Anna Dress Sprout Hack

Today’s guest blogger is Kelly, Director of Engineering over at Spoonflower. She also writes a blog where she focuses on sewing, weaving and reading. It’s called Dress Insouciantly – check it out!


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We’ve all had this moment before: It’s late at night and you got carried away working on a project when you realize you’re missing an essential element. But of course, the craft store is closed. Why oh why can’t craft stores be open at reasonable times? Say, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week? Sadly, I found myself in this position just last week.

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I’ve been eyeing By Hand London’s Anna dress ever since Sprout Patterns listed it. It looks elegant without being fussy, and can serve as both casual day dress or evening wear depending on what fabric you choose. With a birthday coming up, I decided now was the time, and designed the dress with a beautiful floral design called Winter Garden Antique from Ceciliamok. I chose the poly crepe de chine fabric because I love the light feeling it has and I really wanted that draped effect the slash-necked bodice has.

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As life so often goes, time caught up with me, and it was the night before my birthday party before I really got down to business and started sewing. I wasn’t worried though, this pattern is beautiful in its simplicity. The use of pleats in the bodice, instead of darts, makes it very easy to fit. And the long straight sides of the skirt are a breeze! And then, of course, I get to the very last step: the zipper. But wait, where is my zipper? I know I put it around here somewhere…

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Long story short, I had no 22inch zipper; what I did have was a 7-9 inch zipper. It was nearly midnight, there were no craft stores open anywhere. And yet, I was determined to wear this dress tomorrow, what could I do?

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Eventually, I realized that the zipper is really only needed for the narrowest part of the waist. Because the dress uses kimono sleeves instead of inset ones, and the bodice pleats encourage a relaxed fit and gathered look, the back of the dress isn’t actually supporting any structure. As long as the back of the neck is connected, the zipper really only needs to go as high as the bodice pleats. I decided that it would be completely possible to still finish the dress and create an open back feature.

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I set my 9inch zipper in the back seam so that the bottom of the zipper met the marks in the pattern and the top of it reached just past the bodice darts. Then I drew a gentle curve on the remaining section of each piece of the back bodice and cut away a little bit more than an inch of fabric. I hemmed these pieces with a double fold, making sure to catch the back facing in for a clean finish. I attached a button to the top of one back piece, and a loop of elastic thread to the other. Voila! I now have a key-hole back on my Anna dress!

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I am very pleased with how this dress turned out. I’m even happy I forgot to get a zipper of the right length; because of that mistake I ended up with a unique dress with an interesting feature. I feel like there are plenty of open back styles that would still work with the Anna dress pattern. You could add cross pieces, or cut the key-hole in a different shape, or don’t cut it out at all and let the pieces overlap each other for a more subtle look. With a little bit of extra scrap fabric you could create a draped cowl. Or you could add a large sculptural button for a statement piece… With so many ideas I’m going to have to save up to buy another Sprout dress again!

Cat Power Projects on Sprout

At Sprout, we stand for women’s rights. The power of handmade can be a impactful statement, especially when using pink to signify not only caring, compassion, and love, but also STRENGTH. Maybe you want to send a certain message but want to err on the side of subtlety? Or perhaps you just adore cats and the color pink. Regardless, we’ve got some amazing designs that we’ve chosen from Spoonflower for just that purpose.

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How cute are these kittens in mittens on a Penelope Peplum by See Kate Sew? LOVE this design by Andrea Lauren.

 

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Power through peace and diginity on an Alder Shirtdress by Grainline Studio. Demure kitties by Kimsa are perfect!

 

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How about a delightful Emery Dress from Christine Haynes? Cats and flowers by Petfriendly = YES PLEASE!

 

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We love the Moneta Dress from Colette Patterns. Caja_Design has the cutest cats in both big and small. SWOON!

 

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Want to scream your message from the rooftops? Check out this Inari Crop Tee by Named Clothing with a frightfully wonderful design by Susiprint.

These are just a few of the literally hundreds and maybe even thousands of awesome cat designs at Spoonflower to use when creating your Sprout project. Have fun creating and stay strong!

 

 

 

Wearable Art = A Memory Tribute

Today’s Guest Blogger is Duncan Carter, a contestant on this year’s “Great British Sewing Bee.” Duncan runs a fashion website of his own and is also a monthly blogger for Minerva Crafts in the UK.


