collar, and a single button closure in front. I used another textured knit from FabricMart, this time in a slightly sparkly light blue. I didn’t make any fit adjustments to this pattern, either, but in the future, I may raise the armscye a little, as there is a little too much room even with the shoulder pads. I left off the welt pockets, thinking that the fabric was busy enough on its own, and pockets would just make it look a little less clean. I also chose to serge the seams and leave off the lining. With no lining, this jacket came together fairly easily. Finding the right button may have taken longer than most of the sewing of the jacket. I do love this jacket, and have plans to make it in several other fabrics, both classic blazer type fabrics and a few fun colors/fabrics.

I’m loving textured knits for jackets/blazers and cardigans lately. At some point, I’m thinking that I have to tell myself that I have enough textured, colored jackets, but I don’t think I’ve hit that point quite yet.