“Est-il heureux?” 

Cardinal Mazarin believed that to evaluate a general, you shouldn’t ask “Est-il habile?” (“Is he skillful?”), but rather “Est-il heureux?” (“Is he lucky?”). Well, was I lucky?


I mean, even a rousing victory would have netted me a very small shirt. This little fitted bodice is made from the scraps of my last week’s skirt, and it exists because I figured I had to take a run at a princess seamed bodice sometime. I also thought I might wear some vaguely princessy co-ords, which surprise, I won’t! But in this case, that “might” meant I started with a muslin.

This is a pre-Covid sew. I worked on it while Professor Boyfriend was at a conference in Deepest Pennsylvania, which was not a good strategy, since having someone to binder clip/photograph my back for reference would have helped a lot. That SAID…

I think I *was* lucky! I drew out what I guessed the pattern should look like, walked my seamlines, then cut and basted some scrap fabric. I had my measurements handy from this project, so I wasn’t totally uninformed, but I thought shruggingly this would open Round 1 of a zillion rounds of changes.

But actually it was already pretty good?!! As Mazarin might have said: “Sacrebleu!”

I made two changes to the muslin. I gave myself an extra 1/8” ease at the armpit ends of the side seam allowances, blending to nothing at the waist.

And I pinched out 1” of unneeded length under the bust, blending to nothing at the size seams – basically, adding a horizontal fisheye dart across the front.

After that, my adjusted muslin seemed even okay-er. So I made these changes to my paper pattern pieces and cut my fashion fabric, feeling MIGHTY SUSPICIOUS BY THE WAY, but…

That’s, um…that’s not bad, right? I’m assessing this accurately?

I’m definitely packed in there – I think we can safely say overfit – but it’s tacking to my upper chest, and that feels like a minor miracle. The armscyce curve is a little high under my arm, but again, there’s no gaping. And I’m usually never not gaping! This was totally unearned. I’m as surprised as anyone.

The back is full of issues, though. Well, you can’t roll nat 20s every time! This must be why mad scientists clone themselves: if I could have adjusted this on my own body from outside my body, I think I would have gotten a lot closer to a technically-correct result. As it is, I couldn’t actually fasten the back by myself, so I was just guessing until Professor Boyfriend got home and buttoned me in. And then I was pretty unimpressed.

The upper back (relatively upper) is surprisingly satisfactory, but WHAT is the story with those WRINKLES. I MEAN. I went through this clear, detailed Shapes of Fabric post on common bodice fitting issues, but didn’t see mine on there. Not to preen too much, but I guess I’m ~uncommonly~ bad at fitting.

Some possible causes: 1. It’s too long. It’s already only 6” long at center back, but since it’s definitely piling up on the back waistband of my skirt, I guess even six wee inches could be too many. 2. And it’s too tight – maybe? Would that be the sort of thing you adjust with the back darts, since the front fit is okay? 3. It’s because of some third thing I don’t even know about yet! Please feel free to tell me if you do!

It’s possible that a zipper would help distribute fabric stress more evenly, but I didn’t have a separating zipper of any length kicking around. I actually considered lacing for a hot second, using loops instead of eyelets and adding dressing ease (or whatever you call what you need to get in and out of a garment) in the form of a central back panel, like a backwards stomacher. But in the end, it was me and my pal buttons.

I decided on a column of rouleau loops because I think they’re fun to sew, and also because they were easy to apply with my plan to fully line the bodice. That was a priority for me (I don’t like it when darts originate in a double-fold hem). I sewed the loops to the outer fabric within the seam allowance of the center back, then pressed all the center back seam allowances to the wrong side on the lining and outer.

I sewed the top and bottom edges of the bodice shell and lining right sides together to create a tube. Then I turned the tube right sides out and hand-finished the center backs, using a ladder stitch to join the already-folded edges. My last step was to hand-sew the buttons – which I can unbutton by myself, but not button up! It’s a one-way shirt!

I took a 5/8” seam allowance when sewing the bottom hem, except near the side seams, where I blended to more like ¼”. Despite that I’m still getting little side divots.

I promise you my stitching line was smooth and continuous, though you’d never know it by looking.

Oh, and my lining: lots of lovely double gauze scraps, which seemed like the kind of thing I’d want directly against my skin in a tight top.

I was right about that, though wrong about whether I wanted to wear a tight bodice at all. I don’t! C’est la vie. Still, if I ever change my mind, the process of fitting one now seems a bit more achievable.

