A Baby Shower Saltspring Dress

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The time has flown by since my last post! I’m currently 32 weeks pregnant, but these pictures were taken last month at 29 weeks. At the time I thought my belly couldn’t have gotten any bigger, but now looking back, I realize how much I’ve grown since then. Let’s just say I no longer wake up in the morning and forget that there’s a baby inside my stomach. ;)

So September was a pretty busy month for us. It always starts out kind of busy – we both celebrate our birthdays that first week of September, and then of course football season keeps us busy watching games on the weekend. ;) But this year, we were also lucky to have so many friends, family, and co-workers who wanted to throw us a baby shower – that we ended up having 3 showers in row those last weeks of September. They were all so special to us, and made the whole experience feel a lot more REAL. Not to mention, having so many events lined up helped us forget about all this waiting around for the due date. ;)

I knew I wanted to make at least one of my shower dresses, and the Sewaholic Saltspring dress was a logical go-to pattern for the occasion. It’s loose and flow-y, and didn’t take too much thinking in terms of changing up the pattern to fit my growing bump. I ended up wearing this dress to my office baby shower, and styled it with a navy cardigan and thin braided belt (not pictured).

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Here are the details about this dress:

Pattern: Sewaholic Saltspring dress, maxi version with double strap variation (tied in the back)

Fabric: Light rayon challis, with a beautiful drape (the exact fabric is Valori Wells Peony in Gold –  you can find it on sale here!)

Changes / Alterations:

  • I cut a size 10 bodice, and size 16 skirt in order to allow for plenty of ease around the belly.
  • I shortened the bodice pieces (4″ off of bodice, and 3″ off of bodice lining) in order to create less of a “blousing effect” on the top. I’ve come to realize with maternity wear, I prefer for at least part of the outfit to be more fitted in order to show off the bump (and also because I want people to know that I’m pregnant, and not simply choosing to dress in a tent for 9 months). :P
  • In addition to shortening the bodice for less blousing, I raised the waistline another 3″.
  • Lowered armholes by 1/2″.
  • Swayback adjustment on skirt back by 3/8″.

Tutorials Used: I followed along with all the posts from the Saltspring Sewalong. Even though I probably could have survived without them, I just love how these Sewalong posts take the mystery out of any steps that may seem vague in the pattern instructions (in this case, inserting the elastic or sewing in the zipper). I still consider myself to be a beginner sewist, and would definitely recommend anyone else who is new to garment sewing to check out the other Sewalongs that are available on Tasia’s website. I live in sort of a remote area of Texas, and there aren’t many places around town that offer classes on specific sewing patterns (like classes I’ve seen offered in LA, Nashville, Austin, etc.). I consider these Sewalongs to be the next best thing to having a teacher at my side, walking me through step-by-step of a pattern.

I also used Tasia’s tutorial on a hand-picked zipper, which I’ve written about and used before, but I always like to have it open each time I sew one in, just in case I forget anything. :)

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Overall Thoughts: Overall, I think this dress was perfect for the occasion! I felt both beautiful and comfortable wearing the dress, which I think is the goal for any momma-to-be when getting dressed in the morning. :)

I was afraid the fabric might be a little see-through in the skirt, but because it’s gathered it really wasn’t a problem at all (although I would recommend wearing nude-colored underthings if you make anything with this fabric – you can see the dark dress form is showing through in the picture above).

If I had to pick, the only thing about this pattern that I’m not crazy about would be the tie straps. It was nice not having to worry about the strap length before sewing them into the bodice pieces – but, trying to make the straps even while making a pretty bow in the back was a little annoying, and it took me several tries to make sure the dress was hanging evenly from  both of my shoulders.

Also, if I make this dress again, I might opt for sewing in a regular zipper, rather than using the hand-picked method. You might be able to see in the photo below, but the elastic sort of pulls at the hand-sewing right at the waist, and I think that machine stitches would have been stronger and held the bodice pieces in place a little better right at the elastic.

In the end, I think this is the perfect special occasion dress, if you can find the right fabric. I actually made another version previous to this dress that turned out not-so-good, only because it was too heavy. I made it out of a lightweight linen / cotton chambray, which I thought would be light enough, but the maxi skirt was so heavy that it pulled the elastic waist down too much and just ended up looking really bulky. So for those of you who are considering making this dress – follow the fabric recommendations closely and only use a very light fabric (lesson learned – I need to pay more close attention to those recommendations myself – they are there for a reason!).

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The Colette Moneta Dress… and some Happy Nine Month News!!

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here, and I’m happy to (finally!) announce here that Jose and I are expecting a baby!!

We found out the happy news in March, and told our family and close friends in late April. I was very lucky in that I didn’t experience any morning sickness at all – thank goodness!! I was a little tired and felt kind of “blah” the whole time, so I didn’t spend too much time in my sewing room. Once I made it through to my second trimester, I knew I needed to get busy making clothes that will fit me through the next several months. :)

Lucky for me, Colette Patterns came out with their first set of knit patterns, and the Moneta dress is the perfect blank slate for altering to maternity. I realized I could just take the waistline and just raise it a couple of inches to fit over my growing belly. It turned out perfect, I think!

Here are the alterations I made, in case anyone else is interested in making the Moneta into a maternity dress (or, really, these alterations are good for anyone who wants to make the dress with a more “baby-doll” silhouette).

Maternity alterations:

  • Raised bodice waistline by 2.5″
  • Bodice size – cut small (or cut out size that you would wear pre-pregnancy)
  • Skirt size – cut large (or, cut out 2 sizes larger than your bodice size, in order to make room for expanding belly) :)

Other alterations (specific to me):

  • Brought shoulder seam towards front bodice by 1/4″
  • Extended the shoulder seam OUT by 1/2″
  • Lowered underarm by 1/2″
  • Extended the back shoulder blade by 5/8″, and made same adjustment to corresponding sleeve piece (per Sunni’s tutorial, here)

I could have made a few more alterations to make sure this dress sees me through the whole 40 weeks of pregnancy (like lower the front hemline and slash and spread the front skirt pattern piece), but I like that this ended up being a dress I can easily wear the first few months after having the baby. It’s super-comfortable, and very forgiving in the waist area, so I think this will make a perfect post-maternity dress.

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First up is this red dress is made up of Robert Kaufman Laguna Jersey fabric in Red, which I ordered online here. Unfortunately, the color is a little too red for my liking during the summer months, but I think it will work really well in the colder months with tights and a cardigan. The fabric itself is a cotton jersey, and while it has a nice weight and drape to it, I realized I hated cutting out the pieces because the cotton would tend to stick to itself, making it hard to smooth out the grain on my sewing table. Once the cutting part was over, though, sewing it up was a breeze.

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I think the fit turned out really nice on the red dress. While I initially thought the bodice was going to turn out too tight, I think it actually ended up fitting nicely. I’m sort of glad it’s a little on the snug side, in order to help hold up the extra fabric that I added to the skirt. My only hesitation with the fit is the sleeves. I cut out extra room in the armpit, which helps the sleeves from feeling too snug (apparently my arms are disproportionately large compared to my more petite frame – weird, huh?). There is still some snugness in that area, but after wearing it throughout the day it didn’t seem to bother me too much. I think next time I cut this dress with sleeves, I might try out Devon’s tutorial on how to fix armhole gape. I didn’t realize this might be the problem until I made up another sleeveless version… (below).

So, for my second dress, I used a navy polka-dot bamboo jersey (which I also purchased online, here). I opted to sew version 1, without the collar. I love LOVE the feel and drape of this fabric, and it was much easier to lay out on my cutting board. However, the drapiness did make it a bit more difficult to manipulate while sewing, so I guess it’s a give and take on ease in cutting and sewing, depending on what type of knit you choose.

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The only real trouble I ran into with the navy dress was sewing up the neckline. The lining might have been a little confusing to someone new to knits like me, but Sarai posted a brilliant video tutorial on how to sew those up without twisting out the bodice. I still can’t tell you why or how it works, but magically it does!! You just have to be very patient when joining the two pieces together, but it came together nicely in the end. Besides, since the seams are self-enclosed, it doesn’t matter if the stitching is perfect on the inside. ;)

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You can’t really see it in the pictures, but like I mentioned earlier, I realized after making the sleeveless version that there is a little gaping at the front armholes. This might be the reason why the sleeves have some wrinkling in the front on the red version. I’m going to try and alter the bodice pieces this weekend, and see if that helps (using this tutorial that Devon posted on her blog). Also – I’d love to get the sleeves to fit just a LITTLE bit better without so much gaping at the top. If anyone has any tips, I’d love to hear them!

In the end, I’m so in love with this pattern, and I’d love to make a couple more to see me through this pregnancy!! I’d like to try out a maxi version, and then another version with a collar and 3/4 sleeves that I can plan on wearing after the baby arrives. It’s just such a comfortable and flattering dress!! I agree with Devon – this dress really makes you feel like you’re wearing pajamas, which is exactly the kind of clothing I’m looking to wear as this belly gets bigger each day!!

I finish up school in a couple of weeks, and have several sewing projects in mind I want to tackle when I’m done. I’d love to make a pair of leggings to get ready for fall – I love how Megan Nielsen’s leggings pattern is adaptable for both maternity and “normal” wear, so I can plan to use the same pattern once the baby’s here. I also really love her maternity tunic pattern – again, because it’s wearable for maternity and after. I really don’t want to spend a lot of time making clothes that I’ll only wear for 9 months, so I’m trying to keep that in mind as I make my plans…

And of course, I have a little baby quilt that I’ve already started. I think it’s turning out to be beautiful – can’t wait to share it here soon!

xo, Amanda

P.S. For reference, I took those pictures in the red dress at 19 weeks, and in the blue dress at 20 weeks. :)

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What a Bunch of Squares – Quilt Top

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Now that my final exam is over and done with (happy dance!), I’m excited to get back to sewing!!!

In my last post, I showed you some quilt blocks I’ve been working on (the pattern is “What a Bunch of Squares”, found in Denyse Schmidt’s first book). I didn’t mention it before, but I’ve been working on that same quilt since August (though not continuously), and I am so ready to finish this thing up!

Slowly but surely, I finished up all the quilt blocks last month. The blocks themselves weren’t that difficult to put together, really. In fact, if anyone’s looking for a good beginner’s quilt pattern, I’d say this is it. The squares are nice and big (measuring at 17.5″ squared), and the wonky pattern takes the pressure off making perfect measurements with your pieces. And because I used a solid white color for the border, I wasn’t super worried about matching up each corner perfectly. Although, I am getting a lot better at it with each quilt I make. Take a look at all the pinning that takes place to ensure the seams match perfectly.

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I think the part that took me the longest was deciding the order in which to place each square. I probably spent close to an hour with the pieces laid out on the floor, arranging and rearranging until I was happy with the layout of the colors and shapes. Then I spent the last two nights in my sewing room, stitching the blocks together until the quilt-top was complete. After the final press, I dragged it to our bedroom to lay it out on the bed and take a look at the final piece.

I really love the overall effect of the quilt in our room – I think it really brightens up the space. The only thing I would maybe change is the layout of some of the colors. You can’t see it in the photo above, but something that I noticed immediately is that there’s too much green in the bottom right corner, and the whole right column has the same purple color scheme. This is something that I look out for while placing the order of the blocks (I try and distribute the same colors, shapes, and direction of patterns evenly throughout the quilt top, to make it look “even”, more or less). I considered ripping apart the 4th row and rearranging two of the blocks, but quickly decided against it and try to “embrace” this small imperfection (although, it’s much less noticable in the pictures, which makes me think no one will ever notice but me).

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Does anyone else tend to do this with their projects? I find that as soon as I finish a project (or a big step of a project), I immediately start to pick apart every detail and convince myself it’s not perfect. But, if I wait long enough, I’ll look back at what I made and end up really liking the finished product. I did the same thing with my basketweave quilt I finished last summer. I really didn’t care for the placement of blocks at the time I finished – but a year later, it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever made.

In the end – I’ve decided to go with it and call it complete! I’m sending this quilt top off to the long-arm quilter again. I really want to start quilting on my own this year, but I think I should start learning with a smaller quilt first. I would probably lose my patience with this queen-sized quilt, so I’m sending it off! I can’t wait to show you the completed quilt later this spring.

xo, Amanda

P.S. These little pups are too much, I can’t help myself. They’re not allowed in my sewing room, so they just stand at the doorway and supervise. :P

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(all photos taken by me with my Canon Rebel SL1 or iPhone5)