You know what, I don’t actually have many dress shirts in my wardrobe. There are two reasons for that: First off, ready-to-wear shirts rarely catch my eye and secondly, constructing a shirt at home is not quick and can be a bit of a headache. So when I saw Sprout offering the Negroni shirt by Colette Patterns I knew it was a sign to face my fears and make a unique garment, without worrying about tripping over a million pieces of tissue pattern!

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Thus began many days of searching through Spoonflower’s massive selection of fabric designs. Anyone who has read my blog or seen my videos will know I like colour and a bold design. There’s plenty of that on Spoonflower but what intrigued me more were all the stories that designers like Whimzwhirled had attached to their creations. When I found this design (Burning Down the House), I knew it was for me.

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Is it colourful? Yes. Bold? No question! But it was the story that really caught my eye. After a fire burned down this designer’s studio and left her with nothing she made this design from a collage of newspaper cuttings that reported on the fire. She talks of a phoenix rising from the ashes, letting go and moving forward. I like a cool design, but a cool design with a story like this? Perfect!

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This was my first time using a Sprout pattern and I wasn’t sure what to expect. When the parcel arrived I tore in and was thrilled at the colours, design and feel of the fabric. I waited patiently as my machine pre-washed and used the time to read the downloadable instructions. I am big believer in keeping good notes so the printable instructions were brilliant to have.

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I did part-print some of the pattern pieces from the digital pattern to get my pleats and buttons lined up, but I must say it was a dream to get stuck in without having to wrestle with any pattern pieces.

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Another thing I love about this fabric design is that the intricate collage effect would help to cover any little flaws. (Although, of course, there aren’t any in this garment. Honest. Maybe.) Seriously though, if you’ve never made a shirt before then choose a design that is a little forgiving and you’ll sew it up no problem! The Negroni shirt is a great pattern – nothing is under-explained and there was a cool wee tip for perfectly shaped patch pockets.

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The Cotton Sateen fabric is medium weight so it has a sturdiness that means I will be able to use the shirt as a top layer in the springtime but it is also soft enough to wear against my skin as a casual shirt.

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I have to say my experience with Sprout and Spoonflower was amazing from start to finish, and who knew something could get across an ocean so quickly? A million thanks to Caroline at HQ for being so welcoming and patient with me. I already have ideas for a design of my own on the next garment, maybe something with a little Scottish flavour…

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Sprout and a Girl’s Best Friend

Today’s Guest Blogger is Heather Dutton, the creative genius behind Hang Tight Studio. Besides being one of the nicest people we know, Heather is also a longtime Spoonflower designer! We asked Heather to create a special Harley Dog Jacket for her fur baby, Gracie Mae. Mutual dog lover, Caroline, sewed it up for her in warm and snuggly fleece.


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I’m not only beautiful, I’m also warm and cozy!

Two of the big loves in my life are designing patterns and my sweet Sussex Spaniel Gracie Mae. Being able to combine those two things & create a custom dog jacket for her made me wiggle with happiness 🙂

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Shelter dog Prince models the Harley Jacket, also in fleece

The first time I saw the Sprout dog jacket pattern I immediately fell in love with it. Winters in Maine can be brutal and Gracie definitely needs a little extra help staying warm on our morning beach walks.

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Mom, it’s cold on this beach!

I spent a lot of time trying to decide what kind of design I wanted to create for her jacket. I wanted the pattern to be something that reflected her fun personality and I wanted it to make me smile as much as she does.

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Baby Gracie. Winning cuteness awards globally

We were at the beach for our morning walk one day & that’s when I had my Ah Ha design moment.

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Where did that bird go!

Gracie’s totally in her element when we’re there and it’s the one place where all of her favorite things come together… Chasing birdies, swimming, playing frisbee, catching balls, getting cookies and shamelessly asking for belly rubs from all of her beach friends. It’s doggie nirvana! How cool would it be to have a design that celebrates my sweet girl?!

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I WILL find that bird!

When we got back from our walk I quickly grabbed some paper & started sketching Gracie doing all of her favorite things. I had a perma smile on my face the whole time 🙂 She’s such a character and it was so much fun to try to capture all of her silly poses and tail wags.

