papercut sway dress in linen-viscose

by Nicole on June 28, 2015


While I was creeping through Heather Lou’s archives one day, I spied this tent dress and filed it away in my brain to make something similar someday. Usually fit & flare is more my style, but lately I’ve found myself gravitating towards looser styles. And then the summer heat and humidity started to roll into Austin, so I started thinking about a tent dress more and more. And then Papercut Patterns released the Sway dress, and so with all the evidence pointing to tent dress, I finally decided THIS should be the summer of the swingy tent dress! And how to make a tent dress even more summer-appropriate? Linen, of course!


So this isn’t actually straight-up linen, it’s linen-viscose (rayon) that I purchased from Caroline at Blackbird Fabrics (and there’s still some left!). This fabric is EXACTLY what I want to be wearing in summer. It’s breezy and cool because of the linen, but is soft and drapey because of the viscose. I did have a bit of trouble working with it, because I’m still used to firmer fabrics like quilting cottons and denim, but I’m slowly learning how to work with more delicate/flowy fabrics. After cutting one of the front pieces, I stupidly lifted it up before tracing the darts, and then the fabric was all shifty and I couldn’t get it to lay out exactly the same so I was like, “eh, I’m preeeetty sure this is the dart placement”. Yep, I need more practice! Luckily I still have more 14 more meters of linen-viscose and linen!!!

The pattern itself is dead simple–it’s really just two pattern pieces, a pocket piece (which I didn’t use because I didn’t want the pocket weight to affect the drape), and some facings (which I didn’t use because I hate facings). I’d guess it could be easily drafted yourself, but I’d rather have someone else do the work for me. The front and back pieces aren’t cut on the fold, so there are front and back seamlines, which I honestly don’t love. I don’t know if this is so that it can accommodate smaller widths of fabric, or if it’s because the seamline makes the garment sit differently? Anyway, I left it in for this version but maybe would remove it in future versions by cutting on the fold instead. Anyone know cutting on the fold vs. having the seamline makes a difference in the final garment?


The pattern description talks about being able to wear the dress forwards or backwards for different looks. Well, that doesn’t really work when you do an FBA and forward-shoulder adjustment, so I had to pick and ended up using the scoop in front and the V in back, which is actually the opposite of the intended pattern. I like that it looks sweet in front, and then there’s this pretty, very summery dip in the back.

Like I said, I didn’t use the facings because I hate facings. Instead, I used some bias tape I had leftover from my Southport dress, which I also used to finish all the seams because the linen frays like crazy and I’m still scared of my serger (broken record, much?). For the hem, I decided to use pre-made bias tape, since I figured the stiffness would help the hem hold its swingy shape. I love bias tape. I seriously don’t understand how some people hate it.


The result? I freaking LOVE this dress! It’s breezy and light, and super swingy, and I have plenty of room for eating and sitting and summer frolicking. And the silhouette makes me feel so cool! When I first put it on, I was like, “uhhhh I don’t know if I can pull this off”, but then with the power of Hasbeens and a slightly shorter hem, I was like, “BAM, CUTE AS HELL!” I love how much the hem sticks out and gives that awesome super-A-line shape.

And this dress finally solidified it for me–NEVER SKIP AN FBA.  You’d think I would have learned after my Southport, but with this dress I still thought, “Eh, it’s SO loose, I’m sure it will be fine without an FBA.” I’m glad I always make muslins, even in loose styles like this, because I would have been really sad to cut into my precious linen making up the pattern as-is.

I made my first muslin in size large, with no adjustments at all. Since I didn’t do an FBA, there was major gaping at the armscye, and the dress just didn’t sit well. I also saw I’d definitely need a forward-shoulder adjustment to correct some back armscye problems, and to get the side seams perpendicular to the ground.

Muslin #2 was MUCH better, except that the dart I’d added during my FBA was about 1/2″ too low, so I raised it on my pattern piece by just cutting a box around it and moving it up 1/2″. I also decided to take in the side seams from the armscye to the dart about 1/2″ at the armscye, tapering to nothing just above the dart. This made the dress sit much nicer, and made the hem swing out more, which I like and is how it looks on the model.