And in Other Business: I used some of my Covid isolation to review every death on Stranger Things, partly so I’d stop complaining out loud so much. This is purely personal and mostly without context (though packed as tightly with spoilers as me in this top), but it kept me busy. Feel free to weigh in with your own opinions or complaints! 🙂

Pattern: Self-drafted (a.k.a. wild, strangely effective guessing)

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 37.5” bust, 32” waist

Supplies: scraps of Telio Silky Noil Washed Viscose Linen Slub Thyme, Nani Iro double gauze; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 5 hours

Total cost: $0.00

One Day My Prints Will Come

Today, another pattern from the way-back-when. This particular moment in time is the MN Cascade skirt and it feels like a mermaid slammed into a princess going full speed with no airbags. Once a year around now, I find it in the back of my closet. On super-hot days the double gauze is irresistible. Well, it hot, so here we go.

Basically, the Cascade is a more-than-a-circle skirt. It fastens with a simple overlap and it’s made of two fronts, a back, and a waistband. A go-getter with a drawing compass could whip one up without too much trouble but I made this early in my sewing career (‘career’) before I figured out 1) most skirt patterns are just a litttttle reheated-feeling and 2) what I like to wear.

However, this skirt keeps escaping my culls. Ordinarily it would be way too swishy-pretty for me, but it’s so sort of unabashed that it shot the moon and I like it again. It makes me laugh to dress up like I’m going to comb my hair with a dinglehopper and drown sailors and then actually just get a sandwich instead.

We’re going back, way back – pre-spreadsheet, so pre-2017 – but I can almost guarantee that I bought less fabric than this pattern called for and ignored the grainlines when cutting. 3 7/8 yards of 45”-wide fabric, and that fabric is Nani Iro? Yeah, did not happen. At a guess, I bodged this any-which-way out of 3 yards, if that. The nondirectional print doesn’t give any clues but I know myself pretty well (and I continue to love this print! Dare I call it…TIMELESS?!).

It’s also safe to say I cut a size M. Right now my waist falls between and M and an L and this still fits comfortably, but I think an L would have been a better investment. In a word: overlap. A longer waistband means more overlap, which means more coverage. My highs are a little too high. Though that doesn’t explain why my lows are so low!

That high-low angle is X-TREME. It’s X-Box 306. It’s arguably Xanadu. The fabric is light, too. Usually beautifully so, but it can get dicey. On the morning we took these pictures, the air was dead, but I popped a safety pin at the bottom of the overlap just in case. Later that afternoon it was a little breezier and despite the pin, unless I held the skirt edges like I was processing royally, any wind could boost my rating to PG-13. But that’s why it’s also so suitable for our recent stretch of 95°+ days (35° to you Celsius fans)! You gotta do what you gotta do.

This skirt features my first (and at time of filming, only) hand-rolled hem! It’s actually a huge amount of fun to sew but I did not do a great job despite the double-layered fabric (it’s a bit tuftier than intended). I’d probably go with a bias binding for a fun pop if I were sewing this today, but this hem treatment doesn’t inhibit drape or flow at all, which is nice! I used two sets of dress bars for an invisible closure.

There was a time in my life where I squeezed a Tate top out of any semi-realistic scraps, which is what I’m wearing here. This free Workroom Social pattern appears to have vanished from the internet! I’ve fallen out of love with it but I still have a PDF copy if anybody wants one.

My version has such features as “a baby-hemmed hem that likes to flip up”, “extra seamlines born of necessity rather than style”, and “pretend buttons”. The pretend button placket is just the selvedges overlapped without additional finishing; the neck and armholes are bias-bound. It’s fun to be swaddled in Nani Iro from neck to ankle (hey, if you’re looking from the back, it’s ankle! It counts!) but I’m not wowed by this shirt. The cut-in shoulders are no longer my go-to silhouette, and I’m usually too lazy to convert my convertible bras, so it doesn’t get much wear.

On the other hand, in this summer of many parties, including 18 months worth of make-up parties (is anyone else feeling like Slurms McKenzie? If Slurms and all his buddies were fully vaccinated, TBC), this skirt  has been a friend indeed. I don’t care if high-low hems are so 2011-2012. Lots of cool stuff is from around then. Call Me Maybe. Cotton candy grapes. Rivers of London.

Anyway, wear whatever you want! I have declared it meet, and I get to do declarations now, because in this skirt I am clearly a princess. Long live me?

Pattern: MN Cascade skirt

Pattern cost: ?

Size: M?

Supplies: ? Definitely Nani Iro double-gauze

Total time: Lost forever

Total cost: Never to be known