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Gracie Mae’s favorite things

When I was done sketching I scanned all of my drawings into my computer & started working on re-illustrating everything in Adobe Illustrator.

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After a little bit of playing around with the repeat & picking colors that would look extra cute with her red hair, my new “Gracie Mae Dog Days” design was done! I knew that the Sprout dog jacket had designs on the inside & outside of the coat so I created a fun stylized dog bone pattern to coordinate with the main print and give the jacket an extra pop of color.

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Ok, time for cookies and belly rubs!

This was the first time that I’d used Sprout & I can’t say enough amazing things about them! The whole process was incredibly easy & I’ve already started a wish list for other patterns that I want to try out! Gracie’s new jacket fits her perfectly (thanks to Caroline’s canine tailoring!) & I have to admit I had a little bit of coat envy. The fleece is so soft & snuggly, she’s probably going to be warmer than I am when we’re on our walks. One things for sure… she’s going to be the talk of the beach this winter & all of her friends are going to flip over her new jacket! Thanks so much Caroline and Sprout!


Heather.jpgHeather Dutton is an imaginative designer with a passion for pattern and color. After receiving a BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Heather began her career as a fashion designer in San Francisco, combining her sense of style with her love for textiles. In 2000, she said goodbye to the world of fashion design and launched Hang Tight Studio, an innovative surface design studio.

Today, Heather runs a successful business, creating commissioned & licensed surface designs for companies across the U.S. and Europe. She’s been fortunate to work with a list of exceptional companies including Pottery Barn, Smith & Hawken, Tupperware, Real Simple, O.R.E, Andrews McMeel Publishing, and IMGS Custom Wallcoverings.

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In a Galaxy not so far away…

Today’s guest blogger is Allison Bowles, the patternmaker behind Artemis Clothing Co. and a pajama-maker extraordinaire. Her blog post is all about using Adobe Illustrator to create a repeating design for her Ezra pajamas, using outer space as her inspiration.


If you are like me, you love getting crafty when it comes to gifting. Sprout Patterns takes my gift crafting to the next level by letting me customize projects with my own prints so it’s super personal and I know it’s something that my friends will love.  My friend Jacob loves all things space; he is always telling me the latest stories in space exploration. I felt especially inspired by the recent Perseid meteor shower, so space it was for the design!

I typically use Adobe Illustrator to create my prints because I find it very versatile.  So for this tutorial, I’ll be using Illustrator to create my surface print.

The very first thing I do when I am making a repeating pattern in Illustrator is to find some inspiration photos. Since I was making space themed Ezra shorts I needed to find a great space motif for my pattern repeat. This photo of all the planets was my reference point and Saturn’s colorful rings were my inspiration for the color palette.

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When using Illustrator, I first need to prepare my workspace.  Once the program is open, I create an artboard that is exact size that I want my repeat to be.  I am going to start with a 5” x 5” square and make adjustments as needed as I go.  I also want to pull in my inspiration photos to the workspace so I can see everything around the artboard.

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Next, I need a color palette.  I love the bright blues and pinks in this photo of Saturn’s rings and I think it would be a wonderful color palette for the Ezra shorts.  To make the palette I need to select the color palette icon on the right toolbar.  Then I create a new color group by selecting the folder icon at the bottom of the color palette window.  I can use the eyedropper tool to select colors directly from my color inspiration photo and add to the color group.  Here I’ve selected a range of blues and greens from the photo as well as a few of the pinks for some color pops.

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After I have a color palette I can begin drawing the motifs, which in this case is going to be each of the planets in the solar system.  For each planet I’m using a combination of the shapes tools and the pen tools to create a very basic outline of each planet.

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After I’ve outlined all of the planets that I want to use, I can add color from my color palette using the color fill tool, which is the paint bucket icon on the left tool bar.  I want to make sure that I stick to colors that I have selected from the color group so that everything looks cohesive.

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Now that I have a bunch of planets drawn I can begin to place them in my 5” by 5” artboard to create the pattern repeat.  First I want to give the repeat a background color by creating a 5” x 5” square right on top of my arboard.  Since I’m working with an outer space theme I am going to choose a dark color for my background.  I think this dark, slightly-navy gray will really make the bright planets pop really well.