And this is when I had a bit of a lightbulb moment. At first I thought that it was weird that I did an FBA, only to remove some of that width from the side seams. But after thinking about it, it makes sense. The FBA adds volume in all the RIGHT places–up front. What I really need is that extra volume in the front, not extra width at the sides. I’ve often tried to get away without an FBA by just adding the extra width at the sides by blending to a larger size (like with my Southport), but now I realize why that just doesn’t work. Do it the right way. Lesson learned!

So now I have two standard adjustments that I will make on all future garments–forward shoulder adjustment (about 3/8″) and FBA (usually about 2″ but obviously depends on pattern). I’ve recently realized that these two adjustments hugely impact the entire garment–they keep the armscye from wrinkling and gaping, they reduce any pooling in the lower back, and they keep the front hem equal to the back hem. What about you guys–do you have any standard adjustments you make, or are you one of those lucky ducks who fits into most things straight out of the packet?

By the way–these photos were taken by my super talented sister-in-law Jenni during a thunderstorm over the weekend. She caught a great shot of Darius and me too:


And this fabulous outtake:


double the gingers, double the fun

by Nicole on June 4, 2015



I have two finished garments to share today–the Ginger Jeans I put on hold a while back because they were too small at the time, and a pair of Ginger Shorts!

Can I just say how much I love jeans-making?!? The process is so much fun if you take your time and relax, and you’re rewarded with professional-looking jeans that make you feel super confident.  Seriously, I can’t say enough good stuff about the Ginger Jeans pattern, the sewalong, or Heather Lou.




For the jeans, I drafted a pocket stay, lengthened the rise by one inch, and I made a small full calf adjustment, since I was seeing a lot of above-the-knee wrinkles in my first pair and thought it might be due to my calves. The calf adjustment, as expected, made these a little more boot-cut in the calf, and it still didn’t really get rid of the wrinkles so I think I’ll just go back to the original pattern next time and either live with the wrinkles or try something else. It seems to me as if a horizontal wedge just needs to be taken out of the back lower thigh, but I don’t know if this is actually a real adjustment or how to do it.



For the shorts, originally I was thinking about making Grainline Maritime Shorts. But I figured I could make pretty cute shorts by adapting Ginger, so I decided to try that first. The result–I love them! They are a little tight when I first put them on, and so I actually feel kind of uncomfortable in them initially, but once they stretch out a little I feel like they look awesome. They’re more tomboy-ish/sporty than I was originally going for, but I like them.


In case you want to make your own Ginger shorts, here’s how I did it.

-Before cutting my denim, I held the paper pattern up to myself and eyeballed how long I wanted my shorts to be. I marked this as a straight horizontal line on my paper pattern.

-With tight shorts like this, you will need to account for the extra width needed at the cuff once you roll it up, so you can’t just cut along the original angle of the jeans. If you followed the original angle, you’re not going to be able to roll the hem/cuff up because the circumference of the bottom is much smaller than a few inches up. I wanted thick cuffs, about 1″, so this meant that I cut straight-down for two inches past the horizontal line I drew.  I mentioned after I’d made these that the cuffs did feel quite tight still, and learned from my very smart friend Susan that I should have accounted for turn of the cloth. Next time, instead of cutting the shorts straight down for the cuffs, I would do as instructed in this Threads article for cuffed shorts. The differently-angled seams lines will prevent the cuffs from being so restrictive. I also might take a slightly smaller seam allowance next time so they’re not SO snug.


Make sense? Because you have to accommodate the cuff/hem during the cutting stage, that means you need to be pretty sure on the length before you cut, because you’re not going to be able to go any shorter once you cut them because of that whole smaller-circumference-at-the-bottom thing. Once I tried these on, I actually wished they were a few inches shorter, but it was too late at that point. Oh well, I’ll make a much shorter pair when I make up the high-waisted view, because I think high-waisted shorty-shorts will look super cute!

-All of the actual sewing will be exactly the same until you get to the hemming stage. When I reached the hem, I finished the edge of my shorts using the overlock stitch on my sewing machine (I’m still scared of my serger). Then I simply folded up the cuff 1″ and pressed, then folded up again and pressed again. You want to press really, really well so that the cuff keeps its shape over time. Use that clapper!

-To secure the cuff, I sewed a line of vertical stitching along the cuff at each side seam. I used my normal jeans-colored thread for this, but topstitching thread would probably look fine too. I haven’t washed these yet to see how the cuff holds, but I may go back and tack the cuff down by hand in a few places if it doesn’t keep its shape well.


Whew! What do you think? Are you as in love with making jeans as I am? And what are your favorite ways to style jeans? For some reason I’m kind of having trouble deciding what to wear with both of these!

true bias southport swimsuit cover-up

by Nicole on May 17, 2015


Hello, everyone! Ugh, can’t believe it’s already Sunday. Right after we finished shopping and meal prepping for the week, our stupid fridge broke! Everything is in coolers right now and the replacement part isn’t expected in until the end of the week. Fairly annoying. But today was awesome. We went to the skating rink! I haven’t been since I was like 16. It was SO fun! Will be googling roller-blades right after I finish this post…

Anyway, this is my wearable muslin of the True Bias Southport Dress (View A), which I’ll be wearing as a swimsuit cover-up. I actually finished it a few weeks ago but have been waiting to take pictures until I could take them near some water, but it won’t stop raining in Austin! Anyway, I just decided to take pictures in my backyard instead since I know a lot of you are interested in seeing how the Southport looks on a curvier figure.


While I do think this dress is cute, I’m not quite as smitten with it as I’d hoped I’d be. But there is potential!

Part of it is the fabric. I used this floaty voile I’ve had in my stash for a while, which I got from my friend Susan during a fabric swap. I like the print, but the colors are not my favorite. I feel very uncomfortable wearing pink/orange/yellow/red. Just not my colors. But the fabric is very soft and breathable, perfect for a swimsuit cover-up.


I do need to make some changes to the pattern to get a better fit, and I think a lot of you curvier girls will need to as well. My current measurements are 43-34-45. I traced off a 14 for the shoulders, blending to a 16 at the bust, back to a 14 at the waist, and then again back to a 16 at the hips. Surprisingly, all the blending went fine and everything still matched up well, but the whole reason I did all that was to avoid doing an FBA. But guess what, I really should have just done an FBA. The top button gapes quite a bit when I move, and I also feel like the intended blousey-ness doesn’t come through because my boobs are taking up too much room. It makes the dress just look too small on me, right? So if you’re busty and thinking you can get away without doing an FBA in this, just do the damn FBA because it’s going to look a lot better.


The armholes are another thing I have a problem with in this version. They’re too far “forward” and too low, so they show a lot of bra/swimsuit. However, I think the main cause of this is because my boobs are demanding so much fabric that it’s pulling what should be sitting at the side seams more towards the center front. I think if I had the FBA, it would probably fix this. I might still need to re-draw the armholes a little, but we’ll see.

I also think I need a little more length in the bodice (which may be addressed by doing the FBA)? The waistline/skirt seems like it needs to sit a little lower.

I’m also not totally sure about the skirt itself. I’m not used to such a straight skirt so it feels pretty restrictive when I’m trying to do stuff like play in the sprinklers with my adorable nephew. What do you guys think the best way to add more fullness/movement in the skirt would be? Just add to the side seams and make it more A-line?


So yeah, I know with all these quibbles, it might seem like I won’t make another. But I do think the Southport is so perfect for summer if I can get the fit right, and I really want a linen version, so I’m keeping it on my list (just not yet because I’m currently making some cuffed Ginger shorts!).

These are the changes I’d make for my next go-around:

*Go with size 14 with an FBA. Maybe add a little length to the front bodice.
*I probably need 3/8″-1/2″ forward shoulder adjustment (an adjustment which I’m starting to see I need on pretty much everything, so I should probably just start doing it right away).
*Possibly redraw the armhole if the issues mentioned aren’t resolved by the FBA/forward shoulder.
*I shortened the skirt of this version by 2 inches (I’m only 5’3″), and I think the length is good. Maybe add more fullness to the skirt, though?