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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.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Kitt knit dress from Stylearc

 A while ago I posted that I am revisiting some of Stylearc's simple shapes and I am overdue in my posts about them.

So here we go. 

Right now I am in Berkeley visiting my son, daughter-in-law and youngest grandchild after a very, very long time. I will be here for another two weeks.

This visit is overdue thanks to Covid and I am refilling my well.

We are busy of course with an almost three-year-old but I am able in the evenings to catch up a bit.

So let's start with Stylearc's Kitt dress. This pattern was a freebie a while ago and so I acquired it. Getting ready for my trip I decided I needed some knit dresses. Of course as usual my sewing ambitions were bigger than my sewing time so the simplicity of this pattern made it a sensible sew.

Here is the pattern illustration:

 Ironically I made this dress out of fabric I ordered in from the marvellous Stonemountain and Daughter here is Berkeley. For some reason their shipping to Canada is super, super fast - whenever I make an order from them it arrives with in the week if not in a few days.

Not much to say about the construction of this little number obviously. The V neck is essentially one of those ones that is a knit band same as a T shirt with a little dart at centre front to make the miter.

Due to fabric shortage, I squeezed this out of what I had I actually also used knit bands to finish the sleeves. Honestly this whole project could not have been easier.

So here it is - an extremely simple dress and one I feel is perfect for a strong print.

I will be making more of these - why wouldn't I?