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Now I can move the planets around on the artboard so that they are spaced out well and fill up enough space in the repeat. I like the way these are positioned, but I still have a lot of negative space that needs to be filled.

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I’m going to fill some of that negative space by creating small starbursts to put in the background.  I think the starburst shape will contrast nicely with the larger planets. I’ve placed just a few in the largest voids since I don’t want to over do it.

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Once I have all  of my motifs placed the way I like I’m ready to use the pattern tool.  This is a very powerful tool in the newer versions of illustrator that allows me to put my motif in different types of repeats very quickly and easily.  You can find the pattern tool in the options tab of the top toolbar.  Scroll over the pattern option and select “Make.”

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I love that this tool allows me to preview all kinds of repeat tiling before I have to commit to one.  I can even adjust each element while I am working in the pattern repeat.  So if I decide I need to slide one of the planets over a little or change a color I can do that in this window and see the total effect it has on the repeated pattern.  I am going to select “brick by column” from the tile type drop down menu, as I think a ⅔ repeat offset works well for this pattern.

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Once I have selected the tiling that I like best I simply close the window and Illustrator automatically adds the repeat to my swatch palette. As a final step, I want to check the new swatch for any repeat errors, like pixel lines or shapes that have been cut off, so I am going to create a large square and fill it with my swatch.

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I can see from the pattern fill that everything looks good, so now I am ready to prepare the repeat to upload to Spoonflower. Since I changed the tiling of my repeat with the pattern tool, I need to use the new swatch tile instead of the original repeat that I was working with before.  I can easily do this by dragging the new swatch out of the swatch palette into the workspace.

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Now that I have the new repeat in my workspace, I want to create a new artboard that is the exact same dimension as the rectangle that surrounds my repeat.  Then, I am going to add the background color back in the same way that I did in the original repeat pattern.

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Ok, I am ready to export this new repeat pattern. Keep in mind as you work, that Spoonflower accepts JPG, TIFF, GIF, or PNG files. I want to make sure the “use artboards” option is checked at the bottom of the dialogue box so that the artboard that I set up as my repeat creates the boundary for the repeat tile.

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Now that I have a JPG repeat that I can upload into my Spoonflower design library.

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Once the file is uploaded into my Spoonflower design library, I can select the repeat in the Sprout design palette for my Ezra shorts.

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The coolest thing about making a Sprout project is the 3D simulation of my garment.   I can see exactly what my print will look like on the Ezra shorts before it is ever printed!  I think it looks pretty good!

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I love the way the planet pattern looks printed on Kona cotton!  The colors looks great!

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Sewing the Ezra shorts was so easy, just stitch up a few seams, hem, and throw in a drawstring.

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I even used one of my Artemis tapes as the drawstring for an extra special touch.

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There you go! Here’s Jacob lounging around on campus in his new pair of Ezra shorts! Looking good, Jacob!


artemis_headshot.jpgAllison Bowles is a graduate of North Carolina State University College of Textiles, where she is currently finishing up her Master’s degree studying zero­ waste garment design. She founded Artemis Clothing Co. in 2014 after working in the textile industry for several years and realizing that she wanted to focus on locally ­made sustainable clothing.

Allison Bowles is a graduate of North Carolina State University College of Textiles, where she is currently finishing up her Master’s degree studying zero­ waste garment design. She founded Artemis Clothing Co. in 2014 after working in the textile industry for several years and realizing that she wanted to focus on locally ­made sustainable clothing.Extra-photo-5.jpgSave

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You Had Me at Honey: Halloween at Sprout

Today’s blogger is Nicole, Sprout’s Product Development Manager. Halloween is one of her favorite holidays, as you can see in the photo below. 😉


As far as I am concerned, Halloween is the best holiday of the year. It’s the one day where there are no restrictions to what you can be, dreamers rule and the sky’s the limit. Plus, you get to watch scary movies while stuffing your face with candy. OBVIOUSLY, the BEST holiday. And here at Sprout, Halloween opens up a world of endless costume possibilities!

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Most people flock to their local party shop in search of the latest in sexy costumes during the month of October. Not me, I would much rather create something original and more importantly, that is work appropriate. For someone who has several DIY costumes under her belt, making a Halloween costume through Sprout this year was an obvious choice. Though nothing will ever compare to the rainbow glitter unicorn costume that I wore last year…..

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Since I already had clocked SERIOUS hours of mocking up projects, I couldn’t resist making a bee costume using our fun Vanessa wing pattern from Mainsail Studio and the Inari Tee Dress from Named Clothing. These wings are really perfect for playing year round and now I basically want a pair for every kid I know.

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I wasn’t really feeling the Madame Butterfly look at the moment, which is when I had a stroke of brilliance and thought…BEES. Bees have wings! Plus our amazing city of Durham, NC was officially certified as a Bee City USA this year. Basically we are obsessed with bees. Save the bees, y’all!

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The Inari Tee Dress’s cocoon shape is perfect for showcasing the honey bee’s stripes. I paired the dress with the Vanessa Wings in a size Medium – a great size for a kid and a great size for some little bumble bee wings. I found awesome repeat designs of dragonfly wings on the Spoonflower marketplace, which I used on shiny satin.

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The dress was very straight forward to put together (shout out to Named Clothing for having incredible patterns and instructions!). A tip for Silky Faille and stripe matching: if you are attempting to match stripes, I highly recommend basting or using wonder tape along those side seams before sewing the garment up. Silky Faille can be slippery and will slide your matching skills right into the garbage.

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Because the Vanessa wings are made to attach to your wrist for a massive incredible amazing wing flappin time, I had to rethink how I was going to create them for this costume, as there is no way that any adult arms were going to attach to those little babies. I ended up utilizing some aluminum, very bendable, jewelry wire and hand stitched it along side the outer edge of the wing pieces using the fleece interfacing as a backing.

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This is by no means the best method of adding more structure to the wings, but it was the best idea that I had at the time so I just winged it ;). This method proved to work decently well, although turning the wings right side out was the biggest pain. After sewing the center piece to the wings, I decided to add an additional piece of black elastic to connect the wings together and add stability. It worked perfectly.

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As news spread about the fantastic bee making going down in the Sprout room, the requests started pouring in from fellow employees dying to rock the bee look. Honey, please. No really, please bring honey – Julie did, so she won the modeling gig.

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We drove over to Perkins Orchard, the largest and oldest fruit stand in Durham, to stock up on sweet natural goodies, grab pumpkins for our desks, and to let the bee out in her natural environment. Side note: if you’re local and haven’t been to this place yet, go! It’s full of fresh, local produce and other affordable goodies.

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Julie really embraced the Queen Bee life and upped her supply of honey at the same time. I like to call that a costume success.

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Trying to recreate this look on your own? Don’t have time to sew? Order with our White Glove Service and we will sew it up for you. YAS QUEEN BEE! (Wire not included.) Which brings me to my next costume…add a crown to this look and channel the queen bee of lemonade. If you think Julie is as cute as we do and wanna see more pix of her, head over to our Flickr album. ;o)

Need more costume inspiration? Don’t worry, I GOT YOU.

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Use the Kielo Dress and this makeup tutorial to become the most beautiful giraffe in the Savannah. Or be a deer with this makeup and antlers tutorial and pair it with a deer hide Moneta.

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Start the babe’s fandom early with a baseball romper and a matching lil baseball cap to match. Take it up a notch and have your little one SIT IN A BASEBALL MIT! The cuteness…it’s just too much…can’t handle it.

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If you have a young honey lover in the family who isn’t into bees, you can make a furry hoodie and even create ears with your extra fabric to attach to the hood! Add a faux fur trim and a trick or treat bag made out of honey fabric and voila! Hello baby bear!

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The ideas don’t stop there y’all. I’m like a treasure trove of Halloween Sprout inspiration, don’t worry. How cute would my baby niece look as a lil watermelon?!

pop.jpgLike punny costumes? Why not pair this popcorn shirt with a cute movie theater bucket skirt? Popcornception. What time is the movie? When will these previews ever end??  HAHAHAHA!

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And finally, we can’t leave out your little furry friends. Don’t they deserve to dress up for Halloween too? I am dreaming about making the littlest Aaron wings for my cat so that I can be the MOTHER OF DRAGONS, but until then I did create the perfect pizza princess costume for the pup in our house. The happiest pup, decked out in her favorite food for everyone’s favorite time of year.

Now let all of this beauty and inspiration settle into your minds and…get SPROUTIN’! The only question is, WHAT WILL YOU BE??


nic.jpgNicole has a background in fashion development and design and a passion for businesses that do good, which has taken her to places like Uganda, Pakistan, and now Durham, NC. She is thrilled to be working to empower indie pattern makers through Sprout! In her spare time, you can either find Nicole in her home studio creating with her kitten by her side or exploring new places around town and abroad. She loves live music, Asian cuisine, and laughing.

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Altering The Alder, Part 1: Adding Darts

Our guest blogger today is Kelly Walsh, the Director of Engineering at Spoonflower and an avid seamstress who loves a good hack. Over the next week, in two parts, she will explain how to alter the very popular Alder Shirtdress from Grainline Studio to add sleeves and bodice darts.


If you’re like me, you got into sewing clothing because you’re never quite satisfied with the options you’re given. You always want to change a garment in some way, just to make it different, make it yours. It might be the fit you want to tweak, or maybe it’s the color or design on the fabric, or maybe it’s those small details to add flare. Whatever it is, the whole point of sewing your own clothing is that you can do whatever you want!

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The original 3D model on Sprout and my finished alteration!

I love the concept for Sprout Patterns, but whenever I tell friends about it, I usually hear the same thing: “That sounds so cool! But I’m not just one size, I grade between sizes. They can’t do that (yet!)” Or “That’s nice, but I always like tweaking the patterns I get. If it’s printed on the fabric, I can’t do that.”

Well, I’m here to say that yes, you absolutely can alter a Sprout Patterns garment. You have to get a little creative about it, and you have to plan ahead, but I’m convinced that 9 out of 10 alterations are possible on a Sprout Patterns project. You might have to play with the seam allowances, you might have to get creative with scrap fabric, you might even have to re-draft the bodice. But you’d be doing those things with a normal pattern anyways!

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To prove it to you, I’m going to show you the alterations I did on the Alder Shirtdress (View B) by Grainline Studio. I love florals, so I picked a beautiful vintage-ish design called Royal Garden by Oksana Pasishnychenko. Now, everyone I’ve talked to has either loved or hated the “B” option for the shirt dress. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about those gathers, or that line drawing which people either fall in love with, or are completely turned off by. Full confession: I was one of the people who swore I’d never sew it, it wasn’t for me. It’s not that it was a bad dress, just that I knew I’d look like I was wearing a bag. I love shirtdresses, but I’m all pear shaped, and I just didn’t “feel” that silhouette. So I gave myself a challenge: How would I use Sprout to turn the Alder Shirtdress B Variation into a dress that I loved and felt good in?

I made the bodice a bit more fitted and defined my waist by adding some darts, and I drafted some cute tulip sleeves. Here’s what the Alder looks like sewn up exactly as in the instructions.

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It’s not a bad dress by any means, but it just didn’t feel flattering. My hips are wide enough that I have to choose a larger size to fit them, and my bust is small enough that I lose all shaping between my shoulders and my hips. But once I added a couple of darts in both the front bodice and the back, I got a dress that looks like this:

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I already loved this alteration. I felt like I had a waist again! I could have stopped here and been perfectly pleased with myself, but that was almost too easy. I wanted a challenge to see what else I could do to change this dress just a bit more. I decided that I wanted something to balance the fullness of the skirt, and give the dress a bit more construction. I’m always more of a sleeves girl than a sleeveless girl, so I played with a couple of options and eventually decided on tulip sleeves. After all my alterations and playing, here’s the dress I finally ended up with:

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How to: Shaping up and adding darts

There’s a whole lot of ways you can change the shape of a bodice. Some of them are more dramatic than others, and some of them definitely take more effort than others. When considering doing so with Sprout, there are some important considerations to think about. If you’re going to attempt something a little more complicated, like a full bust adjustment, do the math ahead of time and make sure it will work.

Sprout does include a seam allowance in the printed area, which considering that is on every side of every pattern piece, does add up to a lot of “flex” room in how far you can shift a pattern piece before you reach the edge. You can also increase your “margins” by ordering up a size. You’ll have to do some drafting to get it back “down” to your size in certain areas, but it adds some possibilities. I’d definitely recommend checking out the “finished garment” dimensions if you’re planning anything complicated as that will help you plan out how the fabric pieces will match with your body, and how much room you have to shift things. And remember, the darts aren’t actually printed on the fabric for sprout, so you have all that fabric to play with too.

Personally though, I’m usually too lazy to go about doing the math to draft up a whole new bodice draft full bust adjustment craziness. With something that has a relaxed fit, like the Alder Shirtdress, I’m much more likely to simply drape any alterations right on my body or on the dressform.

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The Alder only has two horizontal bust darts that come in from the side seams. This is great for creating a subtle shape with a relaxed fit through the waist. However, I have a fairly small bust, and larger hips, and since I had to order the size that would fit my hips, it means the bodice is fairly large for me, and my waist gets utterly lost. According to the Alder size chart, my bust is a size 6, while my waist is a size 10, and my hips are a size 12. I ordered my dress as a size 12, and sewed it exactly according to the instructions, but I wasn’t a big fan of the results.

My goal was to re-emphasize the waist and find some definition around the bust area. The easiest way to do this was to follow classic bodice traditions and add in two vertical darts going from the waist up. I also added slightly smaller darts in the back as well.

Now, yes, you could get out your ruler, and do the math, and draw on your fabric, and if you’re like me get utterly confused. OR you could simply put the dress on inside out and pinch and pin the extra fabric around this area until you like the shape it creates on your body. Let’s be real, no one’s body is exactly symmetrical, no one’s body follows a set of generic math rules. You can draw all the straight lines you want, but I have yet to find a single straight line in my body. I find it so much easier to just map the fabric to my body while it’s on my body.

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It’s easiest to do this technique if most of the major seams (especially the shoulders and side seams) in the bodice are already sewn, even if they’re only basted together. I didn’t plan overly well, and so I had done everything on my dress, down to even finishing the interior seams, before I decided to add these darts. That’s probably going too far, as you never know if you’ll want to let out a side seam to make the front dart larger, but it ended up working out in the end.

Here’s me with the dress on inside out, and where and how I ended up positioning the darts. They’re not perfectly even, that’s because my stomach isn’t perfectly flat. Maybe yours is, you lucky duck! There’s not identical, because one side of my body is actually a slightly different shape than the other. This isn’t unusual either, most people are slightly asymmetrical.

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IMPORTANT: Definitely double check yourself on this one. Put the dress on and off and on and off again, inside out and right side out, look and see if the fabric is puckering anywhere. Shift things around. Realize you liked it better the other way and shift it back again. Take in the side seams, let them out again. Make sure the dress is hanging off your shoulders straight, and you’re not slouching. Wear the bra that you’re most like to want to wear with this dress. Don’t drape a dress on your body while wearing a bra that you won’t want to wear with the dress, it changes your body, and therefore will change the shape of the dress!

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Once you feel good about where your darts are pinned, bast them. Then triple check yourself one last time. Then stitch them, and press them towards the center, just like always. And presto! You’ve made a bodice that fits your body, and fits how you want, better than any pattern could ever guess. All without any math at all.

Here’s some inside out photos of my darts, front and back.

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The front darts taper off at the top and the bottom, because of how the front panels of the Alder work. The top of the dart rests just below the point of my bust, and the bottom dips just under my natural waist. The back darts end at their widest point at the waist line. Remember that you’ll have to compensate with the gathers here, since you’re effectively removing fabric from the waistline, your gathers in the back skirt will have to be slightly denser to match lengths.

This one simple change was easy to do and changed this dress for me. And it doesn’t require any extra fabric, any math or drafting skills. I’ll say it again, you can alter sprout patterns projects! It’s okay if your entire body is not just the one size. You can get great results by simply adding some darts and shaping the fabric to your body.

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Tune in next week for Part 2: DRAFTING SLEEVES!


KellyBiopic.jpgKelly Walsh attended the NC School of Science and Mathematics and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in Philosophy. She spends most of her free time reading, sewing the most elaborate Halloween costumes she can envision (and the occasional everyday outfit), and learning to weave on her 1900s Leclerc floor loom. Her favorite Sprout Pattern of the moment is the Archer Button Up. She joined the Spoonflower team in 2011 as a printer operator, and is currently the Director of Site Engineering.

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