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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon



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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Stylearc Iris dress

 As my Instagram followers would know, I am currently in Berkeley California visiting my family there. I was cut off from travel to see them for over a year and a half. Being here is like water to a plant. I hadn't realized just how much not seeing my kids was taking out of me until I got here.

I am doing a lot of childcare right now, which thrills me, to bridge a period between a nanny and the start of nursery school.

Because my daughter-in-law does a truly amazing job of running her household, despite two high pressure careers in this family, I have some time to myself during naps. No one needs me to cook and clean around here, although I do the nightly after dinner clean up which I quite enjoy.

My daughter-in-law is one of my best friends. She is just about the nicest, most thoughtful, person I know. Since my celiac diagnosis I was a bit worried about travelling - I really get sick if exposed to gluten but I also don't want to be that person who is fussy. When I arrived here the kitchen was all geared up. Maddie, who has a master's in food from NYU plus a food safety certification, was way ahead of me in knowing what to eat and how to handle cooking, without any fuss, which is important to me. So being here has been so easy for me. I am lucky. 

Now back to the naps.

It has been very busy back at home lately so these few hours of time in the afternoon here are giving me a chance to catch up on some blog posts.

Today I want to talk about Stylearc's Iris dress.

Measurements are always interesting. The usual bust-waist-hip are measurements of the soft parts of a body and don't account much for frame. What that frame looks like varies a lot in the blocks different designers use.

Over time I have come to realize that although Stylearc fits me perfectly when it comes to pants, which are located on my largest parts of my body, I have more trouble with the upper body fit. I find that tops and dresses in Stylearc are just too big for my small boned shoulders, arms and neck. As a result I am wary. I usually pay a lot of attention to the finished pattern measurements, as much actually as the attention I pay to the body measurements in the Stylearc size chart when I choose a size.

I also am starting to make a beta version of each pattern that I think has the potential to be a style I might make over and over again when I sew Stylearc.

Which brings us to the Iris dress.

I decided this summer that given my home based and children heavy lifestyle (I have been taking care of my three grandchildren in Halifax three days a week this summer) I could do with what my mother and her friends used to call "house dresses."

Basically a house dress is one unit dressing for people who are short of time and need something sturdy and washable. My house dresses just go on over my head when I am running late, and the world is just lucky I am not going to go through the day in my housecoat.

With this criterion I thought the Iris dress would be perfect. Deep pockets and no closures; neck and armholes bound and a machine hem. I also thought the slight cocoon shape would give me some room to move in case in the middle of my day I decided to say clean the bathtub or chase somebody around the back yard.

Here it is:

For my first version I used some mid weight dark denim I picked up somewhere. For binding I used some striped poplin left over from a shirt project.

I made this first version sized according to my measurements, a size 10, which actually is a shade smaller than my actual bust.

Here it is:

As you can see the neckline slides around my chicken shoulders and the armhole is a bit looser than I like.

That said, despite these issues I still have been wearing this dress around the house - it is sort of a functional apron like garment for me. Practical if not glamorous.

But I knew that if I made it again I would have to go a size down at top.

So that's what I did next. 

I cut out a size 8 (which was over 2" smaller in the bust measurement than I actually am) and graded it back out to the 10 at the hips. This time I used a better fabric, a lovely rayon print from Blackbird:

This version has given me the fit I think the pattern makers intended. I think the simple shape really suits the large scale of the print.

Now I am not suggesting here that all Stylearc patterns "run big" as we say in sewing urban myth land. If you had more meat on your bones around the neck and shoulders than I do then this pattern, as sized, would probably work just fine for you. 

What I am saying though is that it always pays to consider your bones when you think sizing. And sometimes a small change in sizing choice can make a huge difference.


Angela said...

Nice dress for around the house! I do have your new book, and it is great! So many times I have followed directions ever so carefully only to be disappointed. A book to address this problem is genius! You addressed many problems, could it be fixed quickly or not, and I'm quite happy with my purchase.

BarbaraShowell said...

I like them both, but number two is more appealing. It immediately made me want to sew one up, a great measure of the worth of a pattern.

Kamchick said...

I just love how you have placed the print pattern on the second version. I wish there were more large scale prints that were 'random' or 'spaced out' so that a sexist could arrange them in a creative way. It adds to the fun!. I have learned that great pockets are important - need them for giant cell phones. I make Elizabeth Suzann's 'Clyde' work pants - just for their fabulous pockets.

Your new book is here - it is so wonderfully laid out and covers so many of the F.A.I.L.s that we all experience and are lost about how to fix and improve. It will be a constant reference in my sewing practice. A wonderful piece of work that you and your family managed to do - even in these most difficult times.

May said...

Hmm, I didn't think about a dress with enough ease to clean a bathtub! Thank you for the tip about considering bone structure when picking a size. I've taken courses, read books and sewed up muslins but there was always one thing that wasn't working. I'll be ordering your new book (and probably your earlier one too).

Lisa - SF Bay Area said...

My old clawfoot bathtub that is so wonderful for soaking while reading needs more scrubbing....I wonder if that means I need a new dress:)!

Beth said...

The second time is a spectacular success. What a fun and practical dress.

Debra VanDeventer said...

I'm always looking for new patterns to try. I appreciate the way you show the actual pattern, then how they turn out in "real life." The tips on modifications are very helpful.

SK Daniels said...

Your perspective of considering skeletal shape instead of merely flat measurements is enlightening. So much learning in sewing!

Bunny said...

Ah, the house dress! Just made myself one that I am wearing constantly. I throw it on for around the house but also to run to the market and around town. We do have different visions, however. For me your version would be far to tight for the life I lead. In my world a house dress has to be loose around the waist and down, quite loose. I don't want to crouch down to pick up anything and have the fabric tighten around any of my parts. Style Arc's pattern is far too constricting around the knees and hips for me to work as a house dress. It would also have outside pockets, the better to just dump items as I need. That being said, your number two is a great dress. The print is fabulous and could easily share space with a gin and tonic on a beautiful California summer evening. I have so enjoyed my house dress that I searched for more that fit my criteria in the Big Four and Indies. I found Style Arc to have lots of options that worked. Oh, and another detail I needed was the ability to look good with a turtleneck and leggings in the winter, so year round fabric was important as well. The return of the house dress is very welcome around here!

Unknown said...

I haven't made either of those patterns but I did make a Style Arc waterfall jacket without thinking about my height - ugh! At 5'2" it was a nightmare and after sewing, cutting it off wasn't a possibility. Will you please try some Itch-to-Stitch patterns? I'm finding they are well drafted and fit so many practically without alternations. Love the tops I have made but thinking about the Mountain View jeans and others! Love your first book - think I had better order the second! I really hope that large scale print is still available - must have!