the Seren dress

The weather has finally (!!) started warming up in southern California, and all I want to do is make summer dresses. Originally planned & frantically started with the intent of wearing it to a backyard wedding (which LOL, did not happen) – here is my completed Seren dress from Tilly and the Buttons.

I purchased this deadstock rayon from Blackbird Fabrics in April with no real project in mind – but I loved the color scheme and I was drawn to the pattern, which vaguely reminded me of the mid-90s writing textbooks I used to read cover-to-cover in elementary school.

Oh, it was just me who did that?

I’ve come to realize that buying fabric with no project in mind is something I should probably stop doing. Not only because I waffle for months on what to do with it, but also because I inevitably purchase less than I actually need for whatever I end up deciding I will do with it.

Like the Seren dress, for example! Once I set my heart on this pattern, I obviously needed to include the flouce feature (hello, small bust), and no – I would not settle for any length short of midi. The recommended yardage for this particular view is 2.5 meters, which means it literally could not have required more fabric than it did.

You guys, I only bought 2 meters of this fabric. Not having enough fabric has become such a norm for me that I’m starting to feel like it’s my thing. A keystone of my sustainably-minded aesthetic, if I’m pretending it’s intentional. A fun game I play with myself where I have strategize before it’s time to cut my fabric and feel slightly stressed about the whole thing until it’s over. A triumphant photo I take of my tiny scrap pile to share on Instagram.

I pretty much have it down to a science at this point:

  • Step one is tracing out all of my pattern pieces so they are optimized for cutting on a single layer. Anything I need multiple pieces of is traced for the number of pieces needed (and reversed if it’s a one-sided fabric). Pieces cut on the fold are flipped and traced to be a single piece instead.
  • Step two is laying out my fabric on top of my queen size mattress so I can play with pattern piece placement (I have two dogs so the floor is not an option). It turns out that my bed is pretty perfectly sized for 2 meters of 60″ wide fabric!
  • Step three is taking photographs to document whatever layout I’ve come up with. Once I find an arrangement I’m confident with, I have to make sure I can remember exactly where each piece needs to go and in what order I will need to cut them in.
A bird’s eye view of the final layout on top of my mattress.

In the case of this dress, it took me soooo long to find a layout that was going to work – I started to lose hope I’d be able to manage it. Once I finally cut everything out, I breathed a sigh of relief.

That is, until I realized that I forgot to cut out the second waistband piece. In fact, despite having made a muslin of the bodice, I didn’t actually realize that this dress features a waistband at all! I thought the bodice attached directly to the skirt, and the first waistband piece was simply a facing. Like, a tutu? On the inside?

In hindsight, it obviously makes no sense – but nonetheless I panicked when I realized that all of the adjustments I had made were not done with a waistband in mind. Luckily, I was able to come up with a second waistband piece (from the very tiny pile of scraps left) by adding a seam line and ignoring the grain.

To accommodate the 1/4″ darts I added to both the bodice and the skirt, I took in the same amount on both sides of the waistband and tried to line it up in the same spot as the other pieces. This turned out okay, but I suspect I benefited from the dark shade of the fabric. Yay for hiding mistakes!

This is basically a long way of saying that had I purchased enough yardage to begin with, I probably could have avoided 3/4 of the drama of this dress.

when u extra & u know it

My other big boo-boo happened when it came time to add the buttonholes. I will admit to playing it real fast and loose with transferring my pattern placement markings, and oh my god, the top buttonhole is SO CLOSE to the top of this dress. It is held together by mere threads. I put as many stitches as seemed reasonable to try and reinforce it, but I fear that particular buttonhole does not have a long life ahead of it. I have no idea what I will do if and when the fabric tears there . . . but that is a problem for Future Miranda to worry about (future Miranda has also made notes about how not to create buttonholes going forward).

Zooming in so y’all can appreciate how precarious this situation is. The top is hand stitched in an attempt to keep it from completely falling apart.

In the meantime, I’m otherwise happy with how this turned out. It was my first time working with a 100% rayon, and while it isn’t the easiest fabric to work with since it’s so slippery, I survived and the result is definitely Good Enough. I could stand to take another inch or so in the top of the side seams, since there is still some gaping in the chest (I think my fabric grew) – but will I bother? Only time will tell.

Signing off with this cute af gif, courtesy of Google Photos.

The Details:

  • Fabric: Deadstock Rayon from Blackbird Fabrics (2 meters)
  • Pattern: Seren Dress by Tilly and the Buttons
  • Size: 3
  • Adjustments:
    • Graded to size 2 to at the bust
    • 1″ Small Bust Adjustment (SBA)
    • Shortened straps 1″
    • Lowered bust dart 1.75″
    • Added two 3/8″ darts to back bodice and skirt
  • Total Cost: ~$66
    • $15 for the pattern
    • $46 for the fabric
    • ~ $5 for buttons

the Joni dress

Despite the below 60 degree temperatures in California, I am happily bouncing about in my new Joni dress from Tilly’s book Stretch.

Finishing this piece felt like a herculean effort, mostly because the pattern calls for 2.5 yards of fabric, and yet I was determined to squeak it out with 1.5 yards. Did I accomplish it? Yes. Was it ill-advised? Also yes.

I spent 3-4 hours playing fabric tetris with the pattern pieces trying to figure out ANY possible way it would work. This sounds insane, but also there’s a threshold where you’ve already spent so much time on something . . . there is no going back!

This ultimately involved cutting the fabric on one layer (usually the first step when you are trying to save yardage), shaving an inch off the skirt, and sacrificing a few seamlines. Small confession: it wasn’t until after I’d finally cut the pieces that I realized I could have double-traced the “on the fold” pattern pieces, and saved myself an hour or two of trying to figure out the pattern placement. It was especially silly considering that I traced the pieces to begin with, but oh well!

Anyway! The nice part about using so little yardage? An satisfyingly-tiny scrap pile:

The construction was – okay. I’m slightly disgrunted with how the twisty-front came together but I will also admit that it’s probably a personal problem. Having only heard rave reviews about the simplicity of this design feature – I think I came into it a little over confident. The seam allowance is trimmed down in the center and sewn flat to itself on the wrong side. After many twist attempts – it seemed like no matter what I did either the wrong side of my fabric was showing, OR the contrasting zigzag stitches were showing. I eventually gave up and just unpicked those stitches in the front. I’m guessing that’s not the best fix and so let’s just hope the twist survives the wash.

Since this is a knit pattern, and I’ve had good luck with Tilly’s pattern block before – I didn’t bother to make a muslin. Although considering the lengths I went to in order to use this particular fabric, it miiiight have been a good idea. But fate was on my side and I’m pretty happy with the fit. I made a size 2 and my adjustments were pretty minimal: 1″ hollow chest adjustment, and 1″ added to the sleeve length. On this and other Tilly patterns, I think I will add an inch or two to the bodice length going forward as they are pretty short-waisted.

As for the fabric – I have no idea what it is. My husband bought me a serger for Christmas, and I immediately raced to Joann to purchase something inexpensive I could “play” with. That idea was immediately forgotten until this last weekend, when I decided it was a good idea to make a dress with only a yard and a half (I jest but in all seriousness – do. not. recommend.).

I know it’s a knit, I THINK it’s a polyester. The selvage has a Joann logo but I can’t find it online, nor have I seen it in any stores since. Typically I try to take a picture of the end of the bolt when I buy something, but in my haste to get back home I completely forgot. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ The drape is nice and silky, but it’s not nearly as slippery as you might expect. All in all great to sew with, and if I can ever figure out what it is I would purchase it again. So if anybody has ideas or recognizes it, please help ya girl out.

Finally! Given the fabric constraints, pattern matching was not an option here (lol @ me pretending to know how to do that anyway). This combined with twist disgruntlement = miranda parked firmly in the “disillusionment” state of creativity for most of this project. Even after I’d finished it and tried it on, I thought to myself “wow this dress is coo coo for cocopuffs.” But as they say, everything looks better in the morning and with a good night’s sleep and I’m actually quite happy